Agriculture is one of the most important sectors that plays crucial role in the socio-economic
development of The Gambia. It is estimated that the sector provides almost 54% of the country’s
total export earnings. The Gambia is an agrarian country with 80 percent of the population of
just over 2 million relying on agriculture for its food and cash income. In The Gambia, it is the
Department of Agriculture that is mandated to implement agricultural programmes and provide
best agricultural technical knowledge to farmers in order to significantly boost production and
productivity thereby making the realization of food self-sufficiency reality.
INSTITIONAL MANDATE OF CEES
The Agriculture Communication Unit as a vibrant unit under the Ministry of Agriculture with the
mandate of providing Audio-visual and written activities of programs undertaken by Department and
projects under the Ministry of Agriculture. The role of the unit is diverse including the publication of the
famous Senelaa’’ Magazine, the Agric film shows and the publication of booklets on various field crops.
Due to advancement in technologies, the Unit is recognized for its film unit that has been covering
programs undertaken at field level, workshops on Agriculture and other agricultural shows. This
programs have been aired on our weekly TV/slot on GRTS and now on QTV. The unit has also been
instrumental in providing documentaries for ongoing projects as well as on those that has phased out to
enlighten about what transpires before. Short documentaries have been provided for projects like the
GCAV who used it for donor review. Recently the Unit has been sharing monthly reports on activities
undertaken by the Agriculture sector which is copied to all stakeholders via Electronic mail. Most
importantly an archive of all programs covered by the unit are kept for future reference by the Ministry.
ITC JSF FARMER FIELD SCHOOL AND FARMER BUSINESS SCHOOL TRAINING
30NOVEMBER-8 DECEMBER, 2020
The International Trade Center (ITC) Job Skills and Finance (JSF) Program have organized a training of Farmer Field School (FFS), Farmer Business School (FBS) Facilitators in collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) through the Department of Agriculture as the Lead Implementing Partner. The training happened at the Rural Agriculture Farmer Training Center in Jenoi, Lower River Region from the 29th November to the 8th December, 2020. This training was mainly funded by the ITC JSF program with FAO contributing towards the participation of two out of the four Master Trainers that conducted the training.
The facilitator training is an integral part of the implementation of the FFS and FBS program where the required knowledge and skills of understanding the concept and running of a Field School is given to the identified facilitators from their respective communities. The ITC JSF program is not only intended to build the capacity of farmers in terms of boosting production and productivity but also providing solutions to marketing challenges. This training therefore, targeted the selected facilitators from the 20 pilot intervention communities for the ITC JSF FFS FBS program
The training involved twenty (20) participants who were identified earlier on out of which 13 were under the FAO FFS program, four from the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) cash for work ward intervention program and three from the She – Trade Program in four different Agricultural Regions namely Central River Regions North and South (CRRN & CRRS), Lower River Region (LRR) and North Bank Region (NBR). Four Master Trainers (MT) conducted the training namely Anthony AC Mendy of DOA, Salifu Jallow of DLS and Philip and Gilbert Jassey respectively of FAO. The Focal Person for the ITC JSF FFS FBS program under Department of Agriculture Mr Lamin S. Darboe served as the resource person during the training. To obtain a knowledge product on how a facilitators training is done, a reporter and a cameraman from Communication, Education and Extension Services (CEES) of the DOA were involved in the persons of Nyima Drammeh and Basiru Fofana respectively.
The identified participants were informed about the training through an email sent by the focal person of the program on behalf of the Director General DOA to the Regional Agricultural Directors. A follow up call to all the participants on telephone was done by the focal person. All the participants travelled on the 29th November in the afternoon to Jenoi for start of the training on the 30th November.
The training commenced on the 30th November, with an official opening ceremony graced by the Regional Agriculture Director, LRR, Business and Environment Officer, ITC, Focal Person for DoA, Master Trainers and the FFS facilitators.
Addressing participants during the training, Mr. Lamin S. Darboe, Principal Plant Protection Officer DoA and the focal person for the ITC JSF FFS FBS program said that, the training is organised through the Job Skills and Finance component of the ITC which seeks to empower farmers in enhancing their livelihoods. In order to do that, there is need to boost the knowledge and skills of the farmers. The ITC JSF identified the need to strengthen the farmers’ capacity in solving marketing challenges. He highlighted that the program is targeting youth and women and concentrating on vegetables, groundnut and livestock (small ruminants and poultry). Through consultations with partners such as FAO and the other technical units under DOA such as Plant Protection Services (PPS), the idea of implementing a farmer field school and farmer business school approach was identified to be the package for supporting farmers in the four agricultural regions identified above and piloted in 20 different communities. The DOA is serving as the lead implementing partner in close collaboration with the Department of Livestock Services (DLS). A Technical Core Committee (TCC) was identified involving participants from different stakeholder institutions. The TCC will continue to serve as an oversight body guiding the implementation of Field School Programs not only for the ITC JSF program but also the general implementation of Field schools as an extension approach in The Gambia.
Mr Darboe lamented that this training is a continuation of that process where the facilitators that are supposed to run the Field Schools will be trained to understand the process of running a Field School. He highlighted that the training brought together old and new facilitators for the fact that the new facilitators will be trained entirely on how to run a field school and together with the old facilitators they will all be given the new dimension of running a Farmer Business School. He advised the participants to take the training seriously since all what they will learn will contribute to their successful implementation of the program in their respective communities. He informed them that this training is the first of two parts and the second part will be conducted at the start of next year. He stressed that the aim of the training is to go beyond providing knowledge on crop and livestock production in the identified commodities but also train the facilitators on how they farmers can produce for the markets. Darboe further, advised participants to take the training seriously as they are entrusted with a big task by the communities they represent. He outlined that rigorous monitoring of the schools will be undertaken at the regional level for smooth implementation.
