Contribution of mobile phone for making a better agricultural decision - Indian farmer perspective

Agriculture is a major source of income and employment in India, and improving production is an important component of poverty alleviation. Technology whether in the form of new crops, improved breeds of animals, or changes in agricultural practices and crop choice has the potential to improve agricultural production by sharply increasing yields, reducing crop spoilage and risk, and improving the nutritional quality of food. The income of 70 million small scale farmers in the country can be increased by Rs. 56,000 crores over the next 5 years by introducing simple mobile phone-based services (Press Trust of India, 2015)

Mobile phones are more appropriate to deliver content for customized, timely information farmers. Increase in convenience and cost savings from using their mobile phones as basic communication devices to seek information. The broad categories of information required by farmers, irrespective of their location and crops can be categorized as know-how, which helps a farmer with fundamental information such as what to plant and which seed varieties to use; contextual information such as weather, best practice for cultivation in the locality; and market information such as prices, demand indicators, and logistical information.

The benefits of Mobile based agri-information services

The majority of India’s population still lives in rural areas, and agriculture continues to be the backbone of India’s economy. Development of rural regions, and especially the agriculture sector, is important for India’s economy. Effective mobile phone based programs focusing specifically on agriculture and production can help achieve these benefits.

• Mobile phones have the potential to significantly reduce communication and information search costs.
• Mobile phones can bridge existing information asymmetry and complementing the existing information sources such as radio, television and newspapers.
• Phone calls and SMS can also replace the need for face-to-face interactions thereby reducing travel costs.
• Mobile has a critically important role to play in increasing agricultural resilience and enhancing quality of life for some of the poorest people on earth.
• To empower poor farmers with information and communication assets and services that will increase their productivity and incomes as well as protect their food security and livelihoods
• Mobiles making agricultural marketing more efficient and providing a platform to deliver services

Mobile Advisory Services

Private Public
Lifelines India Kissan Kerala
Reuters Market Light (RML) Kissan SMS Portal
DMI ( Dynamic Market Information) mFMS
Fasal Kisan help line
Nano Ganesh Annapurna krishi
IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL) Mandi on Mobile
KRIBHCO Reliance Kisan Ltd. (KRKL) Market price on mobile
Chambal Fertilisers and Chemicals Limited SMS Broadcast
Nokia Life Tools Intelligent Advisory System for Farmers (IASF)
KHETI (Knowledge Help Extension Technology Initiative)
Avaaj Otalo Public and Private
Indian Society of Agribusiness Professionals (ISAP)- Query Redress Services (QRS) Mobile multimedia agricultural advisory system (MAAS)
Mobile based Crop Nutrient Management Decision Support System Kisan Mobile Advisory Services (KMAS)
Awaaz De (Give your voice) Kisan Sanchar
VedioKhet mKisan
Mrittika Mandi Bhav
Aqua mini Mahaagri SMS
Behtar Zindagi
Behtar Zindagi (Better Life)
Fisher friend

Significant Components for Success of Mobile Advisory Services in agriculture

Content: Location specific and farmer specific contents are more useful to the farming community than generalized contents.

Innovation: To make sure the sustainability of the services continued innovation and appropriate mobile application development is necessary. Development of applications for smart phones as well as medium range phones can go a long way in increasing the effectiveness and popularity of the service with mobile phones getting cheaper every day.

Mix up with Media: In addition to text messages, voice, image and multimedia based services need to be initiated to sustain momentum in the mobile advisory services, make them more interactive and change with the changing needs of the next generation users and mobile phones.

Partnership: Partnership with appropriate content generators and software solution providers will be the key for success of the mobile based agricultural advisory services.

Timeliness: Timeliness is a factor that impacts agricultural information to a great extent. Late or too early messages do not have much utility for the farmers and ultimately the service loses its credibility.

Quality and Credibility: The quality of the message sent to the farmer, irrespective of the format, determines to a great extent the success of the service provided. Personalized and location specific messages have more utility than general ones; real time market price of commodities, price forecasts; weather and disease and pest attack forecasts are much more desired than preventions. The credibility of the service providers among the clientele is imporant for the sustainability of the services

The way forward in Mobile applications

Along with incredible opportunities, implementation of mobile applications also poses a lot of challenges in India due to lack of mobile friendly and illiteracy. The mobile based applications need to be integrated with ongoing agricultural extension programmes and methods. Public-private partnerships for project implementation and web to mobile, voice, image and text integrated applications need to be developed to provide to the farmer specific information and knowledge. Mobile based advisory services for farmers will be encouraged from Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutions and NGOs in collaboration with the technology solution providers such as IITs, C-DAC, Private (TCS, Wipro, Nokia, Airtel etc ). Based on farmers need assessment, location and farmer specific information need to be generated in multimedia format for the dissemination among the millions of farm families.

About Author / Additional Info:
I am working as a RSM & state head at RML, Hyderabad, India