A case from the community
Key learnings from an online conservation agriculture training in Kenya
In 2020, The National Council of Churches Kenya launched the Conservation Agriculture Training Site on the Fabo Platform for farmers in the country’s Tharaka Nithi County. To evaluate the site and its implementation, 39 farmers and seven ‘Extension Officers’ were interviewed. This article shares key insights into how the organisation approached the implementation of a digital training, without forgetting the human touch.
By Nina Falkesgaard Sørensen
As a result of the Covid-19 lockdown and other government restrictions at the time, the National Council of Churches Kenya (NCCK) found that farmers in Tharaka Nithi County were unable to receive relevant information and capacity-building regarding their crop production and management.
In response to the situation, the Nairobi-based organisation decided to provide the affected farmers with access to an online resource on conservation agriculture through a site on the Fabo learning platform.
To monitor the success of the site and its implementation process, 39 interviews were carried out with farmers in the county as well as seven of NCCK’s ‘Extension Officers’ in an independent study.
The interviews were conducted online and asynchronously through Videoask, an interview software that allows the interviewer to pre-record video content that interviewees can watch and reply to on their own time through video, audio or text.
The below figure provides an overview of the gender and age distribution amongst the farmers who were interviewed:
Covering important topics in the training site such as land preparation, weed control management, common pests and how to market agricultural products, NCCK wanted to reach as many farmers as possible with this material. For that reason, the farmers that went through the online training were encouraged to share what they had learned with the farmers in the wards under their care, creating an opportunity to disperse the available knowledge beyond digital walls.
The interviews indicate that this attempt to disperse knowledge was quite successful, in that all 39 farmers said that they had shared the knowledge from the site with a number of farmers in their close community, spanning from 15 people all the way up to 1000. This happened through both traditional methods, such as meeting in groups to discuss the new farming practices as well as more creative approaches, like making a radio show in collaboration with NCCK to discuss the topic.
Based on the interviews, a key insight from the implementation process is that the site managed to reach well beyond its initial target group by prioritising and trusting in the mobilisation of the surrounding community.
The group of farmers that were interviewed were also asked to rate how relevant they found the site on a scale from 0-10 (0 being not very relevant and 10 being very relevant).
The majority rated the training between seven and nine, resulting in an average of 8.06 and many farmers mentioned positive effects of having gained access to the knowledge on the site, such as increased food security and financial stability.
“It helps in giving income from the harvest and has enabled food security to the area”
“I am financially better than I was before from farming”
Farmers in Tharaka Nithi County
The human touch
Another key aspect of the implementation process is that NCCK decided to prioritise having Extension Officers serve as a human link between the online material and the farmers. Regularly, the Extension Officers went on visits to the farmers to go over the content together, participate in conversations and to clear out any confusion or questions that the farmers might have.
NCCK also provided some of the farmers with smartphones and the Extension Officers could lend them a helping hand in how to use it, building their digital capacity. Both the farmers themselves and the Extension Officers reported in their interviews that registering on the Fabo platform and getting the hang of the platform was often found to be a challenge and so the presence of the Extension Officers allowed for such barriers to be overcome.
“I came to understand how to use a smartphone and train other farmers.”
Farmer in Tharaka Nithi County
Altogether, NCCK’s implementation choices for the site – both in asking lead farmers to disseminate the information to other farmers and in hiring Extension Officers to help the farmers use a new, digital tool – have proved to be effective methods to ensure the successful implementation of the site.
As Henry Njagi, Information & Communication Officer at NCCK, puts it: “It is helping to improve the lives of our people, our community members, because of the transformative element of information”.
- Purpose of training: to provide online training in conservation agriculture to farmers in Tharaka Nithi County
- Farmers interviewed: 39
- Farmers and contacts reached: up to 1000
- The training scored an average of 8.06 out of 10 in terms of relevance
- Key insight: Extension Officers followed up with visits and also provided smartphones for some of the farmers
- Training created by: Fabo member, National Council of Churches Kenya (NCCK)