Articles and Blogs

Conservation agriculture: Misperceptions and challenges || Mr.Rabin Thapa

Published: January 24, 2019 9:40 am On: Opinion in Himalayan Times

CA is often promoted as a technology particularly suited for dry areas and as a way of combatting drought, but this does not mean it is not applicable in medium and high rainfall zones, or on farms under irrigation

Illustration: Ratna Sagar Shrestha/THT

Conservation agriculture (CA) is about maximising farm profits in the long term by optimising agricultural production while conserving inputs, such as labour, fuel, seeds, fertiliser and pesticides, and minimising or mitigating any impact on the natural resources — soil, water and air. There are, however, misperceptions about the CA, some of which have been spread by academics, farm advisers and researchers. Part of this misperception is the belief that crops cannot be successfully planted and established without tillage, especially on hard or stony soils. CA is often promoted as a technology particularly suited for dry areas and as a way of combatting drought, but this does not mean it is not applicable in medium and high rainfall zones, or on farms under irrigation.
While keeping the residue undisturbed is the best practice, there is little evidence to suggest that zero tiller (ZT) disc seeders, which disturb a very small soil surface, provide superior crop performance to ZT line seeders, which disturb more soil. Often, farmers and researchers use a ZT seeder which is either not suitable for the conditions or is incorrectly set up and calibrated, and hence, poor establishment and crop growth results. In the absence of better knowledge, they conclude that ZT does not work well.

     Some researchers and extension specialists believe that soil cover is a critical part of CA, and without it farmers will not benefit from the adoption of other principles. While there is evidence to support this in eastern and southern Africa, this does not hold true in all places. Significant benefits were recorded by farmers in Syria and Iraq solely with ZT and early sowing, even when crop residues were heavily grazed and crop rotation was dominated by cereals. There is also evidence to suggest that light grazing of residues may provide useful benefit to livestock while the remaining residues help protect the soil from erosion and maintain soil fertility. Problem is seen in allowing farmers to maintain livestock grazing during the transition to CA, which enables a much more attractive and low risk package, without challenging the economic stability of their existing crop-livestock systems.

Many farmers complain that legumes and other alternative crops require more work, and their yields are lower compared to cereals. While the yield of these alternative crops is usually lower than cereals, this is often offset by higher prices, although production costs can also penalise legumes and other crops. More than ever, a farming systems approach is required to successfully conduct a CA production system. There is much that needs to be done to develop and promote more profitable legumes and alternative crops. Managing two or more different types of crops in CA adds complexity to farm management and can be hard work, but some farmers manage these issues effectively because they can see how crop rotation is important for the long-term profitability of their farms.

An effective fallow can conserve moisture from one season to the next and benefit the following crops in low rainfall environments. However, the benefits are inconsistent, and often much of the soil moisture is lost through evaporation during the long hot and dry summers. Most studies show that on average the extra yield of the crop, following the fallow, does not compensate for the total yield that would have been produced by growing a crop every year instead of letting the land lie fallow. Likewise, the increase in soil fertility during the fallow phases is typically small. Instead of using a fallow phase, farmers in low rainfall areas are better off planting a crop every year. The risk of crop failure due to drought is decreased in CA systems because soil evaporation is reduced, and rainfall infiltration and water-use efficiency are increased. So this should give farmers the confidence to replace fallow with a CA crop, ideally a low-cost food or forage legume.

There is a misperception regarding the need of inputs, especially pesticides, in CA. If the overall burden of weeds, diseases and other pests is similar, then there is no greater reliance on pesticides in CA compared to conventional systems. In general, post-emergent applications of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides will be similar in CA and conventional systems. In all cases where ZT is adopted, there are significant reductions in fuel and labour costs, and also savings in seed inputs are likely. If legumes are added to the rotation, organic nitrogen can be more available, and in some cases phosphorus fertilizer can also be decreased. Under irrigation, less water is often required.

