Combining technology and agriculture, Shiva aims to make the lives of Rajasthan’s tribal farmers easier. By introducing better farming techniques, his idea will reduce the input cost by 25 percent, increase the farm produce by 15 percent, and increase farmers’ incomes by 10 percent.
Fifty-eight percent of rural households depend on Argiculture for their livelihood. Agriculture remains one of the largest sectors in India, contributing 17 percent to the national GDP. Yet, this community continues to remain on the sidelines. While both the government and private institutions have launched many programmes and schemes for the farmers’ benefit, it is yet to reach an optimum level. India has only one agriculture expert for every 1,000 farmers, one of the lowest in the world. And to change this ratio, 25-year-old, Shiva Chitta is working to include technology and set up an agri digital clinic for tribal farmers.
The farmers belonging to the Kotda district in Udaipur, Rajasthan face varied problems during the cultivation period. Since it is located on the southern slope of the Aravalli Range and is a long distance from Udaipur city, many resources fail to reach the farmer community. Hence, Shiva, who is currently working there as a part of his SBI Youth for India fellowship, decided to reach out to the virtual community to find solutions.
In Kotda district, small and marginal farmers own upto 1.5 hectares of land; however, due to lack of water resources, half of the land is not fit for cultivation. Since Rajasthan is a dry place, the farmers face water scarcity almost throughout the year. Further, the crops are often afflicted with pests and diseases since the farmers are unable to take the necessary precautions.
“I am living in a very remote area. It has very little activity with Udaipur or any other mega city, so physical connection for Kotda is very difficult. Hence, virtual connection is the only way out. And since I am a technology person, I chose this platform, this project,” Shiva says.
Ruchinilo Kemp, a former SBI Youth for India fellow and a member of Seva Mandir, has been working for the past one year to provide technological assistance to farmers. Post Shiva’s arrival in the district in 2016, they decided to formalise this intervention and built an Android application called Meri Kisan Seva.
The mobile application aims to provide real-time help to farmers by connecting the agrarian community with a virtual agriculture expert. The interface will connect one agriculture extension worker with a group of 50 farmers. The platform will enable a dialogue between the two groups on the best farming practices available to them given the current situation and will aim to provide solutions for better water management and pest control.
The farmers in this region are not new to technological intervention and the current mobile application has already created a buzz in the district. Since the connectivity is low and Shiva recognises the infrastructure challenges in this area, the bilingual mobile application is built to work in offline mode with minimal internet requirement.
He is working to develop a planned clinic in the form of digital tablets which will “diagnose the crops” and provide better farming tips and practices to the user. It is a virtual medium, where there be one tablet for every 50 farmers. Agricultural experts, connected virtually, will diagnose the crops and prescribe best practises for better yield.
The application allows the user to upload photographs of pests, weeds, or any other problem area along with a brief description. The issue is then taken up by an agriculture expert in Shiva’s team and they interact with the farmer via text and emails.
"The World Bank states that one of the priorities in uplifting the agricultural sector in India is to promote new technologies and reform agricultural research and extension."
The agri digital clinics aim to provide better market linkages and, in turn, increase the income of the farmer. Farmers are unable to go to big cities as the profit margin is very low due to high costs of transportation. Hence, the application aims to collect data on the total produce expected by the region and connect them with organisations and large markets online.
Shiva is currently working on farmer profiling and has begun the process of data collection. The project is in the starting phase and if the pilot project is successful, he plans to extend it and connect with a larger base of farmers. However, infrastructure and funding are proving to be a big challenge. The entire project is crowdsourced and without any formal sponsorships, Shiva has told the farmers not to have “any big expectations.”
Yet, he continues to be optimistic and the acceptance he has received from the community continues to be his inspiration and motivates him to strive harder for their betterment.