A small group of rice farmers in Bihar’s Nalanda had set a world record in paddy yields for 2013, averaging 22.4 tonne on a hectare of land through ‘System of Rice Intensification (SRI)’, dubbed as a big farm innovation in recent years.
Farmers in nearly 13 states now use this method. Yet, only 20% of India’s over 600 million farmers know about or fully use SRI, according to a joint Tata Program-International Water Management Institute survey.
As India heads into another drought amid a rural crisis, many agricultural technologies that can offer protection don’t make it from the lab to farm, or “lab to land”, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi put it in July.
Farmers — the Achilles’ heel of India’s farm sector — rarely innovate because extension services aren’t reliable. Extension is the branch of the agricultural ministry which is responsible for acquainting farmers with latest technologies.
Now, the agriculture ministry plans to embark on a policy to use social media and offline multi-media to reach state-developed innovations to farmers in every district, an official said, requesting anonymity.
The plan is modelled on a Bill and Melinda Gates-funded private initiative, called Digital Green, which uses “digital platform” for rural development.
At every district, farm officials will be required to make at least four short films. Experts are still wondering if it will work. “There are two problems, one is implementation and secondly, this cannot be a substitute for on-farm hand-holding,” said Siddhartha Kashyap, the founder of Yes-Gaon, a not-for-profit that works for I-T farm solutions in Tamil Nadu and AP.
The project is part of extension reforms, called National e-Governance Plan in Agriculture, which aims to pick innovating farmers to tell their stories through small films.