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ARTICLE : Agriculture at Fast Track to Achieve the Desired Food Basket
Saturday, 26 January 2013 05:20

Agriculture at Fast Track to Achieve the Desired Food Basket

Progressive fragmentation of land holdings, degrading natural resource base and emerging challenges of climate change are resulting in increased pressure on land and water. Required agricultural production and a diversified food basket to meet the requirement of the increasing population with higher per capita income, has to emanate from the same limited net sown area by increasing productivity with an optimal use of available technologies, water and land resources.

The Department of Agriculture & Cooperation (DAC), Ministry of Agriculture, has been actively working towards strengthening agriculture sector in the country by devising new and innovative programmes for the benefit of farming community.

In order to meet the growing food requirement, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), launched in August 2007, incentivizes the states to increase public investment in agriculture and allied sectors taking agro climatic conditions, natural resource issues and technology into account and integrating livestock, poultry and fisheries fully while providing more flexibility and autonomy to the states in planning and execution of schemes.  It has become the principal instrument for increasing the States’ investment in the agriculture sector which now includes several commodity specific measures namely Bringing Green Revolution to the Eastern Region of India (BGREI),  Special Initiative for Pulses and Oilseeds, Accelerating Fodder Production, Creating Vegetable Clusters, Nutri-Cereals, Oil Palm Development, Protein Supplements, Rainfed Area Development Programme and the Saffron Mission.

Besides,  RKVY, National Food Security Mission (NFSM) aims  to produce additional 10, 8 and 2 million tonnes of rice, wheat and pulses respectively, thereby achieving an additional production of 20 million tonnes of food grains by 2011-12.  National Horticulture Mission (NHM) targeting at the holistic development of horticulture sector by ensuring forward and backward linkages through a cluster approach, with active participation of all stake holders has transformed horticulture sector tremendously. Horticulture Mission for North East and Himalayan States (HMNEH) has contributed significantly in production of various horticulture produce there.   Support to State Extension Programmes for Extension Reforms for providing manpower support, roping in farmers’ feedback for planning by setting up FACs and providing farmer to farmer learning, extension support through Farmer Friend, demonstration, farm school, training, exposure visit of farmers, etc. is the flagship scheme  to disseminate appropriate technologies  and timely and  relevant information.  Under this scheme district level Agriculture Technology Management Agencies (ATMAs) have been set up in 604 rural districts of 28 States and UTs across the country. ICT (including mobile governance) is also being used extensively to reach out to the farmers and other Stakeholders.

Mass Media Support to Agricultural Extension scheme has been instrumental in  providing Agriculture related information and knowledge to the farming community through Doordarshan and All India Radio. 1 National Channel, 18 Regional Kendras of Doordarshan are  telecasting agricultural programmes for 30 minutes, five to six days a week. Similarly, 96 FM Stations of All India Radio are being utilized to broadcast 30 minutes of programme for farmers 6 days a week. Further, this platform has been facilitating focused publicity campaigns to create awareness about the assistance available under various schemes. These spots are broadcast/telecast through All India Radio, Doordarshan and Private Entertainment Programmes having maximum viewership.

In addition, Agri-Clinic and Agri-Business Centers and Kisan Call Centers are other important programmes that are helping in the agriculture development in the country by providing extension services to farmers on payment basis through setting up of economically viable self-employment ventures and providing agriculture related information to the farming community through toll free country wide common eleven digit number 1800-180-1551.   These Kisan Call Centres have been revamped, strengthened and upgraded recently with State-of–the art technologies. Number of farmers deriving  benefit from KCCs has doubled since then.

Support to Central Institutes is a scheme to support Directorate of Extension (DOE) for implementing all activities/components namely, National Institute for Agriculture Extension Management (MANAGE), 4 Extension Education Institutes (EEIs) and Exhibitions and Fairs organized by State Agriculture Universities/ICAR Institutes with the support of DAC in the five zones of the country including North East to disseminate information to farming communities on development of agriculture.

These programmes of the Government have also emerged as the path breaking interventions which have helped in achieving record production of cereals, pulses, oilseeds, fruits, vegetables and spices during 2010-11 and 2011-12.

Due to constant efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture, a record production of foodgrains at 257.44 million tonnes, of which 129.94 million tonnes during Kharif season and 127.50 million tonnes during the Rabi season has been achieved. Of the total foodgrains production, production of cereals was 240.23 million tonnes and pulses of 17.21 million tonnes.

State and UT governments have been advised to take advantage of the good soil moisture and target for significantly higher Rabi production so as to make good for the loss of production in the Kharif season. They have also been advised to use the high yielding and pest resistant varieties of crops developed by ICAR and popularize the use of agricultural machinery in farm operations to overcome the problem of labour shortage.

Given the limitations in the expansion of acreage coupled with an increasing pressure of population and decreasing per capita availability of cultivable land, the main source of long-term output growth is improvement in yields through a judicious use of various inputs and enhanced cropping intensity without compromising land productivity.