This section captures some of the achievements of Katalyst in different sectors. These have resulted in better practices and increased income, leading to improved living conditions and better lives for the poor and gradually reducing poverty.
Safe and judicious use of pesticide increases income for farmers
Katalyst worked with the Bangladesh Crop Protection Association (BCPA), a non-profit business organisation, to train farmers, retailers and pesticide sprayers across Bangladesh in the safe and judicious use of pesticide.
This initiative improved the ability of farmers to select the right type of pesticide, to use it appropriately and with the correct dosage. Farmers can also identify and manage crop disease.
An impact assessment carried out in July 2012 revealed that when the farmers put this improved knowledge into action, their income increased. At the same time, retailers and pesticide sprayers also enhanced their knowledge of pesticide dosage and its application.
Almost 135,000 farmers are now benefiting from using pesticide safely and judiciously.
Pesticide-free vegetables a great success in Dhaka
In 2012, Katalyst began work with ESDEP Concern Foundation (ECF), which produces and sells pesticide-free vegetables. ECF had been working with more than 250 farmers to produce pesticide-free vegetables for the local market of Magura.
Katalyst facilitated the training of ECF farmers in improved post-harvest techniques, such as how to pick and package their crops in ways most likely to minimise damage.
Katalyst also worked with the ECF to expand its sales to include the high-demand markets of Dhaka. ECF identified high demand selling points in Dhaka and introduced home delivery services. From July 2012, ECF started selling their fresh vegetables in Dhaka with encouraging results – sales were rapid, and soon a loyal customer base was built. Regular and advance orders ensued, as customers took advantage of the home delivery service.
In 2013, ECF linked with 3 vegetable exporters and now exporting seasonal pesticide-free vegetables to USA and UK.
Cost-effective and eco-friendly jute retting technique takes off
Over the years the drying of river and canals in Bangladesh, and the increase of commercial fish cultivation in private ponds has caused water shortages and made access to water for retting purposes increasingly difficult. In 2011, Katalyst began a collaboration with the Bangladesh Jute Research Institute (BJRI) to introduce jute farmers to new ribbon retting techniques developed by BJRI. Where there is a scarcity of water, ribbon retting is the most cost-effective and eco-friendly technique. The retting method thus needed to be revisited, and a more appropriate one employed.
Katalyst introduced ribbon retting as a pilot initiative in five districts: Jessore, Kushtia, Lalmonirhaat, Rangpur and Gopalganj. Katalyst’s pilot helped establish 50 demonstration plots and held a series of farmer field meetings in areas where jute production was hampered by water shortages. Officials from the DAE acted as information service providers and coaches.
The response from the farmers end was positive. This success spurred BJRI on to design a national promotion campaign replicating the pilot model, and by the end of 2011, it had trained 6,000 SAAOs in 141 sub-districts across the country in both low cost improved retting, and ribbon retting, including the development of affordable, mechanised ribbon retting equipment.
Centrifugal pump manufacturers are producing efficient pumps
There is a need in Bangladesh for efficient machines and pumps to mitigate against the growing scarcity of water needed for irrigation. Most pumps used by Bangladeshi farmers are produced in-country; however, the manufacturers lack the expertise to produce pumps which work effectively. Inefficient pumps lead to extra maintenance and fuel costs being passed on to farmers, with a knock-on increase in their production costs. The pumps also usually come without any technical guidelines, which means, that both farmers and technicians are often unsure of the correct installation process.
In 2011, Katalyst partnered with a national agriculture manufacturers’ association and the Bangladesh Industrial Technical Assistance Centre (BITAC) to organise skill development training for fifteen centrifugal pump manufacturers in Bogra, the main centre for pump production in Bangladesh. Immediate improvements were seen in the quality of pumps produced. This convinced BITAC of the benefits of providing better technical assistance to its stakeholders, pump manufacturers, manufacturer associations and government bodies. BITAC has now made a commitment to providing the manufacturers with further technical support in terms of capacity development, access to research and production facilities.
We expected that this initiative would reduce the cumulative production costs of farmers, improve their productivity and increase their income, and assessment has indeed found that up to April 2013, 43,200 farmers had an average yearly income increase of BDT2,500 through the use of these improved irrigation pumps.
