• Agriculture Rights Project - ARP

  • Agriculture Rights Project - ARP

  • Agriculture Rights Project - ARP

  • Agriculture Rights Project - ARP

  • Agriculture Rights Project - ARP

  • Agriculture Rights Project - ARP

Agriculture Rights Project - ARP

Development Wheel has been implemented Agricultural Rights Project with the support of Swallows India Bangladesh since 2011 to 2019 in the Mymensingh Sadar and Gouripur upazila;


Overall objective: Reduced poverty and more sustainable livelihoods amongst poor and marginalised communities in northern Bangladesh

Poverty alleviation remains the single biggest challenge for Bangladesh. International and national bodies have set specific targets and strategies to reduce poverty and income inequality as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG)s. Poverty alleviation and improvement of livelihoods is also reinforced in Bangladesh’s National Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction (i.e. PRSP II).

Specific objective: Effective participation of poor and marginal farmers in Mymensingh in decision-making processes so they can attain their rights from public and private stakeholders and improve their income from agriculture

2.2 A detailed presentation and analysis of the problems and their interrelation at all levels:

Agriculture is the most important sector in Bangladesh, accounting for about 21% of GDP and about 50% of employment (Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2008). However agriculture could contribute more to the economy and to ensuring more equitable distribution of wealth if the sector did not face numerous challenges (disorganized, poor and marginal farmers; fragmented farmland; scarce water resources; soil degradation; unpredictable climate; inadequate agricultural infrastructure; lack of diversified agriculture; inadequate and inefficient finance systems; inadequate extension services etc.)

In Bangladesh, the agriculture sector is made up of millions of poor and marginal farmers; 76% of farming households operate with less than one hectare of land (Department of Agriculture Extension 2006), of which 40% are almost landless (below 0.02 hectares) or marginal (0.02 - 0.2 hectares). This 76% of households account for just 4% of cultivated land. They therefore depend on additional income gained from leasing land, share-cropping and selling agricultural labour. Small and marginal farmers face discrimination in accessing government services including fertilizer distribution, soil testing, production training, agricultural subsidies and loans, production advice, registration etc. The challenges facing small and marginal farmers are compounded by their size - they get low quality inputs and low prices, and they incur higher costs of transportation, rental of equipment, machines and storage. They also lack the volumes and capacity to bargain with market actors for better prices. As a result small and marginal farmers and their families remain poor.

Given the number of small and marginal farmers who rely on the agriculture sector for their livelihoods, it is essential to improve agricultural governance and productivity. This can only be done effectively by organizing small and marginal farmers into strong organizations (NSAs) so they can utilize their collective power to voice, negotiate and attain their rights, services and due shares from other stakeholders (public and private service providers, local authorities and other value-chain actors) and to utilize economies of scale in buying and selling. At the same time, work needs to be done with these other stakeholders to raise their awareness and build their capacity to address the issues of this excluded farmer community

2.3 A detailed description of the target groups and final beneficiaries and estimated number:

The main target group and the final beneficiaries are 1600 small and marginal farmers (with less than 0.2 hectares of land) and their families in Mymensingh. With average family size of 4.7, total number of beneficiaries will be 7520 poor people. Per capita GDP in Mymensingh is US$ 614, much lower than the national average of US$ 690 (2009).  The main reasons for selecting the target district are: large numbers of poor and marginal people; a diversified mix of economy and livelihoods; a growing demand for business and extension services; and the potential for significant and measurable impact.

Other target groups include:

  • Two district level farmers’ associations whose capacity will be built to provide required support and appropriate and affordable services to small and marginal farmers.
  • 60 private and public service providers whose capacity will be built to provide appropriate and affordable services to small and marginal farmers to achieve a win-win situation;
  • Local government bodies and local authorities, who will be encouraged to ensure favourable governance and the rights of small farmers.

