Saturday 8 February 2014

Network of Agromet Service

District-level agro-meteorological advisory service, providing a 5-day weather forecast for farmers, in 550 districts made operational by the India Meteorological Department is providing information through mobile to about 2,500,000 farmers for planning their agricultural activities.

The Agromet Advisory Services through various channels have resulted in significant increases in farm productivity, resulting in increased availability of food and higher income generation. It has helped the farmers not only in increasing their productions but also reducing their losses due to changing weather patterns and others problems. There is need to ensure that all farmers, small, marginal and big, are able to benefit from the Agromet Advisory Services.

At present about 15 percent of the farmers are benefitting from the SMS services and about 24 percent farmers are aware about Agromet services. The economic benefit of these services which has been estimated by NCAER at Rs.50,000 crores per year is extrapolated to rise to Rs.211,000 crores if the entire farming community in the country were to apply Agromet information to their agricultural activity.

Still no doubt there is a long way to go in not only increasing production but raising the income of farmers and reducing their losses and ultimately distress. It is a challenging task for the Government, IMD as well as the other stake holders to achieve this.  However making use of IT and developments in the field of information technology transfer many new initiatives are in pipeline to far reach the AAS service by the IMD. Soon IMD will be launching spoken web service so that farmers across the country can soon get their agriculture and weather-related queries answered and it will also provide an interactive medium for the farming community which will be of great use to illiterate farmers who are not technologically equipped.

Disseminating agrometeorological information is part of a process that begins with scientific knowledge and understanding and ends with the evaluation of the information. The task of AAS is to provide information to help farmers make the best possible use of weather and climate resources. For a very long time programme like Krishi Darshan were the only source of information for farmers across the country. In the changing scenario and revolution IT sector the dissemination of information to farmers too is taking multi-channel routes. 

Good communication and working relationships mechanism have been set up under IAAS with the largest agricultural extension agencies in the country, network of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (Agriculture Science Centres), Kisan Call Centre etc., to promote participatory methods for interactions with farmers. Due care is being taken regarding content of the message which must be relevant to the weather based farm decision making by the farmer. This involves the identification of weather & climate sensitive decisions and interactions between the weather forecasters from meteorological Centres of IMD and the agriculture scientists from Agriculture Universities and Institutes of Indian Council of Agriculture Research to develop weather based advisories and technological decisions. 

Information is disseminated through multi-modes. It includes All India Radio, Doordarshan, Print Media (local news paper in different vernacular languages), internet as well as group and individual relationships through email, telephone etc. The use of media such as mobile, e-mail or the Internet by the farming community is on significant rise. SMS and voice messages on mobiles are the latest techniques to reach out to the farmers.

            Of late encouraged by many State Governments Maharashtra, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala, many private firms started disseminating advisories through SMS to the farming community under PPP mode. Like Reuter Market Light, Handygo, Vritti Solution, IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL) and  Nokia are disseminating the agromet advisories through SMS and Interactive Voice over cell phone to farmers at 15 states namely Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh. State Department of Agriculture, Government of Maharashtra has taken an active role in disseminating advisory in local language through SMS to the farming community of Maharashtra.  At present 2.8 million farmers are benefited by this service.
Awareness Programmne
As the interaction between the weather and agriculture is complex, it is not just a case of applying a simple solution and expecting the same to be implemented by the farmers. More targeted weather and climate information can increase preparedness and lead to better economic, social, and environmental outcomes for farmers.  Given the current concerns with climate change and it’s impacts on crop productivity, there is an urgent need to sensitize the farmers about the projected climate change in their regions and the different adaptation strategies that can be considered to cope with the projected change.  
Hence, awareness process to understand the influence of weather and changing climate on sustainable agricultural production is an integral part of the service. Under IAAS, awareness programs for farmers highlight the farming community about the climate change and its impact on agriculture are being conducted. 76 such programs have been conducted across the country so far.
Regular feedback from farmers, State Agricultural Departments and AgriculturalUniversities, ICAR and other related Institutes is being collected and processed for further improvement of services. Feedback informations are  collected from Regional and stations of DD, AIR, and FM channels, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, ATMA, CSCs, NGOs, VRCs and VKCs and by participating in kisan melas and field visits. India Meteorological Department (IMD) in collaboration with AMFUs, SAUs, IITs etc., also published Agromet Brochure in 14 regional languages highlighting the activities of IAAS.

Impact Assessment
Impact assessment of weather forecast based agro-advisory service shows that in most of the cases use of AAS advisories resulted in decline in the cost of cultivation up to 25% for the study crops. In some cases, cost of cultivation did increase up to 10% as a result of follow up action on AAS advisories, but this was more than offset by the consequent increase in net returns up to 83%, with a modal value of 20%. The major crops which benefited most from the use of AAS service are paddy, wheat, pearl millet and fruits and vegetables. This proves the usefulness of AAS advisories. 
This also endorses the need for dissemination of Integrated Agro-Meteorological Advisory Service (IAAS) information to farmers on a wider scale and convincing them about its positive impacts on a sustainable basis. Equally important but the most challenging task would be to enhance the accuracy of weather forecast and to make the AAS more useful and demand-driven for the farm households 
In spite of advances made in weather forecasting and operational agromet advisory services to the users, the real value in terms of offering right advice at right time to the farmers is somewhat lacking. The integrated agromet advisory services was launched with a dream to provide real time crop and location specific agromet services up to village level is a long way not only in reducing weather and climate related risks in Agriculture but also promote scientific agriculture. 

Hence to overcome the hurdle in shortfall of observation, seamless weather forecast, manpower, real time information flow, Research and  Development (R&D), dissemination etc., IMD proposes to extend this  service to block level by developing block level forecast and advisories using satellite and remote sensing data, establishment of District agromet field unit, assist various research organization by providing online agromet data  and  creating a Centre for Research and Excellence in Agrometeorology (CREAM) at Pune during the XIIth Five Year Plan and thereby reaching the target upto village 

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