To counter impacts of COVID-19 on agriculture, KVKs in Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi are playing a proactive role. In this blog, Dr M S Meena and Dr S K Singh discuss this and suggest what more could be done to address the challenges.
India’s ongoing lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus is threatening its agriculture sector. As it overlapped with the time of crop harvesting, the lockdown derailed threshing, harvesting and marketing operations. Lack of agricultural labour to help in harvesting and transportation of agricultural produce has worsened the situation. Meanwhile, poultry farmers in some states have been badly hit due to misinformation, particularly on social media, that chicken are carriers of COVID-19. India has taken early action to limit the spread of COVID-19, ordering a 21-day nationwide lock down for its population of 1.3 billion people starting 25 March 2020. Central and state governments have recognized the challenge and responded aggressively. Till 18 April, 11,906 cases of corona were active, 1991 cured, 480 deaths had occurred and one migrated. The nationwide lockdown has now been extended till 3 May. The lockdown period has been of great stress to farmers and farm families. The ICAR-Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) of Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi states are proactively engaged with the Government of India, state governments and other local institutions to combat COVID-19.
INITIATIVES OF KVKs TO COMBAT COVID-19
KVKs of Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi are proactively engaged in issuing location specific advisories on crop, livestock, fisheries and other associated issues using information & communication technologies (ICTs). KVKs’ are sharing information on markets, availability of critical inputs, maintaining social distance, facilitating the installation of Aarogya Setu app, immunity enhancing protocol, etc. Apart from these, a few KVKs are also engaged in specific activities to respond to COVID-19. These are discussed below.
In accordance with directives issued by the Government of India, ICAR-ATARI, Zone-II, Jodhpur provided advisories in English and Hindi to KVKs of Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi. Advisories are uploaded on websites of ICAR-ATARI, Jodhpur and KVKs. Advisories issued by Govt. of India and state government (Box 1) were delivered through various means of communications like WhatsApp, mKisan, print media, radio talk, phone calls and other ICT platforms. Advisory services issued by KVKs is evident from table 1.
Table 1: Extension and advisory services issued by KVKs of ICAR-ATARI, Zone-II, Jodhpur (10th April 2020)
Inspiring SHGs to help common people
Capacity building of farmers, farm women, youth and other stakeholders is one of the main tasks of all KVKs. KVKs are also involved in promotion of self-help groups (SHGs) and farmers producer organisations (FPOs). As face masks and sanitisers were not available in most of the markets, KVK, Kota took timely initiatives to inspire SHG members and ex-trainee for the preparation of face mask and sanitisers.
Dr. Mahendra Choudhary, in-charge of the KVK stated, “We are inspiring our ex-trainees and 100 SHGs in the district to prepare face masks and sanitisers. The KVK is involved in knowledge management through application of ICT tools to cover more area.” (Box 2).
|Box 2. Efforts of KVK, Kota
Bhoomi SHG at Nayagao have prepared 3000 face masks of which 500 were distributed among farm women, sweepers and others in need while 2500 were given at hospitals, grain markets, staff of jail and medical workers at a minimum cost @Rs.10 per piece. Another SHG, Albeli group at Thegada, made 8500 face masks. They distributed 500 masks among farm women, vegetable distributors and other needy persons of the area. About 8000 masks were supplied @Rs.12 per piece to other local institutions like Bharat Vikas Parishad hospital, Kota Heart hospital, Sudha hospital, Anta krishi upaj madi, etc.
Dr. Gunjan Sanadhya—Subject Matter Specialist (Home Science), stated that the KVK is supporting these women in preparing homemade sanitisers, educating them on nutritional and other aspects. KVK is delivering advisory to 100 SHGs through WhatsApp groups, she stated.
