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Milestone Achievements

Jobs and Income
By December 2017, 4.8 million SMEs and farmers will have increased their income by USD 689 million. Katalyst’s interventions resulted in creating more than 800,000 full-time equivalents. Jobs in farms and SMEs were a direct result of these efforts, but there were also indirect results in the form of new jobs in various associated value chains, created by increased income and spending.

Poverty-Oriented Focus
Katalyst systematically applied the Grameen Foundation’s Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI). 76% of beneficiaries (farmers and small business owners) were living below the upper poverty line (less than 2.5 USD per day), and 23% below the lower poverty line (less than 1.25 USD per day). The PPI helped to design interventions towards a more poverty-oriented focus.

Quantitative Achievements
Katalyst exceeded all targets given by its donors and the government of Bangladesh by leaps and bounds, laying a foundation for successful scaling-up by applying the Market Systems Development (MSD) approach. Katalyst has facilitated 309 interventions during 2000-2017. The below examples are drawn from those interventions.

Qualitative Achievements

  • Katalyst positioned itself as a pioneer in market development, achieving recognition for using an innovative approach engaging beneficiaries, processes, structures and partners. From 2005 onwards, the project contributed significantly to the emergence of DCED’s Standard for Results Measurement.
  • Katalyst’s MRM system was successfully audited by the DCED in 2011 as the first global project, achieving even better results in 2013.
  • Katalyst strengthened its position as a benchmark project, not only in the MSD domain, but also in the job market for young professionals in Bangladesh, and as a valuable partner to government agencies and private companies.
  • It achieved its greatest recognition in 2014 by winning the OECD DAC prize for taking development innovations to scale, based on the seed mini-pack intervention.
  • Katalyst applied new tools, such as the systemic change measurement framework with SenseMaker, the Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) index, and an improved version of the Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI).

Maize Contracting Farming System

Katalyst has been working in the maize sector since 2004. The project identified that farmers in the char (riverine islands) areas are getting lower yields because of their lack of knowledge on proper cultivation techniques and inputs usage, as well as their lack of access to finance. To address these constraints, Katalyst developed a contract farming system in the northern part of Bangladesh.

 

In 2009, Katalyst started working with eight contractors who conducted business with marginal farmers in the chars. Within two years, company capacities, the number of farmers under contract, as well as their yields and productivity, had all increased significantly. With this success, Katalyst approached the international agribusiness company Charoen Pokphand (CP) to develop a sub-contracting system for selling quality inputs to contractors, promoting good maize farming practices and buying the maize back from them. To further strengthen the system, the project supported Agrani Bank and National Credit and Commerce (NCC) Bank to design and introduce a dedicated credit line (DCL) that would enable the banks to lend to contractors at a lower risk than lending to farmers. Bangladesh Bank also included ‘Lending to Maize Contractors’ in its loan policy, as an agriculture loan component.


Katalyst's Partnership with National Companies

Katalyst collaborates with private sector partners to ensure that they have the right incentives and capacity to improve the market environment, in order to benefit the poor. Katalyst works with private companies and business associations with the incentives, commitment and mandate to work in a given sector.

Farmed Fish

Katalyst’s farmed fish programme partnered with SKF and Fishtech, two national-level private companies working in the fisheries sector. The purpose was to train SME fish farmers on better cultivation techniques of three fish species: tilapia, koi and pangus. The training also captured the needs of marginal farmers by promoting “green pond technology” for farming tilapia. This reduces dependency on commercial feed and substitutes that dependency with available natural feed in the pond. The training was conducted by private companies and 30 hatcheries. Participant farmers, nurseries and input dealers gave positive responses to the training. SKF in particular achieved a 90% increase in their aquachemical sales; this they attribute to their involvement in providing training to smallholder farmers and dealers. SKF has expressed strong interest to expand the training.

