Bangladesh, with a population of 153.6 million is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. It has made significant progress in achieving the MDGs particularly in achieving universal primary school enrolment, and gender parity in primary and secondary schooling. The Bangladeshi economy has recorded an annual growth rate of around 6 percent in the last decade despite global economic turmoil. Per capita income has risen to USD 1,044 by 2013 with steady progress achieved in lowering poverty.  Notwithstanding these positive economic indicators, around 50 million people of Bangladesh remain in poverty, living on less than a dollar a day (WB, 2012). Whilst the working age population is increasing at the rate of 3.3percent annually (GOB, 2013), employment has grown at a slower pace of 2.8 percent resulting in rising unemployment, especially among youth.

The country has a large agro economy but had made little progress on meeting international market standards such as good agri or aqua culture practice nor have the suppliers convinced the local population that their food meets national quality and safety standards. Farmer and supply chain actors are traditionally reluctant to change practices.

The Institute of Productivity (IoP) were invited by FAO to design a strategic approach to changing farmer behaviour to enable productive safe food supply. IoP then developed and tested a strategic skills focused approach to encouraging farmers to adopt best practice agri-production techniques to supply safe quality food products to local and international markets.  

IoP led the better supply chain performance component within the Agri sector and has been supporting the work of FAO and developing a safe food system for farmers in the Poultry, Horticulture and Aquaculture sectors.

Bangladesh and many other countries have struggled to gain full commitment from farm supply chains to put in place and operate effective controls for specific target market standards. This is often due to the perceived cost of implementing these controls and a lack of understanding of the specific controls needed at each point in their local supply chain. A series of customised internationally certified education programmes in food control targeting agreed food supply chains was designed and launched in 2014. This new programme focused on creating change agents who would work with the supply chain actors to deliver effective food safety control and improved profit for the farmers. Three certified programme’s were designed and delivered by the in-country teams-- master trainer, lead trainer and lead farmer.

The initial certified training programme was delivered to over 90 Master Trainers across three food supply chain sectors (fish, crops and poultry). These ‘master trainers’ (and subsequently a number of lead trainers) were certified by a top-10 UK Awarding Body (NOCN) and this programme was delivered by IoP in partnership with the FAO Food Safety Programme.  Focusing on the crop, fish and poultry sectors, the work was carried out in partnership with the relevant Government Departments and selected Industry Associations or NGO’s.

The training is highly interactive and is designed to enable the master trainers to develop the skills and confidence to design and lead their own change programmes in market standard best practices in the field. The programme links the benefits of good control with farm productivity in the selected food supply chains. The teams spend an equal amount of time understanding the barriers and motivating factors needed to drive change as well as enabling the farms to gain practical expertise in specific food control. These master trainers were given specific training and communication skills and then designed their lead training programme using appropriate activities to change farm practice based on business messages.

The master trainer network then designed and delivered the appropriate lead trainer workshops to 300 lead trainers, and the lead trainers subsequently designed the lead farmer programmes for  the 1500 demonstration benchmarked farms.  

Dr John Ryder, who leads the Food Safety Programme, said “We are delighted to see the lead training programme completed by the master trainers. The feedback and buy-in to this highly interactive training programme has been a really positive outcome.”

The specific food control and productivity messages have been cascaded through these workshop, ultimately to lead farmers and associated value chain actors in the field. The improved practices have been implemented by the farmers. The impact of the programme in terms of food control and better business benefits has and is being regularly monitored by the lead trainers (field officers) of the Government agencies , NGO’s and  Industry including through the use of mobile technology.

Professor Dillon the CEO of IOP  who led the design of the programme, reported that 780,000 crop farmers in Turkey adopted better control  in 2013 after the first 600,000 farmers that received support and guidance by mobile technology guiding better farm practice subsequently reported productivity and profit increases of some USD 200 million.

Farmers won’t change practices until we help change their minds about the business benefits of any improved control. 

Professor Mike Dillon, the CEO of IOP concluded

“The quality and professionalism of both the master trainers and the new lead trainers is evident in the workshops. ”

The next phase of the programme involved the Lead Farmers implementing the food control measures and demonstrating the benefits to farmers in the field schools and all of them capturing  the business benefits. Work was also progressed to develop a series of Food Safety Control badges for 1.5 million Cubs, Scouts and Ranger groups. This was aimed at instilling food control awareness  at an early age and help change the home and farm culture as to what is acceptable practice when handling food or operating farm units

Hasan Ahmed- the national lead for food safety in Bangladesh project said “we shared our experience and benefits of the new skills programme at the World Seafood Congress in late 2015, at the World Productivity Congress in October 2015 and at our National trainers awards ceremony in Feb 2016”.

Examples of Impact

The fish farm sector in the 100 benchmark tilapia farms had seen a significant reduction in fish farm drug costs and feed costs by proper utilisation of fish farm management practices and an increase in productivity from 19 kg per unit area to 78 Kg with increases in price for more standard product and a reduction in cost.

The crop sector has seen similar business benefits across brinjal, tomato and mango crop production 

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