Expedient Tool for Sustainable Agriculture in Himachal Pradesh - Diversification
Authors: Dr Madhu Patial and Neha Sharma

In India, agriculture is the largest livelihood generating activity. The green revolution made its impact in making country self sufficient in cereals, but due to increasing population demand and changing climatic conditions these crops can’t support the stable economic development of the country alone. Hence diversification within and between crop is the demand of the hour. Himachal Pradesh, the Northern hilly state of the country, has vivid topography and climate providing good opportunity for diversification. About seventy percent of the people of the state are farmers, but agriculture accounts for only 18.8% of the gross state domestic product. The low agriculture productivity partly attributes to the fact that the area available for growing crops is limited to 10% of the total land of the state, due to the hilly terrain, thus more than 80% of the farmers are marginal and small landholders with less than 2.0 ha. Also, only 20% of the cultivable area has irrigation facilities, and the rest has rain-fed cultivation. Thus majority of the farmers in the state remain engaged in traditional cultivation of food grains, not being able to divert to more profitable commodities, such as vegetables and fruits. In order to boost the agricultural development and enhance the farm income in the rural areas, it is therefore important to increase the productivity of the existing cultivated area, through shifting from self-subsistence crop cultivation to diversified agriculture. Now the agriculture is fast transforming itself from a supply-driven to a demand-demand scenario. For state like Himachal Pradesh the main objectives of diversification are: the upliftment of the living conditions of small holder farmers, provide them employment and conservation of the natural resources.

The divergent favorable climatic conditions can facilitate diversified land use system in Himachal Pradesh. Since, farm income supports fewer family members in the state, diversification can help families to undergo farming successfully. In addition to agriculture, the land may be utilized for horticulture, forestry, vegetables etc. The diversification area that can be looked for can be following in the state:

  1. Cultivating pulses and oilseeds : In Himachal Pradesh, wheat, maize and rice are the dominating crops and the pulse production has decreased considerably in the past. Pulse prices are elevating high, therefore, by focusing on pulse and oilseed crops farmers can get more price. Cultivation of pluses can not only increase the soil fertility but also decreases the nitrogenous fertilization requirement thereby decreasing the cost of cultivation of the next crop.
  2. Vegetable and fruit cultivation: Fruits and vegetables considered as ‘high value’ crops have registered an increase share in the agricultural commodity market of the country. These commodities are being considered as engine of agricultural growth in the country. Since past, the share of fruits and vegetables has increased considerably in Himachal Pradesh. The adoption of fruit and vegetable culturing will uplift the livelihood of the farmers. The prices of fruits and vegetables have increased consistently. In Himachal Pradesh, fruits and vegetables account for as high as 36 percent of agricultural output. Taking the advantage of the climatic condition of Himachal Pradesh and access to market, farmers can diversify themselves by adopting vegetables and fruits as they fetch more price than cereals. Studies have shown that farmers can harvest ten times more profit by intensive vegetable cultivation than cereal crops.
  3. Cash crops : Initially, diversification was used in the sense of growing many crops in a farm. But in the recent decade, diversification is increasingly being used to describe increase in area under high value and cash crops. Himachal Pradesh has such a congenial environment that the cultivation of cash crops will be a boon. Cash crops like potatoes, ginger, garlic, cabbage, cauliflower, pea and off season vegetables can be taken by the farmers. The cultivation of these crops can make a significant impact on levels of household income and employment.
  4. Value added Processing : With jobs in agriculture rapidly decreasing in rural areas of the state, employment possibilities in agri-food processing tend to be particularly relevant. In rural areas, agri-food processing may be attractive to agricultural persons that look for employment outside the shrinking primary production and could serve as both an alternative and an additional income source.
  5. Market : Apart from satisfying the need of family the agricultural produce should be market worthy with regard to quantity and quality. Marketing is probably the most important consideration when contemplating new crops. Since the state is near to the country capital so, Himachal Pradesh can attract largest consumer market of the country. Hence, measures can be taken to maintain the quantity of grain production. Supplying farm produce directly to processor and end user is important for diversification. Moreover, the produce should be competitive at national and international market

With the increasing population pressure accompanied by decrease in arable land, the need to enhance yield and quality will be a primary task for agriculture in Himachal Pradesh. The use of new crop varieties or commodities, accompanied with diversifying the resources can be used to manage these issues. But since diversification requires initial capital and credit facilities therefore lot of problems for diversifying the agricultural holdings arises:

  1. Small and fragmented land holding alongwith rainfed cultivation is the main hurdles for diversification in Himachal Pradesh. Therefore cluster approach for diversification is required.
  2. Lack of knowledge about different schemes launched by the government is the other hurdle for adopting the diversification approach. Farmers are also not aware of the market trend and demand scenario.
  3. Lack of facilities like processing, grading, packing, cold storage etc. also come in way for undertaking diversification.
  4. Development of agro-processing and agribusiness would be a necessary condition for promoting of agri-diversification and proper support by government is imperative.
Due to diversification, the state has emerged as a leading producer of fruits and off-season vegetables in the country and a model of agricultural development for other hill and mountainous states to follow. Since diversification requires appropriate credit for input purchasing so, different Schemes like Himachal Pradesh Crop Diversification Promotion Project, Dr. Y. S. Parmar Kisan Swarozgar Yojna, Special Project on Diversification of Agriculture through Micro Irrigation and Other Related Infrastructure in H.P., National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture etc. have been started by government to support the farmers. The indispensable need for development of not only appropriate farm production technology, but also processing and marketing technology is required. However, for bringing about a rapid development of diversification in the agriculture sector of the district, it is necessary that institutional changes should be brought about.

About Author / Additional Info:
ICAR -IARI, RS, Shimla (Himachal Pradesh)