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Notes By-

Sachin Gupta

Cleared UPSC 2017 with AIR-3


Agriculture, one of the greatest inventions by mankind, was fundamental to the
development of a civilised society. Nineteenth century anthropologists theorised
that mankind had passed through a savage state of hunting-gathering, followed by
a phase of herdmanship and nomadism, to the farming stage and civilisation.
“Agriculture” is an art that requires skill for its effective practice. Ever since the
origin of agriculture in Neolithic period, man has constantly engaged himself in
innovating skills and techniques for further improvement in agriculture. Culture,
environment, technology, society and agriculture are not isolated components. They
work in a close network and often influence each other. Anthropological interest
in the study of agriculture began since the time of cultural evolutionists. Cultural
evolutionists like Tyler, Morgan and others have discussed about the courses of
evolution of culture and the development of agriculture. Julian Steward (1955)
while discussing about cultural ecology, emphasised the agricultural zone and
environmental adaptability. Gordon Childe (1951) discussed the origin of agriculture

Agriculture in the history of mankind. He pointed out how mankind began to change its mode
of life from food gathering to food cultivation, which is historically a transitional
stage towards more permanent agriculture. Leslie white (1959), in his theory of
evolution, has indicated that culture evolves as the amount of energy harnessed
per capita per year is increased, or as the efficiency of the instrumental means of
putting the energy to work is increased, which in due course leads to agricultural
growth. Ratzel (1896) regarded that agriculture is an improvement because it forces
on man the wholesome habit of the labour and is followed by accumulation of
capital, development of trade, and fuller organisation of social ranks. Modern

Ecology and Subsistence
Patterns many other dimensions, where technology, environment and the science or rationale
behind selection of crops, technology under different socio-cultural and
environmental conditions, etc. become primary focus. Agriculture as a science
remains a separate discipline for over centuries where technology is a key and
inalienable part.
In twentieth century a separate branch of study in anthropology was emerged called
the “Agricultural Anthropology”. Cultural ecologists or anthropologists have tried
to see the relation between culture and ecology in agriculture and have focussed
that agriculture works under different ecological conditions amongst different
societies. Society’s role in agriculture is inevitable in the context of certain
ecological conditions, where culture plays significant role. Nettings pointed out
that “Anthropologists have seldom taken the deterministic position of some earlier
geographers that the natural environment could directly cause a particular type of
culture. They have noted the limitations that climate, precipitation, topography
soils, and other features could impose on the diffusion and adoption of agricultural
complexes”. (Netting, 1974, p.23) in his study has cited the examples from AL
Kroeber (1939) and B.J. Meggers (1954) findings how agricultural diffusion is
both progressed and constrained by ecological condition. The contemporary focus
in agricultural studies by anthropologists addresses the issues of indigenous
knowledge and practices by local communities and derives the scientific values
for sustainable growth.

Activity: How studies on agriculture find a place in Anthropology?
Discuss different approaches and theoretical interpretations in agriculture by

