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Young tribal woman inspires farming community to better livelihoods in Odisha

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A young tribal woman Raimati Ghiuria, not only proved to be a leader in conserving local traditional varieties of rice and millet seeds in her own land but also showed the path of development to the farming societies of Odisha’s Koraput district, an agricultural expert said.

Ghiuria is a leading woman farmer in Nuaguda village of Kundra block, which is in Odisha and has conserved 40 traditional landraces (lineages developed by farmers) of rice and 12 of millets and even trained about 340 neighbouring women farmers in conserving of local genetic resources.

She has also trained other women in the SRI (system of rice intensification) technique and line transplanting method of rice cultivation. These techniques have helped farmers in increasing their yields than what they were getting from traditional cultivation practices.

It all started nine years ago when Raimati became a member of a self-help group (SHG) in her village and participated in capacity-building training and awareness programmes at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) here.

“This inspired her to lead the group undertaking various micro-enterprises. This converted the group into a model SHG which won the Most Progressive SHG award given by the district administration in 2013,” Kartik Lenka of the MSSRF told agencies.

“We develop hybrid varieties of paddy and other foodgrains. It is also equally important to conserve indigenous species to maintain the natural biodiversity,” Raimati told the agency, adding that training on value addition to the rice and millet crops is also provided to the members of 27 other SHGs.

“They took this micro-enterprise as an alternative livelihood option and each family is earning an additional Rs 2,000 to Rs.3,000 per month,” Raimati said.

Because of her passionate leadership and multi-skilled activities, she was convened the best leadership award by the district administration and Jamsetji Tata National Virtual Academy Fellowship Award in 2014 for being “a leading grassroot academician”.

She recently participated in the ‘Prajatiya Khadyotsav (an agro forest food diversity festival) organised by Tata Steel’s Sukinda Chromite Mine in Jajpur district.

“Even as conserving traditional species is not lucrative against hybrid products, we need to conserve so that these indigenous products do not go extinct,” Lenka pointed out.

Aboriginal varieties have to be conserved for further research on producing high-yielding varieties. B.B panda of the Cuttack unit of the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) said.

“We can develop high-yielding varieties through these indigenous varieties. With the unavailability of the varieties, there would be no further improvement,” Panda told agencies.

It’s important to preserve and multiply the traditional seed varieties to improve the adaptation mechanism of farmers as climate change is a major concern for the country’s farming society.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has conferred the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) status has been conferred by UN Food and Agriculture Organisation to the traditional agricultural system being practised in the Koraput region.

This means the tribal people have an aboriginal knowledge system for their various agricultural practices that they use to check the viability of seeds before sowing, maintain soil fertility and conserve their landraces.(IANS)

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Microsoft Lays AI Sensors for Smart Farming, Cutting-edge Healthcare in India

"The role of AI will only get bigger for both agriculture and healthcare sectors in India. The seeds are now sown," Maheshwari added

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Microsoft
Logo of Microsoft outside it's office. Pixabay

China, the world’s biggest agricultural producer, is leading the race when it comes to empowering farmers with Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven technologies.

The aim is clear: To help the community digitally record information to cut costs and increase yields — with just a smartphone in their hands as AI leveraged Cloud computing to make sense of the data for farmers.

India has now embarked on a journey to bring AI sensors into the fields.

For Anant Maheshwari, the company’s India President, Microsoft has begun empowering small-holder farmers in India to increase their income through higher crop yield and greater price control.

“We are working with farmers, state governments, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare to create an ecosystem for AI into farming,” Maheshwari told IANS.

In some villages in Telangana, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, farmers are receiving automated voice calls that tell them whether their cotton crops are at risk of a pest attack, based on weather conditions and crop stage.

“There are companies that serve equipments and capabilities for farmers. We are working with most of the stakeholders, like generic crop protection and seeds company United Phosphorus Ltd and engineering conglomerate Escorts, to create better AI-based models for farming in the country,” informed Maheshwari.

With United Phosphorus, Microsoft is working on providing front-end capabilities for farmers.

Escorts is working with Microsoft for its Cloud and AI technology enabling precision agriculture capabilities to help farmers make informed decisions and get more from their farms.

In collaboration with the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Microsoft has developed an AI-Sowing App powered by Cortana Intelligence Suite including Machine Learning and Power BI.

The app sends sowing advisories to participating farmers on the optimal date to sow. The farmers don’t need to install any sensors in their fields or incur any capital expenditure. All they need is a feature phone capable of receiving text messages.

Representational image.
Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

After laying the initial infrastructure for smart agriculture, Microsoft has also taken further steps towards cutting-edge health care with the help from AI-based “Intelligent Cloud” and “Intelligent Edge”.

Nearly three million heart attacks happen in India every year and 30 million Indians suffer from coronary diseases.

In a novel effort to predict the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) among the Indian population, Microsoft India and Apollo Hospitals have launched the first-ever AI-powered heart disease risk score API (application programme interface).

It provides the capability of applying ML and AI to cardio-vascular health records to develop an Indian-specific heart risk score.

With the new heart risk score for India, Apollo Hospitals’ AI model helps gauge a patient’s risk for heart disease and provides rich insights to doctors on treatment plans and early diagnosis.

“This shows how AI-driven models can make a big difference and help the doctors in a country where health care needs.

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The company has also applied AI to devices for early detection of diabetic retinopathy to prevent blindness.Microsoft India also announced a partnership with SRL Diagnostics to expand the “AI Network for Healthcare” to pathology to detect cancer.

Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairman and Executive Director of Narayana Health, has performed over 15,000 heart operations. His hospital chain does one-sixth of heart surgeries in India.

“His hospital chain is working on Kaizala app, Power BI and Azure to run the operation smoothly.

“Dr Shetty aims to put all electronic health records on Kaizala for real-time data analysis. This gives a doctor full information about a patient and his past,” said Maheshwari.

In October, NITI Aayog entered into a partnership with Microsoft to deploy AI technologies in areas such as agriculture, healthcare, natural language computing and sustainable environment.

“The role of AI will only get bigger for both agriculture and healthcare sectors in India. The seeds are now sown,” Maheshwari added. (IANS)