Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Ploughing Ahead- exploring Nagaland’s agriculture potential

Nestled in the heart of the northeast region, with breath-taking landscapes, flourishing forests, undulating peaks, enchanting valleys, and rapidly flowing rivers, Nagaland is a place of tremendous mystique, and beneath its picturesque beauty lies a thriving agriculture sector that forms the backbone of the state’s economy.
Thanks to the diverse agro-climatic conditions, the state has immense potential for cultivating a wide variety of crops such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, plantation crops, spices, tuber crops, and mushrooms. Furthermore, its proximity to southeast Asian states and emergence as a popular tourist destination within the North East region makes it an ideal hub for export and meeting the domestic demand for exotic fruits and vegetables like dragon fruit, broccoli, kale, zucchini, asparagus, and more. The state has great potential for growth and development in its agriculture sector besides contributing to the nutritional security of the people and is poised to make a significant contribution to India’s agricultural landscape in the years to come.
Horticultural crops are eco-friendly, and comparatively less fertile soils and wastelands can also be brought under production with proper management. In addition, they offer more scope for value addition, especially as finished products such as squash, juices, jams, jellies, pickles, dried fruits, etc.
To promote and facilitate the development of this sector, the government has initiated various schemes such as The Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) which is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme implemented from 2014-15 for the holistic development of horticulture in the country.
Under this scheme, the government aims to expand the area under cultivation, establish new orchards and gardens, and promote protected cultivation such as poly-house and green-house. The scheme also encourages organic farming and certification, the creation of water resource structures and watershed management, and beekeeping for pollination.
Various other schemes such as the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD-NER), and the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) have been working to the same effect.
With a large portion of the state covered with hills, there are transportation and connectivity issues, particularly during monsoons. To overcome these challenges the government has undertaken various steps including infrastructure development, to improve air, rail, road, waterway, power, and telecom connectivity.
One such initiative is the Prime Minister’s Development Initiative for North East Region (PM-DevINE) Scheme, announced as a new Central Sector Scheme in the Union Budget 2022-23. The scheme has a total outlay of Rs. 6,600 crores for the four-year period from 2022-23 to 2025-26. The scheme aims to fund infrastructure convergently in the spirit of PM Gati Shakti, which is the national master plan for multi-modal Connectivity that will bring 16 Ministries including Railways and Roadways together-for integrated planning and coordinated implementation of infrastructure connectivity projects, and support social development projects based on the felt needs of the North Eastern Region (NER), enable livelihood activities for youth and women, and fill the development gaps in various sectors.
Recognizing the importance of capacity building and helping the farmers get the correct price for their goods, the government has been working to develop optimum information channels like apps or radio services. In addition, there has also been a focus on training and educating the farmers on new and advanced ways of production, by conducting training sessions and taking them on farm visits highlighting success stories.
The challenging terrain and low purchasing power of the farmers have hindered mechanization in the state with people still resorting to traditional ways of cultivation such as the terrace/ wet terrace rice cultivation along with settled jhum farming, in which farms are created on slopes of 30-60 degrees without proper paths for agricultural machinery like Power Tillers to move from one field to another. This makes mechanization difficult and discourages farmers from pursuing it. To address this issue, it is necessary to promote the construction of Power Tiller routes connecting all terraces, with a minimum span of 4 to 6 feet, to allow for the smooth transfer of power tillers between fields and lift the produce from fields to villages.
In line with the prime minister’s mission of doubling farmers’ income, the state has tremendous potential for diversifying the agricultural income of its people, leveraging its diverse climate conditions, and fully utilizing its abundant resources through various sectors. These sectors include apiculture, sericulture, livestock farming, dairy farming, fisheries, aquaculture, bamboo, coconut, and organic farming.
Apiculture has significant potential in Nagaland due to its diverse vegetation and climatic conditions with high rainfall, which allows for the continuous blooming of flowers throughout the year, providing a steady source of nectar for bees.
The state has the potential to produce 10,000 Mt of honey and 10 Mt of wax. And since there is a huge market for honey and honey-related products domestically and internationally, with more than 50% of the honey produced in India being exported to 83 countries, with much emphasis on it being a healthy alternative to refined sugar, it will significantly add to the farmers’ income.
Silk farming is another traditional activity in the state, with the government promoting the sericulture sector through various initiatives such as the North Eastern Region Textiles Promotion Scheme (NERTPS), Under which, more than 1000 women stakeholders have been trained in the art of silk reeling and weaving and 38 Sericulture projects are being implemented in the north east region with a total project cost of Rs.1,107.90 crore, which will help the people expand beyond agriculture and help capture new high-value markets. Being a labour-intensive industry, providing livelihood to more than 9.76 million people and the textile sector expected to see huge growth, it has the potential for much greater employment generation.
Livestock farming, dairy farming and fisheries, and aquaculture are also potential areas for diversification in Nagaland, given the numerous water bodies in the state.
We know that bamboo holds the potential to solve the problems of safe, economical, and eco-friendly infrastructure, and has a multitude of uses, from agricultural tools and implements to shelter food, energy, and medicinal treatments, besides providing integrated development for millions below the poverty line. The government is also focusing on bamboo cultivation through the National Bamboo Mission, with 208 product development and processing units established under the mission in the northeast region, including 25 in Nagaland.
Coconut plantations are also suitable in the sub-tropical foot-hill belts of Nagaland, with the government forming the Coconut Development Board to focus on increasing productivity and product diversification. The board has identified around 15000 hectares of land in seven districts of the state suitable for coconut plantations.
Finally, the government is also taking various steps to promote the organic farming sector in the state for capitalizing on the high market prices and export potential of organic goods. Since a majority of the farmers follow traditional agriculture practices, Nagaland’s land is largely organic by default due to the minimal use of fertilizers and pesticides.
To further promote this sector, the government has launched a Central Sector Scheme named “Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region” (MOVCDNER) that aims at the development of certified organic production in a value chain mode to link growers with consumers and to support the development of entire value chain starting from inputs, seeds, certification, and creation of facilities for collection, aggregation, processing, marketing, and brand building initiatives.
For the majority of the people in the state, agriculture is their main source of income. It is a way of life that is deeply ingrained in the culture and traditions of the populace. It also acts as the state’s economic engine and contributes significantly to the GDP of the state each year. So, for any intended socio-economic development of the State, agriculture must be the main driver of developmental operations.
With India’s current G20 presidency and the government’s continued efforts to drive growth and create prosperity in the state, the upcoming conference on Opportunities for Multilateral Business Partnerships in Agriculture, Food Processing, IT, and Tourism, in Kohima, Nagaland is a significant step by the government.
India has a wealth of natural resources, including its terrain, biodiversity, forest cover, and fertile soil, which presents a perfect chance for the country to become a global centre for Agro processing.
Full capitalization and development of the agriculture sector are key to achieving this goal which will require the need to fire on all fronts and involve all participants of the supply chain, from farmers to industry players and the government has been working as a facilitator to this exact effect, with events such as the upcoming B20 conference providing the perfect stage for all players to come together and collaborate to boost private sector investments and raise farmers and consumers understanding.
By continuing to promote and invest in this sector we’ll see tremendous growth and prosperity in the northeast region in the years to come.
By- Rupa Dutta (Senior Adviser, DPIIT) and Hemendra Chauhan (Consultant, DPIIT)


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