mSTAR/Bangladesh: Technical Assistance to IRRI Bangladesh
The Rice Value Chain (RVC) project is a 15-month pilot project run by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Bangladesh to support the private sector with the goal of improving the efficiency of the rice value chain. RVC is working through eight partners and the intervention areas are mostly in the south and southwest of Bangladesh. The mSTAR/Bangladesh team received a technical assistance request from IRRI Bangladesh to investigate the transaction flows between various value chain actors in the rice value chain and also to look at whether and how mobile financial services (MFS) can be appropriately integrated into payment streams within the rice value chain in order to create more efficiency and transparency. The assessment included feedback from farmers, input retailers, and other forward market actors within the rice value chain and was conducted in Jessore and Barisal, within the Feed the Future (FTF) zone.
Specific MFS accounts suitable for specific actors were identified and recommended payment streams for the value chain actors were constructed. In addition to recommendations for each of the actors, some broad recommendations are also provided that are pertinent for IRRI and MFS providers to delve into. The overarching objective is to push for the development of an MFS ecosystem within the rural setting, which will by default propagate the use of MFS in the rural economic sphere.
The final area of exploration was to observe the flow of funds within the operational activities of IRRI and within its partner NGOs. A mapping of the current fund flow was constructed and the bottlenecks were identified. Based on appropriateness and consideration of time and cost savings, a proposed fund flow was put in place that would smoothen the cash flow as it moves downstream. Cash transactions were replaced by transactions through MFS in streams where it would provide increased convenience and security. Some other recommendations such as digitizing the discount coupons through which farmers are receiving subsidies can also be discussed for future assessments.