Mr. Joel Nkosana Mtetwa, Skills and Environment officer ITC for his part said that this program seeks to develop the skills of youth to gain more income as well as curb the high rate of unemployment and under employment. This he said is an extension of the Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) which targets more of youth and women adding that it is necessary given the fact that 65% of the population of the Gambia is youths. This in turn would go a long way to minimize illegal migration.
Nkosana stated that, facilitators are very vital in the implementation of this program which will address issues relating to marketing and commercialization of their produce. To this effect, they will try to include Market Information System (MIS) to link farmers to markets using technologies that can be used by farmers. Other components of the program will involve value addition and processing.
He laid emphasis on the commitment of the facilitators noting that this component is a pilot for ITC and the success of this would determine its continuity. He further challenged the participants to take the training seriously as they represent a total number of 600 people and the impact of the pilot would be highly considered for a second phase.
Mr. Momodou Lamin Darboe, RAD for LRR in giving his opening statement, said an activity of such nature incorporated in the farmer field school system would help farmers to be business oriented. He hailed FAO and ITC for strengthening farmer field schools and FBS in the country. This he said, teaches them on different aspects on good agricultural practices, marketing and business strategies to gain more income. He concluded by urging all facilitators that are part of the training to guide the schools under their domain for its success and challenged them to give feedback of the training, lessons learnt and experiences to the members they represent.
Sessions and Presentations
The opening ceremony was followed by presentations of different Master Trainers on various topics from different partner institutions as highlighted above.
The training began with participant dialogue and climate setting, facilitated by Mr. Salif Jallow, Master trainer who tasked them to ask questions on their profile, the regions they represent, and experience with reference to farmer field schools, facilitation skills, profession and educational background. This was done to know each other as well as the level of experience in FFS. This guides the master trainers to know the level of each participant. The participants were given the opportunity to write their expectations individually and in groups. This was used by master trainers to guide them through the modules presented.
Some of the expectations highlighted by the different groups are as follows:
- Gain knowledge on FFS concept
- Gain Entrepreneurship Skills
- Awarded certificate of participation
- Have good facilitation skills
- Network with fellow facilitators
Based on the aforementioned master trainers had insight of what participants really aim to gain during the training.
Participants were divided into four groups five in a group. Master trainers made sure the new ones joined group of facilitators who already had experience so that they can learn fast through participation. Each group had a name, slogan and a symbol as per the requirement of field schools in practice.
The training involved presentations by the MTs inside the hall using power point projector and flip charts. A participatory learning approach as in a real Field School situation was followed. To achieve that, the participants were divided into four different groups. On each day one of the groups serves as the host group taking charge of implementation of the norms and rules set by participants at the beginning of the training. The host team also takes care of time and ensures they support the master trainers in what they doing by distributing items, making sure training materials required for a particular session are given to all the groups or individual participants. The host team also takes the responsibility of providing the recapitulation of the previous day activities on the following day in the morning before they hand over to the next host team. This recapitulation session usually happens outside the hall.
The training entails a lot of role plays, group works and presentation, demonstrations and out of hall activities such as the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA). Presentation by Anthony AC Mendy includes the overview of FFS. This involves the characteristics, vulnerabilities and challenges of livelihood skills in agro-pastoral areas. The presentations were followed by group exercises and discussions of outcomes and presentations by group members. Other important presentations include Communication skills, facilitated by Salifu Jallow which includes types and elements of communications. This is relevant for facilitators who will be dealing with groups of people with different backgrounds and levels of understanding. Philip Gomez presented on Participatory planning of FS activities which was a discussion with participants who are given opportunity to raise questions and make suggestions during the dialogues. All presentations were followed by group exercises and presentations to evaluate the level of understanding of participants. Gilbert Jassey presented on Participation and its importance for the effective running of FFS. The presentations were done in an interactive discussion followed by a group works and presentations at plenary.
During the training, facilitators were taken through simulation to give them insight of how to disseminate the knowledge gained form the training to their communities. This should be channeled through the Alkalo who summons village members, VDC and women leader for equal participation of the community members in selecting a facilitator who should come within the community and have solid knowledge and skills to run a farmer field school.
The PRA was practical sessions were conducted in Jenoi and Pakalinding villages where the participants went in different groups. The PRA process enables the participants to get into the community and interact with the authorities and members to assess the community situation their livelihoods and challenges. In this facilitators met with community members who are part of field schools in these communities to give a countdown of the sociology of the village. In this they were given an account of the history of the village, map, infrastructure, source of their livelihood and most importantly the challenge they are facing. These are pertinent issues to consider before establishing a farmer field school in any community.
Visibility and Interviews
During the training, one major achievement in terms of visibility was that, Nyima Drammeh of the CEES has used her influence and connections to facilitate a live interview between Mr. Lamin S. Darboe the focal person of this program and the host of the Gambia Today afternoon show Fatoumatta Ceesay at GRTS. Mr. Darboe, during the interview informed the audience that the program being undertaken is support and financed by ITC JSF. Mr. Darboe responded to the questions asked by Ms. Ceesay which included the number of participants involved and the training.
During the course of the training, interviews were conducted with the camera team of CEES who provided coverage for the training to be documented. Two Master Trainers and Seven facilitators were interviewed representing different regions who gave their impressions of the training, new lessons learnt and how they will utilize the knowledge in their existing field schools.