Saturday, May 20, 2017

Crafting young farmer success stories that truly inspire young people

 Young people are inspired to engage in agriculture when they listen to success stories about fellow young farmers. For many, making a decision to engage in agriculture comes as a result of change of perception and building a positive attitude towards the practice.

A television programme on ZNBC TV1 on 18th May, 2017, presented a success story for young farmers, which was obviously meant to inspire young people to take up farming. However, my observation is that the development of the story might have not achieved it’s intended purpose due to various reasons. I have discussed my opinions in brief.

Selecting appropriate role models

Young farmer Success Stories have more impact when they are developed with the focus on how an ordinary youth get inspired, learn about how to get started and understand the process, and grow from basic production to commercial levels. This entails crafting the success story in form of a brand that is gradually built. It should be a process of branding agriculture while tackling some of the critical challenges young people face and how the subject survived.

The youth have to see themselves in the shoes of the role model right from the beginning when they were aspiring. They need to relate their story with the state the role model was in at the beginning of this farming journey. Anything less than that puts the youth off. They weigh themselves against the role model's initial story.

Success stories targeting the youth of this country should not pick highly educated young people from wealthy backgrounds. There is a difference between encouraging young people to undertake careers in agriculture and encouraging them to take up farming. This difference guides the approach that should be undertaken when developing success stories. This kind of selection of role models leaves out the most important basic steps and learning points young people need to get inspired.

Learning points youths want from successful young farmers

It needs to be understood that young people need land, skills and knowledge on crop selection and production of the same, how to find market for their produce, and value addition, among other critical issues. Where capital is required, it has to be understood that young people have little to no borrowing power and banks are not a financing option for these beginner farmers. Not even micro finance institutions can risk their monies on young farmers in most cases.

The success story chosen has to showcase how the role model acquired land, came up with a viable agribusiness plan and how they financed it without collateral. Key people they involved and departments that helped them would be good learning points.

Skills and knowledge in crop selection is another important aspect. Young people need to learn from the role model how they acquired that as well as tactics they use to continuously improve.

There are a number of young farmers who have failed to continue farming because they could not find a viable market for their produce. From improving stands of their produce to creating market linkages, young people need learning points on how their produce can meet market standards and gain access to viable markets.

Every success story of a young farmer that feature these critical issues and also seek the voice of young people who aspire to get into farming, while providing answers to their challenges and fears with the role model’s success story, will present re-branded and attractive agriculture.

Involve those who understand the challenges

Agriculture extension officers and youth development practitioners are a good source of information that can help to understand the challenges young people face in relation to their engagement in agriculture. Consulting them can help the developers of these success stories to come up with real challenge cases that ought to be answered by the success stories.

Well researched and crafted success stories of young farmers have the potential to re-brand agriculture and help transform young people’s perception. The transformation can help young people to make informed decisions to take up farming. Those privileged with opportunities to develop such stories should therefore pay attention to how they do this and commit to producing truly inspiring stories beyond marketing individuals and their businesses.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Improving the use of ICTs to integrate gender and nutrition in agricultural extension

The use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the provision of agricultural extension services improves farmers’ access to information and knowledge. This helps them make informed decisions that improve their production and access to the market, among other benefits. To ensure effective and sustainable integration of gender into agricultural extension services as well as improve food and nutrition security, ICTs can play an important role if and when they are carefully integrated into the system.

Woman farmer receiving mobile money on her phone. Photo by Sayma Islam, Research Assistant, WorldFish/flickr

To integrate ICTs into agricultural extension services systems, a careful analysis of information, communication and knowledge needs of women farmers is essential. Understanding constraining issues that would make this integration a challenge such as women farmers’ access to devices as well as how to respond to handle the barriers is important to the success of this endevour.

Constraints encountered in the implementation of ICTs in provision of agricultural extension services

Some of the commonly used ICT interventions include the use of SMS services, provision of information portals in form of websites, Interactive Voice Response systems, radio programmes, recorded audio playing devices, recorded video playing devices and television programmes and mobile applications, among others. Implementing these interventions is faced with various constraints leading to unsuccessful or less impact projects.

