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Agriculture Budget 2022-23: Farmers of Tribal Areas Put Forward Their Demands

The agriculture policies for tribal areas should support the tribal communities to have a livelihood and food sufficiency with adequate nutritional focus as the tribal districts have the highest level of malnutrition among children and women and a large number of tribals have to move out of their villages to nearby and far away from towns and villages for labor work.

Shivam Dwivedi
Jayesh Joshi- Secretary of VAAGDHARA, interacting with a tribal farmer
Jayesh Joshi- Secretary of VAAGDHARA, interacting with a tribal farmer

The exercise for presenting a separate 'Agriculture Budget' that was announced in the State Budget session (2021-22) by the Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has begun. Last year assembly passed the budgetary demands worth ₹3,756 Cr for providing new facilities in the agriculture sector and ₹1,829 Crore for the Animal Husbandry.

It was also mentioned by Agriculture Minister Lalchand Kataria during the session (2021-22) that the Government of Rajasthan prioritizes agriculture and a new 'Agriculture Budget' will be prepared to help farmers realize their dreams.

Concerns of Tribal Farmers:

When it comes to farming, tribal communities of Banswara, Dungarpur, Pratapgarh, and other districts of Southern Rajasthan are mostly dependent on Rainfed agriculture during the Kharif season. Mostly the tribal farmers are small and marginal having a land size of about 0.5 Ha and owing to the higher risk involved due to lesser production, resulting in livelihood and food insecurity. Such distressful conditions compel the farmers to prefer to migrate to nearby cities and work as manual laborers rather than doing their own agriculture.

The agriculture policies for tribal areas should support the tribal communities to have a livelihood and food sufficiency with adequate nutritional focus as the tribal districts have the highest level of malnutrition among children and women and a large number of tribals have to move out of their villages to nearby and far away from towns and villages for labor work.

The whole nation had witnessed the distressful situation of these migrant laborers when they came back to their villages barefooted with no money in their pockets, during COVID -19 pandemic lockdown situation. The government, therefore, needs to formulate effective policies with appropriate budget allocations, so that such a difficult situation doesn’t get reiterated.

These tribal farmers are the ones who have kept traditional farming alive. Around 12.50 lakh farmers residing in the tribal belt of Southern Rajasthan, majority of them are trying to adopt natural farming in an unorganized way; they have approximately 80,000 hectares of land. Dungarpur has already been declared an organic district in past. 

Major Demands of Tribal Farmers:

So, it is very important that their demands are being considered and included in the upcoming budget (2022-23). Their demands are as follows:

1. Natural Farming with Mixed Cropping Pattern:

The farmers of the tribal belt have been following mixed cropping that comprised of maize as the main crop and Urad, Arhar, Cotton, Soybean, Cowpea, Til, Paddy as intercrops. This is a common traditional practice being followed by farmers of this area without much technical, financial & government support. Therefore, tribal farmers have demands to get technical and financial support for mixed cropping technology.

2. Mini kits of improved variety seed of pulses & vegetable:

In order to promote mixed cropping and ensure nutrition sufficiency, Government should make a provision for supplying mini kits of pulses and vegetables along with the mini-kits of maize seeds. This will improve diet diversification as well as nutrient intake by the tribal people, especially women and children. 

3. Promotion of Organic Manure

Farmers of the tribal belt are mostly small and marginal farmers and they mostly depend on agricultural produce for their nutrition and livelihood. The major problem faced by them is chemical fertilizers and their imbalance use that is making soil infertile and deteriorating its physical condition. So, farmers' demand is for promoting organic fertilizers & tools for preparing them domestically.

4. Seed production Bonus:

For improved seed production and family income of the tribal community, there must be an increase in bonus amount.

5. Establishment of seed testing laboratory:

Currently, there are no Seed testing laboratories (STL) in Banswara or nearby districts, farmers are sending their seeds to either Chittorgarh or to Jaipur which takes a lot of time. So, farmers are demanding the establishment of STL at Banswara.

6. Revival of Milk Dairy & aligned activities:

There was a milk dairy in Banswara in the year 1986, which is now nonfunctional. The dairy needs to be revived so that farming communities get the opportunity of income from this. Besides, mini kits of green fodder improved seed, cattle feed at a subsidized rate, and cattle shed subsidy is a major demand.

7. Establishing soil testing laboratories at Block Level

Although the soil health card scheme being run by the government is there, these laboratories are established at district levels. Due to this, most of the farmers residing in distant villages do not get their soil sample tested, and eventually they are not able to apply recommended quantity of fertilizers. Therefore, the tribal farmers are demanding to establish soil testing laboratories at the block or panchayat level as well. Opportunities for village youth should be given in this context, which will also generate employment for them. 

Views Shared by Jayesh Joshi- Secretary of VAAGDHARA

Jayesh Joshi- Secretary of VAAGDHARA, who has been working actively for the tribal farmers and has also put up their demands in a recent meeting with the government representatives.

Joshi pointed out that some of the issues include soil health improvement through the application of biochar (charcoal produced from plant matter that is stored in the soil as a means of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) and microorganisms.

“Farmers have demanded biochar and micro-organism banks possibly at every Panchayat headquarter of tribal districts. The management responsibility for multiplication and distribution for its effective implementation can be given to FPO/SHGs working in the area under the supervision of Agriculture University/ Agriculture Department.”

While biochar is important for retaining soil fertility, stability, and controlling climate change, another crucial demand is a revival of green gram cultivation, says Dr. Pramod Rokadia, an agriculture scientist. “There must be promotional activities for green gram cultivation during the Zaid season; this is the season between Rabi and Kharif, March-April to May-June. Green gram cultivation in the Zaid season was a common traditional practice for soil health management as well as for pulses production. Pulses cultivation was possible because of favorable environmental conditions and irrigation facilities like cannel, ponds, and tanks,” says Dr. Rokadia.

He highlighted that at present, the farmers are not able to continue with this cropping because of cattle, unavailability of irrigation water, and quality seed on time.

He noted that farmers have demanded revival and extension of canal opening at least till May 15, a mechanism to control stray cattle at concerned Panchayat periphery, and improved variety of green gram seeds in a mini kit. “If green gram cultivation is revived then not only will it increase pulses production but also improve the soil health,” he noted.

According to a study on an average share of allocation for TSP between 2015-16 and 2019-20 in Rajasthan was less than 5 percent.  Moreover, despite the budget allocation for the TSP area, the major problem remains about its under expenditure. So, the major concern would be even if the agriculture budget is allotted, what percent would be for tribal community and how much would be actually utilized.

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