This article throws light upon the four main support services provided to farmers. The support services are: 1. Agricultural Research 2. Agricultural Extension 3. Agricultural Credit 4. Agricultural Marketing.
Support Service # 1. Agricultural Research:
Agricultural research is the cornerstone of agricultural development. The results have been spectacular in terms of increase in output per hectare but also reduced use of inputs with no sacrifice of output. This will reflect in substitution of imports and achieve self-sufficiency in food crop at least.
Thus, the appropriate technology be available to farmers for deriving more net income from it and accumulate more capital assets for farm and home. Better nutrition for the family with change in consumption habits from carbohydrate intake to a more balanced diet. It would also provide for better education for children.
Every good thing has a side effect, the challenges which are faced by the policymakers and researchers.
They are enumerated as follows:
1. Technology for food security of increasing population.
2. There is a limited scope for irrigation increase in crop production but un-irrigated land has scope for increased production though difficult to achieve.
3. Research directed to help resource poor farmers but other areas not to be neglected as well.
4. Research for improving sustainability, crop diversification, ecological stability, natural resources to be protected.
5. Export-import balance and comparative advantages in production need thought.
6. New technology was quantity oriented but there is an increased demand for quality produce.
The basic objective of research is increasing sustainability in food production in developing countries in a way that the nutritional level and general economic wellbeing of low income people are improved. This is the challenge of nation research programme.
Support Service # 2. Agricultural Extension:
The basic objectives of agricultural extension is to reduce existing gap in actual and potential yield on farmers’ field as well as knowledge gap in technology through providing necessary information to farmers. Strong agricultural extension programme has helped increase production performance particularly of small farm holders by maximizing resource utilization.
The philosophy of extension is:
1. As many farmers as possible need to be visited by competent extension workers as frequently as possible on a regular basis to communicate technical messages and develop relevant skills.
2. Technical message should be location specific, time bound and relevant to current farming activities.
3. An uninterrupted, smooth, and rapid flow of information to and from the farmers and researcher should be facilitated through the extension services.
Extension until recently has been multi-purpose and extension officers were responsible for disseminating new technology, they were also involved in organizing credit, marketing, input supplies and sometimes crop insurance programmes.
Since 1970’s extension should be single purpose hence extension worker should visit specially identified ‘contract’ farmers regularly on pre-determined days to disseminate knowledge dealing with a specific technology which is now called “Training and Visit” system and is implementing in many countries like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Indonesia, and other Asian countries.
Extension work should be geared to a changing situation of self-reliance in food in countries and the consequent diversification of agricultural lands, and now it can reach more of the resource poor farmers. It should give particular attention to the whole farm approach…
In order to have a strong agricultural programme the services of V.L.W.’s (Now called village development officers) be utilized and exploited to the fullest providing the farmers the maximum benefit possible.
Challenges facing agricultural extension programmes:
1. More and more farmers need to be contacted with new technology messages. Use of mass media facilities such as radio, television need to be intensified.
2. Adopt the T and V system of extension to a cropping farming system approach on a whole farm basis.
3. Further the linkage between research and extension and institutionalize the continuous information flow between the two components.
4. Develop programme to train better quality extension personnels for the future.
5. Develop an evaluation system to measure the effectiveness of the extension services with a view to develop innovation techniques.
Support Service # 3. Agricultural Credit:
Major factor to boost agricultural production is to provide institutional credit to small farmers. A number of measures have been initiated to increase the access of small farmers to institutional credit. The credit requirements of small farmers emerge as a result of for the purchase of seasonal inputs. This credit requirement of small farmers is due to lack of self-financing strength.
Alternate ways of providing credit:
The traditional form of institutional credit is to request major banks, both government and private, to provide large amount of money with government guarantees write off losses.
The alternate ways though not directly through banks are:
(i) Link credit through farmer’s cooperatives and informal groups. The major problem is small amount but with cost of credit appraisal and recovery could be high. The link with informal group or cooperatives have been successful in India and Bangladesh (Gramin bank), Sri Lanka (multipurpose cooperatives) and FAO has used this approach.
(ii) Encourage small money lenders to get loans at low interest rates. As more than 70% credit is obtained from private agencies so institutional sources cover 20-30% credit out of total volume and may be about 20% of the farmers.
The advantage of this approach would be:
(a) Few people to be dealt with having collateral to meet bank’s requirements thus recovery is better.
(b) Farmers have more money at lower rates and formalities of the bank are non-existent thus saving costs.
(c) Loan disbursement and supervision is easier with fewer money lender borrowers.
(iii) Provide low interest credit to traders. There would be a chain: Farmer… Small traders…Large traders.
Middlemen build capital catering share in marketing margin with the result that farmers lower prices for his products.
A soft loan is given to small traders for running that business more efficiently which again will reduce the cost of loan operation. An alternative to the above is that if traders give evidence of deposits of produce by the farmer to him, bank can directly make payment to farmers thus the farmer will get fair prices and also monitor the quantum of produce handled by the traders.
The question whether the credit should be tied up to a single crop or the whole farm? The farmer in general integrate crop and livestock and operate form as a whole. The variety enterprises cover the risk factors in the failure of a single or more crop and the income is assured throughout the year.
Challenges facing Agricultural Credit Programme:
i. Examine more innovative method of providing credit either directly or indirectly to a large number of small farmers.
ii. Consider credit on a whole farm basis—financing his home garden or small scale crop-livestock activities. This will assure him of a more even income over time.
Support Service # 4. Agricultural Marketing:
Small farmer face many facets of drawbacks in terms of being socially, economically and culturally marginal. Little access to productive resources like credit, technology and bargaining power in market not attractive client to trading community. Limitation in decision-making confined to household, knowledge of price limited to local market with very small marketable surplus.
Marketing organizations are private highly competitive or so called free enterprise system. There is a network of canvassers………………………. small traders…………. middlemen……. transporters (middlemen add to the real cost of marketing with no benefits to farmers).
Marketing issues in Farming System Research:
There may be drop in prices due to increased supply of products on account of technology use with demand remaining constant thus affecting the farmers. But wherever the food is deficient the increased supply would be absorbed within the existing marketing situation.
Wherever there is a food self-sufficiency due to domestically produced food emphasis is placed on crop diversification or agro-based industry which when successful will give farmers enhanced income. The whole question of marketing then becomes important.
Farm System Research (FSR) attempts at one of the following:
i. Introduce new varieties of existing crops that will increase yield per unit area.
ii. Introduce new crops that would help increasing cropping intensity.
iii. Introduce better cultural practices.
This will increase production of crops and affect market prices and further change in price will affect farmer’s income.