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3^57 10,2007

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Agriculture extension - An innovative thinl<ing

Sri M K De^ and Dr Bhavani Shankar^

There have been several attempts since independence t o i n f o r m and e d u c a t e f a r m e r s t h r o u g h v a r i o u s extension services and mass media such as radio, newspapers etc. on modern agricultural practices. This has gained m o m e n t u m after green revolution in sixties. According to National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), 2005, the most frequently accessed source of information related to modern farming was 'other progressive farmers' w h i c h constitute 17 % followed by the 'dealer providing inputs' and 'radio' (13 % ) . Television (9 % ) , newspapers (7 %) and extension w o r k e r s (6%) w e r e s o m e of t h e other i m p o r t a n t sources. Over 50 per cent of the farmers w h o received farm i n f o r m a t i o n f r o m the sources like Radio, TV and Newspapers have actually 'tried' the information or adopted the recommendations, whereas, over 80 % of those w h o obtained the information f r o m 'input dealers' or 'other progressive farmers' tried or adopted t h e m . A b o u t 65 per cent of farmers w h o accessed information f r o m extension w o r k e r s or the 'Krishi Vigyan Kendra' actually tried or adopted it. One of the interesting findings of the survey, contrary to the belief is that, only less than 10% of the farmers are getting the extension services f r o m the huge Government machinery. Input dealers contribute a lot to the farmers as they have regular contacts with the farmers and farmers also gain confidence because of their acquaintance. Moreover, some of them also have access to hassle free credit f r o m the input suppliers. But at the same time, formation provided by the input suppliers w o u l d have s o m e drawbacks, like profit motive and vested interest in favour of the products marketed by them. Despite the various mechanisms e v o l v e d over a period of t i m e , a large section of farmers is still left untouched and an effective service oriented, economical and timely extension service is wanted. ,

of i n f o r m a t i o n and c o m m u n i c a t i o n t e c h n o l o g y to reach the needy farmers. E-sagu is one such model developed by International Institute of Information Technology (HIT), Hyderabad. This has been evolved in association w i t h Media Lab Asia and Acharya N G Ranga Agriculture University, Hyderabad. e-Sagu is a tool for IT-based personalized agricultural extension system. ("Sagu" in Telugu language means cultivation). It aims to improve farm productivity by delivering high quality personalized farm-specific agroexpert advice in a timely manner to each farm at the farmer's doorstep w i t h o u t farmer asking a question. The advice is provided on regular basis (typically once a week) f r o m the sowing to harvesting, which reduces t h e c o s t of c u l t i v a t i o n a n d i n c r e a s e s t h e f a r m productivity as well as quality of agri-commodities. In e-Sagu, the developments in IT, such as database, Internet, a n d d i g i t a l p h o t o g r a p h y are utilised to improve the performance of agro-advisory services. e-Sagu offers the next generation, self-sustainable agro-advisory t o o l that can supplement or complement the existing agro-advisory e-Sagu architecture In e-Sagu, rather than visiting the crop in person, the agricultural scientist delivers the expert advice by g e t t i n g t h e c r o p s t a t u s in t h e f o r m of d i g i t a l photographs and other information. The farmers are the end users of the system and can be illiterate. A coordinator is an educated and experienced farmer w h o can be found in the village. Agricultural Experts possess a university degree in agriculture and are qualified to provide the expert advice. Agricultural Information System is a computer based information s y s t e m t h a t c o n t a i n s all t h e related i n f o r m a t i o n . Communication system is a mechanism to transmit information between farms to agricultural experts and vice versa. If e n o u g h b a n d w i d t h is not available, i n f o r m a t i o n can be t r a n s m i t t e d t h r o u g h c o u r i e r service. However, the advice text can be transmitted through dial-up Internet connection. systems.

At this juncture, innovative models like e-chaupals by ITC, Dr. S w a m i n a t h a n F o u n d a t i o n ' s Knowledge Centres etc., are playing crucial roles, by making use Manager''^ Andhra Pradesh RO

ISSUE 10, 2007 For Private circulation only

The farmers are pleased with the expert advice as it is helping them to improve the input efficiency by e n c o u r a g i n g integrated pest m a n a g e m e n t (IPM) methods, judicious use of pesticides and fertilizers by avoiding indiscriminate usage. The benefit to cost ratio assessed to be 3. The evaluation study shows that the e-Sagu farmers accumulated benefits worth Rs. 3820/- per acre in monitory terms in addition to the gain in terms of knowledge. A n agriculture expert can deliver advices to about 150 farms a day. Each coordinator can send crop observation for 30 farms a day. The round-trip advice delivery time is 24-36 hours (farm to lab and back to farmer's house). In Warangal district, the farmers have paid the registration fees and expressed satisfaction with the service. A n effort is being made to start an agri-business center in one of the e-sagu centers by providing multiple services under one roof. The services w o u l d include expert advice, agri-inputs, banking, warehousing, and marketing. T h e e - S a g u s y s t e m is p r o v i d i n g s i g n i f i c a n t benefits to capital intensive crops such as cotton and chilies. It is also very effective for rice. For o t h e r c r o p s , a l t e r n a t i v e m o d e l s have to be developed to make the e-Sagu cost-effective.

