How ICT can benefit farmers in agricultural skills


Let’s look at the scope of Information and Communication Technologies in improving the lives of farmers in India. ICT for agricultural skills has tremendous scope in sustaining respectable livelihoods. When a harvest-ready crop gets destroyed due to some natural calamity our hearts go out for those farmers who have toiled for months, similarly, any distress story about farmers concerns us – rightly so, most of us share a special bond with their community. Their condition affects us because we are connected with them through our families and friends based in rural areas. India is primarily an agrarian economy but the plight of farmers leaves a lot to be done through information sharing and knowledge building to give them the right skills. ICT can be used effectively to accomplish these goals in innovative ways, considering connectivity through mobile devices and satellite television.


Positively, ICT could even trigger off a Green Re-evolution powered by latest technologies!

Agricultural workers face unique challenges: being landless, small holdings, contractual farming, lack of right information at the right time, environmental issues, lack of basic infrastructure, illiteracy, poor standard of living, debts, migration… There are several initiatives from the government and non-government bodies to improve the life of farmers in addition to giving the much needed boost to this sector. One of them is to train them, teach them new skills and empower them with right knowledge that can help them enhance productivity, improve livelihood and feel safe and secure.
Training and skilling in this sector is a huge task considering the volume, the readiness of farmers, their awareness and the realization that they should be on par with latest developments in the profession. But, this is not as easy as conducting classroom training programs in an organized way.

Farming is largely disorganized and highly informal with many obsolete practices and high levels of illiteracy. However, most of the agricultural workers have access to some form of ICT (Information and Communication Technology), even in the remotest area. A television and a mobile phone is quite common in most of their households. Already, many efforts are in place to channelize training and information sharing through these technologies like in the past when it was done with radio, and then television – Kisan Call Centres, Doordarshan Kisan Channel (upcoming) and Mkisan, to name a few.
Empowering through ICT takes different forms:
• Live TV programs, interaction with experts, demonstrations of new techniques and best practices, info on health and wellness, crisis management, harvest management
• Recorded TV programs shared as DVDs or on YouTube
• Sharing info on current markets, weather reports, micro finance and other services through mobile technology
• Creating communities through participation in peer group discussions
• Programs and activities that reduces vulnerability and instills confidence in farmers to get into better marketing and entrepreneurial ventures
• Counselling and advising to reduce migration to other professions

Often I wished: Like Make in India campaign there should have been Grow in India or some such campaign, to balance the emphasis on all things industrial with equal or more emphasis on all things to do with agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and so on. Food is as important as employment. And when the people who grow and provide food are jobless and migrate to other professions, it’s a sad comment on how farming has been slowly getting undervalued as a respectable means of livelihood.
With or without campaigns and slogans, we all know how important agriculture is to our country: some latest facts from the Central Statistics Office:
• Over 70 per cent of the rural households depend on agriculture as their principal means of livelihood.
• Agriculture, along with fisheries and forestry, accounts for one-third of the nation’s GDP and is its single largest contributor.
• The total Share of Agriculture and Allied Sectors (Including agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishery sub sectors) in terms of percentage of GDP is 13.9 percent during 2013-14 at 2004-05 prices.
• Agricultural exports constitute a fifth of the total exports of the country.

If you are a part of any ICT initiative in the area of agriculture, I would be happy to know about your contribution. You could share your experience and insights with a larger audience through this blog.

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