Taking Technology to Andhra Farmlands: Balaji D Manjule

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Balaji D Manjule, Deputy Agriculture Secretary of the State

Information Technology is the need of the hour to accelerate the growth of Agriculture sector, and the Government of Andhra Pradesh is trying to leverage technology to reach out to maximum farmers to deliver services in more efficient manner, says Balaji D Manjule, Deputy Agriculture Secretary of the State, in an interview with Sudheer Goutham and Arpit Gupta of Elets News Network (ENN)

How are you making the officials and farmers technology familiar that they need to use?

We have distributed tabs to each field level functionaries i.e. Multipurpose Extension Officers (MPEOs) and Agriculture Officers (AOs). The officers collect all kinds of information from the farmers and update it online which can be further monitored by the higher authorities. We are getting good response from the farmers as well as the officials. It has been more than a year since we implemented it. Besides, Kisan Call Centre is also available to help the farmers.

We are connected with the eFile system, which enables us to share files and information online. We are planning to link our system with the CM Dashboard soon so that the exchange of information and communication becomes faster and more transparent.

Do you feel IT can overhaul the operations in the department?

IT and technology-based solutions play a vital role to improve the efficiency of all departments. Similarly, we require more and more mobile and tab applications to reach out to the farmers and mitigate their problems. Like education, health and any other sector, IT is very much needed in agriculture sector too. The process of monitoring the schemes through tab has been made possible in the State with the help of IT. Our field level functionaries update their daily activities online and also assist farmers learn modern technologies in agriculture.

Meanwhile, the government still needs to educate the farmers so that they can reap the benefits of technology. Sooner will be the communication, faster will be the solution.

What digital initiatives have been undertaken by the Agriculture Department and how fruitful have they proved?

In Agriculture Department, many technology-driven initiatives have been implemented by the Andhra Pradesh Government. One of the major initiatives includes issuance of the Soil Health Card. The state has implemented computerisation of soil test reports and communication of these reports with the farmers, along with appropriate fertiliser use recommendation, online or through mobile phones.

The Soil Health Cards are being issued to the farmers based on the laboratory reports of the soil collected from their fields. Firstly, soil samples are collected from the field and then the analytical reports are sent to the respective farmers. We have created a database of the farmers in the State to inform them about their soil health report through SMSs. As soon as the analysis is done, we shoot a message to the concerned farmer on their mobile numbers. As per the status of the soil, we also provide the solutions.

What are the other plans underway to make the Department more high-tech?

We are planning to come up with a Remote Sensing Crop Booking application in the future. Remote sensing application helps monitor of both the meteorological conditions and the agronomic condition. With this, the Department will exactly know how much area is covered under what all crops. It will also provide real- time information on prevalence, severity level and persistence of agricultural drought in the State. We are vigorously working on this project.

We would be able to assess the loss in the disaster, if any, and also resolve the irregularities in compensation. For better and effective planning in agriculture department, it is required.

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