Facebook Groups: Reshaping the Nepali Agricultural Landscape
Nepal is a country with a long history of agriculture. However, in recent years, farmers have faced many challenges, including climate change, pests and diseases, and limited market access. To help farmers overcome these challenges, the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) works to increase the adoption of resource-conserving and climate-resilient technologies and improve farmers’ access to market information and marketing skills. CSISA supports female farmers by improving their access and exposure to agricultural mechanization, knowledge and business skills.
The Agriculture Mechanical Equipment Services Facebook group was created by CSISA in Nepal and financially supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID/Nepal in four key clusters (Dang, Nepalgunj, Surkhet and Kailali) in 2020. During the country’s lockdown due to the global pandemic of COVID-19, these groups rose. Nepal’s agriculture sector has long been the backbone of its economy, but it has recently grappled with multifaceted challenges. Climate change, pests and diseases, and limited market access have impeded the growth and sustainability of this sector. To combat these issues, CSISA stepped up with a novel approach — leveraging the widespread reach and engagement potential of Facebook groups. CSISA’s “Krishi Auzar Sewa” group became a digital platform for farmers seeking information, advice and support. The group quickly became a valuable resource for farmers, providing them with information, advice and support. Having 15,133 active members in the Facebook group, the dynamic visuals of Facebook groups is available online.
Table 1: Engagement in Facebook Groups
United Arab Emirates
Altogether, there are 15,133 members from five active groups. Efforts are underway to ensure a more balanced gender representation within the Facebook groups, such as posts related to women’s issues highlighting their district representation for agricultural mechanization, and male farmers sharing with their female counterparts how to operate power tillers safely. The data shows that the age groups of 25-34 and 35-44 exhibit the highest interest in posting and sharing within the group. This trend is consistent across the Kailali, Banke, Dang, Kanchanpur and Bardiya regions. Notably, Bardiya has the highest male engagement, ranging from 25-34 age groups comprising 2,000, and the lowest of 376 males from Kanchanpur. At the same time, 55 female participants from that same age group are active. The group acknowledges the importance of inclusivity and is actively working to increase female membership.
Table 2: Gender Distribution from Facebook Groups
Analysis of questions from five Facebook groups
In addition to the overarching impact of Facebook groups on Nepal’s agricultural landscape, the insights from Facebook polls conducted in four clusters — Kailali, Dang, Kanchanpur and Banke — provide a deeper understanding of how these platforms are being utilized and the challenges they are addressing. Furthermore, the CSISA team conducted Facebook polls (choosing the relevant best options) that have been highlighted below:
- Forty-one percent of respondents (146) under Krishi Auzar Sewa-Dang reported that they learned about the Facebook group automatically, indicating that the group’s presence might have been suggested to them by Facebook’s algorithm. This highlights the potential reach of the group beyond direct personal connections.
Comparative analysis of the use of Facebook communication information sharing
- In the Krishi Auzar Sewa-Dang group, 80% of participants reported rarely using Facebook for business promotion. This indicates a lower level of engagement when it comes to utilizing Facebook for agricultural business communication and information sharing.
- The Krishi Auzar Sewa-Banke group stands out, with a substantial number of participants (85%) indicating that they often use Facebook for business promotion. This suggests a strong emphasis on using the platform actively to communicate and share information related to their agricultural businesses.
Comparative analysis of social media usage preferences
- In the Krishi Auzar Sewa-Dang group, 45% of participants reported using Facebook, while 30% reported using TikTok. YouTube followed closely with 25% of participants, indicating a preference for video-based content. Instagram also received moderate engagement, while Twitter and other platforms were not selected.
Comparative analysis of perceived usefulness of social platform information for farming decisions
- In the Krishi Auzar Sewa-Dang group, 42% perceived the social platform information as “somehow helpful” in making farming decisions. Around one-third (32%) found the report “helpful,” while a smaller percentage (26%) were uncertain.
Comparative analysis of agricultural information preferences on Facebook groups
- The Krishi Auzar Sewa-Kailali group displays various agricultural information preferences. Pest and disease management garners the most interest (33%), followed by farming techniques and practices (28%) and weather and climate information (15%). A minor proportion (4%) indicates interest in the “other” categories.
Comparative analysis of constraints faced in using Facebook groups
- The Krishi Auzar Sewa-Bardiya group faced challenges in multiple areas, including power failure (35%), poor network service (23%) and low technical know-how (25%). Other issues (17%) were also reported, while high data cost had no reported instances.
Scientific comparative analysis of concerns for joining Facebook groups
- The Krishi Auzar Sewa-Kailali group’s concerns mainly revolved around poor economic conditions (63%) and low yield and production (19%). A significant number expressed concerns about not having adequate information related to farming (18%), while no participants reported concerns about not having access to the social platform.
