Farmer helpline being launched in 25 districtsFree mobile sim cards with a Rs100 balance will be distributed to 5,500 farmers in25 districts
The government has launched a mobile phone service named Kisan Sim to educate and inform farmers about the weather, agricultural extension service, crop insurance and other matters in a bid to boost productivity and cut losses from climate hazards.
Free mobile sim cards with a Rs100 balance will be distributed to 5,500 farmers in 25 districts under the Agriculture Management Information System project. “We have signed an agreement with Nepal Telecom to provide this service,” said Shyam Kishore Sah, spokesperson of the Ministry of Agricultural Development.
This first ever farmer helpline in Nepal provides high quality and supporting information to farmers, enabling them to make more informed decisions when preparing the ground, planting, managing pests and harvesting, he said.
The climate and weather news is integrated in the phone-based agricultural information that will advise and support smallholder farmers. Those who have Android smartphones should download the application Hamro Krishi which will enable them to get information offline.
“Farmers will get early warning information about drought, rainfall and rising temperature through regular SMS so that they can act accordingly,” said Sah. “The major objective of the project is to keep farmers abreast of climatic behaviour and protect them from distress.”
Besides, farmers can ask questions through the mobile service about when to apply fertilizer and weed. They can also ask about pest attacks on crops and protection measures, he said.
Contact numbers of agriculture offices and crop insurers in the district, toll free numbers, audio notices and success stories related to the agriculture sector will be provided to farmers.
“This technology has been particularly developed to bridge the knowledge gap in rural areas,” Sah said. The service will not provide information about crop prices and market access, but such programmes can be integrated in the service in the years ahead, he added.
According to the ministry, the District Agriculture Office will form a committee to select farmers’ groups for the services.
Piloted in Banke, the project is being implemented in three phases. In the first phase, it will cover eight districts—Dhankuta, Sunsari, Siraha, Kavre, Bara, Rupandehi, Banke and Jumla.
In the second phase, the project will be implemented in Sankhuwasabha, Jhapa, Morang, Saptari, Mahottari, Chitwan, Surkhet and Kailali; and in the third phase, it will be extended to nine districts—Darchula, Doti, Rukum, Dang, Mustang, Kaski, Palpa, Dhading and Dolakha.
The Agriculture Manage-ment Information System is one of the four components of a pilot programme on Climate Resilience funded by the World Bank and implemented by the ministry.
Nepal’s farm sector employs 66 percent of the population and accounts for 33 percent to the GDP, but it is highly exposed and vulnerable to extreme climate events and impacts of climate change. Agricultural production is constrained by frequent natural disasters like flood, drought, landslide, intense rain, hailstorm and cold and heat wave.
According to the ministry’s statistics, 61,000 hectares of paddy fields were abandoned last summer due to poor rainfall and drought in many central Tarai districts. Likewise, crop failure has been reported on 1 percent of the country’s paddy fields.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has projected that climatic conditions in Nepal will worsen, and that there may be even more frequent occurrences of climate-related extremes and negative impacts on food production.
“However, by adopting the right measures, it is possible to adapt effectively to the challenges posed by climate change. Such measures require a comprehensive approach that includes strengthening the capacities of institutions and delivering need-based services to farming communities,” the FAO said.