Paving Way for Quality and Sustainable Extension Service
Agriculture extension agents play a vital role in increasing farmers’ capacities to improve productivity and profitability. To achieve this, extension agents must have up-to-date knowledge and technical skills in farming practices and associated technologies that they can share with smallholders.
Despite their importance, many extension agents face a number of challenges in providing critical training and services, including limited or outdated knowledge of specific crop production or technologies, lack of basic business, or poor communication skills.
To address these constraints, the Feed the Future Tanzania Mboga na Matunda (FTFT-MnM) Activity and its partners have developed an agricultural extension boot camp. This program trains and equips extension agents with horticulture production knowledge, use of current farming technologies, and business and communications skills. The activity holds boot camps in Zanzibar, Morogoro, Iringa, Mbeya, and Songwe.
Boot camp participants include agrodealers, local government extension officers, FTFT-MnM lead farmers, agricultural institution graduates, and participants from the Ministry of Agriculture training institutes.
One boot camp graduate, 53-year-old Veronica Masenga, is an extension officer for the Mufindi district council with more than 30 years of experience in extension services. Masenga was selected to participate in two five-day boot camps, one in December 2017 and a second in November 2018.
At the first boot camp she was trained on good agricultural practices, seedling production, drip irrigation, plant nutrition, integrated pest management, correct use of pesticides, and farming as a business. At the second training a year later, Masenga refined her business skills, deepening her knowledge of market standards and linkages, communication skills, and access to finance and credits.
Having successfully completed these two boot camps, Masenga is now sharing her knowledge with farmers in her area. In September 2018, she organized and formulated a farmer group in the village of Lumwago and started to train its members on production practices. The Lumwago Farmers Group (LFG) has 18 members receiving technical assistance on a half acre demonstration plot of Irish potato. Masenga is currently in the process of establishing an additional three farmer groups in the villages of Luganga and Lumwago.
“Boot camp programs elevated my knowledge, strengthened my farming skills, and given me a new wave of confidence.” said Masenga.
Masenga joins a group of 356 boot camp graduates (34 percent female, 9 percent youth) from around Tanzania. As of December 2018, FTFT-MnM has held 14 boot camps to sustainably increase quality agronomic services to farmers in rural areas.