The state department of livestock services (DLS) has used a seed grant (of USD23,600) from a government innovation fund (part of a Prime Minister’s Office’s Access to Information project - a2i) to start the text messaging operation last month (October). Muhammed Sayedul Hoque, fisheries and livestock minister, announced the operation.
Commenting, Sohrab Hossain, officer-in-charge of the DLS ICT section, told GlobalMeatNews: “The objective is to bring the marginal farmers living in chars [islands] and remote areas under our services and protect them from losses.”
Cattle and poultry farmers whose location impedes personal visits from departmental officials will get specialist advice on the symptoms of diseases and possible treatment through text messages.
Any person from any mobile operator can send queries regarding cattle or poultry disease by texting 16358 free of charge.
Three-quarters of Bangladesh’s 160 million population use mobile phones served by just six operators, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission data shows.
Hossain said that initially a five member dedicated team that includes four veterinary physicians and one animal feed nutritionist will administer the service.
He added that the department has built an online database, storing as many as 51,900 answers to potential questions about animal disease and nutrition.
DLS officials said they have been encouraged by the initial response from the people, as they received more than 2,100 text messages in the three days after the operation was launched on October 30.
Industry leaders have hailed the initiative. Dr Nazrul Islam, secretary-general of Animal Health Companies Association of Bangladesh, termed the initiative “commendable”.
“This is undoubtedly a good step. Ordinary farmers didn’t get such services in the past,” Dr Islam told GlobalMeatNews.
He noted that this is part of digital Bangladesh campaign and it will “open up new horizon.” Dr Munzur Murshid Khan, secretary-general of Bangladesh Poultry Industries Association, also welcomed the move, saying: “It’s a good initiative.”
The poultry and livestock sector contributed 1.66% to the south Asian nation’s GDP (gross domestic product) in the 2016 financial year that ended on June 30. This is more than 14% of the country’s agricultural GDP. Unsurprisingly, it is important for Bangladesh’s rural economy, a key political priority for the government.
The country’s animal livestock population including cows, buffalo, sheep and goats number more than 375 million and there are at least 332 million poultry birds farmed in Bangladesh, according to DLS data.