WhatsApp has become the way India communicates, and people are using it not only to share jokes and videos. In Bharat, WhatsApp has become the medium of choice for people to mobilise community support and to run knowledge-sharing groups that help farmers manage their cattle’s health and improve cultivation.
Cattle-rearers across rural India are particularly benefitting from this free flow of expertise and information. These WhatsApp communities share tips and best practices in cattle rearing and veterinary experts help diagnose the health condition and diseases of cattle remotely by looking at an animal’s photograph.
Farmers’ WhatsApp groups share tips and best practices in cattle rearing and veterinary experts help diagnose the health condition and diseases of cattle remotely by looking at an animal’s photograph
Sudesh Dass, a dairy farmer from Uttar Pradesh, said whenever he notices anything abnormal in the behaviour of his cattle, he clicks a photograph and posts it on a WhatsApp farmers’ group he’s a member of. The doctors and farmers in the group use their experience and come up with solutions to problems instantly.
Narender Kumar, a farmer from Panipat, Haryana, and owner of Golu Dairy, has been rearing buffaloes for more than a 15 years. Earlier, if any of his cattle need veterinary care, he would have to travel long distances to the nearest clinic. Now, all the information and help he needs is at his fingertips. He too draws on his long years of experience to educate and alert other farmers about cattle diseases, share preemptive measures, recommend vaccination schedules, and help with remedies for cattle-rearing problems.
Manish Verma, a dairy farmer from Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur district and the admin of a WhatsApp group with 208 members, cited an instance where a farmer benefitted from the platform. Recently, a farmer posted on the group that his buffalo had contracted a disease called mastitis. A veterinary expert advised him to change the milking method and told him some preventive measures he could implement in the cowshed to check the disease.
Verma said most cattle-rearers have similar queries, revolving around the foot-and-mouth disease (the most common cattle ailment in India), problems related to season change and day-to-day management of the animals.
Take your pick of WhatsApp groups
There are many popular WhatsApp groups for farmers and cattle-rearers across the rural belt with members ranging from 100 to over 200.
One such popular group is ‘India Dairy Farmers’, started by one Anand Vajpayee of Indore, who has more than 50 buffaloes. The admin of the group is one Sarvoday Patidar, a 25-year-old engineer-turned-dairy farmer based in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh. Besides some veterinary doctors, it comprises 200 cattle-rearers from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. While some are large dairy farm owners, many operate at medium and small scale.
The ‘India Dairy Farmers’ WhatsApp group has some veterinary doctors and over 200 cattle-rearers from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. While some are large dairy farm owners, many operate at medium and small scale
Patidar himself has benefitted from the group. The young farmer once wanted to buy a high-yield variety of buffalo from Uttar Pradesh. He hadn’t seen the animal and wanted other farmers’ opinion before paying the advance money. He shared its photos on a WhatsApp group, where members confirmed he was making the right decision. He bought the buffalo and is happy with its yield.
Having seen the potential of WhatsApp in helping the community, Patidar started a WhatsApp group called ‘Dairy Farmers’ in January 2016.
Then there’s another group called the ‘Horticulture group’ comprising 206 members started by a veterinary doctor in August 2016. Another group, formed in July 2016, goes by the name ‘Pasu Palan Sambandit Jankari’ (information related to cattle rearing) and has 104 members.
The importance of these information-sharing groups lies in their impact. Dr Rajinder Singh Bhar, a senior extension specialist with Lala Lajpat Rai University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Haryana, said the government has been encouraging farmers to keep in touch with each other and government agencies, veterinary universities and that WhatsApp has made this task easy.
He added that rearers have reported improvement in the health and yield of animals after they were encouraged to pay attention to cattle feed to counter seasonal stress. Since this intervention is bearing fruit, Dr Bhar said they have been sharing tips and tricks in these WhatsApp groups. These groups are also helpful in disseminating information about new and revolutionary scientific practices in dairy management.
Dr Santosh Rathod, a Rajasthan-based veterinary expert and a member of the ‘Horticulture Group’ said being privy to the rearers’ conversations enables doctors stay up to date with their issues
Apart from cattle-rearers, veterinary doctors also benefit from the groups. Dr Santosh Rathod, a Rajasthan-based veterinary expert and a member of the ‘Horticulture Group’ said being privy to the rearers’ conversations enables doctors stay up to date with their issues.
This is all thanks to the falling prices of smartphones, increasing penetration and decreasing cost of mobile internet and the popularity of WhatsApp (more than 20 crore users in India). And farmers of India are surely making the most of it by networking with each other.
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Lead visual: Angela Anthony Pereira The ‘Tech Meets Bharat’ series brings to you stories on how technology is impacting and changing lives in hinterland India. Sat Singh is a Rohtak, Haryana-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.