Two friends from Sangli’s Vita village are using YouTube to empower farmers by presenting easy hacks to intimidating problems
YouTube creators Akash and Santosh enjoy a meal on their farm in Vita village, Sangli district, Maharashtra
In the early 1990s, a TV series on farmers aired on Doordarshan. Amchi Mati Amchi Manasa (Our land, our people) became an iconic show that highlighted the lives of farmers from different parts of Maharashtra as they shared the difficulties they faced every day at work. Its ‘gappa-goshti’ segment was this writer’s favourite, where newer techniques adopted to boost yield became the focus of discussion. Almost three decades later, a similar idea is empowering the shetkaris of India.
Indian Farmer is a YouTube channel that childhood friends Akash Jadhav, 26, and Santosh Jadhav, 27, launched in 2018. Hailing from a small village in Vita, Sangli district of Maharashtra, the duo had grown up observing agricultural activities in the vicinity. Since Santosh came from a family of farmers, he was certain that he would make a career of it one day. “For generations, we have farmed on an 11-acre land, where we grow sugarcane, capsicum, tomato, all kinds of home vegetables, mango and pomegranate,” says Santosh, who dropped out of academics before he could graduate.
Santosh Jadhav and Akash Jadhav
Akash, on the other hand, decided to pursue mechanical engineering from a Kolhapur institute. After he graduated in 2017, he felt the need to return home. A common dream to help their own lot progress saw the friends collaborate to revive the Doordarshan concept, but in the guise of a modern YouTube channel. “Due to a lack of tech know-how and agility, farmers here fail to understand the supply chain, the management of produce, its marketing and value. They invest too much, but don’t earn enough. One might think that they would have become modern by now, but they are struggling to make a living,” Akash says.
The pair is trying to change matters by creating snappy solution videos. One thousand episodes later, they have a subscriber base of 1.63 million.
Every episode is shot on their own farm, where Akash and Santosh display their solution-based approach and vision. “Farmers in Vita grow grapes in abundance, but there isn’t one specific crop that they focus on. So, our shows talk about tech that can be used for a variety of crops. Universities tend to do a lot of research and come up with modern solutions, but their ideas don’t reach the grassroots. We are trying to bridge this gap,” Santosh explains.
Akash says that in India, agricultural techniques differ from farm to farm. “Due to the change in weather and land quality, every 10 km, you will see change in farming practices. So, every individual’s problems are different. Irrigation, for instance, is the soul of farming. However, not many know how to use hi-tech irrigation efficiently.”
The show’s ‘jugaad’ segment is the most popular. It offers easy hacks to young farmers. “There are a variety of drip irrigation options available today, which are cost-effective as well as efficient. A lot of farmers discard the drip after it becomes defunct. What they don’t know is that drip can be cleaned at regular intervals to last a lifetime. We showed them how this can be done. We also conduct reviews of farming equipment, including of new tractors,” Santosh adds.
With more than 60 per cent of the country working in agriculture, the friends think it’s critical that the country’s youth get interested, and better still, make a career of it. “We speak to both, the young and old farmer, and receive feedback from 19 to 60-year-olds. One young man wrote to us recently to say how he had benefitted from watching our tomato farming videos and has made a healthy earning within a year. It made us happy,” Akash smiles.
Recently, the duo featured in YouTube Originals’ Creator Spotlight, which is the global video giant’s mini-documentary programme that captures and celebrates the stories of YouTube creators who are pushing boundaries. While Santosh and Akash are working towards upgrading their production scale and quality, they’re also developing content that will be valuable and relevant in the future—Indian Farmer might well release a specialised, long-form series in time. They’re also looking at building a farmer’s community that’ll help each other through knowledge, network and experience. They hope this community enables its members to better interact with government bodies, as well as international and national trading organisations. “It is time the farmer became the businessman.”