Pearl millet as Major Crop for Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture

Pearl millet as Major Crop for Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture

Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture Network (RRA N) in collaboration with National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India & National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE) organised a National Convention on ‘Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture – Restructuring Policy and Public Investments to address Agrarian Crisis’ on 14th and 15th February at the India International Centre (IIC), New Delhi. 

The two-day convention on Rain-fed agriculture, will have participation of over 450 farmers, policy makers, researchers, academicians and civil society practitioners across the country. The participants shared their experiences and spoke about policy priorities for rainfed agriculture to address agrarian crisis.  

The main aim of the convention is to discuss themes of Rainfed agriculture, build a consensus and emphasize the necessity for differential policies and programmes- both at the Centre and the State. The focus is also to identify Rainfed agriculture as an issue of national importance. 

Apart from an inaugural and a plenary session, the thought-provoking convention witnessed various theme-based sessions such as Agroecology and Living Soils – The Policy Problem, Alternative Budgetary Framework for Rainfed Agriculture, Draught Animal Use in Rainfed Agriculture – Potential and Policy Imperatives and Evolving Appropriate Seed Systems for Climate Resilient Agriculture to Stimulate Growth, spread over two days.  

According to National Rainfed Area Authority (2012), out of 593 districts in India, 499 districts are rainfed. Rainfed areas contribute significantly to food production – as high as 89% of millets, 88% of pulses, 73% of cotton, 69% of oil seeds, and 40% of rice are produced by Rainfed farmers in the country. Rainfed areas in the country support 64% cattle, 74% sheep and 78% goat population, which are critical for food and nutritional security in India. 

“India ranks first in Rainfed agriculture, both in area and value of produce. More than 60% farmers are dependent on rainfed agriculture for their livelihood. Over the years, farmers in rainfed areas have been facing several adversities such as climate variability, crop failure, non-remunerative prices etc. Rainfed agriculture has historically been at the receiving end of imbalances in terms of policy and pubic investments,” Mr Sabyasachi Das, National Coordinator of RRA Network said. 

Addressing the two-day convention, Mr Das said there is an historical imbalance in public investments. Drawing the attention of policy makers and academicians, he pointed out that Rs 5,40,000 crores had been spent on procuring rice and wheat at MSP(Minimum Support Price) between 2003-2004 and 2012-2013, whereas, Government expenditure on procurement of major rainfed crops such as coarse cereals, millets and pulses during the same period was merely Rs 3,200 crores.” 

While money spent on fertilizer subsidy between 2010-2011 and 2013-2014 stood at Rs 2,16,400 crores, it is just Rs 65,600 crores on watershed management programme during the same period. 

Dr. Ashok Dalwai, CEO, National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA) and Chairman, Committee on Doubling of Farmers Income, Mr. Manoj Ahuja, Joint Director – Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Ms. Leena Johri, Joint Secretary – Rural Livelihoods, National Rural Livelihoods Mission, Ministry of Rural Development,Prof. Ramesh Chand, Member, NITI Aayog and Ms. Rohini Nilekani, Founder-Chairperson, Arghyam, also spoke on the occasion. 

About 61% of India’s farmers rely on rainfed agriculture and 55% of gross cropped area is under rainfed agriculture. Also, 86 million hectares of the country’s crop area are under rainfed agriculture, which is the highest in the world.  A region is classified as rainfed, if assured irrigation is provided to less than 40% of net sown area. Rainfed agriculture is an interrelation of production systems, natural resources and people’s livelihoods in rainfed regions. 

RRA Network and its members in collaboration with several state governments have demonstrated that comprehensive investment supported by appropriate policy framework can bring significant changes in rainfed areas. 


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