Some farmers, academics and others consider tillage or seedbed preparation as a key operation for a successful crop and that ZT contradicts their agricultural culture and heritage. Farmers who don’t till their fields are sometimes labelled as lazy, messy and not serious. These people are often not open to change, and are difficult to argue with. But most farmers listen to other successful farmers, and the early adopting farmers need to be supported and included in CA promotion activities.

A gradual process of evidence-based assessments and empowerment with accurate information supporting a fitting alternative can soon lead to a changed mindset. How can we expect to improve our farm productivity without trying something new?

Thapa is with Digo Krishi

SUKMEL || Data Driven Farming 2017 Finalist || Mr. Santosh Joshi

Midnight at May 4, 2017, an email confirming our selection as a finalist for the "Data Driven Farming Prize" was enough to confirm our sleepless night. This was the moment that gave us a thrilling sensation knowing the fact that we just made a remarkable millstone. Our cloud based software, codename SUKMEL has selected in 13 finalists amongst 143 global competitors.

SUKMEL evoked out as an attempt to help neediest Nepalese farmers getting value for their agricultural commodities. We realized that unnecessarily excessive value chains and inconsistent distributions is creating deadlock situation to agricultural development in Nepal. It was crystal clear that ICT was not being deployed perceptually as a tool to address agricultural issues in Nepal. Every effort of ICT imposition was limited to disseminating plain information that is not actually very meaningful to take agricultural decisions for farmers.

We were providing ICT based software and services for agriculture university and several GOs, and NGO for agricultural development from more than a decade. We were observing that technically we can get into breaking the deadlock with cloud based software. Hence, we envisioned the need of structured database of farmers and every of their cultivations.

We conceptualised SUKMEL 5 years back and continuously improved its functionalities to make remote management of the farm possible. SUKMEL can record every small details like where farmers are, which crop they have at the field, when their crop will get harvested, which variety of the crop and how much of the yield will be available for consumers to buy etc. It also has capability to geolocate farmers in GIS map, integrate geospatial information, and aggregate individual cultivation records to it. Overall, SUKMEL has precision dashboard to manage farm remotely that helps minimizing value chains and regulate distributions.

Most of the Nepalese smallholder farmers make less than a dollar per day and agriculture is only way to earn a living for most of them. SUKMEL is highly motivated to be the part of solution improving livelihood of those smallholder farmers. Our primary beneficiaries mostly do not use Internet, even if they do it cannot be assumed them taking agricultural decisions over plain information. To cope with the issue, we planned to distribute the software through agricultural cooperatives. Cooperative is a successful modal in Nepal. We made vast arrangement it ensure adaptability of SUKMEL by cooperatives. SUKMEL delivers magical experience for cooperatives with their workflow.

Furthermore, we have to seek the answer to the question that what makes farmers provide their cultivation records frequently to their respective cooperative. This made us teaming up with agriculture experts and topping up dozens of scientific and mathematical functionalities. SUKMEL utilizes those functionalities at backend and generate recommendations and suggestions on simple format to improve productivity. Farmer get something interesting instantly at every of their entries.

Over the time, SUKMEL became pure data driven solution that can calculate individual need for farmers that how much seed/manure/fertilizer they require, optimum dose of pesticide and herbicide, analysing income and expenses. It also delivers extension advisory services providing which variety is suitable, what is possible diseases and insect pests and how to manage them, soil management techniques including complete site-specific package of practices.

Our partnership with Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) and Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU) ensures verified data and continuous improvement of SUKMEL.

There was still something burdensome, that was consideration of its actual deployment. In the meantime, we noticed the announcement of "Data Driven Farming Prize" in mid-February 2017. We took no time to realize DDFarming could be an inscription for us and can provide us huge advertisement credits. It was very exciting for us to read all approaches DDFarming was seeking which was very identical to SUKMEL. We submitted the concept document entitled "Improving efficiency and productivity of the farmers using ICT".

