News : Toll-free Helpline for Farmers to be Launched
March 14, 2014 -- The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) is about to launch a toll-free number to provide information on agriculture to the farmers.
Test run of the service is completed and it will soon be launched formally. The farmers will be able to receive necessary information by calling 16123.
"Any farmer can have information on agriculture, fisheries and livestock just by calling the number as there are executives on the other side who are always ready to answer queries," said Mohammad Maruf Masum, agriculture information and communication specialist of the department.
We expect to launch the service very soon as we are targeting March 26, the country’s Independence Day, he said adding that the date could be changed depending on the schedule of the prime minister and the agriculture minister.
The service is an initiative of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) among the DAE, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), Practical Action and mobile phone operators Teletalk, Banglalink, Grameenphone, Robi, Citycell and Airtel.
The cell phone operators assisted in developing the service as part of their corporate social responsibility.
10 trained call centre executives who are also agriculture graduates will respond to the farmers’ queries using a database prepared based on the frequently asked questions and answers, Maruf said.
In addition, there will a panel of 10 agriculture experts ready to answer unusual queries from the farmers, if any, Maruf added. "Those queries will help improve the database as answers to questions on newer problems will be stored."
In a letter on February 4, BTRC directed the telecom firms to begin providing the toll-free service.
Apart from the government initiative, Banglalink has been providing another service styled ‘Krishi Jiggyasha’ since 2009, with 7676 being the short code for it. This, however, is expensive for the farmers as the call tariff is Tk 5.
At present, we are receiving around 500 calls from the farmers who have a wide range of queries, said Shehjad S Hossain, senior manager, PR and communication, of Banglalink.
With a view to running the service efficiently, the DAE has planned to arrange a consultation meeting on March 20 to have broad discussions on the service. Farmers as well as agriculture officials are expected to attend the meeting.
Back in 2004, the government of India introduced a similar service styled ‘Krishan Call Centre" which became very popular among Indian farmers.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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