11-point agenda for resurrecting Indian agrculture and restoring the pride in farming: Devinder Sharma

 Time to usher in “Acche din…” for the Indian farmers.
Indian agriculture is faced with a terrible agrarian crisis. It is a crisis primarily of sustainability and economic viability. The spate of farmer suicide and the willingness of farmers to quit agriculture if given a choice is a stark reminder of the grim crisis. What should be the agriculture agenda for the new government? I am being asked this question time and again. Here is my 11-point agenda:
1) Providing a guaranteed assured monthly income to farmers. According to the Arjun Sengupta Committee report the average monthly income of a farm family is Rs 2,115. This includes Rs 900 from non-farm activities. About 60 per cent farmers are dependent on MNREGA activities to survive, and an estimated 55 per cent farmers go to bed hungry. But these farmers produce economic wealth for the country in the form of agricultural, horticultural and dairy produce. It is high time they are adequately compensated for generating that massive economic wealth in the form of food. My suggestion is that the new government should set up a National Farmers Income Commission which should have the mandate to compute the monthly income of a farm family depending upon his production and the geographical location of the farm.
2) The time for price policy is now over. Every time the Minimum Support Price (MSP) is raised questions are asked about its impact on food inflation. Moreover, the Bali Ministeral of WTO has questioned India’s subsidies that it provides to farmers by way of MSP. It is therefore an appropriate time to move from Price policy to Income policy. The income that a farmer earn should be de-linked from the price that his crops fetch in the market. That is why I have been asking for a guaranteed monthly income for for farmers. Let us not forget, if inflation is rising it is also rising for the farmers. While the Govt employees get DA instalments every 6 months to compensate for inflation, and get a pay commission every few year, farmers get only MSP and that too is un-remunerative. In an interesting study from Kerala, it was computed that if paddy price rise was to match the salary rise of govt officials, paddy price in 2005 should have been Rs 2669/qntl. It’s Rs 1,310 today. In other words what paddy farmers are getting in 2014 as paddy price is 50 per cent of what they should have earned 9 years ago.
The burden of providing cheap food therefore to 1.25 billion people should not be only on the shoulders of farmers. The society too must share the burden.
3) There is an immediate need to strengthen the network of mandis (market yards) across the country whisch provides farmers with a platform to sell their produce. Leaving it to markets will result in distress sale. To illustrate, let me take the example of rice farmers in Punjab and Bihar. In Punjab, which has a huge network of mandis linked with roads, farmers bring the produce to these mandis. Last harvest, Punjab farmers got an MSP of Rs 1,310 per quintal for paddy. In Bihar, where APMC Act does not operate, farmers resorted to distress sale with prices not exceeding Rs 900 per quintal. The Commission for Costs and Prices (CACP) is now pressurising Punjab Govt to dismantle themandis and let markets operate. Which means, Punjab farmers will soon go the Bihar way.
4) For a country which was able to build up an excellent marketing network for one of the most perishable commodities — milk — I see no reason why a similar approach cannot be adopted in providing a viable marketing network for fruits and vegetables. If the National Dairy Development Programme could ensure that milk is procured from each and every village, and then through a cooperative chain it is finally delivered to the consumers in the cities, I see no reason why India cannot carve out a marketing chain for fruits, vegetables and other farm commodities.
5) Cooperate farming need to be encouraged. Appropriate laws must be framed to make cooperatives more independent and effective. Drawing from the experience of the Amul cooperative in dairy farming, a similar system needs to be adopted for vegetables/fruit farming. I know of small cooperatives of organic farmers which have done wonders. Why can’t it be replicated to rest of the crops?
6) Aim at making villages self-reliant in agriculture and food security. Feeding the population has to be linked with farming. Chhatisgarh has given an excellent model of self-reliance in agriculture and food security. It has shifted the focus to local production, local procurement and local distribution. This is exactly what needs to be done throughout the country for which the National Food Security Act needs an amendment. Instead of providing 5 kg of wheat/rice/millets every month, the focus should be on making the villages take care of their own food security needs. This will help reduce the huge subsidy bill on food security that is required every year and thereby reduce fiscal deficit. Such a programme will also help in removing hunger in the long term.
7) Green Revolution areas of the country are facing a crisis in sustainability. With soil fertility devastated, water table plummeting and environment contaminated with chemical pesticides and fertiliser, the resulting impact on the entire food chain and human health is being increasingly felt. The new Government should launch a nation-wide campaign to shift farming to non-pesticides management techniques. In Andhra Pradesh, no chemical pesticides are used in 35 lakh acres. Farmers have even stopped using chemical fertiliser in some 20 lakh hectares. Production has gone up, pesticides pollution has come down, insects attack has also come down, and more importantly farm incomes have gone up by 45 per cent because of reduced health expenses. There has been no farm suicides in these areas. The same system now needs to be extrapolated to the entire country with local modifiations/adaptation.
8) Agriculture, dairy and forestry should be integrated. Agricultural growth should not only be measured in terms of increase in foodgrain production but should be seen in the context of the village eco-system as a whole. This will also shift the focus to low external input sustainable agriculture (LEISA) practices. At the same time such an approach will limit the ecological footprint.
9) Importing food is importing unemployment. Recently, apple growers in Himachal Pradesh have been protesting against the low import tariffs for imported apples as a result of which the local produce goes abegging. There are no buyers for Himachal apples, and the prices have plummeted . Similarly for other crops. The Govt must raise the import duties on agriculture, horticulture and dairy products and refuse to buckle under the pressures being exerted through the Free Trade Agreements. It should not accept the European Union’s demand for opening up for dairy products and fruits/vegetables by reducing the import duties. Studies have now shown that indiscriminate signing of FTAs and bilateral agreements has been disadvantageous to the country. Time to revisit the trade treaties and protect domestic agriculture thereby millions of livelihoods.
10) Climate change is certainly going to affect agriculture. But instead of looking at strategies only aimed at  lessening the impact on agriculture and making farmers cope with the changing weather patterns, the focus should also be to limit greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Considering that agriculture share in greenhouse gas emissions is about 25 per cent, the thrust must shift to reducing the application of chemical fertiliser/pesticides in farming. Following the AP model of non-pesticides management being the right approach, the cropping pattern too needs a revision. In the dryland regions of the country, for instance, at present hybrid crops which required almost twice the amount of water than normal crop varieties, are grown. Common sense tells us that in rainfed regions, which occupy 65 per cent of the cultivable area, crops requiring less water should be grown. But it is just the opposite in reality thereby accentuating the water crisis at times of rainfall delay.
I see no reason why Rajasthan, a semi-arid region, should be cultivating water guzzling sugarcane, cotton and rice crops. Similarly I see no reason why Bundelkhand should be cultivating mentha crops, which requires 1.25 lakh litres of water to produce 1 kg of mentha oil. Why can’t the cropping pattern in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh shift to pulses, oilseeds (like mustard) and millets? Why can’t the Goovt provide special incentives by way of a higher price for these crops so that farmers can willingly shift to more sustainable cropping patterns?
11) Lack of storage for foodgrains is appalling. It was in 1979 that under the Save Food Campaign, the Govt had promised to set up grain silos at 50 places in the country. This should be the top agenda for the new government. Not even a single grain should be allowed to go waste. #


Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation

The European Environment Agency has come up with the part 2 of their path breaking report “Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation”. ( 800 pages)  with a summary report of 48 pages . The part 1 of this report was released in 2001 to global acclaim. This report and case studies is peer reviewed . According to the EEA (http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/late-lessons-2):
The 2013 Late lessons from early warnings report is the second of its type produced by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in collaboration with a broad range of external authors and peer reviewers. The case studies across both volumes of Late lessons from early warnings cover a diverse range of chemical and technological innovations, and highlight a number of systemic problems. The ‘Late Lessons Project’ illustrates how damaging and costly the misuse or neglect of the precautionary principle can be, using case studies and a synthesis of the lessons to be learned and applied to maximising innovations whilst minimising harms.
All versions of the report are available here: summary, full report,e-book, kindle form : http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/late-lessons-2
The GM chapter is chapter 19 ( pages 490- 517 only 20 pages all of us must read it) which compares GM technology the top down approach and agro-ecological approaches as bottom up. It goes thru case studies of whether Ht crops are suitable for global south, gives figures of GM area, the problems with confusing ‘lack of evidence of harm” with “ëvidence of lack of harm”, strangle hold of corporations, the lack of public sector and wiping out indigenous seeds , skill and so on after debating the agro-ecological approaches   and concludes that
“The early warning, or perhaps late lesson, to be heeded here is that if one follows the top-down, usually technologically oriented, approaches to innovation,the desired outcomes for addressing food insecurity will not be achieved. Top-down approaches will most likely fail to deliver on the
large promises of food security and alleviation of poverty, mainly because these approaches contribute to a feedback cycle that concentrates resources, knowledge, and influence as witnessed in the seed and agrichemicals sector (Adi, 2006; De Schutter, 2009; Fernandez-Cornejo, 2006; Howard, 2009).Through this power, top‑down providers can artificially homogenise both the conception of the problem to be solved and the solutions — such as GM crop plants — they propose. All too often questioning the rationality of the approach gets lost in the background of the unquestioning discussion over the use of the approach (Pavone, 2011 and see discussion in Boxes 19.1 an 19.2). Perhaps greater reflection and social deliberation into why and for whom agricultural innovations should be produced is needed if we are truly going to follow more sustainable pathways in the production of food and fibre. In the path ahead, societies In the path ahead, societies will have to make more conscientious choices of how to define and shape innovation to produce solutions that are appropriate for meeting global challenges related to agriculture. Bottom-up approaches are proving capable of getting sustainable, participatory and locally adapted solutions into the hands of those that need them most (Altieri, 2011a; Emerging issues | Hungry for innovation: pathways from GM crops to agroecology 510 Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation De Schutter, 2011), but are incapable of flourishing where invention is limited to what can be easily described by prevailing IP instruments. Change the directions, distribution and diversity of innovation, and you change the world.”

