Building an information bridge for Nepal’s farmers

In this space over the past three months, we have profiled successful entrepreneurs from various arenas of business. All have in common that they are determined to make their ideas work, are willing to take risks and learn from mistakes, and have a passion for what they do.

The goal for these people is never simply to make money but rather to create something new. Rajan Bajracharya is another such entrepreneur. He left the comfort of a secure job as a geographic informational systems (GIS) specialist to found his business three years ago, ignoring the many who told him the move was foolish.

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Bajracharya didn’t take the leap into the unknown on his own. He convinced his buddies in information technology to do the same, to leave their full-time jobs to start a company with him.

“What really excited me, despite a lot of fears of financial risks, was to use my freedom to create innovative products without any limitations and inhibitions,” says 43-year old Rajan, who led his team to work on a world-class agriculture information web and mobile-based app called GeoKrishi to provide crucial contextual and location-specific information for  farmers during each stage of the agricultural cycle, from planting to harvesting.


The project has received international recognition. It was awarded the U.S. Data-Driven Farming Award in a global competition with entries from over 60 countries and got a cash prize of $100,000, which Bajracharya has ploughed back into his company for use in agricultural research and development.

Rajan’s team translates scientific data and research into inputs that ideally can reach real beneficiaries of that information. Although the share of agriculture in Nepal’s economy has fallen to 30%, some 65% of the population is still dependent on farming. Much of this is subsistence agriculture, which is rainfall-dependent and low in productivity.

Nepal must aim for self-sufficiency and surplus in some agricultural products, but for that farmers need data. There is no scarcity of research on how mechanisation or changing crop rotations and cropping patterns could help, but that information much reach where it is needed most.

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“If we do not work on information delivery mechanisms, even the best information will be of little use,” explains Bajracharya. “The information must reach real end users and be packaged in a way that they can understand.”

In trying to bridge this information gap, Bajracharya and his team found that creating a mobile app was not enough, as many farmers did not have access to the internet or to smart phones. So they established call centres in Salyan and Surkhet, where farmers can call in and ask for advice from experts directly. In more remote areas, the company seeks to connect farmers to local “heroes”, highly successful farmers who are already well-respected locally and whose advice counts for something.

GeoKrishi also provides farmers with low-cost equipment for measuring soil fertility and advisory services on what unfamiliar crops to grow at what time. This is important given disruptions to seasonal farming practices because of the climate crisis.

Because farming doesn’t offer quick returns, non-farmers are often reluctant to invest in agriculture. However, Nepal has tremendous potential to export niche products. The country’s geographical diversity and altitude variation give it subtropical and tropical regions, mountains as well as river basins, and different micro-climates across the country during the same season. This is nature’s gift to Nepal.

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“There are no limits to innovations in this sector. And it is time for tech companies to not just focus on products but on creating platforms that reach out to the most neglected communities, like the farmers,” says Bajracharya. These platforms are important to create functional connections between farmers, agro-based vets, traders, marketers, scientific communities and consumers.

For now Bajracharya is not making a huge profit, but as a social entrepreneur he believes the company’s value is not just based on cash returns but on its ability to help millions of struggling Nepali farmers to benefit from their hard work.

Information is power

“Information gives us the power to make good decisions and build new confidence, and GeoKrishi has really made a difference to many farmers like me,” says Tilak Sharma, a 33-year-old farmer from Kapurkot Rural Municipality of Salyan district.

Through the GeoKrishi app, Sharma learned about safer production practices that use less pesticide, reducing farm expenses, and proper scheduling of different stages of the agricultural production cycle. This information has helped him to increase the productivity of his farm by over 20%. Sharma shared his new learnings with 40 fellow subsistence farmers in his region and hopes that the productivity of their farms will increase as well.

Sharma now also sends feedback to the GeoKrishi team to help it create more locally-relevant content. The collating of farmers’ knowledge in this two-way information exchange helps GeoKrishi to customize information to the local context, thereby better serving farmers in each region.