Although two years have passed since the Department of Livestock Services (DLS) supplied its field offices with modern agricultural machinery for distribution among local farmers, most of the equipment remains unused as officials and beneficiaries of the programme lack relevant training.
Involving Tk 4,280 crore, the “Livestock and Dairy Development Project (LDDP)” was launched in January 2019 with the aim of boosting livestock and dairy farming in Bangladesh.
Funded by the World Bank and government exchequer, 26 types of agricultural machinery alongside chemical products like pesticides were provided under the project.
“The equipment supplied at the field level are left lying in their packages intact due to a lack of training and other reasons,” the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) said in an in-depth report published in June.
The DLS field offices all over the country had been given a total of 360 ultrasonography machines, 465 deep freezers and 1,500 cream separator machines for distribution among beneficiary farmers from 2021.
In essence, the project aimed to help the country achieve sustainable growth in the livestock sector by increasing the production of animal products while also creating market linkage and value chains.
Additionally, the DLS planned to form 5,500 agricultural cooperatives with an average of 30 members, including cattle and poultry farmers.
The groups were scheduled to help livestock farmers become more productive, get better market access, and improve their resilience to climate change and other risks.
“Only 8 percent of the farmers got a cream separator machine from the project. Of them, most could not utilise the machine due to a lack of training,” the IMED report said.
The project was scheduled for completion by March this year but its implementation has made physical progress of just 47 percent so far.
However, the IMED said the project implementation targets were not realistic.
As per the IMED’s observation from a field visit at Sirajdikhan upazila of Munshiganj, ultrasonography and cream separator machines were found unused as the beneficiaries could not operate them.
On the other hand, they found that one deep freezer being used to preserve medicine.
As an advisory firm, MR Consultants compiled the IMED report.
“We have found machines still left unpacked in many local upazila offices,” said Mokbul Hossain, executive director of MR Consultants.
However, he did not mention how many offices were facing such a scenario.
Only 8 project implementation committee (PIC) meetings and 6 project steering committee (PSC) meetings have been held up until April 2023 since the inception of the project. However, 26 PIC and 17 PSC meetings were supposed to be held, as per a related circular.
A total of 28 objections were raised in an audit centring activities over the last four financial years. Of them, two objections have been dismissed while the remaining 26 are pending.
The total financial involvement of the 26 audit objections is Tk 135 crore.
Denying the allegation of machinery still left “unpacked”, Project Director Abdur Rahim said all their equipment was operational.
“Only 1 or 2 percent of the equipment may be unused,” he added.
Asked why some machines were still being found intact in their packaging, he said the equipment were usually kept inside their packaging box after use.
He also claimed that they have already distributed 1,500 cream separator machines, which were provided by Metal Industries Limited and Bangladesh Science House.
“The providers were supposed to give training to the farmers and officers,” he said.
“Also, we have successfully formed 5,500 agricultural cooperatives and appointed 20 officers to monitor the district offices,” Rahim added.
Regarding the audit objections, Rahim said they would be settled soon.
On the reasons for delays in project implementation, Rahim pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic affected their operations.
Against this backdrop, the DLS is seeking another two years for implementing the project.
During a separate visit to the DLS office in Sirajdikhan upazila, The Daily Star found that much of the staff do not have relevant training for teaching farmers how to operate the machines.
“We do not have enough training to operate the machines ourselves,” said Abdur Rashid Miyajee, sub-assistant of the DLS office, adding that they had showcased the equipment before the public through an exhibition in February this year.