Information and Communication Technology for Backstopping Technology Dissemination

 

 The agriculture department has e-connectivity upto tehsil level but is mostly utilized for official communication within the department. The SAU also has e-connectivity which serving the internal requirement of research staff. There is also an e-connectivity provided by ITC company in 65 villages within the district which is primarily working for procurement of soybean from these village portals. The access to various agricultural information services continues to remain a major bottleneck.

 

In view of the above issues confronting the technology dissemination in the district the KVK has emphasized on vision to make the agricultural knowledge accessible at every farmer’s doorstep

To accomplish the above vision, the KVK has embarked on following mission

Mission:

 

Development of IT Network

            It was on 15 August 1999 that the high-speed computer network in the Pravara region was established to ameliorate the development initiatives in the region for the service of the common masses. The network in the Pravara complex linked ten different institutions in humanities, health, engineering, agriculture, pharmacy, polytechnic and rural development.

This local area network (LAN) was unique in itself in the sense that it provided the connectivity through the wireless radio frequency among each institution with a maximum bandwidth throughput of 64 kbps for the Internet and 2.0 mbps for intranet applications like video conferencing. The Internet connectivity and access was provided by the National Informatics Centre’s satellite-based V-SAT(very-small aperture terminal). The system has been of late, upgraded to connect for a higher throughput at 256kbps with connectivity from RailNet.

The institutions in the Pravara region are connected in the wireless local area network to the Internet through the central hub serving the institutions within the 5 k.m. radius. The main server at the central hub caters to email and the Internet service for these institutions. It also provides the connectivity to Internet for villages through telephone. Total 20 villages are connected to the Pravara main server on radio frequency (RF) in the radius of 25 kms.  The KVK is rendering the agricultural extension services through these centers.

                                                                                                                       

IT Services Offered from KVK

The village based Information Kiosks are being run under respective caretaker institution within the network. Various information services are being provided to the farmers, which include fruits, vegetable and flower growers in the region. The services include as follows

 

i.                    Technical Information: The KVK home page provides the links to pages containing information on latest news, events and standards/orders/policies on various technical issues related to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). The information exists on the website both in the textual form as well as in audio format which has a real-time and online access. This provides easier way to communicate to the illiterate farmer also at the village IT Centre.

ii.                  Market Information: It is the most preferred service by the farmers in the region. The KVK has provided the hyperlinks to different sites offering various market information services. The links are useful in providing latest commodity arrivals, highest and lowest prices particularly cereals, pulses, oilseeds, fruits, vegetables, flowers and other cash crops in different markets of the state, country and world.

 

iii.                Weather Service: The KVK is additionally providing to weather information services based on the data available with the KVK’s weather station as well as the data from various National and International sources. The micro level weather forecasting as well as requisite crop advisory based on current weather conditions is being provided to the farmers. The services are trustworthy in providing not only the existing cloud cover but also in providing rainfall and temperature forecast GIS pictures of the country that are updated on daily basis. Such an online information have helped the growers cultivating sensitive crops and make informed crop decisions well in advance.

 

iv.                 Disease Forecasting: The information provided by the KVK have helped these farmers in timely conducting various agricultural practices to improve the yield and reduce the cost of production. The severity of disease incidence especially in gapes with regard to Powdery Mildew and Downy Mildew occurrence and also Blight in onion is being relayed through website and regular mobile alerts.

 

v.                   Email and Voicemail: The services offered for the farmers in the villages having access to Internet service in remote areas are being availed by the farmers specifically through the KVK advisory service. The advisory service renders the information asked by the farmers through electronic mail textually or through audio messaging service through voicemail.

 

vi.                 FAQs: The frequently asked questions (FAQs) are the preset answer and questionnaire which addresses the common problems faced by the farmers on various crop related issues and practices.

 

vii.               National Agricultural Events: Information regarding the organization of various agricultural events like national and international exhibitions, seminars, conferences and fairs has been provided.

