Exclusive interview with Ruchinilo Kemp, who developed an app to help farmers

Meet Ruchinilo Kemp, an IIT Guwahati grad from Dimapur, Nagaland. Ruchi recently developed an app to help farmers in Udaipur, Rajasthan to meet the immediate problems they  face every season. There are a lot of problems faced by farmers including the availability of water, proper guidance from experts, the occurrence of pesticides, heavy rainfall that may hamper crop production etc.

I want do not want to bore you with an introduction. Let us hear from Ruchi himself on the problems he has seen with his own eyes and help us understand how this app works and how dependable it actually is.

Here is Ruchinilo Kemp with Mebanaibor Nengnong

TNT. Greetings from TNT. Can I have a brief introduction about you?

RK: I am Ruchinilo Kemp, from Dimapur, Nagaland. If there is one line to describe me, that will be, “Eats everything that moves.” When I completed my masters in Development Studies from IIT Guwahati, I joined the SBI Youth for India fellowship program and am currently working as a fellow.

TNT. You recently developed an app to help farmers, was that your objective of taking up Development studies?

RK: Yes, I have developed an interface where farmers could interact with agricultural experts. But no, it wasn’t my objective for taking Development studies. In the first place, I was on a lookout for some inter-disciplinary program which could equip me with analytical tools and theories to understand public policy, in particular, the idea of development.

TNT. How does this app actually works?

RK: The app is a simple mobile based interface. It can also work offline without network connectivity when information about the farm is being collected. The app has a simple form translated in Hindi or Wagri (local dialect), it can take inputs about the status of the farm, availability of water, occurrence of pest and diseases. Further, photographs and videos along with GPS location of the farm are also taken. Accordingly, after all the required information are being collected, the farmer syncs it wherever there is 2G/3G network. Likewise, the information goes to the cloud and gets updated in the PC server where my team and the experts can view it.

TNT. How did all of this actually come into place? Where did you get such a brilliant idea of developing an app for the benefit of farmers?

RK: I  like to think, altogether it has been a process. Also, my biggest priority for joining this fellowship was to learn, more than to do something. Moreover, I was keen to see things from an ‘emergent perspective,’ in other words, to see the process of interaction between the communities and further beyond with development agencies like Government and NGOs. In this case, working with Seva Mandir through its Natural Resources Management program helped me immensely. I could not only engage with the experts in the NGOs, government and research Institutes but also immerse myself with the community. This platform helped me position myself at the intersection of different stakeholders. I was fortunate to have this niche point, to focus on the interaction and further understand the process. As a result, I could realize that the biggest problem the farmers face is ‘communication.’ Since then, I decided to do something to bridge this information asymmetry.

TNT. Have you named your app?

RK: No, I have not.

TNT. So, Ruchinilo, you must have been traveling extensively to remote areas and you’ve seen worse conditions of farmers, would you say that change your perspective as a youth?

RK: My experience with the marginalized communities in the villages of Kotra Tehsil has been immensely invaluable. More than the project, without an iota of doubt, I could say I am truly at the receiving end. I am hopeful the experience would linger in my memories for many years to come. Of the many things I learnt, the importance of engaging as a youth with issues of development and social welfare has been vital. On this note, it is not only about voicing out opinions and writing commentaries, but also, in the manner youths could actually engage with the community at the ground level and to feel the pulse from the grassroots. Under these circumstances, I am sure the youth can be highly instrumental and be as effective as it should be.

TNT. Living in the age of technology, how dependable is this app?

RK: The power of internet is huge, and one should work together to bridge the digital divide and make it more democratic, in particular, among the marginalized communities. With this in mind, I think the app provides an interface to communicate, likewise, to leverage their voices/knowledge with the global community.

TNT. We’ll just have to wait and see then but it is a very brilliant initiative. However, I have to ask you whether you’re getting any sponsorship while developing the app?

RK: I didn’t seek for sponsorship, also it is not easy to get funding unless you have a start-up which has been working for a while and have prospects of sustainability. I could have looked to crowd funding, but I didn’t do that as well, only because, my plan was to use open source data and work on something that requires no monetary investment. This helped me in great deal, to work with a free hand and do something on trial and error basis.

TNT. A part from all that, you were a college grad from Anthony’s college, how have your life journey been from being an Anthonian to an IIT post-grad to someone who is bringing a change to society?

RK: If I reflect back to my college days, then it feels like it has been a humbling journey. All the more because I have gone through quite a few failures while trying to navigate uncharted careers paths. All in all, I would like to think it has given me confidence, to be radically honest with myself, further, and to have a sense of being endowed.

TNT. What’s in store next? I hope this is not going to end here. Thank you for being a change, kudos to you, may you succeed much more and most importantly may your app help eradicate the problems farmers go through.

RK: Thank you for your words, I am very encouraged whenever, someone asks me, “what’s next’s?” I am reminded of these lines, “It’s too soon to tell,” and that, “Time is a great thickener of things.” On a serious note, I would like to continue my career trajectory in the development sector, also, I am keen on working at the grassroots level. It is not only humane but has also given me a great learning curve.

(By Mebanaibor Nengnong)

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