To increase the production of food grains the use of hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides was encouraged under the Green Revolution. Though the quantity of production increased, the nutritional value of the grains drastically reduced in addition to numerous adverse effects on human health. Research studies indicated the presence of poisonous substances in various dairy products, fruits, vegetables and meats. The excessive use of chemicals has disturbed the ecological balance as well creating havoc in the eco-system destroying crop-friendly organisms and generating organisms who have developed immunity towards these chemicals.
IIRD has played a dynamic role for the past three decades in the field of organic agriculture by initiating and implementing various programmes promoting organic agriculture, which influenced not only government policies but also policies of numerous voluntary organizations in favour of organic agriculture. IIRD in co-operation with several NGOs and thousands of organic farmers developed the first set of organic standards with relevance to Indian agro-climatic and agricultural practices (Concepts, Principles and Basic Standards of Indian Organic Agriculture), which has been translated in several languages in the country.
In order to promote organic agriculture based upon local and domestic markets, IIRD has also developed the first manual on organic bazaars and initiated the process of producer-consumer partnership in sustainable agriculture. IIRD also has done pioneering work in the field of bio-diversity by identifying various legume, cereal and pulses, which are not cultivated, but included in the food basket of rural poor and developed programmes to conserve these crops in order to ensure foods security in the local area.
In collaboration with national research institutions and the agriculture university IIRD has prepared a manual for appropriate organic farming methods taking into consideration the situations in the region – soil, climatic, social, economic, and biodiversity. This manual is being followed by the organic farmers of the region and is also used as training material during the training of local farmers.
ORGANIC AGRICULTURE TRAINING
IIRD, with its experience of working in the area of organic agriculture for more than a decade, has vast knowledge and resources in the field of organic agriculture. Tapping on this expertise, IIRD is successful in conducting various training courses, workshops, and seminars in the field of organic agriculture and related practices of certification and marketing.
- IIRD has been nominated by the central Government to carry out training courses for Government selected Service Providers who are involved in facilitating certification and marketing of organic agricultural produce of small and marginal farmers.
- IIRD regularly conducts training courses for small and marginal farmers in Marathwada region, particularly women farmers and field extension workers, on organic farming practices and environment.
- With IIRD’s initiative in some parts of the country in bringing about alternative marketing methods for organic products that benefit small and marginal farmers, IIRD organizes regular training in alternative marketing or organic bazaars.
- IIRD provides biodynamic training workshops on a district, state, national and international level.
- IIRD provides training on Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) which leads to organic certification of farm produce.
LOCAL GUARANTEE SYSTEMS AND ALTERNATIVE CERTIFICATION
Due to various constraints that include high cost of conventional third-party certification, lack of education and skills required to keep records and documentation required for conventional certification procedures, and incompatible prescriptions by international standards, local certification for organic produce was initiated by IIRD and found to be a viable alternative for small and marginal farmers of rural India. IIRD, with the participation of farming communities in Paithan Taluka, developed local standards applicable to small and marginal farmers and appropriate to the dryand drought prone region of Marathwada as well as processes for local inspection and certification. Once certified through these processes, alternative systems of marketing or organic bazaars are used to market the produce in local markets.
PARTICIPATORY GUARANTEE SYSTEM (PGS)
The local guarantee system for organic farming was developed into a government approved Participatory Guarantee System (PGS). PGS is a quality assurance initiative which operates outside the framework of third-party certification. Basic elements of PGS include a participatory approach, a shared vision, transparency and trust. PGS is mainly for farmers that can organise and perform as a group within the village or in nearby villages and is applicable on on-farm activities and off-farm processing by PGS farmers.
IIRD is one of the Regional Council – an agency authorised by PGS-NAC to coordinate, monitor and approve certification decisions of the local groups under the PGS-India Organic Guarantee programme.
In order to make the system completely transparent and accessible to traders and consumers the data of the farmers under the system is hosted on the PGS -India website. IIRD is responsible for facilitating the local groups in capacity building, training and knowledge dissemination and data uploading on the PGS website.
DISTRICT ORGANIC PROMOTION CENTRES (DOPC)
IIRD, in collaboration with partner organizations with similar interests, has established DOPCs in 5 districts of Marathwada – Aurangabad, Jalna, Parbhani, Beed, and Hingoli. The DOPCs aim to promote organic farming in their respective districts through trainings, identifying and mobilizing the farmers, promoting alternative marketing, and facilitating local guarantee and certification of organic products. The DOPCs have been successful in transforming 300 to 500 organic farmers with small land holdings in each of the district and have put in place alternative systems of marketing at the respective district level with effective consumer-producer linkages. These centres also organises workshops for consumers to inform them about organic farming. They are given an opportunity to visit farmers on their farms and exchange ideas.With the help of IIRD, Organic farming movements have developed in 5 states of India and 8 districts in Marathwada.