Rural India

Indian Farmers : The Times They Are a-changin’

“The soul of India lives in its villagesMahatma Gandhi 

Gandhiji said that in early 20th century and even as recently as the year 2000, when world was entering into the 21st century, the  conditions of villagers, specifically the small & medium land owning farmers, remained the same. In the first 50 years of India’s independence, like many other aspects of Indian socio-economic conditions, farmers & their farming techniques barely changes.

Even today, 70% Indian live in its villages, directly or indirectly all of them dependent on the agriculture, which in is still a very tradition, highly manual & nature dependent.

There are a number of  factors which are responsible for condition our Agriculture sector is in right now. But one of the reasons is the attitude of the farmer‘s themselves & the lack of motivation for them to change their attitude.

But, the times are a-changin’… things have changed in the last decade, some regions in India are showing the way forward, there are farmer’s who have changed their own life and are working as catalyst to transform the rural India.

The following observations are qualitative in nature and give a glimpse of the changing attitude of Indian Farmers. Currently the % of Enterprising farmers in India may be small & restricted to specific geographies, but they are surely going to become the model for millions of others in various parts of the country.

Increasing willingness to move beyond self-sufficiency in farming, or even beyond farming

“I am into farming, so I would like to do modern farming – which would give me a better yield. We will then earn more money, and use that for our children’s education and to have a better standard of living”

“Because of tractor and modern implements, we save a lot of time. The work which earlier used to be done in eight days is now completed in three days. So, I get more time for myself or to complete other important works. I can also help my brother with shop keeping and pay attention to my son’s education”

  •  With reducing size of landholdings and an increasing scope for commercialization in farming, farmers today are looking for more and more opportunities
  • Looking for ways to grow or sustain in the increasingly competitive market, like by way of acquiring more land  and therefore yield or by adopting modern techniques of farming
  • Farming on profit-sharing basis an emerging trend, especially  for those who are themselves engaged in own business or are employed elsewhere
  • Therefore, more proactive than ever before, generally on the lookout for quicker and reliable information in this regard

Rising consciousness regarding their children’s education and growth

“My responsibility is to give proper education to my children. They want to enter farming or not depends on their choice. My daughter is intelligent, she score good marks. If she is interested, she can study further”

“When our children grow up a little, we would send them out of the village for their education. If we involve them in farming, they will not pay attention to their studies”

  • Realize the importance of education for their children and are willing to invest in the same. Their children (son as well as daughter) are moving out of the village to get better education
  • No compulsion for their children to enter into farming, they are free to make their choices, especially knowing the hardships or seasonality involved
  • Those interested are being encouraged to get trained and then experiment in this field rather than relying on traditional methods or trial and error
  • However, with farming becoming more simpler and commercialized from their times, the scope of turning farming into a profitable profession is also higher

More open to spending on material possessions 

  • Greater willingness to fulfill the desires of self and family, a visible change from the time when everything was saved for the rainy day

“We have a better lifetsyle today. Now we can fulfill all our desires. We can wear better clothes, we have better appliance today. I am planning to buy many other appliances for my home”

Increasing opportunity cost of non-mechanization leading to a growing realization of its criticality so as to ensure a reasonable productivity and yield

“Today’s generation has lot more awareness, they are young, energetic and their attitude towards farming is commercial. Earlier it was not so, we used to do emotional farming”

  • Constantly upgrading farming techniques and implements, to give a better yield and thereby fetch better price in the market
  • Increasing peer pressure, adoption of newer ways by some farmers creates pressure on others to follow, especially when the benefits are widely apparent
  • Mechanization also becoming critical with increasing scarcity of farm labor (increasingly migrating to cities/ bigger places for better opportunities) and labor costs soaring

Ownership not necessary today for interacting with/ accessing mechanization – thereby, helping the farmers cross the mental barrier to some extent

“While new technology is within our reach, our expenses have also risen. But then the returns are also good”

“Earlier we were poor when we used to rely on bullocks for farming, but since the time we have started using tractor, we have made lot of progress”

  • The trend of hiring implements/ tractor/ bullock etc. on rent has made everything easily accessible
  • But with increasing requirements for these things and soaring rent charges, the recurring expenses have also taken a new high especially for the small farmers
  • While the relatively well-off or enterprising farmers are reaping the benefits of this trend

