ITC Logo
Media Centre
Press Report

e-Choupal lauded by President of India
Presidents Secretariat - 05 Jun 2007

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
President of India

SPECIAL ADDRESS DURING THE NATIONAL SYMPOSIUM TO COMMEMORATE 60TH YEAR OF INDEPENDENCE 'AGRICULTURE CANNOT WAIT: NEW HORIZONS', NASC COMPLEX, NEW DELHI

05-06-2007: New Delhi

Innovate to Empower Agriculture
"Innovation is the key for non-linear growth"

I am delighted to participate in the National Symposium entitled "Agriculture Cannot Wait: New Horizons" to commemorate the 60th year of Independence organized by National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, on the World Environment Day. My greetings to Agricultural Scientists, Science planners, Science administrators and distinguished Guests. In this audience, I would like to discuss the topic "Innovate to empower the Agriculture".

Ambience in the Nation
In the Indian history, very rarely our nation has come across a situation, all at a time, an ascending economic trajectory, continuously rising foreign exchange reserve, reduced rate of inflation, global recognition of the technological competence, energy of 540 million youth, umbilical connectivities of 22 million people of Indian origin in various parts of the planet, and the interest shown by many developed countries to invest in our engineers and scientists including setting up of new R&D centers in India. The distinction between the public and the private sectors and the illusory primacy of one over the other is vanishing. India as the largest democracy in the world has a reputation for its democracy and for providing leadership for the one billion people with multi-cultural, multi-language and multi-religious backgrounds. And also our technological competence and value systems with civilizational heritage are highly respected. Foreign Institutional Investors are finding investing in India attractive. Indians are also investing in abroad and opening new business ventures. Indian economy is growing with an average annual growth rate of 9% GDP. However, agriculture needs mission mode growth in development and production.

Economic development: Transforming India into a developed nation
There is a need to lift up the economic conditions and lifestyle of over 220 million people out of the one billion plus population. One of the reasons for this situation is that large part of the growth comes from manufacturing and services sector. The agriculture has been growing just at 1.8%. If we have to uplift the 220 million people living below poverty line and provide improved quality of life, we have to ensure that the agriculture sector grows at least at 4% per annum. For providing this growth, we have to spread the development process to the rural sector. That is what the PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) programme involving 4 connectivities namely Physical, Electronic and Knowledge leading to Economic connectivity envisages. 7000 PURA Clusters encompassing over 600,000 villages are required for the entire country. The theme of PURA, apart from concentrating on reinforcing agriculture, will emphasize on agro processing, development of Rural Craftsmanship, dairy, fishing, poultry, silk production, so that the non-farm revenue for the rural sector is enhanced, based on the core competence of the region. Also the rural economy will be driven by renewable energy such as solar, wind, bio-fuel and conversion of municipal waste into power. In this approach, the aim is to make sustainable development using the core competence of the rural sector.

Operational PURA in the Country
I have witnessed integrated development in five places in the country, where PURA is not only energizing in agriculture, but also enabling people to take up alternative employment including food processing, craftsmanship and small-scale industries. For example, Periyar PURA in Vallam, Thanjavur is engaged in agriculture, solar energy, skill development and now one product one village scheme. Chitrakoot PURA has mobilized the core-competence of the rural communities in herbal cultivation and leading to medicine and is working towards a conflict free society. Byrraju PURA in Andhra Pradesh has enabled reverse migration of BPO personnel from Hyderabad to Bhimavaram, Loni PURA in Maharashtra has provided over all upliftment of the rural population in sugarcane cultivation, sugar production, education and health care including reduction in IMR and MMR. MS Swaminathan Research Foundation has been playing a pioneering role in rural development through NVA Fellows drawn from various walks of life based on their core competence, who provide knowledge input to the farmers in the farm and non-farm sectors across the country. MSSRF is also in the process of establishing PURA in the tsunami affected region of Nagapattinam, Tamilnadu. Now I would like to mention above one village one product scheme being implemented in Periyar PURA.

One Village One Product and PURA
The members of Periyar PURA in Vallam, Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu have created a strategic partnership with Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) of Japan. During the last eight months people of Periyar PURA villages technologically supported by Periyar Maniammai College of Engineering for Women have worked with experts from JETRO on various products for which core competence and raw material is available in Thanjavur district. They developed proto types for 123 products such as bed sheets, table runner, cushion cover, brass drum, curtains, bread basket etc. Interaction with JETRO specialists included comparison of Japanese product, discussion on raw material selection, technical advice on product development and final quality inspection. Based on this intensive interaction, Vallam people produced 123 products and JETRO selected 40 out of them for international market.

