During 2014 we have made good progress in assessing effectiveness of extension approaches for disseminating information and innovations in rural communities via volunteer farmer trainers in Kenya and Uganda and rural resource centers and market information systems in Cameroon.

Concerning volunteer farmer trainers, we are finding that they are highly cost-effective. Our research focused on what motivates them to perform. We found that altruism and gaining access to new information are the most important motives but many also find ways to earn income from their volunteer activities, such as selling seed from their demonstration plots.

There were also important findings concerning gender. Women trainers are as effective as men and reach more women than men do. Organizations lacking female extension staff can use volunteer farmer trainer programs to both empower rural women and reach more women farmers.

Farmers attending a training session at farmer trainer's desmodium demostration in Logisa, Kenya. Photo: Evelyne Kiptot
Farmers attending a training session at farmer trainer’s desmodium demostration in Logisa, Kenya. Photo: Evelyne Kiptot

In 2014 two of our staff also have received training in two workshops on preparing learning materials conducted by our subcontractee, The African Network for Agriculture, Agroforestry and Natural Resources Education (ANAFE). The participants are preparing learning materials to be used in university courses.

This year, we have two major publications thus far on our work. We also have made good progress disseminating our results, including an impact brief published by the Consortium Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets and an article in The Guardian (UK). We are also pleased that our work on volunteer farmer trainers was featured in the CGIAR Research Program Portfolio Report for Year 2013.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s East African Dairy Development Project in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania which targets 315,000 farm families, has adopted the volunteer farmer trainer approach, in part as a result of FoodAfrica research.

In 2015 we plan to complete our survey reports and journal articles on performance of volunteer farmer trainers, rural resource centers and market information systems. WP7’s PhD student Beatrice Tuei will also complete her dissertation on Fostering New Strategies, Linkages and Possibilities for Increasing smallholders’ Access to Fodder in the Kenya Highlands.

In addition to completing the research we will focus on disseminating our findings to the public. HAMK University of Applied Sciences is leading the preparation of two videos on volunteer farmer trainers one aimed at the trainers and one at extension managers interesting in implementing the approach. Another goal for next year is the completion of a guide on how to implement Volunteer Farmer Trainer approach for extension service managers.

We will also present our research to global, regional and national bodies: Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS), Africa Forum for Agricultual Advisory Services (AFAAS) and Uganda Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (UFAAS).

Written by Steven Franzel, ICRAF