The constraints encountered in the integration of ICT in the provision of agricultural extension services are around issues including language and literacy, trust, access to devices and knowledge of operation, cell phone network coverage and costs, device support, web access, electricity, sustainability and ownership, and lack of effective integration into agricultural extension services systems, among others.

Rethinking the approach to Integrating ICTs into Agricultural Extension Services Systems

Information disseminated to women farmers, whether in form of text, audio or video should be in a language that can be understood by the recipients. Because of low literacy levels among women, information being transmitted should be encoded in a form that makes it easy for them to understand. For instance, information which has been encoded into audio or video and translated into a local language can be understood by most women with low levels of literacy than text even if it were to be translated. Ownership of devices and knowledge on how to operate them is low among women than in men.

Creating an enabling environment for women to own these devices and learn how to operate them would increase their access to information, communication and knowledge. It is also important to ensure that trust is created between women farmers and the source of information. To ensure effectiveness and sustainability, ICTs should be integrated fully in AES systems and not just be implemented as standalone projects. Guidelines can be developed to help institution s integrate ICTs into AES systems, this will ensure careful assessment of needs, choice of relevant ICT tools and methodologies such as the provision of ICT services by local young entrepreneurs, partnerships, capacity development, implementation and monitoring and evaluation.

If effectively integrated into AES systems, ICTs can improve women farmers’ access to information, communication and knowledge. Better access to information, communication and knowledge can improve participation and decision making for women and empower them to improve their production of crops and ruminants. It also improves awareness of nutritional implications of their food systems, an important aspect to help achieve integration of gender and nutrition into AES systems.

By Simon Wandila, Social Reporter. INGENAES Global Symposium and Learning Exchange. January, 2017. Lusaka, Zambia

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Developing women farmer inclusive agricultural extension services systems

Developing Women Farmer Inclusive Agricultural Extension Services Systems.

Agricultural Extension Services (AES) systems play an important role in ensuring participation of women farmers and ensuring they benefit from the nutritional value of their produce. Women farmers’ awareness of nutritional implications of food systems, and their participation in agricultural extension services contribute to food and nutrition security at household level. Food and nutrition security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to food. It exists when they are able to consume it in both sufficient quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs and food preferences, and they are supported by an environment of adequate sanitation, health services, and care, allowing for a healthy and active life (FAO 1996). 

Kenyan Women with Nutritious Crops. Photo: USAID

Characteristics of Agricultural Extension Services systems that ignore women farmers

Agricultural Extension Services systems that are not carefully developed ignore women farmers’ needs and limit their participation. Some of the elements of such systems include concentration on mono cropping that promote market driven incentives; tolerance of culturally influenced restriction of consumption of certain types of food; focusing on market value of principle crops rather than the nutritional value; tolerance of cultural norms that restrict women; emphasizing priorities for men, among others.

An increase in production of nutrition-rich crops, and the associated decrease in prices at market value, is one frequently cited mechanism to ensure greater consumption. When production is concentrated on a limited number of staple crops incentivized by the market- and sometimes due to biased research, EAS, and policy orientation that favors them, diversifying production may eliminate the price distortions that can result from induced scarcity in neglected nutritious crops.

Some cultural practices dictate that a certain gender or group of people especially women and children, should not consume certain types of food. This restricts women and children from benefitting from the nutritional value of the food they are restricted from consuming. Incorporating change of mindset of farmers on cultural practices as well as creating awareness to ensure appreciation of nutritional value of produce whose consumption is culturally restricted, can help achieve food and nutrition security.

Incorporating monitoring and evaluation tools with indicators to track for women farmers’ inclusion

Review of AES systems is important to ensure that they are gender sensitive. Essentially measuring gender integration should be incorporated into AES systems. The process should include review of monitoring and evaluation tools and processes to ensure inclusion of gender and nutrition indicators to track for women farmers’ level of inclusion in agricultural extension services. The results of such evaluations should inform the review of AES systems to ensure they do not ignore women. It is also important to ensure that men are trained in how to reach women farmers as a way of increasing the inclusion of women.

