Mantra of Success Utilisation of Agricultural Technologies at the Field Level
A brief report on the Comparative Advantages of the North Eastern States
The north-eastern region occupies 8 percent of India's land area and is home to four percent of its population. Agriculture provides livelihood to 70 percent of the region’s population. In Mizoram, around 51 percent of the population lives in rural areas and is dependent on agriculture. The figure in Sikkim is as high as 89 percent. However, the pattern of agricultural growth has remained uneven across the region. The States continue to be net importers of food grains for their own consumption. However, over the last decade, the demand-supply gap of food grains in the north-eastern region has narrowed down. The region has a low proportion of irrigated area and investment in building irrigation capacity has been insufficient. Assam and the rest of the North Eastern states have abundant natural resources and congenial climatic conditions, and a large population of educated youth makes the region suitable to trigger India’s second Green Revolution. Comparative advantages of the region in producing fruits, vegetables and other horticulture products can be tapped by setting up small-scale processing units for the local market which will also boost rural employment. As stated by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, the North-East should focus on a second green revolution through organic farming.
Assam is predominantly an agricultural state and over 75 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture. Paddy is the most important food crop grown in the state. Cash crops like tea, jute, cotton, oilseeds, sugarcane, potato etc. contribute considerable acreage. Among the horticultural crops produced in the state, orange, banana, pineapple, areca nut, coconut, guava, mango, jackfruit, and citrus are the important ones. The state has an estimated 39.44 lakh hectares of gross cropped area, of which net sown area is about 27.01 lakh hectares.
Area under pulses and oilseeds are 1.05 and 2.26 lakh hectare respectively, rice areas covered by HYV are 63 percent of total rice area. Consumption of chemical fertilizers and Organic Manure are 63.2 and 73 kg per hectare. Similarly, consumption of Chemical Pesticides and Bio-Pesticides are 39 and 6g per hectare.
The country’s population is increasing, but the agricultural land is not increasing. The Government has decided that the 14 crore farmers who have land should be issued a soil health card so that they can know what diseases they have in the field and accordingly, how much pesticides and fertilizers can be used. For this, the Assam Government has been allotted Rs. 1.33 crore for the management of soil health cards in the state. The country’s development is possible only when North East India will develop and it has been decided to open New Delhi based I.A.R.I. at Assam.
The Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) in Assam have significant achievements. The KVKs of Assam conducted 3736 farm trials and demonstrations under different thematic areas of crops and livestock enterprises during 2014-15 under close supervision and guidance of ICAR-ATARI, Zone-III. Apart from that, the KVKs of Assam have conducted 1020 hectare of oil seeds and 425 hectare of pulses in the year 2015-16. As many as 65,174 farmers and extension personnel in the Assam state were imparted training programmes on different areas of crops, livestock enterprises, fisheries and home science. During the year 2014-15, the KVKs in Assam produced 598.69 tonnes of quality seeds, 4.04 lakh of planting materials and 2.02 lakh livestock (piglets, poultry chicks etc) and fish fingerlings. KVKs in Assam were successful in soil sample analysis and supply of 6577 Soil Health Cards (SHCs) to farmers during the current year (2015-16) and soil testing kit has been made available to 17 districts for soil testing.
In this year, ICAR allocated Rs. 26 crore for the present functioning of 25 KVKs in Assam. KVK Karbianglong under Assam Agricultural University was conferred merits of recognition for implementing government sponsored new programme “ARYA (Attracting and Retaining Youth in Agriculture)” with financial support of Rs 1 crore for sustainable self-employment and income security of the unemployed youth of the district.
Some of the special programmes for KVKs of Assam such as E-connectivity for the KVKs-Cachar, Kamrup, Lakhimpur and Sibsagar, Soil & Water Testing Labs for KVK Barpeta and Dibrugarh, Rain Water Harvesting for KVK Karbianglong, Minimal Processing Facilities for KVKs Karbianglong and Sonitpur, Portable Carb Hatchery for KVKs- Dubri, Hailkandi, Jorhat and Nagaon, Integrated Farming System for KVKs- Chirang, Kokrajhar and Udalguri, Technology Information Unit for KVKs - Dibrugarh, Kokrajhar, Lakhimpur and Sonitpur Mini Seed Processing for KVKs-Cachar and Nalbari were implemented under 12th five year plan.
By considering the geographical scenario and benefit of the farmers of this region, it has been decided to open a new Agriculture Technology and Research Institute (ATARI) at Guwahati. The ATARI will serve technology dissemination and extension needs and management for the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. This ATARI will be responsible for looking after the welfare and functioning of KVKs in 25 districts of Assam, 14 districts of Arunachal Pradesh and 4 districts of Sikkim, which will cover the 64 percent of area and 71 percent population of North Eastern region.
The state of Assam has contributed substantially to the food basket of North East India and has the potential to fulfil the food grain demand of the whole region. The region has the highest per capita availability of water in the country but seldom has its potential been utilized. To enhance the optimum utilisation of water in the country, the Government has started ‘Prime Minister Krishi Sinchai Yojana’. The second green revolution will have its root in the north eastern region.
Author is teacher at Modern Delhi Public School, Faridabad
References: pib.nic.in, extracts from speech by Union Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare Minister, Mr. Radha Mohan Singh