To implement any new project in the agriculture sector, the public as well private sector organisations need appropriate data from the farmers’ fields. Some organisations are working hard to capture the ground reality. MOHD MUSTAQUIM reports on the interventions of one such organisation – Creative Agri Solutions
It is critical for the agri-business and public as well as private sector agencies to get appropriate data from the farmers’ fields before initiating any project for the farming practices. For this, Creative Agri Solutions (CASPL), a leading consulting firm in agriculture and livestock sector, provides cutting edge research on topics of high relevance to the agriculture sector. Given the importance of the sector, as it provides employment to above 50 per cent of India’s population, the overall impact of such data can influence the society at large.
Plethora of services
The key services CASPL offers include policy advisory and support, monitoring and evaluation studies, providing guidance to donor agencies for designing projects to have high impact from the interventions.
The CASPL interventions encompass agriculture and allied sectors such as impact of climate change and adoption of climate smart agricultural practices, use of information and communication technology, marketing of agricultural commodities with better pricing, adoption of food safety norms, farmers’ issues, emerging food technologies and food processing, inclusive and gender focus in agricultural productivity and futuristic issues in agriculture including modern farming and marketing techniques which are likely to be very different from the existing systems.
“CASPL is valued for its expertise in helping clients with well-researched facts and logical analysis, using latest research approaches and experimental designs combined with out-of-the-box thinking to identify approaches and models which have demonstrated practical success on the ground,” says Dr. Meeta Punjabi Mehta, Managing Director, Creative Agri Solutions.
The CASPL’s clients include leading international agencies such as World Bank, International Wheat and Maize Research Institute (CIMMYT), Michigan State University, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among various others. The organisation also works closely with the Central and State governments as well as donor agencies such as Sir Ratan Tata Trust, among others.
Some of its recent projects focus on contemporary issues such as conducting structure-conduct-performance of the onion value chain to understand the factors leading to price volatility; identify impact of using Laser Land Leveller – water saving technology – on productivity of major crops; assessing impact of climate change on agriculture across the Indo-Gangetic belt covering India, Nepal and Bangladesh; identifying the major areas of intervention in the goat sector which is increasingly being recognised as an important area of intervention for the poorest segment, especially in ecologically vulnerable geographies; designing value chain for vaccination of backyard poultry sector; conducting impact evaluation of leading projects as well as engaging in designing large scale projects funded by international agencies.
Engagement with farmers
CASPL conducts research on behalf of clients who are engaged in agriculture and rural development through policy advocacy as well as designing and implementing projects for the farmers. In that sense, it does not directly engage in implementing projects that benefit farmers. “We work with the stakeholders who engage with farmers to provide the critical information needed to design impactful projects. From that perspective, our engagement with farmers is indirect,” Dr. Mehta says.
The organisation engages with large scale teams of enumerators who approach farmers to collect the relevant information. These amounts of data collected from a large number of farming households, often 2,000-5,000 households, are then analysed to provide the critical input which the clients can use.
Citing an example, Dr. Mehta says “If scientists are working on breeding different varieties of seeds, the organisation helps them by collecting information regarding the extent of adoption of these varieties, and the reasons for adoption and non-adoption of such varieties. The scientists can incorporate this information as feedback for their future work.”
ICT: The Game Changer
Like all other sectors, the revolution in information and communication technology (ICT) has proved its significance in the agriculture sector too. The use of ICT in agriculture is not only important but is becoming indispensable. ICT is used to transfer information to farmers regarding weather, prices, scientific production practices, resource conservation techniques, etc.
Many extension models have also come up using ICT methods, these are interactive methods using visual and hearing options whereby the farmers can actually show through cameras the problems on the field and the experts respond to the same within a stipulated time.
“ICT is an effective and a quick approach to gather data, whereby enumerators on the field can upload the data as soon as they have interacted with the farmers. This is critical in times of crisis,” adds Dr. Mehta.
Having access to price information from various nearby mandis, farmers will be in a better position to negotiate prices as they are well informed of the price situation. Upstream in the agriculture value chain, the food companies are using mobile apps to sell agricultural produce.
The biggest advantage of ICT is the reduction in transaction cost, sending out messages to a wide range of customers at a very low cost and in a very time effective manner.
These are just some basic uses of ICT through smartphone. Other more advanced means for using ICT in agriculture include mapping through Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographical Information System (GIS), which are helpful in giving information about a whole area as required. For example, GIS mapping can be used for precision agriculture, predict the harvest based on mapping of area under a crop, control pest attacks and much more and informing situation of food security.
E-agriculture and AGIS (Agriculture GIS) are the emerging concepts aimed at integrating different ICT approaches to tackle problems related to agriculture. The role of ICT in future is boundless and beyond comprehension. As food for thought, consider use of ‘drones’ and ‘food printers’.
Drones have made inroads in the agriculture sector. Very recently, the Government of Philippine in association with Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has started using unmanned aerial drones to assess where farmlands are most at-risk from natural disasters and quickly assess damages.
NETRA, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was used to track damage and marooned people in devastating Uttarakhand floods. It can bring a big change in the agriculture sector too. The application of space technology and remote sensing data taken from drones can bring a revolution in the agricultural practices. The National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is already providing remote sensing data for agriculture sector. The Satellite images are going to play critical role in implementation of newly launched Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana of Government of India.
To make agriculture remunerative, government as well as private sector agencies need to come together to bring such kind of technological advancements. These developments can change the fate of the more than half of the population of the country dependent on agriculture and will be a major driver for economic growth.