The West Bengal government, which is keen to spread organic cultivation, has resolved to set up one bio-village in each of the 341 blocks in the state in the next two years. The objective behind setting up bio-villages is to create role models for adaptation to organic farming. Already 75 bio-villages have been set up across the state up to 2007-08 since its launch in 2004-05. There was plan to set up another 64 biovillages in 2008-09. In these villages, work is in progress to train farmers on the proper use of bio/botanical pesticides and use of microbes and parasites to wage a biological warfare against prevalent pests and plant diseases. “Those villages, which have been selected as bio-villages are blessed with rain-fed irrigation and have achieved a 200% or more cropping intensity. Post-selection, the prime task is to make farmers aware about the adoption of bio-farming through a series of workshops, training and demonstration programmes,” said agriculture secretary Sanjeev Chopra. The agriculture department has decided to carry out the programme on a shoe-string budget. For this, it has submitted a proposal to the finance department, asking for just Rs 1 crore for each year, from 2009-10 to 2011-12. The money has been sought to provide training to farmers and supplying bio-inputs to them at subsidised rates or free of cost. As cultivation with organic inputs cannot be initiated overnight in areas that are already inflicted with chemical fertilisers and pesticides, the process starts with the implementation of cultivation with bio-inputs. Here, the thrust is on using bio-fertilisers like vermicompost to reclaim the soil damaged by heavy doses of chemical fertilisers. Similarly, the stress is upon using biopesticides and microbial pesticides to control pest problems that have been multiplied following overuse of inorganic pesticides. Apart from concerns on environment degradation, erosion in soil quality, depletion of natural resources and bio-diversity caused by indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides over the years, the thrust on organic farming has been influenced by its intent on helping farmers reduce the cost of cultivation. However, a senior official of the agriculture department feels alongwith encouraging cultivation with bio-inputs, separate marketing outlets need to be created to help farmers getting right price for such produces. Shortage of manpower at the government level is another problem to execute the programme, he pointed out. Currently 20 NGOs have been roped in, apart from seeking cooperation from members of panchayats.