Digital information for technology transfer in agriculture among smallholder farmers underserved by agriculture extension services in rural Nepal, Krishna Pant
Krishna Prasad Pant
Visiting Faculty, Agriculture and Environmental Economics, School of Arts, Kathmandu University
Large number of smallholder farmers in developing countries are still not able to access modern agricultural technologies, timely weather forecasts and reliable market information due to limited extension staff and their poor access to digital devices and networks. Agriculture in Nepal engages 57% of labour force but food import dependency is increasing. Though sporadic digital information is available for agriculture, their suitability to and access and use by the farmers are not well discussed. The objectives of the paper are to (a) map the sources of digital information suitable for smallholder farmers in Nepal, (b) assess the access of smallholder farmers to digital information and their use for food production and hunger reduction. The study is based on assessment of available digital information in Nepal related to agriculture. Mapping of the sources of digital information available to the farmers is conducted and their contents are analysed to examine their suitability to the smallholder farmers. Capacity of the farmers is assessed based on their education level and language ability to access, retrieve, understand and use the digital information to improve farm production. Results show that agricultural research organizations, government agencies, private companies and non-government organizations are providing digital information aimed to support smallholder farmers. However, most of them are limited to sharing information on farming technologies and availability of farm inputs and finance. The digital information shared by private companies like banks and insurance are membership based and general farmers cannot access them. The digital information provided by the government agencies include meteorological forecasts, agro-advisory and market information, but they are in most cases not regularly updated. Contents shared through the digital platforms are mostly supply driven and, in many cases, they do not match the actual needs of the farmers in timely fashion. Farmers are either having no smart phone or internet connection to access the digital platform or they cannot retrieve the information. Even they retrieve with the help of their children, they cannot understand and use the information properly in their day-to-day farm practices. Feedback from the last mile farming communities is very limited. In conclusion, through several efforts are already made for digital information aimed to technology transfer to smallholder farmers, but their uses are very limited. Most of them serve the purpose of demonstration than the actual benefits to the farming communities to increase food production and reduce hunger. Improvement of the contents of the digital platforms, improving access of the farmers and developing capacity of the farmers to interpret, understand and use the digital information can help in food production and their food security.
Keywords: Agriculture, Digital Technology, Extension Services, Hunger, Smallholder Farmers.