Posted in Operations & IT Articles, Total Reads: 4533
, Published on 06 February 2012
Agriculture has been a prime source of employment in India since ancient times. Presently it contributes to the 14.2% of India’s GDP and provides employment to around 58% of workforce of the country. It is an important sector not only from the point of view of economy but also meets the food demand of huge population of the country. Realizing the importance of Agriculture for the sustenance and development of the country, the governments in past worked towards Green Revolution and invested considerable amount of capital and resources in R&D. Many hybrid crops have been developed which have increased the yield of the crop significantly. The governments also helped farmers developing adequate infrastructure to agriculture related activities. As a result India has achieved self-sustainability in grains’ production.
Agriculture and Internet
While agriculture was at its prime, another prominent sector stepped in. This was the internet. Since its inception in the country, the Internet and IT industry has become a major driver of Indian economy. Agriculture, though a little late also tried to adopt Internet in its functioning. The aim was knowledge sharing between the agriculture research institutes, access to international best practices, information sharing on public domain, online trading and import-export. Though this implementation led to drastic improvements in the way of carrying out certain activities related to agriculture sector, the scope of implementation and adaption of Internet in the Indian agriculture is still a very small fraction of its overall potential.
One of the major constraints has been the access of internet to the farmers. As the primary producer of supply chain has been left somewhere behind in the process of adopting internet, the agriculture sector has been not able to reap the real benefits. Though there have been some initiatives by certain organizations e.g. e-choupal by ITC to provide real time customized information to farmers but the reach has been limited to selected regions.Also the model is based more on corporate social responsibility rather than self sustainability. One of the basic reasons behind this type of initiative failing to successfully rollover throughout the sector is lack of IT infrastructure penetration. Other factors like low literacy rate, language barriers and one way flow of information have also been major limiting factors.
The Proposed Model
When we look towards the solution of this low penetration, the major constraint becomes accessibility to the farmers in remote locations. Establishing separate bodies for such vast implementation will require huge capital investment and manpower. Still the reach to entire India might take a decade to happen. Instead a preexisting body can be used for the purpose. This preexisting entity is Indian Post Office. India has more than 1.5 lakh post offices which is the highest reach for a public enterprise. Post office in past have also showed capability of adapting to changes. Be it the selling of Insurances, Opening od Savings accounts or acceptance of passport forms. This gives a positive outlook for the possibility of using them for operating the concept called post-office choupal. Figure 1.1 shows a brief of the model.
Figure 1. The Structure of Post Office Choupal Model
The proposed model shows a new centralized control body which will consist of research institutes and regulatory bodies. These bodies will be connected via internet to 8 sub-zones. These zones will be based on geographical plurality.There would be a central information center at a single location. Each zone will be equipped with an Information Communication Technology (ICT) portal having an online Management Information System(MIS) along with internet facilities and agriculture consultants. These zones will then be connected to each and every IT enabled post office of the country. These post offices will be equipped with a small ICT hub along with trained workers.
The database will contain information regarding local agricultural practices, geography and current prevalent agricultural practices of region. These Post-office choupals should be equipped with basic equipment that includes a computer , printer,scanner, internet connection and a digital camera along with economical audio-visual CD-ROMs and leaflets which will be available through trained extension workers.
This model will have deepened reach to the primary producers in remote locations and will provide facility for two way communication. This extensive network across country will prove very efficient as well as useful in disseminating agricultural best practices in other regions. Farmers will be able to access information regarding the best practices for a certain crop or soil. Moreover any problem pertaining to local level will be floated to experts at central level and could be easily and very quickly solved on public forums.
The solutions of problems could also be floated to all Post-office choupals so that any farmer facing that problem at different location could easily get solution from the trained experts at local level. Another major advantage would be the price awareness among the farmers and thus they can choose the best markets for their goods.
The model will be self-sustaining unlike the CSR initiative currently under progress. This will be ensured by taking a minor membership fee from the farmers and generating most of the income by advertisements. As 60% of country’s population directly or indirectly depends on agriculture, this will provide a good reach for the advertiser. Further the government funding that is provided for educating the farmers could be used for these post office choupals as it is serving the same purpose as these activities.
The model will have far reaching consequences. MIS used in E-centers could encourage price fixing and will ensure higher efficiency of the agricultural supply chain of the country, thus minimizing the losses to parties involved at various stages.
This article has been authored by Pawan Kr. Upadhyay from IIT Roorkee.