Information Channels

Farmers often experience a lack of information on disease prevention for their crops, poultry, and fisheries, and they need quick solutions. In 2009, Katalyst partnered with Banglalink to launch an agricultural helpline for farmers, called “Banglalink Jigyasha 7676”. The helpline has been widely accepted among mobile phone users working in agriculture, with more than 400,000 calls logged in call centres in two years, extending Bangladesh’s telecommunication services far beyond telephone and SMS use. Katalyst is also joining content providers of agriculture information with an independent panel of agricultural experts, to evaluate and improve the content used in agricultural helplines.


Sustainable Agricultural Practices

Safe and judicious use of pesticides
Katalyst worked with the Bangladesh Crop Protection Association (BCPA) - a non-profit business organisation - to train farmers, retailers and pesticide sprayers across Bangladesh on the safe and judicious use of pesticides. This initiative improved the ability of farmers to select the right pesticides, use them appropriately and at correct dosages. Farmers can now also identify and manage crop diseases.

Promoting improved pest management (IPM) techniques
To promote integrated pest management (IPM) for better crop protection, Katalyst conducted a study of IPM in Bangladesh. This study examined the technology, its applicability, growth potential, and inherent limitations. Katalyst also discovered that there was no provision for the commercial production of bio-pesticide in the government’s 1985 Pesticides Rule, which was hindering overall growth of the industry. In response, Katalyst prepared and submitted a policy recommendation paper to the MP and Chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on agriculture. This played a significant role in the amendment of “The Pesticides Rule 1985” in September 2010. As a result of the amendment, in December 2012 two companies received licenses to market IPM products.

‘Trichoderma’, new composting technology for farmers
Balanced application of fertiliser in farm land is a critical factor for ensuring better yields and maintaining soil health. Since unavailability of quality compost is a major bottleneck in the fertiliser sector, Katalyst felt the need to introduce trichoderma, a soil-borne beneficial fungus that reduces the de-composition period of organic materials from 3-4 months to 4-5 weeks. As trichoderma has beneficial fungicidal effects, it can also act as a bio-pesticide by helping plants grow more resistant to fungal diseases. The use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which are harmful to soil health when used disproportionately, is therefore also reduced. Katalyst determined that promoting Trichoderma - in partnership with the public and private sector - is a sustainable way for farmers to access quality compost.

Health Care

Health is a core dimension of poverty. In Bangladesh, the overall quality of healthcare is low and the ability of the general population to access services is wholly inadequate, further inhibiting the country’s economic development.

Given that the poor participate in the healthcare system both as consumers and workers, Katalyst defined a two-pronged poverty reduction objective. Firstly, to reduce the barriers that Bangladeshis from poor and lower-middle income backgrounds face when seeking work in the healthcare sector. Secondly, to improve poor people's access to healthcare services, as well as the quality of those services.

This led Katalyst to look at the training system that “produces” health workers. The programme therefore shifted its focus from the healthcare system to the labour market - for health workers and the training system. In summary, new training courses opened up new employment opportunities for young people from predominantly poor or lower-middle-income households in rural areas, and for whom a medical profession represents an opportunity to raise their family's income substantially.

Katalyst's interventions focused on improving the functioning of the training system - regulations, curricula, attitudes and capacities - and in particular on improving the performance of training providers.

Katalyst’s facilitative approach was characterised by engagement with different public and private players, solid market analysis and understanding of the political economy. It implemented flexible and responsive interventions with an emphasis on building ownership and – perhaps most of all - patience and perseverance.


Interventions have focused on the most urgent constraints in the training system related to government regulations and the negative attitudes towards the private sector that prevent service providers from offering better (and more) training courses.

  • Significant numbers of training providers are crowding into the training system as a result of more appropriate entry requirements, allowing for better regulated private sector participation;
  • Training based on approved curricula has become more standardised, which will contribute to improved quality;
  • New policy guidelines and curricula have given government a means for more effective stewardship;
  • In their attitudes and actions, government officials are increasingly acknowledging the reality of a pluralistic healthcare system in which both the public and private sector have a role to play;
  • Most importantly, a major change in the role of government - from provider to steward and regulator - has been instigated.


The attractiveness of health professions as a source of employment and income is increasing, and the poor are benefitting.

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