In spite of a number of problems stalling the progress of agriculture in India, it is still the backbone of the economy. According to statistics, approximately 65% of the Indian population depend directly on agriculture as their livelihood. Agriculture also accounts for around 22% of the annual gross domestic product (GDP). Due to its high rural population and agrarian history, India is one of the top producers in the world of fruits and vegetables. Here is an Indian agriculture overview that identifies some of the main characteristics of this industry:
India has a monsoon climate. The seasons are roughly as follows, although they vary in different areas of the country:
- Winter: December to early April. Coldest months are December and January.
- Summer/Pre-Monsoon: April to June. April and May are the hottest months in the South and North, respectively.
- Monsoon:June to September. The rains generally sweep across the country, hitting different regions at different times. Rains are heavier in the south.
- Post-monsoon: October to December.
India is home to a wide variety of crops, including:
So how many of these crops could be grown using an aquaponic system? Aquaponics systems have been tested with over 300 different varieties of plants, including tomatoes, capsicums, lettuce, cabbage, spinach, chillies, cucumber, beans, and peas. However, they typically do not work with root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes.
Indian farms are traditionally small and marginally operational. About 60% of farms are less than 4 hectares in size, meaning that aquaponics (which requires 1/8th of the space of a traditional farm and produces 10 times the crop yield) might be an ideal solution.
Agricultural Grants and Financing
Commercial banks, cooperative banks, and regional rural banks are said to be responsible for agricultural credits to the agricultural sector in India. However, in reality, the majority of funds come from an unorganized market source that charges a drastic amount of interest to farmers.
The Government of India also introduced a “Farm Credit Package” in June 2004, which doubled the amount of institutional credit available for agriculture over a period of three consecutive years.
Microfinance schemes also play a large role in funding farmers. This program, introduced by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, has helped thousands of poor families to gain access to microfinance facilities at banks.
The Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) was also introduced in 1995 to boost investments from the public sector in agriculture and rural infrastructure. Funded activities include rural roads and bridges, irrigation systems, mini and small hydel projects, community irrigation wells, soil conservation, watershed development, and reclamation of waterlogged areas, flood protection, drainage, forest development, market yard godowns, apna mandi, rural haats and other marketing infrastructure, cold storages, seed/agriculture/horticulture farms, plantation and horticulture, grading and certifyinnng mechanisms such as testing and certifying laboratories, fishing harbours/jetties, reverine fisheries, animal husbandry, public health institutions, construction of toilet blocks in existing schools and “pay and use” toilets in rural areas, village knowledge centres, desalination plants in coastal areas, infrastructure for information technology in rural area, and construction of anganwari centers.
Bringing aquaponics systems to India would be in line with the goals of the RIDF.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) operates at the national level in India, working to promote science and technology programmes in the area of agricultural research, education and extension education.
Approximately 65% of the Indian population relies on agriculture-related jobs as their primary livelihood.
A Future For Sustainable Agriculture?
Developed nations have been turning their attention to organic produce and sustainable farming methods (including aquaponics). There is a great potential for these methods to be used in India, as the prevailing local knowledge traditionally focuses on natural, earth-friendly practices. As of now, many Indian farms are more or less organic, with scant reliance on chemical inputs. Promotion of similar sustainable methods, such as aquaponics, along with the installation of a regulating body might be beneficial.
The portrait of Indian agriculture is complex. It varies from state to state and although there are definitely government bodies in place to regulate funding and try to implement changes, the intended isn’t necessarily what happens in most cases, as the government faces challenges such as corruption. In order to move forward, education needs to happen in rural areas, the benefits of sustainable farming methods must be explained, and affordable and business-friendly farming techniques must be implemented.