Role of farmer fairs for rural development

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Agriculture is the backbone of India which contributes approximately 14 per cent of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The diverse agro-ecosystem and varying climate of the nation provides very limited opportunities for the small and marginal farmers to diversify. Government of India is making tremendous efforts to support farmers through various central schemes, states schemes, subsidies, technologies etc. but still the benefits are being taken by the few end users.

There is immense scope for the extension personnel to reach the unreached. There is need to choose the appropriate individual, group and mass contact methods for the dissemination of agricultural technologies to the farmers. There is a dire need to convince majority of the farmers for the adoption of new agricultural technologies so that the production can be increased. The mass mobilizing method utilised for the purpose of learning and recreation is normally termed as farmers fair.

At present Indian agriculture is under tremendous pressure due to feed the ever increasing population of the country. Although the food grain production has crossed 250 million tonnes but it is well below the reach to feed the exploding population. It is expected that our country’s population will surpass China in the next two decades. With increasing population and climate change if proper measures in terms of production and productivity of crops are not taken then our future generations can face severe food shortage. The average productivity of our major crops is lower than the world average which indicates the gap and scope of improvement.

Agriculture provides not only the food and raw material but also provides employment to the huge proportion of population of India.

The production and productivity of crops is lower than the yield potential. The agricultural development programmes are successful not only due to the contents of the programme but also on the basis of the extension methods for the dissemination of the technologies and implementation of the programme. While planning a programme emphasis is given on choosing the best methods of extension. The individual and group methods help to build rapport and getting firsthand information from the farmers. The message disseminated through these methods are very effective, unbiased and without distortion. But they are time consuming, expensive and do not cover the farmers at the mass scale.

It is necessary to choose the right combination of individual, group and mass contact methods to convince the majority of farmers. Illiterate and literate farmers should be equally considered. The mass mobilising method for the learning and recreation is said to be Kisan Mela or Farmers Fair. Farmer fair is an effective method for creating awareness on different technologies for the farmers, scientists, officers from agriculture and allied departments, NGOs, private agencies etc. who come at a common place where different items related to agriculture and allied sectors etc. are displayed for the public with an objective of education, entertainment, sales etc.

Various agricultural institutes and allied sectors organise such type of events for the benefits of the farming community. This is organised for one day or few days depending on the necessity of the crowd and business.

Very less is known about the history of farmers fair but the records are seen in 500 BC in the book of Ezekiel. An account of fair was written in 588 BC describing the ‘Tyre’ as an important market and fair centre. In the beginning farmers fairs were held for the commercial purpose in which the sellers used to sale their produce with one another. It is also said that the people in Athens, Mecca and Rome used to gather for worship. Later on the worshipped places became the great commercial cities. It is said that fair word is derived from the Latin word ‘Feria’ means a holy day. In early Christian era it has been observed that the Churches took a lead role to generate a source of revenue by organising fairs and festivals and in 1700s many small fairs were held in French Canada.

After that in 1765, Winsdor had its American Fair. Elkanah Watson, a New England Patriot and farmer is said to be the Father of the US American Fairs for organizing the exhibition event in 1811.After that most of the European countries started to organisex such farmers’ fairs. From 1900, every country has been organizing the agricultural farmers’ fairs.

In present era farmers fairs are playing a pivotal role for the dissemination of agricultural and allied sectors information with the objective to create awareness and to educate the farming community. Farmers fair is an attempt to demonstrate the technologies developed by the State Agricultural Universities (SAUs), Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), line departments, Non-Government Organisations’ (NGOs), private agencies etc. Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Jammu also organises such types of farmers fair to create awareness on modern agricultural technologies.

On 15th April, 2016 Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Reasi also organised a farmer’s fair which was attended by the Union Minister Dr.Jatinder Singh. Farmers fair is also a platform for the progressive farmers to show their produce to their fellow farmers and is also a place for the socialisation.

It is also the best place for the people to learn who hardly visit outside to learn. These fairs also provides opportunities for the farmers to share their experiences with the gathering and improve their knowledge by “Seeing is believing” principle by visiting the different stalls, experimental farms, Kisan Ghosties etc.

These fairs are organised at the common places of the institutions and the farmers from the different places are invited. Lot of manpower and co-ordination from different departments is needed for the smooth arrangement of the fairs. Present era farmers fair involve agro-exhibitions, well managed field sites, animal shows, cultural programmes, crop cafeterias, creative crop models, agricultural clinics, farmers -scientists interaction, veterinary clinics, seeds of improved varieties, extension literature etc.

In the end of the event farmers are encouraged by providing the awards for their produce. It is a common forum of the farmers, scientists and organisational firms for exchanging the experiences and information about the modern agricultural technologies.

Farmers’ fairs provide a cost effective method for imparting education through demonstrations, farmers’ feedback and by interaction between farmers and scientists in the most convincing manner.

It also gives opportunity for sale of agro-inputs and products and to the display latest agricultural and allied sectors technologies. Kisan Ghosties and special lectures by the experts are really the boon for the farmers during the fair. Farmers’ fairs are the best extension methods for the dissemination of new agricultural technologies to the farmers. It is expected that with the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) farmers’ fairs will take us even in the far flung areas of the nation. The ICTs can deliver the new agricultural technologies in a rapid and user friendly manner to the ultimate users.

Through m-Kisan portal the farmers are registered and then the agricultural advice is given to the farmers through mobile SMSs. Through m-Kisan and various apps, it is very easy for the agricultural scientists to present their demonstrations skill and send to the connected farmers from different parts of the country.
(The author is Dr. Banarsi Lal Scientist and Head, KVK Reasi)

Source: State Times

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