Welcome to the #NokiaC3forChange initiative with The Better India. As part of this campaign, we handpicked 20 changemakers across India.
Around four years ago, several people from Durdih village of Bihar were migrating out of the state.
Rampant crop failure due to the unregulated use of pesticides and fertilisers reduced soil fertility, and low incomes pushed many households to the brink of poverty. Migrating to urban cities for odd jobs was the only chance of survival.
Even while individuals and organisations tried to help these farmers with access to better training in organic farming, the COVID-19 pandemic made things worse this year. From difficulties in transportation of produce, to lack of access to any kind of training made it difficult for them to cope.
But in a world where technology has been able to pose solutions for many grave issues, there was a ray of hope for these farmer families too.
Here’s what happened.
Neeraj Kumar, who runs the NGO called Khetee in Bihar, was one of the chosen 20 changemakers for the #NokiaC3forChange initiative. His work includes the introduction of organic farming and agroforestry by training over 3,000 farmers across the state. He distributed six Nokia smartphones among farmers in the village. These farmers also serve as representatives for the households in their neighbourhoods and so, helped them use the smartphone as well. The move helped enable and promote social impact through technology. And rightfully so.
Things have begun to get back on track over the past few weeks. The gap of communication and access to training material that had cropped up because of lack of technology is now being filled with phones. The content needs are also now customised to the farmer family's needs and preferences.
Neeraj has been using these phones not only to aid communication between farmers and training facilitators, but also to provide online training in their local language through a WhatsApp group.
“Being able to provide relevant information and content to the farmers and assisting them -- especially through these tough times -- was a challenge that we are now overcoming with the availability of these smartphones,” says Neeraj.
Mridula Devi was one of the many farmers affected by the situation. Mridula, who herself is one of the beneficiaries and has been learning to use the smartphone, adds how the access to training material and smart applications has made life easier for farmers like her.
“I have been using WhatsApp and apps like Plantix on the phone to track my crop health and growth. I have also learned how to recognize early signs of pest attacks or diseases on my plants. All this information has been quite valuable,” she says.
“The community we work with is ever-expanding and never fixed in one place. Access to technology like that of smartphones allows us to connect to a large number of farmers with just a single click. With its help, we have been able to share our online pre-recorded sessions in Hindi with numerous farmers through a WhatsApp group, and have also conducted several online farm visits,” concludes Neeraj.
Do you know of changemakers like this who are using technology to create an impact? Nominate them here. You can nominate your own inspiring change story too. The top shortlisted entries will get a Nokia phone!