Agriculture based livelihood situation in the state:
Assam's economy is fundamentally based on agriculture. Agriculture sector continues to support more than 75 percent of the State directly or indirectly providing employment of more than 53 percent of the total workforce.
Assam occupies a geographical area of 7.8 million hectares of which total cropped area is 4.0 million hectares. However, only 5.4% of the gross cultivated area is irrigated and the average cropping intensity of the state is 145.9%.
The cropping pattern in Assam has been more or less stable with only marginal changes in the importance of a few crops. Rice is the most important crop in Assam with a fairly stable share in the total cultivated area. Rapeseed and mustard, and tea are the next most important crops, again with fairly stable shares. Wheat, pulses, jute and mesta, and sugarcane have witnessed a marginal decline in their shares while potato, banana, arecanut and chillies have gained importance over time. In Assam, the soil, topography, rainfall and climate in general are conducive for agricultural activities mainly for paddy cultivation. However the area covered under paddy cultivation was 2.3 percent less i.e. 0.58 hectare during the year 2012-13 over 2011-12.
Major constraints in agriculture are dependence on traditional cultural practices along with traditional varieties; very low use of nutrients is the major reason for stagnation/decline of crop productivity in the state.
Assam is gifted by nature with plenty of rainfall and many swift flowing rivers and streams. Therefore the power potential of the state is immense. It is estimated that the total hydel power potential of India, Assam alone is capable of providing 28%.
Over and above all these, the state is also subject to frequent floods and extensive water logging. Frequent floods; mainly during the kharif-cropping season, exposes farmers in Assam to severe risk of crop and property loss. Besides, floods also introduce uncertainty in the length of the kharif-cropping season.
Livestock based livelihood situation in the state: Assam economy continues to be predominantly an agrarian economy as more than 85% of the population is living in the rural areas and more than 52 percent of the total labour force are found to be engaged in agriculture and allied activities as per Population Census 2001. Animal Husbandry sector has significant impact on employment generation in the State and plays a vital role in income generation of both the rural and semi-urban economy. A significant proportion of landless labourers, small and marginal farmers have access to livestock resources and the acceleration in the growth of livestock sector in Assam offers significant opportunities for household income augmentation and employment generation. It also performs an important input functions in terms of contributing draught power and dung to crop production.
According to the 19th Livestock Census 2012 total livestock population of Assam is 19.08 million, the cattle population constitutes the largest group with 54.02% followed by goat population 32.23% and pig 8.5%. Mostly indigenous population of livestock are prevalent in the state. Some of the important Goat breeds found in Assam are Assam Hill goat, Assam Local Goat. Crossed breeds and exotic cattle have 395900 populations as per 2012 census.
Livestock are mostly reared by every household in rural Assam. Non-descript cattle, Small ruminant like goat, backyard poultry are common for every household along with agriculture, while Pig rearing is mostly done in ST/SC dominant areas.
Livestock is an important component of mixed farming system and dependence on livestock as an alternative source of income, is significant. Further, because of social and religious acceptance, the consumption of meat is relatively higher in this region, and that of milk and milk products is lower. Coupled with the traditional meat-eating habit, increasing per capita income, urbanization and changes in life-style, the region is deficit in production of livestock products.
The state Veterinary and Animal husbandry department renders health care, breeding and extension services to livestock owners through a total 2400+ numbers of institutions which includes polyclinics, dispensaries, sub centers, disease diagnostic laboratories, first aid and AI centers, frozen semen banks, bull rearing farms, bull mother farms, fodder and cattle farms etc. There are 8 growth / extension centers (as on 2007) with hatcheries, breeding / demonstration farm under State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD) in Assam for imparting training on livestock rearing to farmers.There are 20 functional Krishi Vigyan Kendras (Farm Science Centre) under Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) system in the state.
The productivity of animal is very low in Assam, compared to other parts of the country. While increasing farm-level production and productivity will require more improved animals, improved fodder/feed technology, and better access to livestock services, smallholders’ access to reliable markets to absorb more milk at remunerative prices is also a critical constraint.
Non Timber Forest Products(NTFP) based livelihood situation in the state: The livelihoods based on NTFP is limited across the state. The major produce under NTFP are bamboo, medicinal plants etc.
Non-farm based livelihood situation in the state: In Assam, Handloom Weaving is inexorably linked with Assamese Culture and Heritage. Handloom Industry of Assam provides maximum number of employment after agriculture is known for its rich glorious tradition of making handloom and handicraft products. Handloom is a precious part of generational legacy and has been kept alive by the skilled weavers engaged in the age old tradition of weaving since antiquity in Assam. Contrary to use of modern technology and tools in the textile sector in present days, the handloom sector continued to play very important role in terms of employment generation and the socio-economic development of Assam. Handloom sector in Assam has gradually grown to the expected level for commercial production. As per handloom census more than 14.01 lakh weavers and 11.11 lakh looms available in Assam. Besides more than 16.43 lakh handloom workers are working in handloom sector. Thus, about 30.44 lakh weavers and allied workers involved with handloom activities in the State.
The constraints are shortage of skilled and expert weavers, Lack of capital and credit facilities, Lack of processing and finishing facilities, Weavers concentrate too much on Govt. assistance rather than their own effort, Lack of efficient marketing facilities, modern designs, pricing and packaging.