Agriculture: Realities, Possibilities and Potentials

Indian Agriculture
The father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi once said; “Agriculture is the backbone of Indian economy”. Sixty six years ago, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, said that- ‘Everything else can wait but not agriculture’ which holds true even today, agriculture being a driver of country’s economic growth. Although more than half of the country’s population is engaged in the agriculture today, the contribution of agriculture to the GDP of the nation is merely 13.67% and employs less than 50% of country workforce (Economic times report, 2013).

-Abhishek Raj

The father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi once said; “Agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy”. Sixty-six years ago, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, said that- ‘Everything else can wait but not agriculture’ which holds true even today, agriculture being a driver of country’s economic growth. Although more than half of the country’s population is engaged in the agriculture today, the contribution of agriculture to the GDP of the nation is merely 13.67% and employs less than 50% of the country workforce (Economic times report, 2013).

Agriculture not only takes care of national food requirement for growing 1.28 billion population of the country but it also improves the household food and nutrition security, food quality, environmental protection, resource sustainability, a shift in food consumption pattern, and climate change etc. India has contributed significantly over years to the productivity of food grains, fruits, spices, vegetables etc. The country has produced 258 million tonnes of food grains with record production in rice (104.3 million tonnes), wheat (93.9 million tonnes), cotton (35.2 million bales) and sugarcane (357.7 million tonnes) during 2011-12.
The total horticulture produces reached 277.4 million metric tonnes from almost 22 million hectare area in 2013, making India the second-largest producer of horticultural products after China. Therefore, agriculture is demographically the broadest economic sector and plays a significant role in the overall socio-economic fabric of India. As per old adage, “Agriculture is the Best whereas Business is Next to it”. Firstly, we have to adopt farming as my profession at grass root level in the village and urban area then the door opens concomitantly for business in various farming enterprises.

The profession is an occupation to help build skills and develop expertise in the field of one’s interest. We have various field options to choose and take up as our profession viz., academic, cultural, medical, industry, public services, transport, science, technology etc. Learning ability, skill development, earning money, uplift socio-economic condition of society and an overall improvement in health and wealth of nation could be major objectives of profession.

Agriculture versus other professions:
Many youths are engaged in different professions as a job seeker. But they must know that the other professional sectors have imitated scope to explore new innovative ideas. A doctor keeps working only for diagnosis of disease; pharmacist has knowledge about medicine, and similarly all professions except agriculture focus on having knowledge and growth in their confined sector only. We know that industry sector and services sectors contribute more to GDP (26.75% and 59.57%) compared to agriculture for an uplifting wealth of the nation but it gravely impacts the environment and health. ‘Sustainable’ term appears meaningless for industry growth.
Today, climate change has become a burning issue. Industry growth causes pollution and environmental degradation; yet, the people are largely interested in being a part of these industrial sectors. Whereby, there is a vast scope for young graduates to undertake agriculture as a profession which is directly or indirectly contributing to the economic and social development of the country. As per the report of NAIP (2011), the passed out graduates get employment in various sectors such as 33 per cent in government, 44 per cent in private, 10 per cent in financial, 4 per cent in research and academic and 9 per cent in others. Some of the post-graduate can also start own business units including the agri-clinics and Agro Service Centres.
The RAWE and Experimental Learning programmes funded by ICAR, being an integral part of the degree programmes, are expected to make the agricultural graduated more capable and confident in handling the field and industry problems. Moreover, agriculture and allied sector make the connection between different another professional sector, to create huge job opportunity, to uplift health, wealth and improve the socioeconomic condition at the society level, village level, state level and ultimately to national level.

Farming system concept:  
When I think of agriculture, farming comes to my mind spontaneously. “Farming system” is a complex inter-related matrix of soil, plant, animals, implements, power, labour, capital, and other inputs controlled in part by farm families and influenced by varying degrees of political, economic, institutional and social forces that operate at many levels. It is a resource management strategy to achieve economic and sustained production to meet diverse requirement of farm household while preserving resource base and maintaining a high level of environmental quality.
For examples, it represents the integration of farm enterprises such as cropping systems, animal husbandry, fisheries, forestry, sericulture, poultry etc. for optimal utilization of resources and bringing prosperity to the farmer. The end product and wastes of one enterprise often become inputs to others. The waste of dairying viz., dung, urine, refuse etc. is used in the preparation of FYM or compost, which serves as an input in cropping systems to uplift the physicochemical properties of soil and benefit to soil health. The straw obtained from the crops (maize, rice, sorghum etc) is used as fodder for dairy cattle and for different field operations for growing crops. Further, in sericulture, the leaves of the mulberry crop as feeding material for silkworms, grain from maize crops are used as feed-in poultry etc.
Thus different enterprises of farming systems are directly interrelated and benefited as a combination manner and used in other different ways to fulfil the needs and requirement. Therefore, in my opinion, agriculture should be placed at higher priority position because it is an engine for the economy of our country, creating employment and income and also reducing hunger and poverty.

