Do or die

  • 30/07/2007

Rainfed areas will have to be the focus for India's future agricultural revival. But as the past shows we need a different paradigm of development. "Rainfed areas require approaches to agricultural development that differ from the Green Revolution strategy," says Katar Singh, chairman of the Anand-based India Natural Resources Economics and Management Foundation.

"There is a need to change the mindset of the Green Revolution era, which did not look at regional variations. Even Kerala now suffers from drought," says J S Samra, head of the newly-established National Rainfed Area Authority.

There is considerable potential to enhance productivity of rainfed areas. "Most of the areas will be able to take up a second crop," says Samra. Realising this potential essentially hinges on our ability to reverse the process of degradation, he says. Secondly, crops must be suitable for local agro-climatic zones. Thirdly, market access to rainfed crops.The first and foremost shift should be from 'input-centricity' in agriculture policy to 'needs/requirements'-centricity. "By and large the prescription is the same as the good old Green Revolution. Hybrid seeds, chemicals and mechanical inputs, monocrops. They lead to externalisation of inputs and can be devastating for the rainfed farmers," says Satheesh.

Livestock is an essential component of dryland ecosystems. Farmers get their livelihood during drought mainly through livestock. Livestock, especially bullocks and buffaloes, provide much needed farmyard manure for maintaining soil fertility apart from being useful for other agricultural operations. The whole livestock support systems are 'milk-centric'. "There are practically no support systems available for livestock rearing for most of the farmers of dryland regions. It is time we think beyond milk," says B Venkateswarlu of Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture. Others talk about livelihood opportunities.

It is quite clear that the Green Revolution did not cure. The ills remain in much worse a form. A new prescription is a desperate requirement of today -- it's either now or never.

Anchored by Richard Mahapatra; reported by Neha Sakhuja, Sandip Das and Supriya Singh.

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