There is of need of a strong services sector in rural India. This should include Agri-business centers and agri-clinics on a big scale. This was stated by Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister, Sh. Radha Mohan Singh while addressing International Grassland Congress here today. He said that the current focus is on how to make agriculture more attractive and rewarding to the younger generation. It is imperative for the nation to produce food not only to feed its more than one billion human population but also for an equal number of livestock, he added.
Full text of Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare speech:
Guests of today’s program Secretary, DARE and Director General of ICAR Dr S. Ayyapan; former Director General of ICAR, Dr. R. S. Paroda, Dr. Punjab Singh and Secretary, DAHDF Sh. Ashok Kumar Angurana; Guests from abroad; Media brothers, Scientists, Students and Farmers; Ladies and Gentleman.
On behalf of Indian government and its citizens, I welcome all the participants and representatives who have arrived from different parts of the world in this historic town to attend the 23rd IGC. Right now the weather here is changing and I hope that it will remain pleasant and good during your stay.
Globally, most livestock are found in India and at present in our country, their number is approximately 512 million. India has 56.7 percent of world buffalo population, 12.5 percent of cows and 20.4 percent small ruminant animals. Crop and animal husbandries are the two main components of mixed farming system, which influence our agricultural economy and provide sustenance. Rural economy of India has revolved around livestock and because of urbanization there are changes in feeding habits of peoples and it moved more towards milk, milk products and meat which resulted in increase in demand of livestock products especially in peri-urban region. Fodder sources in India are from crop residues, cultivated fodder, forages and forests, permanent pastures and grazing lands. Currently India is facing a deficit of about 35.6 percent of green fodder and approximately 10.9 per cent of dried fodder and besides this today the milk production in India is highest in the world which is approximately 138 million tons. Wool production is approximately 480 million kg in India. As compare to dairy animals, sheep and goats have to rely on pastures.
The dependence of domestic animals on pasture is very high and constant development and ever increasing human population placed a much higher pressure on natural grasslands and pastures and ultimately their area is decreasing rapidly. Indian grassland has a vast diversity from north-east (Assam) to west (Thar desert). The ecological setup found in Thar area of Rajasthan has similarity with sahara grasslands of Africa and that why sometime it is considered as Indian sahahra desert. East to west Thar area of Rajasthan has vast sahara desert vegetation and when we move to eastern part of Rajasthan it has grasses which are more in high rainfall areas. A vast bio-diversity in vegetation and grassland is observed in India from east to west which is very unique in nature.
The status of grasslands is highly variable and the area and productivity is decreasing because of increasing human pressure for cultivation of food grains crops and increase in animal population which results in overgrazing and ultimately shrinking the grasslands area. Areas of Indian pastures have reduced from about 70 million ha in 1947 to just about 38 million ha in 1997 and major proportion of this loss is from the village common lands. In India several grasslands like Banni grasslands reserve, Kangayam grassland,Korangadu grassland, Shola grassland, Cold desert of the Indian Trans-Himalayas grasslands, Terai grasslands, Thar desert etc are situated in poor soil categories and their productivity mainly depend on precipitation which ranges between 0.2 t/ha in 50 mm rain to 30 t/ha under 1850 mm rain in tropical ecosystem. Grassland production is also related to use patterns, grazing intensity and soil factors. Carrying capacity of Indian grasslands is about 0.20 to 1.47 adult cattle units (ACU) / ha. The grazing intensity in the country is as high as 12.6 (ACU)/ ha as against 0.8 ACU/ ha in developed countries.
Traditionally grasslands are mainly utilized by pastoralist’s community. Rearing animal compositions are based on fodder resources and their availability. In reality, pastoralism itself is an adaptation to a harsh environment, and it is characterized by opportunism and flexibility. Since independence of India, the pastoralists of Himalayas have faced a series of significant changes from external political and economic changes. Many of them left their traditional transhumant way of life and settled along valleys. Some have settled in urban areas others stick to the pastoral activities by changing the composition of livestock by increasing number of goats and decreasing number of yaks. Similarly, in Rajasthan camel population is declining due to non availability of grazing sources. State policies regarding forests, agriculture, irrigation, fodder, famine, pastoral rights and migration are some of the mechanisms that contribute to the alteration of pastoral life-style. Besides larger grasslands common property resources (CPRs) serves the needs of poor resource farmers. Between 84 to 100% of poor households gathered food, fuel, fodder and fibre items from the CPRs. Fodder is the major item for which practically all rural poor depend on CPRs. The landless farmers graze their animals as well as collect fodder from the CPRs. Dependence of the poor section on CPRs for grazing is significant.
There is no data base on actual pasture resources of the country. The area under pasture resources are intermingling reported with forest area, CPRs, wasteland, non- cultivated land. Indeed issues on augmenting forage resources were dealt over the last plan (11nth plan) by the departments of Animal Husbandry, Agriculture and Forests focusing to promote stall feeding mainly based on cultivated fodder. This scheme focused largely on promoting fodder cultivation and post-harvest handling of fodder and does not have any component to develop fodder resources on common property resources/grazing lands. Besides this, we need growth of a strong services sector in rural India. Agri-business centres and agri-clinics are needed on a big scale. The current focus is on how to make agriculture more attractive and rewarding to the younger generation. It is imperative for the nation to produce food not only to feed its more than one billion human population but also for an equal number of livestock. At present the Sub-Mission on ‘Feed and Fodder Development’ under National Livestock Mission (NLM) is under operation and addressing the problems of scarcity of animal feed and fodder resources from arable and non arable land. State government should underline on some of the policies and keep priority for augmentation of forage production of CPRs. These policy issues should be as under:-
Ø Pasture resource data base especially for areas of CPRs in the country is lacking
Ø Programme for pasture development and rejuvenation of existing pastures
Ø National grazing-cum-fodder and pasture management policy should be there which is lacking
Ø Judicious use of available crop residues (burning/destroying of crop residues treated as criminal offence)
Ø Use of hydroponic technology for fodder production
Ø Promotion of fodder production on bunds, under tree shades and orchards
Ø Promotion of seed production of grasses by providing incentives to farmers / buy-back policy.
With these words I inaugurate the International Grassland Congress, and I convey my best wishes for its success. I hope that the outcome and recommendations including policy issues from this international congress will be shared with ministry for implementation. My special request to all of you, especially to our foreign guests that find some time get the experience about culture and traditions of this ancient land and enjoy its hospitality.