The effectiveness of frontline extension could be considerably enhanced by forging partnerships with the
Rural Postal Network. Drs R. Roy Burman, Sujit Sarkar, V. Lenin, S.K. Dubey and J. P. Sharma share their experiences in promoting technologies through this network here.
Public-sector extension, represented mainly by the State Department of Agriculture (DoA), continues to be one of the main source of information to a majority of the farmers in India. However, most of the states are able to cater to their agricultural extension services only up to the block level, with only few states going up to the village level. With the shifting emphasis of the Indian agriculture towards diversification, sustainability, efficiency and commercialization and a widening ratio of extension worker to the farmer in the country, it has become essential to look for alternative frontline extension approaches so that farmers can be reached with improved technologies to enhance farm productivity and income. (Frontline extension is a catalytic force for the field extension, which involves a higher level of extension interaction by highly qualified staff of the research and education system. It is assumed that the scientist who has generated/assessed/refined the technology can demonstrate better to the farmers in their
Keeping in mind the above challenges, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi has designed an innovative extension approach for effective delivery of IARI technology through Post Offices for distant farmers. Rural branch post office caters to 5-15 villages and the branch post masters (BPM) mostly are farmers. The model is aimed at utilizing the strength of the vast network of postal department in technology dissemination to distantly located farmers through village post masters working as community based change agents.
IARI and KVK scientists interacting with village post master at Sitapur (U.P.)
Box 1: The Indian Postal Network
The postal department in India has world’s largest network that covers the entire country with its 155,015 post office branches. Almost 90 per cent of these post offices are in rural areas (139,144 post offices). The rural branch master who is the sole staff at such branch post office belongs to the same cluster of villages or its neighbourhood. The village postmasters mostly are farmers and they know the local farming situation and farmers’ plight well.
With this background, an action research was conceived on establishing linkages with post office during Rabi 2009-10 by the Division of Agricultural Extension, IARI for dissemination of agricultural technologies and information to the farmers who are remotely located.
In the first phase of the study, the post offices and their personnel at district, block and village level in Sitapur district of Uttar Pradesh were contacted to explore the linkage possibility. Seven branch post offices of Sitapur district, Uttar Pradesh were identified. Major activities as recognized by the post office personnel were timely delivery of the seed and package of
practices posted by IARI to the farmers, regular discussion with the fellow farmers about the improved crop cultivation technologies and establishing the model demonstration plot by the branch postmaster for the other farmers.