Supported by wide-ranging reforms, particularly beginning 1991, India experienced a rapid growth in agriculture over the past decade (averaging about 6% per year between 1992-93 and 2003-04) apart from impressive progress towards reducing poverty (millennium development goals) and social indicators like literacy (from 52% in 1991 to 65% in 2001).

Many technological challenges are riddling the Indian Agriculture.

1. Despite the shrinking share (23%) of the agricultural sector in the economy, a majority of the labour force (nearly 60%) continues to depend on agriculture. About 75% of India's poor people with low purchasing power live in the rural areas and nearly 60% of the cultivated area is under the rainfed farming.

  1. Hence, the National Agricultural Policy and the Tenth Five-Year Plan have placed high priority on raising agricultural productivity as a means to achieving rapid agricultural growth and reducing rural poverty.
  2. Stagnating/ decelerating productivity growth and declining total factor productivity in agriculture have cast doubts on the resilience of the sector in meeting the challenges of a market-driven and competitive regime. The studies have attributed the pattern to the slow-down in productivity gains from the earlier adoption of high-yielding varieties, decline in public investments in the agricultural sector, and increasing degradation of natural resources.
  3. The current unsustainable land and water-use practices will lead to lowering of agricultural productivity in the future.
  4. Ensuring an economically and ecologically sound access to food for every Indian, while conserving and improving the natural resources and traditional knowledge, in a more competitive regime, is yet another big challenge

The National Policy on Agriculture (NPA) seeks to actualize the vast untapped growth potential of Indian agriculture to generate income and employment opportunities for the rural communities. It recognizes the role of private sector in agricultural research, human resource development, post-harvest management and value-addition.

Also, the 10th Five-Year Plan envisages a growth rate of 4% per annum in the agriculture sector. Achieving such a high growth rate requires investments in research and extension as well as interventions that can improve the policy and institutional environment within which agricultural producers, traders and processors operate.

Given the limited scope in area expansion, increase in productivity, profitability and competitiveness will be the main parameter of agricultural growth in future. This should be triggered by advances and innovations in, and applications of science in agriculture which basically would mean shifting from input-based to knowledge-based growth of Indian Agriculture.

In this paradigm shift, R&D assumes more importance because it is a cost-effective method for promoting growth with sustainability while attaining competitiveness. And for that,

  1. The efficiency of R&D system needs to be enhanced and the enabling environment to be created.
  2. Innovative ways of conducting research have to be developed such as pursuing a ‘production to consumption systems' (PCS) approach which comprises the entire set of actors, materials, activities, services, and institutions involved in the growing, harvesting and handling of particular commodity, transforming it into a usable and/or high-value product, and marketing the final product.
  3. A growing regional imbalance in the country is perceived. In a welfare state like India, such a trend cannot be allowed to continue and therefore special R&D efforts to target the disadvantaged areas should receive priority attention. For example, in the vast dry land areas where the possibility of large-scale irrigation infrastructure development is very limited, productivity can only be enhanced through innovative and appropriate technological advancements/ interventions, complemented with institutional and policy support.

Participation and empowerment of the stakeholders are required to harness innovations in frontier sciences in selected priority areas and to break the yield and quality barriers for satisfying the present and future national needs.

The recently concluded National Agricultural Technology Project (NATP) led by the ICAR, was aimed to implement the shared understanding of the Government of India and the World Bank on technology-led-pro-poor growth, and it facilitated the public sector reform process for accelerating the flow of agricultural technologies. The challenges, opportunities and lessons learnt in the NATP have provided a useful framework to move forward in the development process.

A key lesson from the NATP is that deliberate investments in partnership building and shared governance are required to speed up technology adaptation and dissemination.

To fulfill the GoI's objectives as expressed in India's NPA, the ICAR has initiated National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP), which accords high priority to generation and transfer of agricultural technologies, and suggests innovations in the technology system.

For more information, please refer to Project Implementation Plan (PIP).