Comparative analysis of enhancements for encouraging agricultural information sharing via Facebook groups
- Participants in Krishi Auzar Sewa-Kanchanpur, expressed balanced preferences for the proposed improvements. Participants showed interest in enhancing the process of utilizing information (28%), increasing user engagement through qualitative content (39%) and implementing content filtering mechanisms (33%).
These Facebook groups can help to address the challenges facing the agricultural sector in Nepal, such as climate change, pests and diseases, and low productivity.
- The most common way for farmers to learn about Facebook groups is through friends (30-77%).
- Most farmers use Facebook for communication and information sharing about their business promotion (60-80%).
- The most popular social media platforms farmers use are Facebook (50-80%) and YouTube (20-30%).
- Most farmers find the social platforms’ information helpful in making decisions related to farming (66-85%).
- The most common types of information that farmers seek or share on Facebook are agricultural techniques and practices (30-45%), market prices for agricultural products (20-30%) and weather and climate information (20-30%).
- The primary constraints that farmers face when using Facebook groups are poor network service (25-48%), high data cost (20-30%) and power failure (12-36%).
- The primary concerns for farmers to know about and join this group are no access to social platforms (12-23%), do not have adequate information related to farming (15-35%), poor yield and production (11-29%) and poor economic conditions (10-20%).
- The most common improvements or changes that could be made to encourage more farmers and extension agents to use Facebook groups for agricultural information and communication are increasing the number of users by promoting qualitative content (32-58%) and filtering inappropriate/irrelevant content by users (26-39%).
- These groups provided farmers access to information and resources, facilitated collaboration and networking among farmers, and promoted innovation in agriculture.
- The Facebook groups have successfully engaged farmers and found ultimate solutions for better farming and mechanization.
- The groups should be managed to ensure that they are inclusive and accessible for women’s participation.
- The groups are self-sustainable, promoting farmers’ issues for the mechanization processes.
Here are some specific examples of how local Facebook groups have helped farmers in Nepal:
- A farmer in Kailali needed help to get a good harvest. Members often posted questions on a Facebook group and received advice from other farmers on improving their planting methods and using more fertilizer. The following year, their rice harvest was much better.
- A group of farmers in Dang faced a problem with pests and diseases. They shared information on the Facebook group and learned about new pest and disease control methods through agrovets. This helped them to reduce the impact of pests and diseases on their crops.
- A group of farmers in Kanchanpur were interested in starting a new agricultural business. They used the Facebook group to connect with other farmers with experience starting businesses. This helped them to get the information and support they needed to start their business.
One farmer in the Kailali district increased his wheat yield by 20% after learning about new planting techniques from another farmer in the group. The farmer had been using the same planting techniques for many years, but he could improve his yield by changing how he planted his seeds. Another way that the Facebook group has helped farmers is by providing them with a forum to discuss common problems and challenges. This has allowed farmers to feel more connected to each other and to feel like they are not alone in facing these challenges.
The group has also helped build a sense of virtual community among farmers, which is essential in supporting them through difficult times. For example, a group of farmers in the Dang district faced how to get rid of agricultural pests to increase cropping yields. He came to the discussion on the Facebook group to discuss the problem and share ideas for how to solve it. The farmers were able to come up with a solution that worked for him, and he was able to save his crops.
The Facebook group has also helped connect farmers with markets. In the past, farmers often had to travel long distances to sell their produce. However, Facebook groups have made it possible for farmers to connect with buyers directly, which has helped them to get a better price for their crops.
In another instance, a young female farmer in the Banke district could start farming after receiving advice and support from other farmers. The woman was able to connect with a buyer through the group, and she was able to sell her produce at a fair price. These Facebook groups are a success story showing how social media can empower farmers and improve the agricultural sector. It is a valuable resource that can be replicated in other countries.
Overall, the survey data shows that Facebook groups are a valuable resource for farmers. They can be used to communicate and share information about agricultural practices, market prices and weather conditions. However, farmers need help using Facebook groups, such as poor network service and high data costs. These challenges could be addressed by increasing the number of users and filtering inappropriate/irrelevant content. It has helped farmers by allowing them to share knowledge and experiences. In the past, farmers often had to rely on word-of-mouth or textbooks to learn about new farming techniques. However, Facebook groups allow farmers to connect and share information in real time. This has helped farmers to learn about new practices and technologies to improve crop yields and incomes.
The Facebook group has also helped raise awareness of farmers’ challenges. The group has hosted discussions on climate change, pests and diseases, and market access. These discussions have helped to educate farmers about the challenges they face, and they have also helped to develop solutions to these challenges. These are just a few examples of how local Facebook groups are helping farmers in Nepal. These groups can be a powerful tool for empowering agricultural communities and improving the productivity and sustainability of agriculture.