When COVID 19 disrupted agricultural labour, supply chains and farmers’ access to credit and markets in India, the pandemic did not push the farmers to adopt more sustainable cultivation practices, a new study claimed.
The study found that 84 per cent of farmers reported no change in the type of crops they grew. The researchers also said that 66 per cent did not change fertilizer or pesticide use.
PLOS Sustainability and Transformation published the study by Lindsay Jaacks at The University of Edinburgh, Midlothian, United Kingdom, Abhishek Jain at theCouncil on Energy, Environment and Water, New Delhi, India.
In the study, the researchers said that nearly half of the population in the country was employed in agricultural work, yet the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on agricultural practices have not been fully documented. For the study, the researchers interviewed 3,637 farmers living in 20 states and union territories by telephone between December 1, 2020 and January 10, 2021.
AGRICULTURE AND COVID; NOI CHANGES IN PRACTICE
The authors said, “Contrary to our hypothesis, we did not find an association between COVID-19and changes in crop cultivation patterns or interest in trying agro ecological practices. Most of the farmers continued to grow the same crops with no change in input use. However, the authors note that several farmers expressed an interest in learning more about practicing more sustainable farming.
“Despite disruptions to agri-food supply chains during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, and about 1 in 5 farmers in our national sample reporting COVID-19 symptoms in the past month, the vast majority of farmers continued with prevailing cropping patterns. Rice remained the dominant crop in Kharif (monsoon season) of 2020, and the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides continued. Government support, peer-to-peer training networks, and market linkage support will be required to shift farmers to more nutrient-dense and sustainable cropping patterns,” Jaacks said.
The authors said that the study has its limitations, including low response rates in several major agricultural states, as well as possible self-reporting bias. They pointed out that further studies would be needed to better understand medium- and long-term changes in crop cultivation practices as well as the use of chemical inputs.
In 2021, the Government of India had said that the agriculture sector had functioned smoothly during the lockdown. It said that all necessary measures were taken to ensure smooth operation of agriculture related activities. Farming and allied activities were exempted from the lockdown. Seed, pesticide, fertilizer etc. dealers / shops and other input related activities were allowed to open / free for making inputs available to the farmers. Inter and intra state movement of farm machinery specially combine harvesters was facilitated. As a result of the various steps taken by the Department, both harvesting activities of the Rabi Crop and sowing activities of Summer Crop took place in a systematic manner.