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Steps for well-being of the next generation of farmers mooted

Short Content: 

A three-day seventh edition of Sustainable Mountain Development Summit, representing about a dozen Himalayan states, was held at Shoolini University to discuss issues relating to the well-being of the future generation of farmers in the region. 

A three-day seventh edition of Sustainable Mountain Development Summit, representing about a dozen Himalayan states, was held at Shoolini University to discuss issues relating to the well-being of the future generation of farmers in the region. 

The recommendations of the Summit which was attended by delegates from about a dozen states in the Himalayan region were subsequently presented before a Conclave of Chief Ministers and Ministers of these states at Shimla. 

next generation of farmers

Union Minister of Agriculture, Radha Mohan Singh, Union minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, Himachal Pradesh CM Jai Ram Thakur along with CMs of other Himalayan states were present at the Conclave.

The summit was organised by Centre of Research on Himalayan Sustainability and Development of Shooloni University and Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI) with support from Himachal Pradesh Government.

Vice Chancellor Prof P. K. Khosla in his welcome address set the tone of the Summit by advocating that since Himalayan forests conserve the ecosystem and life pattern downstream, its eco-economic conservation should be the national priority. 

The Summit was inaugurated by Mahender Singh Thakur, Irrigation and Horticulture Minister Himachal Pradesh. Speaking on the occasion, he said that there were several challenges faced by farmers and horticulturists in the Himalayan region. He pointed out that they faced frequent natural calamities particularly due to climate change. Besides, the wild animal menace, especially monkeys, has forced some farmers to drastically change their cropping patterns or even abandon farming. 

Former Chief Secretary, Himachal Pradesh, Mr Vineet Chaudhary, who was the guest of honour, said that the Himalayan region was facing serious problems and we must get to the root causes behind agricultural distress. 

The President of Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI), Mr Sushil Ramola emphasised that the next generation of farmers will have different expectation from agriculture and would redefine agriculture.

Mr Eklabya Sharma, Deputy Director General, ICIMOD-Nepal said that Hindu-Kush Himalayas are a global asset with four out of total 36 global biodiversity hotspots. He said that we need to move from the perspective of vulnerability to adaptability to sustain the Himalayan Biodiversity.

Mr Mustafa Khan, Project Leader, Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Programme, Swiss Development Corporation, Switzerland was of the view that sheer diversity of crops in the mountain regions is one of the biggest strengths of mountain agriculture. 

The inaugural session was followed by a series of penal discussions. Devinder Sharma, a noted Food policy analyst and writer presented the keynote address on “Ecological drivers of change”. He was of the view that our policies have for long not given due emphasis to the farmers’ economic and social vulnerability. He said there was a need for a Farmers’ Income Commission so as to ensure a minimum level of income for farmers. The session was moderated by Prof Tej Partap, Vice Chancellor, APG University, Shimla. 

The keynote address on session on “Social drivers of change” was presented by Mr. Alemtemshi Jamir, a former Chief Secretary of Nagaland and Mr Ramesh Negi, former Chief Secretary of Arunachal Pradesh. Mr. Jamir emphasized four major aspects for agriculture growth like specialization, mechanization, modernization and legalization. He also said that like industrial start-ups a special attention to agriculture startups would go a long way in promoting sustainable agriculture. Mr. Ramesh Negi was of the view that people would be there in agriculture either by choice or by compulsion. The need, however, is to make agriculture viable for people engaged in it.

Another technical session was held on “Economic drivers of change” in which the keynote speaker was Dr S L Mehta, former DDG, ICAR. The session was moderated by Pro Vice Chancellor of Shoolini University Prof Atul Khosla. The key issues raised by the moderators were that there are too many variables involved in the demand and supply balancing equations in agriculture. 

It was also felt that there was a need for a National Mission for Himalayan region. Further the panel also emphasized the need for finding out ways to soft finance the Himalayan infrastructure development in the entire Himalayan region.

Another issue discussed related to big business houses in mountain development especially agriculture; may be by their involvement in specialized infrastructure from production to marketing. 

The panel was of the opinion that there was no-one-size-fits-all-solution and also that rather than controls, move to incentivisation was the need.

The deliberations were also marked by a special session in which about fifteen young agri-preneurs and NGOs representatives presented their success stories in building the new Himalaya by harnessing its biodiversity.

Speaking at the valedictory function of the Summit, Himachal minister for Social Justice, Empowerment and Cooperation Dr Rajiv Saizal said that the recommendations made at the Summit would be studied by the state government for implementation. He said that Himalayan region, which is spread over eight countries, must be preserved for future generations.

The seventh SMDS ended with a hope and determination that the next generation youth will play the pivotal role in conserving the Himalayan states into the Switzerland of the modern India by protecting its ecology along with multifold increase in income by integrating productivity with processing units and product development from its wild resources along with conservation of its ecology and social values.  It was also called upon to create on the lines of apple cultivation several other success stories suiting the different agro climatic zones of the ten Himalayan states and hill districts of Darjeeling and Assam.

In the end it was also recommended that integrated mountain initiative should also play the key role of a coordinator between the Himalayan people and the Indian Government so that the region gets its due share also from national exchequer when it is mandatory for the Himalayan States to protect sixty six per cent forest area for the conservation of the Indo Gangatic plains and Brahamputra basin.  The remaining one third constituting community lands is today denuded and unproductive.  There is urgency to upgrade it for meeting the local bio resource needs of the Himalayan people.  The seventh Sustainable Mountain Development Summit ended with a note looking for unequivocal partnership between all Himalayan people, its political and administrative heads and the Government of India for the prosperity of the entire nation.