Starting in 2011, Katalyst worked with private seed companies to introduce quality seed in small packets, specifically for poor farmers. Before this, quality seed was only available to smallholder farmers in quantities beyond their means, effectively limiting their access to it. Between September 2011 and December 2012, seed companies distributed almost 2 million mini packs of local and hybrid quality seed throughout Bangladesh. Introducing these appropriately-sized, market-oriented packets has meant that the seed companies have been able to penetrate the market segment of small and homestead farmers.
The farmers themselves have also benefited in terms of increased production on their land and increased income.
Promoting improved pest management techniques
To promote integrated pest management (IPM) for better crop protection, Katalyst conducted a study of IPM in Bangladesh, to examine the technology, its applicability, growth potential, and to identify any limitations. The study revealed that with certain crops the cost of pesticide would be reduced by a third if IPM was implemented correctly. Katalyst also discovered that in the government’s Pesticide Rules 1985 there was no provision for the commercial production of biopesticide, and that this was hindering the overall growth of the industry.
In response, Katalyst prepared and submitted a policy recommendation paper to the MP and Chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on agriculture. This paper is believed to have played an instrumental role in the amendment process of the Pesticide Rules, which was finalised in 2010 and will allow the registration of commercial production and marketing of biochemical pesticides, including their distribution and use in Bangladesh.
As part of this initiative, Katalyst also worked with Ispahani Biotech, a leading integrated pest management company, to facilitate them for cluster demonstrations across Bangladesh on the use of pheromone traps for effective pest control. Three hundred and forty small and marginal vegetable farmers were selected as demonstration farmers and received training in cluster groups. Through the demonstrations, field days and other promotional activities, approximately 16,000 farmers benefited in one year.
Public-private collaboration improve farmers’ access to information and services
The under-resourced, over-burdened extension officials cannot reach every farmer, and through its Improving Local Government Services (ILGS) programme, Katalyst facilitates the formation of upazila-level, agricultural traders’ associations to act as a conduit through which farmers groups are able to receive the agricultural extension services they need.
ILGS works to develop effective links between farmers and the government’s public extension agencies. ILGS does this by tapping into the commercial incentives presented by independent agricultural traders’ associations to link government extension agencies with farmer groups.
This public-private collaboration has significantly improved the way farmers receive agricultural information and services. The increased number of farmers expressing their needs through agricultural traders, and the concomitant support provided by the extension agencies encouraged the government extension departments (covering agriculture, livestock and fisheries) to initiate a pilot programme in 20 upazilas. Upon completion of the pilot, all three government departments developed implementation guidelines and issued office orders in 119 upazilas where the programme was working.
By December 2012, Katalyst had reached 213,000 farmers (of whom 41,000 were women) through this traders’ association-farmers’ group network.
Contract farming and dedicated credit lines increase maize production
In 2008-09, local maize contractors in the char lands (areas formed as a result of river erosion and silt deposition) designed a comprehensive ‘service package’ which provided 2,000 farmers with quality seed, information on cultivation techniques and access to credit. This service package know as ‘Contract farming’ has reportedly increased maize yields from 5.5 MT to 7.5 MT per hectare, with the result that the average income of char has farmers increased from BDT15,500 to BDT23,500 per acre per season. There was also an approximate 15% increase in the area under maize cultivation in the 2009-10 winter season (October to March).
Maize cultivation however requires start-up money to buy the inputs, and for production to increase, farmers need sustainable access to finance. In 2011, Katalyst signed a memorandum of understanding with National Credit and Commerce (NCC) Bank Ltd and Agrani Bank Ltd to introduce dedicated credit lines for maize farmers. In the pilot phase, farmers have been able to access credit through their local branch, with support from contractors.
Until March 2013, 10 branches of Agrani, and NCC Bank have disseminated loans to 350 maize farmers.
Global recognition of Jigyasha 7676
In 2009, Katalyst partnered with Banglalink to launch a (agricultural) helpline for farmers. Farmers often experience a lack of information on disease prevention for their crops, poultry, and fisheries, and they need a quick solution. Jigyasha 7676 has been widely accepted among mobile phone users working in agriculture, with more than 385,000 calls having been logged in the call centres during 2011-12, and successfully extends Bangladesh’s telecommunication service far beyond telephone and SMS use.
