Indian farms are emptying out - and this process will accelerate with increasing urbanisation

Small land holdings, low farm productivity and dependence on just a handful of MSP crops are interdependent problems.

Pragmatic solutions are needed.

India must figure out a way to enable the aggregation of small land holdings into larger agricultural units without endangering the rights or livelihoods of farmers. Collectives are one way to do that, but these collectives will need funding, technology and governance support.

We must also upgrade the productivity of small farms. They must move to higher-value products with technology and relevant investments. A small 2-acre land holding delivers practically no income above a subsistence level to a farmer who goes for any MSP crop. However, examples abound of enterprising farmers who can generate a significant income from a small farm with alternative products and methods. These examples must be identified, and a national program must be initiated to help other farms/farmers replicate them.

I wrote about this last year: Here is what most of us are missing about the future of India's farming and agritech scenario!?

However, at this point, I am not sure if that could be the right approach, considering that farming is a part-time activity for all these small farmers. A national level survey is necessary before taking any such decisions.

The economics of small land holdings with MSP crops and the economics of larger holdings are already well known.

Accelerating urbanisation is a given. India will go on the same trajectory as China in the last 30 years.

The inference from all this is clear.

A survey won’t tell us anything we don’t know?

Whether the owner of the land are okay with formalization. The purpose of survey is not to uncover the known but rather then uncover the unknown which is important a mass scale policies changes.

I am not recommending a change. I am recommending the adaptation of an existing model (co-operatives) to devise a new one. So “formalisation”, as generally understood, is not needed. The need is for innovation in the construct of the collective.

The innovation must remove the barrier to farmer acceptance. So, surveys will help AFTER an innovation is thought through.