Holistic approach to farming can mitigate agrarian crisis: M S Swaminathan

Scientist highlights the failure of agricultural universities in India

By Jitendra
Published: Thursday 16 April 2015

Farmers inspect crops damaged by hailstorm

M S Swaminathan, well-known agricultural scientist, has flagged the issue of absence of integrated advice for farmers trapped in agrarian crisis. To address the growing dichotomy between farmers’ needs and the response of government and farm universities, the scientist has suggested some measures.

Known as the father of green revolution in India, Swaminathan believes the agricultural universities which were meant to provide integrated advice are now fragmented and running in silos, thus deepening the existing crisis.

Through a press note, the scientist has called for more attention from the government on fundamental issues that surround farmers and urged for more holistic approach to farming in order to address the scenario.

The suggestions came in the backdrop of the prevailing agrarian crisis across north and central India due to unseasonal rains and hailstorm.

Swaminathan also urged that it was time to look at the fundamental problems faced by farmers. The press release states that 150 years ago, the US started Land Grant colleges, based on the Morrill Act of 1862 and 1890. “We adopted this model of looking at farming in a holistic way, i.e. crop, livestock, fish, agro-forestry and agro-processing as the mandate for our agricultural universities which number 62 now,” the says.

He further adds, “Unfortunately, both in the organisation of agricultural universities and departments, responsibilities are getting fragmented. The agriculture university which was to serve farmers on a farming system basis has now been split into veterinary, animal sciences, fisheries and horticulture universities.”

The note also mentions, “Thus neither from the research, nor from the extension and development sides, farmers now get integrated advice covering conservation of natural resources, cultivation on the evergreen revolution pattern, consumption and commerce. There is thus a growing dichotomy between farmers’ needs and the response of government and farm universities.”
Swaminathan emphasised on the integration of fragmented institutions which would end the existing dichotomy in need and response to the agriculture.

“Among the problems faced by farming families, the absence of a system of integrated advice and help is a serious one. Time has come to restore the original concept of farm universities viz to carryout research, education and extension on a farming system basis, since this will help in providing both farm and non-farm incomes, thereby saving farmers from total income collapse.”

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