Economic Survey: Charting road map for faster growth
Hindustan Times The Economic Survey 2018-19 has called for harnessing technologies suited to small-sized farms and recommended adoption of micro-irrigation systems to improve water use efficiency. “One of the key aspects which can improve productivity of small farm holdings is improving resource use efficiency (one of the sources of income growth identified by the Committee on Doubling Farmers’ Income),” the Survey states. According to the report, the next big input or resource for farmers will be digital technologies. To facilitate communication and reduce transaction costs, information technology applications can be “crucial in smallholder farming”. The spread of mobile phones in rural areas has already impacted the way the small and marginal farmers get access to information about soil health, weather and prices. Digital technologies can facilitate market access, financial inclusion and contribute significantly to early warning signals that are critical for the development of the smallholder community. Technology can play a critical role in bridging the information gaps that exist in agricultural markets, a key reason why farmers often don’t get profitable prices. “There is a major concern whether the present practice of groundwater use can be sustained as the depth of the groundwater level continues to drop. By 2050, India will be in the global hot spot for ‘water insecurity’,” the Survey states. States with penetration and improved adoption of micro-irrigation have almost 40 to 50% savings in energy and fertilizer consumption, the Survey said. It also said a combination of measures which suit the local agro-economic context need to be applied to improve irrigation productivity in agriculture which would reflect sustainable water use in agriculture. “In this regard, focus in agriculture should shift from ‘land productivity’ to ‘irrigation water productivity’. Therefore, devising policies to incentivise farmers to adopt efficient ways of water use should become a national priority to avert the looming water crisis,” it said. In India, according to the Asian Water Development Outlook, 2016, almost 89% of groundwater extracted is for irrigation. The survey also states that the cropping pattern in the country was skewed towards crops that guzzle more water. “Adopting improved methods of irrigation and irrigation technologies will have a critical role in increasing irrigation water productivity along with re-calibrating the cropping patterns... adoption of micro-irrigation systems is one of the possible ways to improve water use efficiency,” it said.