In 2022, the CTDT made headway in moving towards institutionalizing Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB) through the farmer field schools (FFS) approaches with national breeding programs. In December 2022, a Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop was conducted for Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI) breeders, agronomists, technicians and researchers. The workshop was designed to train a core team of facilitators, consisting of breeders and other technical staff from ZARI, on PPB and FFS approaches for purposes of mainstreaming in national programs.
ZARI breeders and technical staff from the cowpea, beans, maize, groundnuts, sorghum and millets team including the government extension staff were part of the team that was trained. Breeders have become cognizant of the fact that farmer involvement is very important in determining the traits of a variety of their choice.
In his closing remarks, CTDT director, Charles Nkhoma said that workshop put a lot of emphasis on capacity building and that there will be more trainings to come for the facilitators to grasp concepts of PPB FFS approaches. He further added that NGOs work on project basis and hence can only establish a limited number of FFS within a given time frame but ZARI being a government entity can transform the PPB FFS approach into a program and establish as many FFS as possible.
“We would like to emphasize that setting of objectives has to be done together with farmers and the breeder as a guide to advice farmers; sometimes farmers would want traits that are not possible to achieve, the breeder has to guide on what is possible while the farmers have to take up the many responsibilities,” He said.
Chief Agriculture Research Officer, Kennedy Muimui thanked CTDT for organizing such a workshop and for recognizing that ZARI breeders as well as extension officers can play a critical role in advancing the PPB work.
Kennedy Muimui , Senior Research Officer at ZARI speaking during the ToT
“I am very confident that this team here will deliver; our role as breeders is to change the agriculture sector by coming up with varieties that are better adapted, nutritious and preferred, because of that, we feel our small-scale farmers should be empowered to improve the varieties they are working with so that they can have them in their hands and be able to continuously utilize them for their sustenance which does not make sense to multi-national billionaire seed companies around the world”.
“We have heard about the FFS approach but have not incorporated it in our work, we could have done a bit of it, the challenge is now on us to see how we use this concept and tie it to plant breeding which is participatory,” He said.
Mr. Muimui further added that breeders see a lot of diversity working on the ground and that there is an urgent need to take stalk of all this country’s diversity.