These 40 finalized products were displayed in an exhibition at New Delhi during February 2007 and they are being taken for display in Interior Lifestyle 2007 Exhibition at Tokyo to be held between 6th and 8th June 2007. The feedback from each exhibition has been used for improving the product so that the customer acceptability of the product gets enhanced. The local technical consultancy support for improving the product has been provided by Periyar Maniammai College of Engineering for Women. This co-operative venture has enhanced the innovative ability of the village people and transformed them to develop and produce internationally acceptable products. Once the product is finally accepted in the interior lifestyle exhibition, it will be converted as a commercial business proposition which will enhance the economic activity in all the 65 villages in the Periyar PURA rural cluster.

How do we achieve 4% growth in GDP in the Agriculture sector from the present less than 2% growth rate? In our country, there are few models which I would like to share with you.

Doubling the food production - an Experience
I would like to narrate an excellent success story which has taken place in Bihar. An experiment has been carried out by the TIFAC team in Bihar, in the RP Channel 5 and Majholi distributory and later extended to Paliganj and other 5 distributaries on the request of farmers. Today they are working systems. The productivity of paddy has increased in these villages from 2 tons per hectare to 4 - 5.8 tons per hectare and in respect of wheat productivity; it has increased from around 2 tonnes per hactare to around 4-5 tonnes per hectare. Presently, paddy and wheat crops are spread in an area greater than 2500 hectares involving 3000 farmers. This project has been carried out by the TIFAC, in collaboration with a farmer's co-operative society, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and the agricultural university in Pusa, Bihar. Using scientific method of farming involving soil characterization, matching the right seed to soil, seeding in time, fertilizer and pesticide selection, water management, pre and post harvesting methodology productivity has been more than doubled. I am explaining this model to bring out the feasibility of transferring the knowledge from the laboratory to the farm through a cooperative venture between a dedicated team of scientists and the farmers. Moving up the value chain in agriculture through food processing is essential in the country to increase the contribution of the agriculture work force to GDP. This will result in doubling the earning capacity of the farm workers in any region of the country.

Partnership between scientists and farmers for higher productivity and income
For realizing the enhanced productivity thereby earning capacity, what is needed is the creation of a core team of agriculture scientists, veterinary scientists and commerce graduates in all the rural locations, who can provide the knowledge inputs to the farmers as has been done through the TIFAC project. This team can be linked to an educational institution in the rural sector, an active DRDA, Joint Director Agriculture available in the districts. For enhancing the productivity to over 100 million hectares in the country, we would need deployment of 50,000 young Agriculture Scientists (B.Sc Agri graduates) at the grass root level in the Agricultural Service Centers who will be responsible for identifying the technology gap, technology diffusion, bridging the technology gap and increasing the productivity of atleast 2,000 hectares per agricultural service centre. The higher knowledge inputs for the grass root level scientists can be provided by M.Sc's and Ph.D in agriculture sciences numbering around 2500. At the APEX level we can deploy 500 retired Agricultural executives at the rate of one scientist per district. This team should be entrusted with the responsibility of doubling the agricultural productivity of 100 million hectares within the next 3 to 5 years. This national team has to work on a target of doubling the productivity in a time bound manner for providing knowledge inputs to the farmers for adopting the organic farming methods, correct use of quality fertilizer and pesticides, selection of seed and matching with the soil, drip irrigation, pre and post harvesting techniques, enhanced use of solar energy. The team has also got to ensure that the grain is processed into food and value added products, so that the farmers get the right revenue for his products. The important point is that the agricultural scientists have to become partners of the farmers as done by Prof. Sinha in Bihar.

Let me now talk to you another experience where seed cotton productivity has been doubled.

Seed cotton productivity
I visited a village called Gheri Buttar near Bhatinda in Punjab, where I met the farmers who have successfully increased the production of seed cotton from four hundred and sixty kilogram per acre to eight hundred and sixty kilogram per acre in the year 2005. This has been achieved through a productive partnership between farmers, agricultural scientists, textile industry supervisors and the Government by following a scientific approach to farming, provision of quality inputs, strengthening of quality in every farming step, adopting pre-harvest and post-harvest techniques with an assured market for quality products namely seed cotton. Most important action is to enable farmers to get quality seeds, quality fertilizers and quality pesticides from cooperative societies. I have suggested the farmers in that village to mount a programme of second green revolution in Cotton meaning that instead of selling the cotton produce directly in the market, they should add value to certain quantity of cotton into yarn, cloth and apparel in the village complex itself and market it in the national and international markets which again would need quality standards for processing, storage, packaging and delivery. This is a model which is available in the country, which will lift the farmers from the suicidal tendencies towards prosperity. We should replicate these successes in many cotton growing regions.

