SMS alerts to help state’s troubled farmers | india | Hindustan Times
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SMS alerts to help state’s troubled farmers

Up to now, Maharashtra’s farmers got updates on impending pest attacks from state officers who visited them so late, the damage was invariably already done – aggravating their debt and fuelling a wave of farmer suicides in the last few years, reports Sayli Udas Mankikar.

india Updated: Jul 04, 2009 02:01 IST
Sayli Udas Mankikar

Up to now, Maharashtra’s farmers got updates on impending pest attacks from state officers who visited them so late, the damage was invariably already done – aggravating their debt and fuelling a wave of farmer suicides in the last few years.

Now, the government is looking to eliminate both distance and time from the equation – with SMS updates on climate patterns, pest attacks, bacterial infections and possible solutions as well as new government schemes, all of which can reach farmers’ cellphones instantly. Farmers in turn will be able to alert officials on sudden pest attacks in their fields. The SMS project will gradually extend to vegetable farmers as well.

The government has decided to spend Rs 25 crore on this from the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana’s Rs 625 crore budget. In about 15 days, 850 ‘scouts’ will report from 60 lakh hectares of cotton and soya fields in 28 districts across the state on a daily basis.

They will gather information from the fields and store it in 81 data stations across the state, to be sent to a state agriculture university scientist or district agronomist who will revert with answers, relayed as SMS alerts.

“Last year, we had a massive pest attack on the soyabean crop, especially in the Marathwada and Vidarbha region, and we couldn’t do anything about it. We ended up paying farmers Rs 500 crore as compensation for those losses. Our officers can’t reach every farmer personally with advice – the SMS idea is promising because most farmers have cellphones,” Agriculture Minister Balasaheb Thorat told Hindustan Times.

At the ground level, scouts will coordinate with progressive farmers, called samanvayaks (coordinators), in every village. Numbering five in each village, a total of two lakh in the state, they will be the link between scouts and farmers. Samanvayaks, who will be grouped and trained according to location and crop, will be sent the alerts, which they will pass on to farmers.

“We’ve invited tenders for service providers to help us send these SMS advisories. We’ll take a final decision on that in a fortnight,” Thorat added.