Who wouldn’t agree that WhatsApp, the prominent instant messaging app, has completely revolutionized the way we communicate? Its gigantic use in India alone can be gauged by the fact that WhatsApp has hit 200 million monthly active users. While the urban Indian relies heavily on WhatsApp for its everyday communication, the app has also managed to spread its tentacles in rural India where it is assisting farmers in exchanging valuable information and enhancing their food production.

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Exposing them to a world of information

With technology transcending boundaries and reaching every section of society, more farmers are joining WhatApp groups to find solutions to the problems they face in the fields.

For instance, the agriculture department in Uttara Kannada has decided to utilise technology by using WhatsApp to reach out to peasants and farmers’ associations. According to the department, the groups will ensure that the farmers remain abreast of all the latest information and schemes, climate predictions and information about crops and market, reports TOI.

In another instance, 58-year-old Pataje Govindayya Sathyanarayana Prasad, aka PGSN Prasad, an agriculturist living near Mengaluru, has been recording rain in his backyard since 1976 and shares his readings with other farmers via the app. This encourages other farmers to follow his footsteps and keep similar records helping them study patterns of rainfall in their area and get prepared for the dry season.

WhatsApp facilitating farmers in Dairy sector

The farmers toiling in the fields aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits of this wonder app. Dairy Farmers too are making use of this app to study the behaviour of their cattle and posting the observations in the groups if they detect something abnormal. The doctors and farmers in the group use their experience and come up with solutions to problems instantly. The procedure of veterinary care has also been simplified since the knowledge required to take care of the cattle is now available on fingertips.

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Benefiting urban farmers

The Horticulture Department of Gurugram has decided to use WhatsApp to create a market for organic fruits and vegetables produced by its farmers.

“We are working on a system, where community members will reach out to their friends, relatives and neighbours through WhatsApp groups to create a demand for organic fruits and vegetables,” Deen Mohammad Khan, district horticulture officer told TOI.

Anju Shrivastava, Founder of Wingreens, says that her experience of using WhatsApp has been fantastic. “My farmer, the guy who manages the farm reaches the farm every morning and sends us the photographs of the people who have come and what they are doing.”

She added that about twice a week, he updates her by sending her the photos via WhatsApp assuring that the various instructions on breeding, sowing and harvesting are being followed.

WhatsApp becoming the new normal to seek change

Reema Sathe, Founder of Happy Roots, told SheThePeople.TV, “WhatsApp has become the new normal to trade and to seek crop or soil related consultation for farmers across Maharashtra”.

She explained how her venture is a part of 4 such WhatsApp groups where news, consultations, idea exchange and market linkages happen over a thread of messages.

“Our rural communities are as savvy as urbaners, in using digital media and the internet; and if trained and given access to right platforms can benefit in multiple ways. Imagine, if a small farmer doesn’t have to travel several kilometers to understand the market rates of his produce, or can understand the process of elongating shelf life for the produce by watching a video or farmers can be directly connected to bulk buyers or food and beverage manufacturers to sell their produce eliminating the need for middlemen. The possibilities are endless,” she said.

Reema Sathe on Happy Roots
Conversations on WhatsApp in Marathi discussing crop attacks, solutions and other agricultural details. Picture by Reema Sathe

WhatsApp – A harbinger of hope for rural India?

With more and more farmers getting access to smartphones and internet, we hope that the day when our agricultural sector would flourish offering some respite to distressed farmers is not far. In foresight, this might enable us to solve one of the most pressing issues of our times – Food security. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that WhatsApp has become farmers’ best friend now.

Picture Credit: fullonsms.com

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