Asma Khatun is a sesame farmer from Rajbari in southwestern Bangladesh. Although sesame grows well in Bangladesh’s climate, Asma and many other farmers struggle to meet the standards required to sell their crops in global markets because of poor cultivation and post-harvest handling techniques.

In 2019, Asma received free and timely crop advisory services through the Feed the Future Bangladesh Rice and Diversified Crops (RDC) Activity to improve her techniques. This support, provided by the RDC Activity’s partner Dynamic Agro, allowed her to cultivate 21 decimals of land at a cost of 3,500 takas. Asma then sold her 100-kilogram yield for 10,000 takas, earning a sizable profit of 6,500 takas.

Connecting Farmers with Companies

The RDC Activity is not only helping sesame farmers like Asma learn improved planting, harvesting, and post-harvest techniques, but also connecting them with local procurement and seed companies so that they may sell their crops at the best prices. The RDC Activity’s partners — including Metal Agro Limited, Dynamic Agro, Natural Agro, Sukumar Vandar, and Jadid Grain Industries Limited — have procured an estimated 4,200 metric tons of sesame seed from farmers in the Faridpur, Rajbari, Jhenaidah, Khulna, and Magura districts. These districts are among the 21 locations where the RDC Activity operates. Currently, this has resulted in sesame exports to Southeast Asian markets to the value of US$5.2 million.

Asma learned to use high-yielding sesame seed varieties, biofertilization, and pesticides to meet buyers’ standards. The RDC Activity is also working with Robi Axiata, a leading mobile network operator, to provide smartphones to farmers that allow them to access information, share tips, and ask questions of their peers. The RDC Activity also partnered with the NAAFCO Group to promote weed management and the use of their Kris brand of weedicide.

Reaching Villages During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for Asma to travel to local markets for information or crop advisory services. To reach rural areas, the RDC Activity supported firms in distributing brochures on efficient sesame cultivation techniques door-to-door, allowing farmers like Asma to access information without having to leave their homes and risk infection. The brochures contain photos and illustrated graphics to make them accessible for farmers who lack literacy skills.

Asma Khatun, of Rajbari, improved her sesame crop with support from the RDC Activity and its private sector partner Dynamic Agro.

The RDC Activity also supported the production of a series of 12-minute promotional videos, some of which focused on effective sesame cultivation techniques. The videos are currently broadcast three times a day on local cable television channels, which are popular among rural communities. They are produced in local Bangla dialects, particularly those of the greater Jashore and Barishal regions, to ensure all audiences can access and understand them.

Other partners of the RDC Activity prepared vans to drive around rural villages while broadcasting audio messages via loudspeakers and handing out promotional materials. Some even purchased, sold, and distributed sesame seeds and grains using the vans, making them multipurpose and useful for providing door-to-door services to rural farmers. The promotional campaigns typically last five to seven days, allowing adequate time to reach almost every household in a small locality.

Sharing the Knowledge

With the support she has received, Asma is motivated to ensure her own success as a small-scale sesame farmer as well as that of her neighbors. She shares her knowledge on efficient sesame cultivation and is now a mentor to others like her.

Read more about the Feed the Future Bangladesh Rice and Diversified Crops (RDC) Activity.

Read more about our work in Bangladesh.