Tuesday, January 19, 2010

agriculture and village upliftment are just not related

A fundamental problem all our armchair politicians get into is to make statements on behalf of rural areas that are totally meaningless and illogical. They have never really lived in the villages and do not realize that there are few real farmers in the rural areas. Rural upliftment and agricultural growth are different concepts.

If one takes improvements of agriculture into account, one must look at all aspects that can at least double the productivity, which is quite possible with little extra effort. This should not be used in the context of helping farmers as that will only make agriculture more unproductive. The so called farmers have no idea of agriculture as they have just fallen into it as a matter of history and more as a failure on their part to find anything more productive. More than half the recipients of the agricultural subsidy still lose on paddy production, further perpetuating their dependency and not pushing them out into some more meaningful income source releasing lands to more productive larger scale farmers to farm.

In my humble opinion lets take each aspect I referred to separately, namely agriculture and rural upliftment. Improvements in agriculture can only be possible with modern techniques, like levelling paddy fields into more economical units so that productivity of the land can double and cost of production can halve by the use of large tractors. We just cannot afford the small scale as we just do not have the people who want to be in this field. Then we should get rid of the major scourges, like monkeys and peacocks that reduce the harvest by leaps and bounds. My most recent crop of mangoes was all destroyed in two days by a herd of monkeys, leaving none for me to sell! It is easy but has to be done at government level like darting all the monkeys so they become sterile and not reproduce. There is no shortage of these species so the reduction in numbers is not an issue. New varieties that are appropriate for the soil conditions along with proper guidance in their growing is important. Farmers in my area who have farmed rice for generations are still completely unaware that simple processes and practices can improve yields immensely.

With regard to rural upliftment in living conditions, the most important area is advising people on ambition, skills based on liking, and commitment towards sustainable income generating vocations. None of this is being properly implemented in the much talked about Gamidiriya program. I am in a Gamidiriya village and I can honestly say it is a total failure as the "hakiyawa" or abilities of the recipients are not ascertained. So the money lent for the vocational training is completely wasted as is the money lent to get people started in aspects of trade. It is important that a proper aptitude test be performed prior to such disbursements.

I am so full of hope as to the possible, but know no one who wishes to tackle this complete about face in attitude and will just have to fight my battles to convince others to the reality and then to the direction I propose.