Rodney Aku from Nari explains the importance of the trainer of trainers programme to help farmers in rural communities.
A LARGE segment of Papua New Guinea smallholder sector still remains outside the reach of agricultural extension services.
In contributing to ongoing efforts to enhance transfer of farming technologies to rural farmers; we (NARI) have integrated a comprehensive trainer of trainers (TOT) programme under phase two of the Rural Economic Development project (RED 2).
The objective is to employ an extensive TOT regime to sustain the viability of the project’s Farmer Resource Centre (FRC) concept.
A total of 35 individuals were chosen out of 100 candidates to be trained as TOTs.
There was fair representation in terms of province of origin, gender inclusivity and FRC affiliations.
Most were lead farmers and representatives from the formal and informal sector such as rural development officers and non-governmental agency representatives.
They had satisfactorily demonstrated competency in facilitating farmers’ trainings on the targeted high value crops of sweet potato, Irish potato and bulb onion.
Use TOTs offers tangible advantages to technology transfer efforts.
TOTs have close association with their communities and farmers can easily identify with them.
For example, lead farmers could speak local languages and have an in-depth knowledge of the culture and socio-economic climate of their own areas.
Therefore, TOTs are better placed to incorporate local knowledge and contexts, in farmer trainings, to make new ideas easy to understand and adopt.
FRCs have the capacity to facilitate trainings of up to 40 participants at any one time.
Trainings include both indoor and outdoor sessions.
The former make use of the libraries and conference facilities while the latter are staged in the demonstration fields.
Trainings on new agricultural innovations are done to build capacities that may lead to improved levels of productivity and livelihoods, in the smallholder sector.
Trainings provided by TOTs are captured in four modules.
The first module is concerned with the development of value chains for the targeted high value crops.
Farmers are helped to understand how a complex network of public and private institutions, groups and actors work together to satisfy market demands for the targeted crops.
Farmers also learn that the value of any crop product may add-up or drop because of the way they are handled at the nursery and harvesting stages, or during the processes of transportation, distribution and marketing.
Most importantly, farmers gain a better understanding of how to deal with key stakeholders along the value chain to add value to their crop products.
In the second module; farmers are introduced to the concept of commercial agriculture (agribusiness), its difference from subsistence farming and how smallholder sweet potato, Irish potato and bulb onion projects could tap into it.
They also learn how to develop simple cash books to manage their working capitals and how they could be affiliated as cooperative societies to access tailored financial services
Farm management is covered in the third module to help farmers know how to improve the quality of their agribusiness products.
Apart from general business planning skills, they learn basic management procedures in a range of areas.
Examples of these include pest and diseases control; pre- and post-harvest processing as well as agro-chemical application; environment and climate change resilience.
Furthermore, farmers are provided implements like tools and agro-chemicals together with disease-free seed materials for varieties of commercial sweet potato, Irish potato and improved bulb onion.
The final module focuses on financial literacy.
Farmers learn to set financial goals, make budgets and track daily income as well as develop attitudes and skills that are vital for making sound saving plans.
The trained TOTs have been providing very encouraging reports since the launching of 10 FRCs across the highlands region, last year.
One of them is Agnes Merep, the President of South Waghi Organic Food Farmers Association (SWOFFA).
Merep, who is also the caretaker of Minj FRC, said she is now better-informed to support farmer trainings so that useful knowledge and skills could reach more members of communities, in her district.
“We have conducted two farmers’ trainings and eight field days for women farmers in North Waghi and Anglimp South Waghi Districts”.
She indicated that TOTs’ work has been boosted by volunteers who help to do trainings and awareness about the role of FRCs, to all parts of Jiwaka.
Joseph Giul, a Rural Development officer from Okapa district in Eastern Highlands, has highly commended the TOT trainings he received.
“I thank Nari because the FRC trainings under the EU RED 2 project has given my role more significance than before … more farmers have visited the FRC for advice from us”.
Increased demand for disease tolerant varieties has seen a total of seventeen bags of Kumdi sweet potato and ten bags of E2 Irish potato seeds being purchased, recently.
There is great potential in the work of TOTs through the FRCs.
Therefore, more support should be provided by concerned stakeholders in order for them to better deliver much needed smallholder farmer trainings, in rural communities.
- Rodney Aku is the research associate for phase two of the Rural Economic Development Project (RED 2). He is based at Nari’s Aiyura research station.