Agriculture, with the majority of the rural population in developing countries depending on it, is an important sector. According to a recent study by the UNDP, the potential of agricultural growth in reducing poverty is four times greater than the potential of growth from any other sector. Nepal is a country where 66% of the population are dependent on agriculture and yet, agro-products contribute to a mere 39% in GDP (Source: DOA website). What could be the cause for this bleak statistic? Labor drain; which could be identified as one of the major contributing causes it is a result of agriculture being unprofitable due to various reasons, but probably the greater cause of the situation is the inaccessibility of timely and good information related to healthy farming by the greater population of Nepal.
In developing countries in particular, facilitating the youth cohort’s participation in agriculture has the potential to check the widespread rural poverty among youths and adults alike. While these challenges are complex and interwoven, a number of key conclusions can be drawn from the case studies: ensuring that youth have access to the right information is crucial; modern information and communications technologies offer great potential. Indeed, a coordinated response to increasing youth’s involvement in the agricultural sector is more important than ever, as a rising global population and decreasing agricultural productivity gain mean that youth must play a pivotal role in ensuring a food-secure future for themselves, and for future generations.
The growing demand for agricultural products, however, also offers opportunities for producers to sustain and improve their livelihoods. Information and communication technologies (ICT) play an important role in addressing these challenges and uplifting the livelihoods of the rural poor.
The most obvious and cross-cutting way that ICT can improve agriculture is by improving access to information and making it less costly to obtain and adopt. In many rural areas, the arrival of mobile coverage is a radical change in the nature of the information ecosystem. Although simply having more information is not sufficient to make advantageous decisions (other resources may be needed), it is a necessary step toward equal access to knowledge.
Agriculture is a field that demands accuracy. A seed will only be suitable for a certain type of climate and a certain type of soil; it will only go well with a certain type of fertilizer and will have a specific time period for pesticides. There are also times of dilemma. For example, sometimes mushrooms take 21 days to sprout and at other times it takes even longer, causing the farmers plans to go astray. Platform for sharing information and addressing queries could be beneficial to clear such confusions.
The role of ICT to enhance food security and support rural livelihoods is increasingly recognized which includes the use of computers, internet, GIS, mobile phones, as well as traditional media such as radio or TV. Although it is a relatively new phenomenon, evidence of the contribution of ICT to agricultural development and poverty alleviation is becoming increasingly available.The trend of using mobiles for exchanging and sharing information on farming began with the practice of sending and receiving text messages. Some government offices are already using SMS based information sharing platforms on their network. The SMS platform is efficient as, short messages, mobile application can be used to get/share large quantities of agro-information in a low cost. With network (voice and data) coverage of more than 90% across the country and smartphones are getting cheaper, we can expect more smartphone penetration among farmers (according totelecom providers, currently there are almost 4.5 million smartphone users in Nepal)
Project for Agriculture Commercialization and Trade (PACT) and Agriculture Management Information System (AMIS), under the MoAD, among other governmental organizations, are working to increase the access of farmers to mobile applications. PACT has recently developed three different kinds of apps which allow field verification of sub-projects, monitoring and checking details of subsidized sub-projects via GPS in mobiles.
Agricultural apps like “Smart Krishi”, “KrishiGhar” and IFA Krishi are some of privately initiated projects for sharing information about farming technologies, livestock, pest, weather, market price and even interaction with prospective buyers. The most trending application with a considerable pool of information, Smart Krishi alone hauled in more than 7,500 users in the first 6 months of its launch. Smart Krishi has made it easier to get into agro-entrepreneurship by providing every relevant genuine information (from initial planning to post harvesting/storage techniques) about professional farming for free of cost.
Sharing information could solve a lot of issues for people involved in agriculture. The main advantage of ICT tools for agriculture is that we can reach targeted customers in a matter of minutes which is not quite possible with print media or any other sources. Today, when genuine agro information is a mere fingertip away, why not use it?
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