July 2004

Digital Networks for Farmers:Ushering market-led agriculture extension

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Agriculture, including crop and animal husbandry, forestry and agro-forestry, fisheries, and agro-industries, provides livelihoods to over 70 per cent of the Indian population. Multifunctionality – an economic activity (producing goods) and a service to the community (food security, rural employment, and environmental obli-gations such as soil conservation, sustainable natural resource management and biodiversity protection) – is thus crucial to sustainable agricultural and rural development in our country. Multifun-ctional agriculture is the bottom line for integrated rural development.

Agricultural development, along with village and cottage industries, tiny and micro enterprises, are the cornerstone for promoting sustainable rural livelihoods. Our vision is to realise an economically and socially vibrant agricultural industry i.e. to accelerate commercialisation of innovative, alternative and value-added agricultural and farm related enterprises, in rural areas. This development strategy, inter alia, facilitates skill improvement, providing employment in rural areas, transfer of technology, rural industrialisation and promoting self-reliance among the people and to build up a strong rural community base. An agricultural knowledge and information system for rural empowerment and improved livelihoods i.e. e-farmer, is the need of the hour.

This paper broadly deals with the government's digital initiatives and agenda (viz., Agrisnet, Agris, Agmarknet, Dacnet, Vistarnet, Aphnet, Fishnet, Hortnet, Seednet, Ppin, Coopnet, Fertnet, Arisnet, Afpinet, Arinet, Ndmnet, etc), as a step towards “reaching” agricultural knowledge and technology to the Small Holders (Resource-Poor-Farmers) of the country. The AGMARKNET has already emerged as the sun-shine website for farmers to bargain better prices for their produce, and marching ahead towards becoming an e-Commerce and e-Business portal in India. AGMARKNET programme plays a catalytic role for ushering in “market-led agricultural extension” in India, highly scalable, planned through bottom-up process, and implemented through active involvement and collaboration of agricultural market committees in India. This digital development in rural areas of India facilitates rural prosperity, rural empowerment, and a warehousing of data for development

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