Mobile Phones for Agricultural Extension
Agriculture continues to be the most important sector of the Indian economy and agriculture is a more or less a compulsion for livelihood of millions of farmers. Land and water resources have almost reached their limits, price of commodities are fluctuating almost every day, profits are negligible for most of the marginal and small farmers and most of all getting information is cumbersome. In present day agriculture, soft resources like knowledge and skills are as important as hard resources like inputs, and sometimes more important. But estimates indicate that 60 per cent of farmers do not access any source of information for advanced agricultural technologies resulting in huge adoption gap. The requirement of field level extension personnel is estimated to be about 1.3 -1.5 million against the present availability of about 0.1 million personnel. The mobile phone comes into the picture here. In today’s world, almost everybody owns a mobile phone. This huge reach, if harnessed in agricultural extension, can change the face of agriculture altogether in a developing country like India where we have nothing to lose by using it as a medium to disseminate agricultural information in multimodal form. Many initiatives have been taken in this regard to utilize mobile phones by private sector ( Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited, Nokia, Airtel, Tata Consultancy Services, etc. ) and public sector (Ministry of Agriculture, Universities like Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, research institutions like Indian Council of Agricultural Research, State Governments of Haryana and Kerala, Indian Meteorological Department and others) in agricultural advisory service for agronomic practices, weather forecasts and market price . With increased dependency, the mobile phone is becoming a common communication platform of the world, especially for agriculture.