Bihar to raise Rs 1.52 lakh crore to give a boost to the farming in the state in the next five years

Submitted on 01/05/2012 – 12:29:35 PM

By M Shabnam

Patna:  The Bihar Agriculture cabinet has set up a Resource Management Group (RMG) to raise Rs 1.52 lakh crore to give a boost to the farming in the state in the next five years. The RMG headed by Chief Secretary Navin Kumar has been assigned to oversee the implementation of the agriculture road map for Bihar.

The RMG would be authorized to arrange the fund for the state plan, central and private sources besides financial institutions. A. K Sinha, state agriculture production commissioner said that the private sector would invest a whopping Rs 23,746 crore in agriculture.

After the fifth meeting of the agriculture cabinet, Sinha said that the department would start consultations with the farmers seeking their suggestions on various agriculture aspects from February one next.

The interaction programme with the farmers would be organised by the state government in Patna on February 1 in which more than 2000 farmers were expected to turn up.

Under the agriculture roadmap it was estimated that the state would spend Rs 26,000 crore during 2012-2013 and Rs 30,000 crore between 2013-2014, Rs 32,000 crore during 2014-2015, Rs 34,000 crore between 2015-2016 and Rs 31,000 crore during 2016-2017, Sinha added.

Sinha further said the state government has proposed to invest Rs 14,000 crore for boosting agriculture production, Rs 10,000 crore on electricity and Rs 36,000 crore for expansion of rural road network in next five year

— http://igovernment.in/site/bihar-raise-fund-fuel-agriculture-growth?utm_source=newsletter-core&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20120105\]

Parliamentary standing committee report on National Agriculture Research System


Declare Agriculture As National Occupation-BJP

Oct 18, 2011



LUCKNOW: The Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday demanded that agriculture must be declared national occupation. Addressing a rally in Meerut during the Jan Swabhiman Yatra on Monday, former BJP president Rajnath Singh said that the BJP believes that neglect of agriculture sector will severely hamper the national growth. “Both the governments at the Centre and the state, have failed to address farmers’ issues. As a result gross domestic productivity in the agriculture sector has slipped from 50% to 16-17%,” he said.

Rajnath demanded a special session of Parliament for 10 days to discuss the issues plaguing agriculture. “Agriculture must have a separate budget,” he said and promised farmers 1% interest loans if BJP is voted back to power.Hitting out at the sale of sugar mills by the UP government, Rajnath said that the wheeling dealing between the BSP supremo and sugar barons has led to net loss of Rs 26,000 crore to state coffers. Cane farmers are long being cheated in UP and it is time their problem is taken seriously, he said.

Meanwhile, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav has asked the chief minister to resign immediately.Due to recent sacking of ministers and removal of a number of MLAs from the BSP, the government has lost majority and the chief minister should immediately step down, he said at Budaun.

Meanwhile MP and national vice-president of BJP Kalraj Mishra attacked BSP government for misutilising the funds sanctioned by the Finance Commission for development of Purvanchal. The money meant for the purpose has been distributed among the BSP legislators’ and party coordinators, he charged.

Addressing a public rally in Jaunpur, Kalraj said, “UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi should explain what made her promise amnesty in the DA case.” Chief minister Mayawati has publicly charged Sonia with calling her up and offering all support to settle her case with the CBI. And since the CBI has already prepared the charge-sheet against Mayawati the delay in filing the document only shows a sinister design of the Congress,” he said.