 

viii.             Crop Information in Marathi: The information that is required by the farmers has been compiled specifically in Marathi for the farmers to understand the improved crop cultivation practices related to various crops grown by them. The pages covers section wise information on fruits, vegetables and flowers.

 

ix.                 Linkages to other Agricultural Institutions: The KVK website also offers information and hyperlinks to various institutes working in the field of agricultural research and extension.

x.                   State and Central Government Policies and Schemes: The webpages contains information on various programmes , policies and schemes of the state and central government on agricultural matters. The site is frequently updated to incorporate the latest developments and initiatives at the government end.

 

xi.                 Training Calendars: The information on providing the training calendars for the farmers as well as the in service candidates of various departments.

 

xii.              Video Conferencing: The bandwidth existing at the KVK romises maximum throughput of 2.0 mbps under the local area network which is best suited for enabling the video conferencing services. The KVK has successfully demonstrated the efficiency of extending the technology beyond the existing system deeper into non-conventional areas. The KVK conducts regular conferencing sessions especially with the villages that are having wireless connectivity. The system has been observed to be most useful in making communication superior than other conventional methods facilitating two- way communication directly between the farmers and the KVK SMSs.

 

xiii.            Computer to Mobile SMS Broadcast Service

 

KVK has launched an innovative information service for the farmers. The service incorporates sending short messages as alerts from Internet enabled computer at the KVK to the individual mobile cellphones of the farmers. There are 710 registered farmers who are availing this broadcast service. Daily SMS alerts are issued on various agricultural developments like weather forecast, disease forecast, market information and call for events. The service is also being used as a medium to send information on important trainings and other programmes to the members of the Farmers Clubs and SHG network under the KVK.

      The service was initially inaugurated on 10 March 2006 on the occasion of Annual SHGs and Farmers Clubs Meet organized at KVK .

     

The KVK has made an assortment of farmers group based on their crop situation. The grouping of farmers has been done to send personalized message according to individual farmer’s need during each crop development stage. The commoditywise groups includes groups like grapes growers, pomegranate growers, vegetable growers, sugarcane growers etc.

Spread of ICT

Population wise Visit of Farmers to the IT Centres

 

Sr No

Name of the Village

Population

No. of Visits by Farmers

No. of Farmers Visiting IT Centres

01

Dadh

7320

29501

6354

02

Satral

5752

16221

3242

03

Rajuri

3745

11143

2415

04

Kolhar Bk

13260

4497

1652

05

Loni Bk A

7998

4921

1637

06

Babhaleshwar

4850

33171

10586

07

Rahata

19860

1759

382

08

Loni Bk B

7998

2823

711

09

Lohgaon

3012

1141

136

10

Hasnapur

6672

572

75

11

Pathre

5650

1598

384

12

Chandrapur

1181

707

106

13

Ashwi Kd

5040

3113

273

14

Tisgaon

3490

1389

162

15

Loni Kd

10773

1029

208

16

Gogalgaon

2788

866

137

17

Pimpri Nirmal

4359

56

28

18

Durgapur

2650

976

141

19

Hanmantgaon

2985

1081

171

20

Chinchpur

4958

1373

196

TOTAL

116343

  117937

  28996

 

                ICT service was used by 24.92 per cent farmers in the villages.  The response to Babhaleshwar ICT Center (KVK) is more as it is situated in the KVK and the farmers from various places are visiting this place to get various types of information.

