Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) is an approach specific to AVC that allows the project the space to improve by continuously evaluating and learning from ongoing activities. One AVC CLA tool is the Learning Lunch, which is a one hour session held on a monthly basis where technical teams present and lead a discussion around a recent innovation or intervention, highlighting the successes and challenges and reporting out on the resulting learning.
A one-hour interactive session, initiated by Knowledge Management Team (KMT), took place on March 29th 2107. It is one out of many initiatives by KMT that facilitates employees of AVC to get more familiar with the CLA approach. Mohammad Soeb Iftekhar, Deputy Team Leader, Market System and Cassia Mahjabeen, Marketing & Media Specialist, showed two videos during the event which utilized two case studies of current AVC partners as examples to better show the AVC approach to strengthening market systems & strategic approach tools for Agri input market. The session was followed by a lively discussion where opinions were exchanged between different experts from Dhaka and regional offices of the AVC project via video conferencing.
Strengthening agricultural input supply market system
The current market system presents an obvious disconnect between the large agricultural firms and small holders. The large agricultural firms were offering products which did not completely meet the smallholders’ needs. USAID AVC Project in Bangladesh looked to address this issue by working with the large agricultural firm to build their business capacity in market and package a more reputable brand that delivers a more reliable product to smallholders. In one case AVC assists a firm named ISPAHANI to promote and distribute IPM or bio-pest management products which work to control pest while limiting harmful environmental effects and being cost effective. After ISPAHANI’s marketing, distribution and customer service strategy was finalized, positive results seemed to materialize very quickly. Small holders experienced less crop loss, greater income and reduced their spraying needs by over 60 percent. ISPAHANI furthered its reach by training farmers directly on how to properly use their products. AVC also helped strengthen ISPAHANI’s distribution network extending its services to the far reaches of Bangladesh. However AVC did not work solely with ISPAHANI. It also initiated a positive competition through engaging with several competing firms in the same sector in similar interventions. The goal was to show how marketing tactics and a promotional strategy can be used to produce broad systemic change across a market system.
Strengthening service market systems
To strengthen the service provider system, USAID AVC Project in Bangladesh works through the private agricultural firms to affect the greater market system. In one case, AVC supported NAAFCO to train and brand independent Agro-service providers who help farmers in basic cultivation technology and management practices. In less than a year, a rapid result has been observed as a growing number of Agri-service providers are working in a team and earning much higher income than previous years. Thousands of farmers are accessing specialized services and harvesting better crops. NAAFCO’s sales have increased and they are now investing more to expand the strategy in new regions and crops. International experts were also brought on board to train the local farmers about spraying, fertilizing, and irrigation. The professional spraying services created an opportunity to get better specialized services locally and created new job opportunities for local communities.
The takeaways from the strategic approach tools and tactics for agro-input market in Bangladesh:
Strategic Approach includes consumer segmentation and differentiated marketing strategy. In consumer segmentation, geographic location, demographics, purchase behaviour and ease of access play a vital role. On the other hand, a marketing strategy asks for effective campaigns to attract various market segments within the target market. AVC facilitated the NAAFCO brand by injecting the NAAFCO corporate logo on all products, retaining strong identities as sub-brands of the NAAFCO master brand and striving for visual uniformity in packaging and marketing materials. In this case experimental marketing of a distribution chain and a differentiated marketing strategy for consumers were utilized together to reach their targets. Point of Sales (POS) branding for dealer and retailer have also been observed. Tangible engagement between farmer and retailer has been established through different activities as well.
Initiatives like AVC’s Learning Lunch ensures collaborative learning, adaptation and inclusive participation of the entire AVC staff. This will surely facilitate employees of different departments to learn the bigger picture, exchange ideas and interpret future interventions more adequately.
Wasel Syed is Manager, Knowledge Management, Monitoring and Evaluation at USAID’s Agricultural Value Chains project and Asif Ahmed Tonmoy is an Intern working with Knowledge Management team.