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How to double farmer incomes

Over the past few years, new development initiatives aimed at modernising agriculture like Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) aim to expand farmer incomes.
Area under micro irrigation has grown 2.5 times in the last four years under PMKSY. The second cycle of the Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme is underway, which will focus on job creation and entrepreneurship development through local entrepreneurship models. So far, 3.76 crore SHCs have been distributed under the second cycle.
There are various mechanisms and policies for doubling farmer incomes, according to NITI Aayog.
Increase area under irrigation: Irrigation coverage needs to be increased to 53% of gross cropped area (GCA) by 2022-23. The focus should be on increasing coverage through micro irrigation.
Increase Variety Replacement Ratio (VRR): Phase out old varieties of seeds and replace them with hybrid and improved seeds to enhance productivity. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) along with State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) should develop climate resilient varieties of crops suitable for the 128 agro-climatic zones of the country, through farmer participatory plant breeding and adopting farm varietal trials from the third year of the development of the seed.
Strengthen seed testing facilities: Seed testing facilities need upgradation in terms of both personnel and technical expertise. Regular performance monitoring is required to maintain the quality of test results.
Uniform national procedure for seed licensing: To tackle the problem of heterogeneity in seed licensing procedures across states, the central government should develop model guidelines for seed licensing and support states in implementing these.
Efficient fertilizer usage: Strengthen the SHC scheme and include not merely nine but all 16 parameters in the tests. This will ensure SHC based fertilizer distribution at the ground level. Seed SHCs with the integrated fertilizer management system. Link SHCs with Kisan credit cards and make SHCs mandatory for subsidies. Ensure proper functioning of the SHC labs.
Regulate pesticide use: Align the pesticide regulatory framework with food safety laws to make adoption broad based. Strengthen extension activities to ensure that best practices reach the average farmer.
Custom hiring centres: Madhya Pradesh has had demonstrable success with their custom hiring centre model to hasten the pace of farm mechanization. This model should be replicated nationwide by employing rural youth and promoting entrepreneurship.

Strengthening extension systems

Synergy between Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) and Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs): The ATMA programme needs to be reoriented to include bottom up planning at the district and block levels to develop Strategic Research Extension Plans (SREP).
Public Private Partnership in KVKs: The guiding principles of ATMA provide for the promotion of PPP in extension delivery. With each KVK in possession of approximately 50 acres of land, KVKs should incubate private sector initiatives in extension delivery.
Value added extension: Prioritise value added extension services to enable a reduction in post-harvest losses by converting raw agricultural produce to processed products. This allows for increased price realization and contributes towards increasing farmers’ income.
Sustainable water use in agriculture: About 83% of water is used in agriculture. The solution to resolving India’s imminent water crisis lies in conserving water in agriculture. Therefore, more efficient irrigation technologies, water harvesting and better crop selection must be encouraged.
Encourage diversification to HVCs: Design an incentive mechanism to wean farmers away from cereal crops to HVCs. The area under fruits and vegetables needs to increase by 5% every year.
Establish regional production belts: As in the cluster-based approach, regional production belts for HVCs need to be identified and supported through the Mission on Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH). Make SHCs mandatory in these belts.
Use of hybrid technology in vegetables: Shift to using hybrid varieties for vegetables. At present, 10% of the cropped area under vegetables is under hybrids. Shifting to hybrids has the potential to increase yields by 1.5 to 3 times and provide a significant increase in income.
Rootstocks for production of fruits: Rootstock technology has shown the capacity to double production and be resilient to climate stress. Measures should be taken to standardize and promote usage of rootstocks to produce fruits.
Smart horticulture: There have been pockets of success spread throughout the country, using techniques such as high-density plantation, protected cultivation and organic production. These methods need to be documented and replicated at the national level.
Strengthen market for organic products: Targeted efforts to create a market for niche products is recommended. Spices unique to a state can be branded by the Spice Board to encourage the production of organic spices.
Recycling and utilizing agricultural waste would give a further fillip to farmer incomes.