 

In some centers like Pimpri Nirmal, Gogalgaon, there is less response, as these villages are rain fed with less diversity in agriculture.  Dadh, Satral, Rajuri, Kolhar Kd. and Kolhar Bk. and Babhaleshwar IT Center is having maximum visits of farmers as these centers are started in the initial phase

No. of Villages and Farmers Benefited through ICT

Sr No

Name of Block

Mobile SMS Service

Information Technology Centres

No. of Villages

Beneficiaries

No. of Villages

Beneficiaries

01

Shrirampur

13

75

--

--

02

Ahmednagar

03

12

--

--

03

Akole

07

24

--

--

04

Kopargaon

11

81

--

--

05

Rahata

54

326

21

18931

06

Rahuri

07

67

08

3242

07

Sangamner

16

89

13

6823

08

Shevgaon

01

02

--

--

09

Shrigonda

02

02

--

--

10

Parner

01

01

--

--

11

Newasa

12

31

--

--

12

Karjat

--

--

--

--

13

Jamkhed

--

--

--

--

14

Pathardi

--

--

--

--

 

Total

134

710

42

28996

 

 

Outcome of ICT Services

Farmers Level

            The use of various ICT services have helped the farmers to adopt latest and updated information for intensification and diversification of enterprises. The use of weather information is utilized by the farmers to take appropriate measures for plantation, spraying of pesticides, intercultural operations and harvest. The weather information has especially helped the grapes growers to undertake timely harvest operations and avoid any losses due to untimely storms during summers. The exploitative bargaining of grape during harvest has diminished due to increased confidence of the farmers on the latest weather information provided by the KVK.   Similarly the harvest of soybean and bajra crop is a major problem due to rains during late kharif. The rainfall during the harvest season results in blackening of seeds and lowers the market quality of harvested produce. Now the farmers can take appropriate decision of harvest and save their crops from rains and have improved quality harvests. The service is being utilized not only for high value crops but also other staple crops in rainfed areas.

            The use of market information has also helped to take an appropriate decision regarding the status of market prices and market arrivals in the state and outside. The information on prevailing price of different crop produce like wheat, soybean, cotton, tomato, brinjal, potato, onion etc. have helped them to send their produce to premium destinations like Mumbai, Pune, Nasik, Aurangabad. This has resulted in increased value and net returns for their produce.

            The farmers have shown increased dependence for getting authentic information from the KVK instead of local input dealers who are often found to be exploiting the farmers by selling the unwanted inputs. Now the farmers have the access to information for taking the decision on various farm related activities. The advisory services through the video conferencing has proved to be a boon for the farmers who can take a timely advisory services due to availability of the information online directly from the SMSs of the KVK into villages. The information on availability of certain critical inputs has also been made available on the network so that they can buy these inputs without going for distant places.

KVK done the matrix ranking for information prioritization by the farmers.  It is observed that the information prioritization by the farmers is highest for the technological information. This technological information constitutes selection of the crops, variety, time and method of plantation, nutrient management, intercultivation, pest and disease control, special operations like thinning, training and pruning, method and time of harvest.

The farmers have accorded next priority to the market information followed by information regarding weather, governmental schemes and lastly credit and finance. Among the crops, the farmers have accumulated highest priority for onion crop followed by grapes, pomegranate, tomato, floriculture, cotton, cereals, pulses, oilseeds and lastly sugarcane.

Matrix Ranking for Information Prioritization of Different Crops by the Farmers

Crops

Information prioritization of different groups by the farmers through IT Centers

Rank-ing

 

Technological Inf.

Market Information

Weather Forecasting

Governmental Schemes

Credit and Finance

Grapes

0000

0000

0000

0

00

15(II)

Pomegranate

0000

0000

000

00

00

15(II)

Mango

0000

00

00

0

00

11(VIII)

Onion

00000

0000

000

0000

0

17(I)

Tomato

00000

0000

000

0

0

14(IV)

Floriculture

0000

00

00

000

000

14(V)

Cotton

0000

00

00

00

00

12(VI)

Sugarcane

0000

0

0

00

0

9(XI)

Cereals

0000

00

00

00

00

12(VII)

Pulses

0000

00

00

0

0

10(IX)

Oilseeds

0000

00

00

0

0

10(X)

Ranking                         46 (I)                         29 (II)                 26(III)                        20(IV)                  8(V)

 

Villages Level

The villages have become major aware of the benefits of keeping in touch with the latest innovations and technologies, consultations and other benefits that can be availed from the KVK. Therefore the village community likes the school-going children, rural youths have also started taking the benefits from the KVK. The schools have also shown their greater interest in learning different skills like grafting/budding, vermicomposting, botanicals preparation etc. They have also shown keen interest in learning computer skills from the IT centers.