2.4 The specific problems to be addressed and the perceived needs/constraints of the target groups: This project will address the following problems facing small and marginal farmers:

  • Poor agricultural governance: The government has had a decreasing role in agriculture since the 1990s. However it still has a critical role to create a fair playing ground and protect the rights of farmers.  For example, preventing the sale of low quality, adulterated inputs (i.e. seeds, pesticides and fertilizers) at high prices by input sellers and companies. However, in absence of proper policies and legislation, national government and local authorities often fail to address these issues. In addition, many government agricultural development projects (e.g. excavation of canals) are not executed properly. There are a number of reasons for this including lack of capacity and resources, corruption, and most critically, the exclusion of small and marginal farmers from decision-making and implementation processes.
  • Poor policy implementation and lack of awareness amongst farmers of the benefits available to them: Research has shown that Bangladesh has some good agricultural policies, however most lack definite action plans and accountability, and most are top-down (with little or no input from small and marginal farmers). In addition, local authorities lack the capacity and motivation to implement policies and plans. For example, government policy suggests the formation of union-level agricultural committees to oversee the policy implementation and facilitate the distribution of agricultural services and support including credit and inputs. However these are either non-existent or ineffective. Small and marginal farmers also lack awareness of their rights and the capacity to negotiate with local authorities for their rights.
  • Lack of access to knowledge, information and technology: Small and marginal farmers should receive information and services from government extension officers and supply chain actors (e.g. input sellers, wholesalers, traders and retailers). However the information and services they get are often inadequate. Government service providers have technical skills but lack the resources and often motivation to provide services to large numbers of small and marginal farmers spread over a wide area. This means government support and services are mainly enjoyed by large or influential farmers. Supply chain actors often lack technical knowledge and an understanding of the mutual benefits of providing services to small farmers. Small and marginal farmers often therefore depend on other ‘lead’ farmers for up-to-date knowledge and information. But these ‘lead’ farmers also often lack up-to-date knowledge and information. As a result, small and marginal farmers lack information on new technologies, disease and pest management, fertilizer usage, new seed varieties etc.
  • Lack of timely access to good quality inputs such as seeds and fertiliser: The government distribution system of inputs is not effective due to lack of resources and proper mechanisms. This means they are unable to supply the right amount at the right time. Many small and marginal farmers therefore rely on traditional methods resulting in low yields. Other farmers buy unpacked seeds/fertilisers as they need small amounts, leading to low quality and adulterated inputs. Small and marginal farmers also lack knowledge of relevant rules and regulations meaning they are often cheated and receive low quality or adulterated inputs or are charged higher prices.
  • Lack of appropriate agricultural infrastructure: Agriculture is becoming more technology intensive which means that farmers are becoming increasingly dependent on agricultural infrastructure such as irrigation, tilling, carrying, spraying, etc. However small and marginal farmers lack the resources to invest in such infrastructure. They are also unaware of how to work collectively to make joint investments and run joint facilities. Consequently they often pay higher rental for infrastructure services.
  • Lack of bargaining capacity: Small and marginal farmers produce small quantities and are often located far from markets. Their products therefore go through several levels of intermediaries. They also lack cash for most of the year. Small and marginal farmers often have no option but to sell to intermediaries at whatever price is offered. Government procurement only applies to rice and does not benefit poor farmers as they cannot bear the costs of storing produce (which is very high compared to production costs) until they can sell to government buyers. Sometimes over production pushes prices down further.

2.5 How the action will provide the desired solutions

The target farmers are small and marginal (less than 0.2 hectares) and are in dire need of services, support, inputs and market access to help them increase their income and develop sustainable livelihoods. This project will organize farmers into groups and associations and train them to demand, negotiate and realise their rights and services. This will enable them to:

  • Access services more easily: If farmers are organized they can negotiate for better quality and more effective services. In addition, public service providers can make more effective use of resources by providing services to groups of farmers rather than individuals.
  • Benefit from economies of scale by bulk purchasing: Buying packed and sealed inputs in bulk will ensure better quality inputs and lower costs for individual farmers. Farmer associations can also lobby the local government and authority for proper and timely distribution of inputs.    
  • Collectively invest in agricultural infrastructure and equipment: Small and marginal farmers lack the resources to invest in infrastructure or equipment. Individual investment is also not economically viable. A farmer group can jointly bear the costs of buying and running equipment and infrastructure.
  • Negotiate more effectively with buyers: Selling in groups increases farmers’ bargaining power so they can negotiate better prices. It also reduces transport costs, which means that farmers can afford to transport their products to markets where they can get better prices, reducing layers of intermediaries.
  • Lobby local and national government bodies: Individual farmers are easily ignored. Collectively farmers can make their voices heard and negotiate for better policies, services and resources.

