Rebooting the Indian green revolution
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Ajit Singh, a farmer in the poor northern state of Uttar Pradesh, had never seen a computer until four years ago when ITC, the Indian agribusiness-to-hotels conglomerate, installed a PC in his village, Kurthia.
Now the thin 47-year-old farmer visits the ITC station, known as an “e-choupal” after the Hindi term for “gathering place”, every day for online access to news-papers, crop prices, weather forecasts and farming techniques. As ITC’s village manager, he passes on what he gleans to fellow farmers.
Knowing the fair market value of crops allows farmers to fetch better prices and circumvent local traders who used to dictate terms. Farmers can also sell wheat and other crops to ITC.
The result has been a big jump in crop productivity. Annual incomes in Kurthia have risen from Rs40,000- Rs50,000 ($1,000-$1,230) before e-choupal to Rs100,000- Rs120,000 now, says Mr Singh.
ITC has rolled out 6,400 e-choupals across India since 2000. The initiative has gained new relevance as New Delhi urgently tries to tackle threats to food security, the growing gap between rich and poor and stagnant agricultural growth that has added to soaring food prices,
India “needs another green revolution”, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Unescap) recently urged. “Growth and productivity in agriculture are slowing, and the green revolution has bypassed millions.”