Rural development Opportunities in India - Agriculture and allied sectors
Rural Development Foundation, Ramanuja Road, Mysore 570 004
chancellor, UAS, Dharwad and Ex Chairman, ASRB, GOI, New Delhi)
In ancient times, whether man or animals, went
always in search of food and water, and kept moving looking for better and
better facilities over centuries till date. The present migration of rural
people to urban areas is nothing different from that. What needs to be done in
the present context to prevent migration is to ensure employment opportunities
and economic stability in rural areas to both farm and non-farm sectors. I t is
necessary to note at this point that, in India, 95% of the work force is in the
un-organized sectors, and all that is concentrated in rural areas. The farming
is becoming the last resort as a profession in the recent years as the farm
production base is degenerating as listed below:
Land-man ratio is declining. The rural population alone has increased
from 280 m to 742 m in the last 50 years. Among 106 m farm holdings, around 56 m
are marginal; 18 m are small and 13 m are medium groups. The per capita farm
land was 0.46 ha in 1951 which has now come down to 0.15 ha.
Adding to the above, declining vegetative cover, land productivity,
shrinking water resources, weakening development support, confusion with regard
to WTO and advent of GM crops against raising aspiration of the rural folks have
made the farmers feel “trapped in farming”
Keeping the above in mind, and to focus future developments, and
considering the facts that survival requires efficiency, the following factors
are kept in mind. Natural and production centered resource management,
institutionalizing development and creation of conducive economic planning.
We need to address the issue urgently and on top
priority basis if we have to make agriculture a truly rewarding and an
attractive occupation to harness the synergies of youth in general and rural
youth in particular. This will empower rural people to create urban facilities
at home and check migration to cities. It means a drastic shift from family
farming to surplus farming and on to Entrepreneurship Development
in Agriculture. The following are some of the points relevant to the issue.
Some relevant statistics
Agriculture has been and will continue to be the
lifeline of the Indian economy since agriculture supports 55% of population,
contributing nearly 22% to the GDP and has a share of about 13% in the national
Presently, India supports 16% of the world’s
population on 4.2% of the world’s water resources and 2.3% of the global land.
Around 51% of India’s geographical area is already under cultivation as compared
to 11% of the world average. Further, rainfed drylands constitute 60% of the
total net sown area. There is an unprecedented degradation/erosion of land
(degraded- 107 mha, acidic- 25 mha and 17mha salt affected) and groundwater
resource. The per capita availability of resources is about 4 to 6 times less as
compared to the world average. Foreseeably, this will further decrease due to
increasing demographic pressure and consequent land diversion for
Unemployment rate measured on current daily
youth in rural areas
Annual growth rate
of employment for the year 1999 to 2000
The non-farm sector
(food processing, trade, crafts, industry, services etc.) in small semi-urban
township and village enterprises can absorb much farm labors. Hence, emphasis
must be laid on agro-based industries in the actual area of primary production.
Also, in the present scenario of increasing human and livestock populations,
decreasing man to land ratio, degrading soil, water, climate and biodiversity
resources, decreasing total factor productivity and recycling dangers of
chemicals in animal/human chain, reorientation in agricultural research and
development efforts is essential for enhancing and sustain productivity and
profitability. As the sector is by itself self-employment orient, the thrust of
policies to develop self-employment opportunities should be to:
Encourage productivity improvement
and waste utilization.
Encourage value addition to
enhance monetary returns.
Establish better markets - From
village level to major cities.
Encourage production and marketing
of organic produce.
With about 150 million tones of
horticultural produce, India is the second only to China. The horticulture
sector employs 1.66 crore with 50% self-employed, 30% waged and 20% salaried.
The sector is labour intensive (84.33 man days/acre or 34.18 mandays/Rs.1000
production for food grains). As such growth of horticulture is the cornerstone
for creating self-employment opportunities in agriculture.
Animal Husbandry provides job opportunities to about 20 million
persons, not including persons employed in sale, re-processing and transport of
animal products at secondary market level. In comparison to land, livestock are
more than proportionately controlled by the poor. It also insulates against the
vagaries of weather like drought, and ensures some livelihood particularly when
crops are lost.
Development of appropriate perennial vegetation based technologies
for rehabilitation of 107 million ha waste lands has the potential to enhance
productivity, create additional employment avenues and also provide resilience
to 142 m ha arable land through soil and water conservation and sequestering
carbon level in soil. A three fold increase in the rate of afforestation, from
about 1.23 million ha per year is required, to increase forest cover from the
present 23.03% (75.70 m ha) to the national goal of one-third forest/tree cover
by 2012. Every two hectares of additional area under plantation of forest crop
can generate year-round employment for one person. As such there is scope to
upscale employment generation from the present level of 246 to 850 million man
days per year.
Medicinal plants occupy a prime position in
utilizing the traditional knowledge. There is enormous scope to exploit use of
medicinal species both for domestic use and export. Here is some relevant
At present, India
produces about 16,000-18,000 tons of essential oils out of total 80,000 tons
This accounts for about 20-25% of world’s total productions. India’s
production of major essential oils.
