FQS includes a mobile based application that enables farmers to place queries related to agro problems to an urban agro expert through a govt. agro extension agent or info-mediaries. The expert looks at the questions on a web panel and provides recommendations either through SMS or a phone call in real time. The data includes qualitative and quantitative data ranging from MCQ, Audio and Image clips.
n Bangladesh, there is a Government-led extension system. More than 12500 Sub Assistant Agricultural Officers (SAAO) are working in the field to support a huge number of farmers. But the challenge in the field is that each SAAO has to cover more than 2000 farm household within their territories which is hard to cover in a given time frame. So, SAAOs door step services is hard to get by the farmers. They can call over the phone but in critical cases, it is needed to visit the field and diagnose the problem which usually farmers do not get.
Besides, there are some cases where agricultural expert’s feedback is needed as SAAOs are diploma holders and they cannot identify or suggest solutions for all the problems. So, in the current extension system it is hard to get expert feedback by the farmers. Our mobile based farmer query system is an ICT solution where farmers can ask query directly to the experts, through a local infomediary . The infomediaries use a smart phone based application to collect the information on the problems faced by the farmers. They then directly send the collected information and the queries through the mobile phone to a central location.
The agro experts can view the collected information on a web portal and respond to the queries placed by the farmers through phone call or SMS or through emails.
FQS is being accessed by more than 100,000 beneficiaries in 12 districts of Bangladesh where USAID funded AESA project is being implemented. More than 59,000 agro consultations have been provided to the farmers through this application so far.
How does your innovation work?
Farmer comes to an extension agent or local infomediary with their queries and the extension agent or local infomediary opens up the application
a. Infomediary logs in to the application
b. The infomediary register the farmer using name, address and phone number along with the photo of the farmer
i. The first question addresses question on farmers’ name. This is a mandatory field which implies without providing name in the field the infomediary cannot go to the next window.
ii. The informediary then completes other required information of the farmer and generates unique ID for each farmer.
c. The infomediary collects information of crop, land and season’s information.
i. The extension agent sets name of the crop which will give successive information on the certain crop according to the need of the farmer.
ii. The farmer also needs to provide information on season, land size etc. to attain expert’s recommendation remotely.
d. The infomediary logs the problem that the farmer is facing. This entails the several categories such as pest and disease, seed information, fertilizer information etc.
e. The infomediary then records farmer’s query regarding pest and diseases through the application along with symptoms and other details.
f. In the next stage, images of the problem and geographical information is recorded.
g. In the subsequent step, the problem is referred to specialist. The specialist uses web dashboard to understand the diseases.h. After identifying the diseases the specialist provides consultation to the farmers through SMS or phone call.
What Evidence do you have that your Innovation works?
FQS is being accessed by more than 50,000 beneficiaries in 12 districts of Bangladesh where USAID funded AESA project is being implemented. More than 59000 agro consultations have been provided to the farmers through this application so far.
Direct agents are:
Resource Farmers/ICT Champions: 227
Sub-Assistant Agriculture Officer: 130
Field Supervisor & Field Facilitator: 400
Input Retailers: 100
AICC Agents: 25
Non-Beneficiary Agents: 2000 & counting
What is your strategy for expanding use of your innovation?
Currently, the FQS falls under the Agriculture Extension Support Activity funded by USAID with two implementing partners, Care International & Dhaka Ashsania Mission using the FQS in the targeted areas.
This project will further work with the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Bangladesh to identify gaps in the current endeavors and build on the efforts already under way. Plans are under way to make the technology approach financially and operationally sustainable through introduction of usage fee for the farmers after the funding period ends in 2017.
A concrete business plan is under construction to make the payment structure of the FQS in a way that it does not pose heavy financial burden on the farmers and discourage them to use this service and also on the other hand to make the revenue flow continuously to cover up for the costs to make it financially sustainable.
With the current scale of the usage of this approach limited to 20 districts in Bangladesh, the approach will be deployed in other agro-based districts given the initial level of success of it in the piloting phases. In addition, plans are under consideration to reach a million farmers all across the country who still do not have access to the FQS as a mechanism to access agro related solutions through a fully digitized platform. In addition to this, the main target users which included the 12000+ extension agents present a huge potential for the scalability of FQS as only a few hundred extension agents currently have access to this technology. Moreover, the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Bangladesh has expressed interest in making this working approach of FQS prevalent throughout Bangladesh. The international scalability of this approach is promising given the countries in Asia & Africa which have high dependency in agriculture.
Target results and impact:
The Farmer Query is currently working in 20 districts in the central and southwest areas of Bangladesh namely Dhaka, Barisal and Khulna divisions. The FQS emphasizes to strengthen the existing agriculture extension system through ICT in 20 districts in southwest and central Bangladesh in order to sustainably improve food security and nutrition for 200,000 vulnerable women and smallholders farmers.
The ultimate objective is to ensure that farmers are not misled or exploited when they face a problem or have questions, and to directly link them to government agricultural experts sitting in the toll-free call center.