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HVAP eAgriculture in Surkhet – Arming farmers with technology

Display Date: 2/23/14

किसन अब खाली हिलो र माटोमा खेल्ने मान्छे हैन / A farmer is no longer just a person who plays in the mud - Hari Gurung, Senior Agriculture Officer, HVAP

The pilot phase of the HVAP eAgriculture Initiative was commenced in Surkhet on Sunday, February 9, with technical support from Grameen-Intel Social Business Ltd (GISB), and facilitated by IFAD.

The initiative began with a five-day training designed towards introducing information and communication technology (ICT) as a promising way to help farmers make smart use of the limited resources available to maximise productivity and profits.

The eAgro Suite

The technologies on offer were four computer software applications – ānkur, mrittikā, protikār and vistār– developed by Grameen-Intel Social Business Ltd, a company formed as a joint collaboration between Intel Corp and Grameen Trust. With the intention of allowing rural entrepreneurs to provide improved agriculture extension services in their local communities, the applications are designed to generate detailed recommendations on fertilizers (mrittikā), seeds (ānkur), pest and disease control (protikār), and finally, marketing strategies (vistār).

Eight participants from four agricultural cooperatives and groups were selected as the first local service providers (LSPs) of these technologies, and were trained on various aspects of eAgriculture such as software use and management, soil testing, as well as business management. Also among the participants were various government officials, including senior soil scientists from both regional and national level soil management institutions of the Government of Nepal.

The Benefits

These applications have been tested in Bangladesh and India, and have been found to have immense benefits in improved productivity and farm incomes. The applications allow the multitude of local smallholders to be connected to the rest of the agriculture chain, learn about the best practices, and access reliable input supplies such as quality seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. Further, the improved connectivity also allows farmers to pursue better bargains by transacting with multiple buyers. According to recent reports, the fertilizer recommendation software, mrittikā, can help double the yield of winter crops - link to article.

Based on local information input into the system – such as land type, size, season, irrigation, soil characteristics through soil tests, and others – the software applications help farmers identify the best type, optimum amount and appropriate method of using fertilisers, seeds and pesticides. As a result, farmers can not only maximise productivity, but also reduce costs by minimising wastage.     

Further, such technology can also help change the out-dated definition of what it means to be a ‘farmer.’ Senior Agriculture Officer at HVAP, Hari Gurung, stressed that the farmers of today must take big leaps, and that computers and such applications can play an immense role in their upliftment. Also important to recognise is that the use of modern technologies in agriculture can also attract youths into the fields, and prevent the migration of valuable human resource.

However, according to Srinivas Garudachar, Director of Strategic Business Development at GISB,the technologies on offer are not limited to agriculture, but extend to enabling rural development as a whole. Improved productivity and income provide poor households with the opportunity to afford and realise other unmet needs such as better food, education, sanitation, and transport. Empowered by information and communication technologies that create a path of information across villages, districts and nations, rural entrepreneurs can venture into various development activities lacking their in communities, and further, make a living out of providing the much needed services.

Validity in Nepal

Given the technologies on offer are new and previously untested in Nepal, questions on validity are only logical - “Does it provide accurate results in the context of Nepal?” To tackle these very questions, experienced soil scientists were purposefully invited to test and verify the outputs of the eAgro Suite. And after calculating and comparing the recommendations provided by the software to that of the government’s own agriculture guide, Senior Soil Scientist at the Soil Management Directorate, Dr. Chandra Risal, gave a hearty thumbs-up.

Next Steps

While the ice has been broken, much more work still remains. For accurate results, the four software applications depend heavily on the localised information and data, related to regional ecology and seeds/fertilisers available, input into the system by local agriculture experts. The applications also depend a great deal on the accuracy of soil test results carried out by the LSPs. In addition, the applications must be designed to support organic farming, and must also be available in Nepali Language.

HVAP, with support from the Soil Management Directorate and the Regional Soil Lab in Surkhet, has accepted these challenges as a responsibility. After further refining the four software applications for local use and studying its effectiveness for at least one crop cycle, the initiative will be scaled-up to other districts.

Image Gallery - IFAD Nepal Kurakani

News article – “e-Agriculture project boon to Surkhet farmers

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