The use of mobile phones by the farmers to access the necessary information and knowledge services to strengthen their livelihoods are increasing. It supports the farmers to access timely agro-advisories, market and weather-related information etc,. from the experts and government officials. During this lockdown period, maintaining physical distance is one of the key strategies practised to contain the disease. In this context, mobile phone is the only communication tool available for the farmers to contact officials/experts/fellow farmers to know the latest market guidelines, prices and production technologies which needs immediate attention like pest and disease management. However, as small holders lack the capacity as well as limited exposure to such methods of receiving the information they would not come forward to use this medium to get information. Some kind of motivation and intermediary support would encourage them to raise and articulate their issues and demand.
The farmers of Odisha particularly Ganjam and Cuttack districts has the opportunity to effectively used mobile Phones during COVID 19 Lockdown period to bridge the gap in information access. The Village Knowledge Centres (VKC) established in Cuttack and Chikrada village. conducted a Phone-in-Programme on 4th April 2020 jointly with the Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK) Ganjam and Cuttack and the Department of Agriculture with the support of the NRRI and OUAT. 86 farmers including 29 women farmers received advisories/ information for 90 queries related to pest and disease and nutrient management, cultivation practices, Government guidelines from the experts.
A farmer, Bilasini Swain, Sorisibilli village says, “I could not physically visit any places during this lockdown period to get advisories regarding my crop-related problems. This programme offered me an alternate method to clarify my field problems in this situation. I got the required information on agriculture practices and control measures for pest and diseases for my vegetable crops (Bottole gourd and Brinjal) over the phone from my home”.
Dr. Sushree Choudhary, Scientist, KVK expressed, “many thanks to MSSRF for giving me this opportunity to take part in the phone-in-programme during the lockdown to connect with farmers. Even in our KVK, I never addressed this many numbers of queries of the farmers over the phone. I realized that ICT is a good platform for connecting the farmers directly with experts to provide answers”.