Farmers hooked to mobile updates

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By ANTARA BOSE in Jamshedpur
  • Published 11.05.09
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Jamshedpur, May 11: Eight thousand farmers are hooked to their cellphones and they believe they now have an edge.

What began as an initiative of the Indian Farmers and Fertiliser Co-operative (IFFCO), a national multi-unit co-operative society engaged in fertiliser production and rural initiatives, to empower the rural farmer with the help of telecom services and technology in mid-2008, has now become his best friend.

IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL), a fully owned subsidiary of IFFCO, has partnered with Bharti Airtel and Samsung to distribute camera and radio-enabled handsets to farmers for Rs 1,000 each in all 24 districts of the state.

An additional Rs 1,000 per month gets farmers value-added services through free voice messages — five daily — on farming techniques, mandi prices, weather forecasts, updates on animal husbandry, cattle rearing, rural health initiatives and fertiliser availability. A farmer can also connect with experts via a dedicated helpline to get specific clarifications on agricultural activities.

Along with the phone and its SIM cards — called “green cards” — each subscriber also gets an eco-friendly hand-cranked mobile charger which charges a phone in 3 to 7 minutes.

A similar initiative was taken in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana. Jharkhand already has 8,000 happy farmers hooked to the service.

“I never thought I will have a mobile phone but fellow farmers in my village told me about the plan. Now with messages everyday, I can keep tabs on the market. I am planning to buy it soon,” said Sunder Lal, a farmer from Ichagarh block of the adjoining Seraikela-Kharsawan district.

Suraj Sinha, a senior official of IKSL, feels rural markets are the next big thing. “We want farmers in Jharkhand to connect with technology for better knowledge of agriculture,” he said.

Now, IKSL is aiming to bring 2,500 farmers in its fold every month.

IKSL also has subsidised eco-friendly products on offer — a lantern and torch — and so far, it has sold goods worth Rs 3,000. Both chargeable by winding, they come with a two-year warranty and are priced at Rs 777 and Rs 683, respectively.

“I don’t know much about phones but if it is cheap, may be I can think about it. Also, if it promises to educate me on farming I will try and save money to buy it,” said Gorai Chand Mahato, a farmer in Baliguma.