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"Farmers have knowledge deficit"

Oct 03, 2012

The Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO) has formed Vision-2015, a comprehensive plan through which it will bring about strategies that will help prevent climate change by reducing energy consumption, improve resource management and promote renewable energy resources. Managing director Dr US Awasthi shares with OneWorld South Asia how the company will translate its vision into reality. Excerpts from the interview.

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Q. What are the salient features of Vision-2015 document?

Dr US Awasthi: We plan to maximise the synergies of the core business through downstream value additions and forward and backward integrations; enhance presence in global markets through strategic joint ventures and take up synergistic acquisitions. State of the art technologies and global best practices to retain its global competitiveness will be leveraged. Integrated nutrient management to improve efficiency of fertiliser use will be promoted. Similarly, diversification into profitable ventures will be made in order to maximise returns to our stakeholders.

Q. What are the challenges being faced by the Indian agricultural sector? Why does the new generation find the agricultural sector unattractive?

Awasthi: Though India became independent in 1947, Indian farmers are yet to become self-reliant. The government has failed to deliver and the sector lacks proper public investment and credit inflows. Adequate infrastructure is still missing in the villages.

Similarly, the sector is not driven by the market-economy and farmers still have knowledge deficit. This is why 49 per cent of farmers are deep in debt. Forty per cent of their credit needs are met from the informal sector. These are the major reasons due to which the next generation of farmers is willing to go for meager jobs in cities. A large number is migrating to cities, even though the whole country cannot live in big cities.

Q. How can the delivery system be improved and farmers made self-reliant?

Awasthi: India boasts of becoming an IT powerhouse but the same is not being used to improve the delivery system of fertilisers or to advance technology to farmers. China’s agricultural growth is far ahead of us.

Secondly, the sector should be driven by market forces. Cash subsidy should be given to them directly. Once, the farming community starts getting a better price for their produce, productivity will increase and the subsidy burden on the nation will automatically get reduced.

Q. IFFCO is the largest producer of fertilisers in India. What are the measures taken by the company for the socio-economic development of rural India?

Awasthi: We have initiated village adoption programmes with special emphasis on agriculture with correct, balanced and efficient use of fertilises, use of quality seeds and better farm management. During 2011-12, various promotional, social and community development programmes including medical check-up campaigns, training camps for rural women were organised in 398 villages.

Iffco_womenQ. What is the organisation doing on the agro-technology front?

Awasthi: IFFCO is creating awareness, though in small ways, through its promotional campaigns to adopt technologies generated by agricultural universities and research institutes on farm trials on various crops with application of biofertilisers. Our experts teach farmers how to prepare organic manure in field which has led to an increase of 30 to 40 percent productivity.

Q. Does IFFCO have any soil rejuvenation and crop productivity enhancement plan?

Awasthi: We pursue the theory “mixture of knowledge and science” in agriculture and have sustainable ‘save the soil’ programme. We undertake various activities such as soil testing, reclamation of problematic soils on farm preparation of organic manure, crop diversification, introduction of pulses in cropping system. Our cooperatives have undertaken supply of farm implements such as rotavator, potato planters, happy seeder, paddy planters, seed-cum fertiliser drill, sugarcane trash cutter by extending financial assistance. What are the salient features of Vision-2015.

Q. What is the role of the IFFCO Foundation in rural areas?

Awasthi: The IFFCO board has defined the thrust areas for its activities that include agriculture, climate change, water and sanitation, environment, cooperative and rural development, skill upgradation, women empowerment through micro-enterprises and global forum for farmers and preservation of art and culture. The foundation is engaged in the service of member farmers by implementing a number of awareness and technological programmes.

With a view to enhancing the level of awareness, a series of workshop and seminars are organised round the year. Climate change is emerging as the biggest challenge to agriculture. The foundation has taken up establishment of climate smart villages with adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate resilience.

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