Cauvery Calling launches a state-of-the-art mobile app for farmers
Large-scale implementation of tree-based agriculture is no longer a dream - Cauvery Koogu launches a state-of-the-art mobile app to register, educate, and empower farmers. Read about the joys and struggles of Rajesh, a young aspirant of tree-based agriculture, and how he realizes, in his own words, 'the indispensability of an app like Cauvery Koogu.'
Isha Outreach has launched the Cauvery Koogu app to assist farmers in adopting tree-based farming with the help of Mara Mitra (Friends of Trees) and inspired youth from their community. This app will be a significant step towards the large-scale implementation of tree-based agriculture in Karnataka. It will ease the struggles of the farmers who are constantly striving to take up tree-based agriculture in the state. The application will make use of the existing government schemes to facilitate the planting of trees by farmers on their farmlands.
Rajesh, a civil engineering graduate from the Bagenahalli village, is a young man full of energy. Sadhguru inspired him to take up tree-based agriculture. After working for two years as an executive in Bengaluru, he returns to his village to pursue his dream of cultivating a mini forest on his grandmother’s four acres of land. “I thought I would create wealth for the next three generations, and campaign to have all farmers in my village, whose incomes were at the mercy of the crop yield, plant trees. This would not just secure farmers’ futures, but would also transform the eco landscape of my village,” Rajesh said while narrating his tale of joys and struggles of an aspiring agroforestry farmer. “The current strict felling and transit laws don’t worry me much as I believe that once farmers grow trees at a large scale, the timber-starved industry will put pressure on governments to relax the laws. The state government will also make a lot of money through these sales,” he says with conviction. While he chose to shift careers to pursue agroforestry as a solution for farmers, his encounters with ground-level issues made him realize, in his own words, ‘the indispensability of an app like Cauvery Koogu.’
“Since the government’s Krushi Aranya Protsaha Yojana (KAPY) scheme offered low-cost QPM saplings and provided incentives, I was even more motivated to take up tree-based agriculture.” But, problems soon arose, even for a person who had ‘already done enough research on the scheme and tree farming’. From not knowing what saplings to buy to the transportation costs of multiple visits to the state’s Range Forest Office (RFO) and collecting the saplings from the nursery, which was a good 20 km away, not knowing the care needed to remove plastic bags without killing the plant and how to dig the right kind of pits for different plants, ensuring the right spacing, knowing the right water requirements of different trees and ensuring they grow to the right size to fetch the right returns - the questions were endless, but answers and the process of discovering them were too far-fetched and tiring.
“Because the land is in my grandmother's name, I would have to take my 80-year-old grandmother to the state forest office if I wanted to register for the incentives,” he continued. “I’d rather drop the incentives than trouble my old and frail granny to visit the RFO and stand in the queue.” In any case, most farmers don’t get their incentives paid on time because of many different issues and delays in sapling survival surveys. The Karnataka government is at the forefront of promoting tree-based agriculture and supporting farmers. But, there is simply not enough logistics infrastructure at their disposal to do it at a large scale.
The app will make the entire ecosystem of agroforestry easy to operate by firstly supporting the government in creating huge infrastructure to enroll farmers at their doorsteps, which otherwise takes an RFO personnel at least one hour per farmer. Surely this model is not a scalable operational model. Through this app, Mara Mitras will provide demand details for each farmer, each species, and it will also help the forest department in raising the right amount of the right variety of saplings so that none have to be destroyed for being overproduced, nor will there be scope for corruption from unscrupulous middlemen if they are being underproduced.
When there is unfulfilled demand among farmers and QPM saplings are unavailable, naïve farmers easily fall prey to unscrupulous hands. “This year, a group of people in my village went door to door asking farmers to plant mahogany. They asked them to pay them Rs. 60 per sapling to obtain high-quality saplings. Famers paid in advance, and in a couple of days, they disappeared,” said Rajesh. “This is not a one-off incident; farmers often get duped in such situations.”
Most timber trees can grow in harsh conditions, but if proper care is not given, these trees don’t attain good size in time. Farmers have to either wait for a very long time to realize the right price or sell at very low prices. “Due to various issues, many farmers began to dismiss agroforestry and the notion that it produces good economic returns as a myth. All these issues have been answered by the Cauvery Koogu app designed by Isha for Cauvery Calling,” says Rajesh. He swears by its efficacy after having tried it himself. The app can serve as a one-stop shop for a variety of agroforestry-related issues. The app's training module will also assist Mara Mitras in educating farmers about the right type of saplings for the soil type, avoiding mono-cropping by suggesting different types of trees, and how to plant them. Mara Mitras will coordinate with nearby farmers so that the expenses of their trips to nurseries can be pooled, thereby reducing the cost and so on. By enabling geotagging of trees, and with Mara Mitras going from farm to farm for survival surveys and uploading photographs of the surviving saplings, the app will provide the government with both the location and proof of the sapling’s survival. Hence, they will be in a position to pay timely incentives through the app, which will also have the bank details of farmers.
“With this app and Mara Mitras, even my granny can be a proud tree planter and leave wealth behind for us,” Rajesh chuckles. “I hope that soon this model is implemented outside the Cauvery basin also.”
890 Cauvery Calling Mara Mitras will work in different gram panchayats in the 9 districts of the Cauvery basin in Karnataka and register farmers’ demands at their doorstep using this state-of-the-art mobile app. Establishing demand from every village, along with details of farmers and the species selected, will help the government in raising these saplings under various existing schemes for each gram panchayat.
If the government loosens the felling rules in the future, this app can help streamline the process as the required details and profiles of the farmers and the trees are already available for quicker processing. The timber industry in Karnataka, as has been proven in many other countries like Canada, has the potential to become one of the highest revenue generators of the state.
On September 2, the official launch ceremony took place simultaneously in all nine districts of the Cauvery basin, and also in Vidhana Soudha, Bengaluru. Senior officials from the forest and agriculture departments, as well as gram panchayats and other stakeholders joined the celebrations.
The following is a summary of the application's key features:
- Enabling farmers at their doorsteps: The launch of the application eases the process for both the farmers and the government authorities. Farmers can choose to enroll in various schemes like KAPY, NREGS, NBM, without having to visit the Range Forest Offices. This will save time and resources for both the government and the farmers.
- Recording the right sapling demand: The application will reflect the total number of saplings requested by the farmer, species by species. This will provide a clear figure of how many saplings of what species are needed, reducing the risk of underproduction and overproduction for the government, and eventually, save the resources invested in the saplings.
- Establishing trust and transparency in the agroforestry ecosystem: The application ensures government trust by maintaining transparency at both ends as the government can verify the requirement fed by the farmers on the application. At the same time, farmers can clearly calculate the incentives as per the survival rate of the saplings under their account.
- Educating farmers: With the training module of the app, Mara Mitras can help the farmers in choosing the right sapling as per the concerned area. This will help farmers in planting the right saplings and in ensuring that the plants grow well and fetch the right prices.
- Survival survey of living trees: Cauvery Calling Mara Mitras will conduct survival surveys in each farm for the required number of years under different schemes, by geo-tagging the plant location, recording the coordinates of the plants and uploading the photos of each plant. This data will be directly entered into the government database and help them to distribute the incentives in a timely manner.
- Incentivizing farmers: The app assists farmers in receiving incentives directly into their bank accounts.