 

Matrix Ranking of Information Prioritization by Rural Community

Client

Information Prioritisation by different categories of farming community through IT Centre

Tech-nologi-cal

Mar-ket

Weather

Government Schemes

Credit and Finance

Health

Educ-ation

Mess-aging

Entertainment

Rank-ing

Farm-ers

00000

0000

0000

000

000

00

0

00

0

25(II)

Farm women

0000

00

00

00

0000

000

0

0

0

20(IV)

Rural Youth

00000

0000

0000

0000

0000

00

0

00

000

29(I)

Scho-olars

00

00

00

0

0

0

000

0

000

16(V)

Colle-giates

000

00

00

00

00

00

0000

000

0000

24(III)

Ranking    19(I)            14(II)          14(II)         12(IV)            13(III)             10(V)        10(V)        9(VI)         12(IV)

           

While analyzing the information prioritization by rural community, it is observed that highest priority for seeking information on technological information followed by market information, weather information, credit and finance, governmental schemes, entertainment, educational websites, health and lastly messaging through emails. The rural youths have made highest prioritization for seeking information followed by farmers, collegiate, farmwomen and lastly scholars. The prominent growers group with highest number of member farmers is cultivating grapes followed by pomegranate and onion. These crops are providing higher returns to the farmers and are mostly affected by aberrations in weather, market conditions and production management. There are 710 member farmers who have availed the SMS Broadcast service.

 

 

 

Block-wise Membership

Sr No

Area (Block in Ahmednagar/Outside Ahmednagar)

No. of farmers

Area in hectare

01

Rahata

239

368.2

02

Kopargaon

61

224.5

03

Sangamner

128

147.2

04

Akole

41

94.3

05

Shrirampur

126

115.6

06

Newasa

42

63.6

07

Rahuri

31

40.3

08

Parner

12

30.6

09

Shrigonda

01

3.4

10

Outside Ahmednagar

29

65.5

 

Total

  710

 1153.2

The membership of SMS Service comprised farmers not only from Ahmednagar district but also from other districts like Solapur, Nasik, Aurangabad and Pune. The SMS service provides a more specialized location specific advisory module for the farmers like weather and market. There is greater response from farmers from 50 to 60 km area around the KVK. The service is mostly beneficial for the farmers from far-flung areas.

The message incorporates weather alerts, market information and technical advisory and consultancy. The market and weather information is sourced from Internet, interpreted and broadcast according to the varying needs of the farming community. The short messages are compiled in english letters indicating phonetic meaning in local dialect. The messages are so compiled so as to accommodate only 165 characters compatible for all cellular handsets.

 

Outcome of SMS Service

With the use of SMS Broadcast Service by the KVK, time, labour and money was also economized at the KVK as well as at the farmers’ level. There was an instantaneous response from farmers after getting personalized messages according to local situation.

The farmers have been able to undertake informed decision pertaining to timely use of remedial measures for control of various pests, diseases and nutritional problems due to the information broadcast by the KVK. The other important aspect is that the farmers are being able to decide appropriate markets for their harvested produce especially the soybean, wheat, bengalgram, onion, tomato, brinjal, bottlegourd etc. and fruit crops like grapes, pomegranate, fig, guava, mango and custardapple. The farmers are able to bargain a better price especially with the private players.

