Planting the seeds of innovation

On the BRAC blog, you can see “2011 in review” to get a quick sense of how much was accomplished last year!  It’s worth five minutes to appreciate the incredible breadth and depth that we span as an organization.

One of the features that caught my eye was the “making soft loans” for small-scale agricultural machinery, such as irrigation pumps and rice dryers.  Clearly having access to these technologies can greatly enhance the productivity and therefore income for small farmers.

BRAC works in many countries where subsistence farming is quite common.  As our pilot project in Bangladesh with tenant farmers demonstrated, often these households have multifaceted needs.  In areas where they rent their land, legal rights may urgently be required.  Access to health care and schools for children may be issues in certain areas.

In 2012, perhaps we can build on innovative ideas from others to enhance how we work with small-scale farmers.  A lot of exciting strategies using mobile phones are being evaluated and found to have positive impacts, for lots of reasons.  BRAC ICT is working on a data platform that can serve any program, and piloting various applications with Human Rights & Legal Services as well as Disaster, Environment & Climate Change.  Interested in learning more about these?  We are too!  We’ll see if we can’t get them to guest post or schedule some sort of forum early next year.

Other ideas emerge from looking at other sectors.  In health, for example, one important discovery in India was that creating very small packages of health products made them more accessible/affordable to the poor, for whom accumulating the larger amounts of money for bigger packages can be challenging.  This post on the Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog considers whether these principles apply to agricultural products, since many of the households buying the health products are also farming!

If you want to learn more about Project Shakti, profiled in the article, come on up to the 19th floor to visit the Social Innovation Lab library (a grand name for a small but growing bookshelf of articles and books you can browse and borrow!) to see a longer case study on the initiative.

Happy New Year’s from the Social Innovation Lab!  Look forward to seeing what we can accomplish with you all in 2012.

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