The project FHAME has the overall objective to create tangible incomes and livelihood opportunities for small and marginal farming families through Farmers’ Hubs in the agriculture sector. The Farmers’ Hub is a one-stop service platform for smallholder farmers, ensuring sustainable agriculture and activation of the value chain. This project began 2018 through its two private partners, GBK Enterprise and Don Enterprise in the northwestern part of Bangladesh. It follows on from the Integrated Agri-Support Project (IASP) which started in 2011. Currently this project is being implemented in four districts (Dinajpur, Ranjpur, Nilphamari and Natore) of two divisions (Ranjpur and Rajshahi) covering 12 sub-districts of Bangladesh.
All over Bangladesh, the majority of the problems that plague the agriculture sector revolve around an inefficient value chain and an unstructured market system. Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture Bangladesh (SFSA Bangladesh) focused on an initiative called the Farmers’ Hub (FH) - a centralized facility that serves as an aggregator for both input-buying and output sales, as well as a provider of agricultural know-how and machinery rental services. It is also an operative platform for disseminating modern and effective technology to farmers to increase efficiency and the effective use of resources, as well as linking bulk-buyers, processors and exporters for hassle-free product-sourcing. This has resulted in an increased productivity and quality of produce, and ensured that fair prices are being paid to farmers in exchange for their produce. The FHs are commercially run under an arrangement of the Franchise Business Model System where the franchisor manages the FHs, ensuring the branding and quality of services and maintaining the commercial relationship through input material support and purchasing/facilitating aggregation. SFSA Bangladesh is the concept-holder of this model, adopting the role of Master Franchisor with technical support to franchisor and franchisee (Farmers’ Hub).
The existing FHs provide five essential local services to farmers:
Agri-input selling services: Basically, high quality seedling produced in a controlled environment (polyhouse) with a special soil-free technology using growing media and plastic trays.
Farm machinery rental services: Considering the needs of the smallholder, and efficient and effective use of resources, FH has ensured the availability of modern farm machineries and provided rental services.
Post-harvest handling services: FH has the facilities to carry the produce from field to FH using plastic crates, three-wheeler vans, etc. and space for washing, grading, sorting, scaling, etc. as post-harvest handling services.
Buying/ selling services: Under these services farmers can sell their produce with competitive prices and buyers can purchase bulk amounts at a time. It also has a provision for contract farming.
Agri-advisory services: FH provides agricultural know-how and modern agri-information as an embedded service to farmers.
As of August 2018, a total of 58 Farmers’ Hubs are functioning in northwestern Bangladesh with the facilitation of SFSA Bangladesh under two franchisors called GBK Enterprise (for Dinajpur, Nilphamari and Rangpur district) and Don Enterprise (for Natore District).
Each of the FHs regularly serves 500–1000 farmers and maintains linkages with 5–10 traders.
These FHs are also linked with some renowned exporters, processors and large traders like SEBA, KALLOGE, GARI, TFPL, SQUARE, etc. for bulk selling as well as contract farming.
More than 20 agricultural technologies have been disseminated through these FHs and farmers’ adoption rate is about 80 percent. Close relationships between FH and farmers enhanced the adoption rate.
The total business management system is digitally maintained by a mobile app and web dashboard digital platform called e-Hub (www.efarmershub.com). E-Hub maintains the business information of the FH and provides agriculture information to farmers through SMS. The FH concept therefore becomes a complete solution for farming, from production to market, as well as supporting the development of entrepreneurs.
An independent impact assessment conducted by LightCastle Partners evaluated that the farmers associated with the FH enjoyed a 25 percent increased yield and a 34 percent increased income (USD 488). The Annual Report of SFSA Bangladesh also calculated that the average annual net income per FH stands at upwards of USD 3600, an outcome viewed with some satisfaction by FH owners.
Around 30,000 smallholder farmers enjoy the benefits that come from being linked with a FH.