Farmers are our bread-baskets. To ensure their well-being, the Central government is increasingly creating several knowledge facilities like the Kisan Call Centre that enlightens farmers about various government schemes, farming tips, and more. Several state governments are mirroring these initiatives to provide similar facilities at the local level.
For Maharashtra, the welfare of farmers in the state is a critical issue at an economic as well as socio-political level. Thus, following the steps of the Central government, the department of agriculture under the Maharashtra government has established an agro advisory feed in 2011. The ultimate objective of the initiative was to provide expert agricultural advice to farmers in Maharashtra. The problem was disseminating this information to rural audiences. For the most part, villagers live in media darkness. Due to illiteracy, they cannot or may not be inclined to read useful and informative printed material. Due to poverty or inadequate local infrastructure, they may not have access to broadcast media like TVs and radios.
Traditionally, melas and haats have been preferred modes of rural communication, since they allow communication with a large number of people with minimal effort. However, such events do not offer an appropriate ambience for educating farmers. The solution was determining where rural folk congregate in adequate numbers and could be in a receptive state so as to readily assimilate the communication.
The audio medium emerged as a perfect mode of broadcasting informative messages, while district bus-stations were thought of as apt venues for the exercise. To this end, Vritti i-Media’s audio advertising network at Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) bus stands became an effective point of contact with the non-metro audience. Sound reasoning supported the selection of this peculiar medium. As media like OOH and public address systems are not dependent on power availability or literacy rate in villages, it is one of the surest ways to connect with rural audiences. MSRTC buses are among the main modes of transport for farmers in rural Maharashtra. Bus stations are, therefore, essentially transport hubs that gather huge numbers of people. This makes them opportune for mass communicating information and promotions. The agro advisories are suggestions by the state’s expert agriculturists and broadcasted in a format where they are intertwined with bus timing-announcements at regular intervals.
Through these advisories, farmers were able to gain knowledge about purchasing quality seeds, recognising the quality and quantity of produce in the coming harvest, simplified information on market prices and seasonal crops, as well as the correct use of fertilisers and hybrid seeds. More importantly, since farmers need financial education to increase their financial stability, the medium is also used to inform farmers about various beneficial government plans, the procedure of application to these programmes and the advantages they may gain from them. In the absence of such an initiative by the state government, farmers would have no means to receive such valuable information.
The Vritti i-Media Edge
Vritti i-Media, being the only agency authorised to run audio advertisements at MSRTC’s bus depots, offers an effective audio medium to advertisers at more than 80 locations in Maharashtra. This medium touches about 10.3 crore people a month. Therefore, the agro advisory initiative has met success in keeping local farmers updated with the latest technologies and techniques in farming and increasing their awareness about conducting agriculture viably.
The audio medium of public address systems at MSRTC bus-stands has ensured the customisation of information. The medium facilitated the dissemination of information or advice specific to the location where it is heard, making the messaging relevant to the types of crops grown in the region. For instance, for the Konkan region, which is the highest cultivator of mangoes, messages are customised to provide solutions for better mango cultivation or how to get rid of the specific pests likely to affect the mango produce given the local climate and solutions. Since this timely, location-specific manner of information dissemination picked-up among farmers in Maharashtra, the state government has received overwhelming response very quickly. The farmers are reaping the benefits of this initiative at no cost, while performing the mundane task of travelling to their destinations. This widely successful campaign enabled the Maharashtra Government to receive a Gold award at the National Awards on E-Governance.