The economy of Bangladesh depends chiefly on agriculture. The challenge of feeding the increasing population from the shrinking land and water resources is a great task. Many agencies are working to support the farmers to produce food materials and related products. A number of approaches are taken to provide farmers required information to support their farming operation. The agricultural system of Bangladesh has a long history of coping with the challenges. The system has experienced remarkable development over time. Inclusion of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) enhanced the capacity of the system to face the challenges. Agricultural technologies generated by Agricultural Research Institutes are now being disseminated to the farmers by the Agricultural Extension agencies. The use of ICT technologies for disseminating agricultural technologies has been proved to be useful for enhancement of production. The major ICT technologies for transferring scientific innovations are mobile phone and computer. It has been revealed through a survey of Katalyst in 2013 that the farmers seek the following information through the helpline of mobile phone.
- 67% regarding pest management of crops
- 2% regarding seed
- 7% regarding fertilizer
- 10% regarding cultivation technologies
- 14% regarding other issues
The same survey revealed that 84% rural farmers use mobile phones, 67% farm families use more than one mobile phones and 73% farm families use more than one sims. By using ICT 7 lakh 45 thousand farm families were benefited and the average income increased BDT 10, 500 per family.
This article has been prepared on the basis of Round Table Conference/Workshop arranged by popular newspaper Prothom Alo held on 06 June 2015. The Round Table was the outcome of collaboration of the government of Bangladesh, Katalyst, Swisscontact, UKAID, SDC and DANIDA. Twelve distinguished persons participated in the important round table. Summary of the conference was published on 03 July, 2015 in Prothom Alo as a supplementary. I tried to capture the salient points of the discussion from the supplementary to share with the readers around the world. The participants of the conference were:
- Sheikh Hemayet Hossain, Director, Field Services Wing, Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE)
- Mokbul Hossain, Project Director & Principal Scientific Officer, Soil Resources Development Institute (SRDI)
- Md. Zahangir Alam, Deputy Director, Mass Communication, Agriculture Information Service (AIS)
- Jalal Hossain, Head of Business Strategy and Strategic Project, Banglalink
- Mohammad Muntasir Hossain, General Manager, VAAS & Digital Services, Grameen Phone
- Nujhat Jannatun Naim, Senior Executive, Infrastructure Business, Banglalink
- Kashfia Ahmed, CEO, Win Incorporate
- Sumaia Sadia Raihan, Lead Specialist, VAAS & Digital Services, Grameen Phone
- Remizius Remi, Head of Technical, Win Miyaki Ltd.
- Nafia Hussain, Manager, Katalyst
- Mohammad Sakib Khaled, Business Consultant, Katalyst
- Abdul Quiyum, Associate Editor, Prothom Alo
Following recommendations emerged from the discussion of the Round Table conference:
- All concerned including mass media should work together to alert the farmers
- The efficiency of farmers should be enhanced. All concerned including government, Telecom companies shpuld take responsibilities for the purpose.
- Farmers should be provided standard information after careful selection and vetting
- Farmers should be given such agricultural information which they can trust
- All concerned should deeply contemplate on the best means/ways of communicating with the farmer.
- There should be seals of the government on the supplied agricultural information.
The round table conference organized by Prothom Alo was a pioneering initiative. This initiative may inspire other media to come forward to explore various problems and prospects of agriculture sector. Our country and concerned people will invariably be benefited from such initiatives.