Resilient agriculture as the basis for poverty alleviation

Sustainable agriculture
Manish Bikram Shah07.12.2023
Around 80 percent of the poorest of the poor around the globe live in rural areas. In many developing countries, food security and progressive rural development face constant challenges. Climate change and other crises are increasingly endangering agricultural production and the food supply. Swisscontact is working around the world for a sustainable, inclusive, and resilient agricultural sector, because this forms the basis for rural development and poverty alleviation.

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.

New approaches to agricultural extension

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.

A Nepalese farmer shows the GeoKrishi app on his mobile phone.

Digitisation of agriculture as an opportunity for everyone

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.

The GeoKrishi app in use

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 GeoKrishi digital platform

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:  

  • Improved access to information and agricultural e-extension services: The platform offers a series of important agricultural information, including daily market prices at 25 market centres across the entire country, 5-day weather forecasts, and daily recommendations for business management, i.e. what, when, and how to do something in order to increase crop yields. Furthermore, tools such as fertilizer calculators provide the recommended quantity, timing, and composition of fertilizers for specific crops in various planting phases. All information is compiled through partnerships with knowledge bases, research organisations, and state-accredited sources.
  • Provision of smart farming solutions: Smart farming solutions are bundled with various agricultural services to offer an integrated solution. Together, the interlinked digital tools along with helpdesk support provide access to a user-friendly and customised web-based digital platform for agriculture.
  • Respond to plant protection questions: Over the past two months alone, 700 farmers have received responses to more than 1,300 questions, which they had submitted as photos and regard plant protection problems, with known and unknown pests and diseases on their fields. The solutions to these problems were provided by experts through the app.

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.

Sustainable agriculture
El Paraíso, Honduras: building partnerships for a sustainable future
In Honduras, farmers are planting a more resilient coffee variety to foster the resilience of their plants and strengthen success in their respective communities.
Sustainable agriculture
Cambodia: teaching farmers sustainable practices
In Cambodia, Swisscontact is teaching farmers in sustainable practices, thanks to which they can improve the health of their soil while earning higher incomes.
Biochar: A key to combating the effects of climate change in Benin
In Benin, the use of biochar is nurturing soil structure and nutrient cycling, which increases rice yields substantially.