Research and Development
Make in India and that too for Indian Agriculture
Agricultural Higher Education
Education is merely an everlasting means to design a lifestyle that would be healthy, sociable, peaceful and productive on a sustainable basis, following a creative vision that needs to be captured in a competitive goal. Agricultural education is applied in three tiers: student, teacher and farmer to work for opportunity. As I opined earlier, higher education aims at accomplishment of five basic components viz, (a) innovating the student’s individuality so that (b) originality in the mindset could be promoted for subsequent enrichment in (c) creativity, which accelerates the sense of (d) competitiveness so that a student, in the field of interest, could successfully get (e) employment/placement/business across the globe. These five indicators of completion in education do work under assumptions including smart infrastructure, etc.
Teachers should be empowered on creative expression in the class. Creativity and employability through practically proven tools promote the student’s conceptual understanding. Such tools equally help to promote better grasp of the theoretical concept and accelerate the power of overall understanding. Creative and innovative ideas must come from individuals instead of cascading from the top. The agricultural education deals with topics full of risks and limitations, mostly in open and uncontrolled surroundings. Therefore, the emphasis on creative expression in agricultural education must be nurtured in write-shop sessions using the basic digital media skills, but under a well-knitted umbrella full of opportunities.
By and large, the education in agriculture must be location-specific in a given “soil-water-climate-vegetation-livestock-human being” continuum, a complete system controlling the overall supply chain for livelihood under natural set-up. On the contrary, our efforts in true sense are almost ornamental suffering from approximations and missing linkages. The traditional academic approaches with latest scientific and indigenous knowledge must be well taken at least in conceptual framework through practical sessions so that students must get full exposure to the relevance and practical implication of a particular topic in a powerful teaching and learning systems. After all, students have to accept through “seeing-doing-believing mechanisms” and grasp it to apply in days to come for “market-based agricultural production and development on a sustainable basis”. This necessitates a target-oriented reform in governance of higher agricultural education and on strong infrastructure and teaching-learning mechanisms.
The course curricula must be centred at sustainable production in all sectors of agriculture, wherein agro-eco systems, soil, water, air and seed are the resources that include production inputs like tillage, irrigation, nutrition, health protection and maintenance, following the associated technologies for breeding, mutation, mitigation of disastrous consequences, soil fertility management, plant protection and processing of harvested produce. Importantly, each course session in different disciplines must convey a powerful message towards the overall goal that links rural markets through production process, demand and supply equilibrium, and anticipated profit. These types of sessions can empower students towards positive opportunities for placement, employment, self agri-business and entrepreneurial skills.
The simple definition of any scientific research is to perform a methodical study in order to establish and prove a hypothesis or answer a specific but relevant question. Such an answer would be the central goal of an experiment. The research must be systematic by following a set of steps. As agriculture works almost in open system, it is full of risks, uncertainties, doubts and limitations. Therefore, management strategies for agricultural production must be based on sophisticated skill of input integration through step-by-step evaluation of resources involved. Soil, for example, is a basic resource contributing as the foundation to a sustainable production system and its evaluation for actual as well as potential productivity must be undertaken well before suitability identification of land use choice.
Research priority in Indian agriculture is virtually a mandatory compulsion, but the research outcome and recommendation in most cases are least relevant and even seldom reliable. Many times, research problems proposed and identified are not truly researchable, even though students are carrying out such research works mainly to fulfil the requirement of a degree without learning much about tips and methodology of conducting a research.
To the best of understanding, students are not virtually trained about research methodology in most of the Indian universities. Only statistics covering the experimental designs and related chapters are taught as a part of the research methods. These young researchers are not aware of steps to be followed in formulating a research project including work plan and logframe matrix in order to facilitate auditing of the level of successful accomplishment in a given time frame. Lack of such training among researchers make them confused towards research.
