ICT tools: Can they engage youth in the agricultural sector?
Busy, busy, busy…This quarter has been huge for our young agripreneurs in the GFAR-YPARD Young Agripreneurs Project. It’s now 10 months on since they thrilled the audiences at GCARD3 with their enthusiasm, drive and energy in describing their projects. These have all started with the young agripreneurs matched with mentors, engaged in coaching and training, and utilizing their seed funding aligned with their business plans. There have been the inevitable ups and downs – all part of being a young agripreneur and it’s great to see that they are all on track and embracing the challenges and opportunities that the YAP project has offered.
Anil Regmi shares the latest exciting news on his project to develop a system that will give easier access on agro-information to farmers in Nepal.
When choosing their field of study today, most youngsters tend to choose medical science, civil engineering, computer engineering, finance and accounting, law etc. It is rare to find students who choose agriculture as a career path, for many reasons. First of all, when we think of agriculture, we think of hard, low-status work which is not very fashionable. Moreover, most students who study agriculture do so either because they had no other choice or because they did not obtain the results required to study the subject they wanted.
The Nepalese are no different, many young Nepalese see farming as an unskilled, unrewarding profession, suitable only for the retired or the uneducated. Most think of it only as back-breaking labour, without a profitable pay-off—and little room for career progression.
With an ageing population of farmers in farming communities scattered across the country, it’s evident that agriculture needs to attract more young people. The exodus of rural youth means fewer smallholder farmers tomorrow, which will potentially change the profile of farming thereby leaving us in a very challenging situation.
Using ICT to develop a countertendency
ICT can be used both to sensitise youth on the importance of agriculture and change their perception about it, as well as to promote empowerment programs organised by the government or other support organisations. This means that we really should focus on developing technologies that comply with the requirements of current trends and latest modern technological advances in agriculture, including innovative developments like programming, use of high yielding varieties, application of inputs, marketing of their products via internet channels and weather forecast compliance. It would be cool, for example, to get farming details and techniques like Facebook notifications, certainly it would make this field more fashionable and attractive.
There are actually a lot of examples of youth here in Nepal who have succeeded in agribusiness by doing research online on the type of business they wanted to engage in. 22 year young Tara Pandey from Palpa, for example, runs Madi Turkey Farm in his hometown. He started his business by importing turkeys from France, something totally new in Nepal. Similarly, two young people from Myagdi district who already have MAs, started their own fish farming business after watching videos on youtube and other websites. They claim that by doing so, they learned about new technologies and practices from around the world.
In an attempt to inspire youth who do not see this profession as a white collar job, we launched, at the very beginning of 2015, a mobile app and a social media platform to reach these young potential new farmers with news of new technology and share with them success stories that can attract them to the agricultural sector. Later, in mid-2016, we launched a marketing platform, www.krishibajar.com. In one of my earlier blogs, I talked about how we are using this platform to connect farmers and tools- and machinery traders.
From one to seven traders – and new modalities in the coming
Farmers using the platform can browse and get detailed information on any technology they wish and directly contact the trader. We started with one such trader, now in we have seven in our network.
Although most of our mobile application users are from cities or abroad, we have been able to motivate them and change their perceptions of agriculture as a business that can generate profits just like any other successful venture.
We partnered with “PrangarikPathshala-School of Agriculture” to provide the necessary training and support for young people. In the last six month we have been able to train more than 500 young people. Seeing all these activity on our channels, young people who are abroad have started thinking that it’s time to return to home and start agribusinesses, investing the money they have made while abroad.
The mentoring and financial support we got from YPARD/GFAR/IFAD, really has contributed to changing our perspectives; while we used to concentrate on keeping the project afloat, we now focus on making it sustainable and scale it as per need. With this help, we have been able to reach more and more youth via our channels and make them aware of about new opportunities in agribusiness sector.
Our immediate next step is to conduct a baseline survey about user experiences with ICT tools, including our mobile application, in periphery of Kathmandu valley, something we’ll do next month. That survey should tell us more about the perception of farmers as well as of their needs for new features or services. This will allow us to refine our business model and strategy accordingly.
However, information sharing and marketing of produce remain the main complications of Nepali agriculture and it is something we need to address further. Building on what we’ve achieved so far, our next goal is to ease the middleman problem and help young farmers to fight the market access problem by developing an online marketplace for agricultural produce. We are currently discussing potential collaboration opportunities with a few NGOs.
The aim is to enable our mobile app to deliver location specific content, making www.krishibajar.com a common place for farmer to list their product and services so that they can reach as many buyers and wholesalers as possible with competitive prices.
This blogpost by Anil Regmi originally appeared on the GFAR blog.
Anil Regmi (waytomeanil(at)gmail.com), is one of six finalists in the Youth Agripreneurs Project, a pilot project targeting young agricultural entrepreneurs (“agripreneurs”), co-organized by GFAR and YPARD. The YAP Finalists launched their projects during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016.
Photo credits: Anil regmi