Bihar is the 12th largest state in India in terms of geographical area and is the second most populous state (10.38 Crores) in the country. The population density of the state is 880/ sq km compared to 340/ sq Km in India. It is an agrarian state and agriculture is the vital source of livelihood for nearly 76 percent of its population. The share of agriculture in state domestic product is approximately 42 per cent. About 88 per cent of the farmers in Bihar are small and marginal and own nearly 92.5 per cent of land holdings. Gifted with rich natural resources, varied climate and rich human resources, the state is one of the fastest developing states in the country today.
Despite being abundant in terms of resources, Bihar grapples with the problem of poverty. Characterized by food insecurity, weak infrastructure, droughts and floods, high climatic variability, land degradation and widespread poverty, one-seventh of India’s below-the-poverty-line (BPL) people live in Bihar. The inter-relationships between these challenges have created a “Poverty Trap” in the state.
Being heavily dependent on agriculture, poor crop yield due to limited use of external inputs, marginal land holdings size, lack of awareness and technical inputs along with several other factors have led to unsustainable agricultural practices and degradation of the natural resources in the state. Rising levels of unemployment, limited ex-farm livelihood opportunities, and rapid population growth have also increased migration of human resource to another states.
Superimposed on these challenges are the impact of urbanization and boom in other sectors of the Indian economy. In this background it is critical to emphasize the importance of economic development of the state’s rural community particularly the small and marginal landholders. Rural communities in the state need should be supported through agricultural research and reforms that enable them to add value to their products and move from subsistence to market oriented production of agricultural products.
There is an urgent need to develop not only technical options, but also policy and institutional options that improve livelihoods and increase food security.This in turn will contribute to sustainable development of the entire state economy.
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