Growing disinterest in farming activities is being witnessed among farmers in Manipur in recent years. Climate change impact is cited as one of the main reasons. Amid the discouraging changing scenario, experts view farm mechanization as one of the best drivers to boost farm production and make agriculture sustainable.
As the effects of climate change spread worldwide, Manipur is also facing the brunt of it. Its agricultural sector, which is one of the state's key sectors, is experiencing the worst scenario. The quantity and quality of agricultural produce is reportedly decreasing year after year.
The rise in weather temperature, changes in rainfall pattern and loss of soil fertility due to erosion is making agricultural activities a difficult task. Owing to this changing scenario, farmers of the state have started losing interest in farming activities.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also observed that climate change is affecting food security in various parts of the world.
In Manipur, the state government implemented the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2014 on September 2, 2014. Enacting this Act proved the necessity of agricultural land and wetlands conservation in the state.
However, many farmers still want to convert their farm land to other purposes which will be commercially beneficial, as engaging in farming activities is becoming non-profitable.
The farmers also felt that providing appropriate support by the state government from time to time may motivate them to engage in crop cultivation.
Experts are of the view that making the agriculture land highly productive can save land resources. For this, farmers should acquire new knowledge and transform farming techniques from traditional or manual to modern trend of farm mechanization.
Speaking exclusively to the Imphal Free Press, associate professor of College of Food Technology Manipur, Ng Joykumar Singh said that the impact of climate change is reaching every corner of the world and it is hugely affecting agricultural sectors the world over. But there are various adaptive measures to reduce the risk of negative impact of climate change on agriculture, he said.
Some of them are promotion of farming machines, changes in management practices and adoption of climate smart agricultural practices instead of relying on conventional agricultural practices.
The professor said that climate change impact can be addressed by transforming the agricultural system from manual to mechanization.
The instances of heavy crop damages due to unprecedented rainfall, drought like situation and heat wave incite farmers to quit farming. This resulted in conversion of many agricultural lands into other purposes. But introduction of machinery in farming activities may help prevent the farmers from changing their mind on converting farmland into others, he added.
He further said that with the advancement of technology, various farming machines are continuously being developed. It seems like most of the steps of farming activities starting from land preparation to harvesting can be carried out by machine. Using machines in agricultural activities is highly advantageous, yet it may affect poor labour in their livelihood.
Agricultural mechanization would help to increase production, bring precision in farming, increase efficiency in utilisation of costly inputs such as seed, chemical, fertilisers irrigation etc, increase economic return to farmers, saves labour and health hazard etc, he added.
“Crops getting damaged after putting in so much manual labour is quite disheartening for the farmers’ community. If they are capable of large crop production by using the latest agricultural appliances every year, they can compensate for the losses incurred by natural calamities in their next crop,” he explained.
While informing about some of the common agricultural tools and machines, he mentioned the following: Chisel Plough Deep Tillage, irrigation channel former, ridger, rotovator, tractor cultivator mounted seed planter, basin lister cum seeder attachment to cultivator, tractor drawn ridger- seeder, tractor drawn paddy seeder, lowland paddy seeder, power rotary weeder, mini tractor, self-propelled vertical conveyor reaper, power tiller operated boom sprayer etc.
These are some of the machines used for different purposes like land preparation, land maintenance and harvesting, he said.
While suggesting promotion of farm mechanization to every farmer irrespective of economic status, he said that the cost of agricultural machinery is usually beyond the affordable rate of farmers. However, extending credit facilities through financial institutions with subsidies to non-governmental organizations or farmers clubs, cooperative farming organizations would help to encourage farmers to use machines in farming. Besides this, providing facilities of customs hiring in low charges can also promote farm mechanization in the state.
Assistant engineer, directorate of Agriculture, Irengam Akendro Singh told the Imphal Free Press that to promote farm mechanization, the state government had implemented the Sub Mission on Agriculture Mechanization (SMAM) in 2015. With the help of this scheme, the rate of using machines in farming activities has been increasing.