India is the largest producer of mint (Mentha arvensis) and Basil
(Ocimum basilicum) out of about 42 species grown.
About 90% of India’s requirement of essential oils is met from indigenous
production and the rest from import.
Of the 18000 native
species found in India, 1500 species contain aromas.
The soil and water conservation resources developed for maintaining watersheds
have the potential to reduce run off from 42 to 14% and soil loss from 11 to 2
t/ha. The watershed management technology is generating 215 man days/ha/annum
during implementation phase and 20 person days/ha/annum sustainably in post
Inefficient and indiscriminate use of fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation water
and energy have deteriorated the soil and ground water resources. Water
management in coastal areas and in a number of other water logged areas, have
all the potential to at least double the productivity and increase cropping
intensity by 100% plus.
The efficient use of ground water is possible through: recharging of the ground
water through in-situ / ex-situ rain water conservation, adopting
precision irrigation techniques, matching water application with critical growth
stage and promotion of resource conservation technologies such as zero tillage,
furrow irrigated raised bed planting, direct seeded rice and laser leveling
etc. Zero tillage saves on water by 20-25%, labour and fossil fuel by 30%.
efficient use of applied nutrient, there is wide potential to upgrade efficiency
and soil quality through promotion of green manuring, judicious recycling of
residues into the soil, converting waste into wealth through proper composting/vermicompost,
biological N fixation and large scale popularization of the use of
bio-fertilizers including phosphate, sulphur and potassium solubilizing
Currently, only 29% of the total
precipitation is conserved, that too is not optimally utilized. With the
existing practices, water use efficiency seldom exceeds 40%. Available estimates
indicate that by 10% increase in water use efficiency, country can gain more
than 50 million tons of food grains from the existing irrigated area.
Low use efficiency of energy is a
matter of serious concern, more specifically fossil energy. Such low resource
use efficiency not only increases the cost of production but leads to severe
environmental consequences. It also burdens the valuable foreign exchange
reserves since most of the raw materials are imported.
The concerns of rising temperature and decreasing ozone needs to be addressed by
linking weather forecasting, land use change, breeding varieties which can
adjust to such changes, agronomic manipulations, CO2 sequestration,
substitution of fossil fuels with bio-fuels, moderating methane production from
agricultural fields and weather based fore-warning of incidence of pests and
diseases. Effective agromet service to the farmers will act as an engine for
boosting productivity and facilitating enhanced employment.
Reorientation from cropping system mode to farming system multi-enterprise
agriculture (crops, trees, livestock including fisheries etc.) focused on
internalization of synergies by multiple use of inputs and recycling is expected
to expand livelihood basket and year round employment. Use of biocontrol agents
in controlling crop pests have emerged as an important eco-safe alternative for
the management of insect pests and diseases. There are numerous biocontrol
agents, which can be produced successfully at the village level by a few elite
farmers or unemployed Graduates in the village. Following is a list of few bio
control agents for whom mass rearing methods have been standardized
Coccinellids, chrysopids etc.
A variety of parasitoids namely Trichogramma.
Entomopathogens namely Bt products, NPVs and Fungal Pathogens.
Plant disease antagonists namely Trichoderma and Pseudomonas
such as parasitoids and predators are ideally suited for production by
micro-enterprises at village or district level on account of low shelf life -
just four days. Moreover these products do not require registration.
The critical inputs may be produced at the
village level in form of cottage industry by the rural youth and resource poor
farm women. The such inputs include production of local strains of Bt,
Trichoderma, Trichocards, Neem Seed Karnel Extract and NPV from the field
collected diseased Helicoverpa and Spodoptera larvae. A village
institute like IPM self-help group may be formed to commercialize these
activities on the pattern of Khadigram Udyog. The planting of neem trees in
large number, collection of its seeds and further formulation of NSKE and
pongamia soap solution will increase the income for unemployed youth and farm
women in the villages.
Bee keeping is an important input in
Agriculture. Its promotion in various fields and horticultural crops mainly
towards pollination of crops and honey, can be promoted successfully by the
unemployed rural youth.
Adoption of Seed-village concept for production of seeds of
field, horticulture and forestry crops, silkworm, fish, and multiplication of
planting material in vegetatively propagated crops like mulberry, potato, supply
of quality germplasm and semen in animals, and value enhancement in seed using
techniques like seed treatment are the promising areas. Further, storage,
cleaning and grading facilities, seed testing, seed transportation etc. would
add to the job opportunities.
Adoption of this concept in Mysore district in a cluster of five
villages since 2000 has clearly demonstrated that it is possible for the elite
farmers around the villages can produce quality seed supplied on time at a
reasonable cost avoiding selling at a low price as grain as well as buying seeds
from public / private companies at a higher price that too with a risk of buying
low grade or spurious seeds. Each seed producer was able to earn a reasonable
profit and set as an entrepreneurer as a future source of seed.
Owing to the increasing and fast
advancement in science and skills (hybrid technology, GM technology, market
intelligence etc.) within India and other countries, constant updation of the
same through, ICT, GIS is essential.
