By Mamusha Lemma and Gemeda Duguma
To promote value chain thinking and practice in Ethiopia, the Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project is using coaching and mentoring combined with training, demonstration and study tours to facilitate knowledge sharing and skills transfer among actors in the livestock and crop value chains.
The project trains and coaches producers (farmers) to transfer skills and knowledge to other producers in project Peasant Associations (PAs) as well as neighboring PAs within the intervention districts through a spontaneous dissemination process. The project and partners also use discussion circles, informal visits and field days to scale out best practices of intervention households.
Ejigu Tefera is a farmer in Omoticho PA of Kersa District, Jimma zone. He has participated in training sessions and study tours organized by LIVES on vegetable production, business development, motor pump repair and maintenance, grafting techniques and management of grafted seedlings.
Access to improved seeds and planting materials is a major constraint for fruit and vegetable producers in the district, but after Ejigu was trained in grafted avocado seedlings production and management, he planted eight demonstration avocado mother trees provided by LIVES. He also actively experiments with integrated nursery management practices in his farmland.
He produced about 750 grafted avocado seedlings and earned ETB 25,000 (USD 1,200) from selling more than 500 seedlings to relatives, the Kersa Office of Agriculture and other producers in his PA and beyond. Ejigu now coaches other farmers who have bought grafted avocado seedlings, and says there is high demand for grafted fruit tree seedlings, particularly for apple mango trees.
LIVES in collaboration with the Irrigation Development Office of Kersa District held a field day at Ejigu’s farm to promote and create demand for improved fruit and vegetable production practices following which the Kersa District Administration promoted his work in the presence of PA administrations in the district.
The district’s natural resources department of the Office of Agriculture later invited him to train producers and development agents in six farmer training centres, on avocado grafted seedling production and management. He later carried out follow up coaching of the participants. According to Ejigu, coaching after training helps farmers better apply their new knowledge and skills. Ejigu is now a key local resource person who trains and coaches producers and Development Agents (DAs) on seeds, seedling production and grafting techniques.
Saying that he has learnt much from the LIVES project, Ejigu adds that ‘agriculture today is not like in our fathers’ time,’. He encourages farmers to learn new skills and diversify into fruit and vegetable farming. He has a plan to buy a high-power motor pump and to dig a shallow well to expand his irrigated fodder cultivation of desho, napier grass and alfalfa, for his planned dairy business.
Ejigu’s experience shows that innovative producers can benefit from experimenting with new crops and production practices and support extension services by training and coaching other producers to scale out best practices. The implication is that extension workers should expand their role as knowledge brokers by identifying and supporting innovative producers and facilitating farmer-to-farmer dissemination of improved agricultural practices.