Since 1970, the Agricultural Census has helped collate information on land use, cropping patterns, irrigation status, tenancy particulars and terms of leasing. This information has played a crucial role in development planning

The Agricultural Census is conducted in India every five years, with the first census having been done in 1970.The 10th Census with reference year 2015-16 is the latest, and was launched on February 3, 2016. The Agricultural Census forms part of a broader system of collection of agricultural data and is a large-scale statistical operation for the collection and derivation of quantitative information about the structure of agriculture in the country.

Since 1970, the Agricultural Census has helped collate important information on basic characteristics of operational holdings such as land use and cropping patterns, irrigation status, tenancy particulars and the terms of leasing. This information has played a crucial role in development planning, socio-economic policy formulation and the establishment of national priorities.

The Census also provides the basis for the development of a comprehensive integrated national system of agricultural statistics and has links with various components of the national statistical system.

Such a census is considered as an important tool across the world for not only increasing food production but also improving the efficiency of agricultural practices. For instance, the United States and Japan, two of the world’s most industrially advanced and also agriculturally prosperous nations, carry out the quinquinnial or five yearly agricultural census by complete enumeration of all agricultural holdings.

The US, in fact, started with a decennial agricultural census as early as 1840, and switched over to quinquinnial from 1920 as, with increasing application of science and technology to agriculture, growing mechanisation and increasing production the demand for more frequent agricultural data became pressing.

Through the Census a comprehensive snapshot of national agricultural information at the farm-level is made available. This information is usually used to identify trends in the sector and detect possible areas of intervention. With evolving needs of a growing population, India like the rest of the world is staring at dwindling food production amid concerns relating to food security. These conditions are further exacerbated in the light of climate change and its impact on agriculture.

Given these circumstances it is essential for India to script the next chapter in Agriculture census as it is a power-house of important agri-data that can help India overcome the challenges of degrading environment and rising population.

As a part of the initiative to better utilise the data gleaned from the Agricultural Census, India can compare and benchmark its data with the global agricultural census reports and see where the country stands and how improvements can be brought about. This can help the nearly 70 per cent of the agriculture dependent population of India to increase their agricultural productivity besides adapting to the impact of climate change on agriculture.

The information from agricultural census can also be effectively used to strengthen the smart village initiatives wherein the rural development programmes and policies can be designed and implemented on the basis of the data evidence of the census. This in turn will also increase the confidence of the rural population who will appreciate the census and increase their participation in the subsequent census related activities. The census data can also be effectively utilised by the Government to address the pressing problem of food security by evolving specific measures that aim to increase food production by implementing practical measures that designed and backed by research.

Similarly, in order to asses the real time impact of climate change such green house gas (GHG) and ammonia emissions on agriculture, the Government can use the census data to look into the possibility of adopting measures and initiatives that can help the Indian agricultural sector to improve its GHG inventories.

This in turn will enable better planning for effective climate change responses. The Government can also look into the possibility of involving the farming community and showcasing the census data, this will help increase awareness in the farmers especially on the climate change front and enable them to adapt to these impacts.

Agriculture provides gainful employment and livelihood for the majority of the population and contributes significantly to national income. Agricultural Census is an important aspect of this sector that needs to be in tune with changing times.

The changes need to be broad spectrum, which include a wider area of research that includes environment and climate change besides other important aspects such as food security. A comprehensive overhaul of the census can not only help in increasing food production but also combat climate change better.

Source: The Pioneer

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