Future of Indian agriculture lies on tech-driven farming practices: Vice President

Vice President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu called for establishing strong lab–farm links and farmer–industry interaction to turn the farmers into ‘agri-entrepreneurs’
Vice President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu called for establishing strong lab–farm links and farmer–industry interaction to turn the farmers into ‘agri-entrepreneurs’

Vice President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu Tuesday called for measures to prevent agro brain drain and attract educated youth to take up farming as a profession. He opined, the future of Indian agriculture lies in the hands of technology-driven farming practices, powered by well- informed and modern-minded farmers.

The Vice President made these remarks while virtually inaugurating the National Dialogue on “Indian Agriculture Towards 2030: Pathways for Enhancing Farmers’ Income, Nutritional Security and Sustainable Food Systems” organised by NITI Aayog, Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

Expressing concern over the increasing lack of interest in farming among the educated youth, Naidu opined that changing socio-economic milieu, increasing agri-input costs and diminishing returns have turned agriculture into a less preferred profession among the youth. He called for establishing strong lab–farm links and farmer–industry interaction to turn the farmers into ‘agri-entrepreneurs’. Creation of ‘Business Incubation Centres’ would also be a step in the right direction for aspiring farmers in this field, the Vice President added.

Stating that agriculture input costs have gone up significantly, Naidu urged the policy-makers and other stakeholders to work towards reducing the input costs. Towards this end, he also suggested promoting organic farming in a big way. Stressing the need to move away from chemical farming, he said, “Organic farming is beneficial for all—the farmers, the consumers and the environment.” He called for making organic agriculture a mass movement not only for a ‘wealthy nation’ but also a ‘healthy nation’.

Listing the four important sets of challenges faced by Indian agriculture, the Vice President said the foremost among these is the challenge of food security and better nutrition for our growing population. “In fact, the time has come to switch the focus of our approach from food security to nutrition security”, he added.

Read more: 9 Agritech startups making Indian farmers self-reliant

The second challenge, Naidu underlined, was the challenge of sustainability of the natural resources—land, water, forests and so on. He wanted increased focus on technologies that increase water use efficiency.

Terming climate change the third major area of concern, the Vice President said, agriculture needs to be made resilient in the face of the grave impact of climate change. This needs to be addressed with an increasing sense of urgency and awareness, he said.

Lastly, Naidu said, the farmers and the farm-workers are at the heart of the agricultural landscape and deserve total, undivided attention. “It is our moral responsibility to ensure that we give them a bright future that recognises the blood and sweat of our annadata which constitutes Indian agriculture”, he said.

The Vice President also expressed the need to incorporate all dimensions of sustainability—the economic, the social and the ecological into agricultural policy-making and planning. He batted for a wider and more holistic view of agriculture, wherein the sustainability of plants, fishes, forests and livestock and their natural interdependence with the well-being of people are given due attention.

Drawing attention to the increasing feminisation of agriculture in India, Naidu urged the policy-makers to pay special attention to the welfare of women farmers. Referring to the recent desert locusts attack, ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the bird flu, Naidu said that there is urgent need for disaster-proofing food and farm systems, reviving the rural economy and greater emphasis on health and nutrition, particularly of vulnerable sections of society.

He was of the opinion that the farmers should be encouraged to take up allied activities like poultry, dairy, fisheries and horticulture to have income in case of a failed crop. He also called for fully tapping the potential of Indian food processing industry.

Read more: 3 Ways, Agritech makes farmers of the future

The Vice President wanted agricultural universities and Krishi Vignan Kendras (KVKs) to adopt a pro-active approach in bringing the latest research and innovation to the farmers. The lab-to-land concept has to be effectively implemented, he emphasised.

Naidu maintained that farmers have never let the country down even in adverse conditions such as floods, drought or pandemic and called for coordinated action in team India sprit by both the Centre and the states to make agriculture profitable. Recognising the fact that the farmers are unorganised and voiceless, he said that the 4Ps–Parliament, political leaders, policy-makers and press must pro-actively adopt a positive bias towards agriculture.

Noting that loan waivers and subsidies provide temporary relief to farmers and are not sustainable solutions, Naidu said that both long-term and short-term measures are needed to ensure remunerative prices to farmers. He listed various measures such as e-marketing, cold storage facilities, uninterrupted power supply and timely credit crucial to make agriculture profitable and viable.

The three-day dialogue to envision a roadmap for Indian agriculture towards 2030 will see participation from agricultural experts, farmers, scientists, academics and civil society members.

Appreciating the initiative, Naidu hoped that the delegates will examine the problems and challenges faced by Indian agriculture and will make suitable recommendations on how to overcome them and move forward. “I am confident that the genius and hardwork of our farmers and our scientists and policy-makers will ensure that we nurture both the body and the soul of our great civilization”, he said.

Parshottam Rupala, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare; Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chair, NITI Aayog; Prof. Ramesh Chand, Member, NITI Aayog; Sanjay Agarwal, Secretary, Agriculture and Farmers Welfare; Jong-Jin Kim, FAO Assistant Director General and Regional Representative of the Asia-Pacific region; Dr. Neelam Patel, Senior Adviser (Agriculture), NITI Aayog; agriculture experts, researchers and farmers participated in the virtual event.

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