Over 33 per cent of Bangladesh’s population are without a bank account and most of them are farmers. They live a tough, hand to mouth life and grow their own food. Often their excess produce is either wasted or sold to middlemen at unfair prices, leaving the farmers with no savings, no security and no hope for a better future.
So how do you get farmers to save money and get fair prices? By implementing the world’s first initiative that transforms fresh fruits and vegetables into bank accounts -AgroBanking.
United Commercial Bank (UCB) of Bangladesh collaborated with local retail company Shwapno, to help find a solution. They launched an initiative in the village of Barinagar, located in the Jessore District of Bangladesh, to let the farmers know that excess produce can be turned into future savings.
In just one day, over 200 farmers signed up and thronged to the village market with their produce. They handed it over at one of the AgroBanking stations where it was bought at Shwapno’s fair price list and the income from the farmers’ sales were deposited directly into free, UCB mobile microsaving accounts.
Shwapno then picked up the produce, transported and sold it through their vast network of retail outlets.Through AgroBanking, UCB provides low-income farmers with bank accounts, income and a chance to build credit history while Shwapno provides farmers with fair prices without a middleman, and its customers with exploitation-free, fresh and organic produce.
Not only do farmers get a safe place to save their hard-earned money, but the farmers also get the chance to eventually avail other banking facilities such as loans. Once the farmers start saving, they will be able to grow financially, and join the formal economy as well as contribute to the national economy.
This is good news for Bangladesh, and the AgroBanking business model can also act as a potential game-changer for non-commercial farmers across other regions such as; Asia, Africa, South America and in other agro-based economies. It can move entire nations towards new avenues of growth with a reduction in inequality and greater financial inclusion.
The scheme has been a huge success in Bangladesh and will be rolled out nationwide by UCB and Shwapno. Excess agro-goods that were once wasted can now help solve a problem, nationwide.