North Eastern Region: Development Potential Of Activities Allied To Agriculture[Part-2]

By Dr. Amrit Patel: 

Sericulture: Sericulture is concentrated in some traditional pockets employing mostly poor families. Region’s contribution to the country’s total production of raw silk is about 6 %. However, its contribution in terms of Muga and seri production is more than 90%. Over 3.8 lakh families are engaged in sericulture farming alone with annual production of about 1063 metric tons. Region’s agro-climatic conditions are suitable for the development of sericulture which should, therefore, be developed as a major employment generating and income earning industry.

Vision 2020 document envisages bringing around 2.35 lakh hectares of wasteland under sericulture depending upon its suitability and raising sericulture production to 5063 metric tons by 2020. With more areas brought under sericulture and higher level of productivity and output, additional income generation for farmer families is expected to be of the order of more than Rs.580 crore from cultivation of eri and about Rs.1100 crores from Muga per annum by 2020.

Need: Strategy to achieve aims envisioned in the Vision document should, therefore, include

  • Central Silk Board, in collaboration with the States, and the NER Sericulture Development Mission should arrange to provide adequate financial resources on time and support services like training to farmers and their easy access to technology, modern grainages, and marketing of products etc.
  • Bringing additional area of 75,000 hectares by 2015 and 1.50 lakh hectares by 2020 that can increase production of 1,500 metric tons and 2,000 metric tons respectively and generate additional employment of 1.65 lakh man days and 2.75 lakh man days respectively
  • Promotion of indoor muga culture and integration of plantation and rearing of eri
  • Introducing inter-cropping i.e. cash crops and mulberry plantation
  • Setting up in each district two clusters of 200 hectares or 300 farmers by 2020
  • Strengthening the Specialized R & D facilities particularly for disease treatment in Muga and development of seed bank for both eri and muga.

Forest: Forest and the tribal population owe a symbiotic relationship. Their dependence upon forest is total, vital and significant suggesting that the traditional rights of the tribal people on forest have to be acknowledged. Region has forest cover accounting for 56.93% of reporting area as against country’s 22.83%. Government owned forest is around 65% whereas village communities, individuals and chiefs own the rest. The percentage of forest area is high in all states with highest in Arunachal Pradesh (93.75%) followed by Manipur (86.10%), Mizoram (76.79%), Tripura (57.78%), Nagaland (54.48%), Meghalaya (42.29%), Sikkim (39.35%) and Assam (24.62%). The region abounds many valuable minor forest products. Besides, Arunachal Pradesh alone has more than 500 species of aromatic and medicinal plants.

Need: Farmer-friendly forest policy accompanied by initiatives to completely arrest exploitative informal market system in operation can enhance growth of forest. Forest management policy initiative with full involvement of the local communities is necessary to efficient management of forest resources for sustainable development. Forest management calls for use of Information Technology and robust management information system. It is necessary to

  • Liberalize legal aspects to encourage community participation on the lines of JFMC of Tripura, Assam (Hojai) and Girijan Cooperative Corporation of Andhra Pradesh after evaluating these models and redesigning to meet with the needs of local people and
  • Establish a research centre of the national level Dehradun Forest Research Institute in NER on lines of ICAR.

Bamboo: NER is the largest bamboo reserve of India with 89 spices out of 126 under 16 genera in India. Bamboo, one of the fastest growing utility plants on the earth extends over an area of about 3.50 lakh hectares and accounts for about 66% of country’s bamboo resources. Small scale cultivation in the backyard of the homestead reflects the tradition for self-consumption. Plantation sustains 70% rural labour force of the region symbolizing an integral part of the cultural, social and economic traditions of the people. Bamboo handicrafts and cane are ubiquitous. Region’s potential for growth and significant opportunities for multiple commercial use of bamboo can transform NER into ‘Green Gold’. Efforts to add value to bamboo with primary processing at the village and community level and commercial processing at secondary level can substantially enhance family income of the rural population According to Cane and Bamboo Technology Centre [CBTC], the raw stock of bamboo conservatively valued stands at Rs.5,000 crores. Appropriate schemes seeking community participation and integrating with supplies of production inputs, technology, extension and marketing services can raise the annual turnover to Rs.10,000 crores for the region. An United Nations Industrial Development Organization (2002) survey puts the market potential for various bamboo based products as:

  1. Bamboo shoots at Rs.300 crores
  2. Structural material at Rs.725 crores
  3. Bamboo plywood at Rs.300 crores
  4.  Bamboo mat and bamboo- based handicrafts at Rs.500 crores . .

Need: In order to benefit large number of rural poor, it is necessary to evolve farmer friendly policy and execute programs for bamboo development. The CBTC under the NER Bamboo Mission can help [i] formulate bamboo development perspective plan for Twelfth Five Year Plan [2012-17] focusing on program components viz. scientific plantation, community participation, training, processing, handicraft-product development and marketing on a sufficiently large scale and [ii] State Governments implement it for sustained development of bamboo plantation for contributing to region’s socio-economic growth.

Implementation of the perspective plan in a mission mode seeking full participation of all stakeholders should aim at about 10% annual economic growth, raising the level of contribution of this sector to Gross State Domestic Product to more than 5%, generating around one million employment opportunities in bamboo related activities, enhancing family and community income with at least one member of a family getting full time employment throughout the year in the bamboo growing clusters. The strategic action plan, among others, includes

  • Raising planting material of selected species to make it available for a large scale plantation
  • Improving through training the technical and managerial skills of all those engaged at various levels in bamboo related activities
  • Creating product-specific SEZ in the region and
  • Creation of global export network for bamboo products particularly in relation to South East Asian markets.

Organic farming: Region has significant untapped potential for organic farming that can better be harnessed by encouraging farmers to practice organic farming. In this context the Union Ministry has initiated measures to promote organic farming in the region to take advantage of the growing international demand for organic foods. The ICAR has, also, aptly identified the need to establish a Quality Control Laboratory for the entire NER and an accredited agency for organic certification to tap the huge market opportunities in South and South-East Asian countries. Thus, in order to promote organic farming and tap export market in an organized way there is need to

  • train farmers, more importantly youths and women, in this specialized field
  • make required arrangement that can facilitate producers to access technology, inputs and market easily
  • put in place organic farming regulatory and development authority, organic farming certification system and agency in place in each State.

Part 1

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