Improving the dairy sector and promoting sustainable energy use in Bangladesh

Improving the dairy sector and promoting sustainable energy use in Bangladesh

Round 2 Bangladesh Agriculture Active



Partner contribution

$ 500,711

DFAT contribution

$ 500,000

Icon Total Funds

Total Value

$ 1,000,711

Start: December 2017 - End: December 2019


Bangladesh SME Corporation Limited

The Bangladesh SME Corporation Limited (BSCL) is a financial and technology services company operating in the alternative finance sector of Bangladesh. The firm developed the i-SME platform which combines a large service delivery network of experienced field agents with smart automation. Through its portfolio companies and projects, BSCL has already facilitated approximately $17.6 million in financing to over 3,000 enterprises.

Oxfam International

Oxfam is an international confederation of 20 organisations, working in approximately 94 countries worldwide to find solutions to poverty and injustice. Oxfam in Bangladesh has been operating since 1971 and currently has programs in over 26 districts. It works in partnership with over 15 different local NGOs, private companies, civil society organisational networks, and universities.

About this partnership

This partnership supports dairy farmers to access finance to increase the productivity of their operations. The initiative aims to explore new markets where the i-SME platform can be used to help rural hard-to-reach customers access funds from banks; support dairy enterprises to expand their operations through access to low-cost financing from banks; enable dairy enterprises to capture better market access through increased volume and quality of milk production, thereby maximising income, and ensure access to clean and sustainable off-grid energy through the adoption of biodigesters.

Oxfam has formed dairy enterprises in Bangladesh involving over 4,000 dairy farmers, 80 per cent of whom are women. BSCL has developed the ‘i-SME platform’ to enable small businesses to access funds from financial institutions. By bringing these two streams of work together, Oxfam and BCSL support dairy enterprises to expand their operations through access to low cost financing from banks. This supports the dairy farmers to increase their milk production and in turn increase incomes.

Under this initiative BSCL agents are responsible for screening dairy enterprises, executing due diligence and monitoring credit extended through partner banks. Oxfam brings its knowledge and experience of the dairy sector to the partnership. It will also support market linkage efforts and the capacity building of the dairy enterprises. DFAT brings critical co-investment, as well as undertake high level advocacy to promote the objectives of the initiative and provide specific technical support including its expertise in development and shared value.

By linking their platform to the dairy enterprises formed by Oxfam, BSCL is able to reach a new market segment and offer services to hard-to-reach customers. This will generate revenue for BSCL through fees from participating banks. Banks benefit by growing their loan portfolios and associated revenue. Dairy enterprises benefit from access to financial services which provide an opportunity for business expansion. In turn, this will increase their market share and enabling the dairy enterprises to earn higher prices for their milk.

The initiative will also reduce electricity input costs for dairy enterprises that purchase and set up biodigesters, resulting in an environmental benefit through decreased greenhouse gas emissions.


This initiative promotes women’s economic empowerment through supporting women to grow their micro and small dairy businesses into self-sustaining enterprises via access to low cost finance, by reducing women’s work burden from collecting and cooking with firewood through the introduction of biodigesters to generate sustainable household energy, and through improving the health and nutrition status of women and their families.

Eighty per cent of the dairy farmers targeted in this initiative are women. This partnership will enable these women to borrow money directly from banks to increase the size and productivity of their dairy herds, leading to increased incomes. The additional income and milk is expected to have an impact on nutrition for women and their families.

The partnership also supports entrepreneurs to invest in biodigesters to generate clean energy for household use. This replaces firewood, which women spend substantial time collecting and cooking with, and causes health problems from smoke.

Progress Update

December 2018

Over 1,000 dairy farmers in five locations targeted in this partnership participated in training in financial literacy and bank account set up, women’s economic empowerment, zero waste models and dairy farming practices.

Key activities:

  • Across the five locations, 1,244 dairy farmers (in groups of 22 – 30 participants) received training in the four modules developed in the early stages of this initiative. BSCL delivered training on financial literacy and zero waste model. Oxfam delivered training on dairy farm management, modern dairy production and women’s economic empowerment.
  • To date, 1,635 dairy farmers from all five locations have been on-boarded onto the i-SME platform. Uptake of the i-SME platform will address the challenges faced by dairy farmers in accessing finance as, to date, they have lacked formal documentation relating to financial transactions.
  • After the financial literacy training, 585 dairy farmers in the Rangpur, Nilphamari and Gaibandha regions opened bank accounts with Bank Asia Limited. During the training, it was identified that only one or two dairy farmers per group held bank accounts.
  • As all the dairy enterprise locations in this initiative are in remote areas, there is no gas for cooking, and farmers rely heavily on firewood for fuel. Through the training, dairy farmers are now aware of the benefits of using bio-mass (generated from bio-digesters) as an alternative.
  • The training also raised awareness about sharing household and income generating activities among male and female members.

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