The Choupal is a Hindi word for village square where elders meet to discuss matters of importance. The letter “e” has brought in a computer with an Internet connection for farmers to gather around and interact not just among themselves but with people anywhere in the country and even beyond. ITC installs a computer with solar-charged batteries for power and a VSAT Internet connection in selected villages. The computer’s functioning is free from the usual troubles of power and telecom facilities in rural area. A local farmer called sanchalak (conductor) operates the computer on behalf of ITC, but exclusively for farmers. The e-choupal offers farmers and the village community five distinct services:
Information: Daily weather forecast, price of various crops, e-mails to farmers and ITC officials, news-all this in the local language and free of cost.
Knowledge: Farming methods specific to each crop and region, soil testing, expert advice-mostly sourced from agriculture universities-all for free.
Purchase: Farmers can buy seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and a host of other products and services ranging from cycles and tractors to insurance policies. Over 35 companies have become partners in the e-choupal to sell their products through the network.
Sales: Farmers can sell their crops to the ITC centres or the local market, after checking the prices on the Net.
Development work: NGOs working for cattle breed improvement and water harvesting, and women self-help groups are also reaching villages through e-choupal. In some states farmers can even access their land records online, sitting in their village. Access to health and education services through e-choupal begins next month.
– 5,050 choupals, 29,500 villages, 3.1 million farmers.
– Using e-choupal to source a range of farm produce (foodgrains, oilseeds, coffee, shrimps).
– Marketing a variety of goods and services though e-choupal (agri-inputs, consumer goods, insurance, market research).
– Transactions: $100 m (2003)
– To reach 1,00,000 villages, 10 million farmers by 2010.
– [Plan to] source a larger range of farm produce (spices, vegetables, cotton).
– [Aims to] market a wider variety of goods and services (education, health, entertainment, e-governance)
– Transactions: $2.5 billion (2010)