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President calls for agricultural growth

india Updated: Aug 06, 2007 16:26 IST

PTI
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In her first public address after assuming the country's top job, President Pratibha Patil on Monday emphasised on new policy initiatives to enhance agricultural growth.

"This is my first assignment after taking over as the President of India and the reason I am here is that everything can wait but not agriculture," Patil said.

"It would be important to bear in mind that our agricultural strategies should not only be pro-poor and pro- nature but also pro-women," the country's first women President said in her address on Agriculture and Food Security here.
It was essential to enlist the support of Panchayati Raj institutions and agricultural universities to empower farmers in both value added processing and marketing, she added.

At a function organised by the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Patil said the success story of the first Green Revolution has run its course and "we cannot afford to rest on our laurels." The momentum generated by the first revolution needs to be sustained, she said.

Quoting the Economic Survey, the President said agricultural growth has become lacklustre as rain fed areas still constitute about 65 per cent of the total net sown area.

She said diminishing size of land holdings, degradation in land quality and soil health due to improper nutrient application and the threats of global warming are plaguing India's agricultural production environment.

"Agriculture has to remain centre-stage in our nation's economic thinking for making it attractive and rewarding", she said.

She called for major investments in strengthening basic research in the frontier areas of agriculture sciences. Patil said the pioneering role played by women in preservation of forests and top soil is well recognised.

Stating that 60 per cent of women were engaged in the farm sector, the President said: "we must therefore endeavour to mainstream gender considerations in areas of agricultural research, education and extension."

The President said that to sustain agri-growth it was desirable to have knowledge centre in every gram panchayat for farmers.

"They can make use of radio, television and IT medium to know the latest techniques to improve farm productivity and to propagate these in farmers," she said.

Patil said agri-clinics can help in providing information on soil health, water conservation, integrated nutrient management and dissemination of information.

"Precision farming should be developed as a special thrust area wherein a farmer adjusts farm practices to match the variation of soil and terrain of his plot rather than follow the one-size-fits-all approach", she said.

There is a need for a climatic literacy programme and for the training of local level climate managers to guide farmers on the methods of maximising the benefits of a good monsoon and minimising the hazards of a poor monsoon.

The President also suggested a well-planned diversification strategy for crops, horticulture, livestock, poultry and
fishery.

She said the big leap in India's milk production can be credited to the labour put in by nearly 75 million women who are involved in the care of cattle.

Speaking on the occasion, Director General of Food and Agriculture Organisation Jacques Diouf lauded reduction in the share of people living in hunger from 39 per cent to 20 per cent in the last 30 years.