Agriculture in India is the core sector for food security, nutritional security, and sustainable development & for poverty alleviation. It contributes approx. 17 % of GDP.
The most recent milestone in agriculture development in India is Information and Communication Technology Revolution.
IT supports new methods for precision agriculture like computerized farm machinery that applies for fertilizers and pesticides. Farm animals are fed and monitored by electronic sensors and identification systems. Selling or buying online began to become popular in the world. However, it’s most important role remains communication, and the Internet has provided us with an ideal opportunity to do so.
Transforming Rural India with the help of Digital Technologies
ICT is becoming the facilitator of socio-economic development in rural India with its obvious facilities by way of health, education, financial services and employment avenues, etc. It can help the bridge gaps by providing ‘e’ and ‘m’ services. ICT offering meant for rural sector can be classified into three categories:
- Those solutions which aim are aimed at empowerment.
- Those which would do enablement.
- Those for market expansion.
With respect to empowerment- e-choupal comes up as fine example. This is example of efficient supply chain system empowering the farmers with timely and relevant information enabling them to get better returns for their produce. And due to its community centric approach, it gives other offerings also to the farmers’ like- insurance and farm management practise, etc.
The practise of e-governance, which creates transparency and governance through IT has enabled the citizens. Successful implementation of e-governance in the areas like- maintain land records is a great step in removing the malpractices and creating assurance of rightful ownership.
Aadhar is another such tool, which has empowered the masses by confirming their identities and is good example of ICT solution attempting to provide access to monetary benefits by establishing the correct identity and this way rural economy is also expanding.
Market expansion with the help of ICT can be seen through various examples, such as – In recent years the village and heritage tourism in remote areas of the country has picked up a huge momentum and this has been done on account of awareness being created by the online portals, attracting more visitors compared to past.
Direct connect through e-commerce has facilitated large number of artisans agro-based small enterprises in rural areas. Women’s livelihood is being facilitated amongst the weavers’ community in the north eastern states by marketing their product through the internet medium.
Indian rural market is going under transformation with better access to information. With the help of IT, farmers can use the services of FMC and can get better value for their product.
ICT and Agriculture
Farming and Information Technology seems to be the most distantly placed knowledge sets in the world. Farming being the most primitive and most basic of the jobs and IT related being the most advanced and most modern. However, we know the importance of farming as it is essential for life maintenance on the surface of mother earth and it is important for the developments in IT to aid for the betterment of farming to produce better.
E-Agriculture is a new area of knowledge emerging out of convergence of IT and farming techniques. It enhances the agricultural value chain through the application of Internet and related technologies.
Basically, IT helps farmers to have better access to information which increases the productivity. It also enables him to get better prices through information of change in price in different markets.
The information related to policies and programs of government, schemes for farmers, institutions through which these schemes are implemented, new innovations in agriculture, Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), Institutions providing new agricultural inputs (high yielding seeds, new fertilizers etc) and training in new techniques are disseminated to farmers through use of Information technology to ensure inclusiveness and to avoid digital divide.
Access to price information, access to agriculture information, access to national and international markets, increasing production efficiency and creating a ‘conducive policy environment’ are the beneficial outcomes of e-Agriculture which enhance quality of life of farmers.
In India, there have been several initiatives by State and Central Governments to meet the various challenges facing the agriculture sector in the country. The E-Agriculture is part of Mission Mode Project, which has been included in NeGP (under National E-governance Plan) in an effort to consolidate the various learnings from the past, integrate all the diverse and disparate efforts currently underway, and upscale them to cover the entire country.
The MMP is to be operationalized by Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC), and aims to provide services, such as:
- Information to farmers on seeds, fertilizers, pesticides
- Information to farmers on Govt. Schemes
- Information to farmers on Soil recommendations
- Information on crop management
- Information on weather and marketing of agriculture produce.
ICT initiatives for Agricultural in India
Approximately 45 per cent ICT projects of the whole world have been implemented in India and also maximum number of information kiosks has been employed in rural India.
Nevertheless, it was found that majority of the ICT projects in agriculture were put into action in socio- economically developed states of South and North India, while deprived states are not benefitted by ICT initiatives. Some of the e-Agriculture initiatives in India are indicated below.
It is a comprehensive web portal to broadcast relevant information to farmers, which was initiated and funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India. The AGRISNET serves farming community by disseminating information and providing services through use of Information & Communication Technology (ICT). It has following goals-
- Providing information to the farmers on quality of the inputs and its availability
- disseminating information of various government schemes and recommending fertilizers after soil testing
- Providing information on latest technologies for increasing productivity in agriculture.
Digital Green is an international organization, which works with the participatory approach by engaging rural community to improve their livelihood using digital platform. Interactive and self-explanatory videos are prepared for farmers by progressive farmers with the assistance of experts. These videos are shown to the farmers at individual level or in groups. The videos are prepared concentrating the requirements and welfare of the rural masses.