Carefully designed AES systems should ensure women farmers participate and increase their awareness of nutritional implications of their food systems. These systems should have characteristics that improve nutrition through an increase in access and quality of nutritious foods, and ensure that the agricultural sector pay more attention to activities at the intersection of production and consumption.

By Simon Wandila, Social Reporter. INGENAES Global Symposium and Learning Exchange. January, 2017. Lusaka, Zambia

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Study Tour for Farmers on Coping with Climate Change through Livestock - KwaZulu-Natal, Province, South Africa. 26-28th October, 2016

During 2015 and 2016 Southern Africa experienced the driest rainfall season in the last 35 years. FAO (2016) noted that during this period, 634 000 drought-related livestock deaths have occurred in the region, estimated at US$ 220 million. While grain farmers stand to recover in the next season or two, experts believe it will take significantly longer for livestock farmers to recuperate from the drought. In addition to emergency relief measures, efforts to build the resilience of livestock farmers and to learn from one another are increasingly important.

Diversifying farmers livelihoods through livestock and adoption of good practices to manage livestock stock during drought and uncertain weather scenarios are key options to help farmers cope with the effects of climate change. Some good practices are being practised in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province of South Africa.

The Farmer to Farmer Livestock Field Study Visit is organised by the ACP-EU Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), in collaboration with the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU), Heifer Project South Africa (HPSA) and Mdukatshani Rural Development Project (MRDP) who are partners in the Goat Agribusiness Project.

The field tour will enable up to 20 smallholder farmers in Southern Africa learn from fellow farmers in KZN. The aim is to strengthen the capacity of farmers towards diversified livelihood option through practical "Farmer-to-Farmer" sharing of knowledge; the specific aim is to learn from on-the-ground actions taken by local farmers in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

The farmers in KZN will host their counterparts, accommodate them in their own village for intensive interaction, and identify best management practices for livestock during drought, including the production of nutrient blocks and fabrication of the block-making tools as a job-creation mechanism for youth.

Follow #CSAFSA @CTAflash and check for updates

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Celebrating a Milestone: 4 Years of Running Successful Community ICT Projects

I have since 2013 worked as Project Leader for the Community Outreach Project at Youth Skills for Development. In this period, I have hosted and supervised/collaborated with a total of 20 Students from Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands; designed projects in Liaison with the COP Project Office at Radboud University Nijmegen, in collaboration with Student Volunteers from the university and beneficiary schools/community, Supervised Student Volunteers during project implementation, evaluated and reported on these projects. 

The projects have benefited about 1875 pupils and 70 teachers from Chibote Girls Secondary School, Mindolo Secondary School, Chimwemwe Secondary School, Natwange Primary School and Kawama Secondary School; 8 school leavers, 10 young women, 17 Teen Mothers. A total of 1,980 local direct beneficiaries.
Pupils attending ICT lesson at Chibote Girls Secondary School in Kitwe, Zambia, during the 2014 COP Project
This has been made possible by my colleagues at Youth Skills for Development (their brains spin :-) ), the great 20 student Volunteers, the School management at various schools and the COP Project Office at RUN together with partners.

The educational institute for Computing Science and Information Sciences at Radboud University Nijmegen has has been offering the course Community Outreach Project faculty wide since 2006.The Community Outreach Project offers students the opportunity to do a group project in a developing country. Students learn how to successfully execute an (oftentimes) ICT related project in a limited environment. Attention is paid to the effects of cultural differences and how to deal with those. Students also learn how to make sure the solution is sustainable by means of the three-level approach.

For these projects, capacity building is the core priority, which is refined to education, knowledge transfer, and gender issues. A number of projects concerns the structure of knowledge related so-called “tele-centres” and establishing ICT learning programmes, especially in primary schools.

Below is a summary of projects:

2013 - Hosted and supervised 4 Student Volunteers from Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands plus 4 local Volunteers for a period of 21 days. Successfully undertook a project with more than 400 pupils and about 40 Teachers as beneficiaries, providing them with Basic ICT Skills.

