Revitalizing Indian Agriculture Extension System through promotion of AEFCs 110210

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Revitalizing Indian Agriculture Extension System through promotion of AEFCs 110210

  1. 1. Revitalizing Indian Agriculture Extension System through promotion of Agriculture Enterprise Facilitation Centres (AEFC) Jitesh Panda* Indian agriculture extension system has played a critical role in enhancing food production in India. The Training and Visit (T & V) system has been key extension mechanism that led to transfer of technology (lab to land) to Indian farmers. With this Indian farmers have been able to enhance productivity in most of the agriculture and allied activities. However, currently Indian agriculture is going through a transformation phase. The focus has shifted from production of food grains to income from agriculture. This has also led to thrust on commercial farming and agri business activities. While some of the commercial farmers are experiencing agriculture as a successful enterprise, the large majority of small and marginal farmers are increasingly realizing that agriculture is not a profitable activity. Recent studies have revealed that the current agriculture extension system is not able to reach out to the expectation of majority of farmers in the country. In tune with the transformation of agriculture in India, there is need to revitalize the agriculture extension system in India. To start with the current extension system needs to be reoriented to focus on agriculture as enterprise. However, even now the focus continues to be on enhancing productivity. Large majority of small and marginal farmers expect delivery of extension at village level. However, over the years, number of villages being covered by lowest level of agriculture functionaries is increasing. At village level, majority of the farmers either consult the progressive farmer in the village (many of whom were exposed to technology through T & V System) or the agriculture input dealers for latest know how in agriculture. There has always been need for cadre of facilitators at village level. Although recent National Agriculture Extension Policy advocates for a cadre of village based functionaries, systematic efforts in this direction is yet to happen. Increasingly, farmers are looking for time bound tailor made agriculture information and linkage services. This relates to their typology of land, variety of crop, agro climatic context and financial capacity. As most of them are illiterate, they rely more on a person who is available in the village. However, recent Information Communication and Technology (ICT) initiatives linked to agriculture are mass based and generic in nature.
  2. 2. Similarly, farmers are searching for ideas on which crop (including variety) to grow and aspects related to profitability (more on specific agriculture enterprise options). Current extension system covers more of the package of practices than on the profitability of the practice (or the enterprise). With increase in opportunity relating to value addition mainly in case of fruits and vegetables, farmers are keen on taking up food processing and other value addition activities. However, the current extension system focuses more on agriculture production, not so much on value addition. There has been globalization of several agriculture value chains. In many cases farmers are not aware, on where their produce is finally consumed. Globalization has created both opportunities and also posed challenges to Indian farmers. The effects of globalization are quite visible, when farmers in an area shift from one crop to other crop, not knowing why they have to change. This require quick adaptation to changing scenarios both to avail the opportunity and overcome likely threats. In the current agriculture extension system, there is inadequate understanding and focus on agriculture value chains. Value Chain Analysis leading to Pro Poor Value Chain Maximization can be powerful tool in delivery of agriculture extension in villages of India. Over the last few decades, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have played important role in facilitating agriculture extension and also systematically worked on themes like organic cultivation and sustainable agriculture. At community level, there is wider acceptance on the role of CSOs as Agriculture Extension Facilitator. Although CSOs have demonstrated their relevance and there is acceptance at community level, there is very limited role CSOs in current agriculture extension system. Overall, as the country tries to further revitalize Indian Agriculture Extension System, there is need to recognize the need to focus on farming as an enterprise, orienting farmers as entrepreneurs, focus on agriculture value chains and reorient extension functionaries as Business Development Service (BDS) Provider. While doing so, we may recognize the need for considering village as delivery point of extension; involve village based cadre of progressive farmers/entrepreneurs as extension functionaries and consider role of CSOs as a facilitator. In this context AEFC is visualized as a block level facilitation centre led by local Civil Society Organization (CSOs) with focus on providing Business Development Services (BDS) to Agriculture Micro Enterprises and maximization of specific Agriculture Value Chains at village level through cadre of Agriculture Enterprise Facilitators (AEFs). AEFC as a model is expected to revitalize the current agriculture extension system in India. *Vrutti – A Livelihoods Resource Centre 19, 1st Main, 1st Cross, Ashwath Nagar, RMV 2nd Stage, Bangalore 560 094, India Email: jitesh@cms-india.org

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