Developing public-private partnerships (PPPs) to expand conservation agriculture (CA) is one of the main goals of the USAID-funded Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia in Bangladesh (CSISA-BD). A key stakeholder in CSISA-BD, CIMMYT has partnered with International Development Enterprises (iDE) to develop business models to support Solar International, a leader in the agricultural machinery sector in Bangladesh. To kick-start the PPP, Solar International recently imported 54 seeder-fertilizer drills that can be attached to the ubiquitous two-wheel hand tractors found in Bangladesh, and used for the CA strip tillage technique. Using such machinery allows for rapid precision planting of wheat, reduces the turn-around time before the rice harvest, and responds to the problem of growing labor scarcity for planting in Bangladesh. The PPP prioritizes farmer and service provider training in better-bet agronomic practices, optimum use of the seeder-fertilizer drills, and the marketing of agricultural services to small and marginal farmers at reasonable prices.
In November 2012, supported by CIMMYT, Solar International and iDE completed in-depth training and certification of 108 leading agricultural service providers and their machine operators, who had purchased the seeder-fertilizer drill. To make this approach scalable and sustainable, Solar International embedded the cost of training in the market price of the equipment; emphasizing program sustainability by securing a training and funding source after CSISA-BD withdraws. In turn, CSISA-BD supplied a 50% cost-rebate to purchasing service providers upon successful completion of the training course. This PPP was brokered by CIMMYT’s Timothy J. Krupnik, Cropping Systems Agronomist in Bangladesh, Rajiv Pradhan (iDE), and Sohel Khan (Solar International). Trainings were facilitated by representatives of Solar International, Farhad Hossain (CIMMYT Agricultural Development Officer), Scott Justice (CIMMYT Machinery Consultant), and Shafiq Islam (CIMMYT-CSISA Training and Outreach Officer).