Congress has always been known to manipulate the investigative agency and this is the reason why the NRHM scam, which has been entrusted to CBI, has drawn a blank. The CBI has not been able to find the murders of Dr YS Sachan as well, he said.

Jairam against using job scheme for farm labour


Sanjeeb Mukherjee & Sreelatha Menon / New Delhi September 30, 2011, 0:33 IST

Sharad Pawar had mooted the idea last week.

Jairam RameshIn a season of inter-ministerial rifts, another one has surfaced. Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh is opposed to using funds under the government’s flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) to provide cheap agricultural labour to farmers.

The idea was mooted last week by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar in Pune. Ramesh told Business Standard this move would be unacceptable to his ministry. The rural development ministry is the nodal ministry handling NREGS.Ramesh conceded he was yet to receive any such formal proposal. But senior agricultural ministry officials confirmed they were working on a joint circular with the rural development ministry to include agricultural labour in activities like harvesting and sowing under NREGS. How funds earmarked for NREGS can be used for direct farming operation like sowing and harvesting is being explored by the ministry, an agriculture ministry official said.

“Something like a joint circular could be worked out to ensure that there is no conflict between the agriculture and rural development ministry,” he said. “There is no difference of opinion between both the ministries, hence we are exploring the idea of a joint circular,” he added.

Ramesh’s stand is in sync with that of civil society groups, who feel NREGS should not be used to replace any existing employment. Ashwani Kumar, an ex-member of NREGS’s Central Employment Guarantee Council, said if NREGS-3 was going to be a scheme to provide cheap farm labour, then NREGS-4 would be ‘no NREGS’.

He says the Act was not meant to provide workers to private individuals. “it would be paving way to a return of feudalism,” he warned and charged the agriculture ministry with ideological bankruptcy in failing to find solutions for farms with low yield. K S Gopal, also an ex-CEGC member and now with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, says NREGS should be used to improve productivity in farms rather than subsidising labour.

“Such a move will kill employment opportunities for farm labourers who may be getting higher wages and large number of work days. Will NREGS provide 200 days of work and higher wages too?” he asked.

Nikhil De, an activist and member of CEGC formed under NREGS, said: “The basic premise of NREGS is to provide jobs for the jobless. So, it is to generate additional work. How can you use it to replace existing jobs?”

Pawar’s recent statement came in the context of a massive agitation in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region by several farmer organisations like Shetkari Sanghatana, demanding support for farmers in the drought-hit areas of Vidarbha. They were demanding NREGS be used to provide cheap labour in these areas.

Says Vijay Jaywantia, who heads Shetkari Sanghatana: “We wound up the agitation after Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan heard us and said the state government could discuss the logistics of using the rural employment scheme of Maharashtra to provide labour in drought-hit tehsils. He said the matter could be taken up further with the Centre.”

However, Chavan told this newspaper no decision had been taken on the matter. Pawar, in his statement, had said the Centre was proposing to use NREGS to provide farm labour, with the Centre bearing 75 per cent of the wages, while the private individual in whose farm the worker would be employed would pay the rest, even at market rates.

Farmers organisations like Kisan Mitra and Shetkari Sanghatana charge the activists who oppose use of NREGS with ignorance and short sightedness.

“The activists oppose this as they consider the farmers as rich landlords. But in Bundelkhand farmers go and work in each other’s fields as they have no money to pay workers,’’ the organisations say.

Report on Strengthening the Role of Agriculture for Nutrition Secure India

The Indira Gandhi Institute ofDevelopment Research(IGIDR), Mumbai and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), New Delhi organized a workshop ‘Strengthening the Role of Agriculture for Nutrition Secure India’ on 13 September 2011 at New Delhi.

