Gram Vikas sets up automatic weather stations to reduce farmer-producer risks in Odisha’s BalangirNEWS
By GV News Desk
19 June 2023
In partnership with HDFC Bank Parivartan, Gram Vikas set up micro-automatic weather stations benefitting over 300 small and marginal farmers in Odisha’s Balangir district.
Nearly 80% of the district’s population depends on agriculture for sustenance. Balangir’s farming community consists primarily of small and marginal farmers, whose average landholding ranges from 0.5 to 5 acres. Paddy cultivation remains the primary focus, with farmers employing time-tested methods to ensure the success of their crops.
Over the years, with low annual precipitation, the district witnessed hot summers leading to prolonged periods of dryness. With limited irrigation measures, farmers faced water scarcity resulting in less crop yield, lower quality produce, and increased vulnerability to pests and diseases. Crop losses became more prevalent, impacting farmers’ economic well-being and the district’s overall agricultural development.
The increased importance of weather and climate to rural communities created a burgeoning need for locally forecasted accurate weather prediction.
Weather and agro advisory for farmers
To address these needs, Gram Vikas partnered with HDFC Parivartan in January 2022 to establish a project called ‘The Holistic Rural Development Programme (HRDP)’. Under this programme, Gram Vikas sets up micro-Automatic Weather Stations (mAWS) to provide weekly forecasts to guide the farmers. The technology combined with agro advisory services helps them to cope against unseasonal rain, cloudy and fog conditions that usually lead to pest and disease infestation.
A mAWS is an automated version of the traditional weather station and enables measurements at shorter intervals from remote areas. It typically consists of a weather-proof enclosure containing the data logger, rechargeable battery, telemetry and meteorological sensors with an attached solar panel or wind turbine mounted upon a mast. The system reports in real time and saves the data for later recovery.
The mAWS technology empowers farmers with timely and accurate information, enabling them to make informed decisions for their agricultural activities. From within a radius of 12 kilometres, farmers get regular updates and forecasts on crucial meteorological parameters every seven days, including rainfall, humidity, wind patterns, and soil moisture levels.
Community cadres selected by the Village Development Committees (VDC) relay the weather forecast to the farmers by writing them on the weatherboard, usually placed on a wall at selected public places. The cadres also share the forecast through community-level WhatsApp groups created by the Farmer Producer Groups (FPGs).
Smart-agro insights reduce crop loss and aid better planning
Among the four blocks of Balangir district, mAWS installation in Bongomunda and Balangir blocks have significantly impacted the villages.
In the Malpada village in the Kapilabhata Panchayat under the Bongomunda block, 2513 people in nine villages and 238 farmers from 20 FPGs reported benefiting from the technology.
Most farmers in the village cultivate onions around October during the lean Kharif season and harvest them in April-May. If farmers harvest their entire onion produce and it rains, the onions get rotten, and farmers face huge losses. The early warning helps farmers to plan their harvest based on the weather conditions.
Babulal Behera, 35, a member of the Sri Jagannath FPG of Malpada village, says. “Earlier, farmers harvested their crops without knowing when it would rain. The forecast they received earlier was through mediums like radio, newspaper, and television that needed to be more accurate. Last year, for two consecutive weeks, the weather advisory predicted rains which saved the farmers from losing their entire harvest of grains from rotting. Farmers usually leave the harvested paddy on their fields as they arrange a tractor to carry the crop later. Because of timely updates, they were able to plan better.”
Lakshmikanta Behera, 38, a farmer and resident of Malpada village and Secretary of Srikrushna FPG, thinks that the weather advisory is a blessing to everyone in his village. Lakshmikanta is making bricks for constructing his house. Knowing the weather forecast allows him to make informed decisions regarding the scheduling or management of the workforce.
In Sikachhida Panchayat of Balangir block in the Balangir district, 745 households, including 108 farmers from nine FPGs, have benefited from the real-time weather information. Chitan Majhi, 32, a member of Maa Garen FPG of Putupada village from the block, says, “This weather advisory helps not only farmers but everyone in the village to schedule social gatherings or arrange functions.”
HRDP is an ongoing initiative aiming to benefit nearly 4660 households in 20 villages in Balangir. The project focuses on natural resource management, skill development, livelihood enhancement of farmers, education, health and sanitation.
Pravat Ranjan Jena reported the news.
The farmers of Malpada village checking the weather board for the weekly update.
Photograph by Pravat Ranjan Jena
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