I helped facilitate the Nimble Agriculture session at Design Public 4. We sought to gain new perspective into the largely unsolved challenge of how we can use mobile technologies, social networks and new and innovative approaches to services deliver to better support small and marginal farmers in India. Anirban Ghosh of Mahindra’s agriculture vertical, Mark Kahn of Godrej Agrovet, Siddharth Tata of Acumen Fund and several other experts we involved in this challenge track.
The session started with an overview of the current scenario in the agricultural ecosystem. While we usually assume lack of sufficient funding to be one of the major challenges in BOP markets, this does not necessarily hold true for agriculture. The concept of Nimble Agriculture, that we’ve developed here at CKS is composed of a an array of sub-problems, including knowledge gaps, the lack of agri-inputs, production and supply chain loopholes, and behavioral dynamics between service and knowledge providers and small farmers themselves.
The inherent, dormant knowledge among farmers of their traditional practices of crop protection, seed and soil management, and storage has been depleted due to certain modern practices that have been dominant since the Green Revolution. Also, access to relevant information like weather unpredictability, pricing, markets, subsidies and schemes is lacking.
New technologies can energize the existing system by enabling communication and knowledge sharing in the unorganized agriculture sector. What we need to do is to align mobile and near-field communications technologies with existing outreach and farmer-empowerment initiatives in order to identify new ways of delivering information to farmers and allowing them to share existing knowledge in purposeful ways.
While the challenges of lack of knowledge, information, and agri-inputs are significant, the greater challenge is ingrained in the morphing social structures of rural India. Rural youth is lured by the glamour of the city. While agriculture is associated with hardships, cities are seen as new worlds of opportunity and upward mobility. This is deterring youth from taking up agriculture as a profession. Consequently, modifying behavioral patterns and causing youth to migrate to urban settings.
Several experts spoke of the need to recognize and restore the status of agriculture as a profession. Perhaps we need to create argi heroes by applauding the success of individuals whose work can serve to inspire the rural youth.
To take any initiative to any reasonable scale, private and government partnerships will be necessary. These partnerships will be strengthened further with national and international agencies coming together on the same platform, targeting ecosystems in totality. We can try to make existing value chains more lucrative, encouraging private entrepreneurship, and create new public-private partnerships to build moreÂ efficientÂ agricultural and agri-processing systems.
This post is first of the series where we look at challenges of Nimble Agriculture. Watch this space for more.