Ganesh Fartade, a 22-year-old from Gevrai village in Beed, farms on his 8-acre land. His village falls in Maharashtra’s Marathwada region, which is a perennially drought-affected area. It is also a region from where a majority of farmer suicide cases are reported.
Having been born and raised amid such difficult conditions, Ganesh was acutely aware of the issues that the farming community faces. These became even more glaring when he began pursuing a degree in journalism, which gave him more insight into the socio-economic connotations of farmer suicides.
Hence, in 2019, he started creating TikTok videos to motivate farmers and instill a sense of hope in them. In his short videos, he’d recite poems to instill pride and dignity among his community.
However, in June 2020, the social media platform was banned in India, costing him five lakh viewers overnight.
But more than Ganesh, it was his followers who missed the motivation and support the young farmer had been giving to them. He eventually moved to YouTube and launched his channel, Royal Shetkari, which means ‘royal farmer’. Today, he has over one lakh subscribers and an average of eight lakh viewers a month. The social media channel offers content aimed to educate, inform and assist farmers in solving legalities, choosing equipment, and providing guidance on innovative farming techniques.
A mentor for his community
Speaking to The Better India, Ganesh says, “After the government ban on TikTok, my followers remained in touch with me via other social media platforms. Eventually, they insisted I return to other platforms to continue motivating farmers. A month later, I decided to make a comeback.”
However, Ganesh faced difficulty in choosing the right platform. “TikTok had a 30-second video format, but other social media platforms had different aesthetics, and audiences expected specific outcomes from each. I studied all possible avenues and decided to move to YouTube. I changed the format of my content — from instilling pride in the form of poems to educating and informing the community, as YouTube allowed longer videos,” he says.
He adds that in his initial videos, he would educate farmers regarding what equipment to buy, such as choosing a suitable electric motor, as well as help them understand government land records and other legalities. “Many farmers sought guidance in solving land issues in government offices, the process involved, and documents required,” he says.
Ganesh adds that more farmers started giving prompts on topics they wanted to be discussed in the comments section. “The topics started revolving around water conservation, sourcing groundwater, efficient farming practices, and choosing better crops,” he says.
Krushna Yevale, a farmer and subscriber of Royal Shetkari, says, “My family used to grow cotton on our farm, but I did not have much interest in farming. Ganesh motivated me to support my family and on his advice, I have taken up cultivation of millets and sweet lime to add variety to the crops my family grows, as well as to help them boost their income.”
The 21-year-old says that the programmes on the channel are easy to understand, which made him pursue farming and develop his interests in his family’s profession.
‘Never lose your pride’
Watch Ganesh explaining to find water sources in farm
However, Ganesh says that it is not always easy to answer all questions. “There are many aspects that I am unaware of. I then refer to experts or call people who might know about such issues. I also read books and contact agriculture officers. I can solve about 90% of the queries and attempt to address the remaining as much as I can,” he adds.
Ganesh will complete his post-graduation in 2021, and aims to create a farmers’ organisation involving agriculture officers and experts from the field. “I am planning to bring experts on the channel for talks and live sessions. But the organisation will allow for easy access to agriculture officers and resolve various related issues,” he adds.
On a parting note, Ganesh says, “A farmer should never feel depressed or unmotivated. He feeds the citizens of the country, and there cannot be a better deed or a bigger pride than it.”
Edited by Divya Sethu