Project ICT Support: A new Hope for the Smallholder Farmers

The USAID Agricultural Extension Support Activity (Ag Extension Project) is implemented by Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) with technical partners CARE Bangladesh and mPower in 12 districts of the central and southwest areas of Bangladesh (Barisal, Khulna and Dhaka). The project supports the farmers and the extension agents through various capacity building activities to foster a farmer demand-driven agricultural extension system. This is synergized by the use of information communication technology (ICT) to improve farmers’ access to quality agricultural inputs, improved technologies and management practices with access to finance and market opportunities.

The project had assisted in forming around 3,854 value chain based farmer producer groups and selecting an ICT leader from each group. Using a set of screening criteria in the form of questionnaire as well as in consultation with other group leaders, the project field staff identified 227 of these ICT leaders who are selected as “ICT Champions (ICTCs)” for their communities.

Nur Islam is one of such ICTCs of Alipur Union of Satkhira district who received ICT Training from the project. He learned about the usage of mobile apps and instant advice through the FQS system. He received a smart phone from the project to use the ICT tools and the apps in helping the local farmers.

Most of the farmers of this area cultivate seasonal vegetables for their livelihoods – last winter when the farmers cultivated kohlrabi/ turnip in their lands the crop suffered from severe plant disease. All the plants got blister like features all over them and the farmers started using MEFENOXAM (Metalaxl-M) type fungicide to control the disease.

In this situation, Mostafizur Rahman the project farmer leader (FL) talked to Nur Islam for his advice in controlling and prevention of plants’ disease. Nur Islam took photographs of the affected plants and sent queries to the FQS system. The expert in return advised to use Nativo 75 WG (Trifloxystrobin 25% + Tebuconazole 50%). Nur conveyed the message to Mostafizur who at once started using the recommended fungicide.

Mustafizur observed very quick response that his plants got cured immediately and he had a good harvest from turnip production. He earned BDT 50,000 (Fifty thousand taka) in cultivating turnip in 100 decimal area, where his neighboring farmers got only BDT 10,000 (Ten thousand taka) from same area. The neighboring farmers are now taking ICT supports from Nur Islam for their crops. At present he is helping around 25 farmers through the FQS for Red Mite attacks of pointed gourd (potol in Bangla) cultivation. In last four months, Nur helped about 70 farmers to solve various problems of their crops through the FQS apps.

The Sub Assistant Agriculture Officer (SAAO) Mr. Shawkat Haider working in the same area is also providing ICT based improved extension services to the farmers together with Nur Islam. He appointed Nur Islam the secretary of the local union based IPM (Integrated Pest Management) club.