Bangladesh has a critical need to develop farmer organizations. With this project’s support, farmer organizations are better able to work with private sector companies and have stronger governance, financial management, negotiations, communications, and leadership systems, all for the benefit of their smallholder farmer members. Through this work, the project provided the Government of Bangladesh with a model for sustainable outreach to farmers and village-level organizational development that it can scale up. In 2020, the project received additional funding for a medium- to long-term response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With these funds, the project has strengthened its virtual call centers, mostly through remote support, as a resilience tool for producer organizations to better cushion potential future catastrophes.
The project and its call centers have directly benefited more than 10,000 smallholder farmers by the end of December 2021, of whom 63% are women. On average, 135 producers (47% women) used the call centers each day. So far, the call centers have received 96,526 calls for selling products, 42,334 calls for buying inputs, and 28,940 calls for technical advice. Through them, approximately BDT 76.52 million (US$892,952) worth of products have been sold and BDT 12.28 million (US$143,317) of agricultural inputs have been purchased.
In addition to the call centers, the project created common facility centers, leveraging smallholders to reduce production costs, organize a community webinar series, and connect with the private sector, processors, extension agencies, and policy-makers. The project established community-based seed production through the creation of seed villages for pulses, oilseeds, and paddy and created a germplasm center to preserve and promote local climate-resilient varieties and species. The project also promoted a revolving loan fund as a producer organization-led resilient financial instrument. 2021 saw substantial progress in the number of farmers—from 4,696 at the end of 2020 to 5,884 at the end of 2021—who received funds from or through their producer organizations. These additional 1,308 members (792 men and 516 women) of 29 farmer organizations received BDT 81.68 million (US$953,117) as an agricultural loan at a 4–10% interest rate, receiving additional crowd-in finance from non-bank financial institutes and a few government agencies.
Imanun Nabi Khan