Local Retailer Helps Smallholder Farmers Tackle Weeds

Learn how one rural retailer in Bangladesh enhanced his knowledge to better support farmers.

Mohammed Motahar Hassan was in his shop in Jheneidah, Bangladesh, when a client stopped in with a look of panic on his face. His client was having trouble managing the weeds in his rice field. He feared that if he didn’t fix this problem, he would have to spend considerable money hiring help to manually weed his field or otherwise face serious crop and income loss. Either way, he would be losing money that could be used to buy nutritious food for his family and send his children to school.

Fortunately, Hassan, a rural retailer selling seeds, fertilizers and herbicides, was able to identify a solution to his client’s weed management issues thanks to a local organization that is working to advance private sector-led agricultural development in Bangladesh in partnership with Feed the Future.

The NGO — Agro-Input Retailers Network (AIRN) connected Hassan with a training hosted by the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA). He learned about agronomic and environmentally-sound methods of mechanical and chemical weed control using integrated weed management, as well as how to identify different species of weeds for applying the appropriate method of management. He also learned that overuse of the same type of herbicides can render them ineffective — valuable advice for many of his customers.

“This training has been exceptionally fruitful as I have gained knowledge and practical skills on concepts that were previously unknown to me or my clients,” Hassan said.

Photo by CIMMYT

As most farmers seek advice from input dealers like Hassan, trainings like this can have a far-reaching impact. AIRN has over 3,000 dues-paying retailer members like Hassan across 19 districts in Bangladesh and has trained 1,450 input dealers using educational modules developed by CSISA since 2017.

An evaluation conducted before and after the training indicated that the participants, including Hassan, effectively increased their knowledge on integrated weed management. Test scores went from 41 percent before trainings to 88 percent after. By applying new integrated weed management practices, farmers are saving up to $78 per hectare, depending on the season, according to data collected by CSISA.

“We have been working closely with USAID-supported initiatives like CSISA through this collaborative effort,” said Khondkar Zunaed Rabbani, AIRN CEO. “Input dealers are the first stop for advice for many farmers and working with them is crucial. Training in integrated weed management is a breakthrough and has helped our dealers to give more responsible and quality advice to farmer clients, while reaching farmers through dealers and retailers at scale.”

Because of the advice from dealers like Hassan, and support from the private sector, more than 6,000 farmers across Bangladesh are now using integrated weed management practices in their own rice fields. With private sector-led solutions, farmers can better manage weeds and pests, increase their yields and create nutritious futures.

The CSISA training is led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and implemented jointly with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The Feed the Future Agro-Inputs Project (AIP) improves the knowledge of and access to quality agricultural inputs for farmers in Bangladesh. Through the establishment of a sustainable Agro-Input Retailers Network (AIRN), AIP provides trainings and technical assistance through partners like CSISA, CIMMYT and IFPRI on business management and ethics, basic agronomics, safe use and handling of pesticides and other related topics to agro-input retailers.