Agriculture in Tripura : challenges ahead

Sep 5 2010

By Joydip Chakrabarti

Agriculture – the backbone of civilization – is facing multitude of problems mainly owing to increase in population and slow growth in food production. In the era of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization (LPG) too much emphasis on industrial growth has rendered the agriculture sector of the country uncared.

With the LPG, the economic parameters have also become complex and particularly in agriculture, farm economies have witnessed sea changes in policy formulations, implementations etc.

In case of Tripura, the Revised Perspective Plan (RPP) on agriculture and allied activities aims at attaining self-sufficiency in food production by 2012. The plan laid stress on usage of hybrid seeds for increased crop production along with emphasis on bio-fertilizer utilization to lessen dependence on chemical fertilizers. The plan also stressed on Watershed Management in rain-fed cultivation. However, a section of experts is doubtful about attaining the target set by the RPP mainly due to inapt processes of policy implementation. It is true that odds are high, but it will be unwise to ponder the strength of the State that can certainly play the role of a catalyst in achieving growth in agriculture.

One of the causes of slow agricultural growth is attributed to lack of motivation among the farmers to cultivate. In an exclusive interview on the sideline of recently held 3-day international seminar at Agartala, Dr Kwadeo Asenso-Okyere, Regional Director of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) shared vast his experience. “Agricultural development is highly related with overall development of the rural areas and its people. To motivate the rural people for agri-activities, it is essential to ensure easy access to basic amenities and agriculture knowledge in the rural areas”, Dr Kwadeo suggested. Steps to make agriculture a profitable profession will attract competent people in the agri-sector. Policies should focus on capacity building to enable the farmers access the latest information on agri-activities.

To this end, the State is doing well in maintaining peace and implementing several social security schemes like MGNREGA. The need of this hour is to draw a vibrant approach with a focus on strict “monitoring-endowment-evaluation-redrawing policies” model. Sincere evidence-based monitoring will help to formulate appropriate endowment policies. Dr Kwadeo put a lot of importance in conducting the monitoring process with outmost care as it forms the basis of success of any plan. Therefore, active involvement of concerned officials in monitoring the implementation of policies will be vital to realize the target set by RPP.

Unfortunately, the State Agri-Department is lagging behind in effectively monitoring the initiatives and come out with sufficient database. The amateur like approach of the Department is obvious in the observation of Dr Swaminathan. He observed, “…… It is not, however, clear as to how the yield gap between production and demand would be filled”. He identified many areas with insufficient data. Lack of full-fledged data will surely affect the process to identify actual endowment process. The administration should gear up to fill the vacuum of data in the areas mentioned by Dr Swaminathan in his recommendations submitted to the Department.

In a highly dynamic LPG scenario, knowledge and information sharing play vital role in increasing crop production. To facilitate agri-technologies and information transfer to farming community, the GOI launched Extension Reforms scheme in 2005-06. The scheme aims to make the extension system farmer driven and more vibrant by way of new institutional arrangements for technology dissemination in the form of an ‘Agricultural Technology Management Agency’ (ATMA) at district level.

In Tripura, ATMA conducted total 1745 nos of technology demonstration in all over the State. So far, 16 farmer-scientist interactions were arranged., farmers of several remote villages successfully increased area of various cultivations with the knowledge assistance from ATMA. With all the weaponries ready, to attain self-sufficiency in food production the State Administration along with the Agri-Department should become more pro-active in implementing the policies and take drastic steps to manage the farm economies in scientific manner and overcome some of the challenges that the State Agriculture is currently facing.

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I liked Mr. Joydip Chakrabarti's article on challenges in Agriculture in Tripura - the professional treatment to the subject and all.

I reckon somehow that Mr. Chakraborti himself does not believe that the Perspective Plan goal to reach self-sufficiency in food by 2012 is achievable. It is not only true for agriculture - it is more or less the same story for every development department.

How often does a young professional in the government, toiling in the rural area, receive a pat on the back for a job well done - be he a man of medicine, agriculture or public health ? How does the system recognise and reward merit, professional integrity and commitment ?

And, if the system does not find any one of these professionals doing a good job - we indeed must be heading for disaster, as the best amongst us, generally, had qualified and opted for professional courses.

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