Technological interventions for rural development

Dr Banarsi Lal

Agriculture is demographically the largest economic sector and plays an important role in the overall socio-economic fabric of India. Rapid growth in agriculture is essential for achieving national self-sufficiency, for food security and for ensuring equity in the distribution of income and wealth, leading to poverty reduction. Agriculture continues to be an occupation and a way of life for more than half of India’s population. Agriculture, which is an engine of growth and development and an important contributor to the national economy, has been strongly influenced by the globalization process. The imbalance in total production, the urban-rural divide, national nutritional and food security and economic access to food are of great concern. The country’s agricultural strategy aims to close product and production gaps. The policy envisages the promotion of sustainable agriculture through a differentiated approach depending on the regions, the improvement of the efficiency of the use of inputs, the development and transfer of technology. There is a need to focus on the generation, refinement and application of technologies in agro-ecological or social circumstances. Agriculture is an engine of growth and development and plays an important role in the Indian economy. The globalization of agriculture and the revolution in information and communication technologies have led to enormous changes in global economic growth. Indian agriculture is going through an era of transition. The agricultural situation has become more competitive, knowledge-based and market-driven. The Indian government is making serious efforts to increase crop productivity, improve rural incomes, create employment opportunities, ensure environmental security, etc. There is also a need to develop an approach not only to develop environmentally sound technologies for different areas, but also to facilitate their use at the raw root level. In the mid-1960s, the Green Revolution boosted the production and productivity of major cereals. Yet Indian farmers face several downstream challenges and consequences. The impact of the green revolution remained confined to the assured irrigated areas of the country. Agricultural research is successful on selected crops. There is a big difference between actual and potential crop yields. Deterioration of soil health, depletion of groundwater, regional imbalance, environmental pollution, migration of rural populations, etc. are the consequences of intensive agriculture following the green revolution. There is a need to rectify regional disparities, technological empowerment, food insecurity, tired green revolution, malnutrition, etc.
Indian farmers and farm workers are the backbone of India. The contribution of agriculture to rural development depends mainly on the development and diffusion of innovative technologies. The choice of agricultural technologies has a critical impact on many aspects of agricultural development, especially how we choose them, how we innovate and design them, and how we deliver them to the masses. Technology must be carefully chosen to enable farmers to acquire and assimilate knowledge according to their needs and environment. Technologies should be designed to improve their traditional skills and capabilities, minimize fatigue, reduce drudgery, add innovative and assured value to existing methods of operation, generate employment, utilize local resources in men and materials, require low capital investment, low cost, capable of reproduction and adoption, integrate harmoniously into existing ecosystems leading to tangible improvements in living conditions and self-sustaining development of farmers. There is a need to develop and introduce appropriate technologies coupled with strong delivery systems that ensure economic and ecological sustainability and optimal use of local resources with emphasis on capacity building and technological empowerment, especially small and marginal farmers. Modern agricultural technologies are of limited value if not adopted by farmers due to their inadequacy to particular socio-economic and agro-climatic conditions. Some of the improved agricultural technologies are barely adopted by farmers or totally rejected by them. The main reasons for the poor adoption of technologies are: not adapted to the needs of farmers, economically unviable, unavailable and not compatible with their agricultural system. Most agricultural technologies are not suitable for small, marginal farmers. In conventional research, farmer involvement was negligible. These factors are forcing extension staff and researchers to shift to a more farmer-focused, holistic and interdisciplinary approach to technology development, refinement and dissemination. There is a need to involve farmers in technology evaluation and refinement.
Agricultural technologies work as a catalyst for agricultural development and rural poverty reduction. In order to implement technology evaluation and refinement, a village or group of villages may be identified. The Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) technique can be used to analyze the agro-ecosystem and socio-economic status of farmers in a particular village. Problems in food grain crops, livestock, horticulture, soil health, fungi, sericulture, beekeeping, etc. should be identified by extension staff. To implement the technological interventions, an action plan is developed in consultation with farmers, extension staff, scientists and various district leaders. Field trials should be organized to test information from research. Farmers are expected to coordinate field trials with the help of scientific researchers and extension workers. Necessary inputs and trainings should be provided to beneficiaries during the implementation of technology interventions. Data such as technical parameters, economic factors and farmers’ response should be taken. Scientists and farmers can judge the suitability of the technology for a particular location and further refinement can be done under varying agro-ecological conditions.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has initiated a project on Technology Assessment and Refinement (TAR) through the Institutional Village Linkage Program (IVLP). When technology is evaluated and refined, research, extension and farmers develop strong links. It is mandatory for Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) of State Agricultural Universities (SAU) to assess and refine technologies of location-specific agricultural and related sectors according to field problems. By evaluating and refining technologies, research becomes more needs-oriented and problem-solving. It strengthens the links between scientists and farmers. It helps to develop modules for different agricultural situations. As farmers in different locations are fully involved in evaluating and refining the technology, they develop the confidence to adopt the technology. Farmers’ experience should also be taken into account in research planning. The development, refinement and dissemination of technology is a unique tool to strengthen the link between researchers, extension staff and farmers. Agricultural technology development policies should take into account the new economic and environmental challenges for agriculture, the diversity of rural livelihoods, the increasing privatization of technology provision and the complexity of agricultural markets. Agricultural technologies must be compatible with broader rural development goals. Reinvigorated and effective public agricultural research and extension systems are needed, capable of delivering productive technologies to support the robust agricultural sector.

(The author is the head, KVK Reasi SKUAST-J).

About Keneth T. Graves

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