E-commerce platform trialled to help Nepalese farm co-ops with market access

The platform aims to help farmers whose market access has been disrupted by Covid-19 lockdowns

UNDP Accelerator Lab in Nepal has partnered with software developer Bidhee Private Limited to test an e-commerce platform for farmers’ co-ops across the country.

Krishi Coop Bazaar (Agricultural Cooperative Market) is a website and mobile app, designed to allow co-ops across Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Chitwan, Nuwakot, Kavre, Dhading and Chitwan to sell their products directly to customers.

In a statement on its website, UNDP Nepal said the aim of the platform is to “link the farmers’ co-operative markets directly with the consumers so that it can safeguard the livelihoods of the farmers by directly supplying fresh fruits, vegetables and other agro-based commodities to the consumers”.

The platform also aims to increase the reach of farmers’ co-ops to more customers.

The platform came out of a “horizon scanning” and consultation project conducted by the Accelerator Lab and the Cooperative Market Development Programme (CMDP), a joint initiative of the Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation (MoLCPA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 

They found Covid-9 lockdowns had disrupted market linkages for Napelese farmers, resulting in a “glutting” of agricultural products in areas with a surplus, and price hikes in urban settlements with reduced market access. Many farmers had been forced to lower prices and faced severe losses.

The platform is being tested for two of seven co-op markets supported by CMDP, and will scaled up when the trial is complete.

Insights already taken from the test include:

  • Co-operative markets should be involved in the design of the platform, as well as modifications and recommendations
  • Weekly meetings with all partners and members from co-operative markets helps to track progress and discuss areas of improvement
  • Coordination with MoLCPA has brought value to the project and motivated the team and co-operative markets to develop the system quickly
  • Members of the co-op markets benefited from virtual and physical training on how to use the platform effectively
  • Several rounds of tests, along with version modifications on the web and mobile applications, were required to identify and fix bugs in the system, involving users from co-operatives and consumer groups
  •  A consumer-centric system, including a simple user interface with different modes of payment, membership points and voucher earning facilities, ensures that the co-operative markets can attract and retain more consumers.

UNDP Nepal said: “The co-operative markets are excited to roll out the digital platform once the tests are successful. Once rolled out, the platform is expected to extend the service area of co-operatives, promote local production and reduce the number of agro-imports.”