There is a dramatic change in the earning, spending and saving pattern of the people of India in the post reform (economic) period that is post 1991. During this period, income generating mechanism in this country underwent massive changes. With a sustained economic growth, rising per capita income along with an ever increasing population, the dietary pattern in India is also changing very fast. The Indian food basket is diversifying in favour of high value food commodities like fruits, vegetables, dairy products, poultry products and fish products from staple food such as rice, wheat and coarse cereals. This raises a challenge to Indian agriculture. On the other hand the modern agriculture dominated by chemical and irrigation intensive farming system has not only raised productivity but simultaneously has also resulted in soil erosion, water contamination, pesticides poisoning, land degradation through water logging and soil salinity, depletion of bio-diversity, etc., forcing farmers to apply ever-increasing doses of fertilisers and to make water supply available on a continuous basis, in order to maintain the productivity levels.
This again raises another challenge to Indian agriculture. It may not be wondering if we assume that organic farming system may generate such situation to address both the challenges mentioned above. This paper is concerned with an analysis of crop diversification under organic and inorganic farming in West Bengal. Crop diversification is different from the concept of multiple cropping or succession planting over the growing seasons. Moreover, it implies the use of environmental and human resources to grow a mix of crops with complementary marketing opportunities. Thus, it implies a shifting of resources from low value crops to high value crops such as fruits, vegetables, etc. The concept of crop diversification in globalized market of agricultural produce refers to increase the total crop productivity in terms of quality, quantity and monetary value under different specific agro-climatic situations across the world.
There are two approaches to crop diversification in agriculture. First is horizontal diversification, which is the primary approach to crop diversification in production agriculture. The approach takes place through crop intensification by adding new high-value crops to existing cropping systems. Thus, the approach facilitates the improvement of overall productivity of a farm or farming economy of a region. The second approach is the vertical diversification.
Under this approach, farmers and others add value to products through processing, regional branding, packaging, merchandising or other efforts to enhance the farm-product. The opportunities for crop diversification may vary depending on risks, opportunities and the feasibility of proposed changes within a socio-economic and agro-economic context. However, crop diversification through substitution of one crop or mixed cropping / inter-cropping may be a useful tool to mitigate problems associated with aberrant weather to some extent, especially in the arid and semi-arid drought-prone / dry land areas.
Impact of crop diversification
Crop diversification is intended to practice of growing more than one crop (or enterprise) in any year to increase financial and biological stability of the farm. In the agricultural context, diversification can be regarded as the re-allocation of some of a farm’s productive resources, such as land, capital, farm equipment and paid labour, into new activities. These can be new crops or livestock products, value-adding activities, provision of services to other farmers, etc. On the other hand, diversification of agriculture refers to the shift from the regional dominance of one crop to regional production of a number of crops, to meet ever increasing demand for cereals, pulses, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables, etc. It aims to improve soil health and a dynamic equilibrium of the agro-ecosystem. Crop diversification takes into account the economic returns from different value-added crops. Crop diversification can better tolerate the ups and downs in the market value of farm products and may ensure economic stability for farming families of the state.
The adverse effects of aberrant weather, such as erratic and scanty rainfall and drought are very common in a vast area in agricultural production of the state. Incidents of flood in one part and drought in the other part are a very frequent phenomenon in the state. Under these aberrant weather situations, dependence on one or two major cereals (rice, wheat, etc.) is always risky. Diversification in agriculture has tremendous impact on the agro-socio-economic condition and uplifting resource-poor farming communities. It generates income and employment for rural youth year round for the ultimate benefits of the farmers in the state. It implies the use of local resources in a larger mix of diverse cropping systems and livestock, aquaculture and other non-farm sectors in the rural areas.
The yield as well as farm income is the essential part for crop diversification for the farmer of an agricultural based economy like West Bengal. Normally, the farmers diversify farm enterprises to meet the cash requirements of the family and to mitigate risk associated with mono-cropping, depending on conventional wisdom over the years. The crop diversification in the state is also considered with greater emphasis from the view point to price response, market infrastructure, availability of resources and public interventions (price and credit policies of farming business, research and development in farming activities, etc.) in agriculture.
The judicious crop mix has facilitated increased farm incomes. It has also contribution towards the utilization of under employed resources to mitigate seasonal and under unemployment of rural labour force. The crop diversification has also helped to reduce risks and uncertainties in crops yields due to climatic and biological vagaries. Thus the study was conducted to analyze the extent of crop diversification at different levels of farm size as well as crop growing seasons in West Bengal for both inorganic and organic farming systems, commonly followed by the farmers in the state.
Courtney from Study Moose
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