Suresh’s story


Suresh: I don’t have to rely on pesticide dealers; I know how to control pests in my crop

Suresh Kumar is a smallholder farmer from the Jind district of Haryana in northern India. In the local market, pesticide dealers sell all kinds of chemicals to the unsuspecting farmers, by making tall claims. Farmers get panicked when the see their crops are getting damaged because of some insect or disease and in desperation, they try anything that the dealers suggest. However, those chemicals mostly do not do any good and each year many farmers make huge loss first by spending money on expensive chemicals and then when their crop fails. This has been happening for years and farmers have taken it as way of life because they don’t have any other way to get immediate advice when the pests attack their crops. During the last Rabi season, Suresh attended a Krishi Vichar Gosthi (farmers’ consultation) organized by Kisan Sanchar, and there he heard about Direct2Farm. The volunteers told him that Direct2Farm service would provide him advance information about various pests and how to manage them. Not only that, farmers can call up the Toll free number (1800-114-151) and record their questions, which will be answered by the agriculture experts and they can have live chat with the experts, any time. This seemed like a ray of hope for Suresh, because he was worried about pest problem in his crop. However, he was skeptical, since this was a mobile service and he has never used mobile agro-advisory service before. The volunteers assured him that he can try the service free for some time and only if he finds the service good, he needs to continue. This built confidence and Suresh immediately registered himself for the Direct2Farm service. The volunteers asked him about which crop varieties he grows and he was explained that the experts will provide him information which are relevant for the crop varieties, that he grows so that he gets what is needed and no unnecessary botheration. Since then Suresh is a regular subscriber of Direct2Farm service and he has gained lot of new knowledge. In Suresh’s own words…. “Information provided through these messages are very useful and farmers should work according to the advice to get most benefit. I find the helpline service best, because talking to an expert helps me to clear my doubts on the spot and no one can mislead me because they know I can always cross check from an expert, then and there. I will definitely continue with Direct2Farm in future.”


Growing crop with less water: Hemlal’s Story

Most of the areas of Jharkhand, a tribal sate in the east-central part of India are drought prone. Farmers here depend mainly on rainfall for the farming and late monsoon or less rain makes situation desperate for them. Hemlal Prasad Yadav is one such farmer from Giridih district of Jharkhand, who has always been troubled by the frequent droughts and had to toil hard to feed his family. Being in a remote area, there is hardly any support or information available about weather forecast or new technologies that can help him to grow crop with very less water. He heard about Direct2Farm service from the village headman, when volunteers from Kisan Sanchar visited their village and Hemlal immediately decided to register in the service; because not only he would get information directly in his mobile phone, there was a free trial period offered so that he can really test whether the service is good or not. After registering, Hemlal started getting regular crop advisory and weather updates on his phone, and gained new knowledge about how to retain soil moisture in field so that he can grow crops with minimum irrigation. He also learned about pests prevalent in this location and how to control them. With this new knowledge, Hemlal is confident that he will be able to get a decent harvest this year and his family will no longer go hungry. In Hemlal’s world… “This service is a life saver for the farmers in this remote location, if other farmers too, give their mobile numbers, then everyone will get benefit from this service and our family and children will be happy and healthy”

Write-shop in Sri Lanka

Two days write-shop organized at Kandy in Sri Lanka, on 26th -27th August for mNutrition (GoviNet) project. The objective of the program was to streamline and accelerate the content development activity. Content team comprising various officers from Fruit Research Development Institute (FRDI) and Field Crop Research & Development Institute (FCRDI), Department of Agriculture- Sri Lanka, along with CABI–South Asia, and CABI- Sri Lanka participated in the program.

Messages on two major crops viz. maize and papaya were developed, on all relevant topics considering the quality assurance criteria. Altogether 28 actionable messages have been developed for the target audience. The messages were kept short, comprehensive and simple. The developed messages were validated through discussion among the experts, facilitators and the participants.

The program was quite participative and productive. Various practical exercises adopted in the program, which were quite helpful in engaging participants and in making them learn actively to develop effective content. It was felt that such program should be organized regularly. The write-shop ended successfully.

Growing demand for rich media content among farmers

20150716_10145620150715_13103020150716_18422420150715_131020After understanding the information need and the information gap among the farmers just before the kharif season in previous visit to Vaishali, ( a district in Bihar), Direct2Farm team visited to villages of Vaishali again, to sensitize about the project ‘Direct2Farm’ and understanding the information gap further on the onset of kharif season. The complete demonstration of the Direct2Farm service was given to farmers and they were suggested to register themselves for their benefits.

