What Works: From One Farmer to Another

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By Matt Styslinger

This post is part of a series where Nourishing the Planet asks its readers: What works? Every week we’ll ask the question, and every week you can join the conversation!

As the global community spends fortunes looking for silver-bullet, high technology solutions to end hunger and poverty, African-led innovations are already helping farmers address these issues across the continent. Farmers know what they need and are sharing solutions with each other—farmer to farmer. By supporting farmer-led knowledge sharing, governments, development, and aid organizations can help them value—and invest in—their own local knowledge.

Farmers know what they need and are sharing solutions with each other—farmer to farmer (Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack)

The Africa Rice Centre (AfricaRice), for example, has developed a simple solution to help farmers share knowledge: farmer to farmer videos. From Bangladesh to Benin, farmers are developing different solutions to improve the process of rice production. AfricaRice has developed an instructional video series with farmers demonstrating techniques on film. The videos include demonstrations of seed sorting by flotation, drying, and  preservation in Bangladesh; improving rice quality and parboiling in Benin; land preparation for rice planting in Burkina Faso; and seedbed preparation, transplantingweeding and soil fertility management in Mali. In collaboration with Farm Radio International (FRI), the videos were also used for radio scripts. The scripts were sent to more than 300 rural radio stations, making the videos more widely known and linking distant farmers with common interests.

In Maputo, Mozambique Prolinnova, Spanish NGO Centro de Iniciativas para la Cooperación (Batá), and the National Farmers Union of Mozambique (UNAC) organized a workshop for farmers to share their experiences and learn from each other about different innovations they were practicing in their communities. Energindo Paulo from Nicassa province, for example, was there to explain how to make and use natural, non-toxic pesticides from Neem tree leaves to protect crops. Other farmers talked about how to prevent crop disease and how to raise farmed fish. Prolinnova, Batá, and UNAC plan to identify 12 to 14 practices highlighted in the workshop for a book to be translated into three of Mozambique’s languages, helping farmers’ innovations spread throughout the country.

At their training center 35 miles outside of Bamako, ECOVA MALI is encouraging farmers to use environmentally sustainable agricultural techniques by sharing home grown knowledge. By building local expertise, ECOVA is helping farmers get the skills they need to be better stewards of the environment, as well as better businesswomen and men. Local experts teach farmers about intercropping, water conservation, agroforestry, seed saving, processing shea butter, and other practices that are both eco-friendly and profitable. ECOVA holds workshops based on requests from farmer communities on topics like basic business, accounting, and marketing skills. They also provide small loans and “mini-grants” to allow farmers to buy tools and equipment they need to start businesses.

These innovative examples of knowledge sharing are inspiring, but they are just the beginning. Do you know of any projects that are helping farmers help each other?

Tell Nourishing the Planet what works and have your answers featured on the blog. Email me at Dnierenberg@Worldwatch.org or tweet your response to @WorldWatchAg.

Matt Styslinger is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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