Updated: July 11, 2021 9:53:49 am
A month back, when agri-commodity analyst Deepak Chavan installed Clubhouse on his phone, it was only to satisfy his curiosity. The social audio app had started to gain popularity in India, and Chavan, a veteran in the field of media and communication, wanted to see what the fuss was all about. After a few days of exploring the audio drop in platform, he realised it could act as an important link in the chain of agriculture extension – the practice of giving farmers expert advice on skills and techniques that could be used to boost productivity – and thus was born The Indian Farmer’s Club. Barely a couple of weeks into existence, the virtual club has become a hit with the farmers who actively participate in the daily sessions and exchange information on crop and best practices with each other.
The vast and complex field of agriculture extension has over the years developed in a top-down model, where farmers are given information by experts, said Chavan, adding that in most cases, the analyst or the consultant concerned might not have real-time field information – a gap that Clubhouse seems to fill. “What farmers want and what is offered often differ in many ways… But the audio drop in rooms of Clubhouse resolved this problem in a democratic manner,” he said.
Social media is not new to farmers with analysts like Chavan using popular mediums like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram to reach out to farmers. But the problem of unwanted attention or spam and unidirectional flow of information often came in the way of exchange of information, said Chavan. “The rooms of Clubhouse allow for controlled entry of participant (which keeps trolls at bay). Besides, in the format of audio drop in rooms, free exchange of ideas is possible,” he said.
Clubhouse also fills another gap – that of village squares, a traditional spot for information exchange, which had taken a hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic and related curbs. And the conversation in a Clubhouse session is also somewhat similar to that of an actual village meet-up, Chavan said. “So in our (virtual) rooms, we first discuss about weather and then the topic of the day is initiated by an expert farmer. Post this, the room is thrown open to questions and answers,” he added.
The first session of Clubhouse that Chavan hosted was on onions — a subject he has a lot of experience in. “I had announced the session on my Facebook wall and within seconds, around 40 farmers had gone live with us,” he said. Since then, he has been organising regular session at 7pm and has hosted discussions on a range of issues – from maize and soybean to poultry and livestock.
Chavan said Indian Farmer’s Club witnesses around 50-80 farmers from all age groups logging in to participate in a session. “We feel this new platform would help farmers get the right kind of knowledge,” he said, adding the sessions are non-commercial with no brand promotion allowed.