Archaeologists and paleoanthropologists have discussed in detail about the origins
of agriculture. Most of the literature shows that agriculture was originated during
Neolithic period. Some others say that it was during upper-Palaeolithic period the
first agriculture was domesticated. In different regions, agriculture was originated
in different periods of time. Broadly it is assumed that agricultural systems appeared
between ca. 10000-5000 years and by 2000 ago most human populations were
dependent on agriculture . (Flannery, 1973) has discussed how the origin of
agriculture took place at different points of time at different places. As far as the
question of domestication of crops is concerned, which crop was first domesticated
than later, there is no unique and established fact. But the available answers for
domestication of crop and the period of cropping in the past can guide us about
the cultural behaviour. The crops were domesticated in both plain and riverine
areas in different regions. The domestication induced the scope for growth of family
(extended), settlement of colonies, strengthening kinship pattern, etc. Whether it
is the nature of family that motivated for domestication of agriculture or viceversa
is nothing but chicken-egg evidence. But a few evidences can be better traced
from the works of ethno archaeologists, paleo botanists, or paleoanthropologists.
There are many hypotheses constructed about the origins of agriculture. A few of
them are very briefly discussed below.
Ø Early views on the origins of agriculture focused on climate change. In the
end of Pleistocene, with gradual increasing warmth and dryness in the earth’s
climate when vegetation grew only around limited water sources, the Oasis
hypothesis suggested a circumstance in which plants, animals, and humans
would have clustered in constrained zones near water. V. Gordon Childe was
one of the proponents of this idea.
Ø The Natural-habitat hypothesis suggests that the domestication of agriculture Agriculture
should have appeared where their wild ancestors lived. Cohen (1977, 2009)
argued that the only way for a successful but rapidly increasing species such
as land snails, shellfish, birds, and many new plant species, to cope with
declining resources was for them to begin and cultivate the land and
domesticate its habitants rather than simply to collect the wild produce (Douglas
Price, October 2011).
Ø Cultural progress hypothesis assumes that bio-culturally capable humans
would inevitably develop agriculture subsistence as part of culturally-mediated
progress from simpler to more complex, from arduous nomadic life to
comfortable sedentary one, from wild to more and more “civilised and settled
state” Price and Bar-Yosef (2011) beautifully explained the ideas about the origins of
agriculture which is categorised as either push or pull models. Push or pull model,
where for example, hunter-gatherers are either pushed or forced to become farmers
or they are pulled, drawn by the benefits of a new life style. Population pressure
approach, for example, force human societies to find way out for domestication of
crops or later the agricultural intensification. Social hypothesis usually involve
pull, in which members of society are drawn into relationships of inequality in
order to benefit from new arrangements and elevate social status by increasing
wealth and reduce risk.

Price (1977) pointed out that domestication has taken as the substitution of human
selection for natural selection upon a plant or animal population. For domestication
to occur, the wild plant or animal must coexist with the human population and
presumably comprise a part of the food supply. Some believe, domestication is a
step towards cultural progress, the first step of agricultural revolution.
Approximate dates for the appearance of domesticated species in various parts of
the world Place and species Date of appearance (call BP)
Southwest Asia
Plants 11,500
Animals 10,500
Millet 10000
Rice >7000
Corn 9000
South America
Plants 10000
Animals 6000
New Guinea
Plants >7000
South Asia 5000
Plants 8000
Plants 5000
Animals 9000
Eastern North America
Plants 5000
Source: Price and Bar-Yosef (2011) The Origins of Agriculture: New Data, New Ideas

