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Transforming agriculture into an "efficient and profitable business" could be the "key recipe" for transforming the Indian economy, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said today.
This transformation could happen by addressing the challenges confronting the smallholder farmers with the help of advances in science and technology, he said.
Gates was delivering the valedictory address at the AP AgTech Summit-2017, jointly organised by the Andhra Pradesh government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) at the APIIC ground here this evening.
"Everyone shares the goal of a prosperous India. And so, we must also share an interest in the process of agricultural transformation.
"When I say transformation, I'm referring to a shift from agriculture based merely on subsistence to agriculture that is run like a business to be efficient and profitable and that meets the needs of producers and consumers," he said.
"More than half of India's population works in agriculture. In rural India, three-quarters of working women make a living in agriculture. Just under half of India's population suffers from malnutrition.
"And, over 300 million Indians live below the poverty line," Gates, who is a trustee of the BMGF, said.
He suggested making smallholder farmers more productive so that they earn a good living.
"These might seem like distinct data points, but in fact they are closely related. It is the hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers who are most likely to be malnourished and impoverished.
"And it is smallholder women farmers who are so often trapped in subsistence farming. It is this nexus that explains why agricultural transformation is such a highly leveraged investment in the future.
"If we can help smallholder farmers be more productive and earn a good living, then--to adapt a phrase--we can kill three birds with one stone," he added.
Through this transformation, agriculture, which is the largest economic sector in India, could be transformed into a dynamic source of growth instead of a drag on the economy, the IT czar said.
"We can make sure that this growth is inclusive, that it not only leads to a higher gross domestic product but also lifts people out of poverty, especially the millions of women farmers.
"We can also produce enough nutritious food to support a healthy and well-educated labour force for the future, when the Indian economy will depend even more on highly-skilled workers," the billionaire innovator and philanthropist said.
"Over the last half-century, India has made extraordinary progress in agricultural production. But it faces big challenges--a growing population, serious malnutrition, and the very real threat of climate change," he said.
"It is estimated that for each one degree centigrade rise in temperature, India's rice yields could drop as much as 10 per cent. Wheat could fare even worse. This would be devastating for millions of smallholder farmers as well as for India's economy."
The government's vision of doubling farmer income by 2022 will need help from advances in science and technology to become a reality," said the founder of the world's top software firm.
"It won't come as a surprise that I'm a big believer in technology. But technology is only as powerful as the people who use it," he said.
By integrating a variety of (digital) data, a more accurate picture of the overall agriculture sector could be provided and also help policymakers identify areas for improvement, he said.
"By making smart investments in the right things and by leveraging Indian talent and ingenuity, I believe it is possible to increase farmers' productivity and incomes at a speed and scale that rivals or exceeds Asia's agricultural transformation," Gates said.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)