Mumbai : With India’s agrarian economy in distress with the drought situation and rampant farmer suicides, the Regional Roundtable on Agriculture in Maharashtra, organised at the University of Mumbai on Thursday, attempted to arrive at solutions to the problems.

The derived solutions include hyper-local weather forecast, rainwater harvesting, providing soil moisture security (through better irrigation) and privatising sale of water as a commodity.. The confederation of members from the academia, NGOs, the corporate fraternity and government officials met to brainstorm on ways to rescue Maharashtra from the agrarian crisis.

Members agreed that drought can be conquered with increased efforts from the government and farmers. The group also agreed that the state’s irrigation systems have failed, and loan waivers are not working as effectively as they were expected to.

However, defending the government’s stand, Former Principle Secretary of Agriculture Sudhir Goel said: “The government is doing a lot. It is a simplistic view to think that all the problems are the government’s fault. However, we need to come up with better solutions to this problem.”

The confederation has submitted four sets of solutions to the state government — solutions for the farmer, solutions for the local farming community, solutions for agro-climatic zones and solutions for the state and country.

For making farming a sustainable business, the group suggested that alternatives for income generation should be created, such as non-farm activities like carpentry and handicraft. The group also deliberated that dependence on agriculture as a source of income can be mitigated by promoting animal husbandry as an alternative on-farm solution.

In order to keep agriculture alive, the group came up with solutions at the community and state level. At the community level, collective bargaining strength of farmers should be increased, for financial security. This can be achieved by connecting farming families with each other, to share knowledge and experience.

One of the participants, Ram Bhogale from eastern Maharashtra region, suggested: “Backward linkages in supply chains must be created so that farmers are directly linked to markets. Development of technology should happen at each of the check points in the supply chain.”

The conference was organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in an effort to go beyond ideological and conceptual frameworks.

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