Can Satellites Solve the Farmer Suicide Crisis in India?
Monday, August 28, 2017
More than 12,000 farmers in India have committed suicide every year since 2013, according to the Centre for Global Health Research. This phenomenon marks an acceleration of a trend motivated equally in part by climate change and the country’s struggling agrarian sector. SatSure, a data analytics company based in Bangalore, hopes to ameliorate this pressure by closing the financial gap between farmers and the companies that insure their crops.
Researchers from the University of California, Berkley, have found a strong correlation between rising temperatures and the rate of suicides, with an increase of 1 Celsius associated with an average of about 70 additional suicides per day. Droughts have ravaged the country’s crop yields, sharply reducing farmers’ income across the sector and disrupting the predictability of revenue. Coupled with overwhelming debt from bank loans, farmers with little options to improve their livelihoods have begun to commit suicide on an epidemic scale.
“The big problem in India in the last decade has been waiving off farm loans due to drought and other calamities. It becomes difficult for banks to understand the reaping capability of farmers,” said Prateep Basu, SatSure’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) and former Northern Sky Research (NSR) analyst.
According to Basu, SatSure is combining satellite-sourced data, traditional remote sensing and novel Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms to improve financial institutions’ understanding of the sector. “Our products [run] through historical and current data sets to provide insights on things like weather, crop prices … and soil health,” he said.
Photo courtesy of Jared Cherup.