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Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Bangladesh launches 'smart cards' for farmers

Bangladesh rice farm
Farming is essential for the Bangladeshi economy

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has inaugurated a new smart card scheme for farmers designed to increase productivity and reduce fraud.

Almost 20 million small or medium-sized farms in Bangladesh will eventually get the card, which will allow them to open bank accounts with just a few cents.

It will allow the government to pay subsidies directly to them, cutting out middlemen and embezzlers.

They currently siphon off a large proportion of the government's help.

The first use of the card will be to distribute a $100m fuel subsidy.

The cards will also contain information on the land the farmers have under cultivation, the crops they produce and the fertilisers they will need.

"An interactive database of farmers has been prepared to run in conjunction with the scheme," said Agriculture Secretary Mustaq Ahmed, "which will help the government make detailed analysis of the inputs that farmers need.

"We can then make efficient planning for agriculture, while farmers who have never been linked to the banks will become more money-literate once they start going to them.

"They will then begin to take loans from banks - instead of rural moneylenders who charge high interest rates for farmers. It will also make farmers more aware of modern agriculture technologies."

Mr Ahmed said that he hoped the initiatives would bring "revolutionary change to the agricultural sector".



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