Recently farmers in Maharashtra have found an unusual ally in Facebook. The turmeric farmers there were facing a challenge as over supply had reduced the prices drastically. So they struck on an innovative solution. They formed a group on Facebook and started inviting farmers from across the region to join the group and have since then been deciding on the supply to help sustain the demand for turmeric.
Later they went a step ahead and started talking to farmers from Andhra and Orissa on the prices of turmeric in their region. The farmer have also used Facebook for class action like boycotting local market auctions if they feel the price is not correct. Every afternoon the whole group would get together on Facebook to decide on the future course of action. The best part is that most farmers used their smart phones to connect to Facebook. As there are more mobile phones in India than computers, it is given that this is the route for the propagation of technology and social networks.
Well this is not the first time that Farmers have been using technology. I know of this case study done on the fishermen in Tamil Nadu who used SMS to great effect. They had a mailing group in which they would know of rich catchment areas for catching fishes, the prices for the day and which market was offering the best prices. After the Tsunami they included services like storm alerts to this SMS group.
Similarly plantation owners in Coorg used a blackberry app to find out the prices of coffee, which is an internationally traded commodity. They also used the app to give out alerts on pest activity especially the ones caused by the white stem borer a common infestation especially with the Arabica coffee plants.
I think Agriculture is yet another sector that is on the verge of transformation. The implications are immense, from crop prices to sharing best practices and also forming co-operatives for collective bargaining. And these are some of the steps that I feel would be coming in the near future.
1. Farmers, Fishermen and Plantations using smart phones extensively to connect to others and the external world.
2. Transfer of information in the form of applications to be used on the phone
3. More and more entrenchment of social media especially with the rise of vernacular versions of some of the networks.
4. Social media becoming a way of life for the farmers for sharing best practices with other farmers across the globe
5. Finally farmers selling direct to consumers through forums like Community Supported Agriculture.
There might be other implications and steps. I want to hear your opinion on the same, please do let me know. As usual comments are welcome.