NICE SSM – Digital consulting to improve the soil quality

In recent years, India has been increasingly affected by climate change. The delayed onset of the monsoon causes a large part of the harvest to dry up on the fields. And when the rains begin, water is pooring down in such quantities that another part of the harvest is destroyed and the fertile soil is washed away. Lower crop yields come with greater insecurity of supply. As a result, the livelihood of many Indians is at risk since 70 percent of the population depends on rainwater-fed agriculture. But it is not only drought that has a negative impact on crop yields. The intensive cultivation of the fields leads to soil depletion. Around 120 million hectares of land are already affected by soil degradation. This is a vicious circle in a country where over 23 percent of the world's starving population lives.  

Sustainable land management is an important approach to strengthening the resilience of small farmers and thus increasing their food security. Digitisation opens up great potential in this context, as around 35 percent of the population in India use the Internet and this figure is rising rapidly. In rural areas, too, many people own an Internet-capable mobile phone. This is where the digital advisory platform NiceSSM comes in. NiceSSM is a network for climate-relevant information and sustainable soil management (SSM). The platform uses weather data, seasonal conditions and soil health parameters to calculate which measures for sustainable soil management are particularly well adapted to the respective location. This information can be accessed via PC or tablets and smartphones. Farmers who have the appropriate IT equipment can access this vital data and the resulting recommendations directly. In addition, experts are also available to provide personalized advice tailored to individual needs via the platform. Farmers thus have access to relevant knowledge and to tailored, comprehensible and timely advice. In this way, they improve the ability to adapt to the impacts of climate change by being able to plan and secure their harvest.  

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Project Spotlight 

The Alada family owns two hectares of land in Mandla in Madhya Pradesh and has been growing vegetables on it for many years. In order to obtain better yields and to be able to react to the consequences of climate change, the family uses the digital consultancy service via NiceSSM. Unlike many families in the countryside, however, the Alada family does not have an Internet-capable device themselves. Through a "Community Resource Person", a trained person from the village with a tablet computer, family Alada can, thanks to NiceSSM, send their questions to trained and registered experts at the universities. This can be done in different formats: by means of photos, videos, text or voice recordings. NiceSSM also offers a translation mode and can translate local languages into Hindi and English. After a short processing time, the family receives an individual advice by an expert that is being passed onby the "Community Resource Person" owning the tablet.

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Digital applications are one of the most important measures to provide farmers with tailor-made quality advice. In accordance with the digital principles for sustainable development, the ICT platform "NICE" developed by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in 2015 is based on open source technologies. In India, the Global Project Soil Protection and Soil Rehabilitation for Food Security and its local partners in the special initiative "One World – No Hunger" has further developed the platform into "NICE for Sustainable Soil Management (NiceSSM)" in order to establish it as an efficient advisory tool. The project aims to protect and sustainably manage 153,000 hectares of land in the project region. NiceSSM has an important role to play here, as the content of the advisory services has a strong focus on sustainable and diversified agricultural approaches. By 2023, NiceSSM is expected to reach over 450,000 farmers. 

NiceSSM is currently being piloted and scaled up in nine Indian states. Thanks to its modular architecture, the platform can be easily adapted and tailored to the needs of the partners. To ensure the sustainable use and further development of the platform, the Global Project Soil Protection and Soil Rehabilitation is cooperating with the Indian National Bank for Rural Development (NABARD), the Ministry of Agriculture and international research institutes. The digital consultancy approach will be institutionalized in the agricultural universities in the federal states in a decentralized fashion.