What would you say were the lessons of the first Green Revolution in India? That wealthier farmers on good land need even more help to boost their yields? Or that the smaller, poorer farmers by passed (or even actively harmed) by the Green Revolution should be the focus of attention now?
OK, so it’s an unfair question. Intensive farming does need continuing research and development to thrive and expand. And rural smallholders, while they could be assisted in their quest for food security, are not the answer to national problems. Nevertheless, I confess to being more than a little dismayed by the report of a recent speech by India’s new president Pratibha Patil to the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
“The structural weaknesses of the agriculture sector include low levels of public investment, exhaustion of the yield potential of new high yielding varieties of wheat and rice, unbalanced fertilizer use, low seeds replacement rate and low yield per unit area across almost all crops.”
Patil further said that the reasons for low agri-production are the diminishing size of land holdings, degradation in land quality and soil health due to improper nutrient application, the looming threats of global warming and climate change, and emergence of new pests and diseases.
Weak linkages between research and extension, limited credit access at reasonable rates of interest, non-remunerative prices, inadequate market access, poor rural infrastructure and insufficient post-harvest infrastructure such as warehousing, cold chains, and agro-processing facilities are other features plaguing our agricultural production environment, she added.
Many of the “reasons” Patil enumerated look from afar like the consequences of poor intensification rather than weaknesses not addressed by the Green Revolution.
Just the teeniest passing reference to the benefits of agricultural biodiversity, especially for the farmers who did not get much out of the Green Revolution, would have pleased me no end.
There’s more here: apparently Patil’s speech was a curtain-raiser for FAO Director General Jacques Diouf. But the Indian papers don’t seem to be recording what he said.