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North Eastern Region: Development Potential Of Activities Allied To Agriculture[Part-1]

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By Dr. Amrit Patel: 

The North East Region [NER] comprises eight states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. In the region agricultural land including fallow was significantly less at 22.20% than that of 54.47% in India in 2004-05. However, it varied considerably among States, exhibiting that agricultural land was higher in Assam (37.43%), Nagaland (29.45%) and Tripura (26.86%) than that of NER [22.20%] and lower in Sikkim (21.72%), Meghalaya (19.15%), Mizoram (15.76%), Manipur (12.14%) and lowest in Arunachal Pradesh (4.40%). Similarly, among agricultural labourers concentration of poor was the highest in Meghalaya (28.8%), followed by Assam (20.7%) and Tripura (16.3%) presenting the problem of surplus labour and low wage rate in the agricultural labour market. As compared to this, concentration was very low in Sikkim (7.9%), Arunachal Pradesh (2.7%), Manipur (1.2%), Mizoram and Nagaland (negligible) where labour scarcity and high wage rates are often experienced. This article briefly highlights the potential for development of activities allied to agriculture and suggests policy initiatives and programs to create and expand development opportunities for a large number of rural households and productively utilize human capital in gainful employment to generate income and contribute to region’s growth.

Animal husbandry is an important economic activity particularly in the hilly areas. Almost all the people in NER being non-vegetarian there exists a vast market for meat and eggs. However, production does not keep pace with demand. The region is deficient by nearly 50 % in milk and over 87% in eggs. The net result has been import from outside and subsequent out-go of substantial funds. The anticipated requirement of these items is expected to rise by 2.5% annually by 2020. This calls for putting in place organized efforts to develop animal husbandry as a commercially viable activity that can create employment for a significant number of households and generate income.

Vision document envisions by 2015 and 2020 [i] exotic cattle to be raised to 15% and 20% [ii] pigs to 45% and 50% [iii] meat production to 22,447 tons and 22,674 tons [iv] Milk production to 1.75 million tons and 2.00 million tons [v] egg production to 2,015 million and 3,500 million respectively. This program of increase in production would aim at creating additional 30,000 direct and one lakh indirect employment.

Need: To achieve the envisioned goals of the Vision document plans can be formulated on cluster basis involving participants as beneficiaries in the form of Self-Help-Groups. A five year perspective plan should be prepared in close coordination with the local office of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development which has country-wide experience. This plan then can be implemented in each of the five years as Annual Action Plan after annual review and revising it to meet with emerging needs. The perspective plan should, inter alia, incorporate development aspects, viz.

  • Development of livestock, piggery and poultry as business enterprises on scientific lines under the guidance of technically qualified personnel on an area specific program
  • Establishment of cattle and pig breeding farms and hatcheries for poultry birds at strategic locations in each State with tested exotic and selected indigenous breed for production and supply of cross breed animals
  • Equipping each block with adequate infrastructure to facilitate quick transport of cross bred animals and poultry birds
  • Establishment of at least one abattoir at strategic location in each district
  • Putting in place efficient veterinary and health care system in each block initially and subsequently in selected villages to guarantee timely vaccination cover and disease diagnostic services
  • Promotion of feed industry using feed ingredients from local resources with a distribution village-wise network
  • Training of SHGs of farmers and reputed NGOs in capacity building and scientific management of livestock and poultry birds
  • The Milk Village Model of SitaJakhala Milk Producers Cooperative Society, Morigaon district in Assam can be evaluated in detail and considered for replication in few districts in each State with necessary changes in consultation with local people to suit their needs. In fact, every three years impact studies must be carried out involving participants as beneficiaries and models suitably redesigned incorporating new developments and emerging needs. Endeavour may be made in consultation with the National Dairy Development Board to incorporate useful concepts currently adopted by the successful Anand Milk Union Ltd [AMUL] model of Gujarat taking participants into confidence
  • For meat, eggs and broiler production, similar types of Pork and Poultry Village Models can be tried initially on pilot basis, properly evaluated and then replicated elsewhere in other blocks/districts in each State.

Fishery: Fishery sector occupies a unique place in the socio-economic life of the people of NER as it is an income and employment generating activity at the primary level. Vision 2020 document envisages increasing area to 11.53 lakh hectares of water under fishery and raising fish production to 12.14 lakh metric tons to ensure per capita availability of 21 kg /person /year by 2020. Despite the region offers significant potential for growth of fishery in view of availability of water area [domestic ponds and natural water bodies like beels, rivers and various wetlands] and suitable climate currently fish production is low and the region depends on the import of around 90,000 tons of fish from outside.

Need: State department of Fisheries in close coordination with the Central Fishery Research Institute and Fishery College can take a lead to facilitate region’s fishermen and women to explore and exploit unexploited fishery resources by formulating a comprehensive fish farming program that can be successfully implemented during the Twelfth plan to achieve aims envisioned in the Vision document, viz. to

  • Utilize maximum area of reservoir and unregistered beels and swamps fishery
  • Double area under forest-fishery by 2020
  • Promote culture of masheer for in situ conservation as well as enhanced production
  • Exploit riverine stretch (about 2000 km) for fishery
  • Establish eco-hatcheries at strategic locations in each district
  • Promote Self-Help-Groups of fish-farmers and fish producers’ co-operative societies for maximizing production and marketing

Attempts should be made to develop domestic ponds on cluster basis to make them viable commercially. The Sipajhar Diamond Club Community Centre, Sipajhar [Darrang district, Assam] has been implementing the Fishery Cluster model of 344 existing small domestic fisheries involving unemployed youth, women and fishermen community, small and marginal farmers. This innovative model should be evaluated in terms of achieving its objectives and considered to implement it involving fishermen and women in districts of other States on pilot basis, evaluated and then redesigned for replication.

Ornamental fishery endemic to the region presents significant scope for export. It is necessary to conduct feasibility studies to explore and exploit the potential for ornamental fish including physical and institutional infrastructure and export market in close coordination and technical guidance of the experts of the Fishery College, Central Fishery Research Institute and Export Promotion Council of Ornamental Fish. Subsequently, area specific plans for harnessing ornamental fish for export can be prepared and implemented involving unemployed youth and fishermen community. The plan should have institutional support and tie-up with backward and forward linkages to avoid time and cost overrun. The project can be implemented in a public-private-partnership mode seeking technical collaboration of the Fishery colleges, Central Fishery Research Institute (CFRI) and Export Promotion Council of Ornamental Fish.

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