CARE Bangladesh has long worked with the private sector to find market-based solutions to help the extreme poor, especially women and girls, graduate out of poverty. Social inclusion into market systems is critical to this graduation. Similarly, the integration of information technology has potential for impact at scale. In two of the most successful experiences—the Agricultural Extension Support Project and Strengthening the Dairy Value Chain—unlocking partnership with the private sector, understanding needs and expectations among CARE, private sectors and communities helped to co-create innovative information usage and manage knowledge transparently. Strengthening the Dairy Value Chain—with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—used new Digital Fat Testing machines to make milk quality very transparent to producers and buyers, and pay a premium for higher quality milk. To do so, the project combined field collected data on milk quality, farmers’ profile, including geographical locations over google map, which enabled private sectors to have detailed supply chain information including quality milk, volume and female farmers’ as active producers., This also helped private sectors understand which female farmers needed capacity building support to strengthen their ability in business planning and productivity. This gender focused experience was transformative in the sense that this enabled Aarong dairy (the second largest dairy company in Bangladesh) to work in a targeted manner in scaling smallholder women’s participation in their supply chain from 2% to 55% in just 4 years. Brokering knowledge between different private sector actors—from smallholder farmers to large scale companies—was a turnkey solution that unlocked broader inclusion of poor women farmers in fresh dairy sector.
In a highly gendered society like Bangladesh, women’s mobility, voice, control over asset, financial decision making are limited. When these multiple forms of discrimination are coupled up with poverty, the intensity of marginalization is much deeper and have inter-generational impact requiring dynamic multi-stakeholder approach to be addressed.
The Agriculture Extension Support Project—with support from USAID’s Feed the Future—worked with banks and communities to get new agricultural financing to women who normally would not be able to access them due to various constraints. Combining digital technology, local agro-dealers, and new knowledge about a potential customer base, the project was able to facilitate the information and knowledge process in a way that allowed banks to engage a new customer base and co-create an innovative practice that helped transforming the financial inclusion of small holder women farmers. The pilot phase allowed 3,100 people—more than half women—to access USD190,000 in loans to improve their agricultural productions, at less than half of the interest rate they would have been charged with other sources.