Using mobile technology to support agriculture
Mobile technologies provide a clear opportunity for sharing and exchanging knowledge more widely and in a more cost-effective way than has previously been possible.
In the agricultural field, the benefits are particularly obvious – where farmers are working in hard-to-reach areas and are geographically spread, support can be provided by extension workers over the phone or by text rather than needing to wait for them to visit the region. Information about market prices and weather conditions can also enable farmers to make informed decisions about their crops.
Systems and approaches are needed to support national or regional agricultural mobile initiatives and, in particular, the technical knowledge to underpin the advice given is essential.
This is where CABI has expertise to help. We manage one of the world’s largest agricultural databases of information and our staff is highly knowledgeable about solutions to agricultural problems such as pests and diseases.
We can provide supporting tools for the initiatives to use and develop resources, such as farmer training manuals, which can be distributed or used as reference materials.
Providing agro-advisory services to India’s farmers
Many of India’s 127 million farmers have had limited access to information about modern agricultural techniques due to lack of access to extension worker support (one extension worker looks after 1,000 farmers) and because of their access to mobile technology.
But more and more farmers now own mobile phones and this, coupled with recent developments in Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), has created a new opportunity to ensure that farmers can get the information they need.
In 2007, IFFCO and Bharti Airtel Limited teamed up to form an agro-advisory service for farmers. IFFCO is the largest fertilizer manufacturer in India, whilst Bharti Airtel is the country’s largest mobile phone service provider.
The joint venture (IFFCO Kissan Sanchar Limited or IKSL) uses ICTs to empower farmers by supplying them with authoritative agricultural information. This service operates by using local language voice messages to make farmers aware of the latest farming developments and providing a helpline for farmers. The agro-advisory services are cheap to run, reach large numbers of farmers and provide information quickly.
CABI staff from our centres in India and the UK have formed a centre of excellence in knowledge management and support the agro-advisory service by providing solutions to difficult or complex problems. We supply the latest knowledge, information and training tools, and help to develop innovative manuals and other literature for farmers.
The service is currently available in 18 states in India, reaching over 3.6 million direct subscribers to the service. From 2008 to 2009, a total of 95,000 voice messages were sent to farmers, and the service received 61,500 queries though the help line.