Sustainable agriculture uses techniques and methods that are oriented towards nature in order to maintain soil fertility, prevent contamination of groundwater, and protect biodiversity. However, sustainable agriculture is also an important means for achieving global objectives, such as sustainable development and reducing hunger. In emerging economies such as Nepal, where over 85% of cultivators are smallholder farmers, sustainable agriculture is even more important. Sustainable agricultural practices are essential for food security, because agricultural production must be increased in order to feed a growing population. Particularly in light of rapid urbanization and the limited availability of agricultural land, it is important to find solutions to maximize crop yields on the land that is available without however exhausting the soil and causing long-term environmental damage as a consequence.
For this reason, it is essential to increase crop yields in order to reduce food insecurity while using environmental resources sparingly. However, farmers cannot be sensitised and informed through traditional extension practices, because only 15 percent of them are able to access state extension services. Through increasing adoption of new technologies in rural areas and high coverage of telecoms services in nearly every corner of the country, much of this extension work can be performed with IT and communications technologies that connect more smallholder farmers to the global information hub than ever before.
The CASA programme (Commercial Agriculture for Smallholders and Agribusiness) in Nepal, implemented since 2019 by Swisscontact on behalf of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), views digital technologies as opportunities for local agriculture to transition from subsistence to commercial practices. In late 2020, Swisscontact partnered with Pathway Technologies Pvt. Ltd. to test their “GeoKrishi” agricultural technology. GeoKrishi is a mobile, web-based platform helping many companies, which include farmers, to make better decisions and enhance their operational efficiency.
Technology and digital tools, such as localized and customised information delivered via mobile app or web-based applications, help farmers to select the proper plants and to apply more precise amounts of water, fertilizer, or other agricultural implements, which in turn increases productivity, yields, and quality. Based on partnerships with agricultural cooperatives and local services providers, a business model was developed that enables smallholder farmers to access these important services.
Additionally, this digital platform supports cooperatives to make assessments in various areas, such as resource mapping and development of a digital agriculture framework, in order to improve access to information and markets, monitor and manage agricultural businesses, and to link actors within the value chain with a common digital platform. This network-based complementary approach opens up possibilities and opportunities for smallholder farmers.
The platform renders information and knowledge transfer in agriculture more efficient by fostering interaction among researchers, extension agents, farmers, agricultural organisations, market actors, and other interest groups through the following:
The digital platform, available as an app, has been downloaded by more than 130,000 people.
In this newsletter, Swisscontact highlights numerous projects in different regions of the world that all have one thing in common: they are undertaking all efforts to standardize sustainable agriculture with various methods, establishing economic, social, and ecological sustainability of value chains as a prerequisite.