Communication for Sustainable Agriculture Production

By: G.M. Wani

1. Introduction
The green, white and blue revolutions gave us food security. The high yielding varieties and new technologies were webbed with chemical farming. Even today we have critical gaps existing in production of food through technology use and at traditional farmer's field. The chemical farming resulted in the soil degradation, water pollution, soil erosions and soil salinity .By now we face land degradation problems in 173 million hectares which is around 53% of cultivated land. Annually we loose 5000 Million Tones of top soil with NPK losses of 5-8 Million Tones per year. In Mahrastra a survey showed that the depth of black soil was 60 cms in 1910 which has reduced now. About 18% of it has turned as shallow land. Reduced soil depth has resulted into low productivity, increases soil runoffs and drought like conditions. Therefore to avoid these ill effects we have to link strong information and communication methods for soil mapping, annual rainfall data, rain and climatic forecasts with farming operations (Wani, 2005). Resource conservation & proper utilization needs adequate knowledge, which could be obtained through advanced satellite system and relied back through communication mechanism. For enhancing agricultural production communication tools have to be used.
2.Land Holding
Thus, we have to use more technology based cropping system to increase productivity per unit land. Horizontal expansion is not possible. Embargo on indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and other farm-use-agents is another constraint to increase productivity of food grain. Unfortunately our food grain-production pace has declines. Growth rate of 1-2% has put pressures on our economy. We now have more imports of food grains, an anomaly over past decade. What is the cause? Wrong policies at the top? To some extent yes.
The whole system of National Agricultural Research, extension and field functionaries have registered a fatigue. Similarly, the land degradation, mineral depletion and environmental pollution demands new mechanism to boost productivity. Perhaps use of electronic media, e-extension and agricultural reforms as KVK system, ATMA and SAMETI incorporation may help to make adjustments in our farming system so as to integrate agriculture, aquaculture, water conservation and livestock rearing and with new technology driven profit earning enterprises. This needs a continued and farmer friendly policies or sustainable agriculture. In these pages we shall discuss role of communication in sustainable agriculture technology application jumps productivity. Thus technology awareness and application is must to have more per unit land productivity. We do have scope in it, our yields are lower than many counties and even our neighbors (Samra & sastry 2002).
3. Organic Farming.
Organic farming is advocated as modern technology. We left our traditional organic farming for adopting chemical farming, which landed us in trouble. This rotation of modernity and traditionality taxed us heavily. We perhaps jumped in adopting or testing technologies without comparing them with our own practices. Now reverting back to our own traditional ways in fraught with problems too. The questions often asked are, can we sustain or even maintain our productivity levels by resorting to the organic farming- the modern technology of today and traditional technology of yester years, blends may answer this question. Can information and communication skills and technology bridge a new union?
4. Information and communication technology
The present day information and communication technology has trespassed all barriers of race, religion, culture and countries. A Comprehensive study of 23 review papers and a dozen book and journals was presented by (Wani 2005). A detailed description of how communication and information can help production and sustaijable yields has been discussed (Wani 2006) . Strong warning systems for climatic risks, floods and cyclones, pests and mites could help to raise more crops. Farming informatics and awareness packages through print, mass and now E-mails is possible. The role of competitive farming, economic survey and evaluation of farming and women's integration needs attention. Women the half of agricultural work force is still unawares of the technological skills. The barriers of customs, veil, religion and social bondages could be overcomed by educating them through TV, cassettes, e-mails or other modern communication appliances.
