What do you associate memes with? The first few words that come to my mind are comedy and satire. But 24-year-old Santhosh, an agriculturalist, uses them to inform farmers about various techniques and tips that will benefit their practice. This meme-crusader comes from a farming family, and is armed with a B.SC in agriculture from Annamalai University, Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu. Santosh is capitalising on the popularity of memes, by using them to educate people.
Santosh is capitalising on the cultural currency of memes, and using it to make a difference in society.
While studying, he was frequently asked on Facebook about certain agricultural practices, and that is when he understood the utility of social media. While he was able to help a small community, he and his peers realised that larger sections of society would benefit from the dissemination of such information. Seeing the e-popularity and reach of memes, Santhosh and two of his friends, Prakash Thangavel and Mahim Antony, created ‘Learn Agriculture’, a page on Facebook dedicated to promoting sustainable farming. In a month the page had more than 70,000 subscribers and is an active forum for queries related to agriculture.
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“People forward memes much more than just plain text posts. But it was frustrating to see so many memes just mocking society; that prompted me to use them better. Why not use this powerful medium to send socially relevant, and useful messages,” he says.
‘Learn Agriculture’ is perhaps the first page where memes guide farmers on sustainable agriculture, providing better cropping techniques, dispelling myths, and all of this while entertaining their audience too. “More than the likes we get, we get a lot more questions on the page. People keep asking us for solutions to their problems, and we reach out to them offline too,” he adds.
Santosh also runs another popular Facebook group called Azhvar Memes, which encourages organic and traditional farming techniques.“It is the way our forefathers tilled the land, achieving good yields and maintaining the soil’s quality without chemicals,” he says.
Santosh’s aim is to start an organic farm, more than just the commercial viability, he wants to prove the effectiveness of the method too. “I come from an agricultural family. My grandfather and uncles still farm, but even they follow chemical methods. I have told them about the benefits of organic farming, but they will not change their methods as they are used to chemical inputs. Until I am able to demonstrate the effectiveness of our methods, things won’t change. Which is why we are scouting for land now to start the farm,” Santosh elaborates.
To connect with Santhosh and stay updated you can join his Facebook pages ‘Learn Agriculture’ and ‘Azhvar’.