2.6 Background information that led to the formulation of the action

This project is based on the learning and success of our Sustainable Livelihoods for Poor Producers (SLIPP) project (EC contract no: ONG-PVD/2006/118/777), in which DEW is the main co-implementing partner of Traidcraft Exchange (TX). SLIPP is now in its fifth year. Results already achieved include:

  • Empowerment of farmers including women and minority groups. SLIPP has facilitated the establishment of 100 Self help groups (SHGs) covering 2500 small and marginal farmers (against project target of only 1,200 farmers). These groups enable farmers to work collectively so they can share the costs of buying business inputs and accessing markets. SLIPP has also provided the groups with training on negotiating, lobbying and advocacy, and has facilitated the formation of two district farmer association to help farmers negotiate more effectively with government bodies and larger players in the supply chain. The groups are maturing at different rates however some groups have already independently approached local government officials for support services, lobbied local government for improved resources and support, and negotiated with buyers for better prices.
  • Enhanced capacity of public and private service providers. SLIPP has built the capacity of service providers to supply appropriate and affordable services to farmers. This has included topics such as business planning, costing and pricing, communication, record keeping and client management. By training 326 private service providers SLIPP has created a network of expertise ‘on the ground’ to help farmers improve performance, resilience and sustainability.
  • Better service provision for small and marginal farmers. The service providers have started working with SHGs and providing services and there is now regular communication between the SHGs and service providers. This practical training is specific to the chosen sectors (duck-rearing, fish farming and vegetable cultivation) and is developing skills and knowledge about the day-to-day issues facing farmers (such as cultivation techniques, inputs management, soil health management-soil testing, compost fertilizer, cost effective quality fish feed formulation, fish and duck hatchery management, etc). Improving the performance of small and marginal farmers is helping them improve their livelihoods and food security.
  • Reduced production costs: Farmers have seen significant reductions in costs through:
    • Economies of scale: Many SHGs are collectively purchasing inputs. Group members are benefiting from reduced prices and better quality (bulk inputs are sold in sealed packets so there is no risk of adulteration). Members have also reduced their transport and associated labour costs.
    • Increased and improved services from public institutions/agencies: 90% of SHGs have received some sort of services from public service providers free of cost.
    • Embedded services: Consultation workshops with farmers revealed that embedded services are helping them save costs by applying the right dose fertilisers/pesticides, improve their yields by using better seeds and better production techniques, etc.
  • Increased productivity: Many farmers have improved their productivity and quality, and reduced their costs, by using business services. For example, one farmer has doubled his production by taking advice from a service provider on seed and disease management. Another farmer has saved Taka 13,000 (€136) by getting his soil tested and subsequently using the correct doses of fertiliser.
  • Better policies, resources and services. SLIPP has increased understanding amongst farmers of the current policies, and the support, services and resources available to them. It has also supported SHGs and associations to lobby policy-makers to encourage better government support for small and marginal farmers.

SLIPP has proved that this model of organizing and empowering poor farmers is effective. Over the last couple of years the project has gained momentum. There has been a strong demonstration effect as producers from neighbouring villages (who were not part of the SLIPP project) have seen the benefits of the project and have demanded their inclusion in project activities. However SLIPP has also helped us realize that farmers face a variety of other needs including agricultural governance (which SLIPP is not addressing). These include poor agricultural governance and inadequate access to agricultural infrastructure and equipment. To address these issues associations capacity needs to further strengthen

The project will take the learning and achievements from SLIPP and scale up this successful model (with more focus on agricultural governance) to reach a far greater number of farmers through their associations thereby broadening the scope and scaling up the impact. So initially project will work with associations to further improve their capacity. Afterwards they will increase their outreach and support the farmers for both economic and social empowerment.

