December 9, 2019
As part of our concerted efforts to support and encourage the next generation of Australians in study, careers and volunteering in international agricultural research, the Crawford Fund State Committees proudly support our Student Awards.
These awards allow university students from around Australia to include an international component to their studies, to travel to their host countries to research and explore their chosen topic areas and gain international agricultural research experience and expertise.
Throughout the past year, we have enjoyed sharing the journey of our 2018 recipients of these Awards and their experiences have been diverse and overwhelmingly positive. They are available here.
We can now proudly start to present to you the reports from our 2019 cohort, with Luke Dieters from the University of Queensland recently kicking off our series with his experience in the Lao DPR.
The Crawford Fund ACT Committee provided an award to Nadeem Akmal from the University of Canberra to travel to Nepal and work with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) within a project underway implementing ‘ICT Smart’ to promote the concept of environmentally friendly Climate Smart Agriculture to improve the livelihood of the smallholder farmers.
Agriculture in developing countries has structural problems like small landholdings, high production costs, and the lack of availability of innovative or latest information due to poor agricultural extension systems. As we found in our 2017 annual conference on The Digital Revolution in Agriculture, developments in ICTs, especially mobile phones and the internet, provide the opportunity for poor smallholder farming communities to get innovative and up-to-date information to reduce possible inefficiencies in production and marketing of commodities.
Project activities experienced by Nadeem were in the Kavre district, which has a varied climate from subtropical to temperate with substantial agricultural production that is a significant contributor to agricultural products consumed in Kathmandu. Climate-smart activities executed in Climate-Smart Villages (CSV) are Nutrient Smart, Water Smart, Crop Smart, Energy Smart, Future Smart and ICT Smart. In ICT Smart, an SMS notification system is created to deliver information weather information, technical advisory services and market information to farmers, reported Nadeem.
As well as the CSV initiatives, the communities are supported with other innovative technologies jointly executed by ICIMOD and the Center for Environmental and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED). All initiatives with technological packages aim to build resilience and improve the livelihoods of poor mountainous farming communities.
“To assess the contribution of ICT Smart component contribution, I conducted focus group discussions (FGDs), four for women and three for men separately with planning, access and translators provided ICIMOD and CEAPRED staff,” said Nadeem.
Nadeem found that of those surveyed, agriculture contributes 65 to 70 percent of the household’s income, with the majority of the households owning land between 4 and 12 ropanis in size (one ropani = 0.05 ha). Every household has livestock, and the majority of farmers meet their milk requirement from their own livestock. Regarding the availability of ICTs, a mobile is available at every household, but computer access is minimal.
He also found that all farmers are satisfied that the project interventions are compatible and make judicious use of minimal available natural and physical resources. Farmers receive technical advice information via SMS twice a week, which follow up training on certain technologies and this allows farmers to increase productivity and reduce cultivation costs.
Farmers also receive current market price information via SMS which enhances their bargaining power and is having a significant impact on improving household income. Ready market information also allows farmers to change their cropping patterns and timing according to consumer demand and prices.
Weather information is also provided twice a week to allow better planning and decision making, which also impacts income potential.
Nadeem had some very positive reports from the farmers involved.
“The majority of the farmers conclude that overall project interventions have increased their households’ income from 50 to 100 percent with the half of this directly attributable to the ICT Smart component of the project,” said Nadeem.
“They told me that before project they were buyers of commodities, but now they are sellers of commodities; and before the project, they were used to think about what to spend, now they think how to spend,” said Nadeem.
“Findings of this research provide a solid base to transform my research findings into effective actionable interventions for my study area,” concluded Nadeem.
“I would like to thank the Crawford Fund for providing this scholarship. Thank you also to my supervisor Dr Sandra Heaney-Mustafa for her continuous support and encouragement; the University of Canberra; the ICIMOD, RMS project team including Dr Arabinda Mishra, Laxmi Dutt Bhatta and especially Dr Abid Hussain taking time out of professional and family responsibilities to make my visit productive and pleasant; and finally, the CEAPRED management and field team.”