States told to roll out contingency plans

Plans cover crops, poultry, livestock and fisheries; Centre allows use of funds from agriculture schemes for funding contingency plans
States told to roll out contingency plans

As the country braces for drought, the government at the Centre has written to the states to start adopting contingency plans. Agriculture secretary Ashish Bahuguna is learnt to have written to state secretaries to be ready with their agricultural contingency plans and start implementing them. The Centre has also assured of its support in form of flexibility in funds.

 “The state governments can reserve up to 10 per cent of their funds from Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) and other agriculture schemes. This flexibility is to ensure enough funding for the contingency plans,” said an official from the agriculture ministry. He added that the provision will help state governments as a lot of last moment changes could be made based on how monsoon progresses.

Contingency plans cover crops, poultry, livestock and fisheries. The Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC) under agriculture ministry, following recommendations of Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture in 2010, had asked its nodal agency, Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), to prepare these agricultural contingency plans. ICAR delegated the work to the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Hyderabad.

Talking to Down to Earth, CRIDA principal scientist, Y G Prasad, said these contingency plans are technical documents prepared in consultation with state agriculture departments, state agricultural universities (SAUs) and krishi vigyan kendras (KVKs). ICAR had asked CRIDA to prepare a common template which was later filled in by the state governments and agricultural universities and revised and finalised by CRIDA. The contingency plans help the states to focus on preparedness for inputs, energy requirements and to dovetail budgetary support from various ongoing schemes.

Plan of action
The contingency plans comprise of two parts. Part one is information about the district, like soil, temperatures, average rainfall received and crops grown, and the second part has instructions on what to do in case there is delay in monsoon onset, breaks in monsoon leading to early, mid and late-season droughts, delayed or limited release of water for irrigation, floods, unseasonal rains and extreme weather events like heat wave, cold wave, frost, hailstorm and cyclone.

For monitoring purpose, CRIDA is the nodal agency which has divided the country into five regions and these regions are monitored by ICAR institutions. Each institution has some designated states under it for monitoring and guidance (see graphic 1).

A pilot implementation of these plans by Department of Agriculture was also conducted in three states during the XIIth Plan. Also, real time implementation was taken up at 23 locations across India under All-India Coordinated Research Projects (AICRP) on dryland agriculture. Prasad said that plans were adopted by the state agriculture departments during delayed monsoon and deficit rainfall in 2012 and 2013 too.

Prasad added that with India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicting drought from April this year, ICAR and CRIDA has been in action since then. We are holding state-level consultations where officials from districts, KVKs and SAUs are being called and being trained on how to implement these contingency plans (see graphic 2). This includes recommending what kind of crop seed varieties to be used, what kind of seed treatment to be given and in-situ preparations. We have already held workshops in Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Bihar. He added that the state governments have to take the final decisions.


Responsibilities of the state governments
1. Long, medium and short range weather forecasts of IMD helps the state governments to decide when and what kind of contingency responses are to be taken as monsoon progresses.
2. State departments of agriculture already have action plans to tackle various rainfall scenarios for agriculture, poultry, animal husbandry and fisheries. Once the weather pattern gives an idea, this is followed by separate meetings by district planning units, involving officers from agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries, power distribution and irrigation to focus on preparedness for inputs, energy requirements and to funds from various ongoing schemes for implementation of the contingency plan at the district level.
3. Based on this, seed production at the district level is planned to ensure availability of seed in case alternate crops and varieties have to be sown in case of delayed monsoon. A nodal officer to be identified at the SAU level to liaison with line departments to ensure supply of identified breeder / nucleus seed each year for multiplication in the spring season or previous kharif season. A revolving fund may be thought of to provide budgetary, manpower and infrastructure support for this purpose.
4. Ensure availability of inputs related to nutrient management (for example, foliar spray of KCl or KNO3 to partially alleviate moisture stress during drought) and inputs related to reduction of crop water demand (application of anti-transpirants or hormones, for example).
5. Large-scale demonstrations of climate resilient agronomic practices, like direct seeding options for short-duration varieties in paddy for delayed situations; in situ moisture conservation practices and crop residue recycling; planting of millets, cotton, pulses and oilseed crops in ridge-furrow or raised bed systems to ensure adequate drainage in case of excess rains
6. Promotion of farm implements on custom hiring basis or purchase. Location-specific farm implements needed in such contingency situations should be listed, reasonably priced and provisions made for increasing their availability to farmers.
7. Production strategy for augmenting fodder supply. Similarly arrangements to increase production and supply of supplements (UMMB blocks) to increase the palatability and digestibility of crop residues not normally fed to livestock should be taken up.
8. Planned location-specific crop diversification options need to be identified and action plan drawn for adoption in endemic areas prone to water shortages due to erratic rainfall, limited and delayed release of canal water, poor inflows into tanks and insufficient groundwater recharge situations.
9. Lessons learnt from combating contingency experiences in the previous year faced in different states due to continuous and excess rainfall such as the onion and vegetable crises and pest outbreaks (eg. brown plant hopper in rice) needs to be captured and integrated into the contingency plans for the ensuing kharif season.

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