Costing Rs568 crore (US$92m), the roll-out was announced by Radha Mohan Singh, the federal minister of agriculture in New Delhi.
“To expand water and land resources for agriculture, over 14 crore farmers will receive their own soil health cards in the next three years”, said Singh while calling on students and scientists to enlist with the government’s “Mera gaon, mera gaurav” scheme.
My village, my pride
The initiative, which translates as “My village, my pride”, was launched in December and through it all scientists at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) will adopt one village where they will promote best farming practices and the government’s policies.
The plan has been to extend this beyond ICAR to the roughly 20,000 scientists and 50,000 agriculture students in India.
The minister also touched on Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMGSY), a new scheme to ensure water supplies to farmers throughout the year.
Singh said PMGSY would play a vital role in bringing water to every agricultural land in the country, while the soil health card would provide farmers with “a tool to identify the nutritional requirement of the soil and apt laboratory analysis for increasing the agriculture production and productivity”.
In a climate of agriculture reform, the new BNP government has also set up a price stabilisation fund and is looking at the potential for e-marketing of produce, especially fruits like lichee, mango and guava. It has brought about new initiatives in the dairy, fisheries and animal husbandry sectors, Singh said.
Greater productivity a must
Productivity will be one of the big challenges of this government, with India witnessing a sharp decline in agriculture in relation to GDP. Already in decline during the Congress government-led eleventh five-year plan, it dropped to 13.9% in 2013, though it still accounts for more than half of India’s employment.
“The development in agriculture is an essential condition for the development of national economy,” said Mohanbhai Kalyanjibhai Kundariya, the minister of state for Agriculture. To keep pace with population growth, India must sustain 4% growth in agriculture, and to do this, it must modernise its agri-business infrastructure, he added.
Anil Jain, chairman of Agriculture and Food Security Council said the government should go even further, with around 8% growth needed—a feasible figure that, if achieved, “would result in a prosperous rural India and a much stronger India”.
“We need to ensure progress on initiatives like soil conditioning, efficient irrigation, waste water treatment, biotechnology and precision agriculture,” he said.