South Asia

  • Smartphone app helps Nepali farmers

    Bhrikuti Rai

    19/01/15

Speed read

  • Nepali smartphone app links farmers to markets and experts, bypassing middlemen

  • Content is generated from local publications and Kathmandu market centres

  • Digital literacy and web connectivity are challenges for promoting the app

[KATHMANDU] An Android smartphone application offers a convenient way for Nepali farmers to link up to the market and to experts at agriculture extension agencies on a single platform.

Called IFA Krishi Nepal, the app provides information in the Nepali language to farmers about planting crops, livestock disease, weather forecast and market prices, says Sibjan Chaulagain, who co-founded SMILES, the technology developer.

“Farmers can now use this app to go beyond the existing network of middlemen and get the best price,” says Chaulagain.

The app developers initially received a grant of US$8,000 in 2013 to build an SMS-based system to provide agricultural information to farmers. This system later evolved to the IFA Krishi app, first on Google play as a web-only application and now over smartphone.

Information regarding crop disease and fertiliser use can be accessed offline while weather forecast, market enquiry for vegetable prices and reaching experts requires internet connection.

The app generates content from various publications of the National Agriculture Research Centre while market prices are updated through the major agriculture centres of Kathmandu and neighbouring districts.
 
SMILES is also collaborating with the Centre for Environmental and Agricultural Policy Research (CEAPRED), Kathmandu to assist farmers for climate smart village piloting in Kavre district by providing them with market and weather information via SMS and mobile application.
 
Free to download, the app’s developers are looking for revenue options by partnering with agriculture services and online payment service providers to facilitate monetary transaction between different stakeholders in the agricultural sector.
 
The developers admit that reaching the larger farming community is still a challenge since most Nepali farmers do not own smartphones. They say the partnership with CEAPRED helps them inform farmers about the benefits of smartphones and explain the limitations of an SMS based system.
 
Mahabir Pun, who won the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2007 for his project to bring wireless internet to rural Nepal, says farmers need to be digitally literate for apps like IFA Krishi to reach wider farming communities. “Due to intermittent internet services this app in not yet suitable for rural Nepal,” he tells SciDev.Net.

According to Pun, start-ups in conjunction with initiatives from Nepal’s Ministry of Agriculture and in partnership with farmers’ groups could provide a big push for information communication technology in Nepal.

> Link to IFA Krishi Nepal

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South Asia desk.