Originally published on February 19, 2016.
In Bangladesh, a large gap lies at the beginning of the dairy supply chain: animal feed. Farmers lack awareness of nutritional needs for their cows; and for those that are more aware, feed is generally unavailable. For people like Sukanto Kumar Ghos, a young entrepreneur from the remote village of Dumuria in Southwestern Bangladesh, this gap is a huge opportunity.
I am getting a real profit from feed sale and knowing how to prepare genuine dairy feed. Fat percentage of milk has increased using BDEP feed, so farmers are finding that the dairy business will be profitable if we follow the BDEP approach.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under its Food for Progress initiative, and implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development, the Bangladesh Dairy Enhancement Project (BDEP)
is introducing new approaches to achieve sustainable development in the Bangladesh dairy sector. One of these approaches is addressing the lack of knowledge through on-farm training and whole farm management. And to address the lack of availability, Sukanto and other young entrepreneurs are being supported by BDEP to start up 90 mini-agribusinesses (MABs). Through these initiatives, BDEP is the first project in Bangladesh to address the shortage of animal nutrition in a practical and sustainable manner.
Sukanto stands in his maize field. "I have learned a lot about maize cultivation for the first time in my life," he says.
Through a small-grants process, but most importantly through technical assistance provided by the BDEP team, these entrepreneurs are being assisted to grow nutritionally valuable fodder, blend concentrate of better quality, and offer other products and services to farmers. Not just anyone can participate, however. Ambition is important, but being hardworking, sincere, honest and ready to jump in are the traits BDEP looks for in the people it supports. “Quality of goods and services offered to Bangladesh dairy farmers is often unsatisfactory,” says Chief of Party Geoff Walker. “So it’s important that the farmers trust the MABs to ensure on-going supply of good quality products.”
Since signing the small grant agreement with Sukanto, BDEP has provided him with on-farm training on improved concentrate formulation (feed for dairy cattle), soil testing & treatment and how to source good quality ingredients. BDEP also supported him to lease one acre of land, where he grew maize for the first time in his life. With the expertise and resources needed, Sukanto started his business in October 2015. Within four months, he sold eight tons of concentrate and built nearly 100 customer connections with farmers. After harvesting his maize, he sold 5.7 tons to nearby farmers. In his first full month in business, he earned a net value of BDT 27,048 ($347 US). To put this into context, a monthly income of BDT 5,000 is considered above average in rural Bangladesh.
Sukanto has already reinvested his profit to expand his business, including the leasing of more land. He has become well established in his community – as a business owner with high quality products, as an employer of part time labor, and as a model trainee for other newly selected MABs.