|Phone friend: Birsa Agriculture University
The cellphone may well prove to be the great 21st century leveller after all, as Birsa Agriculture University (BAU), Jharkhand’s lone agriculture cradle, has launched an SMS advice service for farmers.
The joint venture between the Centre and BAU — a first-of-its-kind SMS assistance in Hindi for state farmers — debuted two weeks ago. At present, the pilot SMS project is covering some 300 farmers.
Speaking to The Telegraph, professor A. Wadood of BAU’s department of agro-physics and meteorology department, who is looking after the project, said they had a farmer database of around 2 lakh.
Gradually, advice SMSes will reach each number twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.
“In the past 15 days, we sent SMSes to around 300 farmers in Ranchi and adjacent areas to test the efficacy of the system. The idea is to reach block and panchayat specific farmers, taking local factors into account, so that the advice genuinely benefits them,” Wadood added.
So far, text messages have been on the lines of “agle do din varsha ki sambhavna hai,” “kisan bhai, ab dhan ki ropai band kar de,” “mausam ki sthithi ko dekhte huye fasal keeda lagne ki sambhavana hai” and so on.
The free SMSes are being sent via the national portal for farmers www.farmers.gov.in where each state has its own page and a Kisan SMS section to send what they call agromet (agriculture and meteorology) SMSes to farmers. The Centre’s ministry of earth sciences sponsors it.
The service has been linked with the two-year-old venture of the Union ministry of agriculture called FASAL (Forecasting Agricultural Output Using Space, Astro-meteorology and Land Based Application), a real-time crop application to predict agriculture yield, which Indian institutes such as BAU get directly.
At the moment, BAU has pegged an output of 30 lakh tonnes of rice in 2013, some 10 lakh tonnes less than in 2012.
Last year, BAU predicted 39-plus lakh tonnes of rice. The real-time output was 40 lakh tonnes.
Wadood said though the state wouldn’t see a meteorological drought this year, agriculture drought seemed imminent.
“If you see Jharkhand’s history, it gets around 1,400mm rainfall a year, but with anomalies in distribution,” he added.
On mass awareness of SMS advice, he added the department of agriculture would instruct officials to drive home the point at each district and block level. “The service has huge potential but tech logistics must be smooth,” he added.
Is text message the most affordable face of technology?