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Saturday, 6 July 2013

How AgroTech Social Business can contribute and boost an Agricultural Based economy: In the perspective of Bangladesh

How AgroTech Social Business can contribute and boost an Agricultural Based economy:
In the perspective of Bangladesh

Asif Mahmood Abbas
EEE Student, EECS Department, North South University
Chief Project Coordinator, South Asian Youth Society (SAYS)
Events Chair, IEEE NSU Student Branch
Executive Body Member, Society of Science Engineering & Technology (NSU SSET)

I am a meek engineering student who was supposed to perish in the hub of heavy books; but for some cause I had always been ardent about helping others and doing something inventive for the society. Since my A’level days, I couldn’t stop the longing for organizing and executing social initiatives. While for years my dream was to study Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, but I ended up in an Electrical Engineering School-well it helped to redefine my dreams and the way I can contribute for my country.
It’s kind of bizarre that I am writing about engineering particulars for a Social Business related souvenir. Well, that’s me.

So, what is Social Business?

Many people still get muddled with the concrete definition of social business (SB); especially students like me from a dissimilar background other than Business. According to ‘YUNUS Social Business Global Initiative’ website, “A SB is a non-dividend company created to solve a social problem. Like an NGO, it has a social mission, but like a business it generates its own revenues to cover its costs. While investors may recoup their investment, all further profits are reinvested into the same or other social businesses”.

As per the formal definition, you need a problem and a social mission if you want to twitch your own SB. So, if we look around and accumulate data about the various social glitches, then without any doubt agriculture and its associated fields will make its way to the top of the list.

So how important is agriculture to us?

Since the birth of Bangladesh, Agriculture is the dominant economic activity and regarded as the lifeline of Bangladesh’s growth. Agriculture mainly includes crops, fisheries, livestock, and forestry interrelated sectors.  According to the ‘National Agriculture Policy 2010’ report from Ministry of Agriculture of Bangladesh, “as the largest private enterprise, agriculture contributes about 21% of the GDP, sustains the livelihood of about 52% of the labor force, and remains a major supplier of raw materials for agro-based industries.”  

As we all know and have seen in our daily lives and we are so thankful to our farmers, because of them we can have fresh vegetables and in some cases, good quality fishes everyday on our kitchen table. Regardless of the conventional way of farming and cultivation procedures, people are getting acquainted with new know-hows and are adapting pioneering skills and systems in their mode of work.

So how important is International Agencies in bringing technologies and techniques for a better agriculture farm and what are their roles so far?

In the sector of aquaculture-agriculture sector of Bangladesh, among hundreds of International Organizations, WorldFish is indeed one of the biggest contributors. WorldFish has a long history of involvement in the development and adaptation of appropriate aquaculture and management practices for smallholder farms in target countries. A substantial portion of that research has been conducted with partners in Bangladesh.  With the objective of generating an appropriate and sustainable low-cost aquaculture technology for small rural farmers, they started IAA-based aquaculture research in Bangladesh in the 1990s. (Jahan, Beveridge, & Brooks, 2008).

Now as a global citizen, technology has started to come to us at a faster rate than we have imagined but for the rural farmers the speed is very sluggish. Still, tech like Biological Control, Tissue Culture, SMS Based Agricultural Help center, Gene Bank integrated robotics for tractors and other light vehicles are spreading all over Bangladesh. But we can’t forget the fact that majority of the farmers are underprivileged and uneducated, who, on most of the time are unwilling to accept the transformation.

So what about those farmers who live below the level of poverty?

According to the report “Mapping Poverty for Rural Bangladesh: Implications for Pro-poor Development” by Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD),2004, ‘Agricultural interventions are important, not only for increasing the productivity of rice - the dominant crop, but also for diversifying production systems appropriate to the national ecology of the area. Food for work, food for education, VGD, etc., should be targeted to upazilas with higher intensities of poverty.’  According to their survey in more than 225 upazilas, they have found the linkage between wage variation and special variation of poverty appears to be small because agriculture activities as a major occupation is taken up by only 15-20 percent of households. Among these households about half of their time is spent on waged employment. Other working days are spent on other activities including self employment.

