Only one in nine farming families has signed up for SMS-based weather alert services offered by the government and private players because of lack of awareness and the absence of a concerted push by states. Data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and the National Sample Survey Organisation show that 10.2 million of India’s 90 million farming families use such services that had hoped to revolutionise systems for dissemination of agricultural information for farmers whose lives depend on the weather.
The government’s mKisan web portal, launched in 2013 to send weather and agriculture-related information via SMS and voice messages on farmers’ mobile phones, sends alerts to just 7.7 million farming families while another 2.5 million get SMS alerts through non-government agencies and the IMD’s field units.“Timely and region-specific alerts are important because weather patterns change every 10 kilometres in India and each activity in the cycle of a crop is guided by the timing of the arrival and duration of rainfall,” said Anshuman Das, an agriculture expert with development agency WeltHungerHilfe. “Failure to meet these timings affects farm productivity.”
mKisan, which aims to tap nearly 380 million mobile phone connections in rural areas, allows farmers to register their phone numbers so that central and state agencies can send information based on their location, crop preference and language.
IMD deputy director general and head of the agricultural meteorology division N Chattopadhyay said he was optimistic that the reach of mobile-based weather alerts would increase “exponentially” in the near future as 7,00,000 new users registered last month in Maharashtra alone.