Canegrowers association in Mysore and neighbouring districts publish a farm weekly – Raitha Dwani – to share information on farming, notably, cane and paddy. The one-year-old publication plans to increase its subscriber base, from 1,000 to 5,000 farmers in six months. Much too modest a goal; and, presumably, not cost effective either.
In neighbouring Tamilnadu they have a website – Chandhai.com - that seeks to bridge buyer-seller gap caused by lack of information on commodity prices, poor marketing, exploitative middle-men and inadequate infrastructure. Online market such as chandhai.com connects buyers and sellers for meaningful trade.
The website provides information pertaining to commodity prices, cropping pattern, seeds and fertiliser availability, agro-based business opportunities, veterinary, organic farming, self employment training, herbal medicines, value addition in farm produce and farm credit. But then the digital divide and illiteracy limits the reach of cyberfarming among farmers in our country. An overwhelming majority stay untouched by cyberfarming.
A Tamil channel – Makkal TV – runs a phone-in programme – Uzhavar Sandhai – that covers the same ground, and, given widespread TV viewership and extensive use of cell phone even in rural areas, telefarming of the type adopted by Makkal TV has a reach among illiterate farmers.
At a recent Uzhavar Sandhai programme a farming expert, responding to viewers’ questions, came up such info.:
1) Fruit-growers in Cumbum (TN), where they grow grapes on 2,000 plus acres, should come together to put up a juice-making unit. In the absence of such value-addition the farmers are constrained to sell their grapes for Rs.15 a kg .
2) A farmer seeking guidance on growing lemon is advised to visit Gudur (AP) where they grow lemon of varied grades on a large scale.
3) A retired army officer in Chennai has set up a unit that markets lemon concentrate in small sachets, with capacity to make two glasses of juice. The sachets have potential for retailing at grocery stores, pavement paan-bidi shops, and platform vendors in railway stations.
4) With ever-increasing vegetable prices, people in cities take to roof-top kitchen gardening. A variety of vegetables, and spinach, can be grown on roof-top, with no more than two feet deep soil cover. The expert on TV spoke of someone who has grown even plantains on roof-top.
During an hour long programme they can’t take very many questions from viewers. Besides, Makkal TV runs Uzhavar Sandhai only once a week, Friday. There may be a case for such interactive programming on a daily basis; even for a full-fledged farming channel. We have channels dedicated to healthcare, religious discourse and bhajans. Why not a TV channel to address concerns of farmers - about marketing their produce, procurement of seeds, fertiliser, opportunities for agro-business, horticulture, livestock and farm equipment maintenence?
Ad. and sponsorship may be inhibiting factors for private channels. Doordarshan, which apparently has no such concerns and is not dirven only by ratings coud think in terms of a full-fledged channel for farmers. A krishi channel would get more ad. revenue for DD than the Lok Sabha channel.
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