Saturday, 15 July 2006

Intensive Agriculture and Precision Farming for Poverty Alleviation in India.

Subhash Chandra, D. K. Singh, and A. K. Singh. Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa Campus, New Delhi, India

The agriculture sector in India contributes 22 per cent of the total GDP and provides livelihood support to 59 per cent of country's population. The small size of land holdings and the primitive agricultural practices, especially in the resource poor rainfed areas, are the main reasons for low farm income. About 60 per cent farmers have land holding of less than 1 ha and another 20 per cent have 1 to 2 ha. A typical Indian farmer is a resource poor, hard working, God fearing, having little formal education, rich in traditional knowledge, has least risk bearing capacity and considers land as his mother. In recent years, India has seen a remarkable growth in the service sector, benefiting mostly the urban population, but this sector cannot absorb the vast rural population of more than 650 million people. Therefore, agriculture will continue to be their main livelihood vocation. Aware of this scenario, the Indian farmer is keen to adopt modern technology, knowing fully well that he has no other way to dislodge his poverty. The remarkable success of the Green Revolution model of intensive agriculture in India is well known, the world over, and has significantly helped the country to become food self-sufficient. Yet, this model has failed to benefit the resource poor rainfed areas that accounts for about 65 per cent of the total cultivated land. These are also the pockets of poverty. Intensive agriculture, coupled with precision farming, can vastly improve the farm income of small farm holders but these technologies are not being used extensively. There are various bottlenecks in the input-output management, technology dissemination and policy orientation that need to be resolved in order to create an enabling environment in which the small farm holder will feel encouraged to adopt costly modern technologies. In this context, the present system of technology transfer from lab to land also needs a re-look. An attempt has been made in this paper to look at these issues from farmers' perspective. A computer-based model for information dissemination and knowledge empowerment of the farming community is also presented.

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