The e-Sagu system was developed in 2004. e-Sagu provides customized solution to the farmers’ problems and advise them from sowing to harvesting. Farmers send their farm condition in the form of digital photographs and videos, which were analysed by the agricultural scientists and experts. After that, they suggest the right things to do to the farmers even small and marginal farmers are also getting advantage by this. The expert advice is conveyed to the concerned farmer within short time. The queries of illiterate farmers are dealt with the help of educated coordinators at village level. The farm situation or problem is communicated to the agricultural experts and they transmit accurate information to the farmers.
The Warana “Wired Village” project was instigated in 1998 by the Prime Minister’s Office Information Technology (IT) Task Force with the objective of providing agricultural information and services to farmers for increasing productivity. The information is transmitted to the farmers in local language about prices of agricultural outputs, employment schemes from the government of Maharashtra and educational opportunities. The information is disseminated through information kiosks with the help of operators, who are the main linkage between the farmers and the agricultural connoisseurs.
IFFCO KISAN SANCHAR LTD (IFFCO Kisan) was started in 2012. It delivers relevant information and custom-made solutions to the concerned farmers through voice messages on mobile phones. The farmers can also communicate directly to the agricultural experts on explicit themes via ‘phone-in’ programmes.
Agricultural Marketing Information Network (AGMARKNET) was commenced in March, 2000 by Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India with the aim of empowering decision-making ability of the farmers regarding selling of their produce. This portal was developed to pace up the agricultural marketing system through broadcasting information about influx of agricultural commodities in the market and their prices to producers, consumers, traders, and policy makers transparently and quickly.
Digital Mandi is an electronic trading platform for facilitating farmers and traders to sell and procure agricultural produce beyond the geographical and temporal limitations effortlessly. Various financial institutions also participate in online trading of agricultural output to remove cash crisis.
The e-Arik project was initiated in 2007 and it aims to disseminate climate smart agricultural practices and to achieve food security. It is an integrated platform to enhance the accessibility of agricultural information and technology in north-eastern India. It delivers agricultural specialist advice on crop cultivation, crop management and marketing. Farmers can also obtain information direct from the portal but field workers help farmers to access ICT based information or to consult with other agricultural experts.
This ICT project makes possible the milk collection, fat testing, and payment timely and user-friendly manner. It augments the income generation of dairy farmers through incorporation of advanced technology.
aAQUA (Almost All Questions Answered)
aAQUA is a multilingual online system that facilitates farmers by advising them, solving their problems and answering their questions related to agriculture. Farmers have to register on aAQUA platform online or telephonically. After that, they can post their queries on the portal, for which they get answers shortly.
Fisher Friend Mobile Advisory KCC
The Fisher Friend Programme (FFP) of M S Swaminathan Research Foundation was launched in 2009 to protect fisher folk from occupational hazards and to empower their livelihoods. The relevant information on wave height, wind speed and director, potential fishing zones, relevant news, government schemes and market price are provided to fishermen in local language.
The FFP covers marginalized coastal communities in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Odisha, and is operational in English, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Odiya languages.
Reuters Market Light
Reuters Market Light (RML) was initiated in October, 2007 to deliver customized information to the registered farmers via mobile-SMS. It disseminates information in eight local languages in 13 states.
SMS Portal/m-Kisan Portal
This portal is designed aiming to serve farmers in three ways –
- To disseminate information about diverse agricultural activities,
- To provide seasonal advisories and
- To provide various services directly to farmers through SMSs in their local languages.
The SMS Portal endows with a platform for amalgamation of service delivery under different sectors viz. Agriculture, Horticulture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries.
Mahindra Kisan Mitra
This portal provides information to the farmers on price of commodities, weather forecast, crop advisories, loans, insurance, cold storage and warehouses along with success stories of progressive farmers.
Kisan Call Centres (KCCs)
KCCs were commenced on January 21, 2004 by the Department of Agricultural and Co-operation with the main intend of endowing extension services to the farming community in the local languages. The queries of farmers are tackled by agricultural graduates on help line, toll free number in their local language. The agricultural scientists also visit the field in person to get an idea about complex agricultural problems to resolve them.
Village Knowledge Centers (VKCs)
Village knowledge centres of MS Swaminathan research foundation, initiated in 1998 in Pondicherry as a gateway of technical information related to agricultural inputs, price of outputs, crop rotation, use of fertilizers and pesticides. Information is disseminated through public address system.
AgroNxt platform is multitasking platform for the farmers where farmers can get inputs, agriculture advice, weather condition etc. AgroNxt thrives to contribute to agriculture industry by delivering farmers usable, reliable and timely information that maximizes farm profitability. It assists upholding the agricultural productivity and sustainability.
- Bahl, M. S&T for Rural India and Inclusive Growth: ICT in Agricultural Marketing 2008 (http://www.nistads.res.in).
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