I would like to discuss about one model which has become sustainable and has brought a difference to over 4 million farmers in the country.

e-Choupal
ITC has taken the role of a Network Orchestrator in this meta-market by bringing together an end-to-end solution by synergizing and unleashing the power of partnerships in public, private and not-for-profit sectors through e-Choupal. Farmers selected from within the community, designated as "Choupal Sanchalaks", manage these kiosks. Sanchalaks help farmers' access different agricultural crop-specific websites that ITC has created in relevant local languages. The content includes best farm practices (including videos), prevailing prices and price trends for crops in Indian and world markets, intricacies of risk management/farm insurance, local weather forecast. Farmers can also order, through Sanchalak, high-quality agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers offered by the participating partner companies. Finally, e-Choupal goes beyond mere knowledge-connectivity and enables farmers to exercise the informed choice by connecting them to local and global markets. Thus, the human and the digital infrastructure at the village is complemented and completed with a physical infrastructure in the form of 'Choupal Saagars', each at the centre of a cluster of 40 e-Choupals. Saagars offer multiple services under one roof - a marketing platform, store front for agri-equipment and personal consumption products, insurance counters, pharmacy & health center, agri-extension clinic, fuel station and a food court.

An international study has shown that the farmers income have increased by 20%. The productivity has increased from 14% to 29%. In three years, some 87% of the farmers in the e-Choupal areas have learned about the e-Choupal services, and 78% have used it. As of May 2007, e-Choupal services reach more than 4 million farmers in about 40,000 villages through more than 6500 Choupals across 8 States of India. ITC intends scaling up the initiative to reach 10 million farmers in 100,000 villages by 2012. ITC estimates a payback period of seven years on its total investments in the e-Choupal initiative with full bouquet of services to the farmers and rural customers.

In this process, ITC has innovated a win-win situation for the farmers and the share holders of ITC by linking the farm operations directly to their agri-export business through e-Choupal. The system has avoided the middlemen and also ensured quality product reaching the national and international markets with quality certification needed by the importing countries. The efficiencies and the capacities built by e-Choupal for agri-communities is attracting the rural youth to re-consider agriculture & agri-services as a viable occupation and encouraging them to take to it with confidence.

Conclusion
Based on the above three models, I would like to recommend the following suggestions for immediate implementation for focusing on increasing the agricultural productivity, enhancing the revenue to the farmers and farm workers, providing non-farm avenues of employment to the rural people and progressively increasing the GDP contribution of the agricultural sector to national economy.

  1. Establishment of 50,000 dynamic agricultural service centres with B.Sc Agriculture graduates and deploying them to cover 100 million hectares of agriculture land in the country (1 agriculture service provider for 2,000 hectares) with the objective of doubling the food productivity in that land in partnership with the farmers.
      

  2. Empowered Agricultural service centre should be supported by a two tier system through expert teams at the district level and the national level.
      

  3. Rural cooperatives may be formed with the objective of creating exportable processed foods based on the core competence of each region and non-farm products. The cooperatives can create a knowledge centers in the villages based on e-Choupal or Village Knowledge Centre model to link the farmers directly to the agri-food exporters for marketing the products. Agricultural service centre personnel should become resource personnel for this supply-chain management.
      

  4. Industries located in the regions can create strategic partnership with the farmers as in the case of ITC and OSWAL group, for providing the knowledge inputs and as a marketing system for the farmers.
        

  5. Converting agricultural waste as wealth, use of organic farming practices and also generation of bio-fuels from waste lands in the villages should be taken as a mission of the rural sector. The educational institutions, active DRDA and the Joint Director agriculture in association with NGOs should become facilitators for these programmes.

In future conferences I would request the agriculture scientific community to involve the successful farming groups who had link with the industries and educational institutions. This will enable sharing of the experience and exact problems.

My best wishes to all the participants of Symposium in their mission of promoting Agriculture productivity in the country and improving the quality of the life of the farmers.

May God bless you.