In India, the extent of horizontal production has come virtually to its end. Major agricultural activities work around natural resources including soil, climate, water and ecosystem, wherein all do exist in an open system. More often, soil is neither evaluated nor studied for its suitability, but simply some top soil information is used that does not make true sense. Before testing the top surface soil, one has to move to (a) evaluate the soil (pedon) for deciding its potential productivity/capability (b) identify the associated limitations (correctable/non-correctable) and their improvement through locally available inputs (c) fix suitability of land use choice in a specific set (crop rotation in case of agronomical crops), and (d) decide the fertility level of soil and recommend how much particular nutrients is applied in the most preferred ways to enhance the efficiency. This is mandatory and I often used to say ‘work culture’ of a soil scientist, wherein all soil related prescriptions are made available in the form of a written document, covering all pedogenic, physical, chemical, biochemical, nutritional, pathologic, microbiologic and biodiversity issues. Management of a soil to overall restoration of soil health must not be in isolation, but it necessitates integration after due evaluation in line with the given modes of prescription.
A soil with full prescriptions being provided within the above work culture by soil science professionals may then be transferred to Agronomist, Horticulturalist, Farm Manager or Farmer, who could simply follow the said prescriptions and management options within the recommended package of practices for given crops or plantation.
Poverty Alleviation through Entrepreneurial Skills
To understand the most reliable history of farming system in agriculture, I believe in two major successions; (i) agriculture through hunting, and (ii) agriculture through ploughing, sowing or planting and harvesting. In the second succession, there have been numerous reforms taken place, including reforms during green revolution that are mostly technological. Such reforms have definitely solved the food security issues in a big way. But, farmers are by and large poor in livelihood and economic growth. This is of global concern. I am of strong opinion to extend the long existing second agricultural succession to third succession, wherein farming (ploughing and harvesting) is closely tagged with processing, value addition and marketing at the farmer’s doorstep, without allowing any role of middlemen. If we accomplish the attainment of emerging agricultural succession in reality, it will be proved a breakthrough towards alleviation of poverty among farming communities. However, the strategic planning may be developed in the following major components given below:
• To enrich infrastructure as the assumption for the success towards adoption of respective management as well as technical training at farmer’s doorsteps (viz, road, water, electricity, banks, self-help groups, internet access/training, transport, market access etc), including location specific processing and other post harvest and value addition plants to be installed;
• To appreciate KVKs for designating some nucleus villages (based on approved standard) for adoption of reliable technologies being approved with assured outcome (produce);
• To organise frequent trainings on setting-up of agri-based industries as well as food processing and value addition plants for site-specific agri-based products;
• To set up a market complex for assuring the normal sale procedure for different agricultural products in a way to fetch high price to the farmer without involvement of middlemen;
• To involve corporate sectors in rural areas and get the farmers tagged to begin with new succession of sustainable agricultural production in order to sustain livelihood and economic growth.
The proposed components may be set in or improved into the framework of agri-business management in a way to assure farmers with maximum profit. Specialised people may sit together to formulate a strategic plan to shift the whole traditional farming system into a corporate sector, wherein farmers will be the main actors. That will be the true outcome of the third agricultural succession. Farmers will no longer remain poor then, if a global food security campaign is designed and approved in line with above basic management components. Accordingly, the farmers will keep adhered to the following responsibilities:
• Let a farmer sow or plant the seed or seedling, following the recommended technology and available inputs (preferably locally);
• Let him harvest the product under his own control, following the improved technology (existing in most parts);
• The farmer must have liberty to store his produce or go for post harvest technology/processing or even value addition to fetch a good price. Let farmers be solely responsible in planning and decision;
• Farmers must be exposed to opportunities in marketing (import/export) and that too under their direct control.
The above four-point poverty alleviation programme at farmer’s doorstep (direct control) virtually needs encouragement/approval by policy makers, government, agricultural universities, cooperative bodies and extension workers. Every farmer with landed property is legalised to furnish all four steps at his door. Other professions like dairy, goattery, mushroom production, apiary etc, are additional to boost up the economics. Once the programme is legalised just by adopting a village, the farmers will get excited towards its adoption.
Note: This is the second and final part of the article. The first part was published in the January-February Edition.