Farmer Market Schools Master training

Farmer Market Schools Master training

Operational Manual, Farmer Marketing Schools. A facilitator’s guide (ADRA 2019)  (ADRA 2017, revised version 2019, 52 pages)

  • It is a comprehensive training manual that sets out the FMS objectives, provides a detailed description of the content of FMS facilitators training, and an operationalized step-by-step practical guide for setting up FMS
  • Facilitator training comprises four stages: (i) preparatory activities; (ii) theoretical understanding of a market value chain (covering six technical themes); (iii) a practical interactive module where participants, through discovery learning, learn about the market; and (iv) monitoring learning loops.
To be engaged with the market requires much more than just removing the middleman, actually not necessarily a good idea, because the middleman has a function in the value chain by bringing goods from A to B, without which the chain would not function. The farmer needs market skills, must be market ready, before s/he can maneuver and benefit from what the market offers. These skills can be learned, and with those skills the farmer can start treating farming as a business.

This operational manual for Master training of FMS facilitators is a guide in how a smallholder farmer in Africa can learn to acquire such market skills and become market ready – or with another term – market or economic literate. We call this a Farmer Market School to distinguish it from the two models with related names – Farmer Field Schools and Farmer Business Schools.

FMS emphasizes the individual’s capacity to analyze market opportunities and enhances individual agency to act on this analysis. The FMS concept does not (i) prescribe how farmers should organize collective marketing, (ii) provide a solution for how farmers could access finance for investing in agricultural production, processing and marketing, or (iii) provide a strategy for scaling up. 

 After completing FMS, the individual student decides how to collaborate within the FMS group and disseminate their enhanced market knowledge within their parent organizations and the wider local community. 

The FMS approach to facilitation draws on principles of adult and non-formal education (taking point of departure in farmers existing experience of the market and creating an inviting space that allows farmers to articulate their own experience-based knowledge). The FMS approach exposes farmers to the experiential learning cycle by guiding them to explore the value chains on their own. Through this actual practical interaction with lower value chain buyers farmers gain technical knowledge about how markets function.

19 March 2019. ADRA (Denmark Adventist Development and Relief Agency), a global humanitarian organization working to alleviate poverty, successfully undertook the first-ever Farmer Market Schools Master training in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The event brought together participants from eight countries, including representatives of NGOs, Ministries of Agriculture and FAO.

The master trainers’ course in Ethiopia aimed to further disseminate the FMS approach after ADRA implemented pilot activities in Malawi and Zimbabwe in 2016-17.

  • The Farmer Market School builds on similar principles and discovery learning as used in Farmer Field Schools (FFS). 
  • In a FMS, smallholder farmers gain knowledge and skills on how to explore markets, what the market can offer and how to develop market decisions. 
  • FMS however differs from Farmer Business Schools in its pedagogic approach, as FBS are based on a theoretical and individual approach, emphasizing less on practical and collective experiences.
  • The duration of Master Training was two weeks. A total of 19 men and 2 women participated from 7 different countries: Ethiopia (6), Sudan (6), Uganda (2) Malawi (4), Zimbabwe (1), Eritrea (2) and Kenya (1). These included a smallholder, extension workers, project managers, and FFS trainers with experience within agriculture at different levels and broad knowledge of production, administration, field-schools, VSLAs (Village Savings and Loans Association), ASC (Action for Social Change), etc.

An evaluation of the two pilot projects in 2018 (September 2018, 22 pages) identified many positive findings. Farmers had responded very well to the challenge of researching the market for their products, many had established new business relations with value chain actors and started to bulk for collective marketing. 

The evaluation report recommended that to enhance capacity on FMS, a three-level Training of Trainers system is effective. Training master trainers is the first step. They then will train farmer representatives in Farmer Market Schools, and these representatives will train the other members of the groups they belong to.

On the demand side, the number of supermarkets and volume of demand for horticulture products is significant higher in Zimbabwe than in Malawi. In addition, the agricultural market infrastructure is considerably more elaborate in Zimbabwe. (page 6)

Implementation of FMS was done very differently in Malawi and Zimbabwe, which has had clear consequences for scaling up and impact. In Malawi implementation was done as a blueprint project with little consideration for experimenting with new ways for overcoming challenges. Both Ministry, ADRA and farmers themselves seemed path dependent and unwilling to divert from plans without permission. (page 7)

ADRA offices in Malawi and Zimbabwe are project-financed and are as such neither used to, nor administratively equipped for, piloting a new concept such as FMS. A project implementation mode focusing on outcome was chosen, rather than an experimental mode focusing on learning in order to further develop the FMS concept. (page 10)

Upcoming event:
The next FMS master training is to be held in June 2019 in Zambia.

Introducingthe farm business schoolA training package, FAO 2015, 575 pages
The farm business school was inspired by the FAO experience with Farmer Field Schools (FFS) and uses an experiential learning framework. It focuses on content by providing practical exercises to facilitate learning of specific knowledge and skills – exercises can be organized into unique learning programmes. It involves facilitated farmer learning led by a trained facilitator. It is designed around a selected farm enterprise that can be produced locally. It covers the production cycle from planning to marketing. And learning is linked to real farm settings to reinforce learning and to deliver more immediate impact.

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