If you watched the short "The BRAC Model" video I created earlier this summer, you probably noticed the blurb on BRAC Artificial Insemination (AI). The images displayed in the video, though real, are quite graphic. Paging through the photos of the 72 bulls housed at BRAC's bull station titled with names such as "Fantasy" and "Falcon" provided great entertainment for a few hours. Needless to say, I did not take this enterprise very seriously, that is until last week. After an hour of discussing BRAC AI’s evolution over the past 17 years, its Deputy General Manager blew me away by the multifaceted impact it has made on Bangladesh.
Initially, I saw BRAC AI as a pretty obscure enterprise; it deals with a highly technical and medical aspect of development. In fact, years ago the Bangladesh government agreed with me and did not allow people, aside from government workers, to administer artificial insemination. Only the government had access to high quality semen and the proper tools to make use of the semen.
BRAC AI began as a partnership with the government. Because of BRAC’s belief in the power of people and grassroots development, they began training artificial insemination workers. They began training 130 initial volunteers to become artificial insemination technicians. Today, BRAC AI has trained 2,141 artificial insemination technicians. Essentially, these workers are now highly skilled, financially solvent people thanks to BRAC.
BRAC has also helped dairy farmers generate greater income. Before BRAC AI, a local cow would produce 1.5 liters of milk per day. Hybrid cows have much higher productivity, allowing dairy farmers to sell more milk to the market. Hybrid bulls also generate greater income for farmers. A local bull typically sells for 15,000 taka whereas a hybrid bull can sell for 100,000 taka. BRAC AI has made a huge impact on dairy farmers’ lives, granting them increasingly valuable assets.
BRAC AI has also surpassed the artificial insemination services of the government. BRAC AI’s services average a 61.5 percent conception rate, whereas the government’s services only average a 46.2 percent conception rate. Part of the reason for this discrepancy is the difference in operations for each organization. The government requires farmers to transport their cows to insemination centers, meaning that some cows must travel miles before treated. By the time these cows reach the insemination centers, they are exhausted from travelling in the hot sun. BRAC’s artificial insemination technicians, on the other hand, travel to individual farmers to treat the cows. BRAC AI accounts their success to the calm state in which they treat the cows.
BRAC AI amazed me: its initial confidence in local people’s ability to perform complex tasks; its success in creating a variety of income generating opportunities through a single enterprise; the quality of its services. On multiple levels, BRAC AI should be proud of its immense achievements.