Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Irrigation : A problem which needs to be solved now

More than 60 percent of the country's farmland depends on rain and groundwater.This combined with productivity of the farmland being at small percentage of the world's top producers ensures that the income from farming remains low.

An Indian farmer produces 3.3 tonnes of rice per hectare compared to a farmer in Australia who produces more than 10 tonnes per hectare. Imagine if the same productivity is reached by the Indian farmer and he is able to tap international markets. The income of that farmer is probably going to go up by 3 to 5 times. It is the same thing for wheat, mangoes or even eggs. If the productivity in all of these reached the top levels in the world, one can imagine what changes it would bring to the rural lifestyle.

It is not that the top countries in these various areas are unduly blessed with environmental bounty such as highly fertile land or abundant rainfall. Australia the topper in rice productivity is mainly a dry country, which is ironical considering that rice requires a lot of water to grow. Netherlands the topper in wheat productivity has lot of reclaimed land from the sea. Israel the topper in Okra and cotton productivity is mainly in a very dry area.

With Arable land in India only second to United States in hectares, there really is a big task here. But what can be done? If the Indian government can help the farmer as to which crop is most suitable for that farmers land and also setup clear directions as to how the productivity can be maximized, that would definitely help. That should not as difficult as clearly there are Panchayats in every village and this data can be easily found out.

The next thing needs to be that entire country needs to have irrigation which is independent of vagaries of monsoon. It is again a tough task but not impossible. It can easily be time bound project.

Rain water harvesting is mandatory in Tamil Nadu. It could be made mandatory all over the country, so that ground water is constantly replenished.

Finally the international market should be opened to the farmers without middlemen. This seems to be a problem even for the domestic markets. But farmer education would be required here.

Subsidy distortion is a problem which is not going to go away soon nationally or internationally, but again if that is set as a long term goal, it would help the finances of both the governments and individual farmers. It is simple, subsidies influence behavior, and farmer as a result may make a choice which is not the most beneficial to him.