The A-Card initiative is a unique initiative of the USAID Agricultural Extension Support Activity (AESA) project where the farmers are getting agricultural loans directly from the commercial Bank – Bank Asia with the assistance of microfinance institutions with a low 10% interest rate and an extended payback period of six months.
The USAID funded project has been implementing since October 2012 by the Dhaka Ahsania Mission with CARE Bangladesh and mPower as technical partners, in the central and southwest Bangladesh in the 12 targeted FtF (Feed the Future) program districts to sustainably improve the food security and nutrition of the smallholder farmers.
The primary objective of AESA project is to increase farmers’ access to improved extension services synergized by the ICT for increasing household incomes, nutritional status and food security of 110,000 participating farmers. The project observed that the biggest problem the farmers face while harvesting is lack of fund and due to the lack of fund, the farmers cannot buy necessary and qualitative agricultural inputs for their productions on time.
Thus the project links its farmers with different microfinance institutions so that they can avail different loan products and financial supports for their agricultural productions. But the relatively high interest rates of the microfinance institutions (MFIs) do not help the farmers much.
Considering the context, the project with the support of Bank Asia and local microfinance institutions initiated the A-Card initiative in August 2016 to link farmers with the formal banking system for their access to finance.
Through the A-Card, the farmers can buy necessary agricultural inputs from selected local retailers using the NFC (near field communications) enabled smartphones and this is the first time that a NFC card has been used for financial transaction for the farmers in rural Bangladesh.
A-Card initiative has been piloted in four project working districts – Faridpur, Bhola, Jessore and Khulna.
Accordingly, the “A-Card: smallholders’ access to finance through Bank” is launched together with Bank Asia and a local NGO partner Socio Economic Development Organization for the Poor (SEDOP) on Thursday, February 23, 2017 in Khulna.
Mr. Narayon Chandra Chanda, MP, Honorable State Minister, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Government of People’s Republic of Bangladesh graced the event as the Chief Guest while Ms. Janina Jaruzelski, Mission Director, USAID/Bangladesh and Mr. Md. Zahirul Alam, Deputy Managing Director, Bank Asia were present as Special Guests at the event.
Among other guests of honor, Mr. Prosanta Kumar Biswas, ED (SEDOP), Mr. Josh Woodard, Regional ICT & Digital Finance Advisor, mStar-FHI360, Mr. Anowarul Haq, Director-ERPP, CARE Bangladesh, Dr. Khawaja Samsul Huda, Director Program, Dhaka Ahsania Mission also spoke on the occasion.
Mr. Bidyuth K. Mahalder, the Chief of Party of the project gave a brief on project activities and on A-Card initiative followed by a video show on the project.
The event was chaired by Mr. Nitya Ranjan Biswas, Additional Director, DAE, Khulna Region.
Appreciating the project’s unique initiative of A-Card, all the guests hoped that the farmers will be greatly benefitted through the A-Card and will be able to sustainably improve their overall conditions.
Senior officials from USAID, Bank Asia, SEDOP and the project including representatives from farmers and retailers were also present at the event.