The agricultural sector accounts for employment of more than 51% of all rural households. But do you know the growth in this sector is shrinking each year? This is just an indicator of how overcrowded agriculture is. It calls for a shift of workforce to other economic activities. This is why we must look into diversification into productive activities like horticulture, animal husbandry and fisheries.
Diversification into Productive Activities
Diversification into productive activities in this context simply means to divulge the unnecessarily employed workforce towards activities that are short on the workforce. There are two ways to achieve diversification.
The first aspect refers to changing the cropping patterns which further means a change in the proportion of areas dedicated to the cultivation of various crops. The second aspect focuses on the shift of workforce to other related activities (poultry, husbandry etc.) and non-farming activities( coming under the umbrella 0f secondary and tertiary sectors).
Why the call for Diversification?
There is a limit to absorption of the workforce for every economic activity beyond which not only the capability is underused but also the productivity ceases to grow. Sadly, The agricultural sector has been an illustration of this scenario. In addition to reducing the risk from agriculture, diversification will provide people with alternatives to make ends meet.
Also, a majority of agricultural activities bloom in the Kharif and Rabi seasons. For the remaining parts of a year, those depending only on agriculture don’t earn enough to sustain themselves. Additionally, in areas with below par irrigation facilities, even the Rabi season doesn’t yield a steady income. Under these situations, such people should explore alternatives to earn.
Lastly, there are various non-farming activities that require concentration of workforce. Such activities are able to provide a sustainable livelihood. Given these points, diversification can aid in improving yields along with rural development.
Diversification through Shift into other Productive Streams
The need of the hour is to achieve diversification through a shift of workforce towards other channels of production. It can be fulfilled through divulging workforce towards either agriculture allied activities or towards non-farm activities. Again there are two divisions of non-farm alternatives which are able to provide sustainable livelihoods.
Some of them are backed by good infrastructure, have dynamic linkages and permit healthy growth. Others possess great potential but the infrastructure to support them is not up to the mark. Food processing industry, leather industry and tourism are some examples of the former class while pottery, handlooms and handicrafts are some examples of the latter one. It’s time to dig into some of the major alternatives from both categories.
Indian farmers follow the mixed crop-livestock farming system in which crops are grown traditionally and livestock are sustained alongside. The livestock products like eggs, milk, meat etc. are sold for alternative livelihood options. Livestock production offers options of transport, income, food security and nutrition without disruption farming activities.
The animal husbandry or livestock sector provides more than 70 million people with livelihood alternative. The major held livestock are sheeps, goats, fowls, cattle and pigs. Horses, camels, asses, ponies and mules occupy the marginal parts of the distribution.
However, milk has been a livestock product that is leading by example. Dairy sector has been performing exceptionally as a result of which the production of milk in the country has grown to five times the past numbers. Operation Flood can be credit for this development. Under this, farmers pool their individual milk produce and hand them over to cooperatives who take them to urban areas. The milk cooperatives of Gujarat are an illustration of the perfect implementation of this idea.
The fishing sector is an emerging alternative for diversification. It accounts for about 0.8% of our GDP. The economic rise of fisheries sector is credited to the active investment and budgetary allocations made in its favour. The major fish producing states are Kerala, West Bengal, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
But there are several areas of consideration in this sector. The families of most fishermen are illiterate. Also unemployment, low per capita income and chronically bad standards of living are some barriers. And although women are not involved in fishing activities they extensively handle export marketing and internal marketing. Therefore there is a requirement for good credit facilities for fisherwomen.
Horticulture refers to the art of caretaking of fruits, vegetables, flowers and other plants. India is a land of diversity even in terms of climatic conditions and soil compositions. Hence India is a favourable zone for the growth of a variety of plants. This makes it a suitable region for development of horticulture.
Thus it can be easily understood as to why horticulture accounts for 6% share in GDP and is an emerging channel of diversification into productive activities. India has now become a leading producer of fruits like mango, bananas, coconuts and in a number of spices. Flower harvesting, nursery maintenance, hybrid seed production and tissue culture, propagation of fruits and flowers and food processing are some channels to consider for diversification under horticulture.
In diversification into productive activities, the workforce can divulge into other sectors (secondary and tertiary) for attaining suitable employment. One such channel is the information technology(IT) sector. IT technologies can predict changes in soil composition, flood possibilities and vulnerabilities. In essence, IT can act as a tool to achieve sustainable development and food security. Effectively IT provides employment opportunities in rural areas, which can improve the shrinking living standards.
Problems faced by Alternative Industries
In a nutshell, animal husbandry, horticulture, fisheries along with other emerging alternates offer a lot of opportunities for diversification. However, development in reference to these alternates can provide an incentive for a shift of the workforce.
Although our livestock population is large, our productivity is still below par. Development of infrastructure and good breed of animals can solve this problem. Likewise, major hurdles in form of pollution and widespread illiteracy stand against the development of the fishing sector.
Lastly, there is a need to promote horticulture among the rural farmers coupled with inflows in form of improvement of infrastructures, market linkages, small-scale processing units and technology improvements.
A Solved Question for You
Q: Why there is a need for diversification?
Ans: The agricultural sector is now unable to absorb more workforce and due to overcrowding, it’s productivity and growth is on a continuous fall. In addition, apart from during the two major agricultural seasons, farmers have no options to earn a living. Considering such problems, there is a need for a shift of workforce towards other productive activities like horticulture and animal husbandry to attain development in rural areas.