Special Correspondent

"Key to problems in agriculture lies in farmers organising themselves as associations"

CHENNAI: One village in every block should be identified for demonstrating and implementing a community-based participatory approach to water resources management in rural areas, M. Velayutham, Executive Director of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and soil scientist, said on Wednesday.

He made this suggestion in the context of the Central Government's decision to observe 2007-2008 as the Year of Water with focus on "more crop and income per drop of water." For this, agricultural experts and engineers should work together with agriculturists and water users' associations, Dr. Velayutham said, addressing a seminar organised by the Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC) and the Chennai chapter of the Indian Meteorological Society in connection with the National Science Day.

Given the nature of landholding in the country, the key to several problems lay in farmers organising themselves as well-knit cooperative associations and collectively accessing technology, capital, inputs and market linkages they need.

Noting that the efficiency of the country's irrigation systems was only 25 to 30 per cent as against the worldwide average of 40 to 45 per cent, he called for modernising the distribution network, including canals and channels. Thrust should be laid on proper maintenance, for which the provisions of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme could be utilised.

The Foundation had been promoting an information communications technology (ICT)-enabled knowledge centre in every village through which the community mobilisation for meeting farming requirements could be facilitated.

Asked why drip and sprinkler irrigation had not taken off, Mr. Velayutham said that as the initial investment was high, farmers should come together. Capacity building and training of farmers' associations were required for agriculturists to avail themselves of the government schemes for micro irrigation, with a particular emphasis on high-value crops.

R.V. Sharma, Deputy Director-General of Meteorology, explained the importance of information technology in the functioning of government departments.

S. R. Ramanan, Director, RMC, gave an account of the southwest and northeast monsoons during 2006.