Kishore Singh, a farmer from Durgapura village near here, is getting ready to harvest soyabean, despite large parts of Madhya Pradesh having received ‘deficient’ monsoon rainfall this season. In fact, irrespective of the precipitation, he has been cultivating at least three crops in a year since 2006, thanks to a check dam built close to his field to conserve rainwater. Singh, who owns 35 acres of land, grows soyabean in the kharif season and wheat and chana as winter crops. “Prior to the construction of the check dam, I used to grow kharif crops like soyabean only if the rains did not betray my fields. However, in 2014, 2015 and again, this year, despite rainfall being inadequate, the farming hasn’t got affected thanks to the dams,” Singh told FE.
Singh’s annual income rose to around Rs 3 lakh from around Rs 1 lakh before 2006. In addition, the e-choupal (a centre equipped with a desktop computer with internet connection) located at Narsingkhera a couple of kilometres from Durgapura village and which is supported by corporate major ITC has been helping farmers like Singh in monitoring prices of commodities across major mandis and selling their produce when the prices are remunerative. The e-choupal facility also enables farmers in accessing weather updates and prices of seeds and other agricultural equipment. Babulal, a farmer from Narsingkhera village, also depends on the check dam at Durgapura to irrigate his 20 acres of land. The dam was constructed in 2006 at a cost of around Rs 12 lakh out of which ITC contributed 70% under its rural livelihood programme, Sunehra Kal. The rest of the cost was borne by farmers.
Because of the construction of the check dam at Durgapura, 800 acres of land across three villages — Durgapura, Narsingkhera and Sonarkhedi — get water through the year, while only 300 acres used to get water from a canal earlier. Around 200 farmers in these villages now grow vegetables — onion and potato — thanks to uninterrupted availability of water. There are more than 6,600 water harvesting structures or check dams and about 1,500 functioning water-user groups taking care of them in the area. “Using information provided by at the e-choupals, the farmers can sell their produce like wheat to us or any other purchaser offering them remunerative prices,” said S Sivakumar, group head, agri and IT businesses, ITC. Annually, the company is estimated to source around 1.5 million tonnes of wheat from farmers in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab for its retail atta (flour) business.
Currently, there more than 6,000 e-choupals located across 10 states including Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra. Madhya Pradesh alone accounts for around 2,000 of such centres. More than 40 lakh farmers are part of the e-choupal network and the company is aims to link around 1 crore farmer through this network by 2020. ITC also has 24 rural hypermarket ‘chaupal sagars’ in 10 states. Sivakumar said that company would launch a revamped digital e-choupal by next year that would offer a range of farm-focused services such as crop management and farm mechanisation, as well as healthcare, banking and insurance. “This fourth-generation model, e-Choupal 4.0, will be an aggregator of agricultural services while extensively using digital or mobile app based platforms,” he said.