Fortnightly ColumnAGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT, AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH & KRISHI BHAVANS
FORTNIGHTLY COLUMN BY PRESIDENT - 1st JUNE 2012
My attempt for writing fortnight column forced me to think deep about the present crisis in which the agricultural professionals are now put in the state. Being a senior officer in the state department and having put in more than 30 years of service, I feel really sad when I accept the truth that agricultural development scenario is in ruins. As already pointed out by me in the previous report on 1.4.12, major crops of the state face serious threats both in terms of fall in area and production. After having served in the department for such a long period I am not ashamed of admitting that the so called professionals including me are not in a position to find solutions to majority of problems now being faced by the farming community in the state.
In this chapter I would like to share my concern on failure on the part of Agricultural graduates and Agricultural researchers in getting themselves competent for taking up present challenges. The agricultural graduates who are now playing major role in the implementation of Agricultural development schemes of the government are totally away from technology updating. Very few are thorough with the subject. It may also be observed that the present administrative system does not demand such interventions from their side. Government and higher administration is more concerned in popularizing schemes launched by them rather than achieving useful end results. Officers on the other hand find themselves comfortable by staying away from learning and reference. In fact very few farmers approach Krishi Bhavans for actual technical advices compared to the number approaching for meager amount of subsidies. Farmers are under the clutches of agencies like chemical & organic manure distributers, irrigation companies and seed /plant sellers. Steps taken by the previous Government in restricting the use of hazardous and banned chemicals and introduction of prescription system for selling pesticides and chemicals were really appreciable. Their attempts to conserve the balance wet lands of the state by introducing the Wet land act were well appreciated. Now when we look back we see all kinds of chemicals in the retail and wholesale market and the mechanism for enforcement is at stand still. A very loose stand on enforcement of quality control rules in the state leads to large scale health hazards, pollution and crop failures. Pesticide company representatives are major players in Padasekharams/group farming areas offering large scale discounts even on banned and spurious chemicals. Large doses and strange recommendations are sometimes prescribed by them in unscientific way. Often farmers fail to understand the trap and they go for unscientific practices. These processes lead to the following after effects.
1. Distruction of eco system mainly of wetlands
2. Loss of resistance to pests &diseases in plant varieties resulting in large-scale infestations later.
3. Loss of morale of officers who really guide farmers.
On my observation I find very few officers show interest in updating technological advancements and research findings. In many cases work pressure from department and Panchayath institutions, non availability of staff, absence of mobility & infrastructure etc. are seen major reasons for this kind of situation. Since the Agricultural Ministry, Department of Agriculture and Planning Board are jointly moving towards high tech methods like greenhouse farming, the agricultural officers must rise to the occasion and start updating their knowledge by attending trainings, seminars etc. and by learning more.
Agricultural research in the state seems to be in a standstill for last few decades. We have enough number of crop research agencies like C.P.C.R, I, C.T.C.R.I, Kerala Agricultural University etc. Major crops like Coconut, Areca nut, Pepper, Paddy, Cardamom etc. are facing serious threats because of pest and disease problems. Typical example is of fast spreading root wilt disease in coconut. State can no more boast about its name Kerala, the land of coconut. Similarly the major paddy variety with greater acceptance in the state is Jyothi. Farmers are still reluctant in accepting other varieties. Location specific varieties are yet to be developed especially for problem areas like kole ,kuttanad etc. Recent failures in in kole lands for reintroducing second crop could not be properly explained by researchers. Researchers are now seen keenly interested in holding administrative positions rather than getting involved in better problem oriented research programmes.
Research stations and farms including farms under Department of Agriculture are expected to be models on integrated farming, mixed cropping and teaching centers for extension personnel and farmers. But they put forward an unacceptable picture to public because of their failures in planning, poor infrastructure, shortage of staff, fund shortage and labor issues. Land is still kept uncultivated in many. I would like to request researchers, agricultural officers and planning experts in the state administration to think once again before jumping in to high tech farming schemes in large-scale at this juncture. We may have to study ourselves and educate farmers on concepts of micro irrigation, fertigation, rain shelter farming and lastly about finest green house farming.