(The Gist of Kurukshetra) Agriculture Pivotal to Economic Revival Enterprises
Agriculture Pivotal to Economic Revival
- The United Nations has projected shrinkage of the global economy by one percent in 2020 in contrary to the previous forecast of 2.5 percent growth. Worldwide, millions of workers and professionals are facing the bleak prospect of losing their jobs.
- The economic scenario is not much different in India due to the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic. To avert a sharp economic downturn, the Indian government has already started considering new ways to revamp the economy. India, being largely an agricultural economy, has to focus on rural areas that have immense potential to reboot and revive the
Agriculture Role in the Indian Economy
- According to NITI Aayog, the agriculture sector is a silver lining for current Indian economy and is supposed to grow at the rate of three percent in the fiscal year 2020-21, and is currently growing 50 percent more than the non-agriculture sector and is estimated at 40-60 percent higher than the last year. Its share in the economy of India is around 17 percent, which is much higher when compared to the manufacturing sector. As the market is intact and prices have not crashed, it is expected to boost the Indian economy further.
Need for Talking about the Economy:
- The complete closure of urban and semi-urban based industries, manufacturing and construction unit and agricultural activity in rural areas due to the current pandemic has affected country’s economy in many unprecedented ways. The situation made everyone to think about the past lapses and how to reshape the world.
- It is a good opportunity to give direction to our efforts by rebooting our agricultural sector, which has the tremendous potential to achieve the goal of creating a powerful economy and to lead the world with this example. The challenge is for everyone to harness the untapped potential of our villages, our roots, the ingenious science and the diversity we
- are bestowed upon.
- The rural economy needs a rapid transformation to become economically viable and to further reduce the rural-urban migration. The villages need to be reshaped as a pivot of economic grow thin order to reduce undue pressure on the cities and to act as a savior in crisis.
India’s Position in the World Economy:
- We are at an opportune time to tap the world food market as a supplier. For this to happen and to meet the global standards, we need to massively upgrade our agricultural infrastructure and available technologies. Although we may not immediately become big exporters of paddy or pulses, we should attempt to move in that direction.
- In the past, the biggest roadblock to exports has been at the policy level and the food shortage mindset; but now farmers are ready to take on the world market with newly introduced initiatives and policy reforms. Given that domestic demand may be curtailed for a few year till employment and income normalises, we have to inspire the agriculture sector to make investments and enhance productivity. It is right time for its high graded entry into the world market. The first and foremost requirement is to accept the role the agriculture can play in revitalising the economy in the years to come.
India’s Perspective of Rural Economy:
- According to the Agriculture Ministry, for the fiscal year 2020-21, the food grain production target for India is set at 298.3 million tonnes, compared to 291.95 million tonnes in 2019-20 and 285.20 million tonnes in 2018-19. There was no scarcity of milk, essential food grains or vegetables during the pandemic related lockdown and the milk supply-chain was also fully operational.
Reverse Migration Scenario:
- The country is facing the twin challenges of preventing the spread of disease in the short run and accommodating a large number of migrants in the rural economy in a productive manner. We need a long-term measure to use this large number of migrant returnees as they might not return to cities anytime soon due to the pandemic situation. Short term measures will not help generate big gains in the long run.
Concerns and Issues:
- Home-returning of immigrant laborers due to COVID-19 has become a major challenge for our State’s economy, social fabric and general law and order. Since the number of such laborers is huge, providing them employment based on their skills is the next evident step. If we use this challenge as a creative opportunity to enhance our agri-based economy, there are immense possibilities of progress.
- We are sure to see agriculture sector emerge as a major player in ensuring livelihood and availability of food grains for the entire year as other avenues of income are likely to be disrupted due to this menace. Thus, strengthening of farm sectors shall pave the way for decent livelihood, food and nutritional security.
Obstacles during Crisis:
- COVID-19 underlined the gaps in our food system in the light of the pandemic i.e. disruptions in the food supply chain, reduction in labour forces, rising prices of staples hitting lower-income communities, supply shock, production slowdown and subdued demand. The vulnerability of our modern food systems to climate disruptions is a widely known fact. We need to make farming more viable for small land holders by creating a climate resilient low-cost farming system and drive our own Agri-market with robust demand and expanding
Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas:
- The government organisations and private industries are working hard to fill the existing gap for the proper transformation in the agriculture sector and to shift it from traditional to now farming style. Redefining the research agenda as per local needs and increasing public-private partnerships for market-driven research is in progress. To make the food system sustainable and resilient with timely information and to bridge the rural-urban gap and making agriculture attractive to the next generation with more employability needs new skill sets. We are moving from food security to nutrition and health security and growth to efficiency with the market-based high-quality research and new policies, regulations, and reforms. The Agri entrepreneurship and Agri-business development is already getting due attention. Some of the suggestive measures that could be implemented are being discussed below.
- The most fundamental step that needs to be taken during this slowdown to leverage the potential of the agriculture sector is to make the farming sector economically viable in the coming months. This is an opportunity to promote rural reform through better infrastructure and policy to absorb more workforce.
