Agriculture, Water and Natural Resources (AWN)

A number of studies have looked into the economic, social and institutional changes taking place in agriculture and rural livelihoods. An attempt has been made to document the existence and the nature of `illegal’ or `informal’ tenancy or lease-farming in Kerala. This analysis based on a review of several micro-level case studies, brings out the prevalence of lease farming across crops and locations, the nature of lessers and lessees, the terms of lease, and the income derived from lease cultivation. It argues for institutional arrangements for the expansion of lease cultivation rather than the continuation of the legal prohibition in vogue.

Studies of livelihood dynamics have also been attempted especially in cases in which resource use conflicts have became pronounced. One such study in the Plachimada Panchayat (which has become known for the conflict between the Coco Cola Manufacturing Company and the local population over the use of water resources), has analysed the institutional dimension of livelihoods, and showed that institutional failures have played an important role in creating livelihood vulnerabilities. The relationship between formulation of livelihood strategies and the asset position of households too has become very clear, demonstrating higher degrees of livelihood vulnerability among the asset-poor households.

An ongoing project aims at understanding the manner in which rural households have been coping with changes in agricultural prices, and also in the changed context of the transformation of the modes of governance (through reforms and decentralisation). The study was able to bring out the differences in the coping strategies adopted by households belonging to different socio-economic strata. Some ongoing studies attempt to document the nature and magnitude of indebtedness in farm households. Such an enquiry assumes importance in the context of the widely debated agrarian crisis, and the increasing spate of suicides among farmers.

During the period under review, a study has been completed on India’s coconut economy under conditions of trade liberalisation. The analysis has revealed not only a significant increase in production: but also a perceptible increase in the consumption of coconut and coconut oil, especially in the State of Kerala. The study has also shown that in the WTO regime, Indian coconut economy has been getting closely integrated with the world market and that Indian prices have become highly sensitive to international prices. In order to protect the domestic coconut economy from international competition, the study argues, the imports of coconut and coconut products needs to be regulated and other measures of domestic support to growers extended.

Several dissertations of students have also analyzed important issues in agriculture and natural resources. One of them looked into the impact of monsoon ban on trawling and other regulatory and promoting interventions by the State in Kerala fishery on the living conditions of fishermen. It has come out with the important finding that though these interventions have helped fishermen, a new form of `open access’ situation has emerged with over-investment in motorized boats by the `so called’ traditional fishermen. Another study on the participation of people in Joint Forest Management (JFM) in Orissa, has brought out the fact that the resource-poor tribal inhabitants are strongly involved in the deforestation of patches of forests other than those assigned to them as part of JFM. Such a situation underscores the need for alternative strategies for enlisting participation of the poor tribal families in the forest protection endeavour. Another Doctoral dissertation examined the factors and processes shaping the size, composition and productivity of livestock in the State of Tamil Nadu, over a period spanning the past 50 years. The study specifically looks into the influence of commercialisation of dairying and the increasing demand for milk on the one hand and technological change in agriculture on the other, on the development of dairying in Tamil Nadu.

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