Transforming Ginger Farming in Meghalaya: A Smart Village Movement Initiative in Collaboration with BharatRohan

Smart Village Movement, February 10, 2024

In an open innovation collaboration, Smart Village Movement (SVM) has joined forces with  BharatRohan, a vertically integrated Ag-tech company, to introduce a cutting-edge drone-based crop monitoring solution, through their CropAssure package, to ginger farmers in Meghalaya. This partnership holds the promise of transforming ginger farming in the region by mitigating crop losses and enhancing the income and livelihoods of local farmers.

The primary objective of this alliance is to empower farmers with precision agriculture techniques through the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) drones equipped with hyperspectral, multispectral, and thermal sensors. These advanced sensors can detect subtle changes in crop health, providing real-time data that enables farmers to make timely interventions to improve crop yield and quality. Moreover, the initiative promotes sustainable and residue-free ginger production, creating better linkages for export markets, thereby enhancing income opportunities and contributing to the economic growth of local farming communities.

Project Location and Impact

The project’s services are concentrated in pilot villages within the Bhoirymbong C&RD Block in the Ri-Bhoi District of Meghalaya. Covering 19 villages and a total of 65 acres, the initiative aims to benefit 142 farmer-beneficiaries affiliated with the Meghalaya State Rural Livelihood Society. The comprehensive crop monitoring solutions provided by the project intend to improve agricultural practices, contributing significantly to the livelihoods of the local farming community.

Farmer Profile and Agricultural Practices

The farmers in the target area predominantly comprise small-scale landholders, with an average landholding size ranging from 0.5 to 1 acre. The average family size is seven members. Amongst these farmers, only about 27% own mobile phones equipped with WhatsApp, while 59% do not have WhatsApp, and 14% do not possess mobile phones. This poses a challenge, as information is disseminated through WhatsApp on phones. Ginger is the predominant crop, complemented by other crops such as paddy, broom, and vegetables like chilli and yam.

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Notably, a majority of these farmers cultivate local varieties of ginger, such as Nadiya, often using seeds saved from the previous year’s harvest or purchasing them from the Bhoirymbong market. Approximately 50% of the farmers utilize Urea and DAP fertilizers, while others refrain from using any chemical inputs, opting for cow dung application. The absence of pesticides and fungicides in their practices, coupled with leaving fields barren in the following season, poses unique challenges.

 Project Activities and BharatRohan Services

The SVM project activities, initiated on June 30th, involved the identification of focus farmers and GPS coordinates. Overcoming challenges related to drone flight restrictions, the team successfully conducted the first survey from July 24th 2023 to August 2nd 2023. Despite limitations in field contiguity and accessibility, 20 acres suitable for drone flights were identified.

Subsequent activities involved onboarding farmers onto the BharatRohan platform, expanding the network of ginger fields eligible for drone surveys, and conducting the second survey from September 18 to 20 in 2023. This phase covered approximately 65 acres, involving 142 farmers and generating prescription maps with advisory information.

BharatRohan’s CropAssure service plays a pivotal role in monitoring the farmers’ fields throughout the cropping cycle. The platform suggests timely interventions, including herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and plant growth supplements, aiming to prevent crop loss and reduce farmers’ expenditures.

Advisory Dissemination and Challenges Faced by Farmers

Recognizing the technological limitations of the farmers and challenges in using whatsapp chatbots for communication, advisory content and prescription maps were disseminated in the local language, Khasi, through text messages, village-level meetings, and door-to-door delivery. The team’s multi-faceted approach ensured that all farmers, including those without smartphones, received crucial guidance for optimizing their agricultural practices.

Despite the positive impact of the advisory, challenges such as the high incidence of soft rot and blight diseases persisted, affecting 90% of fields. BharatRohan recommended the use of Silver Shakti, a versatile biocide, but farmers exhibited hesitancy, possibly due to the crop nearing harvest. Nevertheless, their interest in adopting proactive measures for disease management signals a potential shift towards more preventative agricultural practices.

BharatRohan’s Mitigation Plan

Acknowledging challenges faced by ginger farmers, BharatRohan is formulating strategies to address issues such as the lack of quality seedling material. Plans to partner with Ginger Mission aim to provide farmers access to certified high-yielding variety (HYV) planting material, addressing the root cause of low yields and disease contamination.

In conclusion, the collaborative efforts of Smart Village Movement and BharatRohan in Meghalaya Ginger Project signify a step towards sustainable and tech-enabled agriculture. By leveraging precision agriculture techniques, this initiative not only promises to transform ginger farming in the region but also uplift the socio-economic conditions of the local farming community.