Agriculture amidst covid-19

With the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent enforcement of lockdown, resumption of agriculture activities was seen as a distant thing. The cessation of farming activities would mean a substantial decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country thereby upsetting our economy as agriculture alone accounts for nearly 15 percent of the national GDP. Realizing the fragility of our economy and the significance of agriculture for that matter, the government of India decided to resume and recommence essential activities especially the farm related activities across India. The government of J& K too followed the suit and did not lag behind in any respect. The director agriculture Kashmir, while issuing the guidelines for resuming the agricultural activities across the Kashmir valley, laid a great deal of stress on the SOPs so as to make sure that both the field functionaries as well as our farming community stay safe and sound during the pandemic, while at work.

Sticking to the SOPs and abiding by the guidelines issued by the Agriculture Production Department (APD), Chief Agriculture officer Pulwama, Mr. M Qasim Ganie left no stone unturned to work for the uplift of the farming community of the district that too amid covid-19. Following the pattern, Agriculture Zone Lurgam of Tral sub-division also restarted the routine functioning ranging from “field visits” to “farm and home visits”, “soil sampling” to “crop cut experiments”, “on the field solutions” to “online solutions” of farm related problems. Besides this, the field functionaries of the zone have been quite active and full of life in disseminating the farm information, both on and off the field, to the farmers of the zone.

The zone has created a WhatsApp group with the name “farmer-officer-interface”. The group serves as a window to address the problems of the farmers 24*7. The farmers have the privilege to share the photographs of the infected crops, diseased plants any time of the day and officials after proper diagnosis and examining the same, share the solutions with the farmers thereby redressing their issues online while ensuring the safety of each stakeholder. This modus operandi of Lurgam zone has been hailed by the farmers of the zone as it has instilled in a sense of safety, confidence and satisfaction in the farming community.

The PMKSN scheme, which has already completed its one year of operation, has spurred agricultural growth across India. It has given a ray of hope to the farmers as they can now purchase the inputs for their farms as and when required. The flagship scheme is being implemented by the Agriculture zone Lurgam in letter and spirit. The pending beneficiaries and the left outs are being taken up and are directly uploaded on zonal portal of PMKSN without any fail. The account number and adhaar number rectifications, if any, are being made on priority basis so as not to make our farmers suffer, keeping in view the growing pandemic. The farmers of the zone have applauded the department for their untiring and relentless efforts in taking the agriculture system of the zone to the novel heights.

The agriculture team of zone Lurgam, comprising eight officials and headed by Agriculture Extension Officer, Mr. Imtiyaz AhMED Bhat is  reaching out to the doorsteps of the poor tribal farmers of Nargistan, Gulistan, Hajin Naad and Gutroo villages, the remotest of villages of the zone having a very difficult terrain. The team is setting an example by visiting the farmers, laying out field trials, keeping a close vigil of the crop fields and distributing the seeds and machinery to the rural poor. The AEO of the agriculture zone Lurgam has been immensely successful in motivating the rural youth of the zone to take up new ventures though on a very small scale. One such venture has been the establishment of mushroom units. Currently four mushroom units are flourishing and thriving well in three village panchayats of the zone namely, Gadhpora, Jawaharpora and Gutroo, all being monitored and supervised by Dr. Noor Ul Islam Wani, Jr. Agriculture Extension Officer in APD and circle officer of village Nargistan/Gutroo. The mushroom production in the zone was largely seen as something very difficult to realize owing to the long and harsh winters. However, the efforts of the respective circle officers and those of the reverend AEO have finally yielded fruitful dividends and the farmers have already realized a bumper crop this summer. The beneficiaries have been advised to make use of WhatsApp as an ICT tool in order to connect with the buyers of their choice to sell their produce at reasonable rates. Since, the crop is picking up, the fellow farmers are getting excited about the mushroom cultivation and we are expecting a snowball effect with larger number famers coming forward to start mushroom units in the zone.

There is no end to the vast array of activities which are going on in the department, in general and the Agriculture zone Lurgam, in particular. This season, Sweet corn and hybrid moong trials are being laid out in the different locations of the zone to check the feasibility of the same. The Adaptive or MINIKIT –trials are being laid out in the farmers’ field over the past several years to determine the suitability or otherwise of a particular new practice especially, that of hybrid seeds in that particular area.

The recent locust attacks in sporadic locations in India is being seen as one of the deadliest pest attacks as these pests attack in swarms and destroy the field crops completely thereby robbing off the farmers and rendering them helpless. Govt. of J & K has reviewed the preparedness of the Agriculture department and has mobilized both men and machinery in order to get ready to fight out any eventuality that may prop up due to any such attack by this polyphagous pest. The Agriculture zone Lurgam has also announced its preparedness by putting in place spray motors and the pesticides at different strategic locations of the zone to deal with the same. The farmers are quite content and have offered as great deal of gratitude to the department of Agriculture, zone Lugam. The department is fully committed to work for the betterment of the farming community at any cost and under any circumstance.

Author is Ph.D. in Agriculture Extension & Communication from SKUAST-Kashmir and is working as Jr. Agriculture Extension Officer in Agriculture Production Department.