SRIJAN, a leading education resource in India, seeks to introduce new farming practices that encourage:
Sustainable use of land free from over-farming.
The use of irrigation techniques to ensure sustainable land use, especially in a changing climate.
The adoption of new farming techniques and new crops to create revenue growth for farmers.
In pursue of the third goal, SRIJAN encourages the adoption of best farming practices in Soy crop. Both state and federal government bodies also encourage it through their extension system, but their programs aren’t that effective due to well known reasons such as lack of motivation and lack of coordination with research institutions.
When in comparison to maize and bajra (millets), soy can result in more than Rs. 2,000 – 3,000 more per acre of land. In some cases, soy can be grown at the same time as other crops, further increasing the revenue potential for the farmer. Soy can often be a cash earner for a farmer while the other crops are used for family subsistence. A growing market for soy products includes soy oil, soy meal and nutrinuggets. Soy oil cakes can also be used for animal fodder.
SRIJAN’s current outreach is 800 soy farmers, likely to go up to 3000 next year, and 10000 in three years.
Challenge would be, on the one hand, to transfer maximum information (audio-visual, audio, visual, text, in that order) and to enable maximum interaction with the farmer at least cost. And on the other, it should be a micro-enterprise opportunity for youth.
Farmers are apprehensive about adopting new farming practices or crops. This is largely based upon an adherence to tradition, sometimes dating back several generations. Farmers must be shown proof that new practices will result in a better standard of living before they risk their family’s wellbeing – which is often directly influenced by their crop yield. As such, the major challenge for the adoption of new practices is one of education and trust.
An opportunity exists to employ local youth to help build this trust. Often youth are attracted to job opportunities in urban centers only to be
disappointed by the dismal living conditions and eventual decrease in living standards. In order to prevent this “brain drain” and, at the same time, reform farming practices, some youth can be encouraged to start a business that sells services to local farmers. Using a standard camera cell phone (already common among rural youth), a businessperson can take pictures of diseased crops and upload that information to a center for analysis. That analysis and information about solutions to treating crop disease can be shared with local farmers, thereby building trust and dependence.
This trust can be translated into additional service opportunities, such as the promotion of new crops, soil testing facility, hybrid seed production, and the lending of farming equipment (new plows, safer pesticides, etc.). Local youth can engage in “co-operation” type arrangements where best practices can be shared amongst them to increase the overall yield of farmers within a larger area. SRIJAN promotes farmers groups (particularly of women farmers who are often illiterate). Technologies such as a standard cell phone, crowdsourcing and wellorganized database about local farming conditions can serve to enable these young entrepreneurs (including literate young daughters in-law) to effective contributors to their local society.
In this model, the youth are employed and earn money while farmers invest to increase their crop yield and their profits. What works for Soy, could work for pomegranate, millets, and paddy as well.
For more information, visit SRIJAN India on the web at http://www.srijanindia.org
Source: MIT Website
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