5. Phy to sanitation
Technology transfer is easy. We can announce technology practices or even demonstrate them. The key issue is its adoption. India with 25% of its GDP from agriculture spends some 12% of GDP on its subsidies rather than on transfer of technology. Blending subsidies with agricultural exports will need a drastic cut under new WTO agreements. The global market access opportunity limit of 3% import shall further complicate the issues. The international standards of sanitation shall need more awareness at farmer's doors. Our Agricultural exports from 12 agricultural items has been up and now we export around 18.45% agricultural good in the shape of apiculture, floriculture, fresh fruits, mushroom, spices, sugar, molasses, rice, tropical fruit juices, pulp, concentrates and even agro-chemicals. Fruits, nuts and vegetables have increased our export earnings. Our limitations in expanding our exports are infrastructure to provide international biosafe packaging, phyto sanitation & quarantine measures. Our yields too are low to compete with others. Thus, transfer of technology has not to be limited to man methods, publication, leaflets, folders, bulletins, newsletters, journals, magazine, news paper publication, rural farm broadcasts or television interviews but has to be supplemented with video conferencing, massive awareness campaigns through video cassettes, cable net works and other local farm telecasts. The propaganda, publicity and persuasion has to be supplied with communication skills like rural journalism, popular participation, motivation and more so through management of information systems.
The farm visits, farmers calls, letters have to be intensified. Farmers need information on markets, bio standards and marketing research and networking mechanisms.
6. Small Farmer- the small holder
Another vulnerable class in India is small (holder). Over 65% of our farmers are small holders. The technologies generated are mostly for commercial farmers. The small holders have not only limited hold on land but on information too. Their case is further complicated as they do other work additionally as the small holdings is not sufficient to sustain them. They have limited access to knowledge. Even the word Bauern or Landliche Gebiete (German), peasant or country side (English) campagne, brousse/paysan(French) and Campo/Campesino Spanish denote that extension work is a mission. One with love for country side and farmers alone could execute this task properly. He has to be well versed with objectives, problem, targets and implementation process. He has to make situation analysis and avoid group clashes in the country side. Thus the knowledge and experiences of farmers, psychological values, expectations, needs and attitudes are to be organized. This organization and evaluation is not possible without use of modern and applicable communication methods. Thus, welding communication with Agri -technology is the need of the hour.
7. Communication methods
Passing on information to farmers is basic fundamental of any extension programmer. The basic need for learning process be it dissemination of technology or social change, the fundamental step is communication.
Factors influencing communication range from person, his personality, his social relation, knowledge, the social and economic parameters of farmers. Their knowledge expectation, experiences and perception needs monitoring and evaluation before technology transfer.
8.Review of communication Vs Agri Production
I. Critical yield gap reduction.
In Kenya, use of advanced information and communication technologies reduced gaps in yields of Agricultural crops between research and farmer's fields. (Oguya and Bellamy, 2001). A country where 70% population is connected with agriculture for livelihood directly or indirectly and 80% of its export is agricultural oriented. Reduction in yield gaps through effective use of information and communication technology will have a significant impact.
II. Climatic risks and communication
The low productivity in Soyabean was found to be due to partial adoption of Production recommendations by farmers in Mahrastra, India.

The low yield factors were analyzed. Economic constraints, situational factors and communication gaps on crop production, protection, seed treatment and fertilizer application were found responsible for it (Jaiswal et al, 2002).
The modernization of the material and technical information base helped Cuba to increase agricultural production and rural development on a pilot basis (Albelo. et al. 2002).
9..Precision Agriculture
Precision Agriculture till date has focused on site-specific data collection for soil and crop management. The technologies for the site-specific field operations and automated data recording are available, but precision agriculture rarely involves them for improvement. The application of precision agriculture has to be clubbed with information and communication networking to harvest the gains and to improve productivity. This network may consist of an open software platform, which can be operated by the farmer himself. For efficient communication internet and mobile telecommunication have been identified as important components. The development of an information and communication network integrating modern software (Java, GIS) and hardware (GPS, internet) technologies in a new user friendly manner is necessary to achieve better acceptance of technologies and improved productivity (Lutticken, et al 2000).
10.Satellite data as source of communication
Use of satellite data- (Star and Spot - lite) helped time - critical dependant applications in Australia. The Australian centre for remote sensing (ACRES) has introduced a new service to provide satellite data for near real time applications. The STAR (Speedy Transmission after reception) service provides access to digital satellite data products in full resolution or compressed format within 12 hrs of a Satellite overpass. The data obtained from ground stations is processed at a facility via a high speed communication link and high priority processing. This system provides Satellite data on critical applications, like crop yield modeling, pre-harvest crop production forecasting, detecting crop diseases, monitoring crop stress, pest infestation, floods, fires and oil-spills.
