People with low literacy living in rural areas have difficulty accessing Post Harvest Management (PHM) knowledge but one path for deploying extension to these farmers has been through government-based agricultural extension programs. Though, public extension programs have generally been declining because of limited funding and the extension to farmer ratio continues to drop. The resources to create printed materials in local languages and visit villages in need of PHM extension information is increasingly formidable. Despite the cost limitations, the loss levels are not relenting and will continue to decimate livelihoods, threaten food security and drive downwards returns to value chain investments.
The YieldWise Initiative and the Farm to Market Alliance in Tanzania sought to supply needed extension materials to 50,000 recipients in the North, Central and Southern Zones. Given the low reading literacy levels of beneficiaries, the printed materials needed to be in a format usable across many farmers. Observing these difficulties, the Alliance considered creation of animations in the training materials provided to target farmers. The delivery approach of these visually enhanced materials was through face-to-face verbal narration.
Following a pilot training exercise in Jan/Feb of 2017 with 5,000 farmers in Arusha region of Tanzania, the results yielded a training design with the following features:
This design cost $5.47 to train a single farmer. The largest cost element ($3.25) was the provision of a hot meal as lunch.
After 8 weeks of training and 586 of 1000 sessions conducted, two important results were achieved. Out of target of 29,590 farmers, a total of 30,716 farmers were trained. Equipment sales are exceeding expectations as farmers are purchasing equipment immediately after the training sessions.
District Agricultural Officers who participated in some of the trainings were impressed with the content and structure of the training materials. The Officer from Namtumbo District, Mr. Ally Lugendo, was convinced the Government will adopt the usage of the material to train Extension Workers and farmers but was not sure how this could be accomplished with limited resources.
The Speaker for the National Assembly of the United Republic of Tanzania, Hon. Job Ndugai, praised the facilitation team and applauded the work being done by the Alliance in educating smallholder farmers in Tanzania and promised to give support required to promote this program nationally.
Notwithstanding the numerous successes achieved so far, the interventions also encountered some challenges. Only 45% of the participants were female yet Farmer Organizations registers suggest 60% of members are female farmers. The equipment delivery mechanism does not have intermediaries and as such, the approach will pause challenges to replicate to scale given the costs of specialized deliveries. Mobilizing adequate funding to train at scale using this extension approach will create funding challenges considering that training is also required for Good Agronomic and Marketing Practices and may have to be repeated from year to year with the same farmer cohort.
As we consider to take this training to scale, considerations of ICT as a way to address cost, funding, travel time and literacy challenges will be of special interest. Leveraging growth in mobile information technologies to deliver postharvest loss reducing knowledge is a low hanging fruit for the Alliance.Watch Video