As per norm, the rate of using machines in farms is decided by consumption of power per hectare of land in farming. During 2015-2016, the farm power was 0.48 kw per hectare. But in the year 2021-2022, it reached 1.48 kw per hectare, he added.
He explained that SMAM was launched to provide support for greater mechanization by distributing various subsidized machineries. The funding pattern of this centrally-sponsored scheme is 90 per cent by the Central government and the remaining 10 per cent by the state government.
Through this scheme, as many as 20 different types of farming machines were provided in subsidy. Some of the machines are tractor 2WD, tractor 4WD, power tiller, reaper, SP Rice Transplanter (4 Row), plow, cultivator, case wheel, ridger, harrow, leveler blade, rotavator, harvesting and thresher equipment, post hold digger, power weeder, shredder or mulcher mounted, chaff cutter, mini rice mill, water pump, power sprayer, cono weeder etc, he informed.
The state government is putting all effort into achieving the target of farm mechanization at the rate of 4 kw per hectare by 2030 set by the Government of India, he said.
The engineer said that increasing the reach of farm mechanization to small and marginal farmers and to the regions where availability of farm power is low is one of the main objectives of the mission. The state government is doing its best to provide benefits to the right beneficiaries.
Chief Coordinator of Yaiphakol Farmers’ Association, Mutum Phibou, Wangoi Imphal West, Laishram Joychandra said that the impact of climate change in crop cultivation was one of the toughest tasks. Manipur being one of the rainfed states, erratic rainfall pattern that is being witnessed over the past some years hugely affected crop production. Apart from this, increase of temperature increases the case of pest attack in the crop. To cope with the changing scenario, they had shifted to an integrated farming system from monocropping. They also started relying on some machines to ease their work.
Joychandra who bagged third best district level farmer award for the year 2021-2022 during State Level Krishi Mela-2022 organised by State Agricultural Management and Extension Training Institute, department of Agriculture, said that there are as many as 20 farmers in their association and producing crops in 25 acres of land. Before the establishment of this association, they suffered many inconveniences due to absence of adequate support from authorities concerned. With the formation of this group, they began to get some inputs like seeds, urea etc.
When asked about farm mechanization, he said that they have knowledge of various farming machines. Because of their inability to buy such equipment they continue to carry out most of the farming activities manually. But they started using machines that are commonly used in paddy cultivation namely tractor, rotavator and thresher on-hire.
He further said that not getting machines for hiring whenever required is one of the common issues faced by most of the farmers. This kind of condition makes them do their work without much satisfaction as agricultural activities are normally time bound. But finally, they stopped experiencing such inconveniences for the past one year.
After putting so much effort, they got a tractor in subsidy under the Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM) in 2021, he added and expressed that “just getting one tractor from the state government brings back all hope of continuing their crop cultivation.”
However, with the firm belief that using machinery in farming is one way to make agriculture sustainable, he bought rotavator and thresher with his own money without getting a single help from the state government.
“In other developed states and countries, vast change has been brought about in agricultural work. Various latest innovative technologies are being used to make farming activities. Like them, we would also like to use all such machines. Just using a tractor, we cannot call that our farming activities are mechanised. If the state government put more effort in promoting various agricultural tools and machines, we would be very grateful,” he stated while sharing his opinion of providing more than one equipment under SMAM.
He said paddy cultivation is no longer a profitable job as its production rate has been reducing compared to past years. But as rice is a staple food of the state, they continue to cultivate paddy and engage in fish farming to make up for the loss. After completion of rice cultivation as the main crop, they continue their activities with fish farming.
From pisciculture, they can earn more income than cultivation of vegetables as winter crops. As an impact of climate change, cases of pest infestation have been increasing from the past couple of years, he added while pointing out the reason for shifting land resources to other purposes due to climate change.
According to SMAM Operational Guidelines (12th five-year plan), farm power availability of Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and western part of Rajasthan are higher than the national average of 1.8kw per hectare. However, in the rest of the country, especially eastern and northeast regions, farm power availability is significantly low which necessitates promotion of farm mechanization as a special mission.