Harnessing N2Africa’s nurtured talents among lead farmers for cost-effective technology dissemination in Zimbabwe

Regis Chikowo’s reason to select this article from Podcaster 41, October and November 2016: “This speaks directly to what is going on now that active funding has ended in Zimbabwe (N2Africa Phase III)”

As we move into the last year of active farmer engagement, the research team in Zimbabwe has begun tapping into a large knowledge base that has been built by N2Africa in the last 8 years. Informed by ‘if we do what we have always done, we will get what we have always got’, we recently innovated our dissemination and training approach over the recent post-harvest period (May - October) for our nutrition and marketing initiatives.

In Zimbabwe, we now have lead farmers that are valued for their competencies and knowledge about the legume value chain (from agronomy, production, processing to marketing). We have therefore recognized these competencies. As from July 2016, we engaged exceptionally talented farmers to be the lead change agents in new areas, as we moved to increase the number of farmers benefiting from N2Africa technologies. Between July and September 2016, more than 800 farmers received nutrition and value addition training in areas that we had not offered such training before. We encouraged inter – district learning by facilitating farmers from one district to train fellow farmers in another district (Picture 1).

Picture 1. Mrs Jane Mashonganyika (lead farmer from Wedza District) having a discussion with farmers on the importance of forming Internal Savings and Lending (ISAL) groups for timely seed and fertilizer acquisition in Makoni District

The process
Three lead farmers from each N2Africa intervention site were selected to be at the centre of the training programs. These farmers independently prepared their ‘modules’ for a two day training session per area. This was a deliberate strategy so we could evaluate the knowledge these farmers had acquired over the years. The training content was then discussed with N2Africa project staff, local extension (AGRITEX) staff and the Cluster Agricultural Development Services (CADS). In line with our anticipation, the level of knowledge and articulation among all the farmer trainers was excellent.

Picture 2. Mr Francis Nyamhondera explaining about the importance of improved farmer financial organization for efficient acquisition of farming inputs, at a farmer training workshop in Wedza District

The training session
The training sessions took two days in each district. On the first day, the farmer trainers started explaining the subject of formation of Internal Savings and Lending (ISAL) groups (Picture 2). The trainers elaborated on how their own ISAL groups were started, until they were registered by the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises as recognised community-based agricultural groups. A key goal of an ISAL was to provide simple savings and loan facilities in communities that do not have easy access to formal financial services.

During the second day, the trainers demonstrated local processing techniques of grain legumes and value addition. Grain legumes were highlighted as a key component for meeting the ‘4-Star diet’, which also includes maize, animal–based products, vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables. Participants had hands-on opportunities to make their own food products (Picture 3-5). Furthermore, they were encouraged to teach their neighbours using the knowledge they had gained, including volunteering to participate in preparation of meals for school feeding programs.

Picture 3. Making fritters in Makoni District

Picture 4. Measuring ingredients for nutritional porridge in Hwedza District

Picture 5. Farmer trainers in Murehwa District

Lessons learnt
Firstly, after a few training sessions, we were able to identifychampion farmers that could be cost-effectively engaged to train more farmers. Therefore, relying on the more expensive ‘nutrition experts’ to spread processing and value addition technologies is unwarranted at this stage in the dissemination pathway!

Secondly, the training sessions were not only of interest to farmers in the new target areas. We were pretty excited to see that N2Africa lead farmers had acquired so much knowledge that even AGRITEX workers (the professionals) were learning from farmers.

Regis Chikowo, Country Coordinator Zimbabwe and Isaac Chabata, University of Zimbabwe

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