The service is an important milestone under the National Extension System in reaching out to hundreds of farmers at a stroke of a mouse click and enables the farmer to have information access and derive the fruits of technological prowess and face the challenge of globalized market. The service has come as a boon for hundreds of farmers around the KVK within Ahmednagar district.  The concept first time initiated by KVK, Ahmednagar became the pioneer in this concept and now different institutes have adopted this.

Apart from this the KVK has further made possible the dissemination of vital technological information through utilization of mass media like radio and print media as rapid second stage dissemination.

Rapid Dissemination from Internet to Newspaper

The KVK has successfully made available the weather forecast service during monsoon season. The weather forecast information was accessed from Internet and the 24 hour forecast information was circulated immediately in the evening by 6.30 pm to Loksatta newsroom. The service was widely read as it published weather forecast provided by the KVK on front page of daily newspaper Loksatta. The paper has a wide circulation of over 1,00,000 prints in the Ahmednagar district.

 

Rapid Dissemination from Cell phone to Radio

The KVK is successfully providing weather and market information, disease forecast and pest alerts for the farmers to individual cell phones of farmers registered at KVK. The same subscription is also accorded to the Ahmednagar FM radio Station. Thus the radio station is replicating the cell phone based agricultural messages to all the listeners within Ahmednagar district every evening in the Kisan Vani programme. The FM Radio Station, Ahmednagar has a 40% listener ship of the total listenership with respect to agricultural programmes as per the Audience Research Unit Report 2006 of AIR. The AIR FM Station Ahmednagar estimates that the agricultural programmes listenership is above 1.25 lakh. Thus the KVK is utilizing the dissemination process in two stages one through transmitting agricultural alerts on cell phone and further disseminating the alerts through FM radio station in the second stage. Thus apart from direct and indirect beneficiaries of 8427 farmers taking advantage of KVK’s cell phone based SMS Broadcast service, there are over 1.25 lakh farmers getting this vital information indirectly.

 

Second Stage Extension through (FIAC)and Market Information Centres

The KVK is playing a key role in providing technical backup support for strengthening the advisory and consultancy services for the farmers through Farmer Information and Advisory Centre’s (FIACs) under ATMA in respective blocks. The KVK has provided support through extending training on use of ICT tools for the operators of FIACs in all the 14 blocks as also operators of Market Information Centre(MICs) from Nasik, Solapur and Ahmednagar districts. Most of the MICs and almost all the FIACs have acquired the skills of retrieving the agribased information from Internet and put to use for dissemination among the farming community. The websites for the FIACs were also designed by the KVK and the skills for upgradation of their respective websites were also provided to the operators. Thus there is a strong network of KVK between FIACs and MICs for rendering the agricultural information services for the farmers through the KVK website.

Website Analysis for 2007

The KVK website has been hosted on the Internet since 24 January 2000. Since then it registers a record page hits and has reached 3.70 lakhs users per annum.

An yearly statistics during the last year reveals that the website has maximum visitors due to the uniqueness of the content that is primarily directed at providing agricultural information for the users.

Previous Years Page hits on Website                                                     Outreach of ICT Services

Sr No

Month

Page Views*

Hits*

01

January 2007

10435

27671

02

February 2007

10817

24352

03

March 2007

12482

30065

04

April 2007

13211

31622

05

May 2007

11624

30271

06

June 2007

17571

37721

07

July 2007

12655

28956

08

August 2007

11624

35394

09

September 2007

9841

34640

10

October 2007

9191

31584

11

November 2007

10153

29612

12

December 2007

11124

28724

 

Total

  140728

  370612

Sr No

Particulars

Outreach in No.

01

No of Villages connected to the IT centers

20

02

Website web page hits/year

3.70 lakhs

03

Website page visited/year

1.40 lakhs

04

No. of farmers visiting IT centres

28996

05

Farmers using mobile alert systems (direct and indirect)

8427

06

No.of CDs made available to users

1276

07

Computerized soil test reports available by farmers

4524

08

No.of online queries answered by KVK

456

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Web Analysis from Webalizer and Awstats