आषाढ़ २१, २०७९  |  Tejas Nenneman ( Minnesota, USA )
From planting the very first seed to transporting their crops to the market, Nepali farmers must make tough decisions that directly affect their financial future. Traditional methods of growing crops are still used, even though scientifically proven methods that yield more produce are available. Getting rid of traditional methods of farming, however, is very difficult. These methods have been passed down from generation to generation. Breaking the cycle isn’t an easy task, with most farmers practicing subsistence or small-scale commercial farming. Farmers may not trust a new process that would increase crop production when they’ve never implemented it before. Digital illiteracy without a specific, localized context remains a large culprit for Nepali farmers unable to access, and use digital platforms. The technology exists, but there’s still a gap between what farmers know, and what farmers understand without the specific context available. Irrigation is another barrier that Nepali farmers must overcome. Only 40% of Nepali farmers have proper irrigation in place according to the Government of Nepal. Irrigation is difficult in hilly terrains and expensive where it is possible. As a result, most farmers depend on rain-fed irrigation. These challenges including inadequate access to input supplies such as seed and fertilizer compromise productivity and therefore farmer income. Moreover, climate change remains an ever-encroaching problem, as weather patterns become increasingly erratic, farmers must use technology to adapt and survive in the 21st century.
Many organizations are working to bridge the information and technology gap between farmers and connect them with experts in the field. The solutions may not be perfect, but they have helped many farmers get the information they need, and share it with members of their community. Helping bridge the gap between farmers, and the respective knowledge that they need is critical for the development of the agriculture industry. Information, Communication, and Technology, or ICT for short. Access to ICT helps farmers access timely, relevant information to optimize productivity. It is the future of farming. Through digital platforms, farmers can get information that matters to them, in languages that they can understand. They can learn about best management practices based on the weather forecast for the week or get information on new varieties, tools, and technologies. Need information on how much fertilizer you need for your field? Apps provide fertilizer calculators that farmers can use to arrange and manage the required dose per crop recommendation. Smart farming even helps farmers before the crops are planted. By looking at the price of crops brought to market during previous years, they bring their crops to market and then sell them at the time when it’s most profitable for them. Smart farming is the future of farming, and in the case of Nepal, it can provide farmers with much-needed assistance due to the ever-encroaching state of climate change. Smart Farming is no panacea however, there are still many problems such as expanding the reach of platforms, ensuring localized information, and improving user-friendly interfaces. ICT is a broad field that needs to be contextualized and provided in an accessible way for farmers to not only use the technology but also increase the adoption of strategies for the future.
GeoKrishi is a digital platform dedicated to helping bridge the gap between farmers and access to information and has already started to iron out many of the problems that farmers have in accessing and understanding digital technology. Geokrishi Farm, an app that Nepali farmers use, creates an interface where smallholder farmers can access essential information on input supplies as well as post-harvest practices from agriculture experts. It carefully categorizes diverse aspects necessary for farmers to utilize technology effectively to farm better. Farmers have a selection of ways to access the app; not only with text and audio but also with curated information through illustrations and videos of specific solutions for farmers. GeoKrishi assists farmers by giving them a digital diary that helps farmers manage digital records of crops and their expenses like seeds, labor, and material. When farmers are having problems with crop diseases, pests, or because of an unknown problem, they’ll be able to take pictures that will be sent to an expert on GeoKrishi EXT who will then diagnose the problem and give the farmer the necessary tools to solve the problem. The approach that GeoKrishi is taking is specific, but also dynamic, and adapts to the ever-evolving and changing problems that farmers are going through. Furthermore, every Friday, GeoKrishi has experts present on certain topics like livestock and crop health, and other difficulties that farmers may have. After the initial presentation, farmers will then be able to ask certain questions related to their problems with livestock or crops. In addition, GeoKrishi helps farmers adapt to an ever-changing world by enabling in-person interactions for farmers that don’t have access to the internet. E-Chautari is one such approach that provides services to those that don’t have access to the internet and smartphones through moderated discussions based on the content in GeoKrishi where a group of farmers from an area meets and listens to advice from technicians and experts. At the same time, they can ask questions that are specific to their problems. As stated before, irrigation remains a problem for many farmers, especially since the weather is becoming increasingly unpredictable. In response, GeoKrishi is helping farmers by disseminating information related to underground wells, which helps farmers collect the water that falls during rainfall. Solar pumps are another solution to the irrigation problem and are well suited to the plains areas in Nepal, but are capital intensive. Solar pumps use energy from the sun to pump out water from its source. Through cooperatives, farmers are able to pool their money together and buy solar pumps, which would otherwise be very expensive for a single smallholder farmer to buy. GeoKrishi makes information available so such decisions can be made.
GeoKrishi also has programs for the younger generation of farmers. Incubation Centers help the younger generation get involved in the agricultural sector and provide them with skills and tools to improve incomes. Not all of the problems that farmers face in the field will be solved, but by helping bridge the gap between farmers and ICT technology, the future of farming looks bright in Nepal.
Irrigation in Nepal (40% statistic)
Department of Water Resources and Irrigation Ministry of Energy, Water Resources, and Irrigation Government of Nepal. 2019.
प्रकाशित : आषाढ़ २१, २०७९