Two Maharashtra districts, their people and crops
What happens when rural folk in a district steadily move into a town or city? What happens to that district’s cultivators and agricultural labour? When might we be able to tell that the district is approaching (or perhaps has crossed) a point of demographic change that affects its self-sufficiency in food crops?
This is a small indicator from a study in progress, the India District Development and Food Security Index, with which I am involved. The two districts in this example are in Maharashtra, Buldana and Raigarh (also spelt Raigad).
In the 2011 Census Buldana’s population was 2,588,039 people (rural 2,038,650 and urban 549,389) while Raigarh’s was 2,635,394 (rural 1,662,585 and urban 972,809).
Taking the districts’ crop production data from the Directorate of Economics and Statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture (these are up to 2009-10), I have averaged their annual production of cereals and pulses.
Buldana has usually grown about 402,000 tons of food crops (280,000 of cereals and 122,000 tons of pulses). Raigarh has usually grown about 305,000 tons of food crops (300,000 tons of cereals and 5,000 tons of pulses).
You can see the distribution of cereals and pulses in the pie charts for each – Buldana’s food crops are much more balanced than Raigarh’s. While in Buldana jowar has the largest share followed by maize and wheat, in Raigarh it is rice, rice and more rice.
Can these districts feed their populations with what they grow? I have used the National Institute of Nutrition’s recommended daily intake guidelines to calculate what the minimum annual quantities are to supply the populations of Buldana and Raigarh with cereal and pulses.
Both districts do not have enough cereals, Buldana is short by 87,000 tons and Raigarh is short by 75,000 tons. In pulses, Buldana has a hefty surplus of 43,000 tons but Raigarh is severely deficient – 74,000 tons short.
Now the question is: what is the demographic change that endangers Raigarh’s food self-sufficiency and what makes Buldana more food secure? To help understand both these districts better, their use of land points to how important agriculture is for their populations. In Buldana, the ‘sown area’ – which is what the ministry calls fields in which crops grow – is 69% of the total area of the district. In Raigarh, this ratio is 27%.
Next, in Buldana, 81% of the working population work full time or part time in agriculture (I have taken Census 2001 data as these figures for 2011 have not been released yet). In Raigarh the ratio is 49%.
So, where lies the danger for the people of Raigarh? This is seen in the partial map of Maharahstra (taken from Census 2011) which depicts the change in rural populations – look for the districts inside the blue rectangles. Notice that the rural population growth rate in Raigarh is ‘negative’!
In contrast, rural and urban population growth over ten years (2001 to 2011) in Buldana has been almost even, 15.9% for rural and 16% for urban. In Raigarh, the urban population growth rate is almost 82%.
Over the next ten years, should these trends continue, there will be fewer cultivators and smaller numbers of agricultural labour to grow food crops (and commercial crops). Raigarh’s crop patterns are already very imbalanced compared to what its residents need as a food basket, and over the next decade, they will have to ‘import’ into Raigarh far more food than today.