Challenges for agriculture in hilly terrains

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Dr Banarsi Lal

Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is endowed with diverse agro-climatic conditions, rich genetic diversity and vast natural resources that offer a great scope to develop agro-ecosystem by specific technological interventions for diversification of hill agriculture and allied activities. This hilly part of India displays distinct ethnic, socio-cultural and economic features, geographical identity with climatic variability different from the rest of the country. Around 80 per cent of the people depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihood. The total area of Jammu and Kashmir is 42,241 sq.km and population density is 290/sq.km. J&K is surrounded by the hills and comprises of 20 districts. Over the years, the farmers of J&K have adopted new agricultural technologies but still there is low productivity of almost all the crops. Due to diverse regional typologies, difficult terrain, marginality, fragility, extreme vulnerability to natural events, poor infrastructures, distinctive gender dimensions, only 30 per cent of total geographical area in J&K is under cultivation. Agriculture contributes about 65 per cent of J&K revenue which explains its overdependence on agriculture.
Technology development has a critical impact on many aspects of hilly areas development, especially the way we choose it, the way we design it and the way we deliver it to the end users. Technology should be carefully chosen for the farmers of hilly areas to imbibe knowledge appropriate to their needs, cultures and environment. Technology should be designed in such a way so that it can upgrade the skills and capabilities, reduce drudgery, minimize fatigue, capable of easy assimilation, generate added value to the existing methods of operation, generate employment and income, low in capital investment, low in cost of production, be capable of replication and adoption and should blend harmoniously with existing eco-systems leading to tangible improvements in the living conditions and development of the people of hilly areas of J&K. There is dire need to introduce appropriate technologies in the hilly areas of J&K particularly in disadvantaged sections of the society. There is a need of institutional linkages and active participation of voluntary organizations, Science and Technology based institutions, Research and Development institutions, financial agencies and most importantly people who are the primary stakeholders. Success of these technologies lies on participatory systems with a systematically approach for effective dissemination of technology. There should be proper mechanism in development and transfer of effective technologies in the hilly areas of J&K.
The technologies should be assessed and refined by the Science and Technology based institutions. These organizations then look for ideal technology option ensuring the availability of local resources and skills. Technology should be developed according to the in-house capability of the local people with the assistance of technical institutions. The technology should be developed in such a way so that it is accepted by the people of hilly areas and which is best suited in their local conditions for a long-term sustainability. The people should be trained to operate the new technology and also trained in its maintenance and repair. The Science and Technology institutions and NGOs should help in backward and forward linkages both for production as well as marketing for long-term sustainability. There should be proper linkage between the scientists, field functionaries and the farmers. Extensionists should conduct the awareness/training camps in the rural areas on new technologies so that the capabilities of the farmers of hilly areas can be upgraded. The awareness on new technologies among the farmers of hilly areas should also be created through the print media, social and electronic media.
Looking into constraints and priority needs of the farmers of hilly areas of J&K, various thrust areas need special attention ensuring involvement of local community through network of developmental field groups in technological empowerment. Agriculture in hilly areas of J&K is the most important activity as it is directly related with the villager’s sustenance. Agriculture in hilly areas of J&K is mostly rain fed, poor crop productivity, poor cultivation practices etc. Hilly areas of Union Territory of J&K have immense potential in agriculture. Hilly areas have immense potential in organic farming. Already the farmers of hilly areas use meager amount of fertilizers in the soil. Organic products produced in hilly areas can help the farmers to fetch better prices. Agricultural department and Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) should promote the organic farming in the hilly areas of J&K so that the livelihood of the farmers of hilly areas can be improved. In hilly areas of J&K off season vegetables can be grown which can fetch higher prices. Seed production and low cost nurseries units can be established in hilly areas of J&K to generate extra income and employments for rural people. The perishable products do not fetch better prices due to various market intricacies. The hilly areas agro-climate offers better potential for non-perishable products such as spices, pulses, oilseeds etc. Hilly areas of J&K have immense potential in horticulture. New varieties of fruit crops should be introduced in hilly areas of J&K. Hilly areas farmers need proper training on the advance horticulture. There should be proper storage, processing and packaging facilities of fruit crops for commercial purpose. Farmers of hilly areas need proper transportation facilities to sale there produce. The roads should be well connected with the cities. In hilly areas of J&K there is scarcity of fodder crops for animals is observed specially in off seasons. There should be the availability of fodder round the year. There is also need to introduce good breeds of animals in hilly areas of J&K. Buffalo rearing, poultry farming and goat rearing has lot of scope in hilly areas of J&K. Backyard poultry has tremendous scope in hilly areas of J&K. Egg laying varieties of certain poultry strains should be introduced through Front Line Demonstrations (FLDs) by the KVKs. Green cover in hilly areas is very important for the maintenance of environment. The green cover with appropriate bio-engineering plantation management is considered as the need based.
Water and energy are important resources for the hilly areas ecosystem. In hilly areas large numbers of dams are in process but the traditional water mills, huller, carding devices should also be taken into consideration for the up gradation. Strenuous efforts are needed to develop sustainable technologies for harnessing and conserving renewable energy like water lifting devices, solar lantern etc. Micro-irrigation water technologies should be promoted in the hilly areas. Capacity building and technological empowerment are needed to mitigate the disaster management challenges for the people of hilly areas of J&K. Medicinal plants occurring in hilly areas of J&K have a great national and international importance. Creating awareness towards herbal therapy can provide immense scope for developing herbal industries in hilly areas of J&K. Health care of hilly areas people of J&K is an important sector that needs to be taken care of. Tourism forms the basis for the economy of many hilly places of J&K. There should be linkage between the people of hilly areas of J&K and agro-ecotourism. Rural tourism should be promoted in hilly areas of J&K so that the income of rural people of J&K can be enhanced. Bottom up approach for participatory technology development starting with the people and with the contribution of Science and Technology Institutions and close interface with voluntary organizations can provide sustainable models for technologies development and their dissemination in hilly areas of J&K. Appropriate networking and linkages among the people and various institutions can change the lives of the people of hilly areas of J&K.
(The author is Head, KVK Reasi, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology-Jammu).