Photos on VASAT activities which includes Field trips,Impact assessment,Videoconferencing,Drought awareness e.t.c can be viewed.
The AMS is an organization that functions in the 21 villages of Addakal in south central India. It is a highly drought-prone region with little access to irrigation. Because of large scale outmigration, responsibility for almost all farming and livestock management is with the women. Partners have jointly developed an information access arrangement in the AMS premises (minor LAN with internet access) 10 villages are provided by the AMS with local access centers (public). Landlines and mobile phones are used for voice and data/internet connectivity. The ISRO has set up a two-way video-conferencing facility here that connects to ICRISAT. The AMS leadership has identified and trained 30 members in the use of these arrangements. The AMS members developed a small group that acquired basic science literacy and information facilitation skills. These two groups effectively linked the super specialists and the vulnerable farmers using ICT mediation, creating new opportunities for exchanges in the continuum from farmers to experts.
Drought is an insidious natural hazard that has severe impact on farming communities through out the world. Adakkal Mandal in Mahabubnagar region is one such region which has been facing drought for last ten years. AMS is an all women’s organization which has approached ICRISAT through Government of Andhra Pradesh to help them to cope with drought. ICRISAT has set-up village knowledge centers using a hub and spoke model where the hub has a videoconference set up provided by ISRO. This facility was used to provide information related to dry land crops cultivation and other crop related issues. ICRISAT employed a simple water balance technique to estimate the micro level drought vulnerability for each village. The micro level drought vulnerability of each village was synthesized by taking the ratio of water required for human, livestock and irrigation to water available from rainfall runoff. The villagers were provided with these micro-level drought vulnerability maps before the start of the kharif season along with the climate predictions for the kharif season which was synthesized from IMD , IRI and statistical analysis of previous 18 years rainfall data. Based on these predictions, the farmers were advised to cultivate dryland crops like pigeonpea, chickpea, millets etc.
Adarsha Mahila Samaikhya, is an all women group working in Adakkal mandal is actively involved in helping rural communities. AMS runs a microcredit bank, restaurant, and a handloom society in the premises. They have partnerships with six weavers society all over the state and they are getting enough income (nearly 2 laks per months from which they will get 10% commission). The restaurant and society are completely run by women. Apart from this, they have established a centre for physically challenged people consisting 628 members. AMS members invite Doctors to teach speech therapy and physiotherapy to physically challenged people. The excemplary work done by AMS in this region has been well noticed by Government and International organizations. Recently RBI has granted Rs 2.55 cores to AMS (Kommireddypally) for developing their organization and also to provide loans to SHG, self employment and to artisans.
Cost of providing extension services to farmers has been increasing steadily in developing countries. As a result public investment in agricultural extension has been declining. For example India's 100,000-strong extension force is far too inadequate to serve over 600,000 villages. Besides, there are few experts available to provide timely advice to extension functionaries and farm families. As a result, communicating timely information related to better farming practices to needy farm families is getting tougher. This makes a perfect case to explore the possibilities of applying modern technologies to enhance the effectiveness of communication and improve the interaction between urban-based agricultural experts and farm families located in the hinterlands.
Since March 2007, VASAT has been using a two-way video-conferencing facility provided by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) via the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) in Hyderabad to assess changes in the effectiveness of query-responses when a new digital medium is used. Initially the video conferencing was conducted for two hours per week, and from November 2008 we have increased the frequency to twice a week . During these VC sessions the Adarsha Mahila Samaikhya (AMS) volunteers are provided with query response service of different crops grown in their area. This is also the platform to help them and acquire technical literature in matters covered in VASAT learning materials. The interaction is conducted in local language (Telugu), slides ( MSPPT) and video clips.
The complex queries that arise in the videoconferencing are noted down and are uploaded to an online forum (www.aaqua.org), which has features to enable any registered expert to view the queries and answers. The response is then communicated to the AMS volunteers during subsequent sessions.In addition to this, experts from ICRISAT give special sessions on new technologies in agriculture.
