A specially designed debit card now helps farmers avoid banking queues and hassles related to the purchase of agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and equipment, according to experts.
The daily Bangla Prothom Alo, in cooperation with CARE, organized the roundtable on "Expanding Agricultural Loans from the Bank to Small Farmers" at the newspaper's office in the capital.
Farmers owning at least 50 decimal places of land or two dairy cows or a bull are eligible for card use, only issued by Bank Asia, enjoying a maximum of 20,000 Tk as a loan for a rate of interest of 9%. .
Some 3,100 farmers have already benefited from the installation using the "A-card" card or agricultural card. Bank Asia in association with USAID, the Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM), CARE Bangladesh and mPower have initiated the move, the first in the world.
The debit card was introduced as part of a project entitled "EASA" with funds from USAID.
Such initiatives will allow unbanked farmers access to the formal financial sector, which will make the agricultural sector more dynamic, experts say.
Shamsul Alam, senior secretary and also a member of the Planning Commission, said that the use of the A card should be greatly increased so that farmers can easily obtain agricultural loans.
Bank Asia is expected to continue to issue the debit card even after the end of the project's term in February next year, Alam said.
"The government is now spending 55,000 Tk crore on people from different walks of life as part of its social protection programs, and the card can be used to disburse funds," he said.
Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), said that the credit limit should be increased because the current amount was not enough for many farmers.
The PKSF will provide support, if necessary, to expand the use of the card, he said.
He said, "Farmers should be trained to use the loan effectively. In addition, the NGOs involved in the program should establish links with farmers in the retail and wholesale markets, helping them to sell their products easily. "
Anowarul Haq, director of the Extreme Rural Poverty program under CARE Bangladesh, said the debit card is now helping to accelerate the country's financial inclusion.
"Of all farmers, 58% are smallholders and the agricultural loan is very important for them to promote their livelihoods," he said.
CARE is providing technical support to farmers as part of the project to ensure that they use the loans effectively, Haq said.
Mr. Ehsanur Rahman, Executive Director of DAM, said that banks should take steps to popularize the use of A cards, in the same manner as for credit cards.
Farmers from three districts – Jessore, Bhola and Khulna – now have the opportunity to use the newly invented map, he said.
Bidyuth Mahalder, DAM Manager of the Agricultural Extension Support Project, had the idea of Map A.
Md Arfan Ali, Managing Director of Bank Asia, said farmers were allowed to use debit cards using their fingerprints and a PIN on a mobile phone compatible with near-field communications (NFC).
Technology allows a user to wave a smartphone on an NFC-enabled device to send information without having to touch the devices together or go through several steps to establish a connection.
Banks and other relevant organizations have selected retailers who are allowed to sell farm equipment to cardholders, he said.
From the disbursement of the payment loan made by farmers, everything goes through the online system, he said.
Mohammad Sayed Sibly, a USAID project management consultant in Bangladesh, said the project was launched on an experimental basis five years ago.
"Only Bangladesh, around the world, introduced such a product two years ago, and subsequently it has benefited farmers a lot," he said.
Khaleda Begum, a user of the A card, said that she was able to buy seeds from retailers on time.
"I have already faced a crisis of funds but now I've solved the problem thanks to the debit card." My economic activities have recently doubled, "she said.