Agricultural Development in North-East India: Problems, Prospects and Challenges | Original Article
The North-Eastern Region (NER) comprises Eight States (including Sikkim) namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. The region having more than 98 percent international border sharing international borders with Bhutan and China in the North, Myanmar in the East and Bangladesh in the South West has several unique and unparalleled features; fertile land, abundant water resources, evergreen dense forests, high and dependable rainfall, mega biodiversity, flora and fauna and a mixture of socio-economic, political, ethnic and cultural biodiversity. The temperature/climate is suitable for agriculture, which is the major occupation of the people of the region. But, rather than converting these strengths optimally into opportunities, the weaknesses threaten the regional economies, which adversely affected the livelihood. The population of the NER has quadrupled to 40 million during the past half century, which has rendered the land-man ratio increasingly adverse. The preponderance of the small and marginal farmer is the common feature of the agricultural economy of the NER. The increasing proportion of small and marginal farmers trapped in the traditional low output agricultural practices, is subjected to economically unviable production systems. Low and uncertain agricultural productivity due to vulnerability to flood, drought, soil erosion and heavy siltation, the worst form of ‘hidden poverty’, lack of market opportunities and remoteness and isolation, also expose them to high production risk as well as income risk. Low usage of the growth augmenting inputs such as irrigation, HYV seeds, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, positive measures, etc. contributed to the dismal performance and low income, a precursor to agrarian distress. As a result, the past model of regional economic development has failed resulting in lack of smooth growth of the economies. The contribution of the largest sector, agriculture and allied sector to the State Domestic Product remained meager. Therefore, revitalizing economies by promoting growth and re-building the models for agricultural development is a great challenge. In view of the coexistence of diverse ethnicity, geo-physical, socio economic and cultural factors, the issues of developmental deficiencies are more complicated and thus require more in-depth understanding and strategies for long term economic solution.