In his welcome and opening remarks, PK Joshi pointed out that the concerns of hunger, micronutrient deficiencies and undernourishment should take our thinking beyond growth. He also mentioned that one per cent growth in agriculture has a greater impact on poverty reduction than a similar growth in non-agricultural sector.  He urged the need to look at agriculture and nutrition linkages through three lenses – economic, social and governance.
S Mahendra Dev indicated that one of the purposes of the workshop is to bring in agriculture-nutrition linkages into the policy making exercise. In particular, the twelfth five year plan. Five concerns that he raised are (a) to increase productivity of rainfed resource poor regions with an emphasis on small and marginal farmers, (b) to diversify the diet beyond cereals and include locally available nutritious food, (c) to curb food inflation, particularly for proteins like pulses, (d) a greater need for empowerment of women, and (e) convergence of agriculture with other programmes. Also see his recent co-authored policy note, Pro-nutrition agriculture in India.
In his inaugural address, Vijay Vyas used some recent nutrition indicators on children and women from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) where India is nearly at the bottom. In addition to low levels, he also pointed out their persistence and in some cases deterioration of malnourishment. To a large extent, India has addressed the issue of chronic hunger. But seasonal hunger, particularly during the period after sowing and before harvesting, for some sub-groups of population in agricultural communities is a matter of concern. However, when it comes to calorie-protein adequacy and micronutrient requirements we are still below the norm. We are not even able to provide 1800 calories to many and then again a substantial amount of what is provided is only through cereals. Thus, it is not just agriculture, but also the dietary intake, economic accessibility and environmental factors that matter. He reiterated the pivotal role of agriculture both as a supplier but also as a sector that can generate maximum demand. He called for more production, more variety in terms of nutri-cereals, fruits and vegetables and to make this possible the need for changes or a move beyond rice and wheat through policies of pricing, credit facilitation, distribution and institutional reforms among others.
The keynote address was given by RB Singh who began by quoting Hippocrates “Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine be they food” and then goes on to reiterate Dr Vyas’s point by presenting actual data on India’s poor nutrition indicators in a global comparative perspective, particularly with Brazil and China, for undernourishment, underweight children, low birth weight, low body mass index of mothers, greater fertility, higher child anaemia, lower expenditure on child care, lower vaccination, lower mother’s literacy and lower public expenditure. Both Brazil and China also intervened on clean drinking water, sanitation hygiene, education and awareness and backed this up with political will. He reminded the gathering about the Copenhagen Consensus 2008 reiterating the need for Lifelong Livelihood Security and how neglecting issues of child malnutrition can have adverse impacts on the economy. There is immense scope for research towards leveraging agriculture for nutrition. He put up a case in favour of new technology for seeds, but on genetic engineering he said that cisgenic (genes taken from the same species or a closely related one) will have certain advantages and less regulatory requirement when compared against the transgenic (genes from other species like the Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt). He also highlighted the importance of home/kitchen garden in meeting most of the micro nutrient deficiencies. He praised the rich gene biodiversity of India and said that we should maintain it and propagate agro-ecologically differentiated practices. Keeping the importance of children in this concern of nutrition, he concludes by showing the picture of a child with the caption “Hold my today; I will hold your tomorrow.”
In her presentation, Suneetha Kadiyala began by highlighting the overall scenario in India, higher growth, but not doing well in human development dimension and with much higher share of poor and malnourishment (both undernourished and overweight). The agriculture sector is not doing well and one has observed a high food price index. In the global hunger index, India is not doing well and the state-specific hunger index also does not augur well for almost all the states analyzed. To address nutrition problems, direct interventions like infant feeding and bio-fortification could address only one-third of the problem whereas indirect interventions through agriculture, social protection, education, health system, and women’s empowerment turn out to be important. Some of the emerging findings from their recent study are as follows. (a) A cross-country analysis indicates that agricultural growth helps in the reduction of stunting, but the result weakens when Indian states are included in the analysis suggesting a poor linkage ordisconnect between agriculture and nutrition in India. (b) There is a data disconnect as the existing information make it difficult to analyze the said linkage. (c) Over the years, dietary diversity has increased and the food base has moved to non-cereal sources but mother’s education and household income seem to have a positive impact on diversity. Some of the key entry points from her presentation are that household income matters, agriculture influences dietary pattern, women’s asset ownership is critical for decision making and nutritional outcomes, and that direct health and nutrition interventions matter.