Hybrid and GM Technology
Hybrid technology has a high potential to
increase productivity, resistance to various biotic and abiotic stresses and
quality in a number of field and horticultural crops, animals and fish. Since
conventional breeding methods have certain limitations, biotechnological tools
will have to be employed for facilitating transfer of desirable genes across
species and genus.
Waste and By-product Utilization
An estimate of agricultural by-products from all crops, livestock and fisheries
sector indicates these to be about 700 million tonnes annually. It is estimated
that only 25% of this by-product is presently utilized. So far, the efforts have
been to use only a fraction of the total biomass produced. Scientific processing
of biomass creates additional employment and leads to cleaner and sustainable
For example, after recovering sugar, the molasses is used for distillation and
the spentwash the secondary byproduct is used as fuel. Lantana is being used for
manufacturing low cost furniture. Several very useful products have been
obtained from these ‘wastes’. Following are some of them:
Manufacture of particle boards
Cotton gin waste
Generate biogas, high quality manure
Natural dyes and herbal healthcare products
Mustard seed coat
Edible dye and insect repellant compounds
Jute and cotton wastes, banana stem, pineapple leaves
High quality paper and stationeries
Linseed and several other fibre crop residues
Textile grade fibers and high quality cellulose powder
Essential Oil of fresh fruit peels
Cosmetics, toiletries and used to supplements animal feed.
The total monetary value of the agro-byproducts could be equal or even greater
than the value of the main produce. In the livestock sector the waste material
comes from the dung skins, horns, hides, bones, and other body parts from the
abattoirs, byproducts of milk processing etc. The
agricultural wastes, particularly from livestock and fish industry pose several
environmental problems that could also impact local ecology. Therefore, the
proper management of these wastes and their subsequent disposal is essential.
The Central Institute of Fisheries
Technology is developing technologies of converting such wastes into useful
products such as chitin and chitosan. Both these products have high export value
due to their wide applications in medicine and pharmaceuticals. It is estimated
that about Rs.400 crores can be raised annually as resource of income by using 1
lakh tonne of prawn shell waste.
There is a great scope for domestic and export
trade by improving the post-harvest distribution and processing facilities of
these highly perishable commodities. New trends in food and bioprocess
technologies and specific skill sets needed by graduates must be understood to
successfully compete for current as well as future food and bioprocess
engineering jobs. Technologies and infrastructure, which promote primary
processing, value-addition and product diversification in and around the
villages, need to be developed and popularized.
Farming is increasingly felt as less
remunerative on account of various risks of production, prices and marketing.
There is a need to bring in efficiency and equity, improving quality and rising
competitiveness. These could be in the form of introducing market reforms,
intervention schemes to cover some new crops, reducing marketing margins,
facilitating mandated functions of regulated markets, and ensuring grading and
standardization at producer and subsequent levels. Improving cold storage, short
period storage during transit of commodities and cool chain facilities are
critical for insulating the farmer against risks and for the success of
In view of the small and scattered
farm holdings and resource constraints of majority of our farmers, strengthening
co-operatives, self-help groups, farmers markets, and contract farming assume
significance. The present level of mechanization estimated to be about 25%,
needs to go up to 40% by 2020. The mechanization would need to be region, crop
and stakeholder specific. There are several areas of agriculture, horticulture,
livestock and fisheries sectors that have not received the same level of
mechanization attention as has been provided to the food grain sector.
There are a number of laboratories
under ICAR, CSIR, ICMR, State Agricultural Universities, General Universities
and private sector industry/NGOs that are working on food processing but have
very little functional linkage. It is high time to realize and harness the
mutual strengths of various stakeholders in a partnership mode to develop the
processing sector. Public-public and public-private linkages, bi or
multilateral, must be established and supported.
The Indian farmer has demonstrated
in fair measure that given the right technology and guidance, he can deliver.
However, the rapid pace of information technology generation certainly calls for
augmentation of extension efforts. In this endeavour, concept of establishing
agri-clinics and ICT’s in the rural areas needs to be encouraged.
Agro-tourism is a recent development that provides newer means of income
generation in the rural areas, as a subsidiary industry to farming. The urban
visitors enjoy a unique experience in the countryside. Agro-tourism promotes
learning and inculcates interest in heritage and enjoy 'real' India. This will
definitely provide to children, an education which is not available in a
classroom. Hence, the agro-tourism is a potential self-employment generating
venture and needs to be promoted.
We will have to build indigenous
capacity to develop our human resources. In this endeavour, course curricula
will call for revision to enhance relevance and practical utility of education
through diverse subjects to serve the cause of employment and country’s economic
development. The focus of change in agricultural education should be to build
inculcate entrepreneurship and professionalism.
In order to promote entrepreneurship it is necessary that our institutions should
extend guidance/counseling to potential entrepreneurs on how to develop idea, organize
resources, understand basic economic principles of supply and demand, factors which
influence price, common risks and problems likely to be encountered in agri-business
marketing strategies, Information on market analysis, industry trends, sources of finance,
consumers needs etc. Extending relevant information to farming entrepreneurs on production,
marketing, management and other related issues must receive our priority attention
especially with regard to resources for small-scale ventures.