Why I have opted farming as my profession?
Agriculture/farming can overcome many challenges and problems of our country, which are mentioned below;

• The agriculture/farming is the only potential option which has the capacity to fulfil the basic needs of rapidly increasing human population which include food, fibre, fuel and timber.

• There is a problem of unemployment in our country even employed educated and skilled youths are not satisfied with their personal job because of their limited scope in their profession/sector to explore and innovate new idea. Unemployed youth always search for job even for their survival. They just become job seeker but, whenever any youth opt to take up farming as a profession, he is likely to reverse the situation, and becomes a job creator.

• Now climate change has emerged as the major challenge to the existence of human being in the world scenario. In developed countries, the industrial growth is, of course, better but it is at the cost of a healthy environment. India is a developing country and farm-based industry contributes significantly to GDP without jeopardizing ecological health of the country. I choose farming as a career to uplift national wealth, health and to fulfil the Hon’ble Prime minister’s concept of “Make in India”.

• I wish to explore innovative ideas/concept with freedom and that are useful to native conditions of the land. I want to learn, talk, play and run with nature because the world knows that Newton had discovered gravitational theory sitting under the tree, Jagadish Chandra Bose was the first to prove that plants too have life and Archimedes theory of buoyant force has been showed that discovery takes birth in an innocent mind with enquiry attitude in nature. But, in other private sectors except for farm enterprises, a mind gets bound and confined to the narrow objectives of the company, resulting in the slavery of the minds there.

Indian Agriculture
Yes, I am proud of farming as my career, as there are many advantages and scope in farming. Firstly, we can run our own business. Farmers are entrepreneurs and need to have a strong head for business to keep their farming enterprises running smoothly. Cost, profit, business planning, and contracts, all have as much impact on the farm as the crops and livestock. Modern agriculture may include agribusiness, industrial agriculture, intensive farming, organic farming and sustainable agriculture, and these offer sound career opportunities in research, environment, financial management, engineering etc.
Taking the case of agribusiness, it includes the business opportunity of agricultural production. Similarly, under the sustainable farming system, we can integrate both plant and animal production practices which is a location-specific and also based on ecological principles. Through a sustainable farming system, I can satisfy the needs of food and fibre, enhance environmental quality, maintain ecosystem structure and function, efficient use of non-renewable resources, sustained biological cycle and can also do enhancement of the socio-economic status of the farmers.
Further, I can enhance productivity, profitability and sustainability of the production system through organic and green farming. This has given rise to farming without the use of chemicals in the natural ecosystem and a piece of land has fullest potential to produce a range of nutritious and healthy food for better health of farmers with maintaining soil health and productivity by ecofriendly agricultural practices. Similarly, agroforestry, an effective land-use farming system, plays a major role in the enhancement of overall farm productivity, soil enrichment through litter fall, maintaining environment services such as climate change mitigation (carbon sequestration), phytoremediation, watershed protection and biodiversity conservation.

Today, modern technologies such as biotechnology, environmental technology, green technology etc. are used in different parts of the world to improve the quality and quantity of agricultural products. Hence, as innovators, creators, builders and leaders of the country, we can embrace these modern technologies and use them to empower themselves and help overcome the challenges of farming fraternity.

Constraint and solving strategies:  
As we know that the Indian economy is predominantly rural and agriculture-oriented. In India, the cultivable land is 143.8 million hectares and there is very little possibility of extending it further. In agriculture, 85% of the holdings are less than two hectares and the declining trend in the average size of the farmer holdings poses a serious problem. Majority of them are dry lands, which depend on uncertain and erratic monsoon rains. The rest of the area is cultivated with protective irrigation.

Still, farmers are concentrating mainly on field crop production because they have no other option to uplift their socio-economic condition. I think these problems can be solved through farming. In that case, where farmers have only small size land for cultivation, they have the option to introduce the integrated farming system, which is commonly and broadly used word to explain a more integrated approach to farming as compared to monoculture approaches. It will also help to meet the requirements of quality food grains for the increasing population.

