Thursday, 2 February, 2023
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‘Krishi Utshab’ Brings Hope for Farmers

Edward Apurba Singha

‘Krishi Utshab’ Brings Hope for Farmers
Edward Apurba Singha

Because of appropriate policies and active participation of private enterprises, our agriculture sector has achieved fabulous growth after the independence of Bangladesh. Now the government is working relentlessly to ensure sustainable agriculture by 2030. To achieve the target it is indispensable to boost up agricultural production to meet the needs of growing population.

But it is actually a challenging task as agricultural production greatly hampered by the adverse impact of climate change. Besides, other factors such as industrialization and urbanization also hinder production by grabbing cultivable lands. Nowadays global economic landscape has also created big threat for our agriculture sector.

To deal with both local and global phenomenon, it is imperative to empower farmers through information and innovation. Relevant information will help farmers clearly understand emerging threats and right demonstration of technologies/solutions will encourage them to adopt and apply new technique to increase their production and to improve their livelihood. Besides, easy access to cash will drive the growth of agricultural production.

Krishi Utshab is a farmer-focused event that bridges the gap between farmers and different stakeholders of the agriculture sector. The event also acts as a potential platform for farmers to acquire practical knowledge on climate change, appropriate technologies, best quality inputs, easy financing, market linkage, nutrition security, eco-friendly practices, entrepreneurship development etc.

This year NeoSTAR Innovation organized Krishi Utshab 2022 at Bangabandhu Academy for Poverty Alleviation and Rural Development (BAPARD) in Kotalipara upazila of Gopalganj district from November 26-28. BRAC Bank was the main sponsor of the event and other sponsors were Mutual Trust Bank, Social Islami Bank, Standard Bank and Metal Group. Besides, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Bangladesh Metrological Department, GAIN Bangladesh, International Potato Center and CCDB were strategic partners of Krishi Utshab 2022.

Emeritus Professor Dr. M. A. Sattar Mandal, Former Vice-Chancellor, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh and Former Member, Bangladesh Planning Commission inaugurated the three-day event as the chief guest. In his speech he said, “It is a worthwhile initiative that effectively focuses on existing and emerging challenges of our agriculture sector. We have to follow the direction of our Prime Minister to ensure optimum utilization of our land. But in order to enhance agricultural production we have to increase investment in this sector and to improve capacity of our farmers. Both the government and private sector should collectively focus on this issue”.

Experts from the government organizations, banks, agri enterprises and development organizations took part in the event to provide farmers clear view on following topics:

♦             Mechanization

♦               Access to finance

♦              Climate change

♦               Nutrition

 To transform our agriculture we have to focus on mechanization. Right awareness and easy loan facility can effectively motivate farmers to introduce machine to improve their farming activities. Metal a renowned name in agri-mechanization delivered a presentation on impact of mechanization. According to Metal, they usually offer installments to promote their machines. But collection of money is a tedious task and it hampers their regular operation. Now if any bank participates in this process then the particular company will utilize more resources to serve farmers effectively. Metal also showcased combine harvester, rice transplanter and tractor at the event.

But no real change will take place without active participation of banks in the agriculture sector. Bangladesh Bank already instructed banks to increase their rural presence and bring more farmers under banking system. Despite many challenges banks are trying to increase their footprint in rural areas. Strong presence of banks at Krishi Utshab 2022 gives a clear message about their readiness to explore more rural opportunities. BRAC Bank has launched a new loan product called ‘Sufola’ at the event and the particular bank distributed loan directly to farmers. Social Islami Bank also distributed loan directly to farmers. Both Mutual Trust Bank and Social Islami Bank showed their keen interest to facilitate mechanization in agriculture sector. Standard Bank extended support to establish a health zone to provide free treatment and medicines to farmers.

Dr. Nomita Halder ndc, Managing Director, PKSF and Former Secretary said, “Identifying eligible farmers is a critical task to ensure best utilization of agri loan. Banks must be aware of this fact. By establishing agriculture unit banks can monitor and guide farmers to utilize fund to produce optimum result. Besides, women are playing a significant role in agriculture sector. But to emerge as an entrepreneur most of the women face challenge to avail bank loan. Banks must focus on this issue.”

Dr. Atiur Rahman, Eminent Economist and Former Governor, Bangladesh Bank said, “Banks must come forward and help farmers overcome their fear about bank loan. Without right awareness about bank loan it is nearly impossible to reap its benefits. Banks can follow innovative approaches to engage more farmers. Besides, it is also important to promote sustainable banking at rural level in order to cut carbon emission from agriculture sector.”

Syed Abdul Momen, Deputy Managing Director and Head of SME Banking, BRAC Bank said: “Agriculture is one of the main economic driving forces in Bangladesh. As the most dependable bank for SMEs, BRAC Bank always works to increase the range of agricultural loans it offers. The bank has become the largest collateral-free SME financier in the nation over time, with a considerable amount of its business coming from agriculture loans. We have the financing solutions and extensive network across the country to reach out to the grassroots agri-business owners.”

“We think agriculture financing promotes economic growth, ensures financial inclusion and fosters the country’s development. This engagement with the farmers demonstrates our commitment to supporting agriculture and nurturing local entrepreneurship,” he affirmed.

It is evident that climate change has created potential threat for our agriculture sector. Due to climate change frequency of extreme weather events has been increased. And these natural calamities hamper agricultural production. As a result, farmers have to focus on climate-resilient varieties and other techniques to mitigate the impact of climate change. In a presentation Bangladesh Metrological Department also underscored the necessity of proper information dissemination about weather conditions in order to help farmers organize their farming activities to avoid any damage.

Focus on nutrition has become a paramount importance for us in order to achieve sustainable development targets by 2030.  Bangladesh is a land of huge population and a significant portion of the total population does not intake nutritious food because of their lack of awareness and financial constrains.  If this situation persists for long then it will eventually hamper productivity of our workforce which means no sustainable economic progress. As a result, collective effort of the government, research organizations, INGOs, enterprises and banks are indispensable to win this challenge. In a presentation, GAIN Bangladesh highlighted the importance of awareness development on nutrition of small and medium enterprises who are involved in food business.

Krishi Utshab has opened up a new avenue for farmers to share their needs and challenges with appropriate sources. On the other hand, the particular event also offers scopes for authorities, agri-enterprises, researchers, banks to understand the real scenario of rural areas. So, time has come to facilitate this initiative through active collaboration from both public and private sectors.

 

The writer is CEO of NeoSTAR Innovation