ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Spatio-temporal Variations of Crop Diversification

A Block-level Study in West Bengal

Crop diversification has been found to augment farmer’s income and employment, and to reduce poverty. An analysis of the nature and extent of crop diversification with spatio-temporal variations in the Damodar Valley Corporation command area in West Bengal is presented and the factors affecting crop diversification are identified. The spatial effect has been captured by segregating the DVC canal water course into three segments—head-reach, middle-reach and tail-end—according to the location of the area with respect to the water course. Uncertainty in respect of canal water availability in the tail-end area induces farmers to resort to higher crop diversification. The number of rural markets, distance of cultivated land from farmer’s home, and the number of adult family members engaged in agriculture significantly influence the nature of crop diversification.

The authors are grateful to an anonymous referee of this journal for useful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

Crop diversification means production of different varieties of crops in the same cultivable land, that is, farmers harvest a variety of crops, and not a single crop, in a plot of land. It is a process that helps to augment farmers income, employment, and reduces poverty (Chand 1996; Ryan and Spencer 2001), and optimises the use of land, soil, water, and other resources. It also reduces risk and uncertainties arising from climate and biological factors. Crop diversification, it has been found, is influenced by a number of infrastructural and technological factors such as irrigation, availability of markets, fertilisers, road connectivity, transportation facilities, and so on (Let 2011; Bhattacharya 2008; Acharya et al 2011). It may be noted that Indian agriculture is dominated by marginal and small farmers. The majority of these farmers are in a vulnerable situation (Vaidyanathan 2006; Kumar et al 2006; Roy 2006; Posani 2009). The literature on agrarian crisis in India has shown that the prevailing agrarian structure where a large presence of marginal farmers, declining size of landholdings, higher shares of rain-fed area, lack of bargaining power of the marginal farmers and agricultural labourers due to low productivity and lack of mobility into the non-farm activities, imperfect land market, barriers in access to formal credit and insurance, are the main reasons behind the agrarian crisis (Deshpande and Arora 2010; Reddy and Mishra 2010; Vasavi 1999; Deshpande and Shah 2010).

Further, increasing cost of cultivation coupled with fluctuating agricultural production have resulted in stagnation or declining net income of the farmers as well as greater indebtedness. Along with these, the increasing dependence of these vulnerable farmers on the market for basic services such as education and health that now form a substantial proportion of domestic expenditure further aggravates agrarian crisis (Reddy and Mishra 2010; Deshpande and Shah 2010; Assadi 1998). Different policy interventions have been suggested to cope with the problem and crop diversification may be considered as one of them, particularly with access to markets (World Bank 2007).

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Published On : 25th May, 2018

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