Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Research project

Organic Farmers as Green Entrepreneurs: Exploring the impact of FPOs on organic cultivation in Sikkim (Northeast India)

Charisma K. Lepcha (PI, Sikkim University), Pradyut Guha (co-PI, Sikkim University), Rajib Sutradhar (co-PI, Christ University Bangalore) and Erik de Maaker (co-PI, Leiden University) have been awarded a two-year grant of USD 18.000 to conduct research on the impact of ‘green farming’ on the sensitive mountain ecosystems of Sikkim, in the Indian Himalayas (starting February 2022). The grant has been awarded by SANDEE, a division of ICIMOD.

Erik de Maaker

Sikkim UniversityChrist UniversitySANDEEICIMOD

Himalayan farmers foster indigenous knowledge of the environment, which is conditional to sustainable cultivation practices (Wester et al. 2019; FAO 2013). Their traditional indigenous methods of cultivation are also in line with the requirements of certified organic produce (Darlong et al. 2006). Organic produce, when sold at the ‘right’ (metropolitan) markets, can fetch a premium price. Himalayan farmers’ crops, when sold as organic, can thus potentially generate high returns, resulting in farmers increasing their income and thus strengthening rural economies. Yet, farmers of upland North East India are so far hardly able to reap the benefits from the organic quality of their produce, and typically receive low returns for their crops, resulting in persistent rural poverty. Marketing organic produce involves complex value chains, encompassing certifying bodies, traders and farmer organizations. Challenges are many, ranging from poor infrastructure, limited marketable surplus, and lack of processing facilities, to restricted access to markets.

What is the impact on how farmers utilise, and otherwise engage with their land?

Traders and middle-men often appropriate most of the value generated, further decreasing profits for the farmers. In Sikkim (as elsewhere in Northeast India), government programmes that try to increase the benefits farmers can obtain from organic produce place a lot of emphasis on the development of Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs). The creation of FPOs aims at farmers bypassing traders, selling a slightly further processed crop (entering the value chain ‘higher’), and thus receiving a better price. How do such efforts transform rural economies, and what is their impact on how farmers utilise, and otherwise engage with their land? The project wants to research this, focusing on the changes occurring with respect to ecosystem services, that is, the many different values and importances which the environment has for the people who live with and depend on it. 

Building empirically strong case studies

The project focuses on Sikkim, as the best case scenario for the North Eastern region. Sikkim is, according to the state government, India’s first ‘fully organic’ state. As an interdisciplinary research group, employing a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods, we will build empirically strong case studies. Working with policy making bodies such as SIMFED (Sikkim State Co-operative Supply and Marketing Federation), NEDFI (North Eastern Development Finance Corporation) and NERAMAC (North Eastern Regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation), we will formulate evidence-based policy advice focusing on the environmental impact of the promotion, through FPOs, of Himalayan agriculture as organic.

This website uses cookies.  More information.