In spite of several reforms, the public-sector extension in India continues to be ‘supply and subsidy driven’, often failing to address the genuine needs of farmers. The ICAR-JSS-KVK, in 2013, developed a model to address this problem by creating a demand driven Agri Clinic extension service at Mysuru, Karnataka. Dr Arun Balamatti shares the experience of JSS Agri Clinic here.
Agriculture today is extremely knowledge intensive and mere information/advice/ alone is not enough for farmers to embrace new technologies. There is a need for comprehensive support in the form of personalized guidance on how and when to use various inputs, so as to facilitate sustained yields by farmers. While Indian agricultural extension system is striving to enhance outreach of technologies to farmers, Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) offer training programs in addition to assessing and demonstrating frontier technologies to farmers. However, studies show that technology uptake is disappointingly slow across India. Conventional approach to technology delivery has not been effective, since many agencies offer training programmes, on topics of ‘their choice’ through lectures, PowerPoint presentations, etc. These trainings are not very effective and fail to provide farmers with any opportunities to discuss specific issues and avail end-to-end solutions. Lack of personalised services on the part of extension professionals/departments is resulting in farmers approaching input traders, many of who are neither qualified nor have the necessary knowledge and skills. With their sales being profit oriented, input traders encourage farmers to purchase more products/inputs than the actual requirement. This causes increased input costs (incurred by the farmers) and an indiscriminate use of agro-chemicals causing environmental degradation as well.
“Agri Clinic” was conceived as an innovative social enterprise and built as a ‘Demand-driven Rural Advisory Service (RAS)’ where the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) positions itself in the ‘input market’. Agri Clinic is meant to provide twin services, ‘Agri Doctor’ and ‘Agri Pharmacy’. The technical staff of KVK (Agri Doctors) provide diagnostic services, free of cost, by studying the affected plant specimen brought in by the farmers and provide written ‘prescription’; the other service i.e., “Agri Pharmacy”, involves selling agri inputs to farmers, based on the prescription. In this process, the
KVK staff is ensuring that the farmers are provided with appropriate diagnostic and advisory services, and are also educated on buying and using only such inputs that are absolutely necessary, particularly the chemical inputs.
A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being—this may include maximizing social impact alongside profits for external shareholders (Source: Wikipedia).
Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) are frontier agricultural extension centres created by ICAR (Indian Council of
Agricultural Research and its affiliated institutions) at district level. The mandate of KVK is to take up Technology Assessment and Demonstration for finding out location specificity of new technologies for their application and to undertake necessary Capacity Development.
The goal of Agri Clinic is to meet the farmers’ information and input demands on time, at competitive price and to make them available at an easily accessible location. This will also help in bringing down farmers’ production costs and reducing the indiscriminate use of agro-chemicals. The Agri Clinic is meant to provide these services ‘on demand’.
Agri Clinic: The KVK innovation
JSS KVK, in Mysuru district of Karnataka state, India (ICAR-ATARI Zone VIII), started the pilot programme “JSS Agri Clinic” in July 2013 at Suttur village, about 30 km from Mysuru city. The naming of the centre as ‘Agri Clinic’ and a tagline, ‘A health centre for crops’, in local language, was specifically meant to communicate a strong message that there is now a clinic for plants. The brand value of JSS added to its popularity since JSS is a popular spiritual institution offering education as well as health services, especially in rural areas, through its many institutions.
While the clinic started attracting many farmers, it was mostly farmers from the two closer taluks of Nanjangud and T. Narasipur, who started frequenting the clinic. These two taluks are predominantly paddy growing areas. It was soon recognized that the service of the Agri Clinic needed to extend its outreach to the entire district and to the neighbouring districts as well. Therefore, another outlet was opened in Mysuru city, in June 2015, in order to make the services accessible to more farmers in Mysuru district and reach out to farmers visiting Mysuru for agricultural inputs from neighbouring districts of Chamarajanagar, Mandya, Hassan and Coorg.
Technical staff of KVK -as Agri Doctors
The nine technical staff at KVK are postgraduates in various disciplines of agriculture, namely, agronomy, horticulture, plant protection, seed technology, soil science, sericulture, extension, home science and fisheries sciences. Six of them are competent in carrying out basic diagnosis and providing advisory services by virtue of their education and hands-on experience at KVK. Deployed to the clinics on a rotation basis they are available from 10am to 7pm, to assist the farmers. The timetable and the list of Agri Doctors are prominently displayed at each centre. The Agri Doctors tend to learn new things by discussing complex issues with peers, experts in the field and by ‘trialand-error’ method, as the farmers visiting the Agri Clinic tend to judge them based on their knowledge and confidence in resolving issues.
Access to quality inputs
It was decided that the Agri Pharmacy would sell inputs only on prescription from the Agri Doctors. Also, considering the fact that the market is flooded with a vast range of products sold by different companies and brands, at varying prices, KVK decided that the Agri Doctors would study the market and deal with only reliable products, brands and such inputs which are affordable. This would ensure that farmers get quality inputs at reasonable prices and safeguard them from possible confusion and exploitation due to their ignorance.
Thus the KVK staff screen the market periodically for quality agricultural inputs, reliable brands having reasonable price; procure and display such inputs at the Agri Clinic outlet. The inventory is expanding each day as the Clinic is growing popular. KVK has also established a rapport with private input dealers and distributors and started procuring products on credit from them. This way, the Clinic operated even without huge capital investment.
