Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lead Farmers, a New Millennium Villages Project!

We are pleased to announce that Eliminate Poverty NOW and Millennium Promise are teaming up again to start a Lead Farmer project in the Millennium Villages cluster in Mayange, Rwanda!

One of the challenges in helping rural farmers upgrade their farming practices is providing them with on-going, cost effective technical support. Extension services, which farmers in the U.S. and other developed countries rely on, are largely non-existent in Africa. The "lead farmer" concept is an innovative attempt to provide extension services with a cost effective and scalable model.

The concept groups together 30-50 local farmers, headed by a "lead farmer" selected by the group for being particularly skilled and progressive in his approach. This lead farmer then works closely with an extension agent and shares the knowledge gained with the rest of his group. In this way, the reach of the extension agent is greatly magnified. One extension agent can work with as many as 20 "lead farmers," thereby sharing knowledge with as many as 1,000 farmers. Millennium Promise has used this concept with cocoa farmers in their village cluster in Ghana with encouraging results. This marks the first time the concept is being introduced in Rwanda.  

EPN will provide funds to pay salaries for the extension agents, purchase of seeds and fertilizer for the lead farmers, and training in the development of business plans and loan applications.

The program is well thought out and offers good prospects for enhancing crop yields and economic returns for the 2-3,000 farmers who will participate in the program. This project has the potential to become a highly cost effective model for providing extension services, and addresses a critical need in agricultural development on the continent of Africa.

Keep your eye on the blog for more news as the project gets under way!

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