Saturday, April 05, 2014

Farmers' wish list for 2014 elections

The whole India is engaged in elections,  the16th Lok Sabha  elections and also some of the states are having Assembly elections, most of the parties have finalized their manifestos with a pack of poll promises. Like in every election, political parties consider the farmers and agriculture are very serious subject before going  to the poll, and soon after the results they ignore the problems and left to the farmers' fate. Farmers have to blame themselves for their perils since they are not active enough to make the political parties as the agrarian crisis is a priority agenda. During the election process, the farmers and farmer groups are working for their individual causes  and political motives. Most of the farmer unions are affiliated with the political parties which work for their electoral prospects  and farmers also forget about their agricultural problems , busy with local issues by dividing  themselves  in to social class, economic status and political party basis.

Each and every class of society have been achieving  their demands by unity though they are a small group of people. But being a 55% percent of the population and a biggest vote bank in India, the farming community  failed to achieve their wishes  and get rid of their problems. If the farmers have collectively agitated on their farming issues they will definitely get benefitted, but they are mediocre educated, lack of leadership skills, lack of  direction and socially segregated  which are the hindrances for their collective bargaining. In the 2014 elections , the political parties must consider the agrarian crisis is a prioritized issue  to help the Indian farmers in all aspects such as making agriculture as a profitable profession and providing a respectable economic and social status to the farmers.
If the political parties really have a commitment and affection on farmers, they should include the below said farmers' wish list in their manifestos and these must be implemented once they come to power.
1.     Implementation of Prof. M. S. Swaminathan Committee’ recommendations (National Commission of Farmers).                                     

2.     Special Financial plan (Budget) is required for agriculture and agro allied industries. (Not included irrigation).
3.     All farmers need to be provided Institutional credit with nominal interest rates i.e 4% and the amount should be based on their crop pattern and farm size.

4.     9 hours uninterrupted quality power supply to agriculture ( Day time).

5.     MNREGS program should be linked up with agricultural operations like transplantation, weeding, harvesting and so on which can solve the man power shortage problems to the farmers. Panchayats have to co-ordinate with Department of rural development in the allocation of MNREG works based on the villagers’ discretion.

6.     Agriculture, Revenue, Irrigation, marketing & warehouses, animal husbandry, fisheries, such as agro allied department ministers should be farmed as special cabinet ( Empowered Group of Ministers for Agriculture) which works for farmers empowerment. This cabinet should meet every month, the issues to discussed and resolved. The group should consider the suggestions of all farmers’ organizations, peasant organizations and voluntary organizations.
7.     The CACP(Commission for agriculture Cost and prices)  should be declared as  an autonomous organization, it should be restructured with new terms and references. CACP should consider all prescribed 12 factors and also other issues  like inflation, cost of living and losses due to import - export  policies while formulating the price recommendations.  
8.     Risk mitigation  fund for bonus on food grains to compensate the losses by natural calamities if anything occurred. Establish a Price stabilization fund ( Market intervention fund) to insulate the farmers from market price fluctuations.

9.     A required capacity of warehouses should be constructed since we don't have enough godown facilities to store the grains. The market yard godowns should be renovated and fully utilized, funds need to be allocated for market yards development. Value added agriculture , food processing unites, supply chain facilities must be created.                                    

10. Establish a farmers’ income commission for measuring the farmers’ economic conditions, all old age farmers should get monthly pension for their social security and all peasants’ children should get free education with hostel facility.

11. Empowerment of women farmers like capacity building and giving right to land ownership. Allocating unused lands to women self help groups / Dalit women groups. The farm wages should be equal without any gender difference.

12. National Rain fed Area Authority (NRAA) has been working on cloud seeding and artificial rains; in fact all these efforts are not really helpful to the farmers. Incorporate a State Rain fed/Dry land area authority to identify the suitable crops, harnessing the water resources for at least to cultivate two acres of land and save the lives of draught animal.  Identifying the viable alternative livelihood activities. Protecting and preserving the water bodies like natural lakes, ponds and village tanks.

13. Establishing crop based growers group (Kind of Collective farming /General Body of farmers Ex: Mulkanor cooperative, Ethonda PACS) for power of collective bargaining. The government should provide the support like credit facilities, subsidized inputs, Special markets, warehouses, processing units and so on.

14. State owned Agriculture Finance Corporation to be established. It shall be to assist in the development of agriculture and agricultural industries by making loans to farmers, co-operative societies, private companies, public bodies, and other persons engaging in agriculture or agricultural industries.
15.  A farmers friendly seed bill should be formulated that shall regulate the quality of seeds, sales, imports and exports. Plans should be evolved for 100% certified seed replacement. The government should allot some funds to agriculture universities to develop hybrid verities with the association of the farmers and the seed should be supplied through Seed Corporation. Promoting the indigenous (native varieties) seeds by incorporating the village level seed bank groups / Seed villages   (like Dwacra/SHG) with incentives and that will create a network among them to share and exchange.

16. Promoting Organic farming and sustainable cultivation practices. Encouragement programs for organic fertilizers, conversion of solid waste to bio – fertilizers.

17. Agriculture should be modernized by Information technology and Bio technology. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is the best possible way to create awareness among the farming community which is  not only on prevailing prices but also about the possibility of exploitation by middlemen.  In order to access the ICT, free mobile phones to be provided to the prospective farmers each cost Rs.1500 which connects the markets digitally.