Ecology and Subsistence Patterns

3.5.1 Low Intensity Agricultural System: Shifting Cultivation
Shifting cultivation is one of the primitive agricultural practices found in many
parts of the world including Asia Pacific and Sub Saharan countries. “Shifting
cultivation” is the term applied to the system of agriculture in which a plot of land
is tilled during a period of time, usually one agricultural season (“year”), and then
left fallow for several seasons during which other plots are cultivated in turn, until
the first plot may be used again”. Drainage ditches about 9000 years old have
been reported from the highlands of New Guinea, a region under intensive clearing
for about 5000 years. Pollen records indicate forest clearance possibly 3000 ago
in central Africa (Mabberly, 1983:111).
J. D. Freeman (1955) discussion about Malayasian system of swidden cultivation,
Geertz (1963), J. E. Spencer (1978) study of shifting cultivation in south eastern
Asia, L.P. Vidyarthi’s ethnographic studies in India are some classic examples about
low intensity agricultural system, the shifting cultivation. This cultivation is also
called “swidden cultivation” or “slash and burn cultivation”. In India, this is called
by different names such as podu among Kui speaking Kondhs of Orissa and Andhra
Pradesh, jhum among north eastern tribes, kothu kadu and kumri among southern
Indian tribes, etc. The shifting cultivation practice is adopted in the tropical regions
of Asia and Africa and more widespread in hilly tribal belts of north eastern states,
Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh in India.
Spencer pointed out that ‘shifting cultivation is one of the processes of transforming
wild, forested landscapes into developed cultural landscapes. Despite the criticisms
from forest officials, modern agriculturists and other government officials, the
importance of shifting cultivation is still in vogue due to nature of organised land
use, associate cultural framework, the environmental adaptability, etc. The shifting
cultivation practice involves multi factors, aims, cultural traits, habits, multiple
complex motivations, etc. rather than much emphasis on productivity, and
environment impact (ibid.). Conklin has outlined both cultural and ecological
understanding for the study of shifting cultivation. In his model, he has discussed
about cultural axis, environmental axis and numerically labelled temporal
distinctions. Under environmental axis, he has discussed about climatic, edaphic,
and biotic factors; under cultural axis, he has discussed about social, technological
and ethno ecological factors. Numerically labelled temporal distinctions refer to
the five successive phases of swidden farming such as selecting, cutting, burning,
cropping and fallowing. Vidyarthi’s (1963) study on Maler’s agricultural practice
is furthermore comprehensive. He discussed about successive phases more
elaborately. Vidyarthi’s outline on stages of shifting cultivation and Conklin’s topical
outlines are more or less same. Vidyarthi has further outlined the stages based on
his field experience among Maler in Santhal Paraganas. Worshipping and
merrymaking as part of the cultural system, is additionally discussed in his study.
He emphasised on total culture, the nature-man-spirit relationship which embodies
a network of mutual interaction and intimate interrelations between nature, man
and spirit.
The common understanding from ecological point of view is that this agricultural
practice is more conservative towards repetitive use of land. The fallow period is
a common feature to provide scope for regeneration of soil fertility. The soil
becomes porous and water retention capacity of the soil is relatively higher. Further,
the tools used in shifting cultivation are simple and labour oriented. Thus group
exercise is a common social behaviour. Kinship plays an important role in
distribution of land. However, this form of cultivation is conducive to limited
population. After certain point of time, the carrying capacity of the soil is reduced.
The other features of shifting cultivation are: the land is owned by the community.
There is no concept of private property. As already discussed in previous paragraph, Agriculture
ritual performance takes place during different stages of this practice. Among Juang,
Kondh, Maler, Baiga, Kanikkar, and Malayaraya, ritual is a common practice
associated with agricultural practice. Shifting cultivation is more precisely explained
as a less intensive and primitive agricultural practice but rich with cultural ethics,
norms and values. Despite the fact that shifting cultivation upholds simple technical
process, this is not continued as a sustainable practice due to conflict in argument
and ideologies.
Activity: Explain the anthropological significance of shifting cultivation.