Due to shrinking resources, there is a need to shift from input-based to knowledge-based increase in agricultural production to produce “More from Less for More” and that combat the widely prevalent hidden hunger and malnutrition in rural woman and children. Use of time and space concept either in irrigated or in rainfed areas, the productivity per unit area per unit time can be substantially enhanced.

The time concept relates to increasing the intensity of cropping under assured irrigated conditions, whereas space utilization pertains to building up of vertical dimension through multi-tier cropping and farming system approach. The most important point is that the country became self-sufficient in food production despite tremendous pressure to sustain 16% of world human population and 10% of cattle population with just 2.4% of total geographical area.

Land degradation coupled with land scarcity is one major constraint. Out of total geographical area (329 million ha) of India, the degraded area comprises 187 million ha (57%), of which 162 million ha is way of wind and water-related degradation. Nearly 120.72 m ha of land in the country is degraded due to soil erosion and about 8.4 million ha has soil salinity and water logging problems (ICAR, 2011).

But these degraded lands and wasteland can be utilized by extensive farming practices as agroforestry to utilize and improved the land fertility status through the concept of time and effective space utilization. To mitigate these problems, we can adopt farming system under different agroforestry models viz., alley cropping/hedgerow farming, multipurpose farming, boundary plantation and plantation with suitable pastures in erosion-prone hilly area to reduce soil and water erosion.

By adopting some bio drainage and phytoremediation measures, trees like eucalyptus species under agroforestry farming reduce excess water table to overcome waterlogging condition. Therefore, the agroforestry system as an ecologically sustainable land use option, alternative to the prevalent subsistence farming patterns for conservation and development. As per the opinion of some group of researcher, agriculture today plays the largest single human activity affecting the environment through the emission of green house gas through paddy field and will remain so in the future as well. But I opine for the best solution to mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration (carbon storage) in which integrated farming system comprises woody perennial trees and herbaceous field crops can store carbon in their body parts to balance carbon proportion in the environment.

Moreover, it also plays a major role in overall farm productivity, soil enrichment through litter fall, phytoremediation, watershed protection and biodiversity conservation. Enhancement of climate-smart technologies based on the principles of conservation and integrated agriculture becomes important.

Out of all mentioned constraint and their solving strategies, the other constraint may includes budgetary constraint, manpower constraint, technical skill constraint, lack of farmer and youth participation, less effective equipment, lack of effective policy, lack of full-time education etc. The government should be aware of it and extend hands to each and every developmental institution, institutional and non-institutional funding agencies and to improve the knowledge and skill of student (youth) through opening of desirable agricultural universities.

Also, the vision 2040 of Indian agriculture should include strategies and framework which would help to address the important issues, by harnessing the power of science and provides a roadmap in shaping the future agricultural research. This could be implemented with the help of on-going and new government initiatives programme. On-going initiatives such as Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVKs), Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS), NABARD Farmers’ Clubs and new initiatives such as Attracting and Retaining Youth in Agriculture (ARYA), National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), Agricultural Skill Council of India (ASCI), Young professionals platform for Agricultural research for development (YPARD) intends to create a positive wind of change and promote youth’s innovation and entrepreneurship skills.

It is also the need of the hour to carefully apply appropriate external inputs based on soil health as being focused by Hon’ble Prime Minister in every platform for the upliftment of Indian agriculture.

There is no doubt to say farming is my career and profession. There exist lots of opportunities to gain more for more diversifying yield under the viable running of the farming operation and their enterprises. The integrated farming system ensures that waste from one form of agriculture becomes a resource for another form and we can avoid the environmental impacts caused by waste activities. It has the capacity to bridge the yield, productivity and production gaps, and ensure sustainable improvement in food security, income equity, livelihood security, nutrition adequacy and environmental security.

But there is a need for promising productive agriculture, precision farming, organic cultivation, Hi-Tech horticulture, micro-propagation, Integrated Pest Disease and Nutrients Management, Post Harvest Management. This can be achieved through reorientation of the research and development which focus to develop and promote those technologies that raise agricultural productivity, profitability, income, ensure employment opportunities and sustainability of production and consumption systems with special focus on small farm holders. Overall, I am farming professional asset to make viable and vibrant India through agricultural transformations.
Abhishek Raj

PhD Scholar,
Department of Forestry,
College of Agriculture, I.G.K.V.,
Raipur- 492012 (C.G.), India
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