Complete speech is on President’s website
Hill Agriculture for Prosperous Himachal Pradesh
I am delighted to be here and interact with the students and faculty of Chaudhary Sarwan Kumar Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Palampur. I take this opportunity to congratulate the University students for their academic performance. I greet the Vice Chancellor, Professors, teachers and staff for shaping the young minds to contribute to the development of Himachal Pradesh in agriculture, horticulture and dairy science. Dear graduates, when you go out of this university, the education and empowerment that you have received will be with you to meet any challenge. You will be a winner if you have a high aim, if you can sweat for achieving the aim and have indomitable spirit to overcome any problem you face in your life. I would like discuss with you on the topic? Hill Agriculture for Prosperous Himachal Pradesh?
Special Characteristics of High Altitude Agriculture
As you are aware, the high altitude agriculture has special problems pertaining to diverse climatic conditions, terrain, availability of water, connectivity, mobility, marketability and the stress to the flora and fauna. Keeping these characteristics in mind the agriculture scientists have to work on products which will have high value at low volume and weight, water harvesting, water storage system and efficient use of water, special farming such as green house for off season cultivation of crops. Also, the University must consider designing low cost high efficiency mechanized equipments which can be used by the farmers in the high altitude conditions. In this background, I would like to discuss some of the areas in which the University can directly help the farmers of Himachal Pradesh.
I understand that the University is concentrating on the technologies pertaining to rice, maize, pulses, oil seeds etc. These are mainly the food crops which can probably be consumed within the State wherever it is produced. Emphasis should be to make the State self-sufficient in food crops since the cost of transportation in the hills is high. While upgrading the technology, the University should not lose sight of traditional food crops and the traditional methods of their production. Any improvement must be a super imposition on the acceptable and affordable methods of the local farmers. The improved technology should reach the remote areas of the State inhabited by the tribal people through the research and the extension centres and Krishi Vigyan Kendra of the University. The University can also consider having model cultivation and demonstration cum training farm in these areas.
Himachal Pradesh has given the best variety of Potato to the country. The farmers are reluctant to grow these potatoes in inaccessible areas, as the capacity for transportation is limited by the head load or on animal. The University can consider conversion of high quality potato into processed products at the site of cultivation itself. Also, they can consider evolving low cost preservation and storage methods so that the farmers can store adequate quantity for market and their own use during off-season. The University may like to collaborate with Central Potato Research Institute of ICAR located in the State.
Mushroom cultivation and processing :
Himachal Pradesh offers ideal condition for growing export quality mushroom (Agaricus bisporus). The technology for production and processing of button mushroom has been demonstrated at Jhakri, Puh and Sumdo by DRDO laboratory. Many of the farmers are producing mushroom in their farms, however, they find difficulty in transporting to market centres due to limited shelf life of mushroom and non-availability of refrigerated containers/vehicles. Also there is inadequate provision for cold storage at the airports for this perishable commodity. The problem is further aggravated due to cancellation of flights owing to inclement weather. The University in collaboration with National Research Centre on Mushroom, ICAR, located in Himachal Pradesh, may carry out research to evolve certain varieties of mushroom with long shelf life.
With the diverse flora of Himachal Pradesh, bee keeping can be a profitable enterprise. Model bee keeping farms can be created by the University which can be emulated by the farmers. Also, the University can standardize and systematize its procedures in bee keeping and extraction of honey in hygienic environment. In addition, there are by-products like wax which could also be properly processed value added and marketed to make the bee keeping industry profitable for the farmers. There is a need to constantly carry out research on improving the productivity of the bee farms. This can be an employment generator for economically weaker section.
Another important wealth generator for Himachal is the multiplication of seeds of temperate vegetables (cabbage, cauli flower, knoll khol, radish, turnip, beetroot, brussela’s sprouts, carrot etc.). Large quantity of these seeds is being imported in the country. Emphasis is to be given on hybrid seed production. Farmers who are producing the seeds are getting very remunerative prices in the national and international market. Hence, I consider that there is a need for the University to carry out research on production of high quality hybrid seeds which can be produced by the farmers for export. They can also lay emphasis on off-season vegetable cultivation through green house farming and special storage methods. I understand that Himachal Pradesh is making some progress in producing special quality green tea. I would recommend a collaborative project on Tea between the University and the Institute of Himalayan Bio-Resource Technology of CSIR located close to the University. It may also be useful to find alternative use of Tea apart from a conventional beverage for providing higher value addition to the product and making it remunerative to the farmers.
Cultivable Waste Land Development
The total cultivable wasteland in Himachal Pradesh is about 1,23,000 hectares. We can use one-lakh acres of this area for Jatropha cultivation. Nearly one-lakh tonnes of bio-fuel can be produced in Himachal Pradesh. It will generate employment for around one lakh and ten thousand people. This will need setting up of 120 plants of 2500 tonnes of bio-fuel per annum capacity at a total cost of about Rs 75 crores. This will yield a total bio-fuel production turnover of nearly Rs 300 crore. The University in collaboration with CSIR institute works on cultivation of Jatropha in low altitude regions of the State. They can also consider having a model Jatropha extraction plant along with Jatropha cultivation for demonstration and training of farmers. Simultaneously, the University can work on cultivation of low calorie sugar producing plants like Stevia which could be a cash crop mission for the State.
In summary, for enhancing the quality and quantity of the agricultural products in Himachal Pradesh and enabling remunerative price to the farmers, it is essential to inject technological inputs to the farm by agricultural scientists through University research and extension services by training the farmers on the ground.
Challenges for Scientists
The challenges for the scientists and technologists would be in the areas of development of seeds that would ensure good yield even under constraints of water, diseases and pets. The challenges for the scientist is indeed a knowledge graduation from characterization of soil to the matching of the seed with the composition of the fertilizer, water management and evolving new pre-harvesting techniques for such conditions. The domain of farming would enlarge from production of grain and vegetable to processing of value added products and competitive marketing. E-marketing concepts may also be put into practice to provide farmers choices in selling. Some of the areas, which need focus, are: soil conservation and upgradation, rain water harvesting, dry land agriculture and cold and other stress resistant seeds.
ICT and Agriculture
ICT is a potent tool in various sectors of activities in public domain, and agriculture is no exception. Demand and supply monitoring of inputs, dissemination of technologies relevant to farming community through various organizations including universities, making available marketing information at grass root level are some of the usage of ICT in agriculture. Covering each and every farm family through village Panchayat knowledge centres, Internet and community radio should be the aim for greater usage of ICT. Successful models of effective communication to the farm community through the use of ICT accomplished in different states can be studied by the University for implementation in Himachal Pradesh.
Advances in science particularly in Biotechnology, Information Technology and Nano-technology are expected to bring a significant change in the agricultural growth trajectory. One of our core competences is biodiversity. India is one of the 12 mega-biodiversity centres of the world, with more than 12% of flora, 15% of fauna and 10% of aquatic biota. Biodiversity integrated with technology for developing a genetically engineered seed or transforming a molecule extracted from an herb into a drug, adds dramatic value that can be a wealth generator for the nation.
The Chaudhary Sarwan Kumar Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Palampur has to focus on research areas in agriculture and allied sciences to enable the farmers of Himachal Pradesh to achieve self-sufficiency in food grain production, produce high value low volume cash crops in the State beating the climatic challenges and promote animal husbandry. The focus should not be on more research alone. It should aim at creating wealth in a competitive commercial market.
I wish all the members of the Chaudhary Sarwan Kumar Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Palampur community success in their mission of contributing towards promotion of a happy, prosperous and peaceful Himachal Pradesh.
My best wishes to you all. May God bless you.