Farm mechanization is crucial for modernization & commercialization of agriculture with strategic CSR support- Mr. HL Bharaj, Executive Director (Services/S&E), THDC India Ltd., Rishikesh

Farm mechanization is crucial for modernization & commercialization of agriculture with strategic CSR support- Mr. HL Bharaj, Executive Director (Services/S&E), THDC India Ltd., Rishikesh

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Mr HL Bharaj, Executive Director (Services/S&E), THDC India Ltd., Rishikesh

Q: Pls do share the background and need to launch Project Utthan.

As we know, agriculture and allied sector continues to be significant for the inclusive and sustainable growth of the Indian economy & Indian Agriculture Sector not only ensures food security but also provides large employment opportunities, directly & indirectly. Though agriculture contributed only 14.4% to the country’s GDP for the year 2018-19 (Economic Survey 2018-19), still it is in driver seat for demand creation & agriculture mechanization is an appropriate answer to such challenges of 21st century.

Technological upgradation & improvements in Indian agriculture have enabled a substantial increase in food grains production since the mid-sixties.

Farm mechanization in India stands at about 40%-45%, which is still low when compared to countries such as the U.S. (95%), Brazil (75%) and China (57%). While the level of mechanization lags behind other developed countries, it has seen strong growth through the last decade in India. The farm power availability has also grown from 1.47 kW/ha in 2005-06 to 2.02 kW/ha in the recent past.

Understanding the fragility& importance of the issues, THDC India Ltd. (THDCIL), under its CSR offshoot SEWA-THDC has undertaken this task and launched “Project Utthan” for the upgradation of Technology in this sector.

THDC India Ltd

Q: How THDCIL is able to design this concept with target region and beneficiaries?

States of north i.e. Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have high level of mechanization due to highly productive land in this region as well as a declining labor force. Western and southern states in the country have a lower level of mechanization due to the smaller and scattered land holdings. As a result, in many cases, mechanization has been uneconomical leading to lower development. With our operational area in Uttarakhand we have been working on various CSR projects here, where the level of mechanization is extremely low.

There are a number of reasons behind this, i.e. hilly topography, high transportation cost, lack of adequate state financing and other financial constraints due to socio-economic conditions and dearth of agricultural machinery manufacturing industries.

Keeping in view of this, THDCIL being a socially responsible organization, continuously strives to come up with innovative solutions for rural development and agriculture promotion activities through various interventions like providing poly-houses, high yielding seeds, vermin-compost pits, LDEP tanks, drip irrigation, sprinklers, rain water harvesting for irrigation, and Tech. counselling by our experts etc. .
One of the major intervention of THDC in promotion of sustainable agriculture in villages of Dist. TehriGarhwal, Uttarakhandviz, fragmentation of land holding, unaffordability of farm technology, a large presence of small & marginal farmers ; is by promoting custom hiring centres(CHC) / farm machinery banks to help easy farming, more produce, save time and check growing migration.

THDC Project Utthan: Farm Mechanization through Custom Hiring Centers, is based on the foundational belief that, agriculture mechanization is crucial for modernization and commercialization of agriculture as it improves productivity and timeliness of agriculture operations, aids in value addition, brings down the cost of cultivation and enables climate change adaptation. Various research papers and experts have vetted the fact that the promotion and modernization of custom hiring models and Agriculture Machinery Banks are steps in the right direction.

Q: Pls do tell us more about Custom Hiring Centres (CHSs).

Custom Hiring Centres (CHCs) are basically a unit comprising a set of farm machinery, implements and equipments meant for custom hiring by farmers. Though, certain implements and equipments are crop specific, the traction units like tractors, power tillers, etc. and self-propelled machinery like combine harvesters, etc. are used in common. An ideal model, envisaged in this project comprises farm machineries that are used for tillage operations for all crops, multi crop equipments, water lift pumps, hose pipes, cutting tools and kitchen garden aids and minimum of crop specific machinery.

Farmers practice indigenous and manual process for crop cultivation. They use labour oriented workflow for cultivation, all these process take much time and human resources, increasing the cost of cultivation. Change in climate conditions in last few years, also resulted in the rainfall available for only few days a year.

Q: How Govt. of India is involved for such interventions and how THDCIL is complimenting these initiative through CSR framework?