We were energized by becoming finalist that was symbolic acceptance for us to further deployment. We were called to participate on co-creation event that was very hectic for us but we learnt so many things that helped us to get organized. Writing development plan for SUKMEL was seriously not fun until it is finalized and end of the day we felt like getting enlightened. We developed theory of change that was new thing for us. Supporting the impact with assumption and outcome, following them with activities amazingly helped us developing our plan strategically. Measuring outcome with Indicator and targets kept us surprisingly steady to pursuit our short term goal. We are very thankful to get all those opportunities and empowered to systemize establishment of our solution.

Practice of cultivation and livestock is "Farming" and understanding it scientifically is "Agriculture". SUKMEL does beautiful transformation of farming to agriculture. It is designed to  deal holistically with most of the current agricultural issues, problems, and inconsistencies. Happy Farming!

Farm Management System || Mr. Kiran Bamanu

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been around us from a long back and more or less any institution has been adopted both of its sections; hardware and software.

Hence, with extensive development of technology in last couple of years, adaption of technology considerably becoming complicated. Specially necessity of a large enterprise mostly demanding customized system that could not be simply cloned and use it. Basically hardware infrastructure in ICT is adoptable as it is but software needs major customization and sensible understanding to develop adaptable products.

Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, providing a livelihood for almost two-thirds of the population in Nepal. We are corrugating our scope to agricultural development for half a decade. We, DreamWork Solution is a commercial organization, established in BS 2006 to provide study, research, consultancy, and software based solutions in Nepal.

With the continous need and requirement analysis of customized software for the effective management of farmers and farms, DreamWork Solution has been working with different agriculture stakeholders to implement Farm Management System.

Farm Management System

Farm Management System is a cross-platform cloud based online system. Different role and permission based Users are created in order to monitor the Farmers or Farms remotely. Farmers or Farm under your company / Firm can register themselves through website or mobile apps and same data is aggregated to the software. The Manager can verify, monitor, manage, and supervise them online through simple dashboard. The entity covers farmers name, gender, mobile number, ward number, major crops, cultivable land, average production of each crop, average price of each crop, email address, etc.

System helps administrator stay aware of associated farmers and their social, cultural, or demographic distributions. This is fundamental software based infrastructure that will establish efficient automated two-way communication between Manager, farmers, or any other agricultural stakeholder.

Administrator can categorize the notice and send only to the appropriate farmer group E.g. female farmer only, tomato farmers, ward no 7, farmers with more 10 Kattha of land, tunnel farmer, production more/less than, price more/less than etc.

Farm Management System helps most effective distribution of support, trainings, or a program. Overall, the system help monitoring, managing, and evaluating them accurately and efficiently.

GIS Aggregation System

Graphical visualization vastly improves decision making capability when it comes to remote management. DreamWork Solution takes GIS based management to next level aggregating it with software system. A very simple input interface can aggregate, analyses, and generates complex datain simply detectable analyst. With simple GPS coordinates, system is able to produces custom layer-based information that can visualize data contextually as per the administer in real time. No GIS knowledge is required for the operator hence it still utilizes geospatial information, remote sensing and fencing, and dozens of other leaflet map's components.

Supply chain management system

Eventually, the Farm Management System will be upgraded to a cloud based innovation platform that support farmers, or any other stakeholder to precisely monitor, supervise, or manage supply and demand of agriculture commodity, input supply, or any other services. This also provides market linkage dashboard to establish direct business.

These components are integrated in order to provide effective services and delivery of management of Farmers or Farms for the precise decision. More than just a Software, DreamWork Solution provides services to entire team of stakeholders for effective delivery and management for getting maximum benefit. This system will help in work flow of team members and generating required reports in specified time table. 

This is not only the concept, We DreamWork Solution have implemented this system to different agriculture sectors of Nepal.

If you are willing to implement this system in your farm / company or office, here we are for providing the service.