SPOT - LITE is a low cost, off the shelf satellite data product from ACRES that is ideal for use in Geographical information system (GIS). SPOT-LITE can be accessed at any time via the internet and is available in the form of tiles covering most of Australia (Thankappanm 2001).
Advance studies with high applications for increasing agricultural production needs quick dissemination. The effect of rooting zone restriction (RZR) on vegetative and reproductive growth of fruit trees viz grapes, peach and citrus has been investigated. It is known that it improved crop productivity under low availability of water. (Wang et al. 2002)
11.Communication networking
The available communication facilities for agricultural information in 15 states of India were studied. (Ghosh 2002). The results suggest that while communication networking opens up agricultural economy, it is not cost effective. The communication networking has to become cost effective.
An attempt to have better communication between various forest research divisions and other organization & interested in sustainable forestry have shown encouraging results. (Barbour and Wong 2001)
An attempt was made to have quick information flow among and between researchers, extension officers and dairy farmers in East Azerbaijan, Iran. The information input, output and intersystem communication were studied. The communication linkage improved the productivity. (Rezvanfar,2001)
The basic tools of marketing premotion of fertilizers in India was studied. (Yadav, 2002). The information like advertising, public relation and personal selling was found as best promoters.
In the "Unique Selling" approach the communicator has to decide what to say to target audience, so as to have the desired results. Re-orientation of fertilizer promotion included besides other things improving means of communications.
The impact of integrated approach utilizing computers in agricultural information & dissemination in Greece and Poland was studied. (Tzortzios et al 2001). The gap in technology known and applied at farmers field was found. Researchers lack training in using new information technologies. Thus improvement in Agricultural productivity has to keep pace with advance communication and information technology using computers.
Joint problem solving sessions and communications networking of information on agriculture has improved sugarcane production in Mauritius (Jhoty et al; 2001).
12. Technological Prospective
The technological gaps between research yields and Farmers yields are wide. The technological know how over years is on shelf. Much of it has remained frozen if not dead within the fore walls of institutions. The location specific, crop and soil specific innovations to farmer's practices are few. Our integrated & mixed farming practiced by our farmer's, needs packages recommending mixed farming improvements which is not forth coming. Our research institutes mostly aped the experimentations on commercial farming of west with few modifications and even additions at times. Our traditional agriculture existing still in remote areas encompass the use of farm yard manure, vormiculture & use of agricultural waste materials. The present problems of low soil fertility, reduction in yields and soil salinity have arisen due to excessive use of chemical inputs in farming with little care of the soil.
This scenario resulted due to incomplete innovative approaches of research. Our researchers blindly advocated more and more use of fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides, which helped to gain grain revolutions, but left legacy of polluted water, air & environment with degraded soils. These revolutions debarred future sustenance. This was due to poor perception.
Thus immediate need is to make researchers akin with information technology and advanced communication. The rapid evolution of information science demands quick and speedy transfer of technologies, awareness & even subject reviews to farmer's for speedy application. The productivity would be better if technological advances are adopted and their impact is known. The knowledge of computer hardware, software as well interlinking the information dissemination channels and outlets is essential.
13. Decision Support System
The globalization of agriculture marketing has put forth new challenges. It is not only the yield which matters, but the benefit /cost ratio. The economic viability of an agricultural product has now more importance. The product even if economic and globally competitive has to pass quality tests. The international phyto sanitation standards are going to be tougher. The emergence of diseases like Mad cow disease or even SAARS being linked to animal cultures and other diseases from Agricultural & Livestock products warrants biosafe agricultural produce. Thus the decision have to be supported with information not only on marketing, international safety stands but also on a law regulating agencies and regulations too. Unawareness of these support system could lead us to bankruptcy. Thus a strong case for tools and information management comes into force.