- The policy framework needs to be more supportive to agriculture. Developing skills amongst low-income farmers in modern farming and other agricultural activities is a right move towards self-sufficiency in domestic food production and must be at the center of a plan for
- a sustainable recovery. Despite many new intensifications, modernisation, improvement in irrigation and farming technology, the arable land is just not growing to its potential. What we need is a package of policy support to ensure that these enterprises can achieve their full potential as units of production, employment and income.
- The need of the hour is to reskill these laborers depending on their existing skillsets, experience and education. The worker must be trained in the new priorities area and we must value their potential.
- We can broadly categorise them in four types:
- 1. Unskilled (willing to work hard)
- 2. Semi-skilled (not always ready to work as a labor)
- 3. Skilled (in some specific areas)
- 4. Women worker (housewife and involved as household help) and persons involved in street food vending.
A. Role of RPCAU, Pusa
Some special training for Re-skilling through technologies developed at RPCAU, Pusa are:
- Household waste-management and other wastes for organic manures.
- Rearing of fast-growing Boar breed of Goat.
- Mushroom cultivation, production and processing.
- Culturing of fish wherever good water depth is available.
- Use of University’s developed solar cart for hygienic sale and keeping the product for longer using solar energy.
- Re-circulating aquaculture in lesser space.
- Wealth from waste like produce from banana, bamboo, pigeon pea stems etc.
- Skill development, technical know-how and maintenance work training.
- Empowering women in small know-how like Herbal Gulal making, Energy food preparation,
- value addition like mushroom processing, making Samosa, ladoo, snacks pickles etc., Ornamental fish culture and Honey production.
B. Initiatives in Rural Areas
- Building of Water harvesting structures
- Plantations of tress
- Land development activities
- Effective use of barren land
- Migrant as Agri-entrepreneurs, Returnee migrants can be trained as a resource person for farm and non-farm livelihoods.
- Capacity building for farmers
- Creation of cold storage facilities
- Building more farmers organisation through community mobilisation
- Diversification of livelihoods
- Exploring the non- traditional method for income generation and which can fulfill the
- nutritional needs of the farmers.
- Backyard poultry and goat rearing as new
- options for generating additional income and
- support should be provided to scale it.
- Creating assets under MGNREGA to ensure
- water availability.
- Creation of employment and large-scale assets that can improve productivity and ensure
- prosperity in villages for the years ahead.
- Possible skill-based activities for agriculture promotion
- Small scale agricultural equipment construction
- Organic manure preparation
- Agri-entrepreneurship and technical skill development
- Value addition
- Cash crop production
- Skill-based jobs
C. Increasing Role of Women in Farming
- The role of women farmers is extremely important in the farming as their male counterparts moved to urban areas and started doing other jobs. Today women share over 40 percent of the agricultural workforce in India. The increasing proportion of women farmers also reflects that rural agriculture, to a large extent, depends on women’s participation.
- However, only less than 10 percent of India’s land is owned by women and still, their access over resources remains very low as compared to their male counterparts and it right time to eliminate the gender inequalities for a better outcome at the farm level. The women farmers need recognition and rewards to boost their morale and to become a role models so as to influence and motivate other female farmers too.
D. Promoting Farmer’s led Organisations:
- The agriculture sector in India is mainly hampered by high transaction costs and low access to credit and agricultural produce markets.
- Hence there is need to reduce the importance of middlemen trading and let farmers do direct marketing of their produce. This v/ill surely scale up investment in agriculture with improved price realisation.
- One potential solution is the formation of Farmers Organisations and promoting group or cluster farming through them to reap the real benefit of rural India.
E. Contingent Crop Planning:
- To make agriculture more profitable and sustainable, we need to develop crop plans based on different Agro-climatic and Agro-ecological zones. A contingent crop plan, well in advance for the main cropping season, helps farmers to prepare for weather uncertainties during the particular year.
- To better enable farmers to respond just in-time to climate variations and to minimise the risks, local automated weather stations at optimal distances will help generate locale-specific crop weather advisories.
- There is a need to come up with strategies to educate the marginal and small holder farmers about the resources available to them and the way forward, if there is any loss of crops due to climate.
F. Agri or Social- Entrepreneurship and Technical Skill Development:
- Now is the right time to tap the pool of progressive youth in the community to build a culture of vibrant entrepreneurship in these areas to reboot the rural economy. There is a need to provide them proper conditions and bring them together, as some of the migrants are comfortable with technology and are educated enough. Hence, they are required to be trained further to enable their maximum contribution in rural livelihood.
- G. Government’s Initiatives during Lockdown:
- To boost rural economy and to directly benefit the farmers, many platforms have been launched for agricultural commodities’ transportation and movements of perishables during the lockdown like e-NAM, Kisan-Rath app, and an All-India Agri Transport Call-Centre. Also, Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) scheme has enabled direct cash transfer for the rural economy to thrive in the coming days.
- In the current challenging scenario, utilitarian values of returning migrant workers have been manifold enhanced. These “background heroes” of rural India are the growth engine and can act as a savior, at this juncture, if equipped with apt tools and techniques. Time is ripe to give momentum to the “Back to village" slogan in the post-COVID-19 India.
- Quite poetically, this crisis has forced us to truly understand the importance of food on the plate and the whole agriculture workforce working tirelessly to make it happen for the general mass. This is the most opportune time to reshape our country, our economy and the villages and to build a sustainable and resilient society using the prescribed tools of rural reengineering as listed above.
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