Starting in 2011, the Syngenta Foundation implemented several smallholder projects in Bangladesh through its local affiliate, Syngenta Foundation Bangladesh (SFB) under official government registration. In December 2017, the Foundation received new registration* from the national NGO Affairs Bureau under the name of Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture Bangladesh (SFSA Bangladesh) to operate as an "International NGO" there. SFSA Bangladesh is a country office of Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture in Switzerland (SFSA). It took over the former SFB programs, and is also developing and implementing new ones with support and guidance from SFSA. This status change helps our organization to, for example, explore external funding to scale up initiatives.
Agriculture in Bangladesh
The agricultural and rural sector in Bangladesh plays a vital role in the sustained food and livelihood security of its large and ever-growing population. Over 160 million people live on a landmass measuring 147,570 km². Bangladesh is predominantly an agrarian country. Due to its very fertile land and favorable weather, varieties of crops grow abundantly in this land. Sixty percent of the land is cultivable. In the past 20 years, the country has made great strides towards a reduction in poverty and child malnutrition. However, in rural areas the poverty rate still stands at approximately 26 percent, roughly 2 percent higher than the rate in urban areas. The agriculture sector contributes about 17 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs more than 45 percent of the total labor force. However, each and every year it loses about 100,000 hectares of productive agricultural land through conversion to non-agricultural uses. Bangladesh is transitioning from its designation as an LDC (Least Developed Country) to an MIC (Middle Income Country). Therefore, meeting its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is a key priority for Bangladesh and ensuring food security through agricultural development is its prime concern.
Challenges for agriculture in Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, smallholder farmers make up the largest sector of agriculture workers. Lack of access to training in up-to-date agricultural practices and appropriate technologies means that these farmers often work at a subsistence level. Agricultural extension services are inadequate and modern machinery is often unavailable or difficult to access. An inefficient value chain and an unstructured market system hamper the efforts of farmers to get the best from their efforts. The impact of climate change, already becoming evident in the agro-ecosystem of the country, creates an additional challenge. Lower yields and poor-quality crops are the inevitable result. This, in turn, lessens the potential income for small and marginal farmers, bringing negative consequences for them and their families.
Work of Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture Bangladesh
The role of SFSA Bangladesh is to create value for resource-poor small farmers through innovation in sustainable agriculture and the activation of value chains. It does this currently in four main ways:
- Farmers’ Hub Agri-Marketing Enterprise (FHAME) – This focuses on agricultural solutions for smallholders, from input to output. The Farmers’ Hub business model is to provide a concentration of commercial units where agricultural products can be aggregated. Local farmers benefit from improved access to agri-products, machinery, training and know-how.
- Changing Economics of Santal Through Agriculture (ChESTA) - resource-poor and marginalized ethnic Santal people are involved in a range of commercial group-based activities, such as roadside planting, livestock-rearing and homestead gardening. Our aim is to improve Santal lives and livelihoods through better opportunities to improve their nutritional and economic status.
- Commercialization of Small-Scale Mechanization (CoSMec) - this project facilitates smallholders’ access to farm machinery services by developing a market for sustainable local service provision. The project is funded by CIMMYT.
- E-Farmers’ Hub: The E-Hub is a digital platform combining a mobile-light app and web dashboard for digitalizing Farmers’ Hubs and similar franchise businesses. Users retain control of their business transactions, and benefit from analytical business information for decision-making. SFSA Bangladesh has developed and deployed the E-hub to digitize, record and track progress of Farmers’ Hubs' performance, and increase their efficiency.
Further information on these is available below.
SFSA Bangladesh is also engaged in Harmonization of Agricultural Sustainability from Insurance (HASI), Water-Efficient Technologies for Barind Area (IWET) and Transforming SMEs into Growth-Oriented Business Ventures (SMART CAP). Funding comes respectively from the Swiss organizations SDC and SCBF, the Coca-Cola Foundation and BFPB/UKaid.
*(Registration Number 3119, 18 December 2017, under The Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act, 2016)