During the starting days of an individual’s career, it is always recommended to chose work profile over salary package. I always wondered why so much importance is given to work experience as when the person goes to a new organization, it will be a completely different ecosystem. But certainly that’s not the case. The quality of the of work decides the level of knowledge that is going to be acquired. In the initial years, it is important to work in the roots of the sector before assuming higher roles. This has been the case for me in the agriculture sector. Despite being the grand son of a farmer, all the knowledge I possess related to agriculture has been acquired in the last 6 months compared to the 20-22 yrs of my life before that.
Agriculture is one of the main areas of focus for Shramik Bharti (SB) for decades. Earlier, they worked on projects related to soil management and subsequently are now promoting nature farming i.e. zero budget farming. Along with the type of farming, market price is a big headache for the farmers community. To tackle this problem, FPOs (Farmer Producing Organization) have been created by SB to consolidate the produce and do the value addition at the village level itself so that the farmer gets the right price. Also, farmers are encouraged to do inter-cropping with the sole aim of the farmer producing all the required household things in his/her field.
One of the main reason behind the current state of our अन्नदाता is his/her over dependence on the market. As a result of which, he/she maneuvers based on the market trends and the whole agri-ecosystem remains volatile just like the share market. Certain external uncontrollable factors acts as catalyst to increase the volatility.
There are two cycles where the problem lies – firstly, the Minimum Support Price problem in the end product price. The answer to this is in the value addition at the lowest level possible, this is known by everyone and work is in progress. Only thing that disturbs me at this intervention is that it is not aimed at the farmer level despite delivering long rhetorical speeches. It’s only the ball game of people who can afford a suit and a boot. The second cycle of problem lies at the field i.e. production level. It is a preconceived notion in India that a million people who go to bed empty stomach every night is because we don’t have sufficient grains. To my surprise, that is not the problem. In fact, every year tonnes of grains gets spoiled in cold storage. The issue is of low quality, high yield and abnormal production of crops.
The country exported 20.4 million tonnes of agricultural produce in 2015-16, and 22.3 million tonnes in 2017-18. It imported 8.1 million tonnes in 2015-16 and 9.4 million tonnes in 2017-18, shows the agriculture ministry data. This shows how few crops are too much in quantity in comparison to others which are less in quantity.
If I were to use the trending line of current times, in 70 years post independence and still, the focus is only on high yield – irrespective of the means to achieve it. I remember a meeting few weeks back with a top bureaucrat of UP Govt. (agriculture division) in context of our FPOs and products, that meeting lasted for only 10-15 minutes. The sole point of that person’s argument was the yield. He gave the example of Assam as how the production has gone down after organic has been adopted. And the irony was that in that very meeting, he was sipping green tea of Organic India.
The argument of economic prudence is normally given when it comes to price or pumping in capital in this area. The other aspect is of high productivity by using urea and other chemicals. The larger picture that is being ignored by all this is the poison that we are growing in the country. We all complain about the changed food habits and its affect on our health. Medical expenses are going higher in every household day by day. The root cause is the toxic food we consume. As a result, a large amount of public fund is wasted on health.
Punjab, land of 5 rivers, is considered as the leader of states in agriculture has been destroyed by 2Ds – Drugs n DAP (other fertilizers as well). The soil is in a really bad shape. The other point is of the quality of grains that are grown. Traditional local varieties have nearly become extinct which we are trying to revive in our work areas. And when such low quality is produced in high volumes, it becomes redundant. As a result, despite having grains, we import. This puts additional load on state exchequer. Also, excess use of chemicals results in more amount of water for irrigation as water retention capacity of the soil decreases which in itself is becoming a problem based on the reports on water availability in the near future. So, it’s like a losing battle being fought by farmers and the government in this regard.
One of the major responsibility of the farmers along with government is to grow healthy food. Because only if the state remains healthy, economy will grow and the money used on medical costs can be diverted to other important causes. In this, nature farming along with FPO serves both the purpose. Through this style of farming, healthy food is grown at low input cost which increases the profit percentage of the farmers. Along with this, when the quality grain will be produced in the desirable quantity, farmers will be able to command the prices. Hence, inter cropping becomes important. It serves two purposes – this decreases the dependence of farmers on market as farmer has most of the things in his/her field and there is no need to spend money in buying things. Secondly, mono cropping opens door for clear cut exploitation. Best example is of sugarcane farmers across the country. How the sugar mill owners fails to clear the dues of the farmers for years. Ultimately, if we look at the whole picture together, today the agriculture is being looked through the lens of market/economy which fails the farmers of the country. It needs to become self-reliant i.e. free from the complexities of the market.
In my opinion, Indian agriculture system has enormous opportunities as well as potential. This is an area which still awaits the modernization both in terms of policy and farming style. Today’s agriculture policies fail to recognize how crop choices, input costs, and the supply chain are intertwined, perpetuating marginal farming. The moment we are able to figure out the solution, it will become the backbone of the country in its true sense.