Most of the farmers were paddy farmers, so team conducted a PRA study on paddy farmers and on paddy crops. Farmers from two village viz. Lalpura and Dumduma were randomly selected, 30 farmers from each village. This exercise helped to know how far the advisory provided by the Direct2Farm is benefitting them in increasing their knowledge. How far they are aware about the various pests and diseases of paddy and how they manage these pests and diseases. Beside this, information need based on various crop stages was also analyzed.

Four focus group discussions were conducted in Lalpura and Dumduma villages. Images and photographs of symptoms of nutrient deficiency and incidences of insect pest and diseases and weed in paddy crop were used to elicit farmers’ functional knowledge and their management. It was observed that though the farmers were able to identify the symptom of nitrogen nutrient deficiency, a large majority of them could not identify the symptoms about the deficiency of micro-nutrients like zinc, iron as well as those of potassium and phosphorus. Similarly the farmers of both villages could identify the insects like gundhi bug, grasshopper, termites, stem borer but lacked the correct knowledge of their control measures. The farmers of both villages entirely depended upon Input agency or salesman for nutrient, pest and weed management.

The relative importance of the messages desired by the farmers at various crop stages was also identified through PRA. Tillering and flowering were identified as the most important growth stages where advisory was most required

The most interesting observation was that the penetration of smart phone is above average and could be easily be found in the households. Young farmers and youth use low-end smart phones in their day-to-day life and are very verse with applications like Facebook and WhatsApp. They have a WhatsApp group among the farmers and shared relevant information along with other entertainment stuff. Group of farmers, especially young farmers are very much open to receiving the video content that is advisory with visuals/ showing demo/ instructions. Another interesting finding was that they are comfortable in receiving the video content and have suggested that it should be in Hindi language not necessarily in their regional language. Also, depending upon the nature of content the length of the video may vary; say from 3 mins to 10 mins. This emboldens the demand of rich media content with increasing penetration of smart phones even in the remote areas.

Mobile phones can bring significant change in one’s life

Bibipur 1 Recently an event was (on 5 July, 2015) arranged which was actually a competition, organized by CABI’s Direct2Farm team and hosted by one of the Direct2Farm’s implementing partner and Bibipur panchayat (in the state of Haryana). The competition was restricted to the females of Bibipur village and the purpose was to gather the maximum number of real-life stories from females, where mobile has got some significant change in their life.

76 women participated and penned down their stories, in this competition. In these 76 participants, 28 were school girls, 11 were housewives, nine older than 55 years of age, three completely illiterate and seven who asked somebody else to write their stories. The rest were youths. This figure was quite encouraging. Finally, three were selected as winners out of 6 finalists based upon ranking, which was done on quality of narration, depth, intensity and originality of the story.

Bibipur 2This entire episode has brought all the females together and encouraged them to write their stories. The level of participation was showing the emerging confidence among the females of that village; this was not less than their male counterparts.

Winner of the competition was Manisha More, here is her story which she delivered in a impactful manner

“I was in class 10th, when this incidence took place. It was an evening when the entire village was in the celebration mode. There was a marriage ceremony in Bibipur village, people were in festive mood. They were dancing, the music band was at the top of their tone, and loud noise of firecrackers can be heard all around. Suddenly a firecracker slipped from the hand of a person going in the marriage procession, this firecracker remained unnoticed. I picked it up and kept it considering it as a roll of wool. I was completely ignorant that the object could be an unfired firecracker. I cut the wool layer of the firecracker; still I could not make it out what it was. My father saw me with that object and asked me to throw it away as it is dangerous firecracker. I convinced my father that the object is harmless as it has been used during marriage procession. But, he kept on insisting me to throw it away.
I thought stove (chulha) would be the best place to dispose it off. Unknowingly, I threw it into the stove. Then after, my mother came into kitchen to lit fire for cooking. The object got blasted as soon as she set on fire. She was got injured badly and got fainted. Her one hand got badly injured. I was in panic and could not understand what to do. I went to my neighbours and they immediately called on my father’s mobile. My father straightway called a doctor and called some relatives to help with some money. My mother was hospitalised and finally, she was saved. Years have crossed to this incidence. Still, her left hand is not as efficient as her right hand. This reminds me of the accident. But, I am happy she is around us. I am really thankful to the mobile technology which helped to manage everything quickly and saved my mother. She ended up her story with a impactful quotation ‘Mobile par hogi jis ki command, duniya mein hogi uski demand (One who will have command over the mobile will be always in demand),”

