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Grown on land, sold on net : A new era for farmers!

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HYDERABAD: After clothes, accessories and electronics, crops are all set to go online! India’s postal department is set to launch a pilot programme that seeks to help farmers sell their produce over the Internet, that too without spending a penny on transport. India Post shall introduce the probative programme in two locations-Andhra Pradesh and Telangana over the next couple of weeks. The modus operandi will enable postmasters to use smartphones to take photos of the farm products and upload the details on a website that will serve as a trading platform. india_post_logo4

“While it is free for farmers, India Post will collect a nominal fee from the buyers, apart from stipulating a condition that buyers should use the services of India Post for transporting the farm commodity to the required destination,” BV Sudhakar, chief postmaster general for covering the two-Telugu speaking states, told ET.

An Andhra-based firm, NGIT Systems, has built the trading platform for India Post. The company has experience in developing online platforms for farmers to sell, buy and lease farms, crops, manures, cattle and farming equipment. With the proliferation of instant chat apps and courier services doing the exchange of letters rapidly, this initiative by India Post aims to put its vast network of post offices and employees to its best use and simultaneously traverse new-age business opportunities to generate revenue.

Terming it as the first of its kind initiative, Sudhakar said that, based on the results of pilot project, the postal department will decide on extending the service across the country. The idea of launching an agri-commodity trading platform was arrived at as part of India Post’s asset maximisation strategy wherein it plans on improving revenue from its existing human and physical assets, including logistics network, said Sudhakar. Aimed at encouraging the postmasters in villages to participate in the new initiative and help improve revenue, the department is planning on special incentives packages and increasing the fleet size. The department expects to cover at least a third of these states and is targeting a minimum Rs 10 crore in revenue from agri-commodity trading in the first year.

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Indian Agriculture status, Importance & Role In Indian Economy

The aggregate growth in the agricultural sector determines that the future of the agrarian economy is not bleak

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Agriculture
Agriculture in India. Wikimedia.
  • Despite people shifting their occupations from agriculture, UN states that India ranks second in the agricultural production in the world
  • India’s horticulture production has also increased

Sep 20, 2017: Indian agriculture is facing a huge crisis since many years. Despite continuous reports suggesting that the agrarian economy of India is getting affected, as people are shifting away from the agricultural sector and are moving towards industrial sector development, the food and agriculture organization of United Nations (UN) has stated that India ranks second in the agricultural production of the World. In the past 11 years, the country’s agricultural production has increased from $87 billion in the financial year 2004-05 to $322 billion in the fiscal year 2015-16.

Interestingly this is not just the only positive point being witnessed about the agricultural situation of the nation. The country’s horticulture production has also increased with the passage of time. The horticultural production includes fruits, vegetables, plantation crops, and spices. The increasing demand of fruits and vegetables has augmented the production estimate to 295 million tonnes in 2016-17, which is 3.2 % higher than the production in 2015-16.

Also Read: WHO says Millions of People are Dying Pre-mature Deaths Due to Non-Communicable Diseases.

Earlier in May, the agriculture ministry released a second advance estimate of horticulture production, stating that the farm area under the horticulture crops has recorded an increase. The increase was from 245 lakh hectares of farm in 2015-16 to 249 lakh hectares in 2016-17. The Indian economy’s earnings from agriculture as compared to the service sector has been absolutely great. The net export from agriculture was noted $16 billion, and those from the commercial service were 9% in 2014.

When the country is facing even greater challenges like farmer suicides, protests, and monsoon failure, figures like these tend to bring smiles on our faces, even if it is for a short time. The aggregate development can never alleviate the plight of farmers.
The percentage growth may satisfy the government and us both, but does it really satisfy the farmers? A wiser approach like good law and order towards the handling of problems and crisis should be taken, and then only can there be a better future in the agriculture.

by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.

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WeFarm- a Farmer to Farmer Digital Network – is Helping Farmers in remote villages of Kenya

WeFarm helps connect farmers via Text Messages

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A farmer herds his cattle at sunset near Kisumu, Kenya, Feb. 2, 2008.
A farmer herds his cattle at sunset near Kisumu, Kenya, Feb. 2, 2008. VOA

When she woke up one morning in February, Catherine Kagendo realized that one of her cows could not stand.

“It was lying on its side, had lost its appetite and was breathing heavily,” she told Reuters from her farm in Meru, in eastern Kenya.

With her husband, she decided to turn to WeFarm, a text-based network of small-scale farmers, for help.

Within an hour, their text — “one of my lactating cows cannot stand” — generated a flurry of suggestions, from “feed your cow with minerals rich in calcium” to “make sure the cow shed is clean and well-drained so the animals don’t slip.”

“I realized our cow had milk fever, so gave it calcium-rich feed and it was standing again within hours,” Kagendo explained.

She is one of many Kenyan small-scale farmers who lack good information — mostly due to a lack of internet access — on how to manage problems from dry spells to diseases, local farm experts say.

As a result, such farmers often lose their harvest or animals, they said.

But WeFarm, a farmers’ network launched in Kenya in 2014 and more recently expanded to Uganda and Peru, allows people to ask a question by text message and receive advice from their peers.

The service, whose Scottish co-founder Kenny Ewan describes it as “the internet for people with no internet,” is free to use and only requires a mobile phone.

Farmers text questions to a local number, and WeFarm transmits the message to users with similar interests in the area, tapping into their knowledge.

“We want farmers to get answers to their problems without needing to access the internet, so the information is available to all,” said Mwinyi Bwika, head of marketing at WeFarm.

