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NAVAAS Will Transform Agri Scenario Of Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh is one of the progressive States for agriculture in India. The Government of Madhya Pradesh has launched the NAVAAS initiative for developing self-help technologies that benefit the small and marginal farmers. It focuses on development of tools and techniques suitable for small and marginal farmers, ensuring livelihood security, improving productive value of yield, generating value from crop residue, reducing weather change vulnerability, and conservation of natural capital. The Outlook team spoke with Shri. Arvind Singh Bhadoria, Honourable Minister, Cooperatives, Public Service Management, Government of Madhya Pradesh, regarding this initiative. Following are the excerpt from the interview.

What is NAVAAS initiative?

India was a food deficit country a few decades back and now we are a food surplus nation. The food security model that we adopted, focused on increasing production and productivity of farms. However, this model ignored several crucial aspects such as livelihood security for rural population, affordable technologies for small and marginal farmers, adoption of sustainable practices and conservation of natural capital. We believe, India now needs to move from Green revolution to the Cyan Revolution, that represents the fusion of agriculture and innovations for future-fit growth. The NAVAAS initiative sets the foundation for this revolution.

NAVAAS stands for NAVAchar aur Anusandhan se Samruddhi; which means innovation and research for prosperity in our rural areas. The literal meaning of word NAVAAS is ‘a joy of life’ and we hope the initiative will bring joy for our farmers. Under this initiative our major thrust is on developing self-help technologies for small and marginal farmers. The tools and techniques will ensure livelihood security, reduce input costs, improve productive value of yield, generate value from crop residue, reduce weather change vulnerability and conserve natural capital. We want our community and stakeholders to become innovators and researchers rather than being consumers of technology and knowledge that is developed in the western world. NAVAAS initiative will crowdsource the innovations and provide a launchpad for farm-lab innovations to farm applications with large number of farmers. The development and adoption of these self-help technologies for small and marginal farmers will drive the next phase of transformation in Indian agriculture sector.

How did you feel the need for such an initiative?

The Government of Madhya Pradesh is committed to the sustainable agriculture and water resources management for the prosperous future of its farmers. With its favourable policies and schemes over last 15 years, food production has also increased from 214 Lakh MT (2004-05) to above 436 Lakh MT in 2017-18. Madhya Pradesh has recorded the best growth rates for agriculture, at around 11 percent for over a decade now with a 29.1 percent growth recorded in 2016-17. The State has earned the highest award "Krishi Karman" given by the Government of India for six consecutive years.

However, it should be note that the land holding pattern has changed now. Over 82 percent farmers are small and marginal landholders. If we need to transform the agriculture sector, we need to address issues for these small and marginal farmers. We have observed that the technologies and solutions introduced during green revolution has increased the cost of production exponentially, impacting the profitability of agriculture adversely. The input cost, which used to be less than 10 percent before green revolution, has now gone up to 50 percent for few crops. Fertilizer consumption has gone up from 52.5 kg/hectare in 2004-05 to 82.4 kg/ha in 2014-15. At the same time, there was complete absence of support for improving conditions for the agriculture labour.

Now is the time to think radically and move from food security to livelihood security model, higher production to higher productive value model, machine centric cropping patter to agile crop centric machines, grain centric farming to nutrition centric farming, and from unsustainable practices to conservation natural capital. The self-help technologies should change the labour displacing trend in agriculture by reducing drudgery and change perceptions around agriculture labour.

We have realised that the agriculture sector needs holistic approach to build an ecosystem that can benefit farmers as well as agriculture labours. Thus, the Government of Madhya Pradesh has launched NAVAAS initiative to promote research and innovations in agriculture focusing on small and marginal farmers. The initiative will complement the Government of India’s mission to double the income for farmers by 2022 as well as leverage interventions under Aatmanirbhar Madhya Pradesh Roadmap 2023 and other Central and State Government schemes to promote innovations, research and start-ups.

