CONCEPT OF CO-OPERATIVE COMMUNITY AGRICULTURE

By: Subhashini, Asstt. Editor-ICN

NEW DELHI: Agriculture is the foundation of all the activities since the civilisation came into existence. You can’t survive without food, can you? As recent evidence suggests, the first organised agricultural activity was founded in India in the Hoshiarpur district. Any civilized society has its roots in farming. In this article, I will discuss about the drawbacks of the current agricultural trends and would present a new concept which could increase the productivity and versatility of India’s agriculture.

Drawbacks of agriculture in India

From the past 25 years, we are continually witnessing thousands of incidents related to farmer suicides. WHY?
Since the time India gained independence, reforms in agriculture have not been considered seriously enough. There is no properly targeted and foresighted growth in the agricultural sector. The only exception is the regime of Lal Bahadur Shastri (1964-66), during which a slogan of “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” was given to India. This encouraged the farmers morally and they started cultivating collectively on whatever area of land they had. What I am trying to convey through this article has its roots in the above fact.

I am not denying the fact that the Green Revolution in India in 1967-78 did lead to an increase in the food production. However, most of this increase was due to the use of high yielding varieties of seeds (hybrid seeds) and also the excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides which degraded the land and the quality of the soil deteriorated eventually.

During the 80s and 90s, Green Revolution gave rise to a sort of confusion among the Indian farmers because they were unable to decide which crop to grow as their lands had became infertile. This was a challenging phase for Indian agriculture.

From 1990-2000, farmer suicides had become prevalent. The disorganized urbanisation commenced during this time and the greed of the urban middle class to invest in the areas which were once agricultural lands increased rapidly. The farmers had a view that selling their lands to the developers would be a better option than cultivating it, since selling would give them a substantial amount of money instantly. Consequently, the agricultural land decreased largely.

Concept of multi-faced farming: Co-operative Community Agriculture

Here, my main focus would be directed towards the small scale farmers who only have about one or two acres of land. They are the ones who suffer the most. This is because majority of them are the victims of the damages from the natural calamities (drought, floods), as almost their entire crops are destroyed. Having a small amount of land, large families and little or no money to invest, they prefer ending their lives as they are mentally not able to handle all the pressure and the burden of their losses. This one single step puts their entire family into a precarious position; and in some cases even the entire family commits suicide. Some farmers might be willing to borrow money to grow new crops, but most of the time they face rejection from the banks, as no banks are willing to lend money to someone who doesn’t seem to pay back the debts.

What is CCA?

CCA is the process through which a number of small-scaled and poor farmers collaborate as a single unit in order to carry out farming. This would enable different types of cultivation simultaneously. CCA would increase the average earning of all the farmers, thus improving their status and living standards.

Implementation of CCA through crop division

Any fertile soil is capable of growing more than four different varieties of crops- be it food grains (wheat, maize, rice, pulses, millets), cash crops (cotton, tobacco, sugarcane, jute, oilseeds), plantation crops (coffee, tea, rubber, coconut) or horticulture crops (fruits and vegetables). A large area of land created by merging several small lands under CCA would be divided into about three to four sections. Each section of the land would be used to cultivate a different type of crop, which uses up only some specific nutrients from the soil, leaving the rest to be used by the other crops. This method might seem similar to crop rotation but it is not exactly the same.

What I am talking about is crop division, dividing the land into sectors and a different crop is cultivated in each sector. That means all types of crops would be cultivated at the same time, rather than growing a single crop at a time. Since each crop would use up different nutrients from the soil, the fertility of the land would be maintained.

National level plan for the working of the CCA

  • The Ministry of Agriculture would form a unit “Krishi Karm” comprising excellent agricultural scientists and economists.
  • They would be required to prepare the data of the entire cultivable agricultural land in India, and to categorize the types of crops best suited for a specific land and soil. Maximum types of soils are capable of growing more than three or four types of crops in a particular area simultaneously.
  • The economic advisors in this committee would identify those farmers having a very small area of land, adjacent to the lands of other small-scaled farmers.
  • Once the data is prepared, the committee would hire aspirant entrepreneurs who would wish to educate the farmers about the benefits involved in being a part of the CCA.
  • They would be required to prove that they are capable enough to bring together all the small-scaled farmers to join the CCA.
  • Once this system is into process, the total production resulting from CCA would be marketed by these entrepreneurs. The profit percentage that these entrepreneurs would receive would be pre-defined. Obviously, they would have to be paid a fair amount so that they have enough incentives to put their efforts
  • Here, the point to be noted is that the entrepreneur would be investing a small amount that would only be required to communicate with the farmers.