Praduman Kumar’s talk was from a small holder perspective. It began with the contrast that at an aggregate level, India is self-sufficient in food, but it also has the largest number of hungry and poor and most of them happen to be agricultural labourer and marginal farmers with less than one hectare of land. The presentation pointed out that demand, particularly of non-foodgrain crops will increase, but supply will not. This will increase prices and reduce per capita consumption and also have an adverse affect on dietary diversification. Thus, for a food/nutrition secure India we need to focus on livestock, education, irrigation, aquaculture, horticulture, and dryland agriculture. There is a need to bridge research and policy gaps and integrate them with local wisdom. The presentation ended by showing a critical triangle with the three dimensions being food security and agricultural growth, poverty reduction and rural development, and environmental sustainability.
The next presentation was on Food Security Atlas of Rural India by Preet Rustagi, which was based on a district level exercise for rural areas of eight states. At the district level they came up with two indicators – one on food security based on 12 indicators (of which four were on availability, six on access and two on absorption) and an outcome indicator based on underweight children and under-five mortality. From the 281 districts, 101 are food insecure (all the 18 in Jharkhand, most (13 out of 16) in Chhattisgarh, 29 out of 45 in Madhya Pradesh and 19 out of 30 in Odisha and the relatively food secure districts are mostly in Uttar Pradesh (16) and one each in Maharashtra and Rajasthan. There is a clear connection between food insecurity and low irrigation, poor connectivity, income insecurity, hilly terrain, higher proportion of scheduled tribes and scheduled castes, higher proportion of agricultural labourers, low agricultural wages and low female literacy. However, there did not seem to be much connection with the outcome indicators. Severe or extreme insecurity in outcome were observed in 82 districts (31 in Uttar Pradesh, 26 in Madhya Pradesh (there could be some connection here) and 15 in Rajasthan).  The way forward is to focus on the food insecure and poor outcome districts on various associated risk factors, but the interventions should be locally relevant.
Speaking from a gender perspective, Bina Agarwal brought into the discourse some welfare and efficiency concerns. She vouched the concept of land bank, which can act as a depositor of landowners and creditors to tenants. The landowners could be given some minimum returns and higher returns if the land is put to use by tenants. The latter can work in groups, but they need not worry about going to individuals for leasing in. She also mentioned about integrating other support services for the final tiller.
Coming back again, S Mahendra Dev raised some additional issues. The question of availability/access is important, but so is the productivity of water. This reminds RB Singh’s keynote that one kilogram of potato requires 900 litres of water but one kilogram of beef requires 15,500 litres of water. The other concern is that of climate change, as it could adversely affect the yield. Other matters of concern are to bring nutri-cereals into the public distribution system, who should grow pulses (small or large farmers), the slowing growth of fruits and vegetables (or as someone said, the slowing down of horticulture revolution), bridging the gap in prices between what farmers receive and what consumers pay, and the need for convergence of different district level plan through the panchayati raj institutions. An important point that came up during the discussion is the increasing input costs and adverse impacts of pesticide usage.
Veena Rao, a bureaucrat, lamented that nothing much happened out of the National Nutrition Policy 1993 and the National Plan of Action on Nutrition 1995 where the linkage between agriculture and nutrition was spelt out. However, some of these have been taken up in the Karnataka Nutrition Mission. The important ones being that nutrition is to be addressed from a life cycle approach – infants, children, adolescents, lactating and pregnant mother; bridging calorie, protein and micronutrient deficiency through appropriate intervention to different target groups; accelerating, integrating and tightly monitoring multi-sectoral ongoing programmes; achieving convergence between different programmes and covering pragmatic gaps; involving civil society and community; launching awareness and making available nutritious and energy rich food at lower cost through public-private partnership. This reminds me of the ‘health and nutrition’ intervention through the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) in Andhra Pradesh. In some villages where nutritious food was given to lactating and pregnant mothers, the cost of food in some villages could be met by the participants doing some packaging work for the local grocery shop, and as a result none of the child births in this village was less than 3.5 kilograms – the proof of the pudding lies in its eating.
