September 2011

How Well do we Know Our Farmers?

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Agriculture sector provides about 15 percent GDP, about 55 percent employment opportunities but we still don’t have a database on farmersBy M Moni,
Deputy Director General (Agriculture Informatics), NIC, MCITAgriculture sector provides about 15 percent of our GDP and about 55 percent employment opportunities. 80 percent of people still reside in rural areas and more than 80 percent of farmers are small and marginal farmers. But in this country we don’t have a database on farmers. The last level of contact of farmers with the government is the block level agricultural officer. The excuse can always be given that it is not possible only to reach each and every unreached. But now the ICTs are available, fibre optics can reach everywhere.

It is now possible and pertinent to use these ICT tools to reach out to the unreached masses in rural areas and enlighten and empower them with information for their betterment. The main issue here is the lack of information about the farmer. A national database on farmers and their resources is required to reach them.

A very key issue is of supply chain management in agricultural produce retail management.

In fruits and vegetables sector, India loses about 55,000 crore every year because of storage problems, processing problems and logistics problems. Managing the produce and incorporating a proper process in place to make each and every step transparent so that there is no loss or black marketing is a key issue in front of us and technology can help in a big way.

There is a strong need of establishment of a National Centre for Agricultural Informatics and  Communication with a mandate to undertake agricultural Informatics development, regional planning, research, education, training and extension for achieving sustainable agricultural development and  getting a 3600 view of Indian agriculture.  The Governance Structure can be as suggested by the TAGUP Committee Report 2011 of the Ministry of Finance.

The present Agriculture Development Plan which is being implemented at district level has raised some pertinent questions: Has the plan be shared with the farmers in their languages?

Were they consulted before the development of plan? Have they asked the representative farmer if he understands the plan and is ready to implement it?

The answer to all of the above was that it is certainly not possible to ensure all the above conditions. Then what is the use of such a comprehensive plan when the beneficiaries are not being included at any stage from development to implementation?

The bottomline is that we are in dire need of organized data regarding the farmers so as to reach all of them and to make them aware of latest technologies and applications.

We need to use the ICTs for this and thus ensur an empowered community of farmers who are not dependent on weather for their crops and who know how to use their produce.

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