Bangladesh’s urban consumers are signaling demand for safe horticultural products, and their willingness to pay a premium price for safe produce, free from chemical residue, opens up a significant market opportunity for farmers. But despite efforts to curb pesticide and chemical use, farmers and orchard owners struggle to source proper spray service providers, and there are no trusted and trained professional services groups for spraying, pruning, and other input services. The impact of this constraint passes through the distribution channel all the way to the consumer, as produce is over-sprayed, leaving harmful chemical residue behind.
NAAFCO, a private sector grantee partner of USAID’s Agricultural Value Chains Project (AVC), co-designed promotional activities with AVC to support the emergence of a formalized, professionally trained pool of spray service providers. In an effort to increase sales of pesticides, weedicides and other input products, NAAFCO held a series of promotional events to market their input products to potential service providers. These events captured the attention of new buyers, drawing them in through promotional offers and discounted prices on NAAFCO products. NAAFCO also incorporated elements to begin building brand loyalty among these new customers to catalyze behavior change in spraying habits. NAAFCO embedded training in the events, conducting hands on demonstrations with buyers/service providers in the use of equipment and proper spraying application and dosage. NAAFCO also built a more
robust customer service department, providing a direct line of communication between the buyers and NAAFCO for troubleshooting, follow up questions, and comments and complaints. Through these events, NAAFCO established a key customer base by catalyzing the formation of well-trained service provider clusters, while also building brand recognition, trust, and loyalty to encourage repeat customers and boost sales. “NAAFCO’s success in launching products in areas not saturated by commercial players has given us the upper hand in dictating preferred consumers and creating our own loyalty club members,” the NAAFCO general manager said.
NAAFCO has identified 85 service providers, organized into groups in five areas within the Jessore region, and each service provider group interacts with and provides services to an average of 80 farmers. NAAFCO’s initial focus was to train service providers in mango orchard spraying, but based on initial success, the program was expanded to train these service providers in a range of different support services for multiple crops, which has provided consistent, year-round work for previously under-employed community members. The impact of this outreach is reflected in the positive response the company is receiving from both existing and new consumers. Mohammad Ohab Ali, a member of a Service Provider Group in Jessore highlighted his success under NAAFCO’s initiative. “I used to earn BDT 600 for day-long services with two spray machines and an additional laborer. Now with my additional skills in pruning,
fertilizing, watering and cleaning, I can earn at least BDT 15,000 per one bigha [33 decimals] mango orchard in a season.” It is still early to measure the full impact of this initiative on NAAFCO’s sales, but NAAFCO reports that their input product sales trend has seen an increase in the last 3 months of 2016. NAAFCO’s mango sector is expected to report a double-digit increase in sales of pesticides and fertilizer for 2016, and will become the leading contributor of sales in their overall company portfolio.
Through NAAFCO’s work with AVC, they have catalyzed the emergence of a professional service provider network, which had been a key constraint in the market. This intervention has benefited community livelihoods, orchard owners, and consumers by creating new job opportunities for year round work, providing access to well-trained professional spray and pruning services, and resulting in safer produce with less harmful residual chemicals due to over-spraying. This systemic change is driven by the business interest of NAAFCO to maintain a pool of brand-loyal customers, which supports the sustainability of the market solution. The end goal for this activity is to support the Service Provider Groups to operate as regional SMEs, providing a range of services to farmers in multiple value chains.