Performance Evaluation of Krishi Bahvan Set-up in Kerala (Abstract)Jinraj P. V *
The growth and development of the agricultural sector in Kerala is unique in many ways. Over the years, the State has transformed itself from a producer State into a consumer State with respect to major essential agricultural commodities like food grains and vegetables. It is estimated that Kerala depends on the neighbouring States for nearly 60 per cent of the rice and 80 per cent of the vegetables consumed annually. At the same time, the State continues to remain a major producer of commercial and cash crops like pepper, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, coconut, tea, coffee, rubber, and cashew. It still holds near-monopoly in the export of several agricultural commodities in India - 93 per cent in pepper, 47 per cent in cardamom, 90 per cent in ginger, 30 per cent in turmeric, 48 per cent in cashew kernels, 68 per cent in coffee, 43 per cent in tea, and 100 per cent in coir and coir products. Thus, the State contributes a substantial share to the foreign exchange earnings of the country. The cropping pattern of the State has undergone a major shift from food crops towards commercial crops since 1960 .
Another major feature of Kerala agriculture is the homestead system of cultivation which has taken a variety of forms: Inter-cropping, mixed cropping of perennial and annual crops, and mixed farming of different types such as crop-livestock and crop-livestock-fish. In consequence, the income per unit area of cultivation remains high.
The per capita availability of operational land in the State is small and declining rapidly. According to the latest estimates, about 92 per cent of the operational holdings is of less than one hectare. Only 0.06 per cent of the holdings is larger than 10 hectares in size. The per capita operational holding size is estimated to be about 0.33 hectares. The farm holdings lie fragmented and subdivided due to high population density, rapid population growth, and the laws of inheritance in force. The land reforms legislation, which is believed to be one of the most radical and successful in India, has failed to achieve the objective of augmenting agricultural production, as most of the holdings remain economically unviable. Moreover, absentee farming has become widespread, as, for most owners of land, cultivation is only a secondary source of income.
Krishi Bhavans did not perform all their designated functions. The major constraints identified in their functioning are the following:
(i) the functioning of the Krishi Bhavans is confined largely to routine administrative work and implementation of schemes;
(ii) the extension activities of the Krishi Bhavans are of poor quality;
(iii) The activities of the Group Farming Samithis are not effective enough to encourage collective efforts among farmers;
(iv) the Karshika Vikasana Samithis do not serve the purpose for which they were constituted, namely to function as an advisory body in the reorganised Panchayat Raj System;
(v) the monitoring and evaluation of the schemes is not conducted properly;
(vi) the role that the Krishi Bhavans play in the credit-linked local level planning is not adequate;
(vii) the training given to the Agricultural Officers is neither adequate nor adequately need-oriented;
(viii) lack of time for extension activities, untimely arrival of funds, frequent transfers, and poor quality of planting materials supplied are severe constraints on the effective functioning of Krishi Bhavans.
* Jinraj P. V. is working with Agricultural and Rural Development through Rapid Action (ARDRA).