Digital Agriculture and its Potential in Nepal
Agriculture contributes to only 36% of Nepal’s GDP but absorbs about two-thirds of the labour market. About 30% of Nepal's total land is used for agricultural purposes. Thus the question arises to us: Does today’s Nepalese youth regard agriculture as an attractive field of work and a stable way of making a living? Why is its contribution so constricted though its employment contribution is huge? Of what age group are most involved in the agriculture sector in Nepal? Is it possible to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to promote youth engagement in agriculture, thereby making it a more profitable and secure career path?
Today, we've noticed a significant growth in the participation of young people and women in both rural and urban areas. As a result of significant breakthroughs in agriculture such as the use of modern farming practices and innovative technology, people are becoming more active and interested in agriculture. Digitalization has undoubtedly transformed the agrifood industry, it has opened new opportunities and has made the farming practices more productive, consistent, and efficient in terms of time and resources which will ultimately provide significant benefits to farmers as well as other stakeholders who are involved in different agriculture sectors. A few years back, people used to only grow crops and agricultural products for their own consumption, but the current scope, however, has greatly extended. People nowadays grow crops and produce other agricultural products not only for their own consumption, but also to sell in the market and earn a living.
Through digital agriculture, many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be advanced. It has the potential to deliver economic benefits through increased agricultural productivity, cost efficiency and market opportunities, social and cultural benefits through increased communication and inclusivity and environmental benefits through optimized resource use as well as adaptation to climate change. The potential benefits of digitalizing the agrifood sector are convincing but it will require major transformations of farming systems, rural economies, communities and natural resource management. This will be a challenge and requires a systematic and holistic approach to achieve the full potential benefits.
Engaging Youth in agriculture in Nepal
Globally, in comparison to the young people and the women, the older male generation are more involved in the agriculture sector. The average age of farmers is 60 years old, and young people are increasingly pursuing nonagricultural careers rather than following in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents.
Source : ISTOCK PHOTO
Young and energetic populations can be very beneficial and provide a tremendous potential for a country to revitalize and enhance the local economy. They can be greatly incorporated in the agricultural sector, where new technologies and innovative farming practices have the potential to boost output and efficiency. Similarly, engaging women in the field of agriculture can also be a great possibilities for the development of the agro sector. Empowering women would benefit not just individuals by raising their incomes, but also families and entire farming communities. So, to bring the drastic change, engaging, empowering and collaborating with the youths and women is a key factor for transforming our agro sector.
Digital technologies have drastically changed the way we think and perceive the things all around us. It is capable of bridging the gap between youth and agriculture. We can engage and attract more youths to agriculture by using digital technology and creating an attractive environment i.e., profitable, competitive, and dynamic.
- Greater use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
- Link social media to agriculture
Young people need to be more aware of the advantages of agriculture as a career, particularly the chances for greater market engagement, innovation, and farming as a business. The media, information and communication technology, and social media can all be utilized to improve agriculture's image among a broad audience and allow for the exchange of information and experiences between young people and young farmers
- Easy access to land and finance
For young people, access to land is often scarce and obtaining finance to purchase those land without collateral is nearly impossible. Today, agriculture and small companies require new forms of funding so that the youth who come up with new and innovative ideas in agriculture can get access to soft loans.
- Upgradation of different farming practices
Upgrade of farming practices is one of the important aspects to be considered. As young people are more interested to be involved in the field where they can explore innovative technologies; by linking the farming practices with innovative technologies we can help in improving and upgrading the farming operations and also help to attract young generation in agriculture. Thus, easy availability of the services for farm upgrade can be highly considered.
- Provide support and incentives from the government and other agencies
Agriculture is perceived as a neglected sector by the government, giving farming an outdated image among the young people. So, to change their perception, the government along with other agencies need to support and provide incentives for the younger generation who are interested in carrying out the new ideas and concepts in the agricultural sector.
As being a tech-savvy generation, the use of technology can be a great way to engage the young generation in the agricultural sector. These use of technologies can help lower the costs of business transactions, boost the profitability of agriculture along with helps young minds share their knowledge, form networks and generate employment.
Providing market information and creating linkages between the farmers and their products with different market places, providing technical knowledge to those youths who are interested in agriculture, formulating and implementing the government policies which favour the digital agricultural practices, promoting scientific and technological farming practices through different awareness campaigns are some of the activities that can to be done to engage youths in the field of agriculture. There are great challenges as today’s youth and women of Nepal don't see their career, goals, future and the way of making a living through agriculture. On the contrary, young people want to explore a sector where there is the use of new and advanced technology. Lack of access to land, credit, farm information, technical knowledge, restricted access to advanced ICT technologies, and a lack of support and incentives from the government and other agencies are some of the roadblocks to youth involvement in agriculture. In addition, the ideas and opinions of their parents, friends, relatives, and communities about agriculture significantly plays a great role to influence the young people's perceptions towards agriculture and their decision to pursue it as their field of career. They expect to be able to maintain a decent living standard to build a secure future for themselves and their families
Agriculture in Nepal is plagued with many challenges such as unpredictable climate changes, lack of agricultural information and literacy and poor farming techniques which do not encourage sustainable agriculture. Being in the digital revolution era, and with a young population that is tech savvy and innovative, Nepal has the ability to solve a variety of agricultural problems, allowing them to make more informed decisions. Digital technologies have brought in a paradigm shift in agriculture, as farmers may now employ ICT to teach themselves how to care for their crops by using information from the internet. It can be used to forecast the weather, manage crops, and sell agricultural products on the market. It is a tool that our fathers and forefathers never had; they had to seek the assistance of an expert, whereas today's youthful generation can receive all the knowledge they require on a few clicks and typing a few keywords into the internet. Youth can leverage these innovative technologies to explore the possibilities of the agriculture sector in Nepal.