The ill effects of using chemical fertilizers and pesticides are well known. In Meghalaya, one of the seven states of Northeast India, many depend on agriculture for their living. Most farmers in this beautiful, verdant state are known to follow natural, organic farming, as did their parents and generations before them. A field visit by Zizira throws up interesting facts. Read on..
Field Visit to Village Nongthadroin
It was early May 2015 when a team of two from Zizira visited the farm of Bahduh in the Nongthadroin Village, which is in East Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya. The city of Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, where the office of Chillibreeze Solutions (promoter company of Zizira) is located, is in East Khasi Hills District too. Many in Nongthadroin villager were small farmers and a few had rented a field to work on as they did not own land.
Farmer Bahduh and his son Bahheh were in the middle of planting saplings of king chillies that would be used for Khasi pickles. Zizira team was grateful that the farmers took the time to talk to them, while attending to their daily routine.
Let us walk you through what they saw and heard. The King Chilli is sown during the months of April and May and takes approximately 3 months to mature and be ready for harvesting. To ensure abundant growth, farmer Bahduh said, he uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides frequently, along with watering them regularly.
Where does he get the saplings from?
"I buy both seeds and saplings from the market. At times I make my own saplings too" Bahduh said.
What else does he grow on his farm?
"Rice is grown in the village during the rainy season. The same paddy fields are used to grow vegetables. I grow carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, etc., depending on the season.I grow ginger too. It is easier to grow and the profit margin is better!" said Bahduh. Nongthadroin village has an abundant supply of water, which is a big advantage for farmers.
Chemical fertilizers and Chemicals used!
It was a bit of a shock for the team to see that most farmers in this village did not follow organic farming methods! In the earlier field visits, team Zizira had noticed that most farmers in Meghalaya followed organic farming methods. But, in Nongthadroin the farmers use PT Phantom as insecticide! Our google search shows that this is a popular insecticide for getting rid of indoor bugs too, and is used in homes in the US and other countries. It gets rid of ants, roaches, etc. As it is used in homes, we would assume that it is not too toxic. But, it was shocking to read that PT Phantom is a highly toxic chemical!
Here is what a safety data sheet on PT Phantom had to say:
Potential environmental effects: Terrestrial toxicity: Acutely very toxic to terrestrial organisms.
So, PT Phantom Pesticide is not ‘safe’ by any standards! Team Zizira also found out that the farmers in Nongthadroin used Urea to promote growth. As Urea is an organic compound we were wondering whether using Urea will make the produce organic. But no! A senior officer in the Department of Agriculture, Meghalaya, helped us understand.
Urea is a synthetic commercially manufactured fertilizer, which is produced industrially and is not permitted to be used in the system of "Organic Production System" as defined in the NPOP or IFOAM standards. The word organic agriculture means the use of inputs of either plant/vegetative, animal or microbial origin. However, the word organic used for urea is in a different context, i.e. as in inorganic (study of non-carbon compound) and organic chemistry, which means the study of carbon related compounds. This should not be confused with organic agriculture!
These farmers have been using chemical insecticides for a while now and are finding it a challenge to go organic. They wonder whether the soil that has been so used to chemical additives will adapt to organic cultivation. Farmer Bahduh said he had used the dung of cows and pigs as manure too, for vegetables like chillies, potatoes, tomatoes, carrot, cabbage, and others.
One thing was clear - most of the produce from this village are non-organic and reach the markets of different parts of Northeast India.
While this report covers a village where farmers are not following organic methods of cultivation, there are many farmers in Northeast India who follow organic methods by default. We are here to watch out for you! Zizira's efforts would be reach to you select, healthy produce from farmers we have seen first-hand and can vouch for.
Organically grown, natural produce of Northeast India will be on our list. We are getting ready to launch the products later this year through an eCommerce platform. Would you be interested in knowing more about organic spices, fruits and preserves from Meghalaya? Maybe even buy them through reliable sources?
Contact us and be prepared to be surprised by the quality and the taste! Follow our blog posts for live reports from the fields and about the unique products of the Northeast India. Get to know about the agricultural products of Meghalaya and other States of Northeast India.