Farmer trainer Mary Gichuki shows off her forage shrubs.

Extension programmes should choose farmer trainers on the basis of their skills to pass information to fellow farmers, rather than for their farming expertise, a study reveals. Conducted by the World Agroforestry Centre, the inquiry showed that up to 40% of expert farmers were not effective disseminators. “This finding has great implications on how extension is practised. It means that choosing a farmer to demonstrate and teach other farmers will only be as effective as their skills in passing on the information,” said lead researcher Steve Franzel.

The study was conducted among small-scale farmers who grow leguminous fodder shrubs to feed dairy cows, a practice with a high impact on milk production. “Fellow small-scale farmers have increased milk production from 5kg to 50kg per day since incorporating fodder shrubs into animal feed,” said Mary Gichuki, a farmer trainer in Kiambu County, Kenya. According to Franzel, changing the way farmers are selected to impart skills to other farmers remains key to transferring knowledge.

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