The Outlook team also spoke with Mr. Umakant Umrao, Principal Secretary, Department of Cooperative, Government of Madhya Pradesh, regarding this initiative. Following are the excerpt from his interview.

What are the key objectives of NAVAAS initiative?

The NAVAAS initiative is launched with three key objectives. First is to identify and nurture innovators with mentoring, networking, financial access, developing entrepreneurial skills, and provide a platform for setting up demonstrations with small and marginal farmers. Second, to transform agriculture labour as a dignified activity, equipped with appropriate innovative solutions that reduce drudgery, save time, improve productivity and enhance the perceptions around agriculture labour. And third, to leverage existing multi-stakeholder resources in terms of institutions, infrastructure and facilities to develop an ecosystem of incubation, acceleration, patenting, manufacturing, marketing and dissemination of innovative solutions.

How will the NAVAAS initiative be implemented?

In NAVAAS, an innovation will undergo through the phases of identification, incubation, acceleration, and growth. The identification phase would entail sourcing of grass-root innovations which have the potential to be beneficial for the small and marginal farmers as well as commercially viable. It will be done using the considerable outreach of our partner organisations. Once the innovations are screened, we will work with incubator across the State who can provide R&D, mentoring and other support services to help innovators develop their solutions and business models. Then comes the accelerators, to support scale-up of the innovation or start-ups with right mentoring, networking, infrastructure and business development through the multi-stakeholder group. The successful start-ups will then be provided with social venture capital for growth. The Social Venture Capital would be set up at the Madhya Pradesh State Cooperative Bank in line with SEBI’s Alternate Investment Fund structure. This would provide financing as per the needs and the stage of development of the technology or enterprise.

Who are the key partners for this initiative?

The project is being executed by in the leadership of Madhya Pradesh State Cooperative Bank (popularly known as MP Apex Bank), and for that we have formed a multi-stakeholder group represented by the government, academic and research institutes, civil society, international development agencies, private sector, farmer producer organisations and cooperative societies. We have formed a core group and partnering with more agencies for collectively addressing core issues to transform lives of small and marginal farmers.

What are the benefits of NAVAAS to the Agri-innovators?

We are assuring the innovators to solve the issues in agricultural economy and we will take care of the rest. Once the innovator has developed any solution, we will provide incubation, mentoring, networking, business plan development support, platform for demonstration, manufacturing, financing, etc. It is a complete package where we will set up an appropriate recognition and rewards system and support for patenting process. We are setting up a governance mechanism that ensures transparency and accountability in the entire process. This will enable innovators to focus on the problem and its solution, while the initiative takes care of everything else.

How will you ensure adoption of technologies by last mile farmers?

We are focusing on 3As - Affordability, Accessibility and Acceptability as measure to ensure higher adoption of innovations by small and marginal farmers. The self-help technologies that we develop must be affordable so that a farmer with less than one hectare of land can also recover the investment in a reasonable time period. We will leverage our network and partners to ensure accessibility at last mile. The self-help technologies will also be acceptable as they will not only make the agriculture profitable but will also reduce drudgery and improve perceptions around agriculture labour.

How can innovators and other stakeholders reach you?

Our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/navaas.initiative) is launched which can provide brief overview of the initiative. We have added an application form on the page, which can be filled and sent on our email address (navaas.initiative@gmail.com). We are at the final stage of developing a website (www.navaas.mp.gov.in) for accepting forms and engage with innovators. As mentioned earlier, applications will be screened and relevant innovations will be incubated to support small and marginal farmers.

What are your next steps going forward?

As mentioned, we will launch our website in next couple of weeks. We are engaging with additional stakeholders in the sector to be part of our multi-stakeholder group that can bring in transformative change in the sector. Also, we are conducting an ecosystem analysis that will help us chalk out long term strategy for the initiative. We encourage youth to solve the issues in agriculture and innovate. We would like to invite all innovators to register on our website and share their innovations so that we can get in touch with them and work with them to scale up their innovations for prosperous future of our farmers.

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