An App that yields a bountiful harvest | Daily News

An App that yields a bountiful harvest

Farming goes digital with an all-new app that is rapidly being embraced by local farmers
The App is useful for animal husbandry and dairy farming
The App is useful for animal husbandry and dairy farming

With modern descriptions it is widely believed that agriculture and livestock is a science as well as an art. Anyhow there was no doubt that agriculture is the key development in the rise of human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities. The history of agriculture began thousands of years ago.

According to social, cultural and archaeological researchers the history of agriculture goes back to thousands of years ago since farmers had begun to plant wild grains and seeds around dwellings and caves, in which they lived after gathering those wild grains from forests.According to historians pigs, poultry sheep and cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Plants were independently cultivated in at least 11 regions of the world thousands of years ago. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture in the twentieth century came to dominate agricultural output, though about 2 billion people still depended on subsistence agriculture into the twenty-first.

When paying attention to world farming and animal husbandry, modern agronomy, plant breeding, agrochemicals such as pesticides, weedicides and fertilizers, and technological developments have sharply increased yields, while allowing farmers to receive a better income. Selective breeding and modern practices in animal husbandry have similarly increased the output of meat, milk, egg and other products.

Sri Lankan agriculture and animal husbandry sectors are not an exception as they have seen novel trends, technologies, methodologies. Above all technological advancements and novel technologies including information technology and mobile technology are seen playing a pivotal role in the fields of agriculture sector development aspects. 

With the implementation of novel technologies in agriculture and animal husbandry sector development, a mobile application has been developed and implemented under the guidance of German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) with a view to allowing farmers to carry out the farming related activities efficiently and productively to strengthen the economy of farming communities of the country.

Farmers including those engaged in animal husbandry are benefited by the mobile application to solve many issues relating to farming and animal husbandry. Besides the farmers can get assistance from experts relating to farming and marketing their products by using the mobile application, GIZ Project Coordinator Anandakrishnan Sivanandan said.

According to him farmers should download the software, which runs on Android operating systems to mobile phones or other devise such as tablets from the Play Store free of charge.

Then the farmers are able to get numerous benefits from the mobile application named “i-farm” including receiving advice from agricultural experts. Accordingly farmers can obtain advice to overcome agricultural diseases, forecast on climatic conditions, proper periods for cultivating and harvesting, market places and market prices for crops etc. Besides, farmers engaging in animal husbandry can receive various benefits from the mobile application including getting the assistance of veterinary surgeons.

“Suppose a certain cultivation is infected with a disease, and then the farmer is able to get the assistance and necessary advice from an agricultural expert through the application. Besides, the farmer can upload a photo of the affected agriculture field or the infected animal so as to let an agricultural or a veterinary expert to look into the disease and prescribe suitable remedies and treatments through the application. Moreover this process is especially time saving since the process is based on mobile technology. All these can be obtained through the mobile device without calling over at veterinary surgeon’s office or Zonal Agriculture Office. Normally it takes days to get such kind of advice from an expert. All the farmers countrywide are able to get assistance and obtain the benefits of the application,” Sivanandan said.

He said the application is linked with an agriculture insurance scheme, to which farmers have to pay a very little amount as the insurance premium. The insurance scheme coupled with the mobile application is run with the assistance of two private sector players on a non-profit basis.

The Daily News went on a field visit in the Jaffna district recently as the mobile application has been introduced in the Jaffna district at the initial stage. When asked for the feedback of farmers regarding the application, Sivanandan said that the application was launched just three months ago and therefore it is not well known countrywide yet.

“As a pilot project at the initial stage the application was launched in the North and the East first. Anyhow, a limited number of farmers, who use the application by now, are rather satisfied with the application and the benefits they receive through it”, he replied.

He admitted that it takes some time to get used to the application as this is the first time that such a technology has been implemented.

When the Daily News contracted a chilly and onion farmer Velupillai Mahendrara, who uses the mobile application, to get his feedback,  he said that he just started using the application three weeks ago. He said that he is checking the market prices not only in Jaffna but also in Dambulla and Colombo with the mobile application since he is getting ready to harvest his onion cultivation.

“With the application I can get a better price for my crop than ever before since I know the market prices and the demand for the crop. Generally middlemen undervalue product prices. It is significant that no middlemen can loot our product for low prices as we know the current market prices and the present demand in the country,” Mahendraraa said satisfactorily. 

Another farmer who has been engaging in animal husbandry for 19 years said that the mobile application is really a great help for him since the application gives him many benefits.

“With using the mobile application I could get the advice of a veterinary surgeon recently on breeding cattle. Besides, Normally I check the prices of animal food prior to purchase and I save a considerable amount of money. Moreover farmers engaging in animal husbandry are benefited  by the application as the application is linked with an insurance policy since the huge financial losses incurred by a death of an animal especially a cattle or a goat is covered by the insurance policy,” Chandramohan Kanapathipillai said.

Office In-charge of Sanasa BankBranch, Jaffna K. Vithushan said that their bank is rather happy to have been selected as one of the two institutions, which offers the mobile application coupled with insurance policy for farming communities. The bank, formed with the concept of uplifting persons economically especially in rural and grass-root levels a few decades ago, considers this opportunity as a beacon to serve the farming community.

“Since the inception of the mobile application, it is noticed that farmers are embracing the service eagerly since the application has been launched with the intention of serving people rather than receiving a financial return,” Vithushan added.

Representatives of the KKS Farmers’ Organisation told the Daily News that their members are eagerly using the application. They expressed their gratitude to GIZ for implementing such a mechanism bundled with latest technology to uplift the farming community.

“Over 60 per cent of our members are using the application by now and I have no doubt that the figure will reach 100 per cent soon,”  P. Sarawanbawan of the KKS Farmers Organisation said.

According to them farmers need to get information on climatic conditions, prices of seeds, prices of fertiliser and pesticides, technologies used in farming and animal husbandry, treatment for diseases and many more factors regularly. When it comes to such data and information, a mobile application is the ideal solution.

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