Over 10,000 farmers, state and district agriculture department officials visited the exhibition, which included exhibits from the Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA), agri-entrepreneurs, private-sector organisations, and Farmer-Producer Organizations.
The World Bank-funded ‘Assam Agribusiness and Rural Transformation Project’ (APART), exhibited by the Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agricultural Services Society (ARIASS) in collaboration with International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), was visited by the Chief Minister and his entourage, comprising of Assam Agriculture Production Commissioner Rajesh Kumar & State Project Director, and Director Agriculture, Manoj Kumar.
IRRI is a technical partner of the APART project, launched by the Hon’ble Chief Minister in September 2017, to improve the resilience of rice value chains for small and marginal farmers and agri-entrepreneurs in 23 districts of Assam.
Key scientists of the project team, which included Dr. Sudhanshu Singh (IRRI Senior Scientist and Team Leader, APART), Dr. Kanwar Singh (Resident Coordinator, APART), Mr. Baljeet Singh (Market Analyst & Operations Specialist, ARIASS), and Suryakanta Khandai (Senior Specialist, Post Harvest & Rice Value Chain), welcomed the Chief Minister and elaborated on the modern farm machinery on display at the exhibit.
Shri Sonowal expressed keen interest in the machinery displayed, which featured a drum seeder, mechanical transplanter, solar bubble dryer, portable rice mill, power weeder-cum-harvester, super bag, and axial flow thresher. Dr. Sudhanshu explained that “these modern farm machines can help reduce costs for the farmer, increase crop resilience to climate change, and improve the cropping intensity. This will in turn alleviate losses across the rice value chain.”
Shri Sonowal emphasized the need to ensure the availability of modern farm machinery for farmers in Assam, facilitated by manufacturers setting up base in the state. Speaking to farmers, he assured them that modern machinery would be made available at subsidized rates by the Government of Assam, and a robust value chain for agricultural products will be established to ensure higher benefits to farmers.
The Chief Minister said, “We realize the dignity in the farmer’s hard work which is needed to grow food for the society. For this, the state government has initiated schemes like Chief Minister’s Samagra Gramya Unnyan Yojna, Mukhyamantrir Krishi Sa-Sajuli Achoni, Ghare Ghare Pukhuri Ghare Ghare Mach and others, so farmers can avail benefits, and boost their income; in keeping with the ambition of fulfilling Prime Minister Modi’s vision of doubling farmers' income by 2022.”
Supportive government strategies and institutional set-ups can boost sustainable mechanization. When applied to farm lands, initiatives can include mechanization aids in agricultural land preparation, timely seeding and planting, weed control, integrated pest management, precise fertilizer application, harvesting, proper storage, and value addition along the food supply chain for on-farm processing, transport and marketing.
By way of the APART project, IRRI is providing technical guidance to improve rice production systems and management practices by promoting climate resilient technologies, encouraging adoption, and facilitating market linkages. The project is an intervention for tackling Assam’s frequent flooding as well as droughts that have heightened climate change concerns in Assam.
Shri Sonowal also urged Assam’s educated youth to take up farming as a means of self-employment while adopting modern technology. A key mandate of APART project is to empower farmers with scale -and -gender appropriate sustainable mechanization for improving agricultural outputs. Farmers with access to improved agricultural tools and powered technologies can shift from subsistence farming to more market-oriented farming, making the agriculture sector more attractive to rural youth.
In 2019, under the APART project, over 8700 male farmers, 2600 women farmers, and extension functionaries have been trained on modern farm machinery use and on effective and sustainable farming practices.