Making Agriculture Viable Through Technology

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The Modi Government is integrating Information and Communication Technologies with agriculture in order to make it more productive, sustainable and economically viable

Agriculture is the mainstay of the Indian economy. Although the share of agriculture has come down substantially in the GDP, over 65 per cent of our population still depend directly or indirectly on agriculture. Modi Government has promised to double farmers’ income by 2022. To achieve this objective the government has launched several schemes. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is being used extensively to make agriculture sustainable and viable in the country.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare bagged two SKOCH Orders-of-Merit and two awards in Gold category. The projects that got awarded at the SKOCH Summit include Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme and Hortnet.

Soil Health Card

Soil health is the fundamental requirement for increased crop production and yield. Healthy soils are a pre-condition for food and nutritional security in the country. In order to reduce the overuse of fertilisers by farmers and provide them right information about their soil nutrient status and to promote judicious use of fertilisers, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has initiated the flagship programme named Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme.

A Soil Health Card provides farmer with the nutrient status of his land and gives recommendations on the dosage of fertilisers, bio-fertilisers, organic fertilisers as well as soil amendments to maintain soil health in the long run. Launched in February 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Card is supposed to be provided to the farmers every two years.

Soil Health Card scheme is first of its kind initiative in the world for ensuring the health of soil of every farm-holding in the country. The initiative has been touching the lives of all the farmers in the country. The scheme has been successful in providing information on right kind of fertiliser dosage and motivating the farmers for judicious use of fertilisers as per recommendations. The initiative aims at reduction in cost of cultivation, increase in production and finally increase in income of farmers. According to a study conducted by the National Productivity Council (NPC), Soil Health Card scheme has resulted in savings of 8-10 per cent of fertilisers and 5-6 per cent increase in crop yield.

SHC contains the status of the soil with respect to 12 parameters, namely - N, P, K (Macro-nutrients); S (Secondary- nutrient); Zn, Fe, Cu, Mn, B (Micro-nutrients); and pH, EC, OC (Physical parameters). It also provides fertiliser recommendations as per the requirement. The Soil Health Card cycle involves grid-wise collection of soil samples, registration of sample on National Soil Health Card Portal which includes particulars of farmers (including Aadhaar number and mobile number), land (field number, irrigation source and GPS location, i.e., longitude and latitude), the sample number is automatically generated. The sample is sent to soil testing lab where the sample is analysed and test results are entered in the portal. The fertiliser recommendations are automatically generated on the basis of test results. The soil health cards are printed and distributed to farmers for using fertiliser as per recommendations of Soil Health Card.

HORTNET

HORTNET facilitates the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), which is a major reform initiative launched by the Government of India to re-engineer the existing delivery processes using modern ICT. The HORTNET project is farmer centric and user friendly, meeting the requirements of security, administration and maintenance. It is in line with the objectives of the Digital India programme.

Funds are released from the Government of India under various schemes of agriculture and horticulture for the benefit of farmers. However; there is lack of accountability in actual receipt of this benefit to the farmer. HORTNET ensures vertical and horizontal transparency in fund management as the beneficiary applies online, application is processed through a workflow based system and subsidy is released through DBT in the bank account of the beneficiary.

The issue of ghost applicants and duplicity has been eliminated. Aadhaar has a significant impact in identifying beneficiaries who are applying multiple times for various schemes and components under the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH). It facilitates easy identification. Seeding of Aadhaar with bank account ensures secured transfer of cash into the account of the beneficiary, eliminating any scope of leakages.

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