3.5.2 Agricultural Intensification: High Intensity Agriculture and Green Revolution
Agricultural intensification is a common phenomenon around the globe. The tribal
communities are too not isolated from this process. There are quite a good number
of hypotheses already established. But two important hypotheses by Easter Boserup
and Roy Rappaport comes to mind who have contended two different approaches,
first, by Easter Boserup, which is later supported by Cohen about establishing the
theory of agricultural intensification. Boserup (1965) hypothesised that agricultural
intensification, defined as increasing the annual returns from land, is an adaptation
to the need to produce more for growing population living in a fixed land area.
Boserup and Cohen have logically found the relation between population growth
and agricultural intensification while Rappaport found that human desire, role of
rituals and religion as compulsion for agricultural intensification. There are large
numbers of other anthropological approaches which have contributed directly and
indirectly to agricultural intensification.
The hydraulic agriculture which was first spotted in early civilisations of Indus
valley and Mesopotamia in Middle East Asia is a step forward towards agricultural
intensification. Price suggests hydraulic agriculture or the irrigation agriculture,
itself the product of long period of intensification of production, rapidly generated
a shift in mode of production, with a long subsequent history of intensification. Its
inception effectively represents a second agricultural revolution, altering the relation
of population to land and labour and of population segments to each other: from
this time onwards, society is not only ranked, but stratified.
In a step towards further intensification, the introduction of green revolution during
1960s is a major shift in agricultural tradition and is a shift from subsistence mode
of production to market oriented production. Technology penetration revolutionised
the system of production by increasing land productivity. The important components
of green revolution such as strengthening irrigation facilities, adoption of new
hybrid seed, chemical fertiliser, insecticides, pesticides, etc. could be well penetrated
into some regions. However, this has posed several questions about carrying capacity
of the soil and other environmental effects and also the impact on socio-cultural
network of agricultural societies. Netting (1974) in his work on agrarian ecology
has highlighted the growing evidence of the fact that household composition among
farmers varies with the type and amount of labour required for effective crop
production. For example, in intensive agriculture, nuclear family takes an advantage
over extended family. Similarly, extended family in shifting cultivation is a
predominant feature.
The typical marginal and small landholding structure in India and other developing
countries has certain effect on agriculture. In India more than 80% of landholders
are either small or marginal. Therefore, agricultural policy, in general, strongly
advocates for application of modern technology, and of course, this is legitimate
to maximise production. Green revolution is a means for better technology support
for agricultural intensification. The consequence, however, is not always positive.
Ecology and Subsistence Patterns
In the advancement of green revolution, agricultural intensification is supported
by heavy mechanisation, application of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, insecticides,
HYV seeds and more recently application of further genetic modified crops. In
regions where agriculture is supported by uncontrolled modern technology may
return high output but the soil lose its natural properties in long run. The case is
seen in some parts of Punjab, where agriculture intensification is much higher
than other states. The green revolution has affected agrarian relations. The way
surplus capital is accumulated in the hands of a few large farmers and industry
owners have lead to class formation. Under green revolution, agriculture as
commodity is rather used to accumulate capital rather than balancing the social
network and social structure in a particular set up. The states of Punjab, Haryana,
some parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and in other states, the agricultural
intensification takes place in much larger scale. In contrast, there are regions, where
agricultural intensification is low, more particularly, in tribal pockets and in plain
areas of Bihar, Orissa, Chhatishgarh, and Jharkhand.
‘Green revolution’ is, as such, not a great success in India. Rice and wheat cereals
are by and large benefitted from green revolution; this success is again limited to
a few fertile belts of Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and a few other
states. The access to modern technology is limited in eastern states like Bihar,
Orissa, West Bengal, and eastern UP even after more than six decades of
independence. There is no single reason or factor that defines success or failure.
Both institutional and technological factors are responsible for this slow progress.
Institutional processes like land reforms, cooperative movement, educational
support, etc. and technology support and extension, play crucial role in development
of agriculture. Green revolution has not resulted high impact due to the above
factors. Some studies depict that the lack of proper approach for technology
dissemination is also one of the reasons for limited success of green revolution.
Initially, there was hardly any effort undertaken to understand local conditions,
belief system and practices for technology dissemination. In due course, the ‘farming
system research approach’ followed by ‘farming participatory approach’ was
advocated for bottom up approach rather than top down approach for technology
dissemination in agriculture.
While green revolution has induced for growth in agricultural production, it is not
the green revolution alone that results high intensity in agriculture. Apart from
over growing population, the desire to produce more and generate capital by
exploiting natural resource and other capitals has resulted agricultural
intensification. Rapid industrialisation also induces agricultural intensification. The
concept of capitalist theory is well suited in the context of agricultural growth in
Europe, Russia, America and in recent time in some parts of India. Government
policies have played significant role for agricultural change. During different Five
Years plans, agriculture has been specially focussed by government. Initially in
community development programme, both horticulture and agriculture has been
specially looked upon. Through different agricultural plan, agriculture has been
emphasised by way of new mechanisms for adoption of modern technology,
subsidies in farm implements, irrigation support, etc. Gradually, the new economic
policies introduced towards early nineties have serious implications for agricultural
development in disadvantaged and backward areas. Both micro and macro policies
have influenced agricultural production. The associate policies such as Watershed
Development Programmes (WDPs), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment
Guarantee Programme (MGNREGP), Self Help Group (SHG) Movement through
SGSY, etc. have contributed directly and indirectly to the performance of Indian

Activity: Discuss agricultural intensification in the context of Indian Scenario.

