Achieving Goals through Entrepreneurship and Private Sector Support
Matinur Rahman, 32, started his seed company, Insaaf Seed Ltd., in 2016, soon after finishing his agronomy degree, by selling organic fruit and vegetable seeds to the local community. In early 2018, he finished a master’s degree he began to look into setting up his own firm manufacturing grain seed on a small scale, but soon ran into challenges involving production techniques and technology, labor shortages, pest and disease concerns and so on. In the same year, he attended the opening of the Feed the Future Bangladesh Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia–Mechanization Irrigation (CSISA–MI) and joined a training session on “Seeder machine operation, troubleshooting, and safe driving.” This gave Matinur the confidence he needed to expand his business, and in 2019 he purchased a seeder machine for line sowing and field preparation, marking his first move toward mechanization.
Embracing Mechanization in Agriculture
In 2019, Matinur learned about the magic of rice transplanters. He applied to the Department of Agriculture Extension, Faridpur, and with the fifty percent government subsidy, he secured his first transplanter. However, he had no idea how to use it, and this lack of technical knowledge meant that he failed in his first attempt to raise seedlings. In 2020, he tried again but only succeeded in cultivating 33 decimals of land — not even thirty percent of what he had planned. Matinur realized he needed some extra guidance and an injection of expertise. Later that year, through a farmers group meeting organized by Feed the Future Bangladesh Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia Mechanization and Extension Activity (CSISA-MEA), he was introduced to the Activity’s work. CSISA–MEA supported him by training 11 of his 15 staff in rice transplanter operation, mat-type seedling raising, nursery administration, mechanics training and other relevant matters.
The area in which Matinur lives is highly disaster-prone, and the main goal for any farmer in the locality is to produce stress- and drought-tolerant varieties of seed. This was the reasoning behind his introduction of his first rice transplanter, to grow stress-tolerant rice seed by involving community members. This is helping the farming households in his locality to combat drought, salinity and other challenges caused by the climate crisis. Next, Matinur hired a second rice transplanter from a neighboring village and extended his transplanting service through his enterprise, reaching more farming households. The support of CSISA-MEA enabled Matinur’s enterprise to transplant 100 acres of land successfully and in one year to earn more than 57,000 Bangladeshi Taka (USD 6,078), which previously was zero.
Insaaf Seed’s main goal is to provide rice transplanting services to local farmers and to cultivate automated rice seedlings through entrepreneurs. At first, the business focused on the knowledge and skill development of its 15 staff members (4 women, 11 men) in seedling-rearing methods, business concepts and services. The training provided them with the capacity to support 80 farmers in growing seedlings during the aman and boro seasons. Since 2020, Insaaf Seeds has been working with five agents who collect stress-tolerant seeds from farmers who then grow them.
Easily Accessible Agriculture Mechanization for the Community
Matinur Rahman has gained the trust of farmers in the locality and believes this has given him an opportunity to create new commercial opportunities. “When I first went out with the rice transplanter, people joked that someone had taken a helicopter into the rice field," Matinur said. “And now they trust me, which is a significant accomplishment.” Insaaf Seeds has already established a system that is much more efficient than sowing by hand and introduced an additional 4,000 trays (small trays used for growing seedlings) to generate large quantities of seedlings. Through this venture, Matinur has not only achieved success for himself but also created new opportunities for farming households — Insaaf Seeds currently works with 500 farmers in the region — and for agents as well.
The Future of Agricultural Mechanization in Bangladesh
Sustainable agriculture mechanization in Bangladesh demands a multi-stakeholder plan that involves the government, development partners such as CSISA–MEA, the community and self-driven private sector entities. Insaaf Seeds is a successful example of a private sector firm that has evolved independently with help from CSISA–MEA, and has contributed to transforming a farming community from manual to mechanical transplanting.