The Farmer-to-Farmer Extension Approach in Malawi: A Survey of Lead Farmers
Farmer-to-Farmer Extension Approach in Malawi: A Survey of Organizations
To improve smallholder farmers’ access to information, many extension services use farmers to help disseminate information that their fellow farmers can use to help increase agricultural productivity. This extension approach is referred to as “farmer-to-farmer,” and the farmer extension agents are variously referred to as lead farmers, model farmers or extension multipliers, among others.
This study seeks to better understand the farmer-to-farmer extension approach from the perspective of the farmers who serve as extension agents. It is part of a series of studies examining farmer-to-farmer extension in Malawi, Cameroon and Kenya.
The study results reveal the following priorities that should be pursued to ensure best use of the farmer-to farmer approach to agricultural extension:
• Reaffirm the role of groups and communities in selecting and monitoring lead farmers.
• Improve training of lead farmers, including more emphasis on initial training, training in needs assessment, and more study tours, exchange visits and exposure to new technologies.
• Provide low-cost incentives to address lead farmers’ two main motivations for becoming and remaining lead farmers—knowledge and altruism. Helping farmers earn cash from associated activities is also important.
• Provide lead farmers with low-cost items such as notebooks, pens and reading materials.
• Reimburse lead farmers for costs they incur in the course of doing their work.
• Highlight and reinforce the role that farmer-to-farmer programs play in increasing the number of women providing extension services and improving women’s access to such services.
More research is needed on low-cost ways to improve effectiveness of lead farmers, and forums are needed where practitioners can share experiences using the farmer-to-farmer extension model. Extension managers, lead farmers and trainees should all be involved in finding ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of programs using the lead farmer approach.