18. Decentralization of Powers to farmers in Co-operatives societies and Market Yards to strengthen the co-operative system.

19. Encouragement programs on back yard farming and family farming in urban locations.
20. Promoting the Agro tourism.

21. Promoting Exceptional Agriculture Regions for farming, the integrated approach of EARs will be including all farm-related schemes with respective panchayats and local farmers. They must be empowered to decide which crop to grow, what seeds to use, whether they should take to organic farming or use chemicals, whom to sell to and at what price. This EARs will encourage organic farming, aromatic, medicinal plants and exotic plants for international markets.

22. Subsidy up to 50 % on Solar powered water pumps for all farmers .

23. Successful corporate companies should spend at least 1% of their net profits for agriculture through government networks which is the part of their CSR, the spending amount will be eligible for tax benefits.

24.  The formation of cooperative societies which facilitates the farm implements on lease basis. Encourage the private companies for custom hiring tractors and farm machinery. Formation of sufficient number of agro service centers in entire state for better extension services, each center must cater services for at least 4000 acres under supervision of sufficient extension staff. These centers also provide farm machinery on rental basis like custom hiring centers.

25. Establish Rural Business Hubs for horticulture produces. These rural business hubs will serve as one-stop-shops that offer various agricultural inputs and services to farmers, including weather information, crop management advice, and access to markets and finance. will improve the horticulture produces value chain in the region by increasing productivity and linking farmers with private retailers/ processors and other stakeholders, leading to increased income at all stages - production, processing, distribution and retail.To increase farmer incomes in the region, these hubs are teaming up with public and private sector partners to demonstrate best practices and strengthen producer-processor-retailer linkages to better address the challenges related to production, price, and marketing that farmers face in the region.

26. We have around 50% of tenant farmers; very few of them are getting bank loans. Government should arrange some fund as a guarantee for banks  towards tenant farmer loans.

27. Crop insurance schemes should be developed by making village as a unit which must cover all risks from sowing to marketing with an affordable premium. The loss claim settlements  should be cleared within 60 days of the calamity.

28. Comprehensive Land Usage policy: The farming land area should be calculated as per population growth statistics and based on that only the agricultural land has to be converted to any other purpose.

29. Mobile clinics for Draught/Dairy/Herd animals, medical camps must be conducted in villages with certain schedules.

30. Protect and promoted the native breeds ( Nativ cows/ Ongole breeds), bull,cow and buffalo production programs. Financial medical assistance to Gosalas ( Cow herds).

31. Improved Sheep/goat/Pig herd programs, loan facilities, Insurance facilities. ( Small farmers and landless laborers owned these herds) Meat processing, production and export facilities in rain fed regions.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Why we need Agroforestry !!

The increasing population will need a lot of household wood products, paper products, packing material and fire wood. To meet the growing demand we can't rely on the forests alone, so private agroforestry is  inevitable.  India's per capita consumption of paper and paperboard is less than 10kg and whereas China is 72kg. The productivity of timber in India is only 0.7 cubic meters /ha/year whereas the world average is 2.1 cubic meters /ha/year. India's forests are covered in  69 million hectares i.e.  19.5% of the country's area, the  availability of forest land per person in India is one of the lowest in the world at 0.08 ha, against an average of 0.5 ha for developing countries and 0.64 ha for the world. The demand for timber was  85 million cubic meters in 2008 and now it is expected to cross 153 million cubic meters by 2020, the supply of wood from forests  are projected  to 60 million cubic meters by 2020. This means India needs to depend on imports or else agroforestry in private and community lands for its growing wood requirements.

Increased cost of cultivation, non availability of farm labor, higher farm wages and various reasons farmers are switching to less investment and less labor intensive farming like short term commercial crops and forestry plantations. Agroforestry system is mostly practiced by  the large farmers who have alternative source of income rather than agriculture, It won't viable to small farmers  since they need annual returns on agriculture for their livelihood. But some of the areas the small farmers  also cultivating the  agro forestry  by  inter cropping  the food crops between the rows up to one or two years or till the trees get  bigger, which is a good sign for food security and wood security.

Leucaena and Eucalyptus trees are widely cultivated in Andhra Pradesh which give the guaranteed farm income and the yield of each acre is used to be between 25- 30 tonnes  for  every four years as the trees are harvested only after 4 years.The wood pulp is being used in paper industry and as well as plywood, particle boards and wood veneer. The waste wood has been used in bio mass power generation plants as a substitute to coal and other fossil fuels to reduce the green house gas emission. In Prakasam district alone has more than  one lakh acres have been cultivated and  producing  10 lakh tonnes of wood valued around Rs 390 crores annually. The market price has increased  recently up to Rs.3900 per tonn  due to the shortage of wood and fair competition among the firms in industry which is a lucrative income for farmers. Most of the progressive farmers  would like to adopt agroforestry model for sustainable agriculture to improve the farm productivity and profitability.

Indian has achieved self sufficiency in food production, now we should focus on ecology,  preserving our fossil fuels and also cater the growing wood demand caused by population growth and economic development. The agroforestry system is capable to sequestrate the massive amounts of carbon  that helps to mitigate the danger of green house gas concentrates. We can implement this system in large barren lands, farm boundaries to improve soil fertility and water conservation. There is a remarkable scope in agroforestry  to focus on the ecological issues, biomass production,  cattle fodder and various outputs to industries as well as employment generation.