One of the most common reasons for declining agricultural productivity is deteriorating soil quality due to over-use of chemical fertilisers which are easily available at subsidised rates. The Government of India introduced Soil Health Cards (SHC) for farmers in 2016 under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture to promote judicious use of fertilisers amongst the farming community.
While SHCs look like a great idea, they seem to have very limited uptake in the farming community mainly because:
• Farmers do not completely understand the concept and content of a SHC and believe that crop productivity will decline on following its recommendations.
• SHCs are not given to the tenant farmers therefore it does not seem to make much commercial sense as around half of the farmers in the country are sharecropper/tenant farmers.
• Farmers feel left out from the soil testing process because communication about soil sampling drives is not given beforehand, and sometimes it is even done without the farmer’s presence.
SHC is undoubtedly an excellent initiative but it has been not able to bring about a paradigm shift in agricultural practices because it is, fundamentally, a top-down solution. Also, the communication around the concept, detail, utility and benefits of SHCs needs to be improved. SHCs will only be accepted and used if farmers have adequate understanding of them.