Farmers Research

Agriculture is a key economic, social and ecological activity in India. This sector provides food & nutrition to the entire population in this country. It is also responsible for fulfilling monetary requirements of millions of people in India. According to 2011 census, an estimated 61.5% of people are dependent on agriculture. This data hasn’t changed a lot and demographically our country is still an agrarian country. Still, India’s largest percentage of people are depending directly or indirectly on agriculture for their income. Apart from providing raw material for various agro-based industries, this sector has a direct significant contribution in GDP as well. Central Statistics Office report in 2015 estimates the share of agriculture and allied sectors to be 15.35 % of total GDP.

Ironically, this number is achieved after sharp decline in contribution to GDP. If we study sector wise contribution in GDP, we can clearly see that agricultural contribution in GDP has fallen drastically in terms of percentage in the last five decades. Various researches also suggest that although the numbers have increased in terms of rupees or dollars the real income has decreased (considering purchasing power, inflation & comparing with remuneration in other sectors, devaluation in price of currency etc). The condition today is that small farmers and agro-based labourers & producers themselves are hungry. India ranks 103 out 119 countries in hunger index and 40 % of food production, approx. 1.2 billion food is wasted every year – this is a paradox of modern agriculture. NSSO data suggests that 70 % of all agricultural households spend more than what they earn and more than half of all farmers are in debt. In states such as Andhra Pradesh & Telangana, more than 90% farmers are in debt. Total income, average income, huge debt & hunger of farmers aren’t the only problem being faced by this sector

Historically, this sector has witnessed many lows in last few decades after India’s independence. For example –

Economic and production related problems have persisted with us after the Bengal famine in 1943. After independence, the government, civil society and research agencies thought about the situation and the key decision makers reached to a conclusion in 1965 that India needs technology & chemical-based farming to fulfill its needs. The government, NGOs, and some private agencies were instrumental in providing modern resources, chemicals, techniques, machinery and methods to change the output and income of farmers in 1960s and in the next two decades ‘industrial chemical-based farming’ reached even remote corners of the country. These initiatives led to a large-scale change in agriculture named as - Green revolution. It was introduced by Norman Borlaug & Dr. MS Swaminathan. Chemical based industrial agriculture introduced bio-engineered seeds, tried to maximize the utilization of nutrients available in soil and also provided additional chemical inputs, pesticides, weedicides etc. to the plant for survival, growth and more yield. Due to these efforts, yield increased by 30 % (if we compare 1947 with 1979). Thus, it helped us with increase in food production, storage & preservation in the short run but later the farm ecosystem and plants lost their immunity.

Initially, very few people were sceptic about the use of HY seeds, chemicals, pesticides, weedicides, etc. Slowly, data and feedback started to come out from the ground and from the farmers themselves. It was evident that these seeds required more water and nutrients to grow and also required more safety from pests. Metaphorically, the farm had to be converted into a lab where the farmer was supposed to forcibly control things like nutrition, pests & weeds with chemicals, pesticides and weedicides. Thus, we got to know the other side of story of green revolution as well – along with short term increase in production it also gave us multiple ecological & health problems to ponder up on. It seems as if to solve one problem related to food production, we had to get into multiple complex problems. These problems are evident in studies done by NABARD , dept. of agriculture and civil society. Prof. R. K. Mahajan, an agricultural economist at Punjabi University says "The Green Revolution is not as green as it was earlier—it has now become brown and pale," he says. "The profit margins have skewed to the minimum. " Along with serious ecological & health implications, it is now providing diminishing returns with falling dividends in terms of output too.

Major Drawbacks of green revolution are -

  1. Most HY seeds can’t be used again and again. Farmers lose control & self-reliance over seeds. Also, Hybrid seeds require more water, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weedicides to grow. This method increases the cost of inputs while cost of output always remains way lower than naturally produced crops.
  2. Due to genetic modification and nature’s way of adaptation pests have become more resilient and super pests have started showing up in farms.
  3. Over-utilisation of soil, soil-erosion and soil toxicity, erosion of friendly micronutrients and microbes from soil, etc. This means clear long-term losses in quality and fertility of soil.
  4. HY seeds require more water to grow and survive. Usage of pumps have led to groundwater levels sinking up to three feet per year (Zwerdling report).
  5. Residues of chemical fertilizers, weedicides & pesticides have entered the entire food chain including milk of cows and even milk of a feeding mother.
  6. Many species are becoming extinct due to presence of chemical residue in soil, water, food chain, etc.

Now, we have reached a state where many government experts (including MS Swaminathan the pioneer of green revolution), research institutes, NGOs, Agriculture Universities etc. have unanimously declared that increase in production during green revolution was achieved by compromising ecology, environment and well-being of people. Machine and chemical fertilizers, pesticides led farming has also resulted in removing the small farmers from contention as they are not able to fulfil the requirements of input.