Heifer International and FruitPunch AI Empower Nepal’s Women Farmers with AI

Nepal’s Women Farmers

By digitizing agricultural data, Heifer International and FruitPunch AI pave the way for sustainable farming practices and enhanced livelihoods in Nepal.

Heifer International, a global development organization, in partnership with FruitPunch AI, a community dedicated to using artificial intelligence (AI) for social good, has initiated the AI for Women Farmers Challenge. This innovative project aims to empower rural women farmers in Nepal by developing AI tools that enable them to leverage data to enhance their livelihoods.

Digitizing agricultural data

The challenge focuses on assisting women-led agricultural cooperatives to digitize and interpret their data on their financial, business and other activities. This effort is expected to improve their access to markets, financing and product traceability platforms, among other benefits.

Leveraging FruitPunch AI’s innovative approach, the challenge recruits skilled volunteers from the AI for Good community to address a specific issue aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This collaboration is set to span a concentrated ten-week period, targeting a direct problem faced by women farmers in Nepal.

Bridging the digital divide

Heifer International has long supported Nepalese women smallholders through agricultural cooperatives. They serve as essential platforms for economic and social empowerment by offering various services to their members. Despite this support, a significant digital divide has limited these cooperatives’ ability to utilize their data effectively, with most information being stored in traditional paper ledgers.

Antoinette Marie, Director of Heifer Labs, emphasized the significance of this challenge, stating, “This Challenge represents a significant milestone with immediate benefits for rural women entrepreneurs. By empowering them with digitized versions of their own data, we’re boosting their market presence, optimizing their business processes, and strengthening their ability to secure essential growth capital.”

Technical approach and phases

The AI for Women Farmers Challenge aims to bridge this digital divide by employing AI Optical Character Recognition (OCR) models. These models will digitize and translate Nepali handwritten and typeset text from physical records, thus facilitating easier data analysis and insight generation for farmers.

The project will unfold in two phases: The initial phase will focus on extracting and translating Nepali data using AI OCR models, allowing for the digitization and analysis of various paper records. A subsequent phase will concentrate on structuring this data around specific use cases, like enhancing formal lending to farmers.

Skill development and economic growth

Volunteers from FruitPunch AI will enhance their technical skills through this challenge while contributing to the economic growth of women smallholders in Nepal. This collaboration not only aims to develop sustainable AI engineering skills but also to integrate women-run farms into the digital economy, fostering business growth.

“By joining forces with Heifer Labs, we will be able to educate AI engineers with sustainable AI skills while helping women-run farms reach the digital economy and grow their businesses,” said Sako Arts, CTO and Founder of FruitPunch AI.

Since its inception in Nepal in 1997, Heifer International has worked closely with local farmers to boost food security and alleviate poverty by enhancing agricultural value chains, promoting sustainable farming practices and improving access to services and inputs. Heifer Nepal has supported more than 400,000 families across 277 agricultural cooperatives. These cooperatives operate under the Social Entrepreneur Women Alliance, a leading group governed by forward-thinking women in agriculture.

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Header Image Courtesy of Freepik

Press release link: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/heifer-international-and-fruitpunch-ai-launch-artificial-intelligence-challenge-in-nepal-to-improve-data-access-for-women-farmers-302048661.html

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