Can mobile revolution supplement the second green revolution in agriculture?

“Shri Chandrakant Landge, a farmers from Manerajuri village of Sangli district of Maharashtra, uses his mobile phone effectively for getting and sharing grapes related information. He is member of groups on Whats app where progressive grape growers, consultants, persons from NRC Grapes, private companies share and discuss the problems and solutions related to grapes. He has installed mobile app developed by National Research Centre for Grapes, through which he gets localized forecasting about weather and diseases on grapes in next seven days. Mr. Landge also uses mobile internet for additional information about grapes like market price etc. He is successful farmer in the area and happy that a small mobile phone is doing such a great job to him.”

Really, mobile phone has lot of potential to reach out vast number of farmers in India and transform their life and livelihood by providing various types of information to them. India has experienced rapid expansion of the mobile phones and rural areas are not exception to this mobile revolution. India has 77 per cent mobile phone penetration and rural subscriber base till Oct 2015 was 350 million.

Taking advantage of the situation, government agencies, NGOs, Farmers cooperatives, and some private companies have focused their attention for delivery of their services in agriculture through mobile phones. Such experiments also have been started in other countries with considerable degree of success. Services such as crop information, weather advisory, marketing etc. are facilitating farmers access to information even in remote areas, reducing their transaction cost (particularly information and travel cost) and bridging the gap between laboratory research and its application in the land.

Knowledge and awareness are the starting point for adoption of new technology by the farmers. In India, only 40 per cent Indian farmers have access to information about agriculture (NSSO Survey 2005). Padmabhushan Dr. R. S. Paroda, with interaction with the number of farmers in the country observed that today farmer need knowledge more than anything. Many adoption studies in India and abroad have established strong correlation between knowledge with productivity and income of the farmers. Therefore, this challenge of providing knowledge to vast number of farming community could be met out by opportunity of mobile revolution.

There are different ways by which information can be disseminated through mobile viz. mobile app, mobile advisory using text and voice messages, videos, and internet. Through mobile based advisories information can be reached to millions of the farmers of the country and many initiatives have been started in this direction. Many players in India have started mobile based advisory to the farmers, notably among them are IIFCO Kisan sanchar, Reuters market Light, One farm, m-krishi by Tata consultancy, i-kisan by Nagarjun group, Kissan by Kerala government etc. Government of India also is exploiting this opportunities and have started the mobile based service like m-kisan, kisan Suvidha etc. Many institutes in Indian Council of Agricultural Research have developed their own mobile app for dissemination of agricultural related information to the farmers.

Mobile phones are considered as effective medium for reaching out large number of youth farmers and utilize their potential. Unlike human change agent, it doesn’t have social barriers and can easily be reached out to vast farm women and deprived section of the country for awareness and adaption of new technologies. It doesn’t have physical barriers also, and can be reached to farming community living in remote areas of the country. Von Braun & Torero (2006) observed that accessibility of mobile phones helped in reducing physical and social marginalisation of poor regions and people, by facilitating communication thereby overcoming barriers of space and social standing. A business survey in South Africa and Egypt found that mobile phones had benefited the disadvantaged groups (Samuel et al. 2005). Household, which did not own a mobile phone could still benefit from the availably of mobile phones in the community (Muto & Yamano 2009).

In agriculture, mobile phone can benefit in many number of ways. Jensen (2007), in study of impact of mobile phone use by Kerala fishermen, found that the introduction of mobile phones decreased price dispersion and wastage, facilitated the spread of information, which made markets more efficient. Widespread use of mobile phones increased the efficiency of markets by decreasing risk and uncertainty (Abraham, 2007).  Economies of scale can be created if social networks are supported through m-services and trust established between buyers and sellers plays an important role in business transactions (Molony 2006). Many studies have shown that mobile phones reduced transportation costs by substituting phone calls for social and business purposes trip (Balasubramanian et al. 2010).Thus, use of mobile phones reduces the costs of farmers by reducing transaction cost, communication cost etc. by providing them information at their field and as per demand.

Many factors have facilitated this mobile revolution in villages and its impact on the agriculture. Now days mobile towers are available in almost all villages and increasing purchasing power of the villagers have helped in availability of mobile phones/smart phones in each farming households. Social networking sites like Whats app, Facebook etc. have provided platform to the farmers where they can share, discuss agricultural related problems, solutions. Positive aspects of this are that farmers get required knowledge about agriculture on the spot and without any cost. It increases their social capital and network by increasing contact with large number of persons like progressive farmers, agricultural scientists, officials of agricultural department etc.  Shared experiences of farmers sometimes (success/failures) act as stimulus for other farmers in the area for taking positive actions in their field.

Thus, mobile revolution has potential to help second green revolution by bridging knowledge gap of the farming community. However, lot of information coming from many sources should not lead to ‘information overload’ as described by Alvin Toffler. At the same time validity and authenticity of the messages spread on social media like facebook and Whats app groups needs to be verified, so as to avoid losses to farmers because of false information. The government and policy makers need to think and act in this direction. Mobile revolution is like double edged sword, it is up to the farming community particularly rural youth how to use and get maximum benefits for their own development, community development and finally national development. Finally, we can say that, it’s positive, effective use surely can add to second green revolution.

Profile photo of Vinayak Nikam
Dr. Nikam is working as scientist at National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research. His research activity includes research on impact assessment of agricultural research and development.