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Micro Weather Stations aid better crop planning and water smart farming

Story

By Chandrika Patnaik

27 January 2021

Adoption of technology solutions help rural communities make better choices and decisions for their water security and livelihoods.

Bipra Charan Pradhan, a marginal farmer from Nuasahi village benefits from the weather board advisory.

Photograph by Chandrika Patnaik.

In early 2020, Satya Jani, decided to become a vegetable farmer by growing brinjal, tomato, bitter gourd and other seasonal vegetables. She lives with her son and husband in Adivasi Colony in Jagannath Prasad block of Odisha’s Ganjam district. Until the end of 2019, Satya’s family grew only paddy in their one acre of land. The other acre was left uncultivated.

Balaram, her 18 year old son, used to watch best practices videos on vegetable farming on his friend, Arjun’s smartphone. Arjun was one of the farmers benefiting from the Smart Community Interface (SCI) programme of Gram Vikas.

Gram Vikas’ SCI initiative gives farmers access to local market price of the produce over SMS, and weather forecast around 10 km radius of a  micro Automatic Weather Station (mAWS). Farmers with limited or no internet connectivity access locally relevant information at their doorsteps.

Arjun, who was part of the SCI programme, grew cucumber in their one acre of land harvesting more than two quintals of the vegetable in one day. Motivated by Arjun’s success, Balram suggested to his mother that they grow vegetables in their uncultivated one acre of land. They started in October 2020 and have since earned over ₹45,000 selling brinjals alone.  

Satya draws confidence from the weekly weather information from the micro automatic weather station (mAWS) installed by Gram Vikas at the block, “The weekly advisory has changed my life completely. It has given me a sense of security and confidence to cultivate vegetables. I am growing vegetables for the first time. The timely weather information has helped me better prepare for rains, foggy weather and pest attacks. We know when to water and when not to. If we know that it’s going to rain, we will reduce the watering. I am able to use water sustainably saving money and labour as I use a pump. I have started growing a variety of other vegetables now in another one acre of land.”

mAWS helps water sustainability and local livelihoods 

The Micro-Automatic weather station (mAWS) is a solar powered wireless sensor device that stores data and provides real time weather alerts, temperature, wind direction, humidity, rain and disease advisories.

Gram Vikas has installed the device in the Jagannath Prasad block of Ganjam district benefitting 325 beneficiary households in 13 villages. For farming dependent rural households, Oracle Giving through Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) partners with Gram Vikas, to give the communities access to critical weather information and micro-climate data.

Bipra Charan Pradhan, a member of Nuasahi village committee of Jagannath Prasad block in Ganjam district, works as a farmhand earning daily wage once his paddy is harvested. Along with his wife Dangi Pradhan, he grows vegetables in their 0.60 acre of land. They sell the surplus vegetables in the local market for an additional income. Bipra says, “The Weather Board is a boon for small farmers like me. I plucked the leafy vegetables and tomatoes just before the drizzle in December. The timely and accurate prediction of a drizzle saved my vegetables. I plucked the leafy vegetables just in time and sold them.”

Satya’s son Balram adds, “The alerts on the weather advisory board have been beneficial for our neighbour who owns cattle. In November last year, he repaired the roof of his cattle-shed when the board predicted heavy rain. Similarly, during a religious festival in our village last year, we preponed the annual feast by a day since the weather board predicted rain the following day.”

Kumar Nahaka a vegetable farmer and brick kiln owner from Ghogoda village says, “Being a vegetable farmer and brick kiln owner, I make it a point to have an updated weather forecast on my phone. The Google forecast was not reliable at all. But the weather board in my village gives me timely and near accurate information about local weather conditions. I also plan my work at the kiln days in advance and only employ workers if the Weather Board predicts sunny weather for a few days in succession. This has resulted in zero loss for me in my brick business.”

Weather Board in Adivasi Colony village in Jaganathprasad Block of Ganjam district. Photograph by Chandrika Patnaik.

Micro Automatic Weather Stations in Gram Vikas villages 

Ghumusur, Indravati and Mahendragiri geographical clusters in Odisha, where Gram Vikas works, have seen significant changes in the patterns of water availability and rainfall in the last decade. There are many intersecting reasons for the change in water availability including:

  • Global warming
  • Shift in land use pattern of indigenous populations i.e. from slash and burn agriculture to settled agriculture, and
  • Rapid population growth resulting in increased pressure on land and water resources

This has given rise to a felt need to install micro-Automatic Weather stations (mAWS) in these clusters. Though there is a common perception that water availability/rainfall patterns have changed, there is very little data to test this perception. Once the perception is tested, it will be possible to marry indigenous knowledge with systematic crop and water planning in the future.

The three clusters selected for mAWS are traditional Adivasi areas, where Gram Vikas, in the past, has intervened with integrated development models. The components of this model were water use Planning, crop planning, livelihood enhancement through better market linkage, and ecologically sustainable practices.

Gram Vikas expects that with the installation of mAWS, it will be able to build on this model by incorporating efforts on the following:

  1. Climate resilient agriculture
  2. Village/Hamlet level data on soil moisture, temperature, humidity, pressure and rainfall
  3. Predictive ability on water/crop planning on the above parameters by using algorithms on base data  

In this Oracle supported work, Gram Vikas partners with Yuktix for installing the mAWS. Yuktix is an organisation working to create indigenous remote monitoring and sensor analytic solutions.

Satya Jani with her son Balaram Jani.

Photograph by Chandrika Patnaik.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Santosh Kumar Padhy, Narayan Sahu, and Khageshwar Pradhan assisted in field data collection for the story. Priya Pillai edited the story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chandrika Patnaik is a Junior Manager in Gram Vikas.

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