Saturday, December 22, 2012

Kisan Divas

Chaudhary Charan Singh's birth anniversary on December 23rd every year is observed as Farmer’s Day ( Kisan Divas). The late Charan Singh is also remembered for the one and only budget he presented in 1979. That Budget had everything a farmer could dream of in his favor. He also came out with various initiatives in favor of farmers, his passionate appeal and magnetic persona united all the farmers against the moneylenders and landlords. He was also a very effective writer and penned his thoughts on farmers and their problems and solutions. Charan Singh passed away on 29 May 1987.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Re−shaping the small and marginal farmers

Three quarters of the world's farmers cultivate small plots of land, India is the land of marginal and small farmers, the average size of farm land holding is 1.16 hectares ( 2.86 acres). 85% of the Indian framers are cultivating the 70% of farm lands which are below two hectares each, more than 60% of the farm produces come from the small farms only. The productivity of the small farmers is the solution for growing population food needs, the future of the Indian sustainable agriculture is depends on the performance of these small and marginal farmers only. Most of small farmers cultivate the farm land with the support of their family members and local labor which the quality of the work is higher. They spend more time on mulching, trellising, weeding, removing the rock stones, soil conservation and building the irrigation systems which are a part of good agriculture practices . They grow multiple crops and sow as soon as they harvest, small farms have been the most efficient for sustainable and bio-diversified way of agriculture.

India's land holdings average size has been decreasing i.e. 1.16 hectares ( as per 2011 data) and at the same time the number of land holdings are increased to 138 million which are caused by the population growth and family subdivisions. Some researchers argue that small farm land holdings' output is always low and their operating expenses are high. I feel, the farm size is not a constraint for the productivity, small farms are sustainable and the efficiency also more or equal to large farms. Numerous studies have confirmed that there is an inverse connection between the size of forms and yield per hectare, the smaller they are the yield is greater, the contribution of output is higher for marginal and small farmers and they grow high value crops like fruits and vegetables. But small and marginal  farmers have been facing lot of problems like credit and Indebtedness, land titles and tenancy issues, low level education and skills, globalization challenges and climate changes.

The Western model of agriculture is being forcibly advocated by some agricultural policy analysts and economists which is really applicable for only large land holdings. As per Indian agri profile, we can't shift our small farms to larger farms that will cause a decline in food production and also the unemployment of displaced workers that's  going to be a big problem. It is very clear that the Western model of agriculture can't support our Indian agriculture like heavy mechanized, less labor-oriented, chemical-based, high-input agriculture. Actually we should adopt the Eastern model of agriculture which have been implemented in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia and China. The far east agriculture practices like experimenting with high yield verities, controlled use of fertilizers, drip irrigation, effective use of manpower, multiple cropping and custom made small farm equipments are exactly appropriate to Indian farm lands. Moreover, Indian small scale family farmers can't afford to heavy farm equipment, extraneous inputs and hired workers, so the Eastern style of agriculture is the way forward for India.

While small shops, hawkers, farmers markets are being wiped out and replaced with super markets and hyper malls, the small farmers loss their customers. The large super markets always need the consistent supply, competitive price, high quality produces with safety standards, this will be a big challenge for the small farmers since most of the farmers deliver their produces to local vendors and open markets. Supplying to large chain supermarkets is a great opportunity to the small farmers, to confront the same, the government should enact the collective farming by combine all small farm land holdings in to a farmers' cooperative for mutual benefit. Under this model, the farmer will be an independent share holder and collectively utilizing the supply chain/value chain with their own operated marketing societies or private processors.(Just like dairy co-operatives).

This is the time to reshape our Small scale farm production and marketing systems since we are allowing the FDIs in retail trade, to integrate with big chain retails markets the small and marginal farmers should be strengthened with modern technologies and policy reforms. We wish the small and marginal farmers avail the market opportunities for better prospects.