Rural development through science and technology is needed for bridging the gap between farmers and tech-developers; this is the main focus of government for increasing the income of the farming community. Many new innovations have already helped in enhancing crop productivity, market access and diversifying rural livelihood profiles. But the existing gap between the farmers and innovators has resulted in only partial exploration of the benefits, and the gaps need to be bridged.
This was highlighted by the Indian Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu. He called upon the scientific community to find long-term solutions to the problems faced by farmers and improve crop productivity and farmers’ income. He said farmers are critical for the well-being of the nation, as they play a huge role in ensuring and maintaining home grown food security in India. He also wanted scientists to explore ways to make crops climate-resilient, nutrition-efficient and less water consuming.
Global warming and climate change are major concerns today which are affecting the weather patterns in an unpredictable manner and causing massive devastation at times, posing serious threat to food security. Mr. Naidu sought to know from the scientists how the problems faced by farmers due to nature’s fury could be mitigated.
Calling for concerted efforts, the Vice-President emphasised upon the critical role of technology in enhancing both the quality and quantity across the agriculture value chain from the use of inputs at the pre-production stage to post-production and marketing to improve the income of farmers.
Keeping with the focus, a farmer-centric Farmers’ Science Congress was organised for the first time as part of the 107th Indian Science Congress in Bengaluru, which was a big encouragement for the farmer community. Farmers can benefit a lot from such a platform because scientist-farmer interactions can boost innovations to the next level, and this can benefit the people in general. Around 120 innovative farmers from across the country were invited to participate in Farmers Science Congress who showcased their innovations and products.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also on several occasions, stressed the need for revolution in technologies assisting agricultural practices. Urging the scientists to “innovate, patent, produce and prosper” to lead India towards faster development, he called for developing farmer-centric solutions to solve problems such as stalk-burning, and judicious use of water, fertiliser and pesticides.
The Prime Minister has exhorted young scientists to work in the field of rural development where there are several opportunities for cheaper and better innovations. He said, it is only due to science and technology, that Government Programmes have reached the needy. It is owing to the technology of Geo Tagging and Data Science that many of the projects in rural areas could be timely completed, the Prime Minister said.
Agriculture plays a pivotal role in India’s economy. During the 2017-18crop year, food grain production was at a record 284.83 million tonnes. In 2018-19, the Government targeted foodgrain production was 285.2 million tonnes. Milk production was estimated at 165.4 million tonnes during FY17. As of September 2018, total area sown with ‘kharif’ crops in India reached 105.78 million hectares.
India is the second largest fruit producer in the world. Production of horticulture crops is estimated at record 314.7 million tonnes (mt) in 2018-19 as per estimates.
Total agricultural exports from India grew at a rate of 16.45 per cent to reach US$ 38.21 billion in FY18. In FY2019 agriculture exports were US$ 38.54 billion. India is also the largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices and spice products.
Spice exports from India reached US$ 3.1 billion in 2017-18. Tea exports from India reached a 36 year high of 240.68 million kgs in CY 2017 while coffee exports reached record 395,000 tonnes in 2017-18. Food & Grocery retail market in India was worth US$ 380 billion in 2017.
Prime Minister Modi has emphasised that digitalisation, e-commerce, Internet banking and mobile banking services are assisting the rural population significantly and technology can be harnessed for several rural development initiatives, particularly in the area of cost-effective agriculture and farm-to-consumer supply chain network.
Script: Biman Basu, Senior Science Commentator