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ICT adoption boosts income for Adivasi farmers

Story

By Chandrika Patnaik

26 March 2021

Use of Information Communication Technologies helps small farmers in remote Adivasi habitats of Odisha learn better farming techniques and get real time market price information thereby boosting crop yields and incomes.

Hira Mallik has grown vegetables in her backyard garden.

Photograph by Chandrika Patnaik

“After watching a video on cucumber cultivation on my smartphone in January last year, my wife Hira and I decided to cultivate the crop.” says Arjun Mallik of Adibasi Colony, a village in the Jagannath Prasad block of Ganjam district. 

Arjun Mallik is one of the many farmers from 1500 villages across three districts in Odisha who benefit from the Gram Vikas Smart Community  Programme. It aims to  use Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to improve the lives of communities in villages with limited network connectivity. The programme began in April 2018 in the form of a technology action research project focussing on selected villages in the Jagannath Prasad block in Ganjam district of Odisha.

The technology supported by Oracle consists of a Raspberry Pi, access routers powered with solar energy, and customised software for seamless connectivity. Farmers access curated content in video and text formats through their smartphones. 

The ‘Smart Community Interface’ project supported by Oracle through Charities Aid Foundation India helped Gram Vikas set up its first such hardware architecture in Adibasi Colony and Kandha Tirigochha village of Ganjam district in Odisha. The hardware architecture comprises a  Raspberry Pi (Model 3B), 40W Solar panel, and a Lithium ion 11.1V/20Ah Battery. These are assembled and put up on a GI pole at a height of 20 feet in a suitable location within the village. This ensures complete WiFi connectivity in each of the households in the villages where it is installed. 

Farmer families living across a radius of 50 meters can access curated farming content 24×7 in the form of videos and texts through their smartphones. These remote villages otherwise have unreliable internet and poor mobile connectivity.

The farm component of the project bridges the information gap between small producers and markets. Farmers get information on real-time market prices, best practices in agriculture and sustainable farming, and  on pests, diseases and fertilisers to help them make better and well-informed decisions.

Arjun’s wife Hira Mallik says, “We procured the cucumber seeds from Manjhi Express and followed the instructions as shown on YouTube on our smartphone.” 

Quality seeds at the doorstep 

Manjhi Express (Seed Express) is an initiative of Prakruti Bandhu Farmers Producer Company Limited, launched to make seeds available at the farmers’ doorsteps. Superior quality seeds of vegetables such as brinjal, bitter gourd, chilli, cucumber, corn, etc. are delivered by a vehicle at each farmer’s village where they pay cash and collect the required quantity. This is part of the ‘Smart Community’ project supported by Oracle through Charities Aid Foundation India which aims at creating and sharing information relating to agriculture and markets for commercial farmers. 

“Earlier middlemen used to come, fix their own prices and take away the produce. As a stakeholder in the Farmers Producer Company (FPC) located in Gayaganda Panchayat, we are able to get real time market prices over the phone. Now, we sell only based on the current market prices when vendors come to buy from us directly,” says Arjun Mallik of Adibasi Colony. 

Prakruti Bandhu Farmers’ Producer Company Ltd. supports farmers in marketing their produce, uses technology interface for their skill development and to train them on better farming techniques. Gram Vikas oversees the implementation and outreach of the producer company in the district.

Arjun Mallik and his family would pluck 80 kgs to a quintal of cucumber once a week. Last year, towards the end of March 2020, they harvested two quintals of Rabi crop on a single day.  Gram Vikas documented the harvest and the best practices followed by the family in a video.  Staff then showed this in nearby villages of Tirigoccha, Biluamara, Salapataila, Kandhabanta, and Naragadu through a PICO projector to encourage farmers in these areas to take up vegetable cultivation. 

Video-based learning on farming practices 

Paika Jani from Biluamara village, in Jagannath Prasad block of Ganjam district, learnt new farming techniques through the videos that Gram Vikas showed in his village through a Pico projector. A group of 36 farmers from Kandha Tirigocha, Delingpadar, Nuasahi, Kandha Banta, Biluamara and Rampo villages of Ganjam district went on an exposure visit to Keonjhar district. They interacted with agripreneurs and learned advanced farming practices such as multiple cropping, net house farming and poly house farming, etc. 

Paika Jani could not go to Keonjhar along with the group of farmers. In his village, Gram Vikas showed videos on progressive farming techniques like drip irrigation with small holders, mulching, intercropping, line sowing, spacing, etc. which could address issues such as weed growth, water insufficiency, labour and land inadequacies. 

“Even though I could not make it for the exposure trip, Gram Vikas staff showed videos of the trip and the techniques that farmers learnt there during the visit. I was not aware of those techniques before. I cultivated bitter gourd, radish, maize, and potato using those techniques I saw in those videos. I used the trellis method to cultivate bitter gourd after seeing the videos. Earlier, I bought a packet of bitter gourd seeds for ₹100 and harvested about 30 to 35kg of bitter gourd, earning ₹700 from its sale. After adopting the new method, I harvested 55kg of bitter gourd from the same packet of seeds and earned ₹1100.” 

Gram Vikas Smart Community project was supported by Oracle Giving through Charities Aid Foundation. The three years of partnership benefitted 1500 farmers from 27 villages in Ganjam, Kalahandi, and  district.

Read the project details and impact here: https://bit.ly/2Y1XVLV

Farmers access farming content on their smartphones.

Photograph by Chandrika Patnaik

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Narayan Sahu, Thematic Coordinator for Farm Livelihoods at Gram Vikas, did the field reporting for the story. Priya Pillai edited the story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chandrika Patnaik leads content production in the Communications team at Gram Vikas.

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