Agriculture

The farmer outreach ‘ambulance’

Srihari Kotela with his farm ambulance.

Srihari Kotela with his farm ambulance.   | Photo Credit: mail kams

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If you thought ambulances are only for the seriously ill, think again. Srihari Kotela, a chartered accountant, has launched one to reach out to farmers in Andhra Pradesh.

Farmers can make a simple phone call to seek a visit by the rythu ratham, a comprehensive information source on farming, be it on fertilizers or crop diseases or government schemes.

The concept would encourage good agricultural practices and raise farm incomes, says Mr. Kotela. His company, eFresh Portal, has tied up with the Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University, the University of North Bengal and the Food Safety and Knowledge Network for this.

“We now have one ambulance; we plan to have 20 vans and cover all the States… to create awareness and interest among farmers,” he says.

The vehicle is equipped with soil-testing kits, pesticide sprayers, protective gear, an LCD projector, a computer system, and training videos, and so on. The material is shown in villages typically in the shade of trees, on gram sabha platforms and at panchayat offices. Since its launch in August 2011, it has made 18 visits in six districts of Andhra Pradesh.

“Such work must be done by the government. But it's too busy with other work. Even the local agricultural officers do not evince any interest in farmers. Farmers do not know the importance of soil-testing, the different schemes available for them and good farming practices.

“Well, you cannot blame the farmer for it. It's the government's duty — and the government is not doing it. So I decided to do something about it. The result is this ambulance service and a portal that provides information on different aspects of agriculture,” says Mr. Kotela.

Farmers typically watch the demonstrations with farm related activities very keenly.

What is really happening here is that with the government having cut down on its budget for agricultural extension activities, mainly under the auspices of the Farm Information Bureau, which used to organise such field visits, private initiatives are taking that space. Gone are the days when microphone-wielding extension officers would travel from village to village on their distinctive jeeps.

The company's website: >www.efreshindia.com. Farmers could call, toll-free, at 1800 2666 208, from 9.30 a.m. to 6 p.m., except on Sundays. Mr. Kotela could be reached on e-mail at Srihari@efreshindia.com and at 098480 34740.

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Printable version | Dec 11, 2019 5:30:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/agriculture/the-farmer-outreach-ambulance/article2985487.ece

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