United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and LightCastle Partners jointly organized a seminar on “Promoting Digital Financial Services in Agriculture: The Next step” on the 18 December 2018, at The Westin Dhaka. The event was graced by dignitaries and industry professionals from banks, NBFIs, venture capitals, impact investment funds, NGOs, development organizations and private sector involved in the agricultural value chain. Four case studies were presented by Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), Chaldal.com, Field Buzz and Sheba.xyz on merging technology with agriculture to facilitate financing in the sector.
The event started off by a welcome speech from the Project Manager of UNCDF Mr. Galib Azim, followed by Mr. Bijon Islam, CEO LightCastle Partners. Later the discussion was joined by Syed Ashraf, Country Director UNCDF and the three shared their views on the importance of financial inclusion in the agriculture sector.
The first presentation of the day was by Mr.Bijon Islam on the topic of Agriculture and DFS to set the context and points of discussion. Stating “Ag- is the new tech”, this was backed by the Business Confidence Index of LightCastle Partners where the Ag-sector received the second highest score of +70. The majority of farmers in Bangladesh are small and marginal who are slowly adapting to mechanization.
The presentation on Emerging Startups and Innovation began with SFSA on their Farmers’ Hub business model presented by Mr. Md. Abdur Rouf, Manager MRM & ICT. SFSA’s unique business model of business integration by providing a market place, agricultural products (seedlings), machinery and agri based information services, and all of the transactions being logged into their mobile based app eFarmersHub. The second presentation on Emerging Startups and Innovation was by Mr. Waseem Alim, CEO of Chaldal Ltd. Chaldal is an online e-commerce platform serving customers fresh vegetables and grocery to their door step. To optimize orders and predict user patterns they have inducted machine learning into their ordering system.
After the first phase of presentations the floor was opened for discussion to the attendees on their views and actions on the integration of agriculture and DFS. The suggestion that came from the experts were pertaining to a holistic approach and inclusion of people from different strata of socio economic class for a meaningful impact.
The second phase of presentations began with Mr. Habib Ullah Bahar, M.D. of Field Buzz, a cloud based management software. Basically it is a software to support small-holder farmers to improve traceability in agricultural supply chains. Field Buzz has options to be tailored for its users’ need of microfinance. The final presentation of the day was by Mr. Adnan Imtiaz Halim, CEO of Sheba.xyz an online service provider platform. Sheba.xyz acts as a mediator between service seekers and service providers, providing over 85 services starting from beauticians, car mechanic to even plumbers. They are like a one-stop solution to provide all necessary services needed.
The daylong seminar ended by a group activity where the attendees in groups penned down their main take away for the day and one individual from each table presented the 3 main suggestions to look forward too. Most of the suggestions were geared towards automation and financial inclusion in the agri sector.
A few notable suggestions were:
- Technological Inclusion
- Best Practices & Collaboration
- Sandbox policy making
- Capacity building & business development
- Measuring ROI of Financial Inclusion