What we eat is just a ‘product’ that we buy by paying money. But from a farmer’s perspective, it is an agricultural produce grown involving a lot of simplified yet complex processes. A farmer has to find answers to several questions—when to sow; amount of water required; how many days will it take for the crop to grow— that can arise in farming.
Thanks to that farmer who actually worked hard to produce food items that we can eat from the comfort of our homes or walk into a restaurant and be served. Forgot how much you are paying to buy your food, remember how much you are wasting while eating? What we are is all because of farmer who is working in the field throughout the year. Think the life without food. So anything we do is not really enough to help our hapless farmers.
Just have a look at increasing investment, uncertainty of production due to natural calamities, fixed prices of key agricultural produce, not much has changed in the last ten years. Look at crops like rice, wheat, oilseed, soybean, cotton, pulses, etc; return on investment is low and production cost has increased drastically leaving farmers with very less profit or no profit. That is the reason farmers are unwilling to continue in this profession as a ‘Farmer’. A farmer doesn't want his son to become a farmer, but would rather have him work in a city which may fetch him hardly Rs 10,000 a month.
How we can overcome this and respect farmers!
Currently, farming is like an industry, if you want to earn in farming, you need to study new advanced techniques, water management, diseases and pest management, seed, post-harvest technology, marketing of products etc in order to fetch good prices. A farmer cannot fix a price of his produce, he can only have an option to increase his production with limited resources. This can only be made possible by the concerted efforts of agricultural department, agriculture universities, experts etc. Maharashtra has 15 million farmers but there are only 15, 000 agricultural extension officers that disseminate basic knowledge of increasing production technology. It is like having one doctor for 1,000 patients. Don't you think this is unjust? Situation in Madhya Pradesh is worse than this.
What can be done about that
Way out to this problem is:
• To make agricultural department accountability;
• Individual officer to develop a group of farmers/clusters;
• Active participation of Agriculture University into farming community;
• Increasing number of agricultural/horticultural extension officers that are trained in advanced technology;
• Need to bring about a change in cropping pattern;
• Giving assured prices to agricultural produce;
• Uninterrupted power and water supply to farming
Dealing with mismanagement
Among many things, one should look at India’s water management as well. India has 1, 000 mm rainfall but with poor water management every year India is facing drought or drought-like situation in many parts of the country. Madhya Pradesh (MP) has a very good model of providing water to the field with pressurised pipeline. Hence, farmers need not worry about water and electricity. MP is covering around 22 lakh hectares of Irrigation with this technology. The only issue in MP is management of water (water is not provided when it is needed the most). Projects are good on paper, but the execution is poor. Hence, the results are not as per desire. The government is not very even keen to start their scheme in the beginning of the farming season from the month of April or May. They have their own style of working and rolling out the scheme after the farming season. For instance, PMKSY (Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Yojna) scheme in MP and Maharashtra, both the states are still struggling. It is December still the scheme has not started due mismanagement and ego.
If you look at the population involved in farming, you realise the government is not providing enough attention to improve or upgrade farming, thus, improving farmer’s living standards. Improvement is GDP will be byproduct of any such reforms in agriculture.
Role of Information Technology/ Social Media
At present, agriculture department/ horticulture department, agriculture universities, KVK are working on outdated knowledge and technology. They do not want to upgrade themselves, because they are busy in their “routine” work. Nothing to do with farmers barring few.
Social Media can play a vital role in taking new technology to the farmers in order to minimising the risk in agriculture. Multinational companies are keen to handhold farmers to increase their production. There is a need to develop a strong bond between government and technologically-advanced companies those are having worldwide knowledge/expertise of agriculture.
Agriculture department/universities/KVK can send handy information to farmers on their mobile phones through WhatsApp, Facebook etc about package of practice, fertigation schedule, water management, climate information, rainfall, evaporation, disease, pest predictions in advance and so on. The question is why the government is not thinking in those lines. And become enablers in giving job to jobless. Nowadays industries are moving towards service industry but agriculture cannot become service industries. Agriculture needs a lot of assistance to increase production and earn more.
All the stakeholders involved need to bring drastic change in their working style and their way of looking at the farmers in order to match the need of farmers and speed of technology. This is the only way a farmer can survive and everyone will get healthy food.
-By Narendra Dhandre
Dhandre is deputy general manager with Netafim, an Israeli manufacturer of irrigation equipment.
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