Many experts do not seem to know the ground realities that affect a farmer
Personal experience remains the best teacher.
“Today several book experts claim to know the answer for solving agriculture crises. Many officials are interested in pushing their projects in the government than for farmers’ welfare. Some are foreign educated and do not seem to know the ground realities,” says Mr. Avaran, from Malappuram, Kerala, who developed a low cost new micro sprinkler, from micro tubes, a kerosene lamp, and an old razor blade.
He developed the cost-effective sprinkler by fusing one end of a 3 cm long micro tube and making an incision just below the fused end. The half circle jets of water produced can be used for any crops, according to him.
“International talks on improving production in the country hold no significance when there are practically no fields left for cultivation. You cannot compare India with any western countries in terms of crop yield or farmers’ income. There are many things lacking for a farmer here,” he says.
“The low yield and income from my two-acre field due to acute water shortage and the high cost of available irrigation products in the market made me think of a cost-effective alternative,” says the farmer.
The biggest obstacle in using drip or sprinkler irrigation by small farmers is the high cost involved in setting them up in the fields, according to him.
Though the government promotes irrigation technologies by encouraging private manufacturers, spreading awareness through the Departments of Horticulture and Agriculture by introducing subsidy schemes, they are not popular among the small farmers, according to Mr. Avaran.
Require certain skill
Farmers need a certain degree of skill to operate and maintain an irrigation system. The dealers, after installing the system, must follow up with the farmer, but this rarely happens.
“Often after setting up the unit, dealers don’t care to even come back to attend to any complaints. The common excuse is that the villages are often remote and inaccessible.
“But how is it the villages become accessible when a payment for installing the system needs to be collected?” asks the farmer.
Today, many of the irrigation devices are sophisticated and investments are high for installing them. Big farmers (5-10 acres) can afford to install them but for poor illiterate small farmers such an investment is out of question.
A conventional irrigation system requires an expert to install it, leaving most illiterate farmers out of the process, seems to be his view.
“Whether it is a sprinkler or drip system it should be simple to use and easily operable. It works better if a farmer can set it up and manage it himself.
“The government must understand that irrigation does not mean a routine task of watering crops. In India and other developing countries, it is a social activity motivating human involvement,” stresses Mr. Avaran.
Fails to use
“The government does not make use of the creative mind of a farmer,” he alleges. “The most glaring flaw is the public distribution system that blindly encourages farmers to take up rice cultivation even in areas where water is scarce.
“Our policy makers and experts must be willing to learn practical lessons from grass roots farmers instead of following textbook theories,” he stresses.
Although the government of India promotes drip irrigation, the present system only encourages large-scale operations, leaving small farmers out of the picture.
Much of India’s cultivable area is fed on rainwater, which leaves farmers vulnerable to drought. Proper irrigation techniques can effectively enable a farmer in dry areas to profit, according to him.