GRAM 2016: A Rajasthan Showcase For Best Practices In Agriculture
Principal Secretary Agriculture, Government of Rajasthan, Neelkamal Darbari, in an interview, outlines the agriculture road map for the state and highlights the milestones achieved through GRAM 2016.
What are the outcomes the Rajasthan government is looking to achieve through GRAM 2016? What are the parameters that will define its success?
‘Global Rajasthan Agritech Meet 2016’ (GRAM) is primarily about knowledge sharing. The two main objectives behind organising this event are to expose the farming communities to technological advancements and global best practices, and to showcase investment opportunities in the state to agri-business communities across the world. These will be the parameters that will define its success.
How will ‘GRAM 2016’ help farmers, agri-entrepreneurs and other stakeholders who are expected to take part in the event?
GRAM 2016 will help in knowledge sharing as I mentioned earlier. Through this event the state government is providing a common platform for the farmers, investors and researchers to explore opportunities in the sector in Rajasthan. There will be an exhibition and a Smart Farm with live models which will showcase the best practices and innovations in agriculture. The concept of ‘Jajam Chaupals’ will help the farmer to gain knowledge and clarify their doubts with experts in a simple manner.
In terms of agri-entrepreneurs, the state will showcase opportunities for investment in the agri and allied sectors. They will also stand to gain by attending B2B (business to business) and B2G (business to government) meetings as well as seminars and conferences on topics like : ‘Sustainable Agriculture: Towards an evergreen revolution’; ‘Innovative Agriculture: Leveraging the technology frontiers’; ‘Water Use Efficiency in Agriculture’; ‘Value Addition and Marketing Solutions for New Age Agriculture’; ‘Dairy and Sustainable Livelihood through Animal Husbandry’, ‘Opportunities for Agri Tourism in Rajasthan’ and Agri Innovation at grassroot Level’.
Israel is the partner country for ‘GRAM 2016’. It is one of the pioneers in agriculture technology, today. How is Rajasthan looking to benefit from this partnership?
Like Rajasthan, Israel is an arid and semi-arid region. The state can benefit immensely from its agri-technology and make the best use of it for cultivation in such areas. As a matter of fact, both Israel and Rajasthan already have a knowledge and technology sharing relationship. The state is making earnest efforts for adopting Israeli technology which will benefit farmers and horticulturists facing scarcity of water and working in climatic conditions similar to Israel.
Rajasthan in collaboration with Israel has started as many as six centres of excellence for guava (Tonk), pomegranate (Bassi), date palm (Jaisalmer), mango (Dholpur), citrus fruits (Kota) and Mandarin orange (Jhalwara). In these centres, experts from Israel and the state are providing training to farmers on the best global techniques related to production and post production management of agri products.
In 2006, Hon’ble Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, along with a team of farmers and agriculture experts had visited Israel to study technical feasibility and economic viability of the olive cultivation. After studying and reviewing the recommendations of the expert teams, the government of Rajasthan decided to promote olive cultivation under a public-private partnership in the state.
One of the objectives of GRAM 2016 is to help get farmers acquainted with the latest technical know-how and best practices. However, we know that the majority of our farmers have small land holdings and they can't afford new technology even if it can increase their productivity. Is Rajasthan looking at ways to subsidise or lease out latest technology to farmers?
In the last few years, Rajasthan has seen an increasing use of farm machinery. The use of machines is high in the major crop producing areas of southern and eastern districts of the state. However, there is a need to push mechanisation elsewhere too. There are opportunities in production and sales of machinery for land preparation, moisture retention, seed fertiliser drills, plant protection, harvesting implements and packaging.
The state, through the Rajasthan Agricultural Produce Markets (Third Amendment) Act 2005, allows and encourages contract farming. Immense potential lies ina win-win partnership in cultivation of malt barley, fruits, and vegetables, medicinal and aromatic plants. Custom hiring centres are being promoted to encourage use of machinery on a hiring basis for small and marginal farmers. We are also actively encouraging and incentivising farmers to form ‘farmer producer organisations’ which will enable them to leverage their strength.
Recently, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the technology regulator ruled that GM Mustard is safe for consumption. Rajasthan is the biggest producer of mustard in the country. Shouldn't the state then take a lead in adopting GM Mustard as it is going to benefit the most?
Rajasthan is the country's top mustard producing state. Over 40 per cent of the total mustard produced in India comes from Rajasthan. Given the fact the state does not have the need to opt for cultivation of GM Mustard. This was also stated by the Hon’ble Agriculture Minster at a press conference recently.
The livelihood of around two-thirds of the state’s population is, directly or indirectly, dependent on agriculture. And the state ranks among the bottom five in terms of agriculture growth rate. What are some of the policies or programmes the government has launched to help farmers and the ones employed in allied farming activities?
The state has implemented ‘Rajasthan Agro Processing and Agri Marketing Policy 2015’ in which sectors like marketing reforms, contracting farming, e-commerce, direct purchase, market fee, information technology have been included.
E-NAM is a crucial initiative of the central government through which it plans to double farm incomes. Connecting more and more mandis to the online platform is the key. How fast is the state government moving on this aspect?
The concept of online mandis has already started to bring in more transparency, greater competition and better returns for the farmers.
The Union Government launched the electronic National Agriculture Market (eNAM) format in April 2016 and connected 23 mandis from eight states including Rajasthan. By 30 September, around 200 mandis have been connected online out of which 11 are from Rajasthan. The state’s agriculture department is targeting to add 15 more mandis to eNAM.
We have also set up ‘Rajasthan Integrated Mandi Management System’ (RIMMS). The internet-based trade portal implemented under this project is at par with the proposed trade portal of National Agriculture Market (NAM). At present all the 136 Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) of the state have been integrated under RIMMS. Among the APMC reforms are also a special licence to operate anywhere in the state; private mandi yards have been allowed and direct purchase by the processers is allowed at the processing facility without going to the mandi yards.
The e-platform helps farmers to sell their produce directly in the market, obviating middle-men. The initiative will help traders in open price discovery and greater accessibility owing to the online platform.
In 2014, Rajasthan made it easier for farmers to lease a part or whole of their land for renewable energy projects. Has this policy had any impact on the ground? Have the farmers shown interest in leasing out their farms? Did it lead to an increase in renewable power projects?
A number of farmers have shown their interest to lease out their lands for setting up of solar power projects. Impact of this provision in increasing solar power projects is still awaited as it is in its early stage.
Rajasthan has launched Mukhyamantri Jal Swavalamban Abhiyaan to revive ancient water bodies, improve water conservation efforts. Can you tell us how this scheme has fared so far?
The state government initiated a scientifically designed flagship campaign Mukhya Mantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan (MJSA) in the state in January this year. The target for this year was 1.08 lakh structures related to water conservation in 3,529 villages. More than 94,000 structures have been already completed in the first phase. About 25 lakh trees are being planted all around these structures with the Forest Department as the nodal agency that would take care of maintenance of these plants for the next five years. The programme has been a grand success as the pre-monsoon and initial monsoon rains have resulted in filling up most of these structures. The phase two of MJSA has already been initiated with a selection of about 4,200 villages and the construction of the structures would begin on 10 December.
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