Kaustav Banerjee, representing the revitalizing rainfed agriculture, pointed out that from the perspective of availability at the aggregate level one should not be worried for foodgrains as a whole. While there availability at a local level does matter, but a matter of greater concern is the unavailability of millets in adequate quantities even at an aggregate level. Further rainfed agriculture comprises two-thirds of the farmed area but has attracted comparatively less policy design and interventions. Thus, there is the need for a new architecture to address this, which should be holistic and integrate agriculture with livestock and area development.
Comparing the Empowered Group of Ministers draft versions of the National Food Security Act to that prepared by the National Advisory Council, Biraj Patnaik pointed out that the former has several shortcomings. It does not have the definitions of some important concepts such as child, malnutrition, starvation, job chart and health centre upfront and the definitions of foodgrains, homeless person and public distribution system are relatively restricted. The entitlements for a person per day have been reduced from four to three kilograms of foodgrains. There are no special provision for single women, lactating and pregnant mothers, malnourished children and emergency and disaster affected persons. More importantly the rights of the people living with starvation have been watered down. As a result, the links with nutrition is  absent. He also raised the attention of the house to two other things. The global land grab in Africa where many countries (including India) and private companies (including Indian) are leasing in land to produce food to address shortfalls in their own countries, besides building food reserves to make gains through speculation and trading, is contributing to less land being available for the production of food for the local economies in Africa. The other concern was on the role of the commodities futures markets and its implication on food prices (see the Report of the Expert Committee To Study the Impact of Futures Trading on Agricultural Commodity Prices, particularly the note by the Chairperson of the committee, Abhijit Sen).
In his remarks, Sukhadeo Thorat pointed out that some vulnerable social groups suffered more in terms of malnutrition. If one factors in the gender dimension, women from these social groups are found to be suffering more. To address this, there is need to have a group specific policy. He also pointed out that the larger scheme of things makes the farmer take a decision on crop production based on profitability and not on nutrition. See his co-authored policy note addressing the unequal burden of malnutrition.
Ramesh Chand began by pointing out the weakening link between agriculture and nutrition and the paradox of higher production as also high prices and hunger existing concurrently. He raised the concerns of India being a global diabetic capital, of whether lower consumption of 1400/1600 kilocalorie by some people is because of absence of purchasing power or low requirement based on different homeostatic conditions, and of the fact that people continue to avoid purchasing nutri-cereals even in those regions/areas where their prices are lower than rice and wheat. The homeostatic argument reminded of PV Sukhatme’s dissent note to the Report of the Expert Group on Estimation of Proportion and Number of Poor, pp.46-49.
Pravesh Sharma, a bureaucrat with the Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium, made the last presentation where he outlined three things. First, he pointed out that the institutions of the 1970s that were meant to achieve a macro level food sufficiency are not appropriate to address livelihood and nutrition security. There is need to encourage producers organizations that embed technology credit and market and are also linked to pathways that foster food and nutrition security. Second, there should be diversification at the household or village level, which on the one hand will spread the risk of the small farmer, and on the other will also give the farmer household a healthy and varied nutrition basket. Third, there is a need to encourage the non-farm sector with good backward and forward linkages, as this would be of help for the small and marginal farmers, the local region as also the overall economy.
The day’s session ended with the remarks from Liz Drake,Department for International Development (DFID) and the hosts S Mahaendra Dev, Director, IGIDR and PK Joshi, In-charge, IFPRI, New Delhi. The takeaway from the exercise is that a small group will work towards formulating key policy suggestions that would be submitted to the Government of India. From IGIDR’s perspective, my personal reading is that this was a nice collaborative exercise with IFPRI and in New Delhi and one is looking forward to more such endeavours in the future.
(This is like a rapporteur’s report. It represents my personal views of what I pick from the presentations and at times when I go a little beyond and give my remarks. I thank Bhaskar Goswami for his suggestions on an earlier write-up.