In 2009, GSM Association awarded Banglalink’s Jigyasha the Best Mobile Enterprise Application Product or Service award at the ‘Asia Mobile Award 2009’.
Fertiliser Recommendation Service wins Best IT Use award 2010
In 2009, Katalyst began work with Soil Resource Development Institute (SRDI) to develop the online fertiliser recommendation software (FRS) which provide fertiliser recommendations to farmers, based on location-specific soil testing results.
Grameenphone (through its community information centres or CICs) and Banglalink (through its agricultural helpline, Banglalink Jigyasha 7676) joined Katalyst as partners to disseminate information to farmers.
In the pilot phase, 30 upazilas were covered by this service. At present the software database contains soil-specific data of 465 upazilas. The launch of FRS means that the service will be available nationwide, and farmers from all 465 upazilas will be able to receive information on the right dosage of fertiliser for their land.
In February 2010, FRS was awarded the Best Use of IT award by the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS).
Better packaging reduces waste
Studies conducted by Katalyst in 2009 revealed that post-harvest losses of vegetable, fish and fruit is around 15%, and often rising to as high as 40% for more perishable items. One of the main reasons for this wastage is the inappropriate form of packaging used by many producers.
To minimise this, Katalyst partnered with Bengal Plastics to introduce plastic crates designed for farmers to transport their produce with the minimum of damage. Around 400 value chain officials were informed about the benefits of using plastic crates at farm level for long distance transportation. More than 2,500 crates were sold during the pilot phase (up to May 2011). Encouraged by this success, in March 2012 Bengal Plastics launched two new types of plastic crates for fish and vegetable.
To date, around 13,000 plastic crates have been sold.
Low cost quality compost production helps farmers
In 2011, Katalyst partnered with the Rural Development Academy (RDA) to develop and promote trichoderma among farmers. Trichoderma is an environment friendly micro-organism that speeds up the decomposition of organic materials. As part of the initiative, the RDA began to produce the trichoderma activator in their culture laboratory in Bogra.
By December 2012, around 200 local service providers had been trained to disseminate knowledge of this technology to farmers, and RDA engaged sales agents and local service providers to market trichoderma in the surrounding districts of Bogra, ensuring its effective use at household level.
National Action Plan for the shrimp industry
In 2009, in partnership with the Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation, the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock and the Department of Fisheries, Katalyst facilitated the formation of a National Working Committee (NWC). This comprised representatives of stakeholders from the shrimp industry, government agencies and development partners. The aim of the NWC was to combat the prevailing threat of Nitro furan contamination, and to introduce a Code of Conduct and functional traceability system. Its vision was to improve the image of Bangladesh’s shrimp industry. The intervention has resulted in significant achievements. The self-imposed ban due to contamination has been withdrawn, European Union test protocol has changed, and the capacity of the Department of Fisheries’ Fish Inspection and Quality Control laboratory has been developed. These initiatives have led to a reduction in the number of RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) alerts by the European Union from 49 to three within three years.
At the end of 2011, after reviewing the progress in Bangladeshi testing facilities and the capabilities of their laboratories, the European Union inspection team working for the Directorate General for Health & Consumers lifted the 20% mandatory checking of Bangladesh’s prawn and shrimp exports at European Union ports of entry.
Business journalism course replicated by academia
In 2007, Katalyst turned its attention to the development of the skills service market of the media sector, with the aim of improving professional reporting on small and medium businesses. In 2008, the project assisted with the introduction of a course in business journalism with institutions including Dhaka University (DU), Bangladesh’s leading national university. In 2010, Katalyst worked with the private university, University of Liberal Arts (ULAB), to launch a major in business journalism.
In 2012, the course introduced in DU was replicated by another public institution, Jogonnath University (JU), a natural replication which shows the acceptance of the course into mainstream academia. At DU, three graduate years, each with an average of 25 students, have completed the course, and a fourth is underway. At JU, 21 students enrolling in the first year increased to 42 in the second, and at ULAB, 31 students have so far chosen business journalism as their major.
A sizable number of DU and JU graduates who took this course have gone on to work in leading electronic and print media organisations; some are producing business reports which include coverage of SME issues.