What Ails the Indian Farmer
Agriculture accounts for over 15% of annual GDP in India. Our country has the 2nd highest output of agricultural produce in the world, with its value estimated at around $400 Billion. Unfortunately, the daily life of the farming community in India, to which we owe much of the credit of this national achievement, is marred with numerous challenges. In this blog post, we take a look at the widespread problems being faced by the Indian farmers (irrespective of whether they are large (~7%), medium (~19%), small (~60%), or landless (~14%)), and the need for society to acknowledge and understand them in order to arrive at their solutions. Some of the challenges which these farmers have to face have been listed below:
- Lack of Education: With the overall literacy rate of India having considerably improved over the past couple of decades, the farming community and their families have lagged behind. This is because they continue to focus only on agricultural and allied rural activities which is their primary source of livelihood. And all this without picking up on an educated understanding of the operational, marketing and financial aspects of their daily hard work. Same is true for the insufficient efforts made by the corporate, the academia and the society at large to train and educate farmers, as they remain secluded and marginalized.
- Lack of Access to Modern Agri-methods and Technology: Most of the farmers in the country still lack access to modern methods such as drip irrigation, resources such as advanced fertilisers and pesticides, technologies such as genetic manipulation and facilities such as proper connection to canals along with adequate water supply. Even if governments run such schemes from time to time, the actual benefit that reaches the farmers is minimal or low on account of systemic corruption. Many of the governmental schemes thus stay restricted to on-papers, while private players too have shown just a lukewarm response to investment in agriculture and its improvement as an industry.
- Middle-men Mafia: The Indian Agri-value chain is marred by numerous middle-men operating at every stage and substage. They end up eroding most of the value and the benefit deserved by the farmers, and make them lose track of their produce and its end-use. They also obstruct the flow of information and market rates to the farmers as well as the end-consumers and end up taking undue situational advantage by resorting to inferior market practices such as hiding or falsifying information, cartelization, nepotism, bribery, hoarding of Agri-commodities leading to artificial price hikes, lobbying etc.
- Weatherly and Climatic Fluctuations: Much of the farmers in India are still at the mercy of weather gods, as far as the quality and the volume of their harvest is concerned. It’s often heard in the news that at one place, floods destroy the entire standing crop, while drought comes to trouble the farmers of another region. Other related risks such as pests or locusts infesting the crop, or a particular disease destroying the crop also continue to trouble farmers. Not much has been done on the ground to shield farmers from these risks, or to insure their crop from such damages.
- Attrition / Burden of Debt: Due to a combination of factors discussed earlier (lack of education, weatherly and climatic fluctuations, middle-men mafia etc.), farmers often end up losing confidence, hope and motivation in agriculture as a sustainable source of livelihood. Some of them leave farming forever, selling off lands to parties with vested interests and migrating to urban areas with family, while others fall prey to the tunes of private lenders, who lend them money at self-styled terms and exorbitant rates, and pressurize them throughout to honour the terms, irrespective of the actual earnings that the farmers are able to make. This trend explains why India has continued to lose its precious farmers to suicides and change of occupation.
To sum up, farmers across much of India continue to fight these challenges and struggle to make their ends meet against all odds. It’s high time that governments, local administration, co-operative bodies, corporate India and Agri-marketing organisations / start-ups come together to support the nation-wide farming community and bail them out of their recurring troubles.