POINT IAS

AGRICULTURE SERIES – PART III

This article is the third part of the ‘Agriculture’ series of articles. Read Part II here.

‘Agriculture’ is a hot topic for UPSC. Questions from this topic can be expected in the essay paper or any other general studies paper. Therefore, in order to cover various aspects and dimensions of this topic we bring to you a series of posts dedicated to this specific topic. We would be analysing the topic from multiple angles and at the same time provide data, quotes etc. related to the topic.

Wherever required, we will link the article with previous parts of the series. This will not only help a better understanding of the topic but also would help in revision.


1

The Green Agriculture Project:

India is signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity. As four of the 35 biodiversity hotspots are located in India, it is biodiversity-rich. However, climate change and development without consideration for biodiversity are leading to loss of biodiversity.

What is the Green Agriculture Project?

The Green Agriculture project implemented by the Indian government and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) takes a novel approach to support the National Biodiversity Action Plan and synergise biodiversity conservation, agriculture production and development. It is being implemented in five landscapes adjoining Protected Areas/Biosphere Reserves: Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand. It envisages a transformation in Indian agriculture for global environmental benefits by addressing land degradation, climate change mitigation, sustainable forest management, and biodiversity conservation.

Reducing man-animal conflict/sustainable use of non-timber forest produce – A participatory and landscape approach can ensure sustainability of conservation efforts. Keeping the focus on initiatives for sustainable NTFP harvest, eradication of invasive alien species, and mitigation of wildlife conflicts is essential.

Biodiversity conservation – Biodiversity conservation is a part of traditional wisdom. The landscape approach will aim to restore traditional knowledge systems, such as the conservation of common property resources. Examples include the Orans of Rajasthan and the village safety and supply reserves in Mizoram. Traditional farming systems such as jhum encouraged crop diversity. However, climate change and shortened fallow cycles are undermining jhum cultivation sustainability. Participatory learning tools will encourage farmers to adopt more sustainable indigenous soil conservation.

Loss of traditional indigenous crops – India gave the world crops such as rice, chickpea, pigeon pea, mango and eggplant. However, with the focus on policies that cater to market demands, its reservoir of indigenous traditional crops has dwindled. Most keepers of these crop genetic diversity are smallholder farmers, including women. The approach will be to strengthen their role as agrodiversity guardians by developing value chains for their indigenous crops such as traditional rice varieties in Odisha.

Projects such as Green Agriculture are essential in equipping decision-makers with the necessary instruments to design effective and informed policies to underpin environmental concerns.

Source: The Hindu


2

Blending subsidy and investment:

The government is fast moving towards gradual blending of subsidies with public investment, especially in the agriculture sector, for sustainable growth.

Blending subsidy support with the investment has many benefits because to have a model which sustains indefinitely only on subsidy will not be a sustainable model. Investments will make farm sector self-sufficient. With much lesser subsidies, a self-sufficient farmer may be able to serve the cause of agriculture much better.

Source: The Hindu


3

Why are farm loan waivers a problem?

According to SBI Research, around Rs. 70,000 crore will be spent on farm debt waivers till May 2019. But farm loan waiver alone cannot be a permanent solution to the mounting agrarian distress.

Fundamental problems:

The rising pressure of population on land and agriculture, besides sluggishness in the shifting of workforce away from agriculture, has adversely affected small and marginal farmers. Rising costs, drop in income and increasing incidence of indebtedness among small and marginal farmers manifested in a spate of suicides over the years.

Problems with farm loan waivers:

It is the responsibility of the Union government to waive farm loans, but it is only a “stop-gap” arrangement. Until policies are not tweaked in favour of farmers to address their risks related to production, weather-disaster, price, credit and market, the loan waiver will become a periodical instrument for temporary relief. A large number of small and marginal farmers are distressed as the current system of market institution doubly squeezes them, in input as well as output.

NITI Aayog’s Stand:

The NITI Ayog recently pointed out that waiving loans is not a lasting answer to the problem of agrarian distress as this step only helps a small number of farmers. The number of farmers, especially the small and marginal who avail themselves of institutional loans, are very few and this is the reason that even after spending huge sums of money on loan waivers not even half the farmers are benefiting. In some of the States, not even 25% of farmers get loans from institutional sources. A NITI Aayog study had also highlighted the fact that in some States, about three-fourths of the farm loans were being used for consumption instead of meeting agricultural needs. The Reserve Bank of India’s study concluded that debt relief helps in reducing household debt but there appears to be no evidence of increase in investment and productivity of beneficiary households.

Way forward:

As a short-term measure, farmers need to be freed of the tyranny of the middlemen by reforming the rent-seeking, anti-farmer commission agent (arthiya) system. The inter-locking of the credit and the output markets is a major factor for the crises of indebtedness. The system of making payments through the commission agent needs to be dismantled to break the credit-crop nexus. For a permanent solution to agrarian distress, the government should give agro-processing industry a policy push to pull rural people out of agriculture. In the long run, there’s an urgent need for integration of agriculture with industry, and that too with the involvement of the local workforce in such a manner that surpluses should be invested locally. The subsidies and tax concessions which have been offered or given to the corporate sector should be given to rural entrepreneurs who are willing to start manufacturing firms that will process local raw materials and employ rural labour. The transformation is possible if primary producers are integrated with both manufacturing and marketing activities for reaping surpluses generated by them.

Source: The Hindu

Categories: POINT IAS

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