USAID Agricultural Extension Support Activity (AESA) project is a key part of Bangladesh Feed the Future (FtF) initiative and “USAID Forward” project. It is being implemented by Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) in partnership with CARE Bangladesh and mPower.

The project aims to increase and enhance the access of smallholder farmers to improved extension services which ultimately will lead towards increased household incomes, improved nutritional status and food security for almost 108,400 participating farmers. These farmers are mobilized into 3,942 farmer producer groups (FPGs) on 6 selected value chains including: jute, chili, mung bean, dairy, beef fattening and fish. The project is actively working in 26 upazilas of 12 districts in central and southwest areas of Bangladesh.

The USAID-Dhaka and Mr. Md. Sayed Shibly, Project Management Specialist/AOR, Economic Growth Office, USAID-Dhaka visited the project sites in Faridpur and Jessore districts to observe different activities of the project including meeting with different representatives of AESA project, its beneficiaries and stakeholders during May 21-23, 2017.

Upon visiting Faridpur, the honorable guests first observed the A-Card operating system and transaction process at the local input retail shop at Bakhundha Bazar. The visitors visited the agent banking outlet to observe farmer’s registration, accounts and loan management processes. Discussions were made with the project management and concerned staff about the A-Card partnership prospects, sustainability, challenges, farmers’ benefits of using A-Card within and beyond the project period.

The visitors also visited an AESC named Aliabad Agricultural Extension Service Center to discuss the services that is being provided to the farmers. Analysis was done jointly by AESA project and DAE about the present structure of DAEs extension service delivery mechanism to farmers and planned to demonstrate an improved agricultural extension service delivery model to facilitate the farmers’ access to improved extension services.

The visitors also met with DAE high officials to discuss the DAE-AESA collaborative initiatives including sustainability of the AESCs, joint M&E activities and SAAO monitoring through Digital Dash Board. A separate meeting was held with Mr. Arjun Kumar Bashu, AVP & Manager Bank Asia, Faridpur, Ms. Shahnaz Akter Shahin, AVP, Bank Asia, Ms. Rumana Akhter Tulee, Senior Executive Officer, Agent Banking, Bank Asia and Mr. Kazi Ashraful Hassan, Executive Director, parent NGO Society Development Committee (SDC), Faridpur regarding present status and future expansion of A-Card activities.

In Faridpur, the visitors discussed with Kbd. Mr. Kingkar Chandra Das, Additional Director, DAE, Kbd. Mr. G. M. Abdur Rauf, Deputy Director, DAE and Kbd. Mr. Md. Anwar Hossain, AEO, Faridpur and in Jessore the visitors discussed with Md. Zakir Hossain, Deputy Director Planning and Project Implementation, DAE, HQs, Kbd. Mr. Subrata Kumar Chakrabarty, Additional Deputy Director, DAE, Kbd. Mr. Md. Emdad Hosain Sheikh, DTO, DAE, Kbd. Mr. Khondker Md. Mesbahul Islam, Horticulture Specialist, DAE, Kbd. Mr. S. M. Khalid Saifullah, Upazila Agriculture Officer, Jessore Sadar and Kbd Mr. K. M. Shahab Uddin, Upazila Agriculture Officer, Chowgachha Upazila.

Upon visiting the Dairy and Jute farmer producer groups at Faridpur and Jessore discussions were made about different project initiatives such as how the farmers have transformed their lives through knowing about the sessions on five key practices of Dairy, Jute, ICT, Gender and Nutrition and also the advantages of using A-Card including its challenges, followed by the linkages with public departments and private extension agents for access to extension services.

Overall the team was satisfied to see how the farmers became more capable and aware of the gender and nutritional aspects such as how the farmers have become more supportive with their wives and the importance of drinking milk within the family for the nutritional aspect. They are also more aware about the technical aspects of improved five key practices i.e.; for dairy-schedule vaccination, routine de-worming, feeding practices, artificial insemination, etc. and for jute-seed selection and germination test, fertilizer application, pest and disease management, harvesting, drying.

The visitors met with Mr. Rasidul Hasan Mridha, Zonal Sales Manager (ZSM), ACI Animal Health to discuss about the private sector engagement at project’s working areas and its potentials. They also discussed about different collaborative activities of the project with the private sectors and the capacity building of private extension agents through training, toolkit distribution and material development and how the project supported the private companies to reach the farmers in rural communities for providing information and services?

Project staff including Mr. Bidyuth K. Mahalder, Chief of Party, AESA project, Ms. Tania Sharmin, National Technical Coordinator, AESA project, Dr. Shantana Rani Halder, M&E Head, Regional Manager and District Managers and representatives of different Government offices, USAID Mission and different organizations including Private sector (ACI) personnel, Manager of Milk chilling point of BRAC Dairy were present during the three days visit of the USAID Mission at AESA project in Faridpur and Jessore.