The Central Government is to launch the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) this month. The World Bank funded project is to see an investment of over Rs1,150 crore.
Announcing this at the 77th Annual General Meeting of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Union Minister of Agriculture Sharad Pawar said, " The project envisages targeting the rural poor and the disadvantaged groups like women as beneficiaries of agricultural technology generation and dissemination in consonance with the government's objectives, as expressed in the National Policy on Agriculture".
The minister also announced that an additional Rs 200 crores would be provided as assistance to State Agriculture Universities to strengthen agricultural education in the country. The curricula of the agricultural universities would be thoroughly revamped to make them modern and equipped to face challenges of the globalisation of agriculture and intellectual property rights regime. Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), numbering 536 including 85 sanctioned this year, would be involved in the National Horticulture Mission for technology demonstration for accelerated productivity, production and employment in the horticulture sector.
"In short, the KVKs should be able to function as Knowledge Banks in each district and be able to provide information on all agricultural-related issues required by farmers", the minister said.
Referring to the country's food grains scenario, Pawar underlined the fact that though the area under food grains had remained stagnant at around 125 million hectares for the last 25 years, the increase in food grains production has been achieved largely through productivity enhancement from 522 kg/ha in 1950-51 to over 1700 kg/ha in 2005. He attributed this increase to development and adoption of improved varieties possessing high yield and resistance to important diseases and pests.
Regarding stagnation of country's wheat production in recent years, Pawar called for remedial measures to improve factor productivity. It includes integrated nutrient management and adoption of resource conservation technologies, especially zero-tillage and bed planting. These technologies have helped in reducing cost of cultivation, thereby increasing the profit margins of the farmers.
"Improving growth of total factor productivity also calls for enhanced investments in research, extension and in creation of necessary infrastructure leading to efficient use of energy, inputs and other resources," he said.