Piecing together the elephant: Designing a livelihood survey in Andhra PradeshAgriculture & Rural Development | July 29, 2011
Conventional wisdom tells us it’s a shame that tribals
The technological breakthroughs of the Green Revolution in the 60s and 70s sprang us forward. But our growth has slowed. Agricultural growth has missed targets by 1 percentage point for the past 4 years, and the combination of economic growth with a swelling population means more people are demanding more agricultural commodities. Add in slow supply side responses and consistent high inflation, and the sluggish improvement in yield per acre with a finite supply of arable land. At the same time, the Government is guaranteeing food security for its citizens with legislation likethe impending Food Security Bill, which offers subsidized food grains to nearly 7 in 10 Indians.
We are at another crossroads.
If we want to continue to grow, we need to catalyze a second Green Revolution that builds on what we learned from the first.
In the 60s and 70s, excessive use of chemical fertilizer and water drove productivity increases. This was however unsustainable in the long run. The Revolution also touched only a small percentage of India’s total arable land. This time, we need to focus on increasing yields in land we already farm, environmental sustainability, and inclusiveness.
So what can we do?
First, we need to enable farmers to adopt more advanced agricultural inputs. Mechanization is spreading, but not fast enough. Tractor penetration in India lags the global average, with affordability posing a major obstacle. We can also sustainably improve yields by using better seeds: the new Seed Bill will help support the growth of the seed industry to help develop and distribute better varieties.
Second, we need to invest in knowledge and skill development of the farming communities. Agricultural extension services can be offered through both private and public participation. Teaching best practices can both help farmers achieve higher yields in the short term and spread sustainable practices that keep yields high in the long run. For example, farmers need to learn soil nutrient management so that increased productivity doesn’t leach the soil of nutrients.
The government can strengthen the impact of agri-education with subsidy schemes and incentives. We should explore a nutrient-based subsidy scheme to encourage optimal nutrient use. Government schemes can also encourage resource-efficient irrigation techniques like micro-irrigation.
Third, capital investment in agriculture needs to be stepped up. Agricultural growth is held back by insufficient infrastructure: storage, communication, roads, markets, cold chains, food processing, handling and packaging. Public Private Partnerships can be an efficient model for ensuring timely and quality delivery and maintenance of this infrastructure.
Fourth, an increase in productivity needs to be translated into better price realization for farmers. The key is setting up efficient supply chains. Good supply chains bring farmers a better price by removing middlemen and linking them more closely with the end-customer. Agriculture can learn from the success of milk co-operatives in the “White Revolution.”
Finally, we need to stem migration from rural to urban areas by improving opportunities in rural India. Initiatives for increasing non-agricultural rural income—self-help groups for women and encouragement of entrepreneurship in agri-support activities, for starters—can go a long way. Building enthusiasm for farming will also help keep the youth on the land.
By 2025, India is expected to be the most populous country in the world. Securing food, nutrition, and livelihood security for our rising population is urgent. We need to act now to increase agricultural yields. The Second Green Revolution needs to focus on environmental sustainability and broad-based impact. It needs to go beyond yesterday’s technological revolution to spark a social revolution, making rural India as attractive as urban India.
How do you think we can spark the next Green Revolution? What challenges and opportunities do you see for the Second Green Revolution? What other lessons can we learn from the first one?
About the author:
Currently Chief Executive of Mahindra & Mahindra’s Tractor and Farm Mechanization division, Bishwambhar joined Mahindra in 1999. He led the integration of Punjab Tractors Ltd after its acquisition in 2007. With 40 years of experience in the automotive industry, he serves on the Governing Councils of the PEC University of Technology, Chandigarh and the Indian Society for Quality. He also devotes time to social service in education and aiding micro and small enterprises. He holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a postgraduate diploma in Business Management from XLRI, Jamshedpur.
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