Understanding information needs for kharif season

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Recently Direct2Farm team travelled to 4 villages in the Vaishali district of Bihar in eastern India for a Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) study to understand information needs and gaps among the farmers in the area. This is important because at the onset of Kharif season, Direct2Farm should be ready with all the critical information that the farmers need to get a good harvest. Application of PRA principles made interaction quite interactive and farmers themselves came out with their key problems, which is critical for effective service delivery. Farmers highlighted the problem of pest and disease problems which severely affects their crop every year. They looked for information on land preparation and sowing for kharif season cultivation. Some interesting revelations that came out of the study is that farmers are not aware about the practice of seed treatment and there is lot of difference between what the male and female farmers know about weed control and grain storage. It was discovered that the women folk, just by years of practical experience, has gathered valuable insights about managing weeds and grain insects during storage, which their menfolk are still unaware. This study will help in providing information to the farmers more effectively to the farmers of this area.

Content Writeshop for Govinet Project

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Two days content writeshop was organized in ISTI, Kandy, Sri Lanka on 16th-17th of April for the Govinet Project. 19 people participated in the program. Participants were from CABI South Asia and Department of Agriculture, Sri Lanka. The objective of the program is to develop mobile messages for providing timely information on nutrition, to learn about mobile advisory and its effectiveness, to develop user friendly mobile content and to learn basic concept of mobile communication.

Altogether, there were 19 participants, including experts and facilitators. In the workshop aim and objectives of the project were highlighted. The session on country content framework was held which was focused towards addressing the key points to be considered to generate content and messages and the rationale for the selection of the crop and livestock as per the micronutrient component.

On second day, message and factsheets templates were discussed and evaluation of the workshop was done. The program ends up successfully. The Govinet project is funded by the DFID, which aims to facilitate fast transfer of technology to the farmers through mobile phones and to improve household nutrition through information about nutrient rich agri-produces and promoting dietary diversity.

Krishi Vichar Goshti in Haryana

In the month of March, 10 Krishi Vichar Goshti (KVG) were organized in 10 different villages covering 5 districts of Haryana. The KVG is the kind of meeting organized to make farmers aware about the Direct2Farm project and to understand the general issues related to farming in their area.

In KVG, farmers can discuss their problems related to agriculture and get the answers from the experts or fellow farmers. Information on various government schemes and other problems such as attack of pest and disease on crops are discussed. Feedbacks on messages are also taken from the farmers.

So far, 10 KVGs organized and were ended on successful note. This has provided farmers, an interactive platform to know about the project more and discuss their farm related issues.

Direct2Farm Scale Up Service: Voices from the field

Hemlal Prasad Yadav, a farmer from the Giridih district of the state Jharkhand, in eastern India, told that that he regularly receives information on weather and agriculture from Direct2Farm and finds them very useful. Especially the Information at the time of irrigation and pest management practices has helped him a lot. There is no other source of information available there, that is why he has enrolled himself in the service by providing his mobile number to the Krishi Kendra. He mentioned that if other farmers too, give their mobile number, then everyone will get benefit from this service

Saag Ram is a farmer from a place Dabawali in Sirsa district of the state Haryana, in northern India. He receives information on weather and agriculture twice a week from the Direct2Farm service. He takes up works in his farm according to the weather information provided to him. Market price updates are also beneficial. He said he also receives information on livestock and pest management practices which he plans to implement in his farm.

Virendra, a farmer from Haryana using Direct2Farm service

Virendra, a farmer from Haryana using Direct2Farm service

Virendra is a farmer from the Ambala district of the state Haryana in northern India. He regularly listens to the voice messages from the Direct2Farm service. He feels that the information received on the weather, management practices and irrigation are very good and he gets benefitted from them.

Suresh Kumar, a farmer from the Narwana village of the Jind district of Haryana, in northern India. He expressed that he is a regular listener of the agriculture advisory messages of Direct2Farm. He thinks that the information provided through these messages is very useful and all the farmers should work according to the advice, to get most benefit. He emphasised that a helpline service would have been very good, since he could then call up whenever any information is required.

On the International Women’s Day

The gram panchayat of village Bibipur of Jind district of Haryana organised a program on the International Women’s Day i.e. on 8th March. 100 women farmers attended the program. The program was chaired by Sarpanch (the head of Panchayat) and key issues related to women were discussed. CABI was also invited in the program to connect Bibipur with Direct2Farm service. Sharbendu Banerjee, the Global Director-Mobile from CABI, presented on how farmers can get benefitted from mobile information service and also explained about the special benefits women farmers can obtain. He also announced the story telling competition for the rural women on the topic ‘How you have made a positive change in your life by using mobile phones’. The objective of the program was to popularise mobile based service among women farmers and making them understand on how they can use mobile phone to improve their livelihood.