Headquartered in Bangladesh, BRAC sells varieties of field crops, vegetables and forage crops and has a social enterprise component to the company. The company was established in 1972, and from 1996 onwards the company has engaged in seed activities, which were unified under BRAC Seed and Agro Enterprise by mid-2014. The company now has 383 employees and is only active in correct Bangladesh, where it has a network of 550 dealers and more than 6,500 sub-dealers throughout the country.
Plant breeding activities in index countries BRAC has its own breeding programme in Bangladesh spanning three research and development centres in the country. The company undertakes collaborative research activities on plant tissue culture, vegetables, rice and maize with three agricultural research institutes. The company’s collaborative breeding activities also include developing local crops suitable for smallholder farmers in the index region, such as yardlong bean and amaranth.
Breeding programme for specific traits The company’s breeding programme includes developing a number of traits that are particularly important for smallholder farmers, such as improved nutritional value and shelf life. The company also focuses on incorporating resistance and tolerance regionally important pests and diseases, notably blast resistance in its maize varieties.
Demonstration and promotion strategies BRAC has demonstration and promotion programmes that include farmers’ meetings, field days and promotions through newspapers and a TV network in Bangladesh. The company has a programme called Uthan Boithak (“Home Yard Meeting”) that aims to engage women smallholder farmers at home in their yards.
Quality assurance and after-sales The company has implemented management systems, including an internal quality assurance system and a system to manage grievance claims and reimburse farmers when applicable. BRAC’s team monitors its distribution network at the sites of dealers and retailers, working to make sure that seeds are not sold beyond their shelf life.
Extension services The company provides extension services to farmers through farmer meetings, field demonstrations, field days, visual materials such as posters, leaflets and banners, and also audio-visual content. These instruments are used to spread crop agronomy and modern agricultural practices. The company has reached 10,800 smallholders in the region during the period 2018-2020.
Programmes for women farmers The company reports that it conducts Uthan Boithak (“Home Yard Meetings,”) specifically targeted to engage and empower women’s participation in agriculture, and it regularly encourages women to actively participate in decision-making in agriculture. They have reached 8,000 women in the region during the period 2018-2020.
Stakeholder engagement The company demonstrates that it undertakes stakeholder engagement activities through its involvement with the Bangladesh Seed Association. However, it could disclose an overview of issues raised through these activities as well as how it identifies its most relevant stakeholders.
Access to company genetic resources BRAC has a genebank where it conserves its own genetic material, but it does not disclose whether and, if so, how it contributes to the conservation of genetic resources beyond this. The company does not disclose whether it provides access to its own genetic resources for the benefit of smallholder farmers in the region.
Breeder’s exemption and farmer’s privilege The company states that it does not respect the breeder’s exemption and that it prevents farmers from exchanging farm-saved seed. It should further explain such positions that do not support access to seeds for smallholder farmers.
Local participation in breeding/variety development The company could disclose more information on how it uses feedback from local consumers, traders and smallholder farmers to inform its breeding programme. Specifically, it could show how it incorporates the feedback and preferences of women farmers in the region.
Seed production activities in index region BRAC has 21 production centres in Bangladesh and involves local companies, farmer organisations and 7,500 contract farmers around the country. The company has the opportunity to improve its performance in this area by extending its seed production to other countries in the region.
Engaging smallholder farmers in seed production BRAC directly contracts smallholder farmers in Bangladesh and offers them formal contracts. The company discloses that it includes arrangements on product prices favourable to farmers in their contracts, however, it has the opportunity to provide examples and evidence of these.
Social and labour rights in seed production The company has social standards in place for child labour and forced labour and it monitors these through its own monitoring unit across its own seed production. It further discloses that it maintains health and safety conditions in its production and processing units. However, the company could disclose how it consistently monitors compliance with these social standards when production is carried out by intermediaries. Furthermore, the company does not disclose whether it pays its workers a living wage or requires its intermediaries to do so.
Diverse portfolio The company offers both hybrids and open-pollinated varieties (OPVs). While BRAC offers more than four varieties for some crops in its portfolio, it could increase the number of varieties offered for the majority of crops in its portfolio.
Other agricultural inputs The company makes fertilizers available to smallholder farmers and promotes the sustainable use of those inputs with leaflet usage instructions. However, the company could disclose whether it offers other agricultural inputs in appropriate quantities for smallholder farmers.
Information and communications technology (ICT) Through its call centre, the company informs farmers on product prices and product information as well as farming techniques, having informed around 9,000 farmers on these topics in the period 2018-2020. However, BRAC has the opportunity to provide more detailed examples of the information it provides to smallholders through its ICT programmes.
Programmes for next-generation farmers The company provides extension services in the region but can expand its programmes to target next-generation farmers.