Although the platform also exists online, over 95 percent of users choose to use it offline, he said.

Information gap

Kagendo said that when her animals were ill or her maize crops too dry, she used to have to hire an extension officer to help solve the problem.

“But we had to pay a fee ranging from 500 to 2,000 Kenyan shillings ($5-$20), and most of the time the officer didn’t even explain their diagnosis,” she said.

That cut into her family’s income and left them no better able to understand the diseases facing their cattle and their crops.

“We cannot even afford a smartphone to go online, so finding credible information was near impossible,” she said.

According to Bwika, small-scale farmers often lack the information they need because of a lack of cash — most live on less than a dollar a day — as well as poor internet connection and low literacy levels.

“Ewan realized that farmers living just a few miles from each other were facing the same challenges, but with no way to communicate about them. So, he created a platform to connect them,” Bwika said.

Joseph Kinyua, another farmer from Meru who grows vegetables, said he spends at least 30 minutes per day using WeFarm.

“It’s taught me anything from using pest control traps to ensuring that my sprinklers don’t put out too much water,” he said. “And I know the methods are proven and tested by other farmers.”

The knowledge has helped improve the quality of the kale he grows, he said, enough that “I can now sell a kilo at the market at 70 shillings [$0.70] compared to 50 [$0.50] previously.”

Preventing problems

While the platform might receive dozens of replies to a question, it only sends out to the user a selection of answers judged correct, Bwika said.

But it uses the questions and advice received to help track disease outbreaks or extreme weather spells, and shares those insights with governments and non-governmental organizations, Bwika said.

“In doing so, we hope to prevent disease outbreaks and track problems before they occur,” he said.

Not everyone shares this optimism, however.

Mary Nkatha, a farmer from Meru, said she found it hard to implement some of the recommendations she received from WeFarm without the practical guidance of an expert.

“If I am told to inject my cow with something, how do I make sure I do it in the right place? And where do I find the equipment?” she asked.

Fredrick Ochido, a Kenya-based consultant on dairy farming, also worries that the platform may be entrenching farmers’ poor use of technology, rather than helping them keep up with new trends.

The WeFarm platform has over 100,000 current users in Kenya, Uganda and Peru, and its operators hopes to reach one million farmers in the next year. They also aim to expand the effort to other countries, including Tanzania. (VOA)

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“Rally for Rivers” Campaign: To Restore the Depleting River Flow in India

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Rally for Rivers Campaign
Rally for Rivers Campaign is organised by Isha Foundation. Wikimedia
  • The Rally for Rivers Campaign is an initiative of Isha Foundation, headed by Sadhguru
  • It is a campaign about the rivers of the country and the need for water protection and security
  • The Isha Foundation has laid out a Comprehensive River Rejuvenation plan to reform the state of rivers in India

July 28, 2017: The Isha Foundation, headed by Sadhguru, is organizing the Rally for Rivers Campaign. The initiative is formulated as an effort to raise awareness.

As Sadhguru had said about the campaign, “This is not a protest. This is not an agitation. This is a campaign to raise awareness that our rivers are depleting. Everyone who consumes water must Rally For Rivers.”

Unlike other movements, the Rally for Rivers is not to question or complain. Rather, it offers solutions. The Isha Foundation has designed a Comprehensive River Rejuvenation plan to restore the depleting rivers.

The Indian Rivers are going into depletion. The perineal rivers have become seasonal. The River Ganga has been named as one of the world’s most endangered river. Important rivers like Krishna, Kaveri, Narmada have stopped making it till the sea for four months. Every major river in India has undergone reduced water levels.

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According to the estimations by researchers at Isha Foundation; by 2030, only 50% water will be available for our survival. Further, 25% of India is becoming desert. As compared to 1947, we have about 75% lesser water per person available today.

Thus arises a need for awareness and solutions. Isha Foundation has formulated a Comprehensive River Rejuvenation plan for river restorations. One of the solutions offered; planting tree covers. Tree covers should be created for a stretch of one kilometer on either side of the full river. For a tributary, the stretch is for half a kilometer.

To revitalize rivers, government owned land along the river banks will create and maintain native forest trees. On a private farm land, however, organic fruit cultivation shall take place.

ALSO READ: Swaraj India launches a unique campaign asking people to blow Whistle whenever they see anything Wrong happening around them

As the campaign explains, the need for a state as well as central government to be on the same page is vital to the success of the campaign. Rivers fall under the concurrent list, that is, the jurisdiction of both state as well as centre. Thus, any policy designed must be acknowledged equally by the both for effectiveness.

Additionally, for creating awareness, Sadhguru has himself planned a travel from Kanyakumari to Delhi. He aims to create as much awareness so that grass-root level support is provided to the campaign and its associated policies.

The campaign will begin from Isha Yoga Centre in Coimbatore on 3rd September and after more than ten stops end at Delhi on 2nd October. A total of 13 states are to be covered, in which 21 major cities are part of the campaign. Sadhguru has taken upon himself to cover the entire stretch of a total 6560 kms.

The organizers have made sure that the event is fun and entertaining for a maximum number of people to show up. Along the way and all the major stops, celebrations will be seen. Events like cultural fests, musical concerts, nukad natak, paintings and handicrafts, and public sessions have been organized by the Isha Foundation. Also, all the stakeholders of policies as well as rivers are cordially invited to learn and discuss more. Journalists, Corporate people, politicians, villagers, farmers and many more are expected to turn up at the event and contribute in whatever way they can.

The success of the Rally for Rivers campaign depends mostly on people’s support and encouragement to the cause. The campaign can be joined online.

– Prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394