Dear All, Thank you for your comments, especially the elaborate and analytical comments by S. Paramasivan and SVN Rao. Of course, appreciation from Mahesh Chander is is flattering, yes, Veterinary grads are hard to get, more so and almost impossible for NGO KVKs.
Mahesh Chander sir…Majority of the KVKs in Karnataka have this problem since most of them find the job opportunity as veterinary officer. We have also noticed that majority of these kvks (32 i think) are under agricultural universities for which the animal science expert would not like to join..
Like Animal science , qualified fisheries professional are also not available in most kvks
Kudos to JSS KVK for a simple, but excellent concept of demand-driven support , meticulous planning and execution and sincerity and dedication of staff in implementing the model. The blog paper is well written on how the model was conceived and implemented with credible data showing the progress in an effective way. This model can be used for the areas populated with small farmers growing a mix of staple and high value crops. However, there are few aspects which need to be looked into if we are prescribing this model for a larger domain. 1. Agri Clinics operated by public sector are primarily no-profit or low profit and service oriented. In this case, the KVK staff were employed for a reasonably good duration at the agri clinics, The KVK is able to negotiate with input dealers to purchase the materials at a reasonable price and supply to the farmers. As we know, Agri Clinic is a basically a business model promoted by MANAGE in collaboration with NABARD for the purpose of creating agribusinesses operated by qualified professionals for the benefit of the farmers. If we look into the statistics provided by in this paper, the KVK has earned an average monthly profit of Rs. 27,775 (maintaining a 10% profit on gross transactions). This amount is exclusive of all man days/ labour cost, raw materials etc. Besides the Agri-clinic is functioning at a monthly operational cost of Rs 25000/-. In any business model, the agency should recover all costs in the third year and show increasing profit from thereon. With the infrastructure and man power provided by KVK, the this Agri-clinic is not definitely a good business model for the unemployed agri-graduates. Therefore, this model may be replicated only by the public sector funded agencies who strive for welfare of the farmers. 2. The Agri-Clinic is able to sell its own KVK products to the farmers. As indicated by the author, a large percentage (60 %) of the products sold from Agri Clinic are KVKs own products. This is an interesting achievement in view of the demand-based service , because the KVK is able to promote its own Eco-friendly technologies to meet the demands of the farmers. Though the authors didnt provide the composition of farmers who visited their clinic, it is encouraging to note that the farmers are willing to try eco-friendly technologies. I guess that the Agri-Clinic is able to win the trust of the farmers as indicated by 90% repeat visits, which may be utilized for promoting Eco-friendly and climate-smart agriculture in an effective way. 3. It is encouraging to note that the transactions are increasing at a healthy rate over the year, indicating the demand for such services. Considering the demand, the KVK staff will be likely to spend more time at Agri-Clinic in the coming years. This achievement may be multiplied only if the KVK relaxes its mandated activities or provide qualified manpower exclusively for the Agri-Clinic. 4. The success of Agri-Clinc may be doubled if they can create a mechanism to market the farmers products effectively. There is a need to create facilities for processing and value addition and establish sustainable market linkages for increasing producers share of consumer price. The demand-based service may be coupled with demand-based production through coordinated production at the district level and channelizing it through mechanisms like FPOs is necessary.
When going through this Good Practices Note, the KVKs elsewhere were coming to my mind, where they stand in matters of innovations like of JSS Agri-clinic? JSS Krishi Vigyan Kendra is well known for its multifarious activities and resourcefullness yet I wonder why it doesnt have an SMS in Veterinary/Animal sciences.Reading this nicely articulated note was a pleasure for me and it would be really very good if many other KVKs share their innovative practices in coming months. Congratulations to Dr Arun Balamatti & AESA for sharing the good practice followed by the KVK.
Glad that the JSS KVK in Mysuru district is turning out to be a trusted and effective health centre for crops. What it started as a pilot venture is attracting several farmers as one stop problem solving institution in the district. The author who is also the Head of this KVK deserves all the appreciation. This blog made me to ponder over several issues which need to be addressed at policy level. 1. What type of farmers avail the facilities of KVK? Whether this KVK or for that matter any KVK can cater to the needs of the farmers of the entire district with the existing staff? 2. Are we considering expanding KVK to address the farmers needs of the entire district? If so what is the role of State Department of Agriculture? Is there any scope for collaboration with the state Department of Agriculture on this? There is a general perception that the institutions that belong to the Central Government will do better in comparison to those belonging to the state. mainly because of sufficient funds and better qualified staff. Hence the demand for more KVKs. The activities, offices or the manpower of the state Department of Agriculture has not expanded the way the number of KVKs have expanded 3. In the case of Animal Husbandry, though the State Department of Animal Husbandry is not up to the expectations of the animal owners, though it is still the major service provider for disease diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases. This is so because of the vast net work of veterinary institutions in the state. As on today more than 50 % of the KVKs including this KVK does not have a animal science specialist. Even if he or she is there it is impossible to take up this responsibility on large scale. 4. Is the KVK the panacea of all the farmers problems in future? Likewise there may be several issues which need the attention of the policy makers.