The dependence of agriculture on natural resources requires sustainable management of these resources for risk mitigation and management, particularly in the context of increasing farmer distress and vulnerability to risks associated with climate change. Using a framework of indicators in the domains of pest management, fertiliser use, soil health, water conservation, biodiversity, and efficient use of inputs, statewise report cards on ecological sustainability of agriculture are provided. There is much variation in the sustainability of production practices across the country, with some states characterised by high use of pesticides, low soil organic content, depletion of groundwater levels, low crop diversity, high energy use, and widespread nitrate contamination of groundwater.
Agricultural productivity has increased dramatically in India over the past 50 years. Grain production has kept pace with the increasing population, with yields of rice and wheat exceeding current consumption (Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare 2017) and requirements for buffer stocks (Hussain 2018). Despite this unprecedented rise in food crop production, agriculture in India is in crisis. The past year has seen an eruption of farmers’ protests, with Gaon Bandh (Hindu 2018), Kisan Long March (Dhawale 2018) and Kisan Mukti March (Jeelani 2018) receiving widespread media coverage. Increasing input costs, decreasing returns and increasing cost of living (Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare 2017) have together led to low per capita income, high indebtedness, high poverty rate and high levels of agrarian distress as is evident in such mass protests. To address this issue, the government had set a goal of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 (Chand 2017), leading to much discussion on the economic crisis and solutions thereof.
An important and often overlooked aspect of the current crisis in India is the ecological sustainability of agriculture. Agriculture, by its very nature, is dependent on natural resources and ecosystem services. Thus, any plan for sustainable development in the agricultural sector must be cognisant of the need to preserve such natural resources as soil, arable land and water.2019 State wide report cards on ecological parameters EPW