In 2019 the world started talking about a structural crisis impacting the planet's most critical job .... Food Production. The worlds food demand is rising, but the number of people leaving or not joining the agricultural industry, is growing!
The average age of a farmer in India is getting higher, while younger generations are choosing to join the army, engineering or teaching. 2,000 farmers quit everyday, and most households now earn more out of non farm sources. With temperatures rising and 20% less annual rainfall in the country, it is becoming increasingly difficult to grow crops, keep livestock healthy and make a profit.
Photo by Nandhu Kumar on Unsplash
The Central Government of India is now actively encouraging new technology in agriculture, to increase crop production, income and irrigation, so now the majority of land in India is irrigated using over 30 million ground pumps, of which 20 million are connected to the grid, 10 million running on diesel and 3.9 million running on solar power. Yet despite the advancement of technology in irrigation, older farmers still prefer to rely on rainfall.
Image: Photo by VD Photography on Unsplash
With the Government highlighting agriculture within their policies, small businesses are popping up offering solutions to the issues faced in agriculture. One of which has won the "Protect and Restore Nature" Earthshot Prize 2022. Kheyti have developed The Greenhouse in a Box. This not for profit Indian Start up can design, develop & implement bespoke smart greenhouses that help farmers to grow 7 times more food using 90% less water with a built in drip irrigation system and offer protection from disease and pests. (India have now banned the import and usage of 45 pesticides). These Greenhouses can withstand winds of up to 120km per hour. They are also 90% cheaper than standard greenhouses , so the farmers put down a deposit, and with every successful harvest they pay a bit more back to Kheyti. The farmers are involved with the design process so are made to their specific needs. Along side this, they offer training to the farmers to enable them to get the best out of the products. At the moment Kheyti operate in 6 states in India with over 1,000 farmers, and aim to reach 50,000 farmers by 2027.
Photo by bill wegener on Unsplash
Another solution that would enable farmers to grow more specific and successful crops, are hybrid seeds. Hybrid seeds are crucial in addressing food shortage, wastage, climate concerns and deteriorating food quality. The seeds are created by controlled cross pollination between different varieties of the same plant to enhance the resulting plants characteristics, such as a better yield, greater uniformity, pest resistance and disease resistance. Unfortunately, integrating hybrid seeds in farming isn't an easy process, often due to the lack of awareness at grass root level, inadequate access to quality seeds from trusted suppliers and fragmented land ownership. Enhancing industry/farmer partnerships to provide training, support and knowledge could help increase the adoption of hybrid seeds and any other agricultural technology that is available.
India is doing well in other industries such as refined petroleum, oil, jewellery, cars and pharmaceuticals, as the Indian GDP was the 11th largest in the world a few years ago, this year it has knocked the UK off 5th position into 6th!!! You can see the fantastic products handmade by Indian crafters employed by the Indian fair trade organisations we sell. However, it is the agricultural industry that needs to develop and modernise itself to feed themselves and other countries.
Sources: Down To Earth, India Times, KHYETI, Hindu Times