However, some key areas of vulnerabilities still hold relevant 

“In farming, the main problem is regarding water…the crop yield can improve only if we can get sufficient water”

  • Dependence on rains continues, especially at the time of sowing
  • Finance or cash availability still a constraint with farmers, except for the few well-off farmers
  • Still lacks the means to access timely and reliable information, affecting his planning and accuracy of decisions

PROFILE : Indian Farmer

1. ENTERPRISING : Risk takers and constantly upgrading, most open to mechanization

  • Demographics & mindset : More likely to be young to middle aged. Generally quite well off, enjoying a good social standing and having an exposure to the world outside their village. Proactive in their approach and keep themselves abreast of the new developments in their occupation. Willing to innovate or pioneer a change
  • Geography: The prevalence of this profile is limited. But is  present more in Western Region (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh) filled with a far greater sense of  optimism, offering them greater opportunities to experiment and grow.
  • Attitude towards farming: Keep investing in their land and newer technology/ mechanization in a planned manner to enhance their area under farming and yield. Since they are the pioneers (in their village/ region), tend to become the influencer or opinion leader for others. Believe in the new age ways of farming, rather than the traditional methods used by their earlier generation
  • Key Needs: They are generally on the lookout for smarter avenues of growth, with a strong inner drive to grow their farming. Could be running a side business as well, though in a field related to agriculture. Tractor ownership herein assumes significance, since it can be effectively used for renting out for farming and haulage purposes to add to their stream of income

2. EXPERIMENTER : Incremental innovation by trial and error, limited risk-taking

  • Demographics & mindset: More likely to be young to middle aged. Have an open mindset, constantly evaluating their options. Look for more information, eager to discuss with peers about the new things that they are trying or experimenting. They are generally among the early adopters
  • Geography: This profile again is present more in South & Northern Region (Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka) , where the urge to upgrade or innovate among farmers, like other communities present in this region, is higher.
  • Attitude towards farming: May not be owning a large piece of land, but enough to experiment with different crops or practices. Look for ways to maximize their earnings from farming, and hence are open to adopting newer ways or techniques of farming whenever they see few others adopting the same and reaping benefits. The level of change or up gradation, though, is always incremental.
  • Key Needs: With a limited risk appetite, they generally need an influencer or external stimulus to upgrade or bring something new into practice. Could be apprehensive initially, but once convinced of the utility and its possible benefits, they are willing to shift completely. May or may not have access to enough resources, but are willing to invest in parts in possible areas of growth by securing funds

3. CALCULATIVE : Forced and limited adaptation to change

  • Demographics & mindset: More likely to be middle aged, with moderate experience. Have limited resources, and a frugal mindset willing to optimize on what they have. Generally would like to wait for the opportune time  to adapt to change, done out of sheer necessity rather than willingness. Not as competitive or experimentative in their approach
  • Geography: Likely to be most prevalent of all typologies. Present across India but more so in Northern & Southern region (Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Tamilnadu)
  • Attitude towards farming: Own small to medium area of land, stick to particular crops unless a change is absolutely warranted by the changing demand or market conditions. Generally content with their current practices, but are also cognizant of the opportunity cost of sticking to the older ways of farming. While they may adopt newer techniques, but still tend to rely on their older practices, never making that complete shift. The level of mechanization is limited or just enough to survive
  • Key Needs: They are among the late adopters, who do not want to lag behind. Yet see limited promise in the newer ways of doing things, hence need to be really convinced of their long-term utility or economy so as to make them shift completely

4. ORTHODOX : Conservative, lack motivation to change or upgrade

  • Demographics & mindset: More likely to be middle to old aged. Have an old & traditional mindset, not willing to break the norms. They could be grappling with barrier at both levels at the same time – i.e. mental and financial
  • Geography: This profile is likely to be more prevalent in Eastern & Southern Region (North-East, West Bengal, Orissa, Kerala) with the overall willingness to change or adapt to something new being relatively low
  • Attitude towards farming: Own small area of land, sticking to old ways of farming, in spite of facing issues with the same. Low on overall awareness levels and also lack pro activeness.  Lack the drive to improve upon their productivity or yield. They are the least open to mechanization, not seeing any promise in the same.
  • Key Needs:  Living in a cocoon, they lack aspiration or ambition. They are the ones who have compromised in life with their circumstances, not even looking for possible solutions

 

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