An Agriculture Officer Uses Facebook to Win New Converts to FarmingM.J.Prabhu
Compared to 15-20 years ago, young people today are interested to try their hand in agriculture, Madhu Balan, the page's owner, says.
As young professionals in India tire of their daily ‘cubicle’ life and look to social media to ‘cultivate’ new interests, a dedicated agriculture officer in Tamil Nadu is using Facebook to promote the idea that they should set their sights on farming.
Madhu Balan, an assistant agriculture officer from Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu has started the Vivasayam Karkalam community page and more than 16,000 Facebook users have become members. Nearly half of them are between the ages of 35-42 and many are professionals like doctors, lawyers and chartered accounts doing part-time farming as a hobby.
“Right from seeds to marketing, I have tried to give the right information and taken care to see that the page is full of relevant information and photos,” says Balan.
Vivasayam Karkalam – most of whose content is in Tamil – has become popular among farmers, young professionals and students of agriculture in Tamil Nadu, who browse the page everyday for new information being posted. “Working in a government office for the past three decades, I always wanted to do something worthwhile and useful. But there was nothing challenging coming my way. I have another two years to retire. I started this site a year back and expected a lukewarm response as there are many pages on different topics. Honestly, I never imagined we would get so many members involved. This only proves how hungry people are for good information on farming and agriculture,” he says.
The most interesting thing about Balan’s site is that a majority of its members are young farmers who are new to this area.
Balan uploads information on different aspects of farming. “There is something for everybody connected with agriculture,” he says. If there is some information on a progressive farmer, then his complete contact details are given to enable users to contact him directly. Unlike many government agriculture officers who spend their weekends at home, Balan travels to different places and meets farmers and others associated with farming in search of new information for his community page.
Compared to 15-20 years ago, young people today are interested to try their hand in agriculture, Balan says. Many youngsters, especially from the IT sector, have actually quit their jobs for farming. Thanks to WhatsApp, Facebook, etc., information on practically any issue or subject can be shared across the globe free of cost. “And that is not all. On social media, you don’t need to worry about advertising revenue to run a page specifically on agriculture/rural issues,” he explains.
“I started this out of my own interest and the response has only encouraged me to do more,” he says. Under his guidance, millets growers in Dharmapuri have started a federation to market their items. “I am on Facebook for two hours every day and anybody can contact me regarding their doubts and I am only too happy to help them.”
Balan offers not just farming advice but also practical information on where to source seeds as well. He also posts the requirements of his FB friends and has created an interactive portal where marketing has also become a little easy for farmers. In short, by using a freely available social media platform, he has been able to bring in a big change among both rural and urban internet users. The information sought could be on setting up terrace gardening and its implements or where to buy a particular variety or what type of organic or inorganic fertiliser to be used – there is something for everybody interested in crops.