The number of people dependent on agriculture in India is declining. Still, today, there are about 60% of people whose income depends on agriculture to a large extent.Majority of the farmers are smallholders and cultivate in a land of less than 3 acres.Agriculture has been getting increased attention, primarily because of the farming crisis.Farming related suicides has been increasing and in the period from 97 to 2005 there have been 150,000 suicides. Green revolution, which was a major event in Indian agriculture history, where India converted to chemical based farming in 1960s focused on high yielding varieties of crops.While yields have increased, there has been criticism from many quarters about it. Farmers have been using fertlizers/pesticides indiscriminately leading to rising input costs and decreasing soil fertility. There has been tension between whether to produce market oriented crops vs promoting sustainable agriculture. Lots of opinions, research, debates..
Agricultural extension is essentially the dissemination of expert agricultural information and technologies to farmers. Agricultural extension was popularized by the World Bank during the 1960s and 1970s in the form of the “Training & Visit” system. Today, India still has over 100,000 civil-service extension officers. This represents the second largest extension force in the world, but India has an even vaster population of farmers. Indeed, there is only 1 extension officer for every 2,000 farmers.
In 2003, the Government of India sponsored a National Sample Survey to understand the sources of information farmers were relying upon for new technology and farm practices. They discovered that the formal channels of extension – including, the “Training and Visit”-style extension and the government’s broadcast media programs – were reaching a small proportion of farm households. Instead, they found that farmers primarily relied on the informal channels of information diffusion that existed by “word of mouth” in their own village communities.
Indian farmers are an incredibly diverse and large population not just in terms of social demographics, language, and culture but also in terms of agroecology and geography. And while 60% of India’s 1.1 billion population depends on agriculture, the sector accounts for less than 17% of the country’s GDP and is sliding. Many of the challenges stem from climate change – both environmental as well as political. This is precisely where modern sustainable agricultural practices and technologies can provide support. Justifiably, farmers are biased to rewards that can be had in the present and are hesitant to change their behavior based on generic campaigns.
But just as television’s early days made heroes out of astronauts, the same tools can be used to create incentives – some of which mightnot based entirely on money – to start farmers on a ladder of achievement where they can literally be seen as the best farmer. This has been done before.
This is American Idol. With 30M viewers and 100M voters in American Idol’s season finale, its clear that astronauts have been replaced by another sort of idol. Though contestants vie for contracts and prize money, it is the possibility that anyone can make it onto the big stage that gives the show its broad appeal.
Over the last 2 years, the tribal communities that we’re working with in five Indian states have produced over 400 short videos that are by the farmers, of the farmers, and for the farmers. The content spans a variety of topics and genres and includes step-by-step demonstrations, testimonials, and interviews. Some farmers even compete to appear “on TV” in a “Farmer Idol” sort-of program to be seen as the best farmer and generates motivational “currency” doing so. The first two questions that farmers oftenask whenthey watch these videos is “What is the name of the farmer in this video?” and “Which village is he or she from?” to authenticate that the content comes from a source that they can relate with before considering a change in their behaviour.
Technology Revolution? 600M agriculture-dependent lives Majority small landholders (<3 acres) <$2 a day ($750 a year) Growing debts ($300 per year per farmer) Earlier technology intervention… Green revolution had mixed results Increased yields, but… Led to rising input costs, declining soil fertility Due to excessive use of fertilizers/pesticides Indiscriminate use of technology partially responsible for current agrarian crisis A farmer from Yellachavadi village, outside of Bangalore 2
Credit card Agricultural Systems? Low literacy in local lang expert farmer No bank account Poor roads Market No unique ID Quantity buyers Poor quality control Expensive credit Mobile devices and connectivity not enough!
4 4 Agriculture Extension Dissemination of expert agriculture information and technology to farmers “Training & Visit” extension popularized by the World Bank in 1970s Face-to-face interactions of extension officers and farmers 100,000 extension officers in India Extension agent-to-farmer ratio is 1: 2,000 610,000 villages in India with average 1,000-person population Typical extension officer salary is Rs. 4,000 per month Extension officer “commuting” between farms
5 Agricultural Social Networks ? Main source of information about new technology and farm practices over the past 365 days (India: NSSO 2005) 5
Digital Green System COCO | Connect Online, Connect Offline www.digitalgreen.org/tech
Digital Green System Analytics analytics.digitalgreen.org
Non-Non-Profit Digital Green Subsidize agriculture extension with ads? Digital Green’s value to farmers is established – viewers contribute Rs. 2-4 per screening. Could DG also be supported by ads? Advertisers get access to a distributed, captive audience with demonstrated interest in better agriculture. Ads follow Digital Green’s distribution channels. To do: Scale Digital Green Devise mechanism for ensuring appropriate ads Quantify ad effectiveness Quantify ad value to advertisers Digital Green DVD title screen
Digital Green 1.0 Digital Green is at least 10 timesmore effective per dollar spent than classical extension!
Digital Green 2.0 VARRAT Ministry of Rural Development (Govt of India) Over three years, improve the cost-effectiveness of the existing people-based extension systems of our partners by a factor of 3-times, per dollar spent, to improve the livelihoods of 60,000 smallholder farmersin 1,200 villagesin India.