The Agriculture is the driving force of the ‘New India’. Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi has set a target to double the income of the farmers by 2022. A few days back, Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) in India have organized the pledge taking ceremonies to achieve this target, in 562 districts of the country, where the Central and State Governments representatives, Agricultural officers, Students and a large number of farmers have participated in each district. For the first time, we have seen such kind of ceremonies for a government’s commitment.

The current approach of Israeli projects in India, particularly in the Agriculture sector, needs some major improvements. India and Israel have signed the Agreement for Agricultural Cooperation in 2006, which evolved into Indo-Israeli Agricultural Cooperation Project in 2008. During the last three years, the Indian government has completely revamped its age-old institutions/policies. This is a high time for Israel to update and align its cooperation strategy with the changed reality and vision of the New India. Now the focus should be on Agribusiness and Agro-Value Addition. Israel should participate proactively to turn Indian Agriculture sector into a profitable enterprise!

On January 1, 2015, Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi has replaced Planning Commission of India with the NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India), this change reflects the change in the approach of the government in India, now the focus is on ‘functioning’ in place of ‘planning.’

The Planning Commission of India was an institution which formulated India’s five-year plans. It was established on 15 March 1950. In his first Independence Day Speech in 2014, Mr. Modi has shared his intention to establish a new institution, which will have a “new design and structure, a new body, a new soul, a new thinking, a new direction, a new faith towards forging a new direction to lead the country based on creative thinking, public-private partnership, optimum utilization of resources, utilization of youth power of the nation.” All key initiatives of the Indian government are aligned with the vision of the ‘New India’.

Recent initiatives of the Indian government

The Indian government is working on a mission mode to transform agriculture sector. Government’s initiatives like National Rurban Mission, Innovative Crop Insurance Scheme, Soil Health Card scheme, Soil Testing Laboratories, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY), Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (To promote bio-farming), ‘India emergence through village emergence’ campaign, ‘My Village My Pride’ scheme (to provide the methodology of scientific farming and a new technology to every village) etc. are very encouraging. The NITI Aayog has proposed a number of reforms for India’s agriculture sector, including liberal contract farming, direct purchase from farmers by private players, direct sale by farmers to consumers, and single trader license etc. To provide advanced agricultural assistance to farmers, the government will open ‘Krishi Vigyan Kendras’ in all districts of the country. The Indian government is using digital and mobile technologies for the benefits of the farmers.

In April 2016, the government has launched Electronic National Agricultural Market (e-NAM), this online platform will integrate 585 wholesale markets across India. To boost the agricultural productivity, Indian government is focusing on four key areas: Irrigation, Seeds, Fertilizer and Technology. The Indian government is also promoting the use of drip and sprinkler irrigation technologies under the ‘Per drop, More crop’ component of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY).

On the occasion of its 70th foundation day, the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) has been elevated as National Rice Research Institute. This Institute has developed 114 rice species for different agriculture climate conditions. The scientists of NRRI have also developed an interesting mobile app called “rice expert” to provide information to farmers in real time on insect pests, nutrients, weeds, nematodes and disease-related problems, rice varieties for different ecologies, farm implements for different field and post-harvest operations. This app has received a very good feedback from the Indian farmers.

Smart Villages in India

On 21st February 2016, Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi has launched the “National Rurban Mission” an initiative to develop 2500 smart villages and 300 rural growth clusters by 2019. The objective of the NRuM is to stimulate local economic development, enhance basic services, and create well planned rurban clusters. India is the world’s 3rd largest Smartphone users market. According to some recent reports, the usage of social media in rural India has grown by 100 percent. Some of the key initiatives of the Indian government to develop smart villages are: Bharat Net (rural broadband connectivity project), Digital Village (for providing Wi-Fi hotspots in rural India), Transformation of Rural post offices into Common Service Centers (CSCs), India Post Payment Banks, GARV (Grameen Vidyutikaran App) and National Digital Literacy Mission etc.

The Smart Village program offers great opportunities for technology, water management, agro-tech, solar energy, waste management, infrastructure and financial players of Israel.

Israeli Agricultural Expertise

Agricultural innovations of Israel are remarkable. Israel’s scientists, consultants, farmers and agriculture-related industries cooperate in Agriculture Research activities. The Agricultural Research Organization (ARO) of Israel, widely known as the Volcani Institute is responsible for operating research operations in the country.

Israel’s Key Agricultural Innovations are: Drip irrigation (Introduced by Israeli inventor late Mr. Simcha Blass), Grain Cocoons (for toxic-free fumigation and safe storage of agricultural commodities), Biological Pest Control, Crop Protection, Dairy Farming (Israeli Dairy Firms provides advanced systems for herd management, monitoring and feeding worldwide), Hardier seeds (a technology that enables the introduction of genetic materials into seeds without modifying their DNA), Desert Potatoes, GFA (Grow Fish Anywhere) etc.

The Current Status of India-Israel Agriculture Cooperation

After Defense, Agriculture is one of the key areas of India-Israel cooperation. The Indo-Israeli Agriculture Project is the collaborative effort of the Israeli Embassy, Indian center and state government bodies, the Indian Agriculture Ministry’s Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture and MASHAV.

In 2015, during the 7th Vibrant Gujarat Summit India and Israel have signed a joint agreement for the third phase of the Indo-Israel Agricultural cooperation project. The first stage of the Indo-Israeli Agricultural Cooperation Project started in 2008. During the first phase (2008 -2011) and the second phase (2012-2015) of this project, some centers of excellence have been set up in different parts of India, mainly in Haryana, Punjab, Utter Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. So far of the proposed 26 centers of excellence, 15 are operational. In the third phase (2015-2018), the Indo-Israel Agriculture Project will be aiming to open some more Centers of Excellence in other states.

The agriculture sector is one of the largest contributors to the GDP of India. According to the stats of Ministry of Labor and Employment, in 2014-15, 45.7% of India’s workforce was employed in agriculture. The approach of the Indian government towards agriculture overhauling is serious. This is the best time to align India-Israel agricultural cooperation project with the vision of the ‘New India.’