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Community Contribution

Applying Lessons Learned to Empower Women Agro-Retailers in Bangladesh

Alexis Ellicot

The goals of the USAID Agro-Inputs Project in Bangladesh are to raise awareness of high-quality agro-inputs, including seeds, crop protection products, and fertilizers, and to encourage women’s participation in the agro-inputs sector. We experienced several challenges in identifying women who were eligible to apply to our grants program. Fewer than 5% met basic requirements for education, business experience, aptitude, willingness to operate a business in the marketplace, capital resources, and consent of family or community decision makers.

CLA Approach

  • External Collaboration: Given the cultural nuances of issuing grants to women in Bangladesh, we collaborated with three local, women-run nongovernmental organizations to identify applicants and implement activities. Together with these partners, we analyzed and documented data on grantees, exploring tacit and explicit information through photos and written case documentation.
  • Adaptive Management: When many interested women reported that their families or local leaders did not see a need for female retailers, we introduced two obligatory steps in the grant-making process: ascertaining a client base and garnering community support.
  • Relationships & Networks: It became apparent that the introducing businesses for women would require strong support and engagement from stakeholders at all levels. Through engaging these different stakeholders, our grants program benefited from synergy with surrounding activities.

Lessons Learned

  • Overcoming sociocultural, educational, and financial challenges to creating women-run retail establishments in rural Bangladesh required not only collaboration at all levels, but also true buy-in. Links with family, community, government, nongovernmental, and private initiatives were crucial for greater acceptance and business development for these women.


  • Findings show that 64 women retailer-grantees have generated more than $400,000 in sales over the last six to nine months and are ensuring high-quality products and advisory services to nearly 5,000 farmers.
  • In a country where only 34% of women are engaged in income generation, our grants program was a first to create space for women in the agro-inputs sector.

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