Bringing technical assistance directly to the communities
In April 2013, the Feed the Future West/WINNER project, a five-year USAID funded project, began a program to upscale the dissemination of modern agricultural practices in its areas of intervention. Even though thousands of farmers are reached by the project’s agricultural campaigns, there are thousands more that continue to practice archaic agricultural techniques, which results in low yields and incomes. It was therefore necessary to find a way to reach a greater number of farmers, and a range of activities have been used to do this, including: sound-trucks with agricultural and environmental messages, community radio shows, and community gatherings – an approach that has proven to be most successful thanks to the use of videos. Participants have determined that videos are much more conducive to learning and changing old practices, making it easier to see the benefits of the modern agricultural techniques being explained.
Gatherings are organized in three parts: viewings of educational videos (on topics such as irrigation, training of master farmers, commercialization, and greenhouse agriculture), explanations of the topics by FTF West/WINNER staff (extension agents, master farmers, technical team leaders) or members of farmer associations, discussions and Q&A sessions. “One of the big problems agriculture is facing in Haiti is the lack of information and individual practices on family plots. When community members are made aware of the benefits and advantages of working together by joining associations and/or cooperatives, we can beat that”, says Eunide Amilcar, a farmer from Kenscoff who is also the president of the ‘Haitian Women’s Movement for Rural Development’ (MOFADER in French) who attended a community gathering.
The goal of each forum is the same: reach the greatest number of farmers in the project’s intervention areas. Using minimal equipment (a laptop, projector and a small generator), the project shares information and builds capacities in each community. An average of four community gatherings are held each week in churches, schools or spaces provided by farmer associations, each involving around 50 to 60 people. Discussions are often very vivid and go beyond the topic of the day. The project also indentifies follow-on actions to be reviewed and analyzed at the next gathering.
Women are especially receptive to these meetings, as much of the material is focused on their role and importance, not only in agriculture, but as dedicated community members. Therefore, given the success of this activity, the FTF West/WINNER project is planning to transfer its leadership to the Rural Centers for Sustainable Development (CRDDs) that will become independent entities that will continue to operate after the project ends in May 2014. These forums provide opportunities for the community to continue building capacities beyond the FTF West/WINNER project as Marie-Margarette Saintil of the ‘Association of Cabaret Farmers’ (APC in French) explains, “All the knowledge shared is helpful. We, as a community, need to build our own network to increase our capacities”.