An Agricultural Tour through India for East African Farmers
Between September 20th, 2015 and September 28th, 2015 I, along with a group of farmers from all over Africa, had the opportunity to participate in an educational tour throughout India. It was planned by the East African Farmers Federation (EAFF) and supported by the FAO. We were guided by the Development Research Foundation through the beautiful states of Gujarat, Surat, and Punjab. During this tour we had the chance to witness a plethora of agricultural activities and were able to interact with Indian farmers. In the last sixty years, India has increased its food production by a striking 400%. In order to achieve this incredible growth, the country has had to make important changes to its agricultural production systems. With my colleagues from East Africa, it was our hope that we could learn what works in India, and hopefully, apply to other markets. On this trip, I found there were three important things I learned.
1. The Indian government invests heavily in agriculture
Agriculture and its related sectors are without question the largest livelihood provider in India (1). India ranks first in producing numerous agricultural products, such as fresh fruit, fennel, pulses, ginger, bananas, mangos, milk and so much more. While agricultural development in India is largely under the jurisdiction of each state, the Union Government plays a critical role in creating the policies that direct the growth of the industry. Furthermore, they are willing to invest economically in their farmers. A few examples of ways the government supports agriculture:
- Subsidizes up to 50% of the construction of greenhouses.
- Covers up to 75% of the insurance systems for milk production.
- Provides long term bank loans with some of the lowest interest rates (4-7%)
- Promotes traditional knowledge
- Supplies infrastructure in rural areas (roads, electricity etc.)
2. Extension Services are available to farmers.
While there are a number of definitions of extension services, the concept generally incorporates an informal education process in rural areas to improve livelihoods. Extension services in India are often performed by former university professors. These extension services are permanent and decentralized. In my opinion, they use very reliable information. The content of these programs can vary but can involve the promotion of farmer’s traditional knowledge (traditional medicine, local cow’s race, buffalos, etc.). Another important objective of extension services in India is to transfer latest technical know-how to farmers.
3. Farmers Cooperatives play an important role in Indian agriculture.
The National Cooperative Development Corporation was created in 1963 under the Ministry of Agriculture. This organization does the planning, promoting and financing programmes throughout the agricultural value chain for production (3). The goal is to add value to the agricultural sector and build the capacity of its members. It essentially acts as an advocacy group. This organization and its subsidiaries help provide jobs for citizens, particularly the poor and women. These farmers’ cooperatives are decentralized and as such provide a good, reliable and permanent service. An example of a service they can provide is to assist lower income members to get a loan to buy a cow or to provide agricultural inputs for rent reimbursable after harvesting, and techniques to keep and use them.
The Indian rural areas we visited are not very different from our own in East Africa, meaning many of the techniques they have developed can be integrated into our own methods in my home country Rwanda. I think there are three things lessons I would like to bring home:
- Emphasize frank collaboration.
- Focus on building reliable agricultural information and data.
- Begin integrating technology throughout the value chain.
I would like to extend my gratitude to the east African Farmers Federation for their efforts to help us improve our skills and knowledge base.
First Vice President
La fédération des organisations des agriculteurs de l ‘Afrique de l’est ()