Thursday, April 12, 2012

Setting the priorities right for dryland farming

The Finance Minister in his Budget Speech 2012-13 made tall claims regarding the initiative of Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI), which he asserted has raised paddy production and yield in the eastern states. As far as the green revolution technology is concerned, it is applicable only in areas with assured irrigation along with suitable usage of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and high yielding varieties of seeds. However, in drought prone states like Orissa, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, more than half of the cropped area goes without irrigation as per the latest available data accessed from State of Indian Agriculture 2011-12. Almost 35.0 percent of India’s rural poor reside in these 7 states. (Please check the table 1 below for a comparison between irrigation coverage and rural poverty). Farm crisis is evident in these states since more than half (i.e. 55.2 percent) of the total number of farmers in India who committed suicides in 2010 originated from them. (Please read table 1). 

* State of Indian Agriculture,
** Press Note on Poverty Estimates, 2009-10, Planning Commission,
*** Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India-2010,

Current status of dryland farming

Since the mainstay of majority of the rural population is agriculture and allied activities including livestock, the cure to reducing poverty lies in developing and promoting dryland farming. According to the report entitled Elucidation of the 4th National Report submitted to UNCCD Secretariat, 2010, produced by Ministry of Environment and Forests, India has a total geographical area (TGA) of 328.2 million hectares (mha) with drylands covering 228.3 mha (69.6%) of the total land area. As per the State of Indian Agriculture 2011-12, majority of the drought prone areas lie in the arid (19.6%), semi-arid (37%) and sub-humid (21%) areas of the country that comprise 77.6 percent of its total land area of 329 mha. Rainfed agriculture supports 60% of livestock population and supplies roughly 40% of India's food demand of 1.2 billion people. It plays a key role in ensuring food and livelihood security of the rural poor.  

The report titled State of Indian Agriculture 2011-12 reveals that major coarse cereals, pulses and most of the oilseeds are grown in dryland and rainfed areas. Crop-wise irrigation coverage varied from 27 percent for oilseeds, 16 percent for pulses to 15 percent for coarse cereals during the year 2008-09.

Steps undertaken to promote dryland farming

Since rainfed agriculture done in alluvial, black and red soils is susceptible to water erosion, there is need for soil and water conservation measures. Efforts required in dryland areas include: improving in-situ moisture conservation through ground water recharge; adopting dryland farming approach-raised bed, ridge furrow, zero tillage, mulching; convergence with various watershed development programmes; diversification towards livestock, horticulture, silviculture, fodder production; integrating farming systems with livestock and fisheries etc.

The country's leading agricultural R&D institution—International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in partnership with Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and various state universities is engaged in developing drought tolerant, pest resistant and climate change ready crops for dryland farming regions.

There has been demand from a group of NGOs and social scientists to include the provision of local procurement of millets in the National Food Security Bill—the most vocal among them is Dr. MS Swaminathan-the father of Green Revolution who thinks that nutri-millets can provide nutrition to millions of undernourished children in India.  

During 2011-12, under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), Rs. 300 crore was allocated to Integrated Development of 60,000 Pulses Villages in Rainfed 300 Areas (60,000 Pulses Villages), Rs. 300 crore was allocated to Initiative for Nutritional Security through Intensive Millets 300 Promotion (Nutri-cereals), Rs. 250 crore was allocated to Rainfed Area Development Programme (RADP) and Rs. 400 crore was allocated to the initiative of Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern Region (BGREI). For the BGREI, the allocation was raised to Rs. 1000 crore in 2012-13 seeing the success of paddy revolution in the North-east. For the National Mission on Micro Irrigation, Rs. 1500 crore was allocated in 2012-13 and the ongoing RADP was merged with this.

Thanks to the Accelerated Maize Development Programme (AMDP), which later got merged into the Integrated Scheme of Oilseeds, Pulses, Oil palm and Maize (ISOPOM) in April, 2004, maize was cultivated on an area of 8.55 million hectares with an all time record production of 21.73 million tonnes during 2010-11. After the launch of Technology Mission on Oilseeds (TMO) in May, 1986 with the objective of making the country self-reliant in oilseeds production, pulses, oilpalm and maize were also brought subsequently into the ambit of the Technology Mission in 1990, 1992-93 and 1995-96, respectively. Despite efforts made on the part of past governments, 50 percent of domestic edible oil consumption were met from imports in 2009-10.

Recent trends

Some of the initiatives undertaken by the government have yielded results. Average annual growth rate of areas under coarse cereals production increased from a negative 2.42 percent during 1990-91 to 1999-2000 to a negative 0.13 percent during 2000-01 to 2010-11 (see table 2). Average annual growth rate in areas under pulses cultivation increased from a negative 0.91 percent during 1990-91 to 1999-2000 to 2.30 percent during 2000-01 to 2010-11. The Economic Survey 2011-12 has asked for a breakthrough in pulses production technology so that supply can meet rising demand. The same Economic Survey has also warned that area under jowar cultivation in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat, area under bajra cultivation in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana and area under pulses in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Rajasthan have witnessed shortfall during 2011-12 (2nd advance estimates) as compared to 2010-11.

Source: State of Indian Agriculture,


Press Note on Poverty Estimates, 2009-10, Planning Commission,  

Chapter 8: Agriculture and Food, Economic Survey 2011-12,

Budget Speech 2012-13 delivered by Pranab Mukherjee,

Highlights of Central Plan 2012-2013,

State of Indian Agriculture,

Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India-2010,

Rainfed Agriculture: Unlocking the Potential (2009)-edited by Suhas P Wani, Johan Rockström and Theib Oweis, CAB International, ICRISAT and IWMI,

To the hungry, god is bread-MS Swaminathan, The Hindu, 1 October, 2011,

Elucidation of the 4th National Report submitted to UNCCD Secretariat, 2010, Ministry of Environment and Forests, GoI,

Weathering the Perfect Storm by William D Dar,

President for out-of-box solutions to deal with farming issues, The Economic Times, 16 February, 2012,

Millet group demands local sourcing clause in Food Security Bill, The Hindu Business Line, The Hindu Business Line, 9 December, 2011,

Pranab Mukherjee looks east for 2nd green revolution, The Times of India, 29 March, 2012,

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