Omar Faruk Mondol from Jaipurhut district is a vegetable farmer and day labourer. Together with his father, a rickshaw puller, he makes a living for himself and their family. Whatever they earn is spent on household essentials. Omar has been growing vegetables for the last four years. At first, he leased some land and started to grow bitter gourd. However, the yield was always lower than expected. "I needed some reliable information on what I could do better or what I was doing wrong. But every person in the village who I asked gave me different advice. I didn't know what to do," Omar says.
Then one day, as he was selling some of his meagre harvest at the local market, Omar saw an advertisement painted on a wall. "It said to call 7676 for agriculture information and advice. I immediately made a call on my mobile and spoke to one of the call centre agents," Omar goes on to say. Katalyst has partnered with Banglalink to launch the agriculture helpline 7676 as an effective, easy-to-reach platform and fast way to disseminate agriculture information to rural farmers. Krishi Jigyasha 7676, introduced in 2009, has been widely accepted by farmers, with more than 385,000 calls registered in 2011 and 2012. Utilising the experiences of this helpline, Banglalink is also partnering with the Department of Agriculture Extension to launch another helpline service, connecting farmers to their nearby agro extension officers. Omar's story shows how effective such an innovative ICT-based solution can improve the lives of millions of farmers across Bangladesh.
After describing to the call centre agent the cultivation methods he applies, which crops he grows and the issues he faces, Omar learned how and with which dosage to apply urea and potassium fertilisers in order to improve his yield. He also found out about the most effective crop protection methods available to reduce losses. He has called 7676 another three times to obtain agriculture information he can trust. Omar has obtained information about pesticide spray on his vegetables that was affected by insects. Through 7676 helpline, Omar has been able to increase his annual profits considerably, to BDT 86,000 (USD 1,036) from selling vegetable. With the additional income his bitter gourd production brings him, he has bought a water pump which ensures safe drinking water for his family. He also puts away some money for emergencies and necessary household expenditure.
Katalyst, is a market development project which aims to increase the income of poor men and women, thereby contributing to sustainable poverty reduction in Bangladesh. Katalyst has been working in Bangladesh since 2003. The livelihoods of poor people depend on
market systems in which they are involved as labourers, producers, entrepreneurs and consumers. Often however, the poor are systematically excluded from these markets. Katalyst uses the approach of Inclusive Markets (Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P) to break this vicious cycle of poverty. This approach identifies the barriers preventing poor people's participation in the markets and the root causes of this, and finds innovative solutions to overcome them in partnership with the public and private sectors.