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The beginning of Bangladesh’s “Patronato?”

Many of us in the CIMMYT community are familiar with “Patronato”—the group of private farmers in northern Mexico who  have collaborated with the center since the 1950s. These farmers support the center and partners’ research activities, and in turn have benefited from new and improved agricultural technologies.

Now, a similar partnership between CIMMYT and farmers seems to be developing in Bangladesh. About 70 farmers recently talked about forming a farmers’ association of 200-300 members and a farmers’ federation of 25,000 members. Enamul Haque, CIMMYT-Bangladesh cropping systems agronomist and facilitator of the farmers’ federation initiatives, was present for the 18 May 2009 discussions which took place at a farmers’ union meeting in Nababpur, Baliakandi, Rajbari. Abdul Wohab, principal scientific officer, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), Gazipur also attended the meeting. Farmers’ federation initiatives are also starting in Rajshahi, Lalmonirhat, and Dinajpur districts, according to Haque.

“A farmers’ association and federation would facilitate CIMMYT’s work to spread conservation agriculture, as well as new crop varieties and technologies,” said Haque. CIMMYT and BARI have worked in the region since 2003, assisting with quality seed and facilitating the development and dissemination of conservation agriculture technology. However, the small-scale farmers who benefit from this technology can benefit even further by working together and becoming part of larger associations. This could give farmers better bargaining power and link them to product marketing and seed and input companies.

Farmers and Kamal Fakir, chairman of the Nababpur union, are enthusiastic about farmers working together. Fakir generously agreed to let CIMMYT use three rooms in the union building rent-free, which can serve as office space or as a sleeping room for CIMMYT researchers while they are working in  Baliakandi. Several farmers also offered to spare land for CIMMYT for research purposes. “I’m happy to provide these rooms and facilities to CIMMYT. This building is a center for rural people and CIMMYT works to improve agriculture which ultimately benefits farmers and their families,” said Fakir. Haque also acknowledged this valuable contribution. “Farmers’ commitment and willingness to extend their resources to CIMMYT is proof of our strong partnership,” he said.