Innovate Keeping the Farmer at the Centre: Sowmya Kidambi’s Message to Agritech Entrepreneurs

September 2021

The Cisco Agri Challenge was conceptualised with the vision of triggering innovations that can visibly and significantly change the lives of the small and marginalised farmers for the better- a vision that has guided decision making at every stage of the challenge. As the teams gear up for the end of the Semi-Finalist Phase, the program team invited Sowmya Kidambi, Director, Society for Social Audit, Accountability and Transparency, Government of Telangana, to place emphasis on the power and responsibility of social enterprises to design technology and innovation keeping the farmer at the centre. In her hour-long interaction, Sowmya dug deep into her years of experience of working with and for farmers to share some of her biggest learnings.

Sowmya shared that an imagery that never ceases to tug at her heartstrings is that a farmer who is a landowner and ensures that we have food on our plate is forced to become a labourer during the non-agricultural season simply because of the fact that the number of hours spent labouring in the field doesn’t translate into an income that can guarantee food on the plate for the family. Additionally, while farmers' voices usually go unheard, even when we do hear their voices, they are the voices of the large farmholders and the small and marginalised farmer is almost always invisible. Therefore, "we as a nation owe it to them to ensure they get a better deal," she said.

And for social enterprises working towards ensuring that the farmer gets a better deal, she believes that it is important to treat the farmer as not just a consumer but also a patner- a partner who supports and plays an important role in influencing what goes into the product. This becomes especially important for organisations once they grow big, according to Sowmya. In closing, while wishing the teams all the success, she urged the teams to plough back into the agriculture ecosystem as they grow and make it big. After all, in her own words, 'an equitable society does not just take but also gives back.'