 

For Details:

Kiran Bamanu

Program Manager

DreamWork Solution

kiranbamanu@gmail.com

9843724158

Food Security and Decision Making Tool || Mr. Rabin Thapa

Famine and hunger have plagued the mankind and safety throughout the history and remain critical problems. The food security has now attained the burning issue status and status of major agenda in today’s world. ICT on the other hand is emerging and its use is being recognized and application of decision making tools is anticipated to be the last jigsaw for the puzzle.

Food security is defined as the availability of food and one's access to it. The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing "when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life". Stages of food insecurity range from food secure situations to full-scale famine.

FAO reported that almost 870 million people were chronically undernourished in the years 2010-2012. Asia has the largest number of hungry people (over 500 million) but Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence (24.8 percent of population) and the vast majority of hungry people (827 million) live in developing countries, where 14.3 percent of the population is undernourished [FAO, 2013]. This suggests the need of sustainable measures that can address the problems and barriers and at the same time provide us the way to approach the global plague due to famine and hunger. The role of ICT seems imminent and inevitable in today’s world. The right approach hasn’t been determined but the best possible solution that could address the problems in short time and in a global way seems to be the use of ICT and decision making tools in today’s world.

A systematic monitoring of world food supplies is a necessary step to address food security. This includes mapping agricultural production and food shortages and establishing comprehensive databases. Monitoring can be greatly facilitated by ICT and decision making tools, through remote sensing of agricultural and water resources, use of computers and software to collect, analyze and share information that is relevant to food security. Geographic information systems also provide powerful tools for analyzing statistics.

Food security is the major problem of developing countries and role of ICT and decision making tool starts from such countries and regions. One example is DreamWork Solution that is providing database cloud based software for making precise decision making tool for food security and nutrition status in Nepal. The decision making tool has the objectives set to prepare database of collected household information, generate reports showing the deficit quantity of nutrition in specified location and compare the food availability status of different wards under VDC or municipality. The DreamWork Solution will develop cloud based software as its major framework.

The working methodology of the decision making tool will involve the profile collected by VDC/Municipality having basic information of agriculture like major crops, area of cultivation, annual production, major livestock and productions that will further be made available for data entry. The daily requirement of calories for residing population will be calculated by using the software. The total availability of calories from the agriculture production of that area will be calculated and balance will be checked. Among the different components of food security only food availability component will be analyzed.  Moreover, protein, carbohydrate, fats, etc will also be analyzed and the wards deficit in particular components will also be studied and finally a decision making tool will be developed. A final decision can be made like which crop or program is to be developed in order to address the problem.

The decision making tool will allow to generate comparative reports showing which ward is suffice or the one which is deficit, showing reports of nutrition status, component deficit and which disease may prevail thereby and ultimately a precise and decision making ability incorporated within the report which addresses the deficit food component via program, crop or a commodity .This is not merely a concept but has been started in Sunkoshi VDC of Sindhuli district in Nepal and the software based solution is also being planned to be implemented in each and every VDCs of Nepal so that overall food security and nutrition status can be studied with precise reporting.

The reduction of extreme poverty and hunger is the first of the eight United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG). As the lead UN agency for ICTs, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is playing a key role in promoting the use of ICTs to address emergency situations and food security, increased access to and use of ICTs can be beneficial to farmers and the agricultural industry. Nonetheless, efforts to date to employ these tools have not been uniform or sufficiently widespread. There are many factors (policy, legal framework, technology, knowledge, markets, research, etc.) to be considered when addressing food security, but in all of them information and communication technologies (ICTs) can act as catalysts. This report presents examples and initiatives, which make use of ICTs to improve food security, and describes how such decision making tools can help to address the problem. Starting from the decision making tools like DreamWork solution mentioned above the achievement of zero hunger and sustainable development goals seems plausible within the estimated time.

Rabin Thapa

Content Management Coordinator

DigoKrishi || DreamWork Solution                               

Email: Digokrishi@gmail.com