3.5.3 Modern Agricultur Agriculture e:

Contract and Corporate Farming
Contract and corporate farming are some of the recent initiatives towards further
reforms in agriculture leading towards more and more intensification in agriculture.
The concept of mono cropping is taking a lead which is primarily intended to
maximise production both in agriculture as well as industries. Agriculture in twentyfirst
century is largely influenced by industries. The capitalist growth in agriculture
has serious consequence to break traditional agrarian social structure, the relation
between tenancy and landlord relations, among large scale, medium scale and small
scale farmers, between peasants and capitalist, etc. Agriculture and industry
influence each other and they together influence environment as well. Both large
and small industries depend on agriculture for supply of raw materials. Thus there
is transformation in agriculture. Cash crop production is the result of industrial
influence. For example, cotton crops, gherkin, etc. as raw materials is grown to
meet industrial need Thus, intensification is inevitable for supply in large scale for
industrial growth. The high tech application in agriculture is seen in many pockets
lead to massive transformation of agriculture from a low intensive to high intensive
one. The gross application of technology in agriculture influences environment
and imbalances climate at both local and global level. Netting and David Cleveland
have criticised the mode of production in modern agriculture to balancing the
planet and sustainable growth in agriculture that can pose threat to the survival of
mankind. The alternative approach to modern agriculture is justified in the context
when agriculture shows diminishing returns and gradually deepening the crisis of
ecological balance and carrying capacity of the soil.

As already discussed, the social process is not static as the agricultural process.
The knowledge, belief system, social processes, technology adoption, etc, is not
constant either but is influenced by several factors. There is a gradual shift in
tradition. Modernisation has penetrated into all spheres of life including in
agriculture. While modernisation is not totally irrational, many environmental
scientists, conservationists, ecologists and anthropologists have come forward to
protect agricultural biodiversity, Conservation of best practices in agriculture; and,
maintain socio-cultural and ecological balance in the backdrop of rapid change
towards modernisation and also towards corporatisation and industrialisation of
agriculture. It is found that indigenous knowledge plays crucial role in maintaining
biodiversity and protecting important species from the threats of becoming extinct.

The concept of sustainability or sustainable is a vogue word in the twenty first
century. We have heard about this as prefix or suffix with livelihood, agriculture,
etc. We may say sustainable agriculture or agricultural sustainability, but the
meanings are different. While the former talks more about nature, quality,
performance and durability for both present and future, and latter primarily talks
about long term existence. Quality of life, conservation of nature and environment
for future existence and survival in long run are the basic philosophies of
sustainability. Sustainable agriculture is thus significant in view of rapid
transformation in agriculture and the way modernisation is taking place pushing
pressure on land and other natural environment. Sustainable agriculture is an
approach for conservation of nature and balancing social as well as natural
environment notwithstanding the fact that productivity is least compromised. Thus,
integrated approach such as community forest management, maintenance of agro-

Ecology and Subsistence Patterns biodiversity, cultural diversity and harmonising social and natural environments will be very useful. To do so, indigenous knowledge is considered as a means of survival of nature. Indigenous knowledge is used as a long cherished tradition for
maintaining balance in natural resources and livelihood. In recent times, many
other practices such as application of bio-fertiliser, organic fertiliser, bio-pesticides,
insecticides, indigenous soil conservation approach, and indigenous plant protection
mechanisms are adopted. Irrigation, watershed development programmes, joint
forest management approach, soil conservation mechanism, etc. are adopted to
support the sustainable agriculture initiatives in India and around the globe.

