Can Digital Technology Help Develop Nepal’s Agriculture?
This blog post originally appeared on the Data-Driven Farming Prize website and was written by Eleonora Corsini. It is the first of a two-part blog series.
At a junction of the East-West highway, and in one of the fastest developing places in Nepal, only six kilometers (nearly four miles) from the Indian border lies the Kohalpur agricultural market.
The market is the biggest of 141 agricultural markets in the Mid-West region of Nepal and is a dusty square surrounded by some shops and storage facilities, where farmers sell their products: seeds, vegetable, fruits and some prepared foods.
Chabilal Bhattrai, the chair of the Market Committee, founded the Kohalpur market 13 years ago. The Village Development Committee of Kohalpur designated 1452.8 hectares (nearly 3,590 acres) of land for agriculture. Of that, 91 percent is used for agriculture. Kohalpur, a one-hour flight from Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, is where the Data Driven Farming Prize team started our field visit. We wanted to explore the Mid-West district, close to Nepalganjy, and learn more about key actors in the agricultural value chain in Nepal, the barriers facing them, and what factors our innovators should consider when designing their submissions to the prize.
Feed the Future, America’s global hunger and food security initiative supports via the Knowledge-based Integrated Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition (KISAN) project efforts to sustainably improve Nepali food security and increase incomes through integrated agriculture activities. My colleague Constance and I were welcomed by the KISAN staff and introduced to different actors across the Nepali agricultural value chain to understand what smallholder farmer needs. Our interviews painted a picture of the problems they are struggling with on a daily basis.
“Before we had lower productivity,” explains Jaysing Budamagar, a trader in the Market Committees. “Now productivity has increased, and we need to better understand how to store produce and ensure product quality. We constantly lose 20-30 percent of the produce. Improving storage becomes particularly true when it comes to increasing trade with India. The quality control checkpoint on the Indian side is 100 kilometers (around 62 miles) from the border. By the time the products get there, they have spoiled, blocking opportunities to export products.
Additionally, prices can vary a lot. For some vegetables, they can drop from 150 Nepali rupees to two Nepali rupees (about $1.40-$0.02 U.S. dollars) per kilogram because there are no good track records of consumer needs.
“Today, we can cultivate any type of vegetable year round. This makes it difficult to anticipate... Read more on the Data Driven Farming Prize website.