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Inputs for the Approach Paper to the XIIth Five Year Plan - Examples; Advice

by ruchita last modified Jan 27, 2014 01:10 PM

Jan 07, 2014

The following extracted text is from a consolidated reply to a query, received from Arun Maira and Dr. Pronab Sen, Planning Commission, Government of India, posted on the Work and Employment Community of Solutions Exchange on March 1, 2011.

The Planning Commission of the Government of India is developing the Approach Paper for India's XIIth Five Year Plan. We are going through a series of consultations to gather inputs for the development of the Approach Paper. We have identified 12 major challenges1 for the XIIth Plan. This is still an evolving approach and we may revise the list of challenges after consultations.

These challenges have been identified through consultations and several reviews, including the mid-term appraisal of the XIth Plan. We seek your suggestions for addressing these challenges, given the several constraints that have already been identified through innumerable studies. Examples of approaches that have yielded significant results are especially welcome. Additionally, we are especially interested in suggestions on how these challenges need to be addressed differently for improving the quality of life for different sections of the society.

In this context, we request members to give your suggestions on how to address the following sub-challenges:

  • Promoting vocational training and skill development opportunities to provide quality employment for youth
  • Improving the financial and regulatory ecosystem for growth of enterprises
  • Developing efficient and fair labour markets for all categories of workers
  • Maintaining a social safety net for the unemployed
  • Promoting sustainable livelihoods through agriculture/allied sectors as well as non-farm sectors for rural poverty alleviation
  • Urban poverty alleviation

These inputs would be considered by the Planning Commission in the development of the Approach Paper.

Excerpts from responses, with a focus on the sub-challenge "Promoting sustainable livelihoods through agriculture/allied sectors as well as non-farm sectors for rural poverty alleviation", provided by members of the Work and Employment Community of Solutions Exchange.

The responses provided by members of the community focus on improving dry-land farming and advocate for the provision of new technologies to farmers while building up their skill-base. It is emphasized that farmers must be supported by way of information, credit and collectivization to achieve economies of scale for both the provision of inputs as also facilitating market access. High quality services must be provided to strengthen livestock based livelihoods. Members stressed that there is a need to revamp the agriculture extension system, and include support for mixed farming systems and for diversification of the livelihood base. These should be linked with interventions that promote sustainable water management, including drip irrigation systems, use of public private partnership for strengthening the agriculture sector, developing market infrastructure with an overall focus on integrating the product value chain.

Full text of responses:
P. S. M. Rao, Independent Consultant, Hyderabad
Sustainable livelihoods through agriculture can be ensured through working towards sustainable agriculture. Since the overwhelming holdings in India are small, the focus should be on the small holder agriculture and on improving the dry land farming. Since agriculture is important both in terms of livelihoods and food security, the needed support and subventions in different farms is essential. Farming should be made decent and dignified occupation to mitigate the disillusionment of the farmers.

T. Prabhakar Reddy, Mission for Elimination of Poverty in Municipal Areas (MEPMA), Hyderabad
Promoting sustainable livelihoods through agriculture and allied activities is possible easily by utilizing the existing SHGs which have tremendous social capital. Secondly while promoting any financial inclusion with a view to enhance the livelihoods should be focused on agriculture. There are adequate examples from Andhra Pradesh that the women have taken up initiatives like trading of agricultural output, manufacturing of vermi-compost, dairy farming etc., have resulted in sustainable livelihoods for the poor women.

Tinni Sawhney, South Asia Pro Poor Livestock Policy Programme (SAPPLPP), New Delhi

Sustainable Livelihoods for Poverty Alleviation

  • Support for mixed farming systems (crop and livestock) to diversify the livelihood base (and spread risk), and avoid situations where the poor depend on only a single crop or limited agriculture labour, which is in turn dependent on erratic and unpredictable weather conditions. Support by way of access to information to enable informed choices, credit (limits to be fixed based on payment potential to avoid burdening the poor with additional loans), collectivisation to achieve economies of scale for both access to inputs and markets.
  • Avoid 'blanket' programmes across regions. While these are definitely simpler to implement (the issuance of single guidelines and government orders), poverty and the reasons for poverty are not uniform. While providing broad implementation norms, allow for flexibility in design of interventions (at the block level) based on the resource base of the area and the assets of the household.
  • Flexibility in design may lead to ownership of staff towards the intervention, rather than it being 'someone else's' programme that they are responsible only for implementing.
  • Build accountability and improve monitoring of programmes. Make monitoring 'outcome' focused rather than the current focus on numbers and money spent.