Considering the above data is relevant at present-day, so we are left with an enormous population who can be well trained with some rudimentary skills so that they can subsidize to other areas associated to agriculture.  If we can host training foundations where local youths can learn how to use and operate hi-tech, low cost mechanisms, surely it will start a revolution-a change in the ground of agriculture. No matter how much a common student like me tries to bring something new, it won’t be conceivable unless or until our Government is enthusiastic to help and present new technologies and take required steps to involve many more societies in the agricultural sectors.

So what is the Government actually doing?

According to another paper, “Sustainable Agriculture: A Challenge In Bangladesh”, the sustainability of conventional agriculture in Bangladesh is under threat from the continuous degradation of land and water resources, and from declining yields due to indiscriminate use of agro-chemicals. They also emphasized that the Government is pursuing efforts to promote sustainable agriculture with emphasis on better use of on-farm resources and the reduction of external inputs.

So personally what I accept as true is that, we cannot deny the fact that how important Agriculture is for us and provided we can introduce latest and innovative technologies- it can do much better.

So how about the financing?

From the Government side, they will conclude by saying that we got a separate bank, Bangladesh Krishi Bank, out-and-out only for the agricultural sector of Bangladesh. Recently from the central bank a pronouncement was taken to familiarize small loans from all the banks for the agriculture related business and products; but there are enough qualms as how active they are and how much prevalent are they to attract the rural farmers. This is where establishments like Grameen Bank and others NGO’s were so efficacious with their microcredit strategies and schemes, they were both striking and easy to get.

 Then how about coalescing a huge group and doing something collaboratively with an adequate sum of investment? The answer is AgroTech based Social Business! We got the problem and the social issue: which is the Agriculture Techniques. Now in order to make the commercial more lucrative, unique and very attractive we can lead and come up with prodigious ideas that can relate Agriculture, which are low-cost, easy to use and widely existing.

So, what are the technologies available to us?

If we look at our neighboring countries like India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and China, then we find that their encroachment and researches in the field of Agriculture is astonishing. For example some of the technologies like Tractors with Autopilot, using Ultrasound to move a flock of animals, Integrated Irrigation system using Smartphone, Automatic sensors for crops and their Documentations are easy to built and design even by students and can be introduced to the market through a good Social Business Concept.

If certain enterprises can come up with certain unambiguous plans as to introduce new ideas, I think it will hearten more students towards exploration and to contribute for their own country. As a chain reaction the Government will highlight this sector more and will underline on innovation of Technologies instead of snowballing subsidies in the National Budget. As a whole, the rural farmers will be promoted from such SB concepts and sooner or later help to build a Better Bangladesh.

·         ASR. 2006. Agriculture Sector Review (Crop sub sector). Actionable policy brief and resource Implications. Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. Republic of Bangladesh, Dhaka. pp. 14-51.
·         BRRI. 2010. Rice statistics in Bangladesh. Gazipur: Bangladesh Rice Knowledge Bank, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute. ( 
·         BBS. 2008. Statistical Year Book of Bangladesh. Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics Division, Ministry of Planning, Govt. People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Dhaka. pp. 121-134.
·         BER. 2009. Bangladesh Economic Review, Department of Finance, Ministry of Finance, Govt. People’s Republic of Bangladesh. pp. 83-85.
·         Yunus Social Business, []
·         National Agriculture Policy, 2010 []
·         M.A.A. Faroque1, M.A. Kashem and S.E. Bilkis, ‘SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE: A CHALLENGE IN BANGLADESH’, Int. J. Agril. Res. Innov. & Tech. 1 (1&2): 1-8, December, 2011.
·         Mapping Poverty for Rural Bangladesh: Implications for Pro-poor Development, Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD), July 2004.
·         Khondker Murshed-E-Jahan, Charles Crissman, John Antle, Economic and social impacts of integrated aquaculture-agriculture technologies in Bangladesh, AAS-2013-02.

N.B: This article was published on the magazine of Social Business Forum 2013.


Thanks for the response, I really Appreciate.