Videoconference on 7th August on Occusion of MSSRF Foundation Day
On 7th August 2009, our Village Resource Center at Moosapet had videoconference with M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Chennai on the occasion of its Foundation Day. It was also Prof M S Swaminathan’s 84th birthday. Professor Swaminathan had interacted with members of Adarsha Mahila Samaikhya (AMS) during the videoconference session. In the interaction, Ms. Sujatha, President of AMS told him about the present drought scenario in their mandal and its implication on drinking water, irrigation and livestock. Mrs. Vimalamma had briefed him about drought maps and rainfall predications for the season which were developed by ICRISAT. She said that these maps could help them understand the drought scenario. Even with the help of this map we were not able to take proper measures to cope up with drought. In this regard we would like to request the government to provide necessary inputs to support the farmers. If these maps were made available with district administration then it would be helpful for them to be prepared against drought. Lakshmamma, a member o AMS requested Dr. Swaminathan to link local bodies like panchayat raj with various research institutes, universities and government departments for developing watershed programs, seed banks and fodder banks in each mandal.
Prof. M S Swaminathan answered every question posted by the members of AMS. He mentioned that most of the questions raised by the members of AMS were addressing the current drought situation that was prevailing in India and especially in Andhra Pradesh. Deficiency of rainfall poses a great challenge to the Government to cope up with drought. M S Swaminathan predicted good rainfall in nexted10 days. He emphasized the importance of storing every drop of water and the importance of fodder for livestock. He has encourage the communities to prepare for water and food security by establishing water bank, seed bank and fodder bank in each village. He also said that we have to prepare our self for global climate change.
Professor was very much impressed by the drought maps shown by Ms Vimalamma and highlighted the importance of micro-level weather station in each village. He mentioned that the District Collector office should provide the necessary information related schemes that are available for drought management. MSSRF planning to start bio industrial watershed programe with the support of Self help groups each village. He appreciated ICRISAT team for working with AMS in community developmet and drought preparedness.
First National Virtual Congress of Farmers
Encouraged by the outcome of the VCs, an elaborate plan was drawn to connect some of the most remote and disaster-prone areas of the country with the centers of expertise like MSSRF and the ICRISAT. ISRO agreed to share the bandwidth of one of its most advanced satellites, the EDUSAT and provide video link facility to Koraput in Orissa, Pokhran in Rajasthan, Anandwan and Waifad in Maharashtra, and Addakal in Andhra Pradesh besides the already existing facility at Pudukottai and Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu. These locations in the recent past have been affected by disasters such as the Tsunami while a number of locations have witnessed farmer suicides (apparently due to lack of proper counseling support).
Once the facility was up and running, MSSRF and ICRISAT took the opportunity to launch the First National Virtual Congress of Farmers as part of the 93rd Indian Science Congress held between 3rd and 7th January 2006 at Hyderabad. President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam inaugurated the First National Virtual Congress of Farmers on 5 January from the Auditorium of Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University in Rajendranagar, Hyderabad. He also facilitated discussion between the experts assembled at ICRISAT, Patancheru and MSSRF, Chennai who were remotely connected with farm families via video link.
It was a unique interaction between the head of state and the poor farm families in remote parts of the country. Besides the President of India, Governor and Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Directors Generals of FAO and ICRISAT and Prof M S Swaminathan, Chairman, National Commission on Farmers, India also interacted with farm families.
The farm families around Addakal information hub had a rare opportunity to be a part of this event and participate in the First National Virtual Congress of Farmers. The President of India inducted Ms Vimalamma and Ms Chandrakala the two network assistants of Kommireddipalli Janampeta, respectively, as fellows of National Virtual Academy on this occasion. Three network assistants, select farmwomen and men from the project villages interacted with the President of India and Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh through the videoconference. They also interacted with expert centers of ICRISAT and MSSRF and discussed their problems particularly on rainwater management during drought. Simultaneously they watched the other village resource centers across India interacting with the President of India and experts at ICRISAT and MSSRF, Chennai. In all over 200 farm families participated in the conference form across India.
We are making use of this unique facility to maintain regular contacts with farm families to provide them with expert advice from time to time. It is proposed to use this facility to engage farm families that are prone to distress during disasters (droughts, floods, Tsunami etc). We also have been scheduling periodic discussions with farmers facilitated from experts and assess its impact after reasonable time gap.