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January 7, 2019

How Bangladesh’s farmers applied lessons from abroad to challenges at home.

Abdul Jabbar, a farmer in Bangladesh, had an epiphany a few years ago. He and his fellow farmers travelled to Kenya, the Philippines and India to learn from other farmers. The trips were organized by FAO as part of a larger programme to assist smallholder farmers in Bangladesh, and what Abdul and his colleagues learned would go on to transform their lives and livelihoods.

“Before, our condition was just like a frog living in a cave,” Abdul explains. “When we came back from these countries we realized that we had been in the darkness. We accumulated so much knowledge.”

Small-scale farming is a critical part of Bangladesh’s economy. More than 70 percent of Bangladesh’s population and 77 percent of its workforce live in rural areas. Farm sizes are small, with average land holdings of less than one hectare.

This state of affairs presents many challenges. The smallholder farmer is relatively powerless in the market and can struggle to get a fair price for their crops. In addition, FAO discovered that there were very few farmer organizations or collectives to which these farmers could turn for support.

It became clear that the farmers needed a national platform to connect local farmer groups. Not only would this enable better bargaining in the market, but it could also facilitate the sharing of best practices and opportunities.

“If farmers want to sell crops individually, sometimes they do not get a fair price,” Abdul says. “If they do it through a farmers’ group and all the farmers buy together, they can get good quality seeds and other equipment at a cheaper price. They can also get a fair price when they sell their products together.”

Originally published on the FAO Website.

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