Local and national level creation and management of funds

All these entrepreneurs would create a fund by contributing a small part of their earnings. If necessary, the Government and the bank would also contribute to this fund. This fund would be used in case a farmer is incapable of buying any farming equipment required for specific farming, or there is some sudden emergency; and as soon as his crop is sold by the entrepreneurs, the borrowed amount would be returned to the fund and the remaining would be given to the farmer as his profits. If say, the amount borrowed exceeds the amount gained by selling crops, the farmer would have an option to return the borrowed money in three instalments.

A similar kind of a fund, called the “Krishi Kosh” (Agri-treasure) would be created at the national level also where the corporate sector would contribute money from their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) fund. This would help make small-scale cold storage and grain storage at small distances in the rural areas. There would be a proper network so that the final user would be in direct contact with the entrepreneurs working in that area. This activity should be carried out at the national level.

It would be the responsibility of the Krishi Karm to inform the farmers before-hand about the weather forecasts for different regions so that the farmers have an idea of what would be coming their way in the days to come.

In case there is a drought, the required amount of water would be transported to the severely prone and the affected areas, and a major part of that water should only be used on agriculture, and the rest would be used by the rural community as per their needs. An example of this method could be seen in Maharashtra, where the water was supplied to Latur, a city in the Marathwada region through a 50-wagon train carrying 25 lakh litres of water. Following this example, the water transportation should be done regularly and the cost involved in supplying the water would be covered by the Krishi Kosh.

Since we already know the flood prone areas in India, Krishi Karm would have a detailed research about the contour structure of a particular area, coupled with the local causes of the occurrence of floods. The contours where the water tends to accumulate due to an overflow in the local rivers would be paid the utmost attention. The prerequisite information about the contours would enable the unobstructed diversion of water into several small streams reaching the nearby ponds. If required, new ponds and water reserves would be built artificially so that all the excess water could flow into them.

Floods could also be prevented by a technique of carefully advised and guided reverse boringnear the water reserves so that the excess water from the flood gets percolated to the ground and recharges the groundwater table.

Problems with the system

  • I am not ignoring the fact that corruption might be a serious problem in this system. However, this can be taken care of if the body that would be appointed by the government is largely under private hands as then, all the expenditure would be borne by a group of corporate companies associated with agriculture. A fraction of the Krishi Kosh (CSR fund) could be used to maintain Krishi Karm.
  • Internal conflict. There might be disputes and heated arguments among the farmers under CCA owing to some petty issues. However, the entrepreneurs assigned under CCA might be able resolve these disputes and see to it that no injustice is being done with the farmers.
  • Even if all don’t agree to collaborate, there would be some who would find this policy useful. Others might follow once the success is registered.

Benefits of this system

  • While working individually, a farmer purchases all the farming essentials through his out of pocket expenses. On the other hand, under CCA, this burden would be shared by the funds created both at the local and the national level.
  • The living standards and condition of the farmers would improve.
  • There would be a decrease in the number of farmer suicides.
  • Families of the farmers would have an opportunity to receive the formal education and required expertise needed for an efficient farming.
  • The farmers won’t have the headache of the sale of their yields as it would be taken care of by the entrepreneurs.
  • They would be able to get financial assistance in cases of emergencies.
  • Currently, the rural youth is losing its interest from farming. If this system comes into existence, there would be a readymade source of employment that would be available to them before-hand. This would lead to some reduction in unemployment.
  • Organic farming would be encouraged and thus the quality of the soil would be maintained. High yields from organic farming would result in high exports.
  • Farmers would find themselves to be contended. The biggest sector of the country being contended, would lay the foundation for a powerful development of the nation.

Conclusion

This system would require at least four to five years of consistent efforts to show considerable results. Even if there is no significant improvement in the first phase, without being discouraged, this system should still be continued because changing the psychology of the poor and illiterate farmers would take a while.