Mid-term Evaluation of the USAID Agricultural Extension Support Activity

The purpose of the USAID Agricultural Extension Support Activity (AESA) mid-term evaluation is to 1) review and analyze the effectiveness of AESA project in achieving the program objectives and 2) analyze if the project is contributing to the improved agricultural service provision which in turn will lead to increased productivity of farmers.

The AESA project is organized into three components that together contribute to the AESA goal: "a strengthened agricultural extension system in southwest and central Bangladesh." Component 1 is premised on the empowerment of smallholder farmers (with an emphasis on women farmers), through development of farmer producer groups (FPGs) around six non-cereal value chains in central and southwest Bangladesh: jute, chili, mung bean, fish farming, beef-fattening and dairy. Component 2 enhances networking, linkages and access to information for farmers and extension agents through development and introduction of new information communication technology (ICT) capacity. Component 3 addresses transformational change within the public and private extension services, so they not only have the capacity to provide the most relevant and up-to-date technical information, but smallholder farmers have equal access to all government and non- government infrastructure and services in their area. Read More...

5 Game Changing Initiatives for Transformative Agricultural Extension

The USAID Agricultural Extension Support Activity (AESA) project is a key part of Bangladesh-centered Feed the Future (FtF) initiative addresses this challenge. Implemented by the Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) with technical partners CARE Bangladesh and mPower Social Enterprises Ltd., the goal of the project which started at late 2012 is to strengthen the existing extension system in southwest and central Bangladesh to sustainably improve food security and nutrition for smallholder farmers. This translates to the enhancement of access to and utilization of agricultural extension services by smallholder farmers – both women and men. Key interventions under this project works to build capacities and creating support to a demand-driven extension system, synergized by the use of ICT. Geographically distributed in the central and southwest Bangladesh, the project operates in 12 districts, covering 26 upazilas, under Jessore, Khulna and Barisal regions as primary intervention areas.

This report identifies 5 game changing initiatives for transformative agricultural extension. Read More...

Public and Private Extension Agents’ in USAID Agricultural Extension Support Activity (AESA) Project

The USAID Agricultural Extension Support Activity (AESA) has been implanted since October 2012 with the primary objective of increasing farmers' access to improved agricultural extension services leading to increased household income, nutritional status and food security for 112,000 participating farmers.

The project has attempted to strengthen the public and private extension service provision in the project areas. This report is an assessment of the capacity and performance of the public and private service providers, the quality of services they are providing and whether the linkages between service providers and beneficiaries were functioning properly. Read More...

A-Card Preliminary Assessment Report

For smallholder farmers (SHFs) with limited savings and assets, agricultural spending is largely facilitated through two credit models, the micro-finance and bank models. The banking system while enabling access to credit at low interest rates of 9-10% average, has failed to reach 80% of SHFs; as SHFs lack collateral and have limited understanding of various procedural complexities. Micro-credit Programs (MCPs) due to high interest rates of between 25-31%, smaller loan sizes and inflexible and short repayment periods have also failed to address needs of SHFs. Furthermore, since both formal (bank) and informal (MCP) credit is extensively cash-based, there is a tendency for its use in nonfarming activities, negatively impacting agricultural productivity and profitability.

To address these challenges, A-Card was designed to digitalize and re-engineer Micro-Finance to enable formal financial Inclusion of smallholder farmers (SHFs). A-Card model was designed by Mr. Bidyuth Mahalder, Chief of Party of the AESA Project and USAID reserves its IP rights. It was piloted in three USAID’s Feed the Future districts of Bangladesh by three implementing partners-Dhaka Ahsania Mission, Care and mPower. A-Card is a debit card specially designed for SHFs, which facilitates financial access to credit for digital purchase of farm inputs at low interest rate (10%), no collateral requirement and flexible payback period (6 month tenure).

This evaluation was conducted in October-November 2017 on A-Card holders who took and repaid their loans before May 2017 in order to assess the product’s impact on productivity and profitability. The evaluation also involved one to one interviews with 200 SHFs, key informant interviews with 5 input retailers and 2 MFI agents who were all part of A-Card to assess the overall impact beyond productivity and profitability and recommendations for A-Card. Read More...

Assessing the Impact of Digitally-Enabled Microcredit for Smallholder Farmers

mSTAR/Bangladesh, working with the Agriculture Extension Support Activity (AESA) led by Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM), conducted pre and post assessments in Faridpur district to understand the impact that a micro-credit product (called A-Card) delivered to smallholder farmers through Bank Asia’s agent banking had on participating farmers, associated ag-input retailers, and other relevant stakeholders, as well as to understand what further action can be taken to improve uptake of these services.

This report includes findings from the pre and post assessment surveys, beginning with farmers and retailers’ demographic information, including age, sex and education; as well as their mobile phone ownership, access and usage patterns. It also examines the knowledge and perceptions that stakeholders have of digital financial services (DFS), in addition to their perceived benefits from A-Card, associated challenges, and opportunities to scale up. In addition, this report includes some findings from a separate survey conducted solely by AESA. It concludes with recommendations based on the findings and feedback from stakeholders. Read More...

USAID – AESA: A-card Progress and Prospects

Financial constraints are more pervasive in agriculture and related activities than other sectors, reflecting both the nature of agricultural activity and the average size of farms. Despite the rapid development of financial services, a majority of smallholders worldwide lack access to the key services they need to compete and improve their livelihoods.

This report identifies the A-card process pilot in Bangladesh. The A-card is a brand new micro-credit mechanism aimed at providing smallholder farmers financing to digital purchase of farm inputs at a low cost. Read More...

Evaluation of ICT Component of the Agricultural Extension Support Activity

The Institute for Computing in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was charged with evaluating the information and communication technology (ICT) component of the Agriculture Extension Support Activity (AESA). Funded by USAID and implemented by the Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS) Program at the University of Illinois, Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM), CARE, and mPower Social Enterprises of Dhaka, the goal of AESA is to strengthen extension and advisory services in Bangladesh.

This evaluation addresses the important questions connected to this project and identifies the extent to which ICT related goals were reached. Read More...

USAID Agricultural Extension Support Activity: Study on Gender Impact

The USAID Agricultural Extension Support Activity (AESA) is a five years’ project funded by USAID that aims to enhance access to and utilization of agricultural extension services by smallholder farmers – both men and women. It is working for building capacities and creating support to a farmer demand-driven agricultural extension system, synergized by the use of information communication technology (ICT).

This research paper identifies the gender impact of this project. The research used both quantitative and qualitative approaches to understand the gender awareness and dynamics within the project. Read More...

AESC – Model Towards Strengthening Agricultural Extension Service in Bangladesh

In order to sustain the productivity in the agricultural sector in Bangladesh, there is a need to cope with rapid population growth, limited land base, and climate change effects, through the adoption of appropriate technologies, skills and knowledge.

Accordingly, USAID-AESA project has introduced agricultural extension services towards strengthening this service. This report provides an assessment of the performance of the AESC-Model. Read More...

AESA Performance of Mungbean in the South-Central Region of Bangladesh

Bangladesh has been experiencing a shortage of land for pulses, whereas its demand is increasing day by day. This, increasing yield remains to be the option for elevating pulse production in the country. In this regard, mungbean can play an important role especially in the South-Central Region of Bangladesh.

This study was undertaken for scoping increased yield and profitability of the crop in the region. Field experiments were conducted using three genotypes, four locations environments, two seasonal environments, and two managements. Read More...

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