Opinion

Mandis as centres for farm extension services

Vijay Setia B.S. Modi | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on January 13, 2012

A mandi attracts so many farmers, making it the right place for knowledge transmission.





India's annual growth rate of agriculture has the potential to exceed 4 per cent, envisaged by the Planning Commission, given the hard-working nature of our farmers.

However, our farmers are starved of access to scientific and technological information, which would enable them to modernise their agricultural practices. This is despite the large number of agricultural scientists in India. In fact, agricultural productivity and growth have stagnated on account of incomplete transfer of technology to farmers.

This is quite a paradox, given that institutions involved in teaching, research, development and administration have their own systems to educate and training farmers in modern agricultural practices. They organise farmers' fairs and training programmes on various issues.

Almost all institutes of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, State agricultural universities and government agricultural departments have their Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), Krishi Gyan Kendras (KGKs) and farmer training centres at district and State headquarters. Progressive and educated farmers benefit from these facilities.

However, the reach of these science centres has proved to be limited. This article identifies the causes for their unsatisfactory performances, and proposes a new model for smooth and rapid transfer of agricultural technology from laboratories to farms.

Almost all KVKs and KGKs are scattered across numerous cities and towns. Similarly, the testing facilities for soil, seeds, irrigation water, agricultural chemicals and fertilisers are not situated in one place. Farmers in need of information inputs have to run from pillar to post – whether it is to discuss technology issues with the experts concerned, or to seek solutions to seasonal problems.

ALL IN ONE PLACE

Hence, it is suggested that all these facilities be established at one place in a town, where farmers visit in large numbers in their normal course of work. Naturally, such a common place is the grain market, i. e. mandi yards and vegetable auction markets. According to a rough estimate, over 50,000 farmers visit Karnal mandi yard during the paddy harvest season, and another 30,000 during the wheat season to dispose of their produce. Further, about 30,000 vegetable producers visit the wholesale vegetable auction market every year. ‘Farm knowledge centres' should be established under a single roof in such mandi yards and vegetable auction markets.

Laboratories involved in testing the suitability of soil, water, seeds, chemicals and fertilisers should be housed in these centres. There should be lab testing facilities for identification of disease and pests; abnormalities in plant growth can also be identified.

Farm experts in all disciplines – agriculture, horticulture, animal sciences and dairying – could be situated here. These centres can further advise the farmers to decide on the crops to be sown, new crop varieties and crop rotation technology. We believe that this arrangement will substantially upgrade farmers' knowledge, confidence and capacity. Information on what constitutes good farm practices can be displayed on notice boards. Literature on the package of practices for rabi, kharif, spring-summer crops and plant protection can also be put up.

Videos on seed treatment, handling of high quality seeds and information on the latest high-yielding crop varieties and hybrids can be shown at regular intervals.

TRAINING METHODS

Farmers can be advised on the appropriate dosage of fertiliser and chemicals, in order to achieve higher yields and pesticide-free crops. In the process, governments can achieve a measure of control on quality of seeds, pesticides and fertilisers so that farmers are not cheated in agro-inputs.

Young farmers can be encouraged to train themselves in technical matters, so that they can, in turn, train others at the village level through the use of videos, and printed literature like folders, calendars and booklets.

Agricultural research institutes, State agricultural universities and government agricultural/horticultural departments can put up their sale counters for distribution of books, periodicals and CDs on improved farming.

(Vijay Setia is President, All India Rice Exporters’ Association, and B.S. Modi is a scientist.)

Published on January 13, 2012
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