CHALLENGES TO AGRICULTURE IN INDIA
By Bidyadhar Maharana
Many advances after green revolution had successfully transferred many nations from a status of begging bowl to self-sufficiency. With the impact of climate change agriculture has become unsustainable with multifaceted problems. Without understanding the root causes we are adopting many trial and error methods.
There are parallel movements making the advancements diluted and discouraging the scientists.
Sustainable agriculture aims at meetings the present need without compromising the capability of future generation to meet the future need. Scientifically agro ecology is the science of running out farms as an ecosystem and not going against nature. The principles like rotating crops, embracing diversity, planting cover crops, reduced tillage, application of INM and IPM and integrating crops, livestock and forestry are accepted under agro-ecology which all scientists and agriculturists adopt everywhere.
Parallely other forms like organic farming, ecological farming, permaculture,biodynamic farming, natural farming etc. are promoted using different principles and ethics.
Organic farming is an alternate farming that uses natural crop and animal wastes aiming at living soil and maintenance of soil health and moving away from chemical agriculture. Biodynamic farming is a special form of organic farming which uses biodynamic compost (BD 502-507, cow pet pit compost etc), biological pest control, crop rotation, indigenous seeds, live fence, polyculture, reduced tillage, water harvesting, soil conservation and vermiculture etc. Natural farming is a closed system that demands no human-supplied inputs and mimics of nature.
Ecofarming is not the same as organic farming which aims at increasing crop yield without compromising the quality and profitability of farming and protecting the environment. Permaculture integrates crop, nature, ethics and environmental and ensures holistic approach.
Now the gullible farmers are totally confused as to which method they have to adopt.
2.Real problems of farmers:
Demand-supply equation,lower farm income, technology pumping from many sources and market glut lead to the misery of farmers. A peculiar behaviour of market confuses the farmers about the type of crop to grow.For example there is already a market glut in potato , which is sold at Rs.500-700 per quintal at farm gate.At the same time onion retail price has hiked to Rs 60 per kg.
Government has taken serious drives to double the farmer income by 2022-23 over the year 2015-16.The progressive farm laws have been confronted by farmers protests. NCF recommendations of 2006 have not been fully actualised.
3. Government incentives:
Competition between political parties on freebies, assurances before election for loan waivers etc. may give immediate relief , but it may accentuate the predicament of farmers further in the long term. Huge subsidies on fertiliser, electricity and other agro-inputs have not been ameliorated farmers problems.
New packages like SRI, SCI etc. are putting a mounting pressure on farmers , although these practices are site and situation specific.
4. Threat of climate change:
In order to adapt and cope up with climate change, climate smart agriculture and smart farming techniques have been recommended by FAO. Digital technology innovations, scalable digital and data science and bundled service delivery models have been proposed. Under digital technologies sensors, internet of things, automation, block chain, artificial intelligence and computer vision are covered. Video based extension, private sector based contract farming, bundled services including agricultural advisory services have been demonstrated with success in some countries. Indian farmers , being mostly small holders up to 86% and low level of farm income may not easily imbibe such sophisticated technologies without any external support.
5. Future preparedness:
It is to be seen whether the present agriculture will be able to produce 60% more food by 2050 over the base line of 2005-06 with -2% risk to feed 9.7 billion people in the world.
All the technologies must be farmer-friendly and scalable.The modern technologies can be integrated with indigenous technologies to address the local problems and utilise the local resources.There is a need to make participatory research and participatory technology development (PTD) at Regional Research Stations on all types of alternate farming systems under one umbrella so that technologies could be standardised for sustainable agriculture. Climate smart villages should be piloted in vulnerable districts. The University course curriculum can be modified accordingly and it should be based on climate smart principles. The Economic Surplus method should always be used for research prioritisation. Governnent budget should be more liberal for Research-Developnent-Extension with supporting infrastructure. Agriculture budget should be congruent with the contribution of the sector to GDP. At least 2% of agriculture GDP should be spent on R&D efforts. Productivity, profitability and sustainability need to be the cardinal principle for future development of agriculture. The farmer should always be at the centre.