Farmers & Agriculture: Experiences & Understanding

I attended the release of a special issue by Sadhana Magazine titled “Farmers & Agriculture: Experiences & Understanding” on 10th June 2011. The keynote speaker was renowned agri-economist Dr. Nilkanth Ruth. Dr. Ruth hails from Orissa but has been in Pune for over 60 years . He spoke at the event in Marathi.

Below are my notes from the event. Unfortunately could not live post @HarshadOak & Facebook due to poor GPRS connectivity. Excuse me for not shaping the notes into a proper article (plan for it, often does not get done… so thought better to publish the notes as is). I hope you find the notes useful in the current form.

  • Average farm holding in Maharashtra is down from 12 acres to under 3 acres in the last 50 years.
  • Over 80% of farming families hold less than 3 acres.
  • A majority of those under poverty line are farmers
  • Only 18% land in Maharashtra is irrigated. Of this 18% almost 80% is taken up by sugar cane although sugar cane takes up only about 2.5% of the land
  • 35% is the max land that we can irrigate with our current crop distribution.
  • 1 acre cane takes 180 acre inch per year i.e about 15 feet. Jowar takes soya cotton wheat.. etc take a fraction of this. Jowar 18 acre inch – 1/10th of sugar cane
  • Villagers often say that sugarcane is the lazy man’s crop. Being a variant of bamboo, you can flood the field, take hardly any effort and yet get the yield.
  • They have data to show that a farmer can earn twice as much with other crops.
  • So why do people still want to harvest cane or rice? Hardly any farmer has 8+ acres land. So with current govt policies, the cane farmers have abundant water but less land. However as a nation we have less water abundant land. This leads 2 a conflict of interest.
  • Like sugar cane in Maharashtra take up all the water, similarly rice in Andhra rice takes up all d water
  • There are strong sugar lobbies that want to keep it that way. So while it is often announced that the crop & water distribution will be reorganized / planned, nothing happens.
  • While we waste water here, on what basis can we ask for water from Ganga & Brahmaputra
  • Those who say we need a second green revolution haven’t understood what the green revolution was. It was a biological revolution and that isn’t happening again.
  • There’s hardly any innovation happening in India. Most new crops & variants r being imported
  • Innovation happening in Mexico US and even England. Looking at the current situation, we would have to wait for a new green revolution to happen there, and we can then import that into India.
  • Today small irrigated lands produces bulk of d rice. Large unirrigated areas produce a small portion of the rice in India
  • Manufacturing is d key to progress for any nation. So as a nation Indian cant afford to ignore agriculture
  • ——–
  • Mohan Dharia added that we are using barely 10% of the water we get and to add to that in many cases farmers are watering the land and not the crop!

The special issue should be available on newsstands at Rs. 30 and I suppose would be available on the Sadhana website soon.

Contributors to the issue include the likes of Sharad Pawar. Read the piece by Sharad Pawar. Every time you read / listen to Sharad Pawar you feel that this sharp & pragmatic man could have done so much for the people…. If only…