2.7 Expected results:

The expected results and outputs of the proposed projects are, as follows:

Result 1: Target farmers are working collectively and collaboratively

The project will work with 1600 farmers into 64 local Self Help Groups (SHGs), and two district level associations. These organizations will then be trained so they can operate effectively (e.g. holding regular group meetings, sharing learning, taking collective actions - buying/selling products, demanding and accessing services, saving and investing). Although Bangladesh is an agro-based country, many farmers lack adequate agriculture infrastructure. Consequently farmers have to hire infrastructure facilities at high costs making their products more expensive. Organizing farmers into groups will help them to collectively purchase, run and maintain agricultural infrastructural facilities and equipment. The project will ensure the following direct benefits:

  • 75% of SHGs are taking collective actions
  • 50% of SHGs have negotiated with local authorities and other local stakeholders for improved resources and services
  • At least 75% of farmers perceive benefits from the local groups

Result 2: Government and private sector stakeholders recognize the needs of target farmers and reflect these in the development of policies and practices

This activity is core to this project. The project will raise awareness amongst public and private sector bodies and local authorities of the problems facing small and marginal farmers. At the same time it will organize dispersed and almost invisible poor farmers into a visible social force who can, through collective action, solve many of their problems related to services, rights and infrastructure.The project willbuild the capacity of farmer organizations (especially the district associations) to engage in dialogue with public and private sector stakeholders and negotiate more supportive policies and increased resources and support. The project will also build the capacity of public and private service providers to develop and provide appropriate and affordable agricultural services to small farmers. The project will ensure the following direct benefits:

  • District farmer associations are represented on relevant agriculture-related committees
  • District farmer associations have negotiated at least 6 improvements in policies or resources for farmers
  • 60 public and private service providers develop appropriate and affordable services for small farmers
  • At least 75% of farmers perceive benefits from the district or regional associations

Result 3: Target farmers have improved their production practices and market access

Poor and marginal farmers face multiple problems including low yields, high costs, low prices, crop failure and distress sales. Our SLIPP project has shown us that the main reasons for this are lack of appropriate and high quality information, services and inputs. Associations will build linkages between service providers and farmer SHGs to ensure that farmers can access appropriate and affordable agricultural services. Providing services through farmer SHGs will ensure more efficient and cost-effective service delivery. By providing farmers with vital services this will help them to improve cultivation practices, increase productivity, reduce costs and improve quality. The project will ensure the following direct benefits:

  • 100% of SHGs are receiving appropriate and affordable services
  • 80% of farmers see a 30% increase in productivity
  • 80% of farmers see a 15% decrease in production costs
  • 80% of farmers see a 30% increase in sales
  • At least 75% of farmers indicate satisfaction with the quality and affordability of services received

Case Study: Runa Akhtar - Best Farmer

Empowering women: Runa awarded by the Minister as a best women farmer

Women Farmer's Campaign in Bangladesh: Development Wheel (DEW) as a member of CSRL, OXFAM GB carries out a campaign focusing on women farmers’ contribution and recognition in Food Security of Bangladesh. The focused areas of the campaign would be a new venture for promoting women farmer’s rights through engagement of wider population of the country. The initiative will provide rural women farmers a platform to showcase their achievements in feeding their family on limited land and the influence of climate change.

This campaign is being organized to raise mass awareness about women’s contribution made to the national and household level food security, to celebrate and recognize women’s contribution in household and national level and mobilize public opinion towards the recognition of women farmers’ contribution and need for policy measurers to promote women’ rights as farmers. After completion of the campaign, 7 female farmers from 7 divisions will be awarded through a national level ceremony. As a role model, those champions would act as the ambassadors for promoting rural small holders women’s rights.

Runa Akhtar one of our ARP project participants living in the Char Anandipur, Mymensingh; based on achievement in contribution made to the household food security recently Runa has been selected by the panel of judges as one of the best women farmer under Women Farmer Campaign in Dhaka Division of Bangladesh. She has been awarded by the State Minister of Labor and Employment Mr. Mujibul Haque in a divisional level award giving and listening of their struggle and success story event at the Reporters Unity. The event was chaired by Ms Shirin Akhter MP, Champaign Manager of Oxfam Ms. Monisha Biswas, Judges pannel members, civil society organizations and huge print and electronic media ware present in the occasion. As a role model now Runa would act as the ambassador for promoting rural small holders women’s rights.

Runa is receiving award from the state minister, Ministry of Labor & Employment and Shirin Akhtar MP

Mr. Shah Abdus salam, ED, DEW is delivering his speech in the occasion

Runa Akhter with her family members

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