2014 - Hosted and supervised 8 Student Volunteers from Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands and 8 Local Volunteers for a period of about 21 days. Successfully implemented a project benefiting about 10 young women with Basic Entrepreneurship and ICT Skills, 8 local Volunteers with Basic ICT Skills, about 30 Teachers with Basic ICT Skills and about 500 pupils with Basic ICT Skills.

2015 - Hosted and supervised 4 Student Volunteers from Radboud University Nijmegen for a period of about 21 days. Implemented a project which benefited about 700 pupils with Basic ICT Skills.

2016 - Hosted and supervised 6 Student Volunteers from Radboud University Nijmegen for a period of 21 days. Implemented a project which benefited 275 pupil with Basic ICT Skills, and 17 Teen Mothers with Basic ICT and Job Search Skills.

This is just the beginning.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Ileelo Kwaciba Umutende Lintu Ba Manenga Aba Mu UPND, Ba Musenge Aba Mu PF Na Ba Mutale Ba Cilalembesha Ukwiminina Pacifulo Cabu Nshimafunde Ku Ncende Yaku Chimwemwe

Ubushiku bwaleelo, pali cibili, inshiku makumi yatatu na cimo, mumwenshi wakapepo akanono, umwak walenga amakana yabili ikumi namutanda, bwiciba ubwansaansa nganshi kuli abo abaiposa mufikansa fyacaalo. Kumacaca, bantu baciba abaipekanya kabili abasangalala, bacilalanga nokusangalala kwabo ukupitila munyimbo shacimwela ishalekanana lekana. Awe kanshi umushi wacibafye uwa pentwa namalangi yapusaana pusana ayaleimininako amabumba yafikansa yapusaka pusana ayafikansa fyacaalo.

Kumfwa mumushi wa Chimwemwe, ku Kitwe mucitungu ca Copperbelt, nako kwine, abantu abengi baciitumpamo muli iyi imilimo yalicilacitika. Intungulushi ishalekana lekana pamo nabantu babo bacipanga imilongo nokuya kulya ku Ishuko Primary School, uko ukwacibela ukulembesha nga abalefwaya ukwiminina pacifulo cabu Shimafunde mu Chimwemwe Constituency.
Pabacifikilisha ukulembesha epali ba Ronald Manenga abaleiminina petiketi lya UPND, ba Mwenya Musenge aba abalebwekeshapo ukwiminina petiketi lya PF, kabili mukulekelesha caciba icakupapusha lintu ba Mwila Mutale aba mwibumba lya PF, baciisa nabantu baabo nokwisa lembesha ukwiminina palwabo. Leelo ba Mwila bacitiila, nelyo baiminina pa lwabo, bacili ba membala bamu PF.

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The struggle is real: Schools need help to deliver ICT education in Zambian schools

My heart bleeds, so this Teacher called me, he narrated how challenging it is for him to teach ICT to hundreds of grade nine students - it is an examination class and he has other subjects to handle, his colleagues are not yet up to the desired level in practical. So the burden is on him. He was trying to find out if we will offer Teaching Support in ICT at their secondary school, this year.
First, I helplessly felt tears running down my cheeks, knowing exactly what he is going through (I cant hold my emotions when it comes to such issues), knowing how eager the children/students are to learn, yet in so difficult circumstances, knowing the struggle the school management embrace to mobilize computers and other essential logistics just to build the future for children in this suburb . I took a deep breath and gave him the good news. "Mr.X, do not worry, things will work as planned earlier. This year, we will assign 2 Teaching Support Volunteers to your school..." I could read across the wires that this is the news this passionate Teacher wanted to hear from me.
Thanks to COP project of Radboud University Nijmegen-The Netherlands, for making it possible. This year, beneficiaries to this project at Kitwe (Youth Skills for Development) will be more than 2000 in total, since 2013. And for 2016, we are thankful and so glad to receive 6 Student Volunteers.
I feel so low today, I have been thinking about how to deliver enhanced ICT education and truly realise it as a catalyst that it is, and influential in the teaching and learning of other subjects. When I look at where we are coming from, where we are and where we are going, the journey is just so thorny... Nevertheless, I remain hopeful.