Farmers Exposure Tours

Newspapers in Nagaland are regularly being splashed with reports and pictures of our local farmers from across the State going on ‘exposure tours’ to different places outside our State. Such kind of tours is sponsored mostly by the government of the day while some are done by the Indian army, churches or in some few cases by the villagers themselves. There is nothing wrong in sending our farmers outside the State to get firsthand experience about successful models of development or best farming practices. Given the regularity of such tours for the last decade or so, we should have become better ourselves in what we do. After all if we do not apply the skills and knowledge that we learn from others, such tours become more of publicity stunts and holiday packages of indulging in sightseeing and shopping. Anyway notwithstanding our penchant for such tours the question we need to ask ourselves is on the state of our agriculture. This is a valid question because we profess ourselves to be a farming community.
As per government data, almost 80% of people are engaged in agriculture as a way of living. All of us talk about the importance of Agriculture for the Nagas and our policy makers keep talking about achieving food security and the “vision towards food sufficiency by the year 2020”. For decades now, we allocate the highest money in our budget for the agriculture sector. Other grants and subsidies have been flowing. Yet why is it that we have not been able to develop the farming sector? With the comparative advantage of land, resource, traditional knowledge and benevolent government support, we should actually be a model in the agriculture sector. Rather than we going out for exposure tours, actually it is others who should come to Nagaland. However it is obvious that maybe our State has nothing beneficial to offer to others in terms of best practices and successful agriculture venture/s. This indicates the sorry state of our agriculture sector where despite huge efforts on paper, we have nothing substantial to show for our efforts. We need to change this.
And change we can if we can correct the flaws within our present system. Any number of funding, innovation or exposure tours will not produce the desired result unless correction is made on the way our government functions. Take for instance the provision of ‘maintenance money’ to the beneficiaries. In a majority of cases, our farmers are not given this subsidy. It is obvious that even the fund allocated for our farmers are siphoned off. And then there is also the scenario where such subsidy is given to the farmers but they misuse it for other purposes. While the government should ensure proper utilization of funds, it will also require strict monitoring of projects so that only the deserving beneficiaries are identified and due assistance given. At the end of the day the government as well as the public has equal responsibility. Hard work and honesty will be required of both if as the Chief Minister has repeatedly stated “we are to grow into a producing society”. A corrupt system and lethargic public could also well explain the disturbing fact pointed by the CM that in spite of 80% of the population in the State being agrarians, the state could not produce enough food grains and we continue to depend on others. The point is that good policy, planning or farmers exposure tours alone will not do. The flaws within the system and the attitude of the people will also require correction.