ITC and Future of Farming in Rural India

ITC through its rural initiatives such as e-Choupal network has provided a way out to bring prosperity for the farmers that interestingly must be one of the main priorities of any government.

ITC’s e-Choupals today serve 40,000 villages and 4 million farmers, making it the world’s largest rural digital infrastructure. Each e-Choupal serves as information centre through its real time connectivity with the market with help of Internet and the computer.

ITC through e-Choupals sources commodity from farmers directly and perhaps provides a better price too because of the absence of the intermediaries.

Choupal Saagars are the one-stop shops catering to all the needs of the rural community.

ITC rural initiatives, be it e-Choupal or Choupal Saagars, provide a significant boost to farm productivity through extension services and research based agri-inputs-best farming practices, the optimum fertilizers and insecticides based on soil testing besides the competitive prices in different markets.

The e-Choupal Infrastructure also enables an efficient two-way flow of goods in and out of the villages. Apart from ITC’s FMCG products, almost 70 other companies also ride this unique channel to offer rural consumers a wide spectrum of choice in a cost-effective manner.

ITC’s initiatives like the ‘Choupal Pradarshan Khet’ bring sustainable agricultural best practices to farmers and have demonstrated significant productivity gains.

Recognizing the growing role of chemical free fertilizers in sustainable agriculture, ITC has launched organic based farm inputs for integrated farm management. The neem-based branded Organic manures such as ‘Wellgro Soil’, ‘Wellgro Crops’ and ‘Wellgro Grains’ have already gained wide acceptance for their superior efficacy in soil nutrition and crop management.

ITC has set up a dedicated state-of-the-art R&D Centre in Hyderabad with a focus on agri-sciences.

ITC’s Integrated Watershed Development initiative has helped create freshwater potential in water-stressed areas. ITC has also provided integrated animal husbandry services have reached out to over 3, 00,000 milch animals creating avenues for non-farm based livelihoods.

May be, it would have been on much larger scales and in many regions of the country that really remain in dark age, but ITC has provided a business model that if supported by the government and other companies can in real sense bring prosperity to the rural India. I wish the company focuses more to the goal and I pray some evil forces in the society and government don’t upset the dream,

Tele-farming: ITC plans to bring out e-Choupals Version 3.0 to add mobile phones to the existing channels of net-based computers and Choupal Saagaras to expand its reach to deliver personalized agri-services to individual farmers via the exploding population of mobile phones in rural India. ITC is tie-ing up with Nokia that has already ‘Life Tools’ meant for one way dissemination of farmer-related information from Nokia to the farmers. ITC aims to make the information flow two-way. May be, the idea is on the line of the process used for the tele-medicine. With expanding capability of the mobile phones, a farmer will provide information, say, the photograph or video of the soil or the crop, the date of sowing, the seed used to the company directly or through e-Choupals. The company experts process the information and provide the specific advice. And with all the best information available, why can’t the today’s farmers improve the productivity and get into an era of prosperity?

I wonder why the agriculture universities, its faculty and researchers can’t join the move of providing the best information to the farmers. Why can’t each institute reorganize itself to assist the farmers for whom they work and have a call centre to provide such services that he needs? What is the use of the hard work of these scientists if it can’t make the farmers produce more and be prosperous?

Either the government-funded universities and research organizations change themselves or many private enterprises will do their jobs.

I wonder the scope of tele-farming will bring about hundreds of innovations in mobile technologies that can change the farming all over the world. Will the scientists take the challenge?

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