How the small Indian farmer can turn the wheels of sustainable agriculture
Indian farmers are the key custodians of agriculture and play a crucial role in contributing to the economy. A report by the World Trade Centre highlights that India can be among the top five exporters of agro commodities by shifting focus to cultivation and handholding farmers,.
Agriculture is the fuel that powers the engines of economic growth in the country, with 50 percent of the Indian population dependent on it. The sector not only plays a crucial role in improving food and national security, but also creates job and income growth for other sectors.
Improving the economic conditions of famers needs immediate attention to accelerate the pace of growth. They must be enabled with opportunities and supported with holistic solutions that will help in restoring natural farming methods, which will, in turn, restore the ecological balance through sustainable development goals.
Conditions of India’s agricultural ecosystem
Although agriculture is a significant growth driver in India, the sector faces persistent and unexpected difficulties, with farmers having to deal with many challenges. There is already high stress on clean water resources for the country’s population.
Similarly, farmers don’t have the means to receive water from alternate sources and have a high dependence on rainwater for irrigation. Poor quality of seeds and cultivation techniques are also proving to be disadvantageous for most farmers and affecting their crop yields.
Agriculture in India can be a resource-intensive process, raising sustainability issues such as land degradation, which can pose a threat to farmer communities. There are also no readily available resources for farmers to become aware of modern agriculture practices or harvesting techniques that can aid their daily efforts.
Famers must be educated and supported to embrace natural farming methods and modern agriculture practices that incorporate methods of agriculture that are both economically viable and environmentally sustainable.
Sustainable agriculture has a lot of benefits, from contributing to soil fertility to protecting biodiversity and the ecosystem rather than depleting them.
The burgeoning population puts considerable pressure on the food system, which this makes adopting sustainable agriculture imperative - to meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Reaching this goal is the responsibility of multiple stakeholders in the community, including farmers, policymakers, researchers, industries, retailers, and consumers, as each of them contributes uniquely to strengthen sustainable agriculture.
Sustainable agriculture – the way forward
Understanding the strength of this sector and its keepers, the government has announced various schemes for farmers in India. From creation of the National Agriculture Market (eNAM) to forming the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture along with other key reforms, it continues to provide much-needed relief to farmers.
While the government proactively takes measures to aid farmers, the duty equally falls on corporates, as active community members, to take the initiative in providing support to the government to aid their efforts and work closely with farmers at the grass root levels.
The social arm of a leading two-wheeler Indian motor company has been relentlessly working towards enabling sustainable solutions to empower the farming community through holistic development projects in agricultural districts of Tamil Nadu.
The trust implemented modern agriculture practices through an inter-cropping awareness programme for villagers of Combur, Pappereddipatti, Tamil Nadu. The Combur model of inter-cropping helped farmers to cultivate more crops as compared to the traditional method of agriculture. This led to a significant change; their earnings doubled over a period of one year.
The trust also worked closely with local farmers and motivated them to transform barren land areas by helping them adopt an integrated inter-cropping approach. It introduces farmers to modern water management and irrigation techniques, including the repair, renovation, and construction of water and soil conservation structures to increase ground water level and avoid top soil loss.
The corporate trust has been working with farming communities in Hosur since 1999, where they started with 15 villages, which widened to 497 villages, covering 22,453 farmers and 44,715 families.
With the support of experts and consultants from the agricultural department and agronomists, they arrange various government schemes for farmers to initiate new methods of cultivation. They also conduct training on various agriculture techniques.
These initiatives have led to an increase in income, while reducing farmers’ expenses. Jayaram Reddy, a farmer living in Saragapalli village in Krishnagiri district in Tamil Nadu, earned very little from rose farm cultivation. Corporate intervention increased substantially, which was achieved through a natural farming approach combined with adoption of modern techniques of farming.
The future of agriculture in India must not only focus on easing viability of the sector but empowering farmers, who work tirelessly to sustain the agricultural ecosystem from further degradation.
Initiatives by the government, corporates, and community members must be a continuous endeavour to ensure farmers are resilient. The small Indian farmer, with an increased knowledge of sustainable agriculture practices and support of a proactive community, can turn the wheels of development, and show the way forward for agrarian India.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)