“Our sustainability is the happy face of a farmer”, says Shahid Akbar, CEO of the Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID). Mr. Akbar was speaking during the plug and play session at the Fin4Ag International Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. How does one make a farmer happy? According to Shahid Akbar, providing an all-inclusive platform for farmers is the key to a farmer’s happiness.
BIID introduced e-Krishok in Bangladesh as its flagship initiative in its e-Agriculture agenda. e-Krishok is a private extension and market linkage service that targets small-scale farmers. In Bangladesh, agriculture has not been fully commercialised. The two main reasons that renders agriculture non-commercial and consequently unattractive are weak access to markets and access to information. e-Krishok positions itself to address these two issues.
Simple information delivery model
e-Krishok extension services are provided with the integration of ICTs. Farmers access ICT supported information through rural telecenters. Owners or operators of telecenters act as resource persons at the ground. They help farmers to access information on the e-Krishok website. Queries that prove too technical for the telecenter operator are sent on the e-Krishok webmail. An extension worker or an agriculturalist provided by the Ministry of Agriculture then responds to all queries deposited in the e-Krishok mailbox on a daily basis. This ensures that farmers get solutions within 24 hours.
e-Krishok is widely accepted in rural Bangladesh due to the involvement of local telecenter operators as resource persons. Farmers can approach the telecenter operator without reservation in search of ICT supported information solutions.
Developed on the belief that a farmer can be empowered with information, e-Krishok prides itself in providing farmers with appropriate and timely information. The web platform provides information on mitigation of disease, seed selection, fertiliser application and fertility management.
In addition to providing ICT supported information services, e-Krishok also provides farmers with information on markets for their produce. Sellers can advertise their produce and the quantity on the website. Buyers logged on to the e-Krishok website can then contact sellers.
Further, BIID builds farmers’s capacity to meet the demand of buyers. This is done through the e-Krishok website where farmers can learn about buyer requirements.
Focusing on the youth
BIID aims at attracting more youth in agriculture entrepreneurship through e-Krishok. E-Krishok provides information on financial services for farmers, running a business and how to create a business plan. One of the hindrances to profitable agriculture in Bangladesh is the belief that farming is not a business. Yet, farmers need to embrace farming as a business and acquire entrepreneurial skills to maximise profit. e-Krishok therefore ensures that farmers are always happy by transforming farmers into entrepreneurs.
ICT not an elixir for all farmer problems
“There is a tendency to be overly optimistic towards ICT as an elixir for all farmer problems”, Mr. Akbar observed, though ICT provides tremendous potential to solving all of farmers’ problems in the agri-value chain. ICT is pervasive in the value chain but its use has limits, too. Mr. Akbar warns that ICT should be used appropriately when targeting farmers,especially rural farmers. Sometimes all a farmer needs is motivation that the next season will have better yield!
Photo credit: BIID
Blogpost by Nyambura Maina, Social Reporter for the Fin4Ag Conference.