The farmers are practically unaware of prevailing market trends or good agricultural practices and, hence, forced to continue growing low-value staples. Hence, empowering them with knowledge is pivotal.
As the deadline for fulfilling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of doubling farmers income by 2022 draws closer, it becomes pertinent that quick action is taken on this front by bridging the knowledge gap among smallholders, a non-profit farmer organisation said. To meet the goal, there is a need to improve farm productivity and price realisations but that requires effective knowledge dissemination, Harshit Kohli, founder and CEO, Swayam Farmer Foundation, wrote in The Indian Express. The farmers are practically “unaware of prevailing market trends or good agricultural practices and, hence, forced to continue growing low-value staples. Any plan for doubling farmers’ incomes must rely on massively intensifying last-mile extension work,” he wrote in the newspaper.
The situation is dismal with a dearth of extension workers who can bridge the gap between farmers and scientists. In Uttar Pradesh alone, only 7,500 extension workers are there for a humongous number of 2.33 crore farmers. The ratio then translates to 1:3,000, while the recommended ratio is 1:750.
Another way to increase farmers’ income is by promoting crop diversification. By helping farmers divulge from what Harshit Kohli calls “herd mentality”, “the risks of production gluts can be significantly moderated if farmers continuously diversify their cropping patterns from season to season,” he wrote. Farmers should also be provided with a crop recommendation service so that they can make an informed choice about crop sowing rather than following fellow farmers.
UP government takes digital route to teach farmers
Even when roughly three-fourths of rural Indian households have no smart-phones or internet access at all, according to Harshit Kohli, UP government has been leveraging wider smartphone penetration in rural areas as it launched an initiative to teach farmers by taking the digital route. The programme called ‘Vaigyanikon ki Baat, Kisaano Ke Saath’ brought thousands of farmers in touch with scientists from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre), state agricultural universities and the department itself. These scientists answered the questions posed by farmers pertaining to agricultural issues. The programme was carried out in June 2019.
However, Harshit Kohli wrote that mostly tech-based innovations do not reach three-fourths of rural masses, simply because of no availability of smartphones.