The international computer networking and communication systems alone could help in decision making for appropriate and economic viable agricultural productive. (Tzortzios et al 2001)20
14. Intelligent Agri-Management.
Now we do talk of ecologically based pest management instead of integrated pest Management (IPM) . The buzz word for future in this regard is intelligent pest Management (IPM). As the system now advocated is not the blanket sprays of chemical pesticides but intelligent and well computed programmes of pest management, which incorporates their safe and long term application, economic viability and biosafety of products. Perhaps a well documented interaction between farmers, extension education workers, researchers and policy makers is necessary. This would take years if communication methodology of video conferencing, internet and related satellite technological advancement in communication is not used. This is what would be future intelligent Agricultural Management.
15. Participatory management
The whole system of Agricultural research, teaching and extension in NARS needs renewal. A composite ARS system has to be introduced with strong basic of communication and IT. All programmes in the field should be participatory. All agencies be it ICAR, CSIR, RRL, Universities, SAU or other institutions and industry have to be webbed getter with extension delivery systems in the field. More participation of farmers in planning and execution of project a mega seed or mission horticulture is needed.
A true transport and open system of selection both for Management positions and scientific positions should be transport. Changing standards for individuals is a crime. Those at top have to exercise truth, justice and fairplay. The role of politics and politicians should be minimal in national extension delivery system. An outreach through communication and IT is the only achievable solution.
16.Our vision
1.Mixed Farm University Culture:
Higher productivity gains can be achieved through application of technology and production recommendations at farmer's fields. We have 65% small and marginal farmers whose awareness potential is low. The production system prevailing with these farmers is a mixed farming or composite farming. In contrast to USA and European agriculture our necessity is to increase "Crop -livestock-fish-plant integrated production system with multiple livelihood opportunities". Therefore, we need our own innovative educational and training policies. A mixed agriculture University and Education set ups is our necessity. We are at present going astray to our need. Quick and fast measures and needed to unify our educational system, involving all agriculture and allied disciplines, industries, corporate sectors and farmers institution.
2.Higher productivity Concerns:
Indian Agricultural pride years of green revolution post 1968 saw reduction in food gain imports and subsequently white, blue and other revolutions sustained our population pressures and agriculture growth. Our agricultural growth rate (AGR) need to be equal if not more to population growth rate (PGR). Our AGR target ought to be double the PGR.
This is important as consumption rates, purchasing power and employment prospects increase. An estimated food grain of 210 million tons at present may need to be doubled in next 10 years. We have to achieve high targets of productivity by vertical expansion as horizontal land expansion is just not possible. Dr. M.S. Swaminathan has quoted figures as of 160 million tones of rice from 40m hac of land, thereby setting the productivity target of 4 t/h. Like wise production of 100 million tones of wheat from 25 million tones of wheat from 25 million hectors needs a productivity of 4t/hac. Our aim to double our per hac productivity needs more technical manpower in extension, industry and at gross root level.
The climatic disasters, earthquakes, Titanic tsunami, floods; have effected our agricultural production in the past and additional requirements needs to be kept in mind while planning food security. We need to increase per capita consumption expenditures of Rs.600 per month. We need to bridge the gaps between potential and actual yields at farmers level. The chemical farming hazards of poor soil fertility, low water availability, pollution and environmental concerns impede our agricultural development. Thus refined technology, participatory research and educational modules are needed. The new pressures of Global marketing. World trade and tariff regulations have to be accommodated. This all will need incorporation of new themes like post-harvest management, value addition, packaging, communication, credit and market information services in our course curricula. Thus a new multidimensional change in academic curriculum is envisaged.
3.Quality Assurance
We feel pride in calling ourselves as the 2nd largest Agricultural Research system (ARS) in World. When we review our performance we are no where in top ten of most cited agriculture publications in the World. USA tops the world list with 3,62,79,842 cited publication/annum, with small country like Switzerland at No.10. The scientific out put in agriculture is highest in USA with 27 lac publication/year followed by Japan, Germany, U.K, France, Canada, Italy, Russia, China and Australia. Our contribution to Agriculture publication is 5.48% only with our share of citation at 2.32%. This demands more focus on Quality Assurance. Our prime agenda should be quality Agriultural Education. Our emphasis has to be on:
Academic quality, Accreditation; Desired knowledge, Assessment, Skill and competence building and academic audit. Quality assurance, means strengthening resources, information and maintenance of educational infrastructure. Thus we need to regulate grants and centre-state relations rationally.
