Aime Ndayisenga & Immaculate Akello
Training farmer promoters isn’t just a knowledge transfer; it is a concrete way of ensuring job creation, hence reducing the rate of unemployment in Rwanda. Most of the people who receive this training have recourse to establishing small scale farming which efficiently caters for their livelihoods. This training also empowers individuals with knowledge and skills required to be absorbed by both local and international agricultural organizations working to develop this sector.
Nahimana Ernest’s job as an agronomist came to a sudden halt during a scale-down at the organization where he was working. He toiled day in day out to earn a decent living and provide for his all agog family with little success. “After losing my job, life became complicated. You may understand what it means to raise a family with nothing, having gotten used to a monthly pay cheque. I struggled for long but now life has changed since I started working with this sweetpotato project’’ said Nahimana, on a health break during the nutrition training session in Musanze in early February.
Nahimana’s dawn came after the famous farmer promoters training. He struck gold and sat pretty.
The 47 year old started working in the neighborhood as a farmer promoter, spending a third of his day in the farms as a volunteer. A few months later, he was called upon to assist Orange Fleshed sweetpotato farmers working with the Ruhengeri Catholic Diocese’s Development Program (DERN) – the local implementing partner of CIP.
Nahimana has more than 10 years’ experience in agriculture and says he has gained a lot of knowledge in sweetpotato farming and nutrition, since he started working with the project in mid-year 2016. After close to 8 months of service with CIP, he has transferred basic OFSP knowledge to 837 neighboring farmers in his village located in Nemba Sector of Burera District.
Three years ago, the government of Rwanda, through its agriculture research hand (Rwanda Agriculture Board)-RAB, launched a program called ‘’Twigire Muhinzi extension’’. With a ‘’train the trainer’’ model. Government agents would identify and recruit successful farmers and train them to teach proven planting and harvesting techniques to groups of farmers in nearby villages.
This model dabbed “Farmer promoters” offers training on a wide variety of modern agricultural techniques, including land consolidation, improved planting methods, fertilizer application, crop disease control, harvest storage best practices among others. It is unequivocal that strengthening this model would increase levels of production since it equips farmers with knowledge on modern agricultural practices and spontaneously eradicates the primitive methods previously employed.
To support this model, CIP regularly collaborates with the government on the various agricultural deliberations and applies the “farmer promoter’’ model to share its expertise on sweet-potato science. With Scaling up Sweet-potato through Agriculture and Nutrition (SUSTAIN), and the Rwanda Orange Fleshed Sweet-potato for income and Nutrition Activity projects funded by the DFID and USAID respectively, there has been effective synergies with these agents of change in the Rwanda’s agriculture development.
Promoting the Public and Private Partnership (PPP) through OFSP activities.
Although the government has set up the invaluable ‘’farmer promoter’’ extension model, there still lies financial challenges in sustaining the program. The volunteer farmer promoters need to be constantly furnished with all the necessary equipment and other materials needed for the efficacy of the project.
This calls for intense corporation and coordination between private and public development agencies operating in the agricultural sector in order to strengthen the proven working model. Thus, the International Potato Centre Rwanda, through the implementation of SUSTAIN and FEED the FUTURE sweet-potato projects stepped forward to welcome the government initiative by regularly providing training sessions for hundreds of farmer promoters, on various topics of sweet-potato farming and nutrition best practices.