Athmani Mochiwa, District Agriculture Extension Officer, has been working for 20 years in Masasi District, Tanzania, working to help farmers adopt new practices and technologies. He sees his role as being the link between the farmers and the research institutes. “I’ve been involved in each and every step of the Pathways process—from the beginning to now. As an agriculture expert, my role was to advise CARE on some of the seeds to introduce and which technologies and practices to improve. I also worked to create some awareness among the villages about what the project is about.