Bringing Knowledge to Vegetable Farmers, KATALYST Bangladesh 05

    The performance of Bangladesh's important vegetable sector is undermined by very low productivity. Early evidence from this 2-year pilot project in Rangpur suggests that improving knowledge and information services embedded within the supply chain offers one means of addressing this problem. Focusing on training retailers of agricultural inputs, the results from the project - instigated by KATALYST in collaboration with Syngenta, an input supplier - hold the promise of improvements in the competitiveness and poverty reducing benefits of the sector.

    In undertaking the project, KATALYST followed its market development approach to business services characterised by:
    - Identification of the underlying cause: low levels of knowledge and information in the market (a key cause of poor productivity) can be attributed to weak private sector capacities.
    - A clear strategic focus: developing the capacities of retailers - with whom farmers interact regularly - and input suppliers (retailers' main source of information) within the market system was therefore the main project goal
    - Operational flexibility: within these strategic boundaries, engaging with appropriate players in an entrepreneurial manner that builds ownership with them. Indeed, the idea of retailer training emerged from such discussions.
    - Scaling up with other players: in order to promote change throughout the market system, encouraging other input providers to invest in knowledge and information.

    Under KATALYST's agreement with Syngenta, costs were shared for the development and delivery of a 3-day residential training programme for retailers on a range of generic and product-specific issues, reflecting both wider development as well as narrow commercial goals. In addition, KATALYST made significant technical inputs on training content and process. However, the organisation and delivery of training - the main part of the project - was managed directly by Syngenta.

    The case highlights the importance of knowledge and information in improving agriculture performance - and the opportunity presented by this. The case also poses challenges for agencies in how to intervene effectively to stimulate more effective and large-scale market development.

    Summary of results
    480 retailers, 20% of all Rangpur retailers and serving approximately 200-350,000 farmers, were trained over the 2-year period. Taking account of both direct financial costs and staff time, overall cost per (retailer) trainee was $90-100, with the effective Syngenta: KATALYST share of costs estimated around 60:40.

    Early results from the project show positive impacts on each of the market
    - Farmers' perception of their experience with retailers' service has improved
    - Retailers have greater self-confidence, place more emphasis on advice and information, have better customer relations and, in most cases, increased sales.
    - Syngenta's sales have grown 3-4 times faster than in other regions. The strategic importance of knowledge and information in the supply-chain has been re-emphasised. Syngenta plan to invest in retailer training throughout the country.
    - Other input suppliers, who have often lost out competitively in the short-term, are now showing positive signs of interest in retailer training. This "crowding in" is the critical issue in determining wider market change.

    Associated Activities and Documents
    »Enhancing the Supply-side of the Maize Market, Katalyst 2006
    »KATALYST - Implementation, Bangladesh 2002-2007