Fragmentation crisis in Indian agriculture
by Vipesh Garg on 01 Aug 2017 9 Comments

Agriculture has always being viewed as an integrated activity, including crop production, resource conservation, and livestock, in one seamless whole. The present scenario in Indian agricultural academia has witnessed fragmentation and division over the years. The rising trend of inter-disciplinary specialisation and compartmentalisation of related disciplines as subsidiary occupations calls for immediate attention to save the integrity of agriculture.


The loss of integration within the agricultural system as a whole tends to invite another agrarian crisis across India, the evidence of which can be felt with the lack of sustainability in farming, leading to over-exploitation of valuable natural resources and increasing cases of farmer suicides.


The State Agricultural Universities, created on the pattern of the land grant system of education in the United States, has been acclaimed worldwide for ushering in the a “Green revolution” in India in the mid-1960’s. The introduction of high yielding cultivars and improved crop production practices led to monoculture with the aim of filling the buffer stock and increase foreign exchange. The prosperity thus brought by the green revolution resulted in the sacrifice of natural resources, with no thought given to sustainable farming and resource conservation practices. Over time, crop production has come to be viewed as a primary occupation and the once integrated disciplines are being viewed as subsidiary occupations.


This dramatic shift has led to compartmentalisation of integrated disciplines with emphasis on specialization of individual enterprises (dairy, fishery, piggery, mushroom, resource conservation et al) leaving to the neglect of the age-old integrated natural concept of farming as proposed by Masanabu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer and pioneer of natural farming.


Presently, the administrative and academic agricultural setup decides upon a specific discipline for bestowing grants to undertake rigorous research and popularize a technology or ‘improved’ practice among state farmers without much analysis of socio-economics factors and long term benefits. Certainly, advancements in science and technology have brought some relief to state farmers, but these are short term and temporary gains.


The rising crises for resource conservation and replenishing sick soils are now evident, and can only be attributed due to discretionary practices and lack of interdisciplinary approach in farming systems. Lack of integration and compartmentalization also shift blame on each other in times of crisis, as agriculture as a whole is impacted by many uncalculated factors.


The current crisis in agriculture calls for immediate attention of policy makers, administrators, university academicians and farmers, to analyze the grim situation and put forth concrete steps to safeguard the ailing economic backbone of our country. There is need to review the present system of budgetary allocations in agriculture, specifically in the interest of replenishing sick soils. A segment of the grants should be devoted to motivate individual farmers practicing in-situ resource conservation strategies.


In recent decades, agriculture and veterinary science were separated, and two separate universities for these studies have been established without much inter-operability. State agricultural universities (SAUs) are now being further bifurcated into agriculture and horticulture universities. In the states of Haryana and Punjab, efforts are being made to allocate a special grant to carve out a separate horticultural university from the mother agricultural university; this will divert energy and resources in research of specialised compartments and further destroy the integrity of agriculture as a holistic enterprise.


Presently, most agricultural and animal science subjects are taught separately. To be more specific, separate departments have been carved out to conduct research, teach and do extension work independently, regardless of the emphasis given to the inter-dependence of these subjects as observed in natural ecosystems. With the availability of more grants, various departments have been separated to undertake their teaching, research and extension activities independently without paying much heed to inter-operability of natural agricultural systems as a whole.


As a result of this segregation, a student undertaking research on crop production, emphasises only narrowly laid objectives, without taking into consideration the several factors that are imperative to the net yield of a given crop. This fixed pattern and design restricts inter-operability and inter-linking as observed in natural agri-ecosystems. This is one of the crucial factors that is responsible for our inability to solve the emerging crisis in agriculture.


Acquisition and merging (A&M), consolidation and integration are becoming a new trend in every sector of the economy in order to compete and survive market forces. Several agricultural seed and chemical companies such as Bayer, Monsanto, Syngenta, ChemChina, DuPont and Dew, and several public sector banks; telecom companies, oil companies and so one are merging and integrating together. Even the Government keeps harping upon minimum government, maximum governance through consolidation and centralised systems; so why is there fragmentation in the agriculture sector?


We need to stop splitting universities as this will breed excessive bureaucracy, corruption, and friction. We need to focus upon the performance and footprints of exiting universities at the farmer or field level, rather creating more universities. Agriculture should not be viewed as a venture invented by man, rather it should be perceived as a wonderful gift of Mother Nature to satisfy the needs of man. 

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