How to double or multiply the income of Indian farmersby Opinion Express March 14, 2018 0 comments
When our political executive commits or resolves to double the income of farmers, it is not simply a policy economics but creation of an eco system of agriprenuership coupled with tailor made or customised solutions to be suitable with regard to small and micro farmers who have either small or unviable holdings or discouraged to have viable farming. I am sure and without quoting statistical conclusions, it is very great to think and design an action eco system that goes well for the farmers at the bottom of pyramid to increase their income. It is also true that this great goal cannot be made realisable by only Govt schemes but a complete eco system of schemes and consultancies inculcated through infrastructures with forward and backward linkages with regard to inputs and outputs can make things truly grounded. The rural society of ours is used to prosper in an eco system of in formalism than the formalism. The paper book approach of schemes etc has resulted into unsuccessfulness of schemes. The agriculture which holds or hinges the critical dynamics of economy and sociology of India, needs to be given pragmatic, Indianised and reasonable visits and solutions to make the dream of our PM a big success. First important issue to realise this dream is to complete the Agro mapping of regions, juxtaposing crops and climatic constraints with conduciveness. Then this can be converted in to a mobile app with GPS enabled processing to find the areas suitable to particular crops, vegetables and fruits etc according to the automated analysis of complete crop suitability factors. Second is the capital and social constraints. Third is the support eco system. Fourth is the market linkages, forward and backward, supported by the storage infrastructure including cold chains. We have to see which farmer with how much Agro holdings (land + live stock etc) with what kind of Agro profiling, can and will succeed in multiplying his income from all sources. I have already analysed that size matters and Agro profiling must be done according to size and other climatic viabilities. The landless labour should go for animal husbandry, goat, cow and poultry etc and micro holders of land may add vegetable farming, medicinal farming along with animal husbandry and fisheries etc. Small holders may opt all the above options with suitable grain crops. Only the multitudes and optimisations of farming can contribute in the critical increase of income of farmers. In fact informal rearing of goats, hens, cows, buffalos and fisheries etc can do miracles for poor farmers provided that the insurance (livestock)and medical care (vet) infrastructure are user friendly and affordable on single window modes, supported by dedicated call centres. The formal structures and procedures of implementation of rural schemes do either generate indifference of farmers or malpractices by doers. The procedural constraints of formal-banking sectors do push farmers to go to informal arrangements of finance which are costly and exploitative but easily available. Easy availability of things is key to success in rural areas. If goat milk is given market linkages, it can create a buyer storm what to say of its value added products like goat cheese etc which we buy for RS 2000 per kg in the Khan market Delhi. What we need are the hygiene and packaging marketers. Informal rearing of geographically sustainable breeds are the best solutions. Goats are poor’s cows but their produces have huge demands from the elite class of India. Besides, formal finance markets of India are not conducive to farmers, more so for the poorest of poor people living in villages. Therefore when our PM thinks to double the income of farmers, it is primarily for small and micro farmers on the bottom of pyramid. Designing Agro solutions for such farmers, keeping their geographical, financial, risk and market linked constraints in mind is the need of hour. We need an enabling eco system for farmers than the subsidised systems or measures only. We need to create an exchange eco system so that farmers can trade or barter their produces and be beneficiaries by negotiating their input costs. There cannot be indifference with regard to certain dangerous trends in rural India. Depleting underground water levels, wastage of water model of irrigation, law and order constraints, do affect adversely the momentum of growth. The lacking infrastructure of agricultural consultancies at village levels, do disturb the economics of rural India. A Govt led approach can be by enabling-driven-platforms rather than the actual doings to be true game changers.
