How Technology is Boosting Incomes for Bangladesh’s Farmers

September 12, 2017
Wasif Hasan

As part of the Government of Bangladesh’s goal of becoming a middle income country by 2021, USAID – through the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative – is supporting Bangladesh to improve food security and nutrition by promoting sustainable and inclusive agriculture-led growth. To date, Feed the Future programs in southern Bangladesh have helped improve the livelihoods of roughly 28 million people by enhancing the agricultural diversification and productivity of small farmers, increasing incomes and access to food, improving nutrition and dietary diversity, and strengthening the resilience of poor households to withstand natural shocks. 

Despite these successes, many Bangladeshi farmers still face challenges due to limited access to improved seed varieties, quality fertilizers, irrigation, and markets, which hampers food production and agricultural diversification. A partnership between Feed the Future and the Government of Bangladesh’s Ministries of Agriculture and Food is aiming to change that.

In 2012, Feed the Future supported the creation of Bangladesh’s Agricultural Policy Support Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture. This helped pave the way for rigorous agricultural research and analysis that has led to tremendous results.

In 2013, the Government of Bangladesh successfully released four varieties of GE eggplant, with Feed the Future support. These varieties are now being grown by over 8,000 farmers in Bangladesh, providing an additional source of income during the dry season. The Government of Bangladesh plans to release another five varieties of eggplant in the coming years. By taking the lead in adopting this technology, Bangladesh is well-positioned to boost its agricultural productivity even further while simultaneously conserving resources, adapting to changing environmental conditions, and protecting the health of consumers and producers.

To help farmers further improve their agricultural productivity, in 2016, Feed the Future trained 2.4 million farmers in Bangladesh in better production methods, mechanization and marketing. Farmers were also introduced to improved agricultural inputs like fertilizer, irrigation, and new seed varieties. Feed the Future-supported farmers earned an incremental $315.4 million from agricultural commodities that year.

And in February 2017, Feed the Future, in collaboration with the Minister of Agriculture of the Government of Bangladesh, launched the Agriculture Card Initiative, or A-Card Initiative, in the southern city of Khulna. The initiative works to increase smallholders’ access to finance through a card that functions much like a credit card. Farmers have up to 6 months before their first payment on the card is due, helping to address one of the major challenges Bangladeshi farmers face: lack of capital for investing in farm activities. Thanks to this initiative, over 3,200 smallholder farmers can now easily borrow funds to purchase supplies, like improved seeds and quality fertilizers, at low interest rates.

With more than half of the population engaged in agriculture, Bangladeshi farmers need resources to feed a population that now exceeds 160 million. The country holds enormous potential to further increase sustainable agricultural production, and thanks to the government’s continued commitment to agriculture development, Bangladeshi farmers are learning how to maximize agriculture production, gaining access to quality seed varieties, and boosting and diversifying their incomes.