Harvesting Change; Embracing

Harvesting Change; Embracing Mechanisation for Sustainable Agriculture

By Heer Shukla

Approximately 112 million working equids, worldwide, support the livelihoods of around 600 million people. These animals are commonly utilised for pulling heavy loads, sometimes up to 15,000 kgs per day, to facilitate the transportation of goods, particularly in industries such as brick kilns, mining, and agriculture in developing nations. Working animals in India often endure challenging conditions. Factors such as inadequate shelter, poor nutrition, and lack of access to veterinary care contribute to their suffering. 

Role of Mechanisation in Enhancing Animal Welfare and Economic Development in India

The transition to mechanisation in agriculture has the potential to alleviate the suffering of working animals by reducing their physical strain. By promoting the use of modern farming equipment and machinery, the Indian Government aims to improve the welfare of working animals and reduce the dependency on labour-intensive tasks. The rising adoption of mechanisation stands out as a key trend across global agriculture and transportation; nations such as India are taking the lead in this transformative wave, progressively integrating machinery to redefine and enhance traditional practices. This shift not only boosts efficiency but also provides a significant opportunity to advocate for the well-being of animals and stimulate economic growth. 

According to a report by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) of India, the number of working animals in the country has been declining in recent years, partly due to the increasing use of machinery in agriculture. This decline reflects the recognition of the hardships faced by these animals. 

In India, the Government has actively advocated for the integration of machinery in agriculture through a series of initiatives and subsidies. The adoption of contemporary farming equipment has resulted in heightened efficiency and productivity, thereby benefiting farmers and lessening the burden on working animals. For instance, the prevalent use of tractors for ploughing and tilling has supplanted the traditional reliance on bullocks for these tasks in numerous areas. 

The transition towards mechanisation in agriculture has yielded several positive outcomes for animal welfare; by alleviating the physical strain on animals, it has contributed to the mitigation of their suffering and resulted in an overall enhancement of their well-being. Furthermore, the utilisation of machinery has facilitated swifter and more precise work, leading to amplified yields and improved livelihoods for farmers. 

In areas of transportation, the utilisation of trucks and other motorised vehicles has similarly diminished the dependency on animal labour for the transportation of goods. This shift has not only improved the welfare of animals but has also resulted in more efficient transportation of goods, thereby benefiting businesses and consumers. 

It is imperative to acknowledge that the advantages of mechanisation extend beyond animal welfare. By embracing modern technology and machinery, communities stand to gain increased productivity, economic growth, and improved living standards. Mechanisation also holds the potential to foster a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to work, thereby mitigating the environmental impact associated with traditional animal labour. 

In advocating for the benefits of mechanisation and raising awareness about animal welfare, it is crucial to underscore the positive outcomes for both animals and the individuals reliant upon them. By accentuating the advantages of utilising machines over animals for various tasks, we can engender a shift towards more humane and efficient practices, while concurrently supporting the well-being of working animals and the communities dependent upon them. 

Government Schemes

Organisations such as the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) in India provide financial support and credit facilities to individuals and groups looking to invest in non-animal-based livelihoods. This includes funding for setting up small businesses, acquiring modern equipment, and accessing training and skill development programmes. 

The promotion of alternative livelihoods is often part of broader rural development and poverty alleviation initiatives. By encouraging the adoption of non-animal-based income-generating activities, these programmes aim to improve the overall economic well-being of communities while reducing their reliance on working animals. 

In addition to financial support, government and non-governmental organisations often provide technical assistance and capacity-building programmes to help individuals and communities explore and establish alternative livelihood options. This can include training in entrepreneurship, vocational skills, and business management. The transition to alternative livelihoods not only benefits the welfare of working animals but also presents opportunities for economic diversification and growth. By investing in new income-generating activities, individuals and communities can build more sustainable and resilient livelihoods, reducing their vulnerability to fluctuations in animal-based industries. 

Call to Action: Consumer Behaviour

Consumers have increasingly become wary of the environmental, health, and animal welfare implications associated with industrialised and globalised food systems. This scepticism has been fuelled by a series of food scandals that have eroded trust in the traditional methods of food production. As a result, there is a growing demand for a shift towards fresh, safe, and locally produced food that is cultivated with a heightened focus on environmental sustainability, human health, social justice, and the welfare of animals. 

Mechanisation in agriculture presents a compelling alternative to the utilisation of working animals, offering a multitude of benefits that align with evolving consumer preferences. By transitioning from animal labour to mechanised processes, agricultural practices can significantly reduce the environmental impact associated with traditional farming methods. Mechanisation enables precise and efficient cultivation, leading to optimised land use and reduced resource consumption. Moreover, the use of modern machinery can contribute to improved soil health and biodiversity conservation, addressing key environmental concerns raised by consumers. 

In terms of human health, the adoption of mechanised farming practices can lead to a reduction in the use of potentially harmful chemicals and pesticides, thereby promoting food safety and minimising health risks for both agricultural workers and consumers. Additionally, the implementation of mechanised systems can enhance workplace safety by mitigating the physical strain and hazards associated with manual labour, ensuring the well-being of farm workers. 

From an animal welfare perspective, the transition to mechanisation represents a significant advancement. By relieving working animals of strenuous tasks, mechanised farming practices contribute to the improved welfare of these animals, aligning with the ethical considerations of consumers who prioritise the humane treatment of animals in food production.