Uttarakhand Stories

Reviving Agricultural Productivity in Uttarakhand

by Pragati Chauhan
Nov 18, 2015

About 75-85% population of Uttarakhand is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. In order to provide a sustainable source of income to those living in the hilly areas of Uttarakhand, there is a need to revive agricultural productivity.

Uttarakhand is primarily an agricultural state although its productivity is comparatively less than other states. The contribution of agriculture to the state’s domestic product is about 22.410%. On the contrary, there are certain problems related to raising the agricultural productivity, use of new technologies and increasing the productivity of cash crops. How to revive agricultural productivity has always been a hot topic of discussion in Uttarakhand but only a few remedies have been adopted for increasing the agricultural produce. Innumerable laws have come into force for supporting the farmers for practising organic farming and using modern technologies to raise agricultural produce. But everything has gone in vain due to illiteracy and ignorance of the local bodies for reviving agricultural productivity.

The poor farmers don’t have the access to new machines and modern farming equipment as they are economically weak. Therefore, the land remains barren because the farmers lack resources and information regarding agriculture. Though the mountainous terrains are fertile but due to the lack of resources and monetary issues the land remains bald. Apart from this, there are issues of primitive battles between man and primates who ruin the crops of the poor farmers. A part of the crop is either destroyed by the insecticides, pesticides or by the wanton destruction caused by monkeys and wild pigs. Another problem faced by the farmers is how to sell the produce? Selling the output in the cities can be profitable but due to lack of transportation, it becomes impossible. The farmers have to deal with numerous problems such as complete loss of crop due to landslides, non-availability of seeds, lack of irrigation facility, scarcity of fodder, non-availability of modern farming equipment, transportation, and marketing problems.

The question remains, What to produce? How to produce and for Whom to produce?

(i) What to produce?

Let us consider the first question, Which commodities are to be produced and in what quantities?

The farmers should grow such crops which yield more output in less amount of capital. High Yielding crops should be grown by the farmers as they will yield more at a low cost of production. Therefore, the introduction of High Yielding Variety seeds in Uttarakhand can be profitable. These seeds have a shorter life cycle which enables the farmer to practice multiple cropping. For example, new seeds of rice and wheat complete their life cycles in 110 days to 120 days respectively. The traditional varieties of rice and wheat take about 130 and 150 days to harvest. The new seeds thus enable the farmers to economize on land.

(ii) How to Produce?

Another question that arises is how to produce? Which techniques are to be adopted?
There are two types of techniques which are -:

  • Labour– Intensive Technique which employs relatively more labour and less capital.
  • Capital– Intensive Technique which requires more capital and less labour.

The choice of technique depends on the cost of the factors of production. That is, if labour is cheap and capital is expensive then a labour-intensive technique should be considered and vice-versa.

(iii) For Whom to Produce?

The solution of this problem is very simple only those commodities should be produced which can target poor, middle and high-class people as well.

The problem arises is how can we revive agricultural productivity?

Reviving agricultural productivity in Uttarakhand

View of rice cultivation in village Bahanar in Almora. Rice and wheat are the most important food crops in Uttarakhand. Photo by Ganesh Bisht

By growing leguminous crops:
For reviving agricultural productivity, the farmers can sow alternate crops which help in maintaining the balance of the soil. Hence, all the nutritious minerals and oxides will not be lost from the soil. The farmers can grow leguminous crops like beans, peas and groundnuts with other crops as they are able to take nitrogen from the air while all other plants have to rely on nitrogen available in the soil. They do not compete with other crops for nitrogen and enrich the soil with nitrogen as they do not use it themselves.

Techniques such as “Baranaja” should be adopted:
To avoid crop failure farmers can adopt a traditional farming method called ‘baranaja’ in which 12 crops are grown simultaneously in the same field. This practice ensures supply of food round the year as different crops are harvested at different times. This unique method provides security against drought and crop failure. The farmers should not cultivate different kinds of crops altogether as it makes the soil infertile by extracting the same minerals from it.

How new technologies can play an important role in raising agricultural productivity?

Introduction of modern machines at low cost can help in replacing traditional farming equipment:

In the era of globalization, the farmers of Uttarakhand are relying on traditional equipment for farming rather than using modern machinery and adopting new technologies for raising agricultural productivity. Although there has been a significant change in the agricultural practices nationwide, sadly the peasants of Uttarakhand are still using the traditional farming equipment. The farmers are still relying on ‘Darati’, ‘Kudal’, ‘Pathal’ and other traditional farming equipment which were used by their forefathers for generations as they lack financial resources. The government had launched few schemes for providing modern agricultural machines at low cost for the welfare of the villagers but due to the failure of crops and no other source of livelihood poor peasants do not benefit from it.

How can farmers raise agricultural productivity when there is water scarcity?

By cultivating crops which require less water and by adopting rainwater harvesting method:

The scarcity of water remains a major problem in the hilly areas. Sometimes due to scanty rainfall the crops fail which results in the acute shortage of food and poverty. To overcome this grave problem, the farmers can cultivate such crops which require less water instead of focusing on crops which require more water like rice, wheat etc. In order to get rid of this major problem, the government departments and agriculture institutes should be approached to implement cost-effective schemes for rainwater harvesting. If there is no scope for help and support from the organizations then the farmers should unite and dig small ponds or reservoirs for harvesting rainwater. Even earthen pots can be used to collect rainwater which can be used for household purposes. Making underwater tanks can also help in storing rainwater which can be further used for irrigation purposes.

