After graduating Electronics and Communication Engineering in 2011, I went back to my village in Sindhuli to setup solar-powered computer labs in schools and help villagers learn computer. I was working with a dream to take wireless internet in villages, in a similar way Mahabir Pun did. During those 2 years in my village, I also worked with my parents in the field and there, I witnessed how the lack of information on pest disease, weather, available market, and input supplies made farming life difficult. I saw these problems from an engineer’s eye. So, we developed an SMS based application and Mobile Application to help farmers provide this information whenever they demand.
Seeing the two years of my contribution, and struggle, I was selected as a member of US Embassy Youth Council (USYC). In the council, I applied for a civic engagement project, ICT for Agriculture, with same idea of providing farming related information at fingertips. Now farmers can get localized and contextual advisories on commercial production technologies, pest disease and their solution, market price, weather forecasts, and information on input supplies through SMS.
Sibjan Chaulagain, the Managing Director/Founder of ICT for Agriculture, that recently rebranded as Krishi Guru, shared his journey of connecting technology with farmers in Nepal. “Krishi Guru is farmer’s best friend that seeks to develop expertise in farmers. If farmers face a problem, Krishi Guru is the closest person to reach out for help,” he said.
The app acts as a platform to connect farmer to extension agencies, input suppliers, agro-experts, and market traders. The solution has helped farmers produce more and find the profitable market.
ICT for Agriculture had received $8000 as the most creative civic engagement project at USYC. With that money, Sibjan and the team developed a SMS based platform to send agriculture related information to farmers. Likewise, the idea was declared the winner in Agriculture Category and Grand Winner in the Ncell App Camp 2014, and bagged a total prize of Rs. 750,000.
How does the app help farmers?
In the context of Nepal, agriculture is mainly taken as profession carried out just for survival. “It is high time we take farming in a commercial way, from the current subsistence method. We need to teach the farmers how to carry out farming in a commercial way. We need to aware them on mechanization, connect them to input supply and market traders, provide localized and precise weather forecast, and solve their immediate enquiries. We are developing Krishi Guru as a complete package providing all types of information that a farmer needs,” shared Sibjan to Glocal Khabar.
Currently 13 markets across various cities of Nepal are included in the app, and farmers can know a particular day’s market price. Traders can update their buying price from farmers, so that the farmers can decide at what price traders will be buying the products from them. The platform has helped increase the bargaining power of farmers. “Farmers can negotiate at what price to sell their products to the traders/wholesalers. It boosts up farmers’ confidence,” says Sibjan.
Krishi Guru app also features a tool that shows the trend in vegetable prices in different months in a year. “It ultimately helps farmers decide on when to send their vegetables to the market. Now, farmers can pre-plan when to plant so that the produce can be sent to the market at the time price is highest,” Sibjan adds.
We are collecting pH value of all the districts. After it’s completed, we will digitalize it, and farmers can know if a particular crop is okay on that soil or not. From this, farmers can avoid the risk of planting a crop that will not give production on that particular soil. – Sibjan
Who can benefit from ‘Krishi Guru’?
Our main users/beneficiaries are farmers, and other beneficiaries are input suppliers who will be marketing their goods and services. The platform will help to take their products and services among the targeted group of people.
It will also be helpful to the organizations working for the improvement of livelihood of farmers. – Sibjan
Taking the platform to farmers in the grassroots
“Our motive is maximum number of people using our services. For that, we are also taking help of social media. We are also building partnerships with local bodies like cooperatives, farmers related associations, District Agriculture Development Organizations(DADO), and organizations like LIBIRD, ADRA, CARE and ICIMOD,” Sibjan says.
To make the ICT based platform accessible to remote farmers and make them adopt, the team is developing a partnership with strong enablers like Telco Companies and local government bodies.
According to Sibjan, Krishi Guru so far has directly benefitted 15000 farmers across Nepal in various 12 districts.
We have targeted to generate revenue especially from those organizations working in agriculture, such as CARE, ICIMOD, and other international organizations working in Nepal. We provide such organizations a dynamic platform that can help them reach their farmers through mass messaging, and generate reports from farmers. We charge them for the platform. And, we also sell information services like weather forecasts, crop advisory, market information, etc. – Sibjan
Krishi Guru has been synonymous for different national and international awards. They were declared Category and Grand Winner-Ncell App Camp 2014, Nepal Winner in ReConnect Challenge, ICT for Mountain Development Award, by ICIMOD, and runner-up in World Summit Youth Award 2015. Recently, Krishi Guru won $50,000 in the Data Driven Farming Prize of US Government’s ‘Feed the Future’ program.
“Agriculture sector is a very vast field, and making people adopt digital technology is very challenging in the case of Nepal. We are fighting those challenges and moving forward. I feel, these prizes, and trusts by international organizations are endorsements to our struggle. It has made us even more motivated, and feel responsible to scale it even further,” says Sibjan.
The roller coaster journey
The road to reach the present condition was not that easy. It was extremely challenging to infuse technology in farming. We also had to go through a financial crisis. There were also technical challenges. We had to develop the quality of the agro-advisory content using a limited resources. Likewise, the work to make the system user (farmer)-friendly was also a very challenging task. – Sibjan
How many queries does Krishi Guru solve in a single day?
Ashok Adhikari, a team member at Krishi Guru, who recently graduated B.Sc. Agriculture from Lamjung Campus, shares:
We receive dozens of Facebook messages (queries) in a single day. There are also more than 100 comments on our Facebook page in a single day. There is also a Facebook group where we get lots of queries. All in all, the no. of queries exceed 200 in a single day. If we are not ourselves capable to solve these problems, we also ask experts in the field.
Krishi Guru team is planning to increase the quality of content and make it accessible in an easier way. “We are planning to make the contents more user-friendly. To scale it up, we are planning to tie up with strong enablers, local bodies, and faming related organizations. We are also planning to have a strategic partnership with Telecos in immediate future to disseminate farming related-information through cell-phones. We are planning to create a platform in which all the actors in agriculture value chain: farmers, agriculture traders, experts, input suppliers, organizations, bring them on the same platform, and make interaction among each other so that they can help each other. Within five years, we have planned to impact at least one million farmers across Nepal,” says Sibjan.
He adds, “we dream of creating more jobs for youth in agriculture so that it creates an environment for them to stay back in Nepal and contribute.”
Startups for a better Nepal!
Cover Photograph: U.S. Embassy, Nepal
Presentation: Basanta Kumar Dhakal