Building the capacity of farmers using peer-mentoring programs


Farmers can expand their agroforestry business if they have access to practical science-based knowledge. It enables them to design their own homegrown agroforestry models determining when, where, how and what type of trees to plant on their farms, as opposed to making decisions based on models designed by outsiders.

The Australian Agroforestry Foundation has developed a course for farmers using an innovative model. The Master TreeGrower (MTG) program was developed over 20 years by Rowan Reid, the Foundation’s Coordinator.

The course trains farmers through shared experiences and group discussions rather than relying primarily on a teacher – student model. The objective is to ensure the development of forests is driven by the aspirations of the farmer and backed up by the best available scientific knowledge.

Reid says the program does not promote particular species, products or farm management options. It is conducted in a way that reflects the objectives and experience of the local farmer.

The program has been implemented since 1996 in Australia. More than 100 courses have been conducted involving over 2,000 farmers.

The Foundation assessed if the approach used to engage tree-growing farmers in Australia, would also applicable in the developing world. In 2013 the foundation conducted its first course in Kabale, Uganda.

“We see more similarities between farmers in Australia and Africa, than there are differences”, said Reid, ” We are now exploring Niger and Indonesia”.

“Landowners whether big or small are capable of making decisions and can balance between long and short-term objectives especially when they have to balance between different needs and competing priorities.  We need to embed our science as input into the discussions, and guide farmers to solve their own problems rather than us trying to provide them with solutions”.

Blogpost by Daniel Kapsoot, edited by Peter Casier
Picture courtesy The Australian Agroforestry Foundation


Vigyan Bhavan & Kempinski Ambience

10 - 14 February 2014 Delhi, India
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