Farmers face the "Agricultural Imperative" - the challenge of feeding 9 Billion people by the year 2050. This is no easy task. The current methods will not suffice. Nor will romantic approaches that harken back to the pre-Green Revolution era. This challenge requires us to reduce the environmental footprint of industrial agriculture while increasing the efficiency of small landholder farms.
Age old practices passed from generation to generation in remote parts of world hold promise, as do the latest genetic tools in labs. Each context is different and farmers need to be exposed to as many tools as possible so that they can pick the ones that work for them.
The word 'nesara' means the sun in Kannada, a language spoken in India. The sun dictates the seasons. Farmers pay attention to the seasons for cues to till the land, sow the seed, and reap their harvest. Our hope is that they will pay the same amount of attention to the information that we provide here so that, together, we can feed the world and ensure that we can continue to do so perpetually.
I started Nesara right after I graduated from college. It started out as a "helpline" that used WhatsApp to connect farmers in rural India with crop disease specialists. Farmers could send us photos of their diseased crops that we would show to specialists, and then reply back with a diagnosis and treatment measures. I was very young then and, owing to my social sciences training, saw agriculture mostly as an economic sector that housed the most number of workers. I saw Nesara as an opportunity to help farmers at the brink - those who were in dire straits due to pests, diseases or some other form of crop damage. While our efforts were useful to farmers, I began to see it as a fool's errand to try and solve the problems of farmers just by diagnosing plant diseases.
Through massive surveys that we conducted in villages in the Mysore District, we learnt that diseases were only a small part of the "agriculture problem". Farmers were using chemicals indiscriminately, not properly fertilizing their fields, not following proper crop rotation practices etc. Their productivity was low not just because of pests and pathogens. Their productivity was low because almost everything that they were doing was suboptimal. The new generation of farmers were stuck in a weird limbo between following what had been done on their land for centuries or even millenia, and the new Green Revolution practices introduced starting in the 1960s. While both have great value, education is required to combine the ancient practices and new technologies into an integrated system that works for each farmer's particular context.
Nesara's mission is to assist farmers at every step of the crop cycle. Instead of just helping treat diseases, we aim to educate farmers about plants, practices, and products that would help boost their productivity while making sure that their land and environment are sustainably managed. We are working with farmers and scientists from across the world to compile the world's most comprehensive guide to farming. This is not a project that has an end. Farming began 10,000 years ago. It is still evolving.
- Vaishak Kumar