Rural Transformation and Sustained Growth of Agriculture:

  • Agriculture Technology and Extension – In view of the increasing unpredictability of weather conditions, ensure that farmers have immediate access to information on what to do and possible options in case rainfall patterns vary. Mention is made of an extremely popular radio programme in Gujarat (Sajjata no sangh, lave kheti ma rang), developed by the Development Support Centre in Ahmedabad, whose USP is that it provides information to farmers on agricultural practices and crops specific to seasons. It is aired every Thursday, and provides information on the current situation including remedial measures and alternative crops which farmers can plant if for example heavy showers are followed by a long dry spell, and the seed planted has not germinated. Access to the right information at the time when it is most needed is a major constraint for small and marginal farmers. This applies also for the use of inputs. Often fertilizer and pesticide suppliers (who in most rural areas play the role of extension agents) advocate higher quantities than what is actually required, pushing up input costs, without a corresponding increase in productivity.
  • Revamp the agriculture extension system, and increase budget outlay for this critical activity.
  • Availability of good quality seed is a major constraint in agriculture. There is a need to ensure seed security, and avoid farmer dependence on high yielding varieties that need to be purchased each year.

Animal Husbandry:

  • Establishment of a decentralized 'grass-root' vaccination and health delivery system for small-holder livestock rearers - The provision of health services at the door-step of smallholders has emerged as a major constraint in up-scaling livestock rearing by the poor. As demonstrated by numerous good practices, provision of vaccination and information on health practices considerably improves livestock productivity for small-holders, contributing to increased income, food and nutrition security. The development of a grass-root cadre of para-professionals is required, trained and equipped to deliver preventive health and vaccination services to livestock rearers, against a fee. These para-professionals could be linked to the animal husbandry system and work under the guidance of government veterinary officers at the block and district levels. Since skill building and creating employment opportunities is also a core objective, the establishment of a cadre of trained veterinary para-professionals would both meet this objective, as also provide a priority service in rural areas. Private investment to improve delivery of animal health services should also be encouraged. Even the poor are willing to pay for quality services, if these are received when they are needed.
  • Further, information from good practices demonstrates the importance and efficacy of ethno-veterinary practices. These should be documented region-wise and promoted, including in on-going government programmes.
  • Veterinary science curriculum is currently geared towards large ruminants. If we are to avoid the risk of marginalization of small-holder livestock rearers, who primarily raise poultry, goats and sheep, there is need for inclusion of rural poultry farming as also small ruminant rearing in the veterinary science curriculum and training.
  • Recognition and promotion of Desi (Non-Descript) / Indigenous Breeds, since often these are best suited to the conditions and resource base of rain-fed areas.
  • Support for the collectivization of small-holders to facilitate economies of scale and access to the rapidly expanding livestock market.
  • Availability of feed and fodder is emerging as a major constraint for the poor in expanding and up-scaling livestock rearing. Identification of local feed sources as also conservation and development of common lands to ensure fodder availability are critically required interventions. Common land development should be actively promoted as a priority activity under NREGA. Interventions that have been initiated to allocate common lands to the private sector for jatropha plantations should be immediately discontinued. It is critical that these lands be developed to overcome the fodder deficit.

Sustainable Management of Water Resources

  • Prioritise the development of common lands in the upper reaches of designated water-shed areas to facilitate ground-water recharge. Enable convergence between different departments, since often these lands are under the management of the forest department, but the watershed programme is implemented by MoRD. Provide incentives to communities regenerating and developing common lands in the upper reaches that largely benefit relatively better off communities in the lower valleys.
  • Fix and enforce norms for ground-water extraction and digging of additional wells. Again, rather than this being a 'blanket' norm across the country, develop region specific norms for depth of well (including bore-wells), and numbers. Distinguish between electricity for domestic rural consumption and electricity for agricultural purposes, with the latter having a higher unit cost. Enforce and monitor payment for electricity used. In Gujarat, where there has been a focus on ensuring regular domestic electricity supply in rural areas under the Jyoti Gram Yojana, electricity supply to agricultural fields is provided every alternate day, and farmers report a reduction in water pumping from bore-wells. Farmers themselves have requested that if regular domestic supply is ensured, they would be happy to pay for this, and electricity to agricultural fields can be provided twice a week and perhaps in rotation.
  • Increase the budget allocation for development of surface water irrigation to reduce dependence on ground-water. Where dams exist, often the water supply systems from these structures are badly damaged, and do not allow for any irrigation from these dams. The irrigation potential from existing dam-sites, which is immense, has not been tapped. Recognize the importance of repairing water channels from dam-sites under systems of participatory irrigation management.
  • Promote and provide support for drip irrigation systems, including low-cost systems that are farmer-friendly. While these are not permanent systems and need to be replaced after approximately two years, they do not require the high cost outlay as permanent systems do, and are therefore easier for farmers, particularly small and marginal farmers to adopt. Rather than providing subsidy only on specific company brands of drip irrigation systems, provide a subsidy for the adoption of the technology (a percentage of the total cost of installation), irrespective of brands. This would avoid a monopoly, and will promote low-cost systems and innovation in the sector. Further, often drip irrigation systems do not work on account of repairs etc. that are required, and these are difficult to access in rural areas. Train and develop local mechanics, and this could emerge as a viable income earning opportunity for local youth. An example is the work of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India) in Gujarat where low-cost drip irrigation systems have been promoted in the Saurashtra Region, and backed by a cadre of trained and equipped mechanics, who have now evolved into entrepreneurs, and provide their services against a fee. Some have also set up shops selling drip irrigation equipment.