REVIEW OF AGRICULTURE- Economic and Political Weekly

Half a century ago, scholars first noticed that small farms in India demonstrated a higher per acre productivity than large farms. In the 21st century these farms still produce more per acre than large farms. We should be looking at making the most of the higher agricultural productivity on small landholdings.

Where earlier seed varieties were seen as a crucial input for Indian Agriculture, it is now water that has become a critical resource because of its over-exploitation and wasteful use on crop land. In the search for better ways to harvest and use water resources, there has been tendency to hark back to the past and look at small and localized systems, but we forget that the demographic settings then were different and we do not acknowledge the fact that the institutional settings of the time made for inequitable access.

AS the government grapples with modifying the 2002 National Water Policy, an independent effort is made to formulate a draft that looks at water use in all areas in a holistic manner. These and other articles in this review look at different aspects of Indian Agriculture.

Issue : VOL 46 No. 26 and 27 Jun 25 – July 08, 2011

Irrigation in Telangana: The Rise and Fall of Tanks Gautam Pingle
Agriculture currently produces only 30% of total income in the Telangana region, but it remains the basis for survival of nearly 78% of the population. During the 53-year period, 1956-2009, Telangana lost 2.92 lakh hectares of tank irrigation. Meanwhile, despite the high cost of irrigation – both in capital and operating costs – over the same period the area irrigated by tube wells has grown up. The latter is entirely dependent on the recharge of groundwater and the availability and cost of power. Whatever the future irrigation policy and its implementation, it will need a close ground level, local district and regional governmental efforts in Telangana. View Full Article
Farmers’ Suicides in Punjab: A Census Survey of the Two Most Affected Districts R S Sidhu , Sukhpal Singh , A S Bhullar
This is a report on the first-ever census survey conducted on suicides by farmers in the two most affected districts of Punjab, Sangrur and Bhatinda. It tries to arrive at the number of farmer suicides, the reasons (whether they were caused by economic distress alone or they were due to the interplay of the forces of economic distress, social conflict, cultural backwardness and lack of community/state support) and also the present economic status of the families of the victims. View Full Article
Reorienting Land Use Strategies for Socio-economic Development in Uttar Pradesh Arun Chaturvedi , N G Patil , S N Goswami
While the per capita availability of agricultural land has been decreasing rapidly everywhere in India, this article points out the socio-economic implications of current land use and management strategies in Uttar Pradesh. It argues that a judicious land use policy in synergy with the physical, economic and institutional factors should be framed, even as investment is encouraged in non-agricultural sector for employment.View Full Article
Revitalising Higher Agricultural Education in India J Challa , P K Joshi , Prabhakar Tamboli
Agricultural education and R&D in India have grown overwhelmingly over the years but funding levels have not kept pace with growth in the number of programmes, institutions, colleges and universities. Restricted funding and vacant faculty positions are not allowing institutions to modernise the programmes and infrastructure to catch up with the changing needs of agriculture and agro-processing. This article proposes a comprehensive programme to revitalise higher agricultural education. View Full Article
Farm Size and Productivity: Understanding the Strengths of Smallholder and Improving Their Livelihoods Ramesh Chand , P A Lakshmi Prasanna , Aruna Singh
During the 1960s and 1970s there was an intense debate on the observed inverse relationship between farm size and per hectare agricultural productivity in India. It was subsequently argued that the higher productivity of smallholdings would disappear with the adoption of superior technology, modernisation and growth in general. However, close to half a century later, National Sample Survey data from the initial years of the 21st century show that smallholdings in Indian agriculture still exhibit a higher productivity than large holdings. These smallholdings however show lower per capita productivity and the incidence of poverty is widespread. Strategies for Indian agriculture and smallholding households should include reducing the inequality in land distribution and promoting off-farm work in the rural areas itself. The strategy of improving the crop land-man ratio by facilitating migration from rural India has not worked and will not work. The lives of smallholding families can be improved only by building on their higher per acre agricultural productivity and by promoting off-farm rural employment. View Full Article
Spread and Economics of Micro-irrigation in India: Evidence from Nine States K Palanisami , Kadiri Mohan , K R Kakumanu , S Raman
The adoption of micro-irrigation projects has resulted in water saving, yield and income enhancement at the farm level. However, the overall impression is that they are capital-intensive and suited to large farms. In this context, a study was undertaken in nine states, mainly to examine the actual area covered compared to the potential area and to understand the adoption level of mi as well as to analyse the cost and returns under different farm categories. The results indicated that only about 9% of the mi potential is covered in the country. Key suggestions include reduction in capital cost of the system, provision of technical support for operation after installation, relaxation of farm size limitation in providing subsidies and the establishment of a single state level agency for implementation of the programme. View Full Article
Water Harvesting Traditions and the Social Milieu in India: A Second Look Shri Krishan
India has a variety of local community traditions of water harvesting. There are a number of scholars and activists who tend to valorise premodern wisdoms without critically evaluating their sociocultural context and realising how deeply they were embedded in the social hierarchy of their times. There has been, of course, a great deal of stress lately on a kind of “eco-golden age”. This is clearly a case of an “anachronistic projection of modern phenomenon on to the screen of tradition”. Seen from such a perspective, all pre-industrial societies would exhibit a kind of harmony with nature. However, most of the times, it was the demographic and technological factors that made these societies less harmful to the environment. It was not that they wished to protect the whole canopy of nature. This reappraisal demonstrates how precepts and rites, culture and customary practices and state policy interact to lay the bases of water harvesting traditions. Social customs are the necessary conditions for sustaining these traditions, while local autonomy in resource management is the critical sufficient condition but it never results in equitable access for all. View Full Article
National Water Policy: An Alternative Draft for Consideration Ramaswamy R Iyer
The Ministry of Water Resources is at present engaged in revising the National Water Policy 2002. Instead of trying to make changes in the 2002 Policy, the ministry should put it aside and draft a new policy, starting from first principles. In that context, the draft presented here is an attempt to formulate the kind of document that could be drawn up. It seeks to set forth for consideration a broad national perspective on the nature of water and on its prudent, wise, sustainable, equitable and harmonious use.View Full Article