Besides doubling the farmer’s income issue may further be targeted in two phases. First phase of this mission should be dedicated to landless or negligible land holders in rural areas and the other group with 4 acres or less land holdings (this will cover roughly 85% farmers of India). The problem with these land holders is that they are either rent seekers of their land and then farming is done by tenants who may be laborious but not so aware farmers. Many landless people have taken land on rent. They put their hard work and generate subsistence income for their families. Now agriculture is shifting from the hands of owners to doers. With these informal understandings, things are going in a totally unprofessional way, encouraging only subsistence farming for both. Unfortunately, they ( tenants ) do want to take risks being either less confident of returns or being not sure of their land retainer ship in case of payment defaults . The awareness horizon of small farmers is limited up to only legacy farming plus some tinkering did to remain in ultra safe modes. We have to optimise the potential the crop selection and outcome dynamics. If one acre land according to its soil condition, irrigation viabilities and other precautionary measures of safety etc, can fetch one lakh rupees in a year, why a small farmer is settling with 10 /15 thousands a year due unscientific crop selections and aftermath lapses. Is it deficit of knowledge or incentive or absence of market linkages? What can be the reasons of appealing more to farmers? We need agricultural leaders in villages; they can experiment and decide the trajectory of paths for such farmers. We have to shift our small farmers from grain crops to vegetables and medicinal plantations, horticulture and other high profit crops with forward linkages to markets. I am of the firm belief that land consolidation can be a big measure to help farmers to consolidate at one place their various small pieces of land, located at different places and then crop and irrigation planning can be better done. The problem with vegetables etc farming is that they are highly perishable and with seasonal volatilities. Barring a few items, they need to be consumed within reasonable time frames. For this, the eco system of market needs to be pragmatised. We need differential pricing policy or minimum support price along with buying’s from the fields rather than farmers going to the markets approach. I think it is the difficulty of sale and price negotiations that make a farmer going in to traditional mode of farming. We need agriculture audit and profiling of land pieces so that a five year horizon of optimum crop selections can be planned region wise and marketwise to convince farmers to opt the business mode of agriculture from that of subsistence mode. Unfortunately agriculture is done on auto mode basis without caring inputs like crop, irrigation, seed, fertiliser and soil dynamics. Here lies the problem. The practical consultants on informal basis down to the level of villages are the need of hour. We may treat it as a skill and accordingly select village wise KISAN MITRA who can be the facilitator for farmers for many things. I think that these KISAN MITRAS can be encouraged by Govt by linking their stipends from the propionate enhancements of incomes of farmers, generated through proactive counselling. Linking this will motivate them to be more creative and persistent. The Kisan Mitra should be a doer of agriculture and not theoretical speaker. His stipend should be given in a non bureaucratic fashion so that he does not become a liability. Village wise entrepreneurs in the cold chain process need to be identified and then mentored by public private eco system. The problem is that we do not find any accessible, affordable and informal infrastructure arrangements at village level. We need to focus our efforts village wise instead of different denominations. The census of land piece holdings and their potential output profiling from crop selection perspectives can do miracles in multiplying the income of farmers. Now I will come on the other dimension of agriculture. Animal husbandry, fisheries, dairy and poultry etc are thought to be the choice of only big farmers. We have to break this mental blockade. Informal doing of these things will not only eradicate farmer’s malnutrition etc but will leverage farmers to push their surplus in the markets. How the market will buy these produces of farmers, for this we need a facilitator eco system and not only a regulator. The facilitator eco system will help them for inputs and outputs as well. Doing anything on formal and big scale is not the issue here. What I want to say is that a farmer who is 30 years age with one acre land can do something like this. He can rear three goats, four five hens, 10×20 feet pond for fisheries, two three cows and then in one acre he can plant some seasonal vegetables and some medicinal plants etc. I mean he can earn at least two lacs in a year with such systematic combinations that otherwise is living in 1/10 of his financial capacity. The farmer is not in the business mode now. What are constraints credible and informal advice, market eco system, seed money (capital) and support eco system of medical (vet), insurance (crop) and live stock etc are the areas to facilitate. I think that village wise approach with some models can be planned with crop and animal husbandry etc combinations, farmer wise and then we can get that embedded in the minds of farmers. Many migrant workers in cities are living on wages may be made targets to go back and do something like this. In villages, the volatility of circumstances and other factors have made farmers sceptical in doing creative experiments. Therefore they have to be given an informal model by showing practically how they can multiply their income. Social financing at village level is prevalent but it is very exploitative. Banks do not have better interfaces with these small and uneducated farmers. Where should they go for on the spot and immediate financial requirements is the challenge to be tackled? I think that pre crop mortgaging of crops arrangements; live stock mortgaging being insured etc, can be options to finance farmers. The interface of micro financing can be good but how to create the finance eco system to help farmers in easy ways is the biggest challenge. Banks are too formal to make farmers comfortable and reachable. I think that we can make some small finance solutions using all options to realise this goal. Chicken and egg who was before syndrome, needs to be broken with regard to financing farmers. We should explore potential paying capacity model through better crops than the routinised past economic capacity models to decide the eligibility for financing. We can give Kisan credit cards, calculating the animal husbandry potentialities of farmers for buying inputs instead of cash financing to farmers. We can create a platform where poultries, fisheries, cows and goats etc can be bought through Kisan cards by automatic mortgaging of live stocks with automated insurances etc. Can we create an after sale care service eco system for farmers with regard to live stocks through during sale or purchase time settlement of fee fixations, integrated with call centres. Forward mortgaging, automated insurance, availability of medical (vet) care can make viable models of financing. Thus it will require very proper and conducive infrastructure to realise the dream on time line basis.
M N Tiwari
Writer is an IPS officer in Delhi