AN APP THAT HELPS FARMERS WITH WEATHER AND PREVAILING PRICES
Nepal has always been an agricultural country despite dotted with hills and mountains. Although the geography meant that farming would always be difficult and produce limited, still 66% of the population still making a living through the same, even today. With so much human resource directed towards agriculture, why are farmers still struggling to get sufficient yield for themselves? Why are we still dependent on foreign nations for produce that we grow? Sibjan Chaulagain, one of the founders of ICT for Agriculture, says, ‘That is because farmers in Nepal are still dependant on the traditional way of farming. Advances in technology haven’t touched their professions yet. Farmers are still poor – due to the increasing number of middlemen and a lack of access to technology.’
One of the 10 companies from the third batch of Rockstart Impact, ICT for Agriculture runs IFA Krishi App, an application platform that empowers famers by providing them with localized 3-day weather forecast, agro advisory, and market price information. Sibjan is an engineering graduate and has been advocating the use of ICT in rural areas of Nepal since 2009. He recalls moving back to his village in Sindhuli right after he graduated. ‘I am a big fan of Mahabir Pun and started teaching and installing computer in 4 districts surrounding Sindhuli. On days when I was free, I helped my parents with their farm and realized how difficult it was. With Nepal’s unpredictable weather and the middlemen taking charge of selling the produce, my parents never had profits and were just limited to making a living on the edge, even after working very hard. After witnessing their struggles, I thought of helping the farmers in every way I could. In 2012, IFA Krish App was introduced and there has been no looking back for us since then.’
Khop Narayan Malla joined Sibjan in the revolution that they aimed for in the agriculture sector. The duo realized while on the field, doing surveys amidst farmers, that in spite of the information being available, it never reached the farmers. With almost 27.07 million mobile subscribers in Nepal, ICT for Agriculture saw a big market opportunity for themselves. The aim was to disseminate information about making farming more productive along with a 3-day weather forecast and market rates for cash crops and vegetables to eliminate the middlemen. So far, ICT for Agriculture has its reach in 12 districts and have over 8000 subscribers. ‘We do not expect all farmers to have a smart phone who can download our app. They can, however, they can retrieve the information through various SMS code oriented messages to get information about the weather forecast and the market prices. We also get on demand enquiries that are answered through the network of technicians that we have,’ shares Khop Narayan. ‘We often get calls from farmers who want market prices for various vegetables which makes us feel that we are helping them have a fair price for their produce.’ ICT for Agriculture has plans of collaborating with a telecom company to launch farmers’ phone which will offer mobile data and apps at a nominal cost.
When asked about their participation in Rockstart Impact, Sibjan shares, ‘In the past year the number of accelerator programs has multiplied. Participating in Rockstart Impact is important to us since it is taking us in the right direction and helping us understand the beauty of running our business better. We hope that we will be successful in raising an investment which will be used for transportation, training, trader incentive, publication and marketing, weather licensing and platform upgrade, besides developing our offering further.’
First published in The Himalayan Times, 08.01.2017