How can we provide a sustainable source of income to the farmers?

By cash crop farming:
If the poor farmers want to compete in the modern world, then they must look for alternatives that are not already captured by the market. Cash crops farming – fruit and vegetable crops suitable to specific agro-climatic conditions is one comparative advantage that can be explored by the farmers. Instead of growing traditional cereal crops high-value cash crops such as apples, almonds, pear, peaches, walnuts, oranges, plums and cherries and off-season vegetables can be grown. The farmers can yield good income by organically growing food crops as well as cash crops (coffee). Coffee plantation can also be profitable as it can be grown with other crops. Ecologically, coffee is a much better crop than tea, as coffee can be grown with other crops.

Farmers should focus on growing such crops which reap high profits and can be sold in global markets. Medicinal, herbal and aromatic plants can also be grown as they have a huge market and are sold at high prices. Inter-cropping of aromatic plants with conventional grains can also help in diversifying the income basket of small and marginal farmers. Growing spices, tea plantation, floriculture, oil seeds and traditional hill grains such as mandua, sanwa, urad, gahat etc. can be profitable as they can be exported.

Reviving agricultural productivity in Uttarakhand

Because of its high nutrition value, the demand of finger millet is very high in International market. It’s a traditional crop of Uttarakhand, but the absence of markets and proper government support people are unable to generate benefits from it.

New approaches can help in promoting agriculture and in providing a healthy lifestyle to the peasants:

  1. Encouraging Organic Farming: Organic farming should be encouraged as organic produce is sold at high prices in the market. There is a huge demand for organic produce as it is good for health and has a limited supply.
  2. Relief Measures: To sustain a healthy lifestyle and ensure a safe future the farmers can avail benefits of relief measures proposed by Department of Agriculture & Cooperation which provides relief in case of drought, hailstorm, and pest attacks. Therefore, the crops will be insured and the farmers will not have to sleep with empty stomachs.
  3. Village Seed Banks and Nurseries should be opened: Village seed banks and nurseries should be opened for preserving regional seeds. This will help in increasing local varieties of millets, maize, mustard, beans etc. Nurseries should also be opened for promoting cash crops.
  4. Soil and Moisture Conservation: Soil is the main component of farming if the soil is infertile then it will not yield good crops. Therefore, soil conservation techniques should be adopted by the farmers. Trenches should be dug which can be filled with rain water.
  5. Practices such as Slash and Burn should be abolished: Slash and burn is an agricultural technique in which farmers cut down trees and burn forests to create fields. It is subsistence agriculture which is practised by the tribal people as it uses little technology. The major drawback of using this technique is that it degrades the environment. The tribal relate this practice to the organic agricultural approach which is famous for millet cultivation.
  6. Chemical Insecticides and Pesticides should not be used in farming: Chemical insecticides and pesticides are detrimental to the environment. Insecticides and pesticides destroy the natural composition of air, water and soil. Pesticides affect biodiversity by reducing nitrogen fixation, contribute to the disappearance of pollinators, threaten fish and cause severe damage to animal habitats. They are also harmful to humans as they cause neurological and psychiatric disorders, brain tumours, cancers, spontaneous abortions, stillbirths and birth defects. Pesticide exposure is damaging to the immune system. Many pesticides are endocrine disrupters which when exposed to humans can have a detrimental effect which can cause hormonal imbalance.
  7. Testing of Farm Machines and Equipment: For increasing the output and reducing the cost of production new and improved technology should be introduced in agriculture. Subsidy should be given to the poor farmers on agricultural equipment such as hand tools, planting, reaping, harvesting and threshing equipment, tractors, power-tillers and other specialized agricultural machines which are used in farming.
  8. Developing Mandis: Mandis should be developed in order to create a link between the producers and buyers. Mandis will help in providing good quality produce at reasonable prices which will help in raising the sales. Separate markets can be set up for unique organic products.
Pragati Chauhan

Pragati Chauhan

A writer by profession, thinker by choice and a nature lover since birth. I have always loved expressing myself through words, I believe words have a certain kind of melody which can be understood by anybody.

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3 Responses

gajender singh rawat, Says

gone through your logical approach and methodology in controlling the deteriorating scenario of poor farmers of hills of uttrakhand. looks fine. there are lots of govt initiatives and schemes, but the ground realities are not good at all and the life style of “annadata of uttrakhand” is same as it was some years back. a lot more need to be done by the local authorities, panchayats, pradhans, panchayat mantris, and the local seniors…
if I talk of my village, then there is lot of land… step farms nearly 100 , but there is no water source (tap or otherwise) even now after 71 years of independence at my home… people most of whom aged, are managing somehow. thus to think of some farming with these constraints is a remote possibility… or if someone wants to visit is most welcome….

even then I myself have a strong bond with my village, there life style, hardships and want to do at least something at my personal capacity to raise the standard of living of poor deprived hills farmers…..

Rohit Bisht Says

Hello mam, the article was elegant, however by any chance do you know the history of agriculture in specifically uttarkashi and how the trade took place. p,ease do mail me if its okay with you.

Dr Arvind Upadhayaya Says

A nice article on agriculture………read more on sustainable agriculture http://www.watershedpedia.com/watershed-management-a-solution-sustainable-agriculture/