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A new road map for rolling out a Green Revolution 2.0 in Eastern India

In collaboration with the International Food Policy Research
Institute
(IFPRI) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR),
TCI-TARINA organized a two-day workshop, titled “Green Revolution in Eastern
India: Constraints, Opportunities, and the Way Forward
,” on October 9-10, 2017
in New Delhi. The event aimed to develop a road map for achieving accelerated
and sustainable agricultural growth in the region. Despite Eastern India’s
abundant supply of natural resources and human capital, the transformation and
modernization of its agriculture sector continues to lag behind other regions.
Thus, the workshop focused on leveraging opportunities and existing assets to launch
a “Green Revolution 2.0 (GR 2.0)” in a region that was largely bypassed during
India’s first GR in the 1960s-80s.

image

Dr. Avinash Kishore of IFPRI delivering a presentation on his research.

The workshop brought together researchers, policymakers, and
practitioners from a host of organizations to:

  • Document various challenges and opportunities to
    achieving a GR 2.0 in Eastern India.
  • Develop an inventory of programs, policies, and
    institutions that could directly or indirectly assist in promoting a GR 2.0.
  • Explore best practices and technological
    innovations adopted by other states and regions, and assess their relevance and
    suitability for Eastern India.
  • Develop a clear set of strategies and priorities
    for achieving a GR 2.0.

Workshop participants agreed that efforts toward launching a
GR 2.0 in Eastern India should be closely linked with the Government of India’s
stated goals to double farmer incomes and to improve nutritional outcomes over
the next five years. However, to achieve these goals, solutions to several production
system constraints need to be addressed, including the low productivity of land,
high cost of irrigation, lack of access to affordable technology, highly fragmented
landholdings, and risks from market price volatility and weather conditions. Additionally,
special attention should be paid to input usage for enhancing technical
efficiency and increasing yields.

The main messages that emerged from the discussion include
the following:

1.
Labor
trends:
There is a need to better understand the dynamics of labor economics
in Eastern India, which impact small and marginal farmers. For example, the trend
in seasonal labor migration among men, who leave the region to seek other employment
opportunities, and how this trend impacts agricultural productivity, should be
examined.

2.
Water
and irrigation:
While Eastern India has a relatively high groundwater
table, it has been tapped to its full potential for increasing groundwater
irrigation. The region has seen an increase in the diesel pump density, yet water
markets have failed to become competitive over time and irrigations costs
remain high. Pumps have been relatively underutilization by small and marginal
farmers who are irrigating less frequently, thereby adversely affecting crop
yields. Removing the subsidy on diesel for irrigation and any further investment
in public tube wells was recommended. Opportunities related to electrification
of pumps that could have a somewhat moderating effect on the cost of irrigation
need to be further explored. In addition, the untapped potential of solar pumps
for powering tube wells shows some promise for enhancing irrigation intensity
in the region.

3.
Machinery:
While the machine density in states like Bihar has increased, there has
been no concomitant increase in cropping intensity. As a way forward, it may be
prudent to restrict subsidies for new agricultural machines and deregulate the
machine sector, along with creating a cadre of machine service providers. This
would potentially increase the utilization of machines and also create a
greater degree of competition in machine rental markets.

4.
Climate
change:
Strategies for climate change mitigation should be prioritized as
part of the GR 2.0 in Eastern India. Policy on carbon pricing is crucial, but
politically challenging to implement. Therefore, the focus should move toward
climate smart agriculture.

5.
Crop
diversification:
A GR 2.0 should call for farmers to shift their production
away from staple grains, such as wheat and rice, toward more nutritious
non-staples such as fresh fruits, vegetables, pulses, and livestock products,
as an agricultural pathway for addressing malnutrition. However, crop
diversification in the region would need to be clearly defined and understood
in terms of the local context, especially with respect to employment  (i.e. low employment among women), demand for
nutritious crops, climate change, and the political economy of food security.

6.
Nutritional
needs of tribal communities:
Tribal districts, which form a large part of Eastern
India, have witnessed a high incidence of chronic malnutrition. Lessons can be
taken from states like Arunachal and Chhattisgarh, which have witnessed a
faster decline in stunting and wasting among children. Agricultural policy for the
region should account for specific nutritional requirements of this population
group.

7.
Farmer
producer organizations (FPOs):
FPOs are considered vehicles that enable
small and marginal farmers to harness the benefits that can be achieved through
economies of scale. However, it was argued that this has not been the case for
many FPOs in the region. With respect to India’s fragmented pulses market, it
was also argued that FPOs have the capability to reduce transaction costs,
thereby enabling commercialization of both product and factor markets. Given
the scope of FPOs and the benefits that they can potentially provide, metrics should
be developed for measuring their performance and charting out a possible locus
for FPOs in catalyzing a GR 2.0. A study could also be undertaken to better understand
why some FPOs have been more successful than others. Furthermore, participants emphasized
the need to promote FPOs and provide them with incentives for purchasing land
levelers and other small agri-machinery.

8.
State-level
involvement in agricultural policy:
State level governments in India have
significant control and influence over food and agricultural policy. Furthermore,
resource decentralization through finance commissions has provided state
governments with greater fiscal autonomy. Thus, it is important to recognize
the role of state governments in strategizing for a GR 2.0 in Eastern India.

9.
Public
investment:
Given that agriculture in Eastern India continues to be
characterized by low productivity despite high input subsidies, participants
questioned whether input subsidies should be reduced and public investment in increased.
Many were in favor of increasing investment in agricultural R&D for
productivity gains.

10. Agriculture financing: Inadequate
access to formal credit, the higher cost of borrowing, lack of flexibility of
financial products to suit the needs of small and marginal farmers characterize
the credit market for agriculture finance in Eastern India. Hence, financial
innovation is needed to address unmet credit demands of the small and marginal
farmers. This should also be coupled with a push to increase financial literacy
among small and marginal farmers and simplify lending procedures.

11. Land policy: The draft Land Tenancy
Act, which provides more security to land tenants, could be leveraged to
encourage tenants to investment in small farms as well as incentivize
diversification of production through the inclusion of high-value crops.

12.
Agroprocessing:
Establishing agroprocessing plants in close proximity to clustered production
sites would help increase farmer incomes in Eastern India. This would require enabling
conditions for the private sector to pro-actively participate in transferring
knowledge and technologies to farmers, as well as the provision of
infrastructure, such as cold storage in some cases.

13.
Agri-markets: Given the importance of
competitive agri-markets in enhancing farmer incomes, deliberations focused on
a host of agri-market reforms currently underway, such as the unified license
for trading. Participants agreed that from a food systems perspective, the
government is expected to play a major role in agricultural markets, from
stabilizing prices to removing market entry barriers. It was recommended that
the government develop and implement food certification policies that could be
scaled across agricultural markets.

14.
Market
information systems:
Triggering a GR 2.0 in Eastern India would require
farmers to have access to real-time market information, especially on prices. Harnessing
the benefits of information communication technologies (ICTs) and digital
platforms would facilitate this process.

The main messages summarized above represent the key pillars
of the new road map for rolling out a GR 2.0 in Eastern India. Strategies and
priorities outlined in the road map will be further refined through focused
research and discussions in the coming months.

image

Workshop participants from TCI-TARINA posing for a group photo.

By Nikhil Raj

Nikhil Raj (nr425@cornell.edu) is the Director of TARINA, based in New Delhi.