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 Monday, September 17, 2012

Atul Bharve, a farmer from Maharashtra's Marathwada district, says a mobile phone message saved him from crop losses this year. When monsoon was delayed, he sent an SMS to Nokia Life Tools - a text message-based information service-seeking advice on what to cultivate and was promptly advised to focus on fodder.

Kapil Mehta, a farmer from Sabakantha district in northern Gujarat, took up sorghum cultivation, which requires less water, this season in line with a voice message advisory from Iffco Kisan Sanchar, a joint venture between mobile carrier Bharti Airtel and fertiliser firm Iffco.

If India avoids a farming disaster of huge crop losses due to deficient monsoon rains this year, part of its credits go to specialized mobile-based advisory services such as Iffco Kisan Sanchar, Nokia Life Tools and Reuters Market Light, which are helping a millions of farmers across the country take the right decisions.

Finnish mobile handset maker Nokia says nearly 30 million customers subscribe to its Nokia Life Tools service and a sizeable chunk of this group are farmers.

Reuters Market Light, an initiative of news and information firm Thomson Reuters to provide personalized agricultural information through text messages in local languages to farmers for Rs 999 a year, boasts of one million unique subscribers.

These service providers are now working overtime to respond to a deluge in demand due to delayed monsoon. Experts believe mobile-based farmer advisory providers will play an increasingly larger role in coming years.

B V Natesh, director (emerging markets services) at Nokia Life Tools, says: "Since the Indian farmer now faces significant monsoon-related challenges, we've been providing our subscribers with best practices and tips on water and soil moisture conservation, alternate crop selection in low rainfall scenarios and five-day weather forecasts". Nokia Life provides personalized text messages on 270 commodities in 12 languages across 22 states in 12 languages and can be accessed by farmers on a daily basis.

According to the World Bank, mobile-based access to price information has improved average farmer incomes by up to 24%, adding that the most common usage of text messaging in the context of agriculture includes access to price information, crop disease and meteorological information.

(Source: The Economic Times)