To address such problem, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, GoI with the aim of providing farm machinery inputs to small & marginal farmers, reduced cost of cultivation, added to yield, mitigate the risk in farming activity, increased income through agriculture and to generate awareness of rural community about modern technologies and machinery started Sub Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM) scheme. Major portion of cost of farm machinery bank is born by the Agri. Dept., and a part cost is contributed by beneficiary. But, the economic condition of most of the farmers is such that they are not even able to afford the part cost of the farm machinery bank. At the same time, THDCIL with a very meagre CSR budget of 17-18 Cr/year & huge expectations of locals was striving hard to strengthen livelihood of its stakeholder mostly marginal farmers. Common objectives brought THDCIL and Agri. Dept. together for elevating livelihood status of farmers in THDCIL’s operational area through implementation of Project Utthan : Farm Mechanization through Custom Hiring Centers. To maximise the no. of CHCs and increased participation of small & marginal farmers to it, THDC played the pivotal role by paying 75% share of beneficiary contribution. It increased the reach of farm mechanization to small & marginal farmers and promoted ‘Custom Hiring Centers’ to hire out agricultural machinery and implement it on nominal charges to the needy farmers also.

The government has  also introduced several schemes and polices that support greater mechanization of Indian Agriculture, with respect to commitment to transform the agriculture sector and double farmers’ income by 2022-23 and Sub Mission on Agriculture Mechanization (SMAM) is an important initiative of the Govt. Focus on farm mechanization is driven by need for enhancing agriculture productivity, availability of food grains; increasing agriculture exports; mitigating labour shortage; and facilitating judicious use of scarce natural resources mainly water, labour and farm inputs. Keeping this in view, an ambitious target of increasing the availability of farm power from 2.02 kW per ha (2016-17) to 4.0 kW per ha by the end of 2030 has been set by Govt. of India.

Q: Pls do share your learning from the project and what has been achieved so far?

Till now THDC has established 63 Farm Machinery Bank in District Tehri, one in Uttarkashi and 3 in Haridwar of Uttarakhand. These banks are being run by the local community in SHG mode, and benefitting 945 farmers directly and 6300 farmers indirectly.

Farmers can hire the farm machines from Farmer institution at minimum cost collected for maintenance of the equipments. Every quarter, a team of SEWA-THDC, Agri. Deptt. and supplier rep. visits site & talk to self help groups (SHGs) to know actual feedback and take further action to act timely for its sustainability.

THDC has so far with above intervention created numerous farm equipment community assets with appx. worth of Rs. 320 Lakhs. The contribution to THDC in these assets through its CSR funds is nearly 20 % i.e. Rs. 64 Lakh, which will directly engage appx. 900 beneficiaries from 63 no. of villages in our first project area, TehriDistt. and 45 beneficiaries of 3 villages in Dist. Haridwar.

Q: How do you think , project Utthan is helping to achieve UN-SDGs.

2015 was an important year for future of agriculture and development, as new set of global Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) shaped the road for next 15 years of policies, programmes and funding. More than any other sector, agriculture is the common thread which holds the 17 SDGs together. Investing in the agriculture sector can address not only hunger and malnutrition but also other challenges including poverty, water and energy use, climate change and unsustainable production and consumption.

Sustainable Development Goal No. 2 calls specifically to : “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” Reaching the SGD targets simply will not be possible without a strong and sustainable agricultural sector. Rural people represent the largest segment of the poor India. Growth in agriculture is at least twice more effective in reducing poverty than any other sector as agriculture is an engine of pro-poor economic growth in rural areas. So I personally feel highly satisfied and  excited to  run this  project successfully and   contribute to growth of society, state & Nation.

Q: As a visionary leader and CSR head of THDC, what is your saying for other companies (Pvt or PSUs), working in CSR domain.

According to the Agriculture Census, total number of operational holdings in India numbered 138.35 million with an average size of 1.15 hectare. Of the total holdings, 85 % are in small & marginal farm categories, though operating only on 44 % of land under cultivation, are the main providers of food and nutritional security to the nation, have limited access to technology, inputs, credits, capital and market.

To provide after sale services in the field and to avoid damage of machinery due to unskilled labour there is a need to promote training of personnel at various levels and maintain minimum spares outlets  at low cost spare parts which will reduce breakdown time & will also create additional rural jobs and increased yield.

My  only suggestions is that, in order to enhance level of mechanization in agricultural operations more and more CSR funds should be channelized in this direction and  the kind of resources Pvt. sector has,  it will be  highly  encouraging  to get them involved for such interventions to achieve  another stage of    green  revolution and make our countrymen feel proud.

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