Digital divide can make exercise self-defeating

Manjit S Kang |

AGRICULTURE Minister Narendra Singh Tomar recently informed Parliament that the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (DoAFW) will establish a National Farmers Database, or “Agristack,” a collection of technology and digital databases focused on India’s farmers and the agricultural sector . The database, which will contain farmers’ digitized land records, aims to help provide farmers with proactive and personalized services, increase their incomes and improve the efficiency of the agricultural sector. In 2016, the central government formed the Committee to Double Farmers Income; In 2018 she presented her 14-volume report. One of the volumes mentions the creation of a dynamic farmer database.

The DoAFW had launched the India Digital Ecosystem of Agriculture (IDEA) to seek feedback from the parties concerned. Proofs of Concept (PoCs) based on data from the federated farmers’ database have now been invited for certain selected areas. If any of the PoCs (pilots) are found to be beneficial to farmers, the database is expected to be scaled to the national level.

Farmers and some agricultural organizations have objected to IDEA because farmers are not represented in the existing task force. You equate this process with the introduction of the three agricultural laws last year when farmers were not consulted. A proactive approach is always better than a reactive one.

Another objection is directed against the link between the federal government’s funding of the federal states and the implementation of the project. There are other concerns as well; for example the confidentiality of the farmers’ personal data in the database.

DoAFW should take into account the digital divide between rural and urban areas. According to a survey by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), only 4.4% of rural households had a computer between July 2017 and June 2018, compared with 14.4% in an urban area. Only 14.9% of households in rural areas had access to the internet compared to 42% of households in urban areas. Not all farmers have a smartphone. As a result, most farmers will not be able to take advantage of the supposed benefits of the national database when deployed.

Since one of the purposes of the proposed database is to double farmers’ incomes, I would like to comment on the report by the Committee on the Doubling of Farmers Income (DFI).

Ashok Dilwai, Chairman of the Committee, presented the report and wrote on the Department of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare website: Edited volumes … The above-mentioned volumes can be downloaded for viewing by all interested stakeholders.

With great optimization of an income revolution for India’s farmers … “

Volume 8 has four sub-volumes. The smallest volume is No. 10 (‘Risk Management in Agriculture’; 124 pages) and the largest is No. 8D (‘Production Enhancement through Productivity Gains’; 333 pages). The 14 volumes have a total of 3,156 single-line pages. The biggest stakeholders are farmers. How can farmers be expected to read and digest information from 3,156 pages of bureaucratic jargon? Not to mention the farmers, I doubt many agronomists and politicians have read all of these volumes.

In Volume 12, “Science to Double Farmers Income”, the Committee stated: “At the national level, the priority areas for doubling farmers’ incomes are, although science and technology could be:

A. Farmers database – as recommended in Volume 13 to build a dynamic database and provide targeted and efficient support to farmers and support specialized advisory services.

B. Credit Availability – to provide better coverage from Kisan credit cards, including grain, fishermen and ranchers, and universal access to post-harvest deposit loans.

C. Market Efficiency – Providing market information through demand and price forecasting.

D. Extension System – to standardize information, integrate efforts between stakeholders, and maximize coverage to reach all farmers.

e. Resource efficiency – especially to improve soil and water management.

F. Sustainability and productivity gains – in order to improve yields and put production on a broad basis while at the same time doing justice to regional ecological strengths. “

The intriguing phrase in the statement above is “might be,” which suggests the committee wasn’t sure the six priority areas they listed would work the miracle of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022. How can such a program be successful if the committee was like that? hesitant to propose the six priority areas?

The Committee identified the following five key “pillars” for doubling farmers’ incomes and sustaining sustained income growth over the long term: increasing productivity as a way to increase production; reduced production / cultivation costs; optimal monetization of the products; sustainable production technology; Risk negotiations along the entire agricultural value chain. You don’t need a committee for such obvious interventions.

Agronomists have pointed out time and again that crop productivity has plateaued for a variety of reasons, particularly in the food bowl states of Punjab, Haryana, and west of UP, where, encouraged by government policy, the rice-wheat monoculture in the The prevailing past was 50 years. While the cost of farm inputs has increased significantly year after year, farmers have only received incremental increases in the minimum support price (MSP) for the two crops. The Swaminathan Commission made a modest recommendation to provide an MSP of 50% on top of the farmer’s total operating costs. This did not happen. Furthermore, the urgently needed diversification of crops remained elusive despite the fact that water resources in the food bowl states are drying up due to the rice-wheat monoculture.

Just creating a national database will not double or increase farmers’ incomes. Here are some suggestions to improve your income:

  • Incentives for farmers to diversify away from the rice-wheat monoculture towards high-quality crops
  • Provide an accurate weather forecast
  • Provision of a “weather-dependent harvest insurance”, under which farmers are compensated for unfavorable weather conditions (extreme temperatures, floods, drought, hailstorms)
  • Incentives for farmers to form cooperatives like the Farmer-Producer Organization (FPO).
  • Buy crops other than rice and wheat from MSP
  • Help farmers improve their “staying power” so that they don’t have to sell their produce all at once
  • Prepare agriculture for unpredictable climate change
  • Incentives for farmers not to burn rice straw in the field
  • Implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission regarding MSP.

The author is a former VC, PAU, Ludhiana, and Associate Professor at Kansas State University

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