In remote parts of Bangladesh, existing farming methods do not provide sufficient yield to meet the needs of the people. The government urgently needs to reach farmers with knowledge about fertilizer use and simple techniques and technologies that can increase agricultural output considerably. However, the scale of the rural population is so great, that local officers from the agricultural department can have up to and exceeding 96,000 farming families within their catchment area. The government simply does not have the means to reach all these farmers.
NGO Katalyst works in Bangladesh on market based solutions to poverty, supported by donor agency Swisscontact. In 2008 a programme was developed to set up agricultural partnerships in rural districts of Bangladesh, bringing together farmers co-operatives, local government and bazaar (market) owners to help tackle the problem of insufficient agricultural yield and reaching dispersed populations with relevant technical know-how. All parties had a vested interest in higher agricultural yield – the farmers would make more money from their crops, the market owners would have more produce going through the market and make higher gains, and the local government would meet its target for increasing food production and reaching remote populations.
At the end of 2008, four districts of sixteen were chosen for a pilot partnership training and building programme. The Partnering Initiative (TPI) worked with Katalyst to consult with the parties involved to scope their needs, and used the data to shape a 3-day programme, designed to be more than a training programme to help them understand how to be better partners, but also a partnership building workshop. The aim being, at the end of the workshop, each partnership would have a number of vital components in place to be able to move forward on its own; such as an agreed goal and vision, an elaborated work-plan with roles and responsibilities, an established relationship, and experience of collaboration.
In January 2009, the workshop took place bringing together individuals from government, small business and farmers representing different crop co-operatives. The workshop was delivered in English and Bangla, delivered by Ros Tennyson and TPI Associates Nazneen Huq and Joanna Pyres. During the workshop, in addition to learning partnering good practice, the participants put the theory into action and worked together to generate ideas for facilitating local planning, effective communication to farmers and resource mobilization, amongst others. As part of this programme of work, a simple ‘Step by Step’ guide to partnering at the grassroots was produced by the TPI team to provide ongoing guidance to the partnerships. During the year that followed, the training was taken out to a further 10 Upazillas (districts) delivered by Nazneen Huq in Bangla.
The TPI training and relationship-building module, combined with ongoing support by Katalyst at the local level, has born very positive results. As a consequence the programme is now being extended to a further 102 Upazillas, with the potential for wider roll-out and building training capacity at the local level.