Noted agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan on Thursday, 16 April, suggested a five-pronged strategy for adoption by the central and state governments to help farmers suffering economic hardships due to the lockdown imposed to check the spread of coronavirus.
Welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to exempt farming activities and the movement of agricultural produce from the lockdown that has been extended till 3 May, the former Rajya Sabha member said peasants should be provided with suitable agro-advisories to maintain good field conditions and plant health, including the needed precautions against pests and disease.
“This is important also for ensuring human health,” he said.
In a statement released through the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation headed by him, he stressed on the significance of cold storage or other storage facilities that can help farmers in keeping the produce fresh till markets open.
“As in the case of milk by the NDDB (National Dairy Development Board), this should be a priority action to be facilitated by the National Horticulture Development Board”, 94-year-old Swaminathan said.
He said it is also necessary to ensure that small farmers have access to good quality seeds for the coming kharif season, and to technologies like three-dimensional cropping (air, soil and surface) so that the plant that is below the soil does not have to be dug out immediately.
Swaminathan, dubbed Father of India’s green revolution, said attention should be paid to women farmers as they play a significant role, giving the example of the milk revolution that he said came about through the participation of women.
“Women farmers are also at the forefront of horticulture. Special attention needs to be given to both their technological (including low horse-power tractors) and economic (such as credit) empowerment during this crisis”.
The scientist suggested that based on the manner in which the commodity is sold, suitable equipment like oil extraction machinery for jasmine, or conversion of fruits into juice, are important for value addition.
“Such a strategy will also help move towards a small farmers’ horticulture revolution”, he said.