Bridging the gap between farmers and local consumers | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 05, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 05, 2020

Bridging the gap between farmers and local consumers

Krishan, a digital market platform created by iPAGE & Partners, started with a vision to help farmers sell their produce through e-commerce. Led by Mashrur H Shurid, Mohammad Saifullah Mithu, and Labib Tarafdar, this social welfare initiative was launched on May 1, 2020.

The journey of Krishan began when iPAGE started to work closely on a grassroot level with over 250 smallholder farmers of five districts, enabling them with precise agriculture-based technologies to optimise their farming practices.

Amidst the nationwide shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, farmers were experiencing unprecedented difficulties to sell their produce on time at fair prices. "By the end of March 2020, we started to receive a lot of calls from our farmers," shares Mashrur H Shurid, Chief Executive Officer of iPAGE and Managing Partner of Krishan. "After being closely involved with them for the last two years, especially in the production sector, we knew they would eventually end up with no other choice but to either sell their harvest on very low prices or destroy their produce with their own hands. That is when we discovered the necessity of doing something for proper product distribution."

With support from local NGOs, YY Goshti and the iDEA project under the ICT Division of the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology, Krishan has sourced nearly 12.5 tonnes of vegetables, spice and poultry items directly from smallholder farmers and sold them to 104 urban customers. These fresh produces came from 206 rural farmers of Tangail, Pabna, Munshiganj and Panchagarh.

With the sourcing support from Krishan, a coalition of four social organisations has distributed healthy cooked meals to around 30,000 low-income groups in Dhaka during Ramadan. To help the middle-income families, Krishan also introduced a rationing process called 'Krishan Goodie Bag' comprising of essential groceries and seasonal vegetables bought from farmers. People contributed in the process by donating goodie bags while purchasing produces from Krishan. Team Krishan also subsidised the packaging and logistic costs and ensured proper distribution of those goodie bags among 154 families with the help of their partner social organisations. While purchasing directly from smallholder farmers, Krishan offered comparatively higher prices to the local wholesale markets based on the unit production costs that eventually led to an additional profit earning of 18 to 25 percent, to the supplier-farmers.

One of their biggest challenges so far has been transporting the produce from the countryside to the city. However, this challenge was eased when Bangladesh Post Office stepped in and offered their 'Krishok Bandhu Postal Service' for free. Furthermore, since quality assurance and hazard-free preservation of the produce remain another challenge, a team of expert agriculturists and nutritionists from iPAGE, their local NGO partners, and concerned Upazila extension officers are channeling their energies and efforts towards assisting Krishan. Storage and fulfillment are two more issues that the team is working hard to stabilise.

At present, Krishan is sourcing fresh, chemical-free seasonal vegetables, spices, and poultry items from smallholder farmers. They plan to introduce seasonal fruits as well as anti-biotic neutral safe dairy and fishery products in the near future. Subsequently, they are looking forward to more partnerships with local stakeholders. "We are also working to devise block-chain tech and want to collaborate with concerned government authorities, including the DAE, DAM, BSTI and BCSIR," mentions Mashrur. "At the moment, Krishan is operating only within Dhaka but gradually we would like to spread out and scale up as a nationwide premium food chain."  

The team of Krishan aims to develop a transparent, tech-based and sustainable supply chain platform of safe perishable items that would deliver higher values both at producer and consumer levels. "We are already being supported by the government through initiatives like Startup Bangladesh and Food For Nation. Global communities like the UNDP have been helping our parent, iPAGE, to optimise their impact strategies at the agricultural production sector for a long time," he adds. "It is impractical to fill our stomachs with the "experience" of food. So, we need a real-time, effective and efficient production and distribution process to bring it to our kitchens," concludes Mashrur.

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