4.Employment opportunities:
We have 36 state/deemed or central agricultural Universities and 20 general universalities with 48 agricultural faculties. The total disciplines needing grants may be strengthened in 5 yrs by 1 core grants to each discipline for quality assurance. We produce 10,000 under graduate 5500 post graduates and 1600 Ph.D in agriculture every years . They add to our unemployed pool. For making them self employees in new ventures and for increased employment , their competence building in Global economics and trade policies. Biotechnology, Bioinformation, Biofertilizers, pesticides and fungicides etc are to be enhanced. New faculty development in all the University and colleges is to be executed in coming 5 years. Such as :
Pest information and survey; Risk Management Analysis; Decision support system; Geographic information system. A new trust is to be given to course curriculum integrating field practices in a partnership mode with farmer. A teacher-student-farmer-industry, interaction and co-operation is to be developed. A new model of mechanics in Agricultural and allied curricula is to be integrated, unified and fine tuned to end results. This will demand inter and intra faculty harmony and synchronized course curricula at UG, PG and Ph.D level. This has to be fine tuned to our field requirements and location orientations
5.Asia Specific Agricultural Education:
Indian Economy is a agri-centre economy which supports 70% of our population, as direct rural employment . Forty five percent of the income generated by industries comes from Agri-based (Agro) Industries. Therefore , a vast potential and resource is hidden in it. If we think of Asia specific Agriculture, we have to play a significant role in the region which has 60% of the world population. The region is rich of energy and oil resources and millennium buzz word is open boarders and common market with first priority on peace, confidence and trust. For up-liftmen of region we need training education and human resource utilization. Therefore Agriculture educational reforms are on our door steps to harvest the gains of common economy in the SARC and total Asian region. These educational reforms should involve schools, colleges and Universities. The re-modeling of curriculum will need incorporation of new emerging era, like competitive global marketing, the climatic, disaster, technology use, restrictions, sustainability, environment, water resource conservation, remediation factors etc.
Agri-educational reforms are needed so that ICAR parallels USDA, in governing grant-in aid to whole agriculture sector. An omnibuss act of agriculture in the shape of USA farm bill of 1996 is envisioned. New educational policies so drafted shall be non-discriminative, comprehensive , transparent and accountable.
6.Access to Education and Training:
Access to education and training to people below the poverty line, rural youth and women is to be ensured. This will need a total restructured education infrastructure. A three tyre model is envisioned which consists of:
1.On the job, training opportunities on farm mechanization and agriculture.
2.Training skills, up-gradation and rural orientation at University level, refinement and more innovative participatory mode at farmers field. Roaming teaching taught system on holidays and Sundays.
3.Teacher-student-farmer-industry-interaction-work plans-self learning by living with farmers. It will ensure quality training and job improvement of skilled manpower for use in Asian Agri development Market.
7.Informal-flexible Agriculture Information Services:
A flexible curriculum models which should have many options at B.Sc level like:
1.Natural science
2.Agri Science
-Production system
-Social science
3.International Agriculture
4.Natural Resources
5.Agri-business management
6.Biological engineering
8.Landscape Architecture
8.Export Orientation in Agri-education:
In the present era of bio-safety, phyto and zoo sanitation have assumed tremendous importance. Education and knowledge was safe and secure treasure in the past. It is no more true. The export needs knowledge and new inventions need patenting. Web and web designing have made invisible teachers to unknown students. The students-teacher relationship has raised to spiritual horizons. New targets for future educational planning and policies need to have more information and communication technology. Therefore courses on I&C with computer applications is must. These have been strengthened in the SAU and ICAR institutions in the last few years. However a total connectivity is needed with farmers, farm organizations and utilization departments to harvest the gains of technological reforms to increase our exports. Inspite of ranking I in milk production our exports are meager. This is because of poor -zoo-sanitation and Global lobiest are critical of our disease free status. Therefore, education Division of the ICAR has policies and programmes in Agri-export orientation.


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