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Learning for change.

“Change is the end result of all true learning.”-Leo Buscaglia.

FFS Master Trainers and Facilitators posing for a group picture after the graduation.

The journey of learning that began in the second phase of the SD=HS programme for Zambia comes to an end as the year 2023 closes, a global close of second phase of the programme. Since 2019 Zambia has strived to achieve change through learning, unlearning and relearning together with the smallholder farmers in the farmer field schools, researchers from public institutions, academia, and other civil society organizations. The programme has strived for change at both the global programme level within participating countries and local level within participating communities.

Without change, then learning has not happened. The learning to enable this change has happened through the farmer field schools as a vehicle for experimentation and innovation. To date, seventy-three farmer fields under participatory plant breeding have been mobilized, ten under seed production and marketing and thirty eighty under nutrition and local food plants. These farmer field schools have enabled change at community, institution and individual level. During an integrated training of trainers held for facilitators and master trainers, participants highlighted the following changes being observed after 5 years of implementation. Participants felt that they were more confident and had developed skills to communicate with other stakeholders and skills to facilitate meetings either in FFS or community meetings. They indicated that these skilled helped their engagement with law makers as they felt that they are well informed. They indicated that they no longer understand issues at the surface but were able to interrogate and critically think about issues affecting their communities and find solutions through experimentation. Facilitators also highlighted that there was more collective action and community cohesion due to frequent interactions in the farmer field schools.

Additionally, facilitators shared that because of their enhanced understanding of the role of plant genetic resources and its management, they had seen an increase in crop diversity and increased use, increased income in households for those farmer field schools engaged in commercialization, improved nutrition due to increased crop diversity and community’s enhanced capacity to climate adaptation.
As part of the steps taken to close the project and celebrate instrumental human capital, seventy-five facilitators and master trainers were graduated in participatory plant breeding approaches, farmer seed enterprises and local food plants and nutrition. The graduation ceremony was attended by various stakeholders and partners which included; Oxfam Zambia country office, Zambia Alliance for Agroecology and Agrobiodiversity (ZAAB), representative from SIDA local office, Kasisi Agricultural Training Center (KATC), Care International, Caritas Zambia, FIAN International Zambia, Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI), Seed Control and Certification Institute(SCCI), National Food and Nutrition Commission(NFNC), National Genebank, the Ministry of Agriculture through Extension Services and Ministry of Health through the Nutrition Department. Find here the link to the highlights of the graduation ceremony. The farmers were delighted to receive their certificates and were hopeful for the project to continue even in the next phase and called on government to consider farmer varieties in national seed policy documents.

Bevies Mushimbwa, a farmer facilitator sharing at the ceremony said, “Farmer seeds are very important because of their diverse nature and hence offer different nutritional benefits. We, the smallholder farmers are the beneficiaries, we are the largest percentage who depends on farmer seeds which are cheap and we are able to sale, share and exchange. The PPB has benefited us; we are even expecting some varieties to be released. Some of our local varieties were contaminated; the aspect of enhancement helped us to restore the traits of the local seeds which were contaminated by the hybrids. We also did seed production and marketing, we discovered that there was a high demand for farmer varietie, therefore the need to start multiplying the seed. Due to the seed policies that are not in our favour, we have been engaging with ZARI and SCCI so that these varieties can be registered to sell commercially. We want our farmer varieties to be supported by seed laws and not restricted. These are our rights as farmers, and we want government support for our rights. The local seeds which are diverse in nature can help Zambia attain its 2030 vision of having a food and nutrition secure nation."

Bevies Mushimbwa speaking during the ToT in Lusaka before the graduation.

Furthermore, Joyce Mumba, added that the SD=HS programme was very beneficial to her and other women in the community especially in improving the nutrition status of the children. “The project has helped us a lot in the sense that farmers have started adopting conservative agricultural practices that are helping us cop with the effects of climate change. The use of local food plants has been put into practice to reduce the malnutrition cases in our district,” she said.

Joyce Mumba speaking during the graduation ceremony.

In his remarks at this ceremony, CTDT Director Charles Nkhoma indicated that the capacity building approach taken of training the farmers on a yearly basis meant that capacity improved from year to year. After five years the farmers had now become experts and spoke with confidence of the aspects they had been working on. This was the intention of the programme all along because downstream the farmers should engage directly with government and not through civil society, in putting forward their interests and challenges that they faced.

He indicated that having watched the farmers over the years he felt proud that many had become leaders in their community from scratch. The womenfolk had not taken the back seat, they had taken up leadership challenges in many of the communities and were even in the forefront representing the menfolk.

Furthermore, he said CTDT he believed the community could be able to carry the work forward as the programme comes to an end because it was beneficial to them. Those that had learnt to produce seed had seen the benefits and may want to continue the work. Those that have been involved in developing their own varieties had learnt the benefits of doing that.

“It is CTDT’s belief that these activities will continue, of course with CTDT providing as much support as possible. CTDT remains optimistic that it could get similar levels of resources for the next five years, as it did in the last five years. The advantage for the next five years was that the work would not be starting from scratch but improving upon what had been developed so far,” he said.

Left to right: Assistant Director SCCI, Director National Food and Nutrition Commission, International Treaty Focal Point and CTDT Director. (Certificate presentation).

Assistant Director Bruce Chulu in his address, stated that SCCI fully supported the programme and SCCI staff had been part of capacity building for farmers. SCCI inspectors had also inspected the crop in the field to ensure that farmers were aligning to the guidelines. He urged the farmers to expand; to continue to produce more quality seed for sale. SCCI was interested in seeing farmers also sell their seed. He looked forward to seeing branded seed. He congratulated the farmers that graduated. He assured them of SCCI’s support if they wished to expand. In concluding his remarks, he announced the revision of the both the seed and plant variety protection laws. He assured the participants that SCCI would consult with CTDT and farmers to input in revision of the laws.

SCCI Assistant Director, Bruce Chulu speaking during the graduation ceremony.

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