Bhoomi SHG member preparing face mask: Kota district, Rajasthan
An ex-trainee of KVK, Jhalwar, is preparing sanitising rooms to protect common people from COVID-19 infection (Box 3).
|Box 3. Efforts of KVK, Jhalawar
Mr Ravinder Goswami, a trainee of KVK, Jhalawar, who is also an innovator and progressive farmer of Jhalawar district, has been inspired by the KVK to prepare a sanitising room costing Rs.10,000 -15,000. He adopted polyhouse technology from KVK and is now utilising the agriculture equipment for this purpose. Many items like fogging systems, sprayers, pipe and tank are available with him. He prepared six sanitising rooms and installed at the gate of city and other important places sanitise at entry. Now the demand of his sanitiser room is increasing and other organisations like Nagar Parishad also asked him to develop 15 sanitising rooms. One sanitising room was established at Jhalarapatan Police Station where the police staff get sanitised.
Sanitiser rooms at Jhalawar district
KVK, Hanumangarh-I, inspired Sangaria-based Gurunanak Kisan Club to engage in preparation and distribution of face masks. Dr. Anoop Kumar, in-charge of the KVK, said, “Club members are very eager to help common people by providing face masks and the KVK is providing technical help.”
|Box 4. Efforts KVK Hanumangarh-I
KVK, Hanumangarh-I, and Gurunanak Kisan Club, Bhakarawali, are making a joint initiative to combat COVID-19. KVK, Hanumangarh motivated Ms Urmila Vishnoi from Sangaria to engage in preparation and distribution of face masks from 24 March 2020. She distributed more than 1500 face masks among local people.
Smt Urmila Vishnoi— Making face masks Kisan Club at Hanumangarh district
|Box 5. Efforts of KVK Bundi
Dr. Kamla Mahajani—Subject Matter Specialist (Home Science) working at KVK, Bundi, noted, “We are promoting our ex-trainees and master trainers through WhatsApp and other ICT means to fight COVID-19.” We trained women trainees in preparation of hand sanitisers at home through video calling. Mrs Rinku Meena from Kesorai Patan is one of the trainees involved in preparation of hand sanitisers.
Mrs Anita Paliwal, a resident of Mayza village also prepared and distributed 1000 face masks during lockdown period.
Master trainer promoted by KVK, Bundi, to fight COVID-19
KVK collaboration with All India Radio
KVKs, Chittorgarh, and KVK, Pratapgarh, are collaborating with All India Radio (AIR) Chittorgarh for delivering agro-advisory services to the farming community (Box 6).
|Box 6. KVKs and AIR, Chittorgarh, to combat COVID-19
Through Kisanwani programme of All India Radio, Chittorgarh, Subject Matter Specialists of KVKs have provided the following advisories:
a. How to store agriculture produce (Dr. S.K. Agarwal)
b. Weather forecasting and preservation of fruits and vegetables (Dr. Priyanka Swami)
c. Health safety and agricultural operations (Dr. R.L. Solanki)
d. Fruits and vegetables preservation (Mrs. Deepa Indoriya)
The reach of AIR, Chittorgarh, is 80 to 100 km, where the advisory was delivered to a population of nearly 20 lakh in the area.
Measures to avoid infections on KVK premises, public places and in stray animals
KVKs are committed to providing realistic, up-to-date information and resources to support essential work during the pandemic. KVKs are involved in spraying chemicals to avoid any contamination on their premises, equipment and other public places. However, there is a great need to make farmers aware in disposing off the used materials (infected items like mask, gloves etc.) to prevent from contamination with livestock or other animals. An advisory issued by KVKs asked the farmers to: “Wash hands properly with soap or use sanitizer before and after carrying out field operations. Maintain at least one metre distance between workers. Prevent unknown persons from entering fields. Don’t spit, shake hands or hug each other during field operations.”
Livestock sanitation measures at KVK, Hanumangarh-I
Maintaining social distancing at KVKs’ farms and farmers’ fields
Social distancing helps to minimize contact with those having COVID-19 infection. KVKs have persuaded their employees and farmers to practice social distancing while doing farm operations. This message was also conveyed to other stakeholders.
