Agricultural Diversities and Its Sustainability in Sikkim Himalaya: An Analysis

By Kumar, Pawan; Rai, S. C. | Political Economy Journal of India, January-June 2018 | Go to article overview

Agricultural Diversities and Its Sustainability in Sikkim Himalaya: An Analysis


Kumar, Pawan, Rai, S. C., Political Economy Journal of India


Introduction

The economy of Sikkim is agrarian and diverse ecological conditions support a variety of crops. Agriculture and tourism are the primary livelihood options for the people of this region (Lahiri et al., 2001). However, with the pace of development, opportunities have sprung up in other tertiary sectors, but nevertheless agricultural sector is still dominant (Annual Progress Report, Sikkim, 2010-11). About 80% of the total population depends on agriculture but the land under it is less than 11% of the total geographical area (Agriculture Census, 2011). Rain-fed agriculture is the pre-dominant feature and only 17.74% land is under irrigation. Given the state's fragile topography, there is hardly any scope of increasing the present 77% cultivable area under the categories of food grain. In fact, increasing cropland scarcity and water scarcity are the prime challenges which agriculture is facing in hilly regions (Pratap, 2011; Tulachan, 2001).

Agricultural diversities are primarily maintained with the forest based inputs and continued depletion of forest resources results in poor economic return from agriculture to local people (Semwal et al., 2002, 2004). Adding to other aspects, Rai (1995) assessed the land use options in terms of crop preference, productivity, profitability, resource requirement, soil quality and risk. Sexsena et al. (2005) highlighted an extension of agricultural land use coupled with replacement of traditional staple food crops by cash crops. More precisely, Hunsdorfer (2015) reveals that in the last 10 years, large cardamom, a cash crop has experienced a decrease in production and productivity, and holds change in land use as one of the reason for it. Sharma and Singh (2016) have also reported a decline in productivity by 10-20% in the last 3-4 years and perceived a shift towards floriculture. Subba and Ghosh (2017) reported that production of large cardamom has decreased since 2003. Large cardamom cultivation shows that harnessing local niche by growing it, is consistent with the mountain specificities and it tends to be sustainable by having positive effect on the quality of life and the natural resource base.

Agriculture in Sikkim is fully organized by the organic farming system (Chakraborty and Chakma, 2016). Chhetri (2015) analyzed the production, productivity and area of major crops in reference to this farming from 2003-2014 for making farming sustainable. The economy of the people of Sikkim is hovering more towards the production of cash crops than the common crops/food grains production. Having good quantitative and qualitative knowledge of it, this in turn paves the way for better future planning and modus Vivendi to the people of the state. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to analyse the agricultural diversities and their related changes in pattern, production, productivity as well as their future sustainability.

The Study Area

Sikkim is situated in the Eastern Himalaya spread below the world's third highest mountain peak, Kangchendzonga (8595m) lying between 270[degrees]4' 46" to 28[degrees]07' 48"N and 88[degrees]55' to 89[degrees]55' 25"E. To its north lie the vast stretches of Tibetan plateau of the People's Republic of China, to its west is Nepal, Bhutan and China in the East and West Bengal in the South (Figure 1). The entire region is a biodiversity hotspot with impressive botanical and zoological splendour. Sikkim is the second-smallest state in India after Goa in terms of land area. The total geographical area of the State is 7096 [km.sup.2]. The state comprises of four districts and nine sub-divisions.

The total population of Sikkim as per 2011 census is 607,688 of which male and female are 321,661 and 286,027, respectively. The density of Sikkim is 86 people per [km.sup.2], which is lower than the national average of 382 people per [km.sup.2]. The sex ratio (number of females per 1,000 males) has improved from 875 in 2001 to 889 in 2011. …

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