Pakistan's first ‘digital dera’ has been set up in a small village in Pakpattan district to educate farmers and landowners about the latest research in the agricultural sector, weather conditions and crop improvement techniques.
The farmers will be provided information on the latest weather conditions and agricultural research along with training on improving crop cultivation and yields at the traditional social centre set up at Chak 26.
The area earlier lacked internet access but the facility has been provided by an organisation, the Agriculture Republic along with the Internet Society of Pakistan.
The Internet Society has made it possible for the people of the village to be connected online by installing its own boosters and pools several kilometres away.
A local farmer, Mian Sarfraz, told The Express Tribune that mobile phone signals were also rare in the area, while there was no internet service. The growers used fertilisers, pesticides and seeds on the basis of their experience and estimates but the digital facility was giving them insights into modern research in the agricultural sector, ways to maximise yield while minimising the use of water, fertilisers and pesticides.
He said teams of the agriculture department also visited the villages to educate the farmers but they did not provide timely information to benefit the farmers.
Sarfraz said he has to cultivate potato crop and has gathered information about the weather forecast for the coming several weeks. He also knows which seed will be most suitable for his land.
The digital information and training centre for farmers has been set up by Agriculture Republic, a think tank of agricultural experts. Its founder Amir Hayat Bhandara said dera is a place where village elders, young people and children can sit whenever they want, gossip and share their problems with each other.
Digital dera refers to a centre where farmers will be able to get free information and guidance at any time on their crop production, weather, climate change, new seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and agricultural machinery. Not only will volunteers provide information, but they will also train young farmers on increasing productivity with latest technology and skills, he said.
Bhandara said the village is several kilometres away from the nearest city, and the Internet Society of Pakistan has helped bring online access to the area.
"We have been able to bring a fast internet service to the village after efforts of about five months. Our volunteers have laptops and tablets with the help of which they will provide information to the farmers."
Punjab Agriculture Department Director General Dr Anjum Ali Butter welcomed the initiative for the cultivators.
Hr said an SMS service and a call centre were working in Punjab to guide farmers. "However, now we are going to set up a central control and command centre in which all service for the farmers will be unified," he added.
The official said the planned centre would also have a call transfer facility. The calls will be directed to the relevant experts of the in the areas of callers.
He said the digital dera would benefit the farmers by enabling them to make accurate decisions about their crops in time.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2021.
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