More than 400 smallholder farmers in 2 northern sub-districts of Bangladesh were thrilled to find that it works: through their mobile phones they received practical and well-timed advice on how to best cultivate their bitter gourd throughout the season! It was a test, a first pilot, but the results were encouraging. It created a ‘buzz’: farmers were eagerly anticipating their next bit of advice on their mobile phones.
A next pilot is being prepared. The service will then be delivered at a small subscription fee and be scaled up to about 120,000 farmers. The project, GEOBIS, wants to use spatial and other geodata in combination with field data to provide effective, time and location specific advisory services to smallholder farmers in Bangladesh. It aims to improve farmers’ yield, income and resilience to weather related emergencies.
The delivered advice may relate to the usage of seeds, irrigation, fertilizers, agrochemicals, and preventive and remedial measures for controlling pest and diseases. For some it may be hard to decipher messages that are not written in Bengali script, but luckily there is always someone in the community that is eager to help.
The project is supported by the Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) Programme and is implemented by a consortium with six partners. The consortium will use the network of extension officers and distribution partners of the lead partner Lal Teer Seed Limited to enroll 330,000 farmers as users within the coming three years, enabling the service to become economically viable.
Advance Consulting assisted the consortium in developing their proposal and business plan for the G4AW grant application and remains involved by providing management support during the project’s implementation.