Agro-met Advisory Services for the Farmers in India

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By Sarita Brara

New Delhi, Oct 10, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) Weather Forecasting Service was introduced by the India Meteorological Department for the benefit of farmers even before independence in 1945. It was broadcast over All India Radio in the form of Farmer’s Weather Bulletin (FWB). For a very long time programmes like Krishi Darshan aired by All India radio were the only source of information for farmers across the country. The programme had become so popular that that one of the varieties of rice was in fact named as Radio Rice. But times have since changed. The profile of the farmers is fast changing and with the revolution in the IT sector the dissemination of information  to farmers  too  is taking  multi-channel routes. SMS and voice messages on Mobiles are the latest techniques to reach out to the farmers. According to the Agromet scientist K.K Singh, over 25 lakh farmers are benefiting from this service.

Vikas, a farmer in village  Nizampur  near delhi says that he was about to sow  the seeds for  carrots  when he received the SMS  that there would be heavy rains and he postponed the sowing . Had he gone ahead with his plan and  not received the message  he would  have lost 25000 rupees worth of  money  in addition to the  effort that would have gone waste.

In  Palla village, also  near Delhi,  farmer Surendra had decided to irrigate his paddy crop but  he received the SMS that it would rain in a day or two  and he postponed the irrigation. The message helped him save  cost inputs for irrigation including electricity.

One of the farmers In Nekpur village of Bulandshah told us that he was planning to spray fertilizer in September  but as he received an SMS that there will be rains within next two days , he knew the time was not right for the idea and concentrated on other issues on the farm. Had he ignored the message, the rain would have washed away all the fertilizer.

What is Agromet SMS?

The Agromet  SMS are brief notes not more than 160 letters  providing information on weather forcecast and other agriculture related issues to the farmers. The content is suitable for  local conditions and needs .These advisories are sent twice a  week and the farmers receive them in their local language.

Various stake holders such as Ministry of Earth Sciences, Ministry of Agriculture and Telecom companies came together to start this new and innovative venture. The IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Ltd (IKSL)  was  launched in 2009  to empower  Farmers by  providing  agricultural information to farmers via mobile phone using innovative voice based technology in their local language including a local support Help Line.

The source material is prepared by 130 field units that are located  across the country. These field units comprise  experts  in various agriculture related subjects. 50 to 100 contact farmers are  under each of these units  who give their feed back.

A five-tier system

It is a five-tier system in place for dissemination of  Agromet  information.

1.       The Ministry of Earth Sciences  which is the nodal ministry.

2.       IMD Headquarter which  is the main source for weather forecast.

IMD started Agro-Meteorological agriculturalAdvisory Service (AAS) from its State Meteorological Centers, in collaboration with Agriculture Departments of the respective State Governments in 1976. Later an Integrated Agromet Service was introduced in the country from 2007 in collaboration with different organisations/institutes. At present bulletins are being issued from  the national , state and district level.

IMD  maintains a network of agrometeorological observatories across the country with the cooperation of agricultural universities and research institutions. The Division provides technical assistance to the cooperating institutions for site selection, training of personnel, calibration of instruments and their maintenance, scrutiny of data, etc. Besides this, observations of evaporation, evapotranspiration, soil moisture and dewfall are made at IMD's own observatories. The Central Agrimet Observatory at Pune and the agrimet observatories at Bangalore, Anand and Rahuri have many specialised instruments and facilities for research.

The Agricultural Meteorology Division prepares crop weather calendars, which depict the state and stage of the crop under normal weather conditions and the weather elements detrimental to the crops in various growth stages. The crop weather calendars are periodically revised as new crop varieties are introduced and cropping patterns undergo changes.

3.       The third link in the five tier system is  regional Met centres.

They  add  value  to the  forecast taking into consideration the local  inputs and conditions.

4.       The  Agromet  Field Units

They are an indeed the most important link. For it is at this level that brief notes to be sent to the farmers are prepared. Apart from the location specific weather forecast, short advisories are  prepared on  irrigation, sowing, pesticides, fertlizers, plantation early or late  variety of  seeds and other  inputs and harvesting as well . These advisories are specific to local conditions and requirement.

5. Telecom companies

A number of telecom companies  have arrangements  for  disseminating information  to  the registered  farmers  in the local language.

It may be ,however  pointed out that  only  10 to 15 percent of the farmers  are benefitting from the SMS services .There is a long way to go before  a majority of farmers  will be able to  get information  from this service.

But these farmers can get information from nearly  600 Krishi Vigyan  Kendras  set up in eight zones across the length and breadth of the country . The Ministry of Agriculture, GOI, has set up these kvk’s  through out the country to serve as an easy knowledge access point for the farmers.   KVK disseminates latest technological information on agriculture, animal husbandry and allied field using AIR and Doordarshan by organizing farm schools, phone in programme etc. for farming community.

    Farmers can solve their queries by writing letters to KVK SMS on specific problems to get timely reply.
    Farmers can also avail the phone facilities of Kisan Call Center – 1800-180-1551, Help-line Services-0581-230111111, at KVK landline phone 0581-2301181.
    Farmers can interact with the scientists at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra & get consultancy on issues related to agriculture, animal husbandry and allied fields to get information on advanced technological options.
    Farmers can have demonstrations & trials on their fields on latest scientific technologies.

Impact of Agromet Services

The agromet advisory services  through various channels have resulted  in  significant increases in farm productivity, resulting in increased availability of food and higher income generation.

They  have  helped  the farmers not only  in increasing their productions but also  reducing their losses  due to changing weather patterns  and  others  problems.

The economic  benefit of the  agromet services  runs in crores. The  Ministry Earth Sciences had  engaged National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) to carry out a comprehensive study on “Impact Assessment and Economic benefits of Weather & Marine Services.”  This study was carried out during September & October 2010 and restricted to main end users i.e. Farmers for Agrometeorological Advisory Services .The field study was carried out in 12 states and 1 Union territory.

It was  revealed that  that  economic profit estimates  can vary  between Rs. 50,000 Crore (where 24% farmers receive weather information) to 211,000 Crore (where all farmers receive weather information). This shows that it’s economic returns  depend on  the proportion of farmers receiving information.

That is  why  there is need to  ensure that all farmers, small , marginal and big,  are able to  benefit  from the Agromet Advisory Services.  This will no doubt go a long way in  not  only increasing production but  raising  the income of farmers  and reducing their  losses and ultimately distress . But  for this  infrastructure  to match  the demand will    have to be created and  that  will indeed be a big challenge  for the government as well as other stake holders.

- PIB Features

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this article are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of PIB or WBRi.

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