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Rural farming … the smart way

Andy Visser

23 May 2019: As the recipient of a Crawford Fund grant, University of Canberra PhD candidate Nadeem Akmal will visit the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) Resilient Mountain Villages project that has documented success in the implementation of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Nepal’s agricultural regions.

The Resilient Mountain Villages project incorporates smart practices in agriculture, climate, water and energy management, making it a comprehensive approach to increasing farmers’ yields and addressing some of Nepal’s socio-economic concerns.

“There is a close connection between the farming communities of Pakistan and Nepal,” said Mr Akmal, an agricultural economist from Pakistan.

“While the landscapes are somewhat different, there are many similarities and as my research is centred around the socio-economic benefits of using ICTs especially mobile, smartphone and internet in agriculture, I was interested to see how these smart practices are impacting the Nepalese farmers.”

The adoption of modern ICTs in Pakistan has increased in the last ten years; this has informed Mr Akmal’s PhD study into the impact of ICTs on improving the livelihood of citrus farmers in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s farmers do not currently get the information they need to equip them for negotiating prices and accessing the latest agricultural trends, which exposes them to exploitation from market intermediaries.

“Over 76 per cent of people and nearly 98 per cent of households in Pakistan currently have access to at least one form of mobile technology,” said Mr Akmal.

“This provides the opportunity to improve farmers’ access to information, which has the potential to advance their farming techniques, help them gain better yields and negotiate from a point of knowledge,” he said.

Growing up on a farm in rural Pakistan, in a family that has worked the land for generations, Mr Akmal is able to tap into his personal life experiences, as well as the many research and socio-economic strategies he has been involved in, to inform his PhD study.

Mr Akmal believes that there are many opportunities for him to collaborate with ICIMOD and the farmers in Nepal in the future – access to resources coupled with transfer of information, relative language compatibility and an understanding of Pakistan’s agricultural and socio-economic challenges being the most obvious.

This two-week trip will take Mr Akmal into the heart of Nepal’s agricultural community, where he will be able to interrogate the principles of smart farming and how they can best be integrated into the Pakistani context.

“I will spend some time reviewing the findings of the project, conducting field work and possibly look at additional qualitative information that could inform my study,” said Mr Akmal.

Mr Akmal is a recipient of a John Allwright Fellowship from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), which has enabled him to complete his postgraduate degree at the University of Canberra’s Australian Institute for Sustainable Communities (AISC).