Farmers in India can be classified based on their land holdings, agricultural practices, financial situations, soil nature and by many more factors. In a country where MSP is the problem of one farmer and lack of inputs is the problem of the other, similar agricultural schemes or policies might not prove to be very helpful.
Farmer challenges are based on the place they live in, the soil quality of that region, the crop being cultivated, kind of farming method they prefer etc. So it is pretty clear that there isn’t any approach by the government that faces every challenge in the sector. The challenges get multiplied in case of farmers depending on atmosphere. Rain-fed farmers did not experience any good farming time in the recent years.
Out of paddy, pulses, wheat, oil seeds and cotton, the major crops grown in India, wheat is the only crop that is entirely irrigated. Paddy, Pulses, Oil seeds and Cotton are un-irrigated and lie under the rain-fed category.
Lets have a look at the % of rain fed area in the top three States for the above mentioned 5 crops.
Monsoon dependent farming is practiced by many small and marginal farmers in India. But this practice does not prove to be dependable, as the change in climate patterns and untimely rainfall makes it difficult for the farmers to be productive.
Cultivation being the primary income of the rain fed-farmer, it makes him serve as labor to farmers with larger land holdings. Manual casual labor accounts to 51.18% income and cultivation accounts to 30% for rural households in India.
As mentioned before, small and marginal farmers cannot completely depend on farming to support their livelihoods. This makes them indulge in livelihood opportunities like poultry and fishery etc. These farmers also maintain livestock like goats and sheep. Lets have a look on the livestock distribution among the farmers in India.
The fact that seven districts are rain-fed out of the top 10 poorest districts in India proves the amount of poverty present in the areas. Some reports state that 66 districts are rain-fed among the 100 poorest districts in India.
The main problem attached to rain-fed agriculture is the limitation of time. The farmers only have one season to practice farming and the slightest change in climatic patterns and distribution of rainfall ruins the agriculture plan of the farmer for the rest of the year.
One more factor is the low rate in the market. Again due to limited time, the farmer does not have many options to diversify the crop and ends up cultivating coarse cereals mostly. These cereals do not fetch a very high price in agriculture markets.
These reasons make the rain-fed farmers end up in lower equilibrium in the agriculture production. Also, these farmers do not get much of the attention and support from the government.
In order to build canals and dams for the farmers in India, huge investments have been made in the country. But most of the small and marginal farmers fail to access to these canals and dams. Also, unregulated exploitation of ground water has been practiced from a very long time which is a matter of concern.
Some stats say that, out of the 142 million hectares of net cultivated area, the net irrigated area accounts to 57 million hectares only. The figure remained close to constant for almost 7 years now. And in this net irrigated area, 17 million hectares land is irrigated from large dams. The rest of the land is either irrigated by small systems or ground water.
According to some reports, fertilizer usage is three times more in irrigated areas when compared to rain-fed areas. So the subsidies lie more in the irrigated areas. One more clear example is the reports which say that 81.3% of the farmers with irrigated land use High Yielding Variety (HYV) of fertilizers and seeds whereas the percentage is 44.9 in case of rain-fed farmers.
Minimum Support Price is still a major issue in many States in India. The below is a pie chart for Public Investments in India from 2010 to 2014.
We can see that the investments are not directed towards the rain-fed farmers. The pattern followed is
- Get water
- Make sure the farms are irrigated
- Provide high yielding seeds
- Provide chemical fertilizers
- Give access to the market
The Research and Development cells also follow a similar pattern. This approach is fit to improve the agricultural economy on a higher scale. But as long as the ground level asymmetry is cleared, Indian agriculture cannot be completely enlightened.
By the above mentioned points, it is pretty clear that rain-fed farming needs the attention and support of various bodies in the agriculture sector. Things that can be improved further are,
Effective Solutions To Address Water Problems
Watershed development programs for every village and farm can help the small and marginal rain-fed farmers a lot. The practice of protective irrigation also needs to be brought into practice by providing capital for small water storage structures built with the hep of local material. This will also generate some sort of employment in the rural region.
Effective Income Sources
Livestock like goats and sheep, fisheries and poultry, help the rain-fed farmers by providing them nutritious food, some extra income, and can be handy to sell at time of distress. So solutions that help this particular livestock sector need to be introduced. Alternative crop options like millets, which grow with little inputs and are nutritionally important can also be useful.
These above practices have been implemented in some communities in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, and Madhya Pradesh. The introduction of millets in rain-fed farming areas, the strengthening of backyard poultry and the methods to collect ground water have helped these states in enhancing the livelihood and incomes of rural farmers.
Until we realize the true value of rain-fed farming, we would continue to address the entire farming community with similar set of solutions.
Its never too late to realize. Support Farmers. Sponsor_A_Farmer.
Originally published at blog.farmguide.in by Bharath Varma AVS on January 31, 2018.