Improving farmers’ access to information 

Since 2012 ICIMOD, in collaboration with the Central Himalayan Environment Association (CHEA), has implemented the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) in selected pilot areas of Uttarakhand, India. In 2013, the project began to explore the possibility of engaging the private sector to help improve the communities’ livelihood options and increase their income. Reuters Market Light Information Services Pvt. Ltd (RML) was identified as a potential partner. Reuters Market Light is a pioneering and award-winning company that offers a customized micro-information service via mobile phone. The service, which delivers agro-advisories and weather and market information to subscribers, helps communities make informed decisions. With over 1 million registered subscribers in over 50,000 villages in India, the service has already changed the lives of many people.

In early 2014 ICIMOD, CHEA and RML reached an agreement on how to use ICT services to improve select value chains communities in the pilot areas. The customized SMS service supports the initiative’s goal to help expand innovative livelihood options and promote adaptation.

On 8 August 2014, the SMS service was launched in remote Pithoragarh District in Uttarakhand. The service provides farmers direct access to weather information, market rates of farm products, agriculture advisories, and general news. The SMS service was launched by HC Semwal, District Magistrate of Pithoragarh, at a ceremony in the headquarters of the district, which borders China and Nepal. The partnership has helped enhance the livelihoods of marginalized mountain communities in far-flung areas, where access to market information and agro advisories are still limited.

Under the first phase, 250 farmers in Uttarakhand producing ‘chyura’, a high-value product, will be provided access to the SMS service. Farmers in Pithoragarh will gain access to extended information services through the SMS service. This will provide them with tools to enhance the value chains of chyura, honey and other products such as kidney beans, off-season vegetables, and bamboo handicrafts. The service will deliver personalized weather, market, and agricultural information directly to farmers’ mobile phones, which will help them make informed decisions about their production as well as to plan more effective marketing strategies. It will also improve linkages between farmers and markets to ensure that farmers get the best price for their goods.

Based on learning during this initial phase, the RML service can be further tailored to deliver other information packages, e.g., information on local heritage sites to support responsible tourism and conservation. The impact of the service on the lives of people in the pilot area will be measured regularly.