The tribal communities in India follow different economic practices such as hunting
gathering by Chenchu, Muduva; pastoralism by Toda, Kurumba, Gujjars, Lambadi
etc.; primitive agricultural practices by Maler, Juang, Dongria Kondhs, Baiga, Irula,
and many north eastern Indian tribes; and plain agriculture by Bhil, Oraons, Irula
(Attapady) Gond, Kondhs, Pradan, Munda, Santhal, etc. Agriculture irrespective
of its different nature and practices is by large the backbone of tribal economy.
Different cultural practices are inherited by the tribal communities, many of which
are largely attached with agricultural practices. Mahapatra’s (1982) study on Santhal
in Mayurbhanj district of Orissa discussed the role of rituals and their linkage
with agricultural production. Santhals celebrate number of festivals and rituals
that are associated with the agricultural practices. There are large number of
ethnographic studies by anthropologists like S.C. Roy’s study on the Mundas, the
Orans, the Birhors and the Khariyas, Elwin, Verrier’s (1939) work on the Baiga,
Haimendorf’s study on Rajgonds of Adilabad, Vidyarthi’s study on the Maler and
many other studies which have discussed tribal agriculture, culture and economy
in particular ecological set up.
Agriculture in tribal areas is mainly characterised by low productive and subsistence
type. Agriculture is practiced in different ecological set up. Technology used in
agriculture is simple. The agriculture is mainly labour oriented. Various rituals are
performed during the time of harvesting by different communities. With the
introduction of various tribal development programmes, tribal sub plan, and later
other integrated development programmes, agriculture in tribal areas is transformed
from subsistence agriculture to market oriented agriculture. Horticulture and other
cash crops are also grown in tribal pockets with the support of agricultural and
horticultural schemes provided by the government. For example, Dongria Kondhs
have adopted horticulture in the hilly areas. The Kondhs in Kandhamal district are
growing vegetables crops as important cash crops. This has generated better
economic support for the tribals. Irrigation and other agricultural schemes are
launched in some tribal belts transforming rainfed agriculture to irrigated agriculture.
In many tribal areas you will see application of fertilisers, pesticides and insecticides
for growing cash crops. But their application is still very limited as compared to
their plain non tribal counterpart.
In recent times, both tribal and non-tribal communities in India are influenced by
development policies. There is hardly any community which is exclusively isolated
from rest of the world. No community solely depends on primitive method of
cultivation. The degree of access to modern technology varies among Indian tribes.
Some communities in India are well adopting modern technology such as Bhil and
Gonds. Similarly, Kondhs also adopt modern technology. While shifting cultivation
is looked at in suspicion, and is banned in many areas, the other forms of agricultural
practices are taken up in many areas. Terraced cultivation instead of shifting
cultivation in north east is gradually being a prominent practice. In some tribal
areas, settled cultivation is becoming accepted widely with limited scope for shifting
cultivation, population pressure and other income support mechanism. “Wolf argues
that many societies which were habitually treated by anthropologists as static entities Agriculture(bands, tribes, chiefdoms and states), were in fact produced and constructed in the
course of the global expansion of capitalism. Wolf’s model of society and culture
depicts a continuing process of structuring, change and refashioning. In this process,
the involvement of peoples in the expanding world is governed by the capitalist
mode of production and is therefore primarily an economic and political process”.
Activity: How is agriculture in tribal areas characterised?

