As the new cotton growing season is starting in Zambia, CmiA recently sent an agri-technical expert to give a series of Training of Trainers (ToT) on the vital role of extension staff and didactical methods for the officers to run impactful farmer trainings. While ToT is a typical and regular measure, this particular training series was special: for the first time, extension officers of four ginners were trained under one roof. This joint training trial was very well received, and ginners realized that a pre-competitive sharing of training content and knowledge on how to approach farmers can help the sector improve its overall performance.
Zambia is one of the countries where CmiA started its journey of enabling smallholder cotton farmers to improve their livelihoods through better farming practices. The country does not practice zoning, which means that ginners are not assigned to operate in a specific area only. Consequently, Zambian ginners work in a highly competitive environment. Interaction between ginners was so far limited to the Zambian Cotton Ginners Association (ZCGA), and - for five out of the seven members of ZCGA - through their linkage to CmiA, as they participated in workshops, stakeholder conferences and other events.
With the two-day training sessions in three locations across Zambia, a next step in collaboration amongst the ginners was now taken. On behalf of CmiA, an agri-technical expert conducted the training of 20 to 30 trainers representing each of the four ginning companies in Chipata, Katete and Mumbwa, thus reaching out to a total of 100 extension officers. The first training day focused on the vital role of extension officers concerning increasing yields across the farmers base. The second day dealt with the setting up and management of demo plots, integrated pest management and yield assessment.
The interactive sessions revealed a number of things: On the one hand, cotton companies sent quite experienced staff, as a minimum of 88% of participants in all three groups have worked in cotton for more than three years. On the other hand, a minimum of two thirds of the participants in the three groups have worked for more than one company. As a consequence, participants endorsed the joint training approach which, according to their feedback, can foster standardized messages in farmer training, knowledge sharing and relationship building between extension service staff. Participants jointly developed recommendations, and even asked that their management should take this approach to the next level by demanding authorities such as the Cotton Board of Zambia (CBZ) and/or ZCGA to require all cotton companies to present staff and farmer training policies.
AbTF thanks Dr Ben Sekamatte for his valuable training input, and Emmanuel Mbewe of Parrogate (CGL and HTC), Joseph Mwanza of NWK Agri-Services and Daniel Maseko of Grafax for taking this approach forward and organizing the training series with high efficiency.