Rainfed farming for wealthy farmers and healthy environment

The term ‘Agriculture’,  beforehand referred as an art as well as a science, performed to meet out the basic human needs viz., food, cloth and shelter. Later, the term expanded and the art cum science became the input supplier for manufacturing variety of products satisfying variety of human needs. Thus, once a livelihood now has become an occupation/profession/business.

But, the Government policies on agriculture research focused mainly on food security slipping out from income generation. Assurance on food security assures ‘the quality – to fight malnutrition’ and ‘quantity – to ensure productivity’, thereby assurance on ‘food to everyone’. For majority of Indian population, agriculture is considered to be as the only income generating occupation, though it is non-profitable. Now alone focus is being given to make agriculture remunerative, thereby ‘Doubling farmers income’.

But, before sorting out the ways to make agriculture profitable, the possible ways for avoiding losses in agriculture has to be identified. And need-of-the-hour will be discovering sustainable agricultural practices to make it environment friendly.

A possible way

According to the Department of Agriculture and Farmers welfare, 52% of country’s net sown area is under rainfed and 40% of total food grain production is from Rainfed agriculture. Even though rainfed agriculture proved to be risk prone, they contribute nearly half the country’s food grain production. The Global scenario too speaks well. But the crop production and protection technologies, irrigation water conservation measures, derived and developed for irrigated conditions didn’t serve better in assuring food security and farmers the expected returns. Hence, reducing the focus on usual areas of agriculture and shifting to a known, used-to, but less focused and less-trialed rainfed farming may give a new hope to farmer’s to avoid capital loss and eco-friendly agriculture if appropriate methods are formulated and practiced.

Why there is a need for change ?

Present day agriculture involves high input usage. In particular, introduction of hybrids lead to high spending on the very first step of farming. Hybrids require optimum irrigation at optimum time and huge doses of fertilizers. Irrigation requirement always stood as a first line hindrance for any farmer who wishes to go for a crop or to sustain the cultivated crop until its best yielding period. This makes farmer to invest on irrigation even in sub-surface levels opting for bore- wells, as monsoon failures creates uncertainty in surface water availability. Further, lack of canal irrigation facilities and politically created water disputes necessitates huge investment on bore-wells affecting farmers wealth.

Then, requirement of huge doses of fertilizer adds few more doses of debt and exploit the all-time debtee – farmer and also environment.

If someone by someone’s grace escapes from the above hindrances, they will be best trapped in the name of pest and disease infestation, as hybrids are more prone to pest and diseases. This doesn’t even spare most recent agriculture technology too. As Bt crops too failed to serve their actual purpose by developing pest and disease resistance.

Our primary objective of assuring food security and our recently adopted objective of ‘Doubling farmers income’ proves to be tough in this mode, as getting the projected crop yield and expected returns rarely achieved. Further, major reforms on agricultural marketing are yet to be carried out.

How could Farmer’s wealth be assured ?

In rainfed farming the above  hindrances could be simply avoided. Avoiding the hybrids, spontaneously avoids the need for stipulated irrigation water, fertilizer and pesticide doses. Reducing the input usage reduces the capital investment and further reduce/avoid the financial lose. Though it doesn’t gives bounty, socio economic tensions viz., farmers suicides, protests could be hugely avoided. Obviously, agriculture becomes sustainable, causing less effect to environment.

Further, Rainfed farming could be promoted and sustained in areas with no canal irrigation facilities where farmers are hugely small and marginal. Minor millets and pulses will be the best opted crops for rainfed conditions, as they just need one or two irrigations to grow. In addition, Government policies developing rainfed areas by Integrated Farming System models helps to avoid financial losses.   

Except ploughing, rainfed farming doesn’t need major land preparation for bund, ridge and canal formation. Intercropping and dense sowing avoids pest and weed menace respectively. In-situ ploughing of the vegetative parts helps in enriching the soil. Crop losses need not be seen keenly, as investments are less.

‘Though rainfed farming cannot assure profit to the farmers and food security to the nation,

it can assure wealth to the farmers and health to the environment”