Tomato grading operations at KVK, Jaipur-I Milk outlet operations at KVK, Jaipur-I
Installing Arogya Setu App and protocol for immunity boosting
Aarogya Setu app launched by the Union Health Ministry on April 2 helps users identify whether they are at a risk of COVID-19 infection. KVKs have informed farmers and other stakeholders in the respective districts to use the app. Till 14 April, 2020, a message for downloading the Aarogya Setu app was sent to 26,290 farmers of which 5815 have downloaded it.
Ministry of AYUSH has developed a protocol for immunity boosting measures for self-care. All 64 KVKs of Zone-II are making efforts to popularize these efforts among farming community.
Table 2: Efforts of KVKs in downloading Aarogya Setu app in Rajasthan, Haryana & Delhi states (on 10 April, 2020)
Other location specific initiatives of KVKs
KVKs are taking initiatives based on the situation and needs of each district. KVK, Udaipur-I, for instance, has already taken the steps to make a farm machinery bank with various agricultural machinery (cultivator, seed drill, multi crop threshers tractor, mould board plough, etc.) to help farmers. KVK, Sikar, is engaged in distribution of fodder to stray animals. Similarly, other KVKs are also involved in implementing location specific interventions to deal with COVID-19.
MORE WORK TO BE DONE BY KVKs AMID COVID-19
All KVKs of Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi are actively engaged in collaborating with many other organisation. However, KVKs should do more to address this challenge.
- Most states have introduced measures to market agricultural goods. KVKs should assist farmers with registration in online portals to help them market their farm produce
- KVKs should encourage more SHGs, FPOs, kisan clubs to help their members in downloading Aarogya setu app.
- ICAR has a large network of 64 KVKs across Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi that can be used as quarantine centres, if need be.
- Specific advisories (crop, animal, fishery-based, etc.) must be issued in local languages to farmers, farm women, youth and other stakeholders through ICTs.
- KVKs and other departments must ensure timely availability of agricultural equipment and inputs for minimum cost. For this purpose, other ICT platforms must be used in addition to print media, forums, WhatsApp groups, mKISAN web and FM radios.
- KVKs must train other organisations to produce face masks and sanitisers.
- KVKs are providing quality seeds of green gram, small millets and other crops to partner farmers for conducting cluster front line demonstrations. However, seed produced in farmers’ fields in participatory mode will also have to be promoted through farmer-to-farmer extension.
https://www.mygov.in/covid-19 (accessed on 18th April 2020).
Rajasthan government to open agriculture mandis from April 15. The Times of India. April 9, 2020.https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/govt-to-open-agri-mandis-from-april-15/articleshow/75055940.cms
https://www.mygov.in/covid-19 accessed on 12th April 2020.
Addressing COVID-19 impacts on agriculture, food security, and livelihoods in India accessed on 12 April 2020 https://www.ifpri.org/blog/addressing-covid-19-impacts-agriculture-food-security-and-livelihoods-india
Coronavirus: 13 states get blanket govt approval for pulses procurement 13 April,2020. https://www.business-standard.com/article/markets/coronavirus-outbreak-govt-gives-approval-to-13-states-to-procure-pulses-120040600014_1.html
Haryana assures farmers of complete purchase of wheat and mustard, 9 April,2020 https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/agriculture/haryana-assures-farmers-of-complete-purchase-of-wheat-and-mustard/articleshow/75070525.cms?from=mdr
COVID-19 lockdown locks down farmers’ income 3 April, 2020
Rajasthan government allows procurement of Rabi crops through village co-op societies.https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/govt-allows-procurement-of-rabi-crops-through-village-co-op-societies/articleshow/75089166.cms
Dr. M.S. Meena, Principal Scientist, ICAR-Agricultural Technology Application Research Institute, Zone-II, Jodhpur, Rajasthan. e-mail: email@example.com
Dr. S.K. Singh, Director, ICAR-Agricultural Technology Application Research Institute, Zone-II, Jodhpur, Rajasthan. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org