In a previous blog, we mentioned a weekly trend of the sabha at CKS. For this week’s sabha, we decided to present two of the challenge tracks for the upcoming edition of the Design Public Conclave. One of them is Nimble Agriculture. Under a theme as broad as agriculture, we decided to narrow down our focus upon the small and marginal farmers, because agricultural landholdings in India are predominantly small and marginal. This is to say a majority of farmers own less than two hectares of land and hence if we wish to improve agricultural productivity in India, we need to turn to the small farmers.
The small farmers suffer from social and economic insecurity. Even after 65 years of Indian Independence, a large number of small farmers continue to be bound by tenancy. They are still unable to enjoy secure possession over their land and their produce. A host of other factors like climate change, continued dependence on monsoon, lack of education, has worsened their situation. Economically,these farmers face imperfect market competition, poor access to credit and basic infrastructural facilities like irrigation, command area development and electricity. These economic limitations deprive the small farmer of his ability to negotiate with the intermediaries and thus refrain him from enjoying a fair share of profit margin in his crop sales.
These problems could be met through efforts towards, land and water management and by creating a direct access between the small farmers and the large markets. At the same time there needs to be provision for linking the small farmers to facilities like education, internet, and banks. A number of public private initiatives are already geared in this direction.
Some of the most successful government initiatives include the AGRISAT programme which aims to provide ICT facilities to farmers, the Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture programme and the Agricultural Cooperative. The government also organises Mahotsava which serve as a platform for farmers from different states to come together and share their knowledge and experiences. Also, a number of corporate houses have started programs to aid the small farmers, like The Tata Kisan Sansar and Mahindra Agribusiness which aim to channelize agricultural facilities to the small farmers. Others like Airtel IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited seek to empower the people living the villages by linking them to ICT facilities. Though these initiatives have made significant contribution to improve infrastructural facilities for the small farmers, but we need to probe deeper and explore innovative ways and means to make their farms more productive, more viable, more profitable for them.
Even during the sabha we discussed that these programmes restrict themselves to only one aspect of agricultural production, what we really need is a programme which can cater to the entire service chain. Also, we need to look for more existing initiatives so as to able to get experts from different programmes and sectors on a common platform during the conclave. Stay tuned for more details in the coming months.