NATIONAL WORKSHOP on
Rethinking Economic Policies to Ensure Income Security in Agriculture
September 5th, 6th, 2013, 9.30am to 6.00pm
Venue: JNU Convention Centre, New Delhi
Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture – ASHA
(A national network of farmer groups, organizations and individuals working for the well-being of Indian agriculture and farming communities) &
Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA)
The Agrarian crisis in India has been well-recognized, but the fact that it is continuing over the past two decades shows that the policy responses that were ostensibly meant to address the crisis have been inadequate or misplaced. It is starkly evident that agriculture and related livelihoods have been consigned to a low priority corner in the overall economic policy framework. Considering that 55% of our population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood and that India is a democracy, highest priority should be given to strengthening livelihoods of agriculture-based communities.
The National Policy for Farmers 2007, in its very first chapter “Need for Policy Reorientation”, says, “There is a need to focus more on the economic well-being of the farmers, rather than just on production… The aim of the Policy is, therefore, to stimulate attitudes and actions which should result in assessing agricultural progress in terms of improvement in the income of farm families, not only to meet their consumption requirements but also to enhance their capacity to invest in farm related activities.” This much-needed policy reorientation to focus on the economic well-being of farmers has not happened yet, and this is where the major challenge lies.
While some policymakers have emphasized that a large section of population needs to move out of agriculture, we should keep a few points in mind. (a) The reality of the past two decades shows that the other sectors have not created viable employment opportunities of a scale that can absorb even a small section of the agrarian population (even in the boom period of 2004-2009, only 2 million additional employment has been generated in the entire economy while 55 million have joined the workforce). Much of the migration out of agriculture is distress migration into insecure hazardous employment such as construction industry. (b) It has been demonstrated that small-holder agriculture has its own efficiencies in terms of input-use, family labour and capacity for diverse production, which have significant advantages over large-scale agriculture in the Indian context. (c) Widespread ecological problems related to soil fertility, excess chemical usage and groundwater depletion have shown that the path of large scale, heavily-mechanized, chemical intensive farming is disastrous for India.
While the debate continues over what is the desirable proportion of population engaged in agriculture, we need to accept the reality that in the near future, a few hundred million people will continue to depend on agriculture and related activities (including livestock, agro-forestry, processing and value addition). Therefore, ensuring sufficient incomes for these families, including small farmers, tenant farmers, agricultural workers and livestock-rearers, should be a clear national priority. This is an essential element to ensure diversification of rural livelihoods, and to achieve other national priorities such as food and nutrition security, food sovereignty, poverty reduction, rural employment and sustainable urbanization.
Policymakers, academic experts, farmer organizations and civil society groups need to come together to conduct a deep examination of how the current economic policies are falling short of addressing the agrarian crisis and how they should be reoriented to ensure secure livelihoods in agriculture and related activities.
Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) invites your engagement in this process, and participation in the National Workshop on “Rethinking Economic Policies to Ensure Income Security in Agriculture” on Sept. 5th and 6th in New Delhi.
The participants will include leading members of agriculture policy-making institutions, academic experts, Members of Parliament, farmer union leaders, policy analysts and civil society organizations. ASHA hopes that the substantive discussions in this workshop will help generate an urgent national debate on the future of Indian agriculture and the need to reorient public policy and build the necessary political will.
The first quarter of the workshop will focus on the declining priority of agriculture in the national policies, and why and how to raise agricultural livelihoods to a high priority. The second and third quarters will have theme-wise sessions covering important aspects such as ensuring remunerative prices, agricultural credit and insurance, analyzing and recasting subsidies, agricultural labour and tenant farmers, support to sustainable models of agriculture, and an income policy for farming community. The final quarter will be an in-depth panel discussion on how to ensure income security for agricultural households and how to make it a national priority.
By bringing sound academic analysis as well as experience with ground realities of farmers into the discussions, we hope that the workshop will contribute towards a future agenda for policy-makers and farmers’ organizations.
As the National Commission on Farmers stated, “There is a need to focus more on the economic well-being of the farmers, rather than just on production. The aim of the Policy is, therefore, to stimulate attitudes and actions which should result in assessing agricultural progress in terms of improvement in the income of farm families, not only to meet their consumption requirements but also to enhance their capacity to invest in farm related activities.”
Dr. G. V. Ramanjaneyulu
Co-convenor, ASHA, and Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
Day 1 Part I
Making Agricultural Livelihoods a National Priority
(1) Dimensions of Agrarian Crisis and Underlying Policies
(2) Public Investments in Agriculture
(3) Prioritizing Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods in macro-economic framework, national policies and development commitments
Day 1 Part II
(1) Ensuring Remunerative Prices
· Pricing Policy, implementation of support prices and other policies such as trade that impact agricultural prices
· Making markets work for small farmers
(2) Agricultural Credit and Insurance
· Agricultural Credit – who is benefiting and what reforms are needed
· Making insurance work for small farmers & tenant farmers, including in rainfed areas
Day 2 Part I
Theme-wise Sessions (contd.)
(3) Disadvantaged Sections within Farming Community
· Situation of Agricultural workers and Landless in the agrarian crisis
· Issues of Tenant Farmers and Women Farmers
(4) Support to Sustainable Models of Agriculture
· Reorienting support systems and promotion for models that are low in input-cost, ecologically sustainable, suitable for rainfed areas
· Analyzing subsidies, who is benefiting, and recasting subsidies
Day 2 Part II
Ensuring Income Security for Agricultural Households and How to make it a National Policy Priority
· Presentation by ASHA
· PANEL DISCUSSION with eminent economists and policymakers
Way Forward: How the process from this workshop can be taken forward