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Mobile apps redefine agriculture extension landscape in India

New Delhi: The mobile revolution has heralded a promising chapter in the farm sector. Farmers, who need to stay updated with the latest for good yield, has found mobile apps a vital medium for knowledge sharing.

Jhimu Soren of Chakulia block in East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand is among lakhs of farmers today across India who get their daily dose of agriculture related information from social media apps including YouTube.

“My daughter was informed by her teacher about the convenience of following joining WhatsApp group, following Facebook for best harvesting practices or YouTube to listen to experts. What I like most of this medium is regular updates, the distribution channels and other need-based information,” he said.

The high point for Jhimu, used to the village square get-together for empowerment, lays in the wider gamut and the extent of the flow of information in social media cutting across varied areas of agriculture in India which contributes 17-18 per cent to its GDP. They range from agricultural  sub-sectors such as crops,  dairy,  goat  and  poultry to different aspects  of production,  preventive  management  and  marketing.

The growing popularity of Club house, an invitation-based interactive social media app has caught the imagination of the farmers in same measure. Its popularity was illustrated in a latest article by Indian Express. Today the platform supports a unique initiative called the ‘Indian Farmer’s Club’ where “farmers exchange live information about crops and practices with each other.”

The article quotes agri-commodity analyst Deepak Chavan saying he could have never realised the importance the apps would hold in spreading knowledge about agriculture related issues.

No wonder then, the ubiquitous radio is no more the sole avenue for information dissemination. The vitality of the apps remains in their application and popularity in providing two-way communication channels and free flow of information.

In other words social media has come to redefine the agriculture extension programmes for information dissemination.

According to a research study by Devesh Thakur and Mahesh Chander of Indian Veterinary Research Institute Izatnagar at Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, Facebook,  WhatsApp  and  YouTube  are  now  being  used to  share  diverse farming based information across different parts of India. Since 2014, for example, YouTube has become a good source of animal husbandry based information.

Several reasons have been cited for the increased use of social media in farm sector. Social media is not only a participative  extension  tools  of  recent  times, but a critical medium in a vast country like India where information dissemination is fraught with challenges.

Today various agriculture departments are witnessing large scale vacancies of agriculture extension officers. Studies have also shown that extension services delivery through  personal contacts is  neither feasible, nor  cost  effective. Moreover, an NSSO survey says that over 59 per cent of the farm households in  India  received  no  assistance  from  either  government  or  private  agricultural  extension services.

Therefore, regardless of anything, social media platform is increasingly gaining traction as an effective medium for all agriculture related needs, the study underlined.

According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) report of June 3, internet user base in rural India in 2020 touched 299 million, a growth of 13 per cent.

The benefits of this growth, among others, has reached out to the farmers like never before. This growing cohorts are also finding a valued partner in agri-tech start-ups that are working in tandem to improve their lives.

One of the start-ups, for example, is helping farmers with real-time advice from experts on how to manage their crops and boost yield. Another start-up is helping farmers and cooperatives to maximise profits by digitizing and optimizing milk procurement.

(Please share your experience, interesting news articles and case studies at smartagripost@gmail.com)

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