Gist of YOJANA : Emerging Civil Society Initiatives in Agriculture
27th Feb, 2020
- Agriculture of today is witnessing several sustainable initiatives by farmers to improve farming techniques and to prop up their livelihoods and income. The government too has, in a way, recognized this changing landscape of agricultural development.
- The recent conferment of Padma Shri awards to 12 such farmer-leaders in 2019 is a case in point. Innovation in Agriculture.
- Farmers play a pivotal role in improving technology and productivity. The achievements of some of the awardees endorse this hypothesis.
- One of the Padma Shri awardee farmer, Vallabhbhai Vasambhai Marvaniya, has been doing innovation in carrot farming since the late 1940s in Junagadh of Gujrat.
- Subsequently, he developed ‘Mudhuvan-Gajar’. The Rajasthan Agricultural Research Institute tested this variety and endorsed its cultivation.
- Experimenting with cauliflower cultivation since 1970, Jagdish Prasad Parikh from Rajasthan developed ‘Ajita Nagar Selection’ variety for better size and quality.
- It can be cultivated without much chemical use and the crop tolerates heatwaves conditions.
- Sultan Singh demonstrated the use of recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) for fish cultivation in an adverse climate with very limited use of water in Karnal of Haryana.
Minimizing Chemical Use:
- Reducing chemical use by following organic methods of agriculture has been the focus of many of these awardees. They also organize training for farmers on best agricultural practices and on ways for preserving local cultivars of several crops.
- They encouraged fellow farmers to adopt better agronomic practices by demonstrating the virtues of intercropping and crop rotation.
Diversification of Agriculture
- Some of these awardees moved against the traditional cropping pattern. Rajakumari Devi (Bihar) experimented with food crops in place of mono-cropped tobacco.
- She promoted innovative agronomical methods of cultivation as per the terrain with the knowledge of soils, value addition and marketing.
- A desert-like area around Hulikal village of Ramnagar in Karnataka was transformed to green belt by the dedicated efforts of Saalumarada Thimmakka by growing more than 8000 trees.
Shifting Consumption Patterns
- As the priority shifts from food security to nutrition security, the focus of the policymakers are moving towards micro-nutrient dense foods like minor millets and pulses, often called ‘orphan crops’.
- The Government of India declared 2018 as the National Year of Millets for promoting cultivation and consumption of these foods.
- It re-designated coarse cereals like sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, and minor millets as nutria-cereals in 2018.
- All this is in the ‘Decade of Action on Nutrition’ (2016-25) as per the United Nations under SDGs.
- Research has to focus on increasing the productivity of minor millets that has been stagnant since the sixties.
- Therefore, the huge task lies ahead for the development community that includes civil society, researchers, and the Government alike in fostering a level-playing field for minor millet farmers.
Urban Agriculture through Terrace Gardening
- It is desirable to produce as much as possible using urban agriculture methods. The most crucial of urban agriculture is the rooftop gardening that can make use of unused open spaces to provide food for the family, apart from reducing carbon load on the environment.
- While there are plenty of hobbyists and family-and-friends farmers, neither the Governments nor the non-profit organizations have recognized the full potential or need of the process.
Encouraging innovation in agriculture
The activities of these Padam Shri awardees have to be viewed as a trend of emerging private initiatives in various parts of the country in the challenging area of agricultural extension. These private initiatives have to be tailor-madee to the welfare needs of masses and adopt a practical approach to agriculture diffusing good agricultural practices suited to disparate agro-ecological zones. Their efforts will achieve better results when they work in tandem with governmental and quasi-governmental agencies on addressing key challenges of the times.