Indian farmers are eyeing the horizon with hopes since the start of this year since the government has promised to double their income by 2022. In 2018, the Union Cabinet approved the country’s first Agriculture Export Policy with an objective to double farmers’ income. Indian farmers’ have been at the receiving end with meagre lands, low incomes and piling debts.

According to statistics, around 100 million farmers (out of 140 million farm households) own less than an acre of land, while many others own less than two acres.

The majority of these farmers rely upon mono-crop culture, volatile weather, informal lending sources, and unstable prices for their produce. 

Considering the present scenario, farmers can leverage technology to diversify into animal husbandry and aquaculture to augment their income.

Currently, livestock contributes to the income of only 16 per cent of the farmers and provides livelihood to two-thirds of the rural population. Integration of livestock and crop productions can be a real game-changer for Indian agriculture. 

Round-the-year income 

A majority of Indian farmers are engaged in seasonal crop production and are forced to sit idle for some months each year.

By diversifying into animal husbandry and aquaculture, these farmers can engage in non-farming activities throughout the year. Farmers can increase their income by cultivating crops alongside practising non-crop farming, backyard poultry, aquaculture, goats, pigs, etc.

Livestock produce such as milk, eggs, fish, meat, etc., can be produced and sold throughout the year, providing a flow of money round the year to the farming community. As a result, farmers can multiply their streams of income while also reducing their dependency on crop production. 

Sustainable farming system 

Food security, natural resources conservation and environment protection have emerged as global concerns in recent years. For a developing country like India with a 1.4 billion population, it becomes essential to promote rational resource allocation and environmental protection in line with economic growth.   

When farmers integrate crop and livestock production, the by-product or wastes becomes the input for the other, thereby minimising wastage and environmental harm.

For instance, by-products or waste of maize and wheat can be made fodder for pigs and poultry. Such a farming system is not only affordable but also sustainable.

Higher productivity, profitability  

Indian farmers are plagued by challenges like poor crop yield, meagre lands and low-profit margins. Non-crop diversification can help them increase economic yield per unit area by intensifying crop and allied farming activities.

According to a study, investing ₹1 in livestock production can generate a profit of ₹4. Small and marginal farmers can also save on production costs by utilising crop by-products and waste and using animal excreta instead of fertilisers. As a result, the total cost of production can be reduced and their profit-cost ratio can be increased.  

Role of technology 

When technology is revolutionising unbending sectors like healthcare and banking, it can help redraw the Indian agricultural landscape as well. From ordering inputs online to trading their products through digital platforms, farmers can expand their market connectivity and augment their income.

Farmers engaged in crop production may hesitate to venture into relatively unknown areas such as animal husbandry and aquaculture. Agritech solutions can help them gain the required knowledge, inputs, and connections, thereby increasing their income. 

Employment generation 

Due to lack of income and profits, rural youth and farmers are abstaining from farming. However, non-crop diversification into animal husbandry and fisheries can help these farmers make good profits given their increasing demand and round the year consumption.

Livestock and aquaculture can help alleviate poverty from Indian agriculture and also create employment opportunities for the rural population. With government reforms, technology, and agritech platforms coming into the picture, India’s economic scenario is poised to change.  

Conclusion 

Given the right technologies, incentives and economic reforms, non-crop diversification can augment farmers’ income and alleviate poverty. With sustainable farming systems, small and marginal farmers can diversify farm production, improve productivity and profitability, generate round the year income and exploit unutilised resources. 

(The author is Founder & CEO, Aqgromalin) 

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