Extremely poor rural women in Bangladesh are extensively engaged in agricultural activities, but they are often deprived of quality agro-inputs due to social/cultural norms, limited market access, unfamiliarity with quality and price standards, and the unwillingness of the private sector to invest in infrastructure to reach "last mile" rural areas. These challenges prevent women from accessing resources to help them improve their socio-economic status and influence, food security, children's education, and decision-making power.
To address these challenges, CARE Bangladesh has developed a supply chain enterprise model: "Krishi Utsho" (KU). KU creates entrepreneurship opportunities for last-mile women, adn reinforces the sustainability of their ventures by supporting women farmers' communities.
The private sector has not invested in last-mile farmers, due to high transaction and infrastructure costs. KU lowers these costs by creating networks of trained rural women distributors and mitigating risk of default or market collapse with credit tools and financial literacy training. As part of this private sector engagement, KU negotiates with national suppliers to offer agricultural inputs to rural smallholder farmers at competitive prices, with more choice. KU then provides home-based women entrepreneurs with business training, access to inputs from agro-inputs suppliers, and basic start-up inventory. Thus, local farmers have more ability to diversify their income generating activities, e.g. with homestead gardening or aquaculture. Most importantly, women farmers have emerged as local sellers, agricultural agents, and suppliers in the value chain
roles traditionally played by men.
Access to financial services is another challenge for these women, and they often face high interest rates and demanding payment schedules. They are then more vulnerable to climatic shocks and natural disasters. KU provides financial literacy training, and links them with potential local markets for better price negotiation. KU has also pioneered a credit card model in collaboration with local banks, which allows women farmers to make spending decisions, choose products based on their needs, and access flexible payment schedules with low interest rates.
So far, this model has reached 5,358 women farmers and created 18 women entrepreneurs; also, 25 suppliers have reached new rural markets. CARE's field research in 2019 indicates that women's income from this program has reached an average of US$62.28, and 59% of participating women report improved decision-making power. Moving forward, KU aims to scale up and replicate the enterprise model to provide these valuable services for underprivileged rural women across Bangladesh.