Sikkim is renowned as a flourishing model of sustainable development, with its commitment to creating environmentally friendly policies, incrementing the agricultural sustainable practices and encouraging a culture of interdependence between nature and humanity that seeks to mitigate the draconian effects of climate change. Sikkim is the first region in the world to have hundred percent sustainable agriculture, and has been awarded the Future Policy Award Gold Prize by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2018.
The state’s unique pedagogies extend far beyond organic production – the elements entrenched in its constitution are socioeconomic facets such as consumption and market expansion, cultural aspects as well as health, education, rural development and sustainable tourism. The policy implemented have proved to be transformational for the citizens of Sikkim - especially the phasing out of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, post the achievement of a total ban on sale and use of chemical pesticides in the state. More than 66,000 farming families have been beneficiaries of this transition. As such, Sikkim is a trailblazer of how other Indian states and countries worldwide can fortuitously upscale agroecology.
Sikkim’s continued solidarity to preserve its ecological balance is reflected in the state’s efforts in other commercial sectors of the economy too. The government is credited for its patronage and investment in the sustainability of indigenous craft and industries and in Sikkim. The Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom (DHH) was founded in 1957 - over the years, this Institute has evolved into a major hub of learning and training. It is an amalgamation of activity, development and progress - exhibiting the traditional arts and crafts of Sikkim. The growth and expansion in terms of physical assets, infrastructure and manpower has been impactful - with 32 branch training centres throughout the State. The implementation of a government funded project by the Directorate, entitled “Cane (Rattan) Conservation and Promotion of cane Handicraft for sustainable livelihood of Dzongu Tribal Reserve Area” has been successful. Primarily based on the research & development for the livelihood sustainability of Dzongu tribal Reserve Area, North Sikkim; the project facilitated the training of 100 farmers for rattan propagation through seeds. The master-craftsmen from the local area also underwent training for value addition of cane made products. Besides this, there have been several policy initiatives, and tremendous investment in Skill Development Programmes whereby local trainees and artisans are trained in multiple crafts with the objective of acquiring skills which will enable them not only to generate employment but in the long run to acquire self-sufficiency and self-reliance.
In order to provide financial support and subsidies, Sikkim Industrial Development and Investment Corporation Ltd (SIDICO) was formed on March 1977. Similarly, the Sikkim Handloom and Handicrafts Development Corporation limited (HHDC) was also established in December 2003 to work for the marketing of the crafts and woven products. In the sustainability of this tradition of handicrafts and handloom, the rural people of Sikkim are playing a prominent role. This quality, the designs and the uniqueness of the variety of arts and crafts also help in the development of the tourism industry in Sikkim – there was an exponential increase in number of tourists, by over 50 percent between 2014 and 2017. The modification in technique and the increase of production indicate that the handicrafts and handloom industry of Sikkim are in the state of change, albeit one that continues to prioritize the needs of a sustainable relationship between the environment and artisans.
The blog has been authored by Paridhi Puri and Mishika Nayyar.