How cutting-edge technologies can help rural agri-preneurs meet expanding need
by Pratapaditya Mishra
Improving access to safe and nutritious food and ensuring food security in times of crisis — like the one mankind is facing today with the COVID-19 pandemic killing more than half a million people across the globe — is a key challenge before the powers-that-be.
In India at least 600 million people are engaged directly or indirectly with farming. However, agriculture continues to remain impoverished with agrarian distress hitting the headlines in the media time and again. In the past two decades, farm incomes had either remained stagnant or were in the negative, which means rural spending was already low.
India’s USD 2.80 trillion economy consists of around 57% contribution from the service sector, 26% from the manufacturing sector and 17% from agriculture and allied activities. Despite its lowest share in GDP, the majuscule section of the working population earn their livelihood in the agricultural and related sector. It is crystal clear that other sectors have not been able to create employment opportunities compared to the agricultural sector. The agri-food sector remains critical for livelihoods and employment.
The present government has its task cut out. It will need to focus on agri-technologies that can boost agricultural productivity, create value-added farm products and tap “farm-to-fork opportunities” to ensure better realization for farmers. It will also need to create millions of micro-entrepreneurs and thousands of economic clusters in rural India, besides investing in rural roads, rural electricity, irrigation networks and national cold chain grids.
Besides these, infrastructure for digital technology must be set at the earliest possible time if India wants the advantage of being able to ‘leapfrog’ older agri-food technologies and models in favour of a digital agriculture revolution. This new scenario will require radical rethinking by policy makers, international organizations, business leaders and individuals.
Dr. Pratapaditya Mishra is Visiting Professor at Utkal University, Orissa, India.