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.

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.

Success stories of mKisan

Potato field of the farmer using mKisan

Potato field of the farmer using mKisan

The proliferation of mobile technology has greatly helped to bridge the information gap in the society. Whether it is an urban area or the rural area, the mobile phones have become the common device. Taking the leverage of this technology, mKisan has reached millions of farmers across 6 states of India, where the conventional agriculture extension service could not be reached. Some of the farmers shared their experience of using the service.

A farmer from Bihar of West Champaran district said that he has received some of the best information from the SMSs. He shared that he never used to irrigate his wheat crop when the wheat heads were forming. But an SMS on wheat crop said that it’s very important to irrigate the wheat crop at this stage. It would help in the formation of the heads. So, he irrigated his wheat crop, the result was good. From then on, he has always practiced it.

A farmer from Madhya Pradesh of Indore district shared that talking to an expert over the mKisan helpline proved beneficial. His potato crop was affected by blight; this reduced the potato production significantly. Expert suggested using fungicide, which helped in protecting his crop. Beside this, the farmer also came to know about the application of nitrogen in gram. Previously, farmer used to apply nitrogen after 15 days to one month after sowing. Expert over the helpline advised to use the nitrogen right in the beginning during the first irrigation after sowing gram. This is applicable for garlic crop too. This advice gave good results and increased the crop yield.

National Seminar on Re-orientation of Agriculture Education

National Seminar in BAU IMG_0007National Seminar on Re-orientation of Agriculture Education was organized by Bihar Agriculture University (India) on 14-15 November, 2014. The focus of the seminar was to understand the present scenario of the agriculture education, its needs and challenges and understanding the role of ICT in classroom teaching and learning. People from ICAR, NCERT, SAUs, NARS, Smart Series and CABI (India) participated in the program. CABI presented on ‘Role of ICT in classroom teaching and agriculture’. The emphasis was given on the systematic inclusion of the ICT in education system can be proved fruitful, considering the fact that number of people are not friendly to the technology.

mKisan Call Centre successfully launched across 3 states

In a new development, mKisan has recently launched a call centre across three Hindi speaking states of central and eastern India, (Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh). By dialing 556780 from their mobile phone, farmers can access the mKisan service and call centre in these three states. The call centre will help farmers to directly connect with subject matter experts to get answers to their farm related queries. As part of the call centre, a farmers’ interface and an experts’ interface have been created on an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system. The interfaces allow users to select a subject matter (e.g. insect related problems), record a query, answer a query, listen to the solution to an answered query etc. Using this system, if an expert is not available, farmers can record their queries and the expert can provide answers to queries when they are logged-in through their mobile phone. A usage report based on call centre data gathered in 20 days of July 2013 shows caller trends (see table below). The report is quite encouraging for the first month of operation. The call centre will help to generate analytics on call patterns for crops & livestock and will highlight the kind of problems which are faced by farmers in the field. Both the number and types of query will be recorded and individual farmer queries will be analyzed to develop a picture of the everyday issues the farmers are dealing with.

July 2013 call centre analytics on calls received by subject matter

July 2013 call centre analytics on calls received by subject matter

Content Workshop

Eastern Zone trainigParticipants from EZ

Participative training program organised for the content teams 

of Eastern Zone and Northern Zone 

On 11 March, 2013 and on 10 April, 2013, Content Workshops were organised for two zones viz. Eastern zone and Northern zone respectively by IKSL in association with CABI. The program was focussed on developing good content management practices. Entire program was conducted in 5 different modules.

On 11 March, in  Bhubaneswar program was organised for Eastern zone, where content team and sales team from Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal participated. For Northern zone, the program was organised in Chandigarh, where the content team of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan participated.

Participants felt that the entire program was quite interesting, informative and participatory.  They shared that the various modules in the program have helped them to provide in depth insight about content management practices, this would help them in building robust knowledge management system.

Participants from NZTraining program for NZ

mKisan service in 6 states

Farmer's field

Service is successfully running in 6 states

mKisan service is up and running successfully in all the target six states viz. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Under this service, information is disseminated to farmers through mobile phone in the form Interactive Voice Response (IVR). Farmer can easily avail the information on various package of practices related different crops , including information plant protection and information related livestock by using this service.



An initiative to empower the farmers

The mKisan is a project which is launched with the support of mFarmer Initiative Challenge Fund (where mFarmer project is part of the International mAgri fund of the GSMA development fund)

In India, the project will be executed by a consortium  involving four partners: Handygo (Lead partner)-Mobile value Added Service Provider, CABI-Content Partner, ILRI-Content Partner and Digital Green-Content Partner (agri-extension videos).

Here, CABI will be contributing by providing scientifically validated and actionable information on agriculture to enable the farmers to take informed decision. This will be done through the it acclaimed and acknowledged Direct2Farm repository.

Partners will jointly endeavour to develop a comprehensive agro-advisory service which can address various problems of our agrarian society and particularly the small-holder farmers.

The goal of project is to facilitate access to valued agricultural information and advice to our poor farmers through mobile phones, which they can use to increase their productivity and incomes.

mKisan aims to reach about 1,000,000 smallholder farmers in 6 states of India over a 24 month implementation period. Under this project 6 major states will be covered they are: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.