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Going digital to enhance the agricultural value chain

Going digital to enhance the agricultural value chain
Photo credit: Radip Tandukar, GeoKrishi

 

One of the key dimensions of the Resilient Mountain Solutions (RMS) framework underlines the importance of digital services and financial safety in order to support the long-term resilience of communities and the sustainability of the Resilient Mountain Village (RMV) approach. The RMS framework emphasizes four aspects of this: accelerating digital solutions using data-driven agriculture development; supporting collaboration and better-informed planning and decision-making among the implementing partners; enabling ICT-based agricultural extension services to farmers; and connecting actors across the value chain.

Over half of the population in the HKH region is dependent on small-scale agricultural, dairy, and other local products for their livelihoods. However, extension services to smallholders in the HKH is limited by many factors, including accessibility, especially in remote areas. Therefore, digital technologies offer a great opportunity to improve the delivery of extension services and market information; these technologies can also connect the value-chain actors, develop entrepreneurship, and promote business services which can ultimately foster both social and economic assets to build resilience.

Our RMS Initiative – in collaboration with GeoKrishi and Pathway Technologies and Services Pvt. Ltd, and in coordination with the RMS implementing partner, CEAPRED – has customized a digital agriculture system and is working at the municipal level to operationalize advisory services locally. Starting with Nepal, RMS is currently supporting the Namobuddha Municipality of Kavre District to establish a Municipal Agriculture Information Centre that can offer digital services to farmers. In line with the local government’s strategy, a web-based agriculture information platform has been developed for the Namobuddha Municipality. Some of the key features of the platform include: a farm management system that consists of field maps, production plans, soil test results, and a mechanism to monitor farmer’s daily activities; an agriculture advisory system that consists of crop schedule, weather information, and market information; and a decision-support system that consists of online mapping features, market analytics, and business plans. GeoKrishi has also developed a mobile app for the farmers which provides offline cropping schedule, crop advisories, market information, weather information, and business plans – all to capacitate the farmers and enhance agriculture development at the local level.

Furthermore, RMS has also partnered with the SAARC Business Association of Home Based Workers, Nepal (SABAH Nepal) to develop and strengthen farm-to-market value chains in Kavre district, where women are the chief nodal actors. SABAH’s engagement mainly focuses on the development of resilient entrepreneurship by strengthening existing processing systems through value addition (of vegetables, fruits, and dairy products), packaging, and developing market linkages in order to develop a sustainable business model. It also supports the capacity development of farmers and cooperatives; strengthens institutional functions, women’s entrepreneurship, and enterprise development; and provides access to market safety nets and finances – all of which have helped improve livelihoods and built the resilience of smallholder farmers. In light of COVID-19, SABAH also helped farmers to diversify their income and move from being dependent on farm to off-farm activities, such as knitting and sewing personal protective equipment. SABAH’s online marketing portal and alliances with several digital marketing platforms and online payment services have also helped to strengthen the farmers’ linkages to local, national, and international markets.

Based on the experiences in Nepal, RMS now plans to expand its digital services and value-chain support to other countries, particularly Bhutan and Myanmar. The aim is to develop a regional digital services platform and eventually support governments and the private sector in the HKH region to provide better services to smallholders and connect them to regional trade networks.