Operation of e-Sagu The operation of e-Sagu is as f o l l o w s - A team of agricultural experts w o r k at the e-Sagu (main) lab ( n o r m a l l y in a c i t y ) s u p p o r t e d b y a g r i c u l t u r a l information system. One small computer center (few computers and one computer operator) is established for a group of five to six villages. Appropriate number of c o o r d i n a t o r s w e r e s e l e c t e d f r o m t h e villages. Depending on the crop, each coordinator is assigned a fixed number of farms. The coordinator collects the registration details of the farms under him including soil data, water resources, and capital availability and sends the information to the main e-Sagu system. Every day, the coordinator visits a fixed number of farms and takes four to five photographs for each farm. A CD is prepared w i t h the p h o t o g r a p h s and other information and transported to the main system by a regular parcel service. The Agri-experts, with diverse b a c k g r o u n d ( E n t o m o l o g y , Pathology, A g r o n o m y , Horticulture, Soil Science, etc.) at the e-Sagu (main) lab analyze the crop situation w i t h respect to soil, weather and other agronomic practices and prepare a farm specific advice. This advice is downloaded at the village e-Sagu center electronically through a dial-up Internet c o n n e c t i o n . The c o o r d i n a t o r collects the advice and delivers it to the concerned farmer. Each farm gets the advice at regular intervals, starting f r o m pre-sowing operations to post-harvest precautions. Summary of implementation The development of e-Sagu was started during Kharif 2004. The system has provided the personalized expert advice for each farm once in a week (by analyzing the photographs) to 1051 cotton farms in Oorugonda, Gudeppad and Oglapur villages of Atmakur mandal in Warangal district (Andhra Pradesh, India). The e-Sagu main system was built at MIT, Hyderabad. The system was very successful. Encouraged by results, during Kharif and Rabi 2006, a scaled-up version of clusterbased e-Sagu for 5000 farms has been implemented on Cotton, Chilli, Rice, Groundnut, Castor, and Redgram by selecting t w o to three villages for each crop. The results are very encouraging. Efforts are on to build a self-sustainable and replicable e-Sagu for all crops. The results of the e-Sagu project are as follows: It is possible for the agriculture expert to deliver expert advice based on the photographs and other information, without actually visiting the farm.

Benefits of e-Sagu Powered by the latest developments in ICTs such as database, internet, and photographic technologies, eSagu offers a multitude of comprehensive advantages and provides o p p o r t u n i t y t o i m p r o v e the existing agricultural agro-advisory systems. It provides a high quality personalized expert advice. It is a query-less system and provides expert advice w i t h o u t farmer asking a question. It provides accountable advice. The advice is comprehensive, complete and regular in terms of diagnosis, analysis, advice delivery, follow-up and feedback. It follows a proactive approach that will avert many problematic situations.


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It enables quick deploymeht of services during the times of crises. It reduces cost and saves time and energy of both farmers and agricultural experts. It capacitates rural livelihoods and generates rural employment. It helps in validation of agricultural technology for developing location specific modules and modifications. It aids in successful i m p l e m e n t a t i o n of c r o p insurance scheme by making farm as a unit. It is a cost-effective system. It can be made selfs u s t a i n a b l e by c h a r g i n g a f f o r d a b l e charges. It is a scalable system. The complexity increases linearly w i t h the n u m b e r of f a r m s . It can be incrementally developed to cover all the farms of India without any bottlenecks. It can be developed on the available infrastructure as computers and cameras are already available in many places. It can be i m p l e m e n t e d even bandwidth is not available. It significantly reduces the lag period between research to practice. It shows a great promise in the era of globalization, as it can provide the expert advice that is crucial to the Indian farmer to harvest different kinds of service

crops based on the demand in the world market with quality and assurance. Limitation of the model The interpretation and diagnosis of diseases and pests are purely based on the digital photographs. At times, symptoms of diseases are very much similar to the deficiency or toxicity of essential nutrients. Further, only corrective steps can be advocated and there is no scope for preventive measures. Market intervention has not been integrated in the system, which is a major requirement of the farming community. Conclusion . ;

Nevertheless, the m o d e l has a tremendous potential, looking at the personalized services accountable to the farmers. As on May 2006, the concept is being i m p l e m e n t e d in 8 centres, covering 38 villages in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh. It has covered 30 field crops, including aquaculture. 3429 farmers having 4894 agriculture farms have been benefited. The e-Sagu p r o g r a m m e has so far delivered 34,544 advises after interpretation of 2,62,039 photographs. It is further gathered that HIT has submitted a proposal to NABARD AP RO to expand its programme to t w o more villages, covering 400 farmers each, in Warangal and K h a m m a m districts. This will definitely create s o m e i m p a c t o n m i t i g a t i n g t h e distress d u e t o overuse of pesticides and other inputs and bring in i m p r o v e m e n t in input use efficiency and profitability.

The text of e-Sagu Is reproduced from the article of Dr B Bhaskar Reddy, Associate Professor, International Institute of Information Technology, Gachibowli, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.