Despite the fact that there are positive aspects of transformation in agriculture in
India and other developing countries, there are also issues pertaining to agricultural
transformation. There is lack of proper access to modern technology leading to
unequal performance in agriculture in many regions. In some areas, agricultural
intensification is so large and difficult to cope up with local environment. The soil
loses carrying capacity with excess use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and
insecticides. Moreover, water and air pollution causing environmental degradation
is noticed. Further, mechanisation has replaced large number of unaccounted
agricultural labourers. In some other areas, the access to modern technology is
very limited. In these regions, agriculture is characterised as low productive and
less intensive and even does not suffice household requirement. Since the mode of
production has changed in agriculture from household labour to hired labour,
agriculture is presumed to be non productive and non profitable in many parts.
Further land issues are taking place rapidly with partition and transfer of land,
land alienation, illegal encroachment, etc. Land acquisition for development projects
is taking place in alarming pace despite many hue and cries. Millions of hectares
of land are being acquired for industrial growth, major hydro power and mining
projects, wild life sanctuary, and development of real estate sector, road and other
infrastructure, etc. Therefore, displacement issues become prominent in some parts
of developing countries. This issue of displacement is acute in many tribal areas
causing livelihood insecurities for millions of farmers and landholders. Rapid
industrial growth is demanding supply of raw materials from agriculture as well.
Thus in large chunk of agricultural fields, crops are grown for industrial
requirements rather than full filling the requirements food security. In India, the
establishment of Special Economic Zones, a model inherited from China has put
abundant pressure on land and environment in recent time.
Tenancy and landholding issues remain critical even after six decades of
independence. The tenancy laws are not successful despite laws and acts provide
support for tenants in many states. There is no maintenance of records about tenancy
in many states. Furthermore, concealed tenancy is taking place in states where
tenancy is completely banned. Similarly, ceiling laws do not act in proper manner
to restrict landholding beyond ceiling limits. There are no proper land records
maintained despite introduction of modern approach in the area of land records
management. Many areas in tribal belts are not surveyed either. Therefore, the
creation of land records is not possible. The land reforms laws in tribal areas
though restrict transfer of land from tribals to non tribals in scheduled areas, the
illegal transfer of land, land alienation, and land acquisition take place in the
scheduled regions displacing tribals in large scale. Further, due to restriction in
transfer of land in the tribal areas, the concept of land market relation remains
The effect of the new economic polices such as liberalisation, globalisation and
privatisation agriculture is apparent. Contract and corporate farming being practiced
in many areas. Though liberalisation is still restricted Indian agricultural sector,
Ecology and Subsistence
the wide liberalisation in allied sectors and moderate liberalisation in agricultural
sector has affected sustainability in agriculture. There are problems foreseen in
the backdrop of contract and corporate farming or in other high intensive agricultural
practices. These are: tenancy insecurity, soil adaptability and soil regeneration
capacity, water and air pollution, issues of agrarian structure, etc.
Activity: What are the major issues of agriculture in contemporary scenario?
There are large numbers of dimensions such as culture, environment, society,
economy, institution, and agricultural policy which play significant role in
performance of agriculture. Agriculture works, in each particular ecological niche,
has specific cultural and economic significance. Evolutionists have discussed
agriculture evolution as a step towards civilisation, but the way transformation in
agriculture is taking place, it may pose challenges to the existence of civilisation
in long run. Over different periods of time, there are different forms of practices
such as shifting cultivation, less intensive plain cultivation, high intensive contract
and corporate farming that practices are adopted in different regions at different
points of time. Shifting cultivation, hydraulic agriculture, green revolution, contract
and corporate farming are different stages of agricultural evolution with
transformation from more simple to complex agricultural practices. Similarly, there
is transformation from traditional agricultural practices to modern agricultural
practices. For all these processes of transformation in agriculture, environment
has always played crucial role. Man has tried to control environment with
application of modern technologies such as application of irrigation, fertilisers,
chemical pesticides, insecticides, etc. This controlled environmental mechanism
has lead to agricultural intensification and social and cultural transformation.
However, some theorists like Meggers outlined the environmental limitation to
change. It is believed that at a certain point of time environment may be constrained
to accept any further intensification. The soil may lose carrying capacity. The soil
regeneration capacity may take long time that could decline further agricultural
intensification. Demography as an effect for agricultural intensification has already
been described by many thinkers. Therefore, lack of population control can seriously
cause environmental degradation not only due to pressure on land by agricultural
intensification, but also by rapid industrial growth, housing, infrastructure, etc.
Modern agriculture could be a solution for addressing the issue of food insecurity
and economic growth but it can also cause repercussion effect in the form of
migration, reverse tenancy, and other issues like class formation, social inequality
and environmental degradation. Socio-cultural and environmental reconstruction
is not an easy process. This involves needs mass mobilisation for balanced
agricultural practices which is an approach towards sustainable agriculture.
Anthropologists can certainly play important role to address such issues and provide
solution for balancing the planet with effective practices in agriculture.

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