Odisha may face food crisis

December 3, 2009 at 10:18 am 1 comment

Following is a report from The Pioneer:

Odisha’s agrarian economy is facing two challenges: disasters like drought, flood and cyclone and lack of input intensive farming practice for poor farmers. In the State’s western region, drought occurs every alternate year. People can no more rely on agriculture for their subsistence.

Costs of inputs like seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and wages have registered a substantial hike, whereas the market has failed to provide a competitive price to the farmers. The State’s agriculture policy considers agriculture as an industry and the benefits of the policy skews in favour of rich farmers. There is a growing consideration for commercialisation of agriculture.

Since there is no ceiling on land holding, this would promote land alienation. The poor farmers would sell away their land and prefer to remain as wage earners.

The current approaches of agriculture give emphasis on promotion of hybrid seeds, water-intensive crops like sugarcane, which would surely increase the frequency of drought, especially in western Odisha, where the monsoon is always erratic. Farmers belonging to all economic strata are after paddy and cash crops, where investment is high and the return is not guaranteed.

Farming of short-duration paddy, minor millets and the like, which was really providing food security, are on the decline because of the faulty policy and programmes. While rain-fed agriculture is the reality of this region, irrigation has been shown as the only panacea for this problem. But whatever irrigation potential has been created, the actual irrigation is much less than practised. Irrigation efficiency is abysmally low here because of predominance of paddy.

In coastal Odisha, though yield and production are high, flood and cyclone have been crucial in sustainability of agriculture.

Rising prices of inputs are another threat. The shift from foodgrains to cash crops is rapid, which is a threat to food security. The fluctuations in the market, poor functioning of the existing irrigation systems, water-logging and drainage, erratic behaviour of monsoon and mono cropping are the significant factors in the sustainability of agriculture in coastal Odisha.

The Government approaches both flood and drought as two different sets of problems. For flood control, the present thinking is to come out with a second dam on the Mahanadi. And for drought, the approach is for developing irrigation infrastructure. But over these years, crores of rupees have been spent on developing irrigation wells, bore wells, minor irrigation projects, etc, with very little impact on agriculture. In most of the cases, these infrastructures are not in use because of structural problems, improper management, inappropriate cropping pattern and poor linkage between the farmers and the agriculture and irrigation departments.

The water resources department holds the view that it has offered the best possible system design, which needs no change. It is the people who must change their habits and use the system as per the design provisions. The department is, however, not prepared to accept the fact that the design provisions and the system performance to support the desired crops are incompatible. Thus, the issue of improving irrigation efficiency has come to a dead end due to non-congruence of the stands taken by each stakeholder. What is being done in this regard is simply for the sake of doing something. Key issues are not being touched.

Still worse is that many of the current programmes are a mere repetition of ideas which already had failed in the past. Shifting incumbency in the Government makes it difficult for the newcomers to recognise the old wine presented in a new bottle. Well, things will continue with whatever is considered appropriate by the reigning authority at a given point of time, but the desired result will not definitely come unless the key issues are addressed.

Nothing is sacrosanct in this world; much less is a design methodology of an irrigation system. To the onlookers, it is already obsolete. Only the authors are sticking to it as their all-time best. If the present system has defied improvement for about half a century now, logically there is a case for reviewing it by a group of high powered onlookers. Unfortunately, the irrigation fraternity is so deeply entrenched and their lobby with any Government is so strong that it has been ordinarily impossible to make any dent on their fortress. It will need an extraordinary effort of the kind of public demonstration to shake the immobile.

Entry filed under: Agriculture and Irrigation, Farming and food security, Information for farmers.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Subrat Kumar Rath  |  September 4, 2010 at 12:08 pm



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