India aims to farm cactus to cut oil dependency

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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, December 8: Ambassadors of Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Morocco, and experts from different countries on Thursday brainstormed with the Union Minister of Rural Development Giriraj Singh on ways to tap into cactus plantation for its economic usage. The Centre has decided to begin a pilot project in Madhya Pradesh with the help of the international agencies.

Singh said that various options for taking up cactus plantation on degraded land should be explored for realising the benefits of its usage for bio-fuel, food and bio-fertiliser. “Bio-fuel production will reduce the fuel import burden of the country, contribute towards employment and income for the farmers of watershed areas,” added Singh.

Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Land Areas are setting up a pilot project in Madhya Pradesh, said the Ministry of Rural Development. The consultation meeting on ‘Cactus Plantation and its Economic Usage’ was attended by Ambassador of Chile, Juan Angulo M; Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Morocco, Errachid Alaoui Mrani; Head of Energy Division, Embassy of Brazil, Carolina Saito; Agricultural Attache, Embassy of Brazil, Angelo Mauricio. Indian Ambassadors of these countries also attended the meeting in virtual mode.

“Fourteen experts of various countries like Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Morocco, Tunisia, Italy, South Africa and India also attended the meeting through VC.  Secretaries of Department of Land Resources (DoLR), Ministry of External Affairs, Department of Rural Development, and representatives of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Indian Oil Corporation Limited, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) & International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and other senior officials were also present,” added the MoRD.

India has approximately 30 per cent of its geographical area under the category of degraded land. DoLR has been mandated to restore degraded lands through its Watershed Development Component of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (WDC-PMKSY).  Plantations of various kinds constitute one of the activities which help in restoration of degraded lands.

The ICAR and ICARDA are being roped in for setting up a pilot project in Amlaha Farm of ICARDA in Madhya Pradesh. Ministry of Petroleum has been requested to provide necessary technical assistance in this venture.

Cactus is a xerophytic plant, which grows relatively at a slower pace. “Moreover, it will help in achieving Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the country as well. Cactus plantation will be picked up by the farmers of degraded land areas, if the benefits outweigh their existing level of incomes.  Experiences of countries like Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Morocco and various others are being explored which will be of great help for realisation of the objective,” added the MoRD.

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