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Editorial

Crops and commerce

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By EMN Updated: Oct 25, 2013 9:44 pm
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[dropcap]P[/dropcap]arliamentary Secretary for agriculture, Dr Benjongliba Aier, recently emphasized that the “way forward” is to stop treating agriculture as a development project, and also to stop implementing isolated projects that do not clearly develop the sector in a well-structured and measurable way. He also stressed that agriculture should be treated as a business. Towards this end, Nagas should focus on creating jobs, wealth and food security. Perhaps, next to water without which nothing can survive, food follows in importance for existence.Dr Aier observed that in Nagaland, agriculture is more restricted to small farms with land holdings of less than two acres. However, to do away fully with traditional farming and shifting to modern farming with larger cultivation would require more than the theoretical aspects. It may not be possible always to use machinery in farming considering that major part of the Naga Hills with steep slopes is suited better for manual labour, and even profitable albeit in a smaller degree.
Like most of other N-E States, Nagaland is also characterized by different terrain, wide variation in altitude, slope, land tenure system and cultivation systems. Yet Nagaland is beautified by terraced cultivation and even farming of other numerous crops depending on what the soil provides. Some soil is good for certain crops while others are good for other crops and a few are good for almost all kinds of varieties. Of course, it all depends whether the land used for agricultural purposes is situated on hill slopes or on plateaus or in the plains.
A famous British Field Marshall, Sir William Slim, who commanded the Allied Forces in the Burma Campaign during World War Two, wrote in Defeat into Victory that the character of a people largely depends on the type of land they have inhabited for the past 400 to 500 years. His observation was based on the premise that the people depend and survive on what type of food the land provides them for sustenance and by extension, for defence and also development through a viable economy.
Since the land feeds the people (like a mother her child), all nations but one call it their “Motherland” and the people call themselves “sons of the soil” and for which they are prepared to sacrifice their lives in the face of war or other great dangers like natural disasters to help save their brethren and land. When grown up, a child may even walk out of home and parents. But what mother would ever forget the little baby she gave birth to, breast-fed it and held on her lap? From this, patriotism is naturally understood.
Agriculture, therefore, is the science or art of cultivating the soil, growing and harvesting crops, and rearing livestock. The art of making land more productive is practised throughout the world—in some areas by methods not far removed from the conditions of several thousands of years ago and in other areas, with the aid of science and mechanization, as a highly commercial type of endeavour. Agriculture still drafts into its service more of the world’s aggregate manpower than all other occupations combined.
Agricultural sciences are the sciences dealing with farm production, including soil cultivation, water control, crop growing and harvesting, animal husbandry, the processing of plant and animal products, engineering, economics, and other related matters. The agricultural industry that is the focus of study includes farming, concerned with making or supplying machinery, buildings, fertilizers, and pesticides; and the first purchasers of farm products, such as processors, distributors, and marketing boards.
Today, most sovereign countries have practical courses and extension (that is, farmers’ advisory) services and at least one university with a faculty of agriculture, teaching such subjects as biochemistry, physics and agro-meteorology, soil science, engineering, botany, crop physiology, animal physiology and nutrition, genetics, entomology, plant and animal pathology, farming methods, human nutrition, and food processing.
Applied statistics and operational mathematics (for example, linear programming of least-cost livestock, rations) are essential research tools for these disciplines and permit a quantitative intellectual rigour that enables agricultural science to contribute to the basic natural and social sciences as much as it receives from them.
Nagaland is fortunate that we have Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Complex for North-East Hills Region at Nagaland Centre, Jharnapani, Medziphema. This institute has since the 1970s been researching into how for instance, the vast agricultural land around it could be used for a sort of double production. That is how through trial and error, its researchers came up with some species of pisci-culture the most recent harvest being that of “Grass Carp” and “Rohu” bred under water tanks below cultivated paddy fields. Earlier, they used to harvest “Silver Carp” also. These harvested fish are more for research and by no means compete with the fish from Doyang. Indeed, commuters going to Kohima can see the fields on their right and those going to Dimapur can see on their left.
Besides this, the ICAR has also ventured into research for organic production of various crops and fruits and silk. Its affiliate Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) located at Dimapur has also come up with “Jalkund” advocating low cost rain water and harvesting culture through scientific means. Needless to say, the ICAR has qualified and dedicated researchers who are rendering yeoman’s service not only to the region but to overall science as a whole.
Then too, we have the School of Agricultural Sciences and Rural Development (SASRD) at Medziphema town itself. It is affiliated to the Nagaland University (NU). SASRD is colloquially called Agri College also. It had about a week ago, concluded its three-day “Naga Kheti Mela” (literally meaning Naga Agricultural Fair) at which valedictory function Dr Benjongliba Aier had advocated the pros (and not cons) of agri business. The Naga Kheti Mela has reportedly motivated farmers to adopt new technology in farming while equipping them to improvise their traditional methods of farming so that they can increase their production and also compete with others in this modern technological world. What is notable is that the maximum participant farmers came all the way from Tuensang, Kiphire and Wokha.
One relevant, and encouraging, aspect in the Nagaland agri sector is that since the last few years, the concerned department has also made provisions for acquiring required land and construction of APMC (Agricultural produce marketing centre) at the district HQs and a few other selected places where they can receive various agricultural products and store them even in refrigerators where necessary.
As of now, places where crops are produced on a large scale like for instance, Chobama Village near Pfutsero in Phek District, pack the potatoes and cabbages onto Tata or Mahindra mobile trucks and which are then transported to Dimapur and disposed of wholesale.. However, the two crops are basically seasonal and subject to pilferage en route.
The Government has also been maintaining agri link roads so that at this harvesting season, trucks can go right up to the terraced fields and load thus saving much manual labour uphill.
All these efforts for “Sustainable Agricultural Development!”

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By EMN Updated: Oct 25, 2013 9:44:38 pm