The challenges before Indian Agriculture are immense. This sector needs to grow at a faster rate than in the past to allow for higher per capita income and consumption. It is an accepted fact that the sound agricultural development is essential for the overall economic progress. About two thirds of workforce directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture. This sector generates about 28 percent of its GDP and over 15 percent of exports. Rising consumer prosperity and the search by farmers for higher incomes will simultaneously drive crop diversification. Export opportunities for agricultural products are also expected to continue to grow, provided India could meet the stability, quality and presentation standards demanded by foreign trade and consumers and maintain its comparative advantage as a relatively low cost producer.
Given its range of agro-ecological setting and producers, Indian Agriculture is faced with a great diversity of needs, opportunities and prospects. The well endowed irrigated areas which account for 37 percent of the country's cultivated land currently contribute about 55 percent of agricultural production, whereas, rainfed agriculture which covers 63 percent accounts for only 45 percent of agricultural production. In these less favorable areas, yields are not only low but also highly unstable and technology transfer gaps are much wider as compared to those in irrigated areas.
If it is to respond successfully to these challenges, greater attention will have to be paid to information-based technologies. Strengthened means of dissemination will be needed to transmit this information to farmers. Both technology generation and transfer will have to focus more strongly than ever before on the themes of optimization in the management of their available resources by producers, sustainability, coping with diversity by adapting technology more specifically to agro-ecological or social circumstances and raising the economic efficiency of agriculture. To make information transfer more effective, greater use will need to be made of modern information technology and communication among researchers, extensionists and farmers.
Public extension system requires a paradigm shift from top-down, blanket dissemination of technological packages, towards providing producers with the knowledge and understanding with which they solve their own location - specific problems. Continuous two-way interaction among the farmers and agricultural scientists is the most critical component of Agricultural Extension.
At present, the issues have been addressed by the Extension Systems of State Departments of Agriculture, State Agricultural Universities (SAUs), KVKs, NGOs, Private Extension Services through various extension approaches in transfer of technology. A limitation in Transfer of Technology (TOT) model continues to remain a challenge for the public and private extension systems. With the availability of telephone and Internet, it is now possible to bridge this gap to quite a large extent by using an appropriate mix of technologies.
The Department of Agriculture & Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India has launched Kisan Call Centers with a view to leverage the extensive telecom infrastructure in the country to deliver extension services to the farming community. The purpose of these Call Centers is mainly to respond to issues raised by farmers instantly in the local language, on continuous basis.