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