Viewpoint: Why Farm Reform Will Fail Without Tech in India
By Harshit Kohli
Kamlakant is a smallholder farmer in Daulatiyapur village of Fatehpur district in Uttar Pradesh. He is an enthusiastic vegetable cultivator and every season, he searches for answers to three basic questions—what crop to sow, how to grow it, and where to sell it.
The nearest Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) is 50km away, and he is thus unable to travel that distance to access information. He is dependent on a local farm consultant who visits his farm every week and charges ₹100 per visit. Ever since covid hit, the consultant has stopped visiting. He began to rely on WhatsApp to seek advice throughout the lockdown, harvesting 6 tonnes of brinjal and 9 tonnes of cauliflower on one acre, earning ₹57,000. In a post-covid world, every farmer in India ought to be able to access information at his home like Kamlakant.
That basic right acquires even more urgency with the passage of two key farm bills by the parliament on Sunday. It is important to ask how much relief these farm reforms will bring to smallholders like Kamlakant? These reforms seek to increase the availability of buyers for farmers’ produce and motivate farmers to diversify crops by reducing existing restrictions on licenses and stock limits. The hope is that increased competition will result in better prices for farmers.
Photo courtesy of Evgeny Nelmin.