Subhendu Pratihari, Larsen and Toubro (L & T) Finance, Mumbai (response 2)
One of the key causes of poverty in rural area in India is “failure of market and market imperfection”. This has highly affected livelihood of large sections of our people mainly farmers, land less, agricultural labourers, rural artisans and others. There is visible monopoly over market share (very few large players have power and resources to prevent efficient transaction), insufficient Government policy and protection provision and finally poor capacity of people to compete. Though there are some provable projects namely Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) and such others have positive impact on the rural household.

The question is how the market plays a productive role and work for the poor. How can we address these issues? Some of the suggestions for both individual and group enterprises are as follows:

  • There is a need to increase the capacity of rural small producers, farmers and rural artisans to effectively interact with the market. Focus has to be on strengthening and integrating the complete product value chain. Intervention in value chain starts at the very first stage till last, from farmer to the consumer, from small producer to market - Pre-production, Production, Post-production, Storage, Transportation and Marketing.

Pre-production phase: Capacity of farmers and small entrepreneurs will be developed to make good plan of the product with use of resources efficiently, market scanning (to understand price behaviour), procurement, risk analysis and risk mitigation plan.

Production Phase: Starts with the use of efficient tools, use of improved variety of inputs, production as per market demand and quality control.

Post–production: Value addition through segregation, polishing, packaging, storage and pricing.

Market: Adequate provision for dissemination of market prices, market segmentation and niche.

Supporting the Farmers, Rural artisans and other community members engaged with small trades and entrepreneurs with above will help getting better and competitive price for the products. Example of product/ trades that need support in the value chain: Non Timber Forest Produces (Example: Lac bangle trade in Bihar, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh)

  • The National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), whose purpose is to reduce poverty by promoting gainful self employment and skill wage employment opportunity can take up improving the value chains in agriculture and allied produces through Self-help Groups (SHGs).
  • The Common Services Centre (CSC) scheme as part of e-governance initiative by Government of India can take up establishing market information centres across Gram Panchayats. The existing e-set up facilities in the centres comprises sharing information related to market prices and is largely influenced by the behaviour of small producers, artisans and small entrepreneurs (including SHG Based Enterprises) in the rural areas.

Manoj Agarwal, Self-reliant Initiatives through Joint Action (SRIJAN), Chhindwara
The farmers should be trained as an entrepreneur. They should be motivated to sell their crop after following post harvest management operations. They should also be supported through easy credit at a lower interest rate. There should be a farmer centre at each Panchayat level where farmers can get latest technology related to agriculture, market information, soil testing, and hiring of farm implements etc. The centre should also promote low cost agriculture, proper land management, collective marketing and sale, crop diversification, proper cattle management, insurance and watershed activities with the support of different agencies. Marketing organization and agricultural processing companies should be promoted to install their units at the village level by providing them basic infrastructure like road, electricity, storage and chilling centre etc. The human resource involved in promoting sustainable agriculture should be responsible for the outputs.


1 Major Challenges:
• Enhancing the Capacity for Growth
• Enhancing Skills and Faster Generation of Employment 
• Managing the Environment
• Markets for Efficiency and Inclusion
• Decentralisation, Empowerment and Information
• Technology and Innovation
• Securing the Energy Future for India
• Accelerated Development of Transport Infrastructure
• Rural Transformation and Sustained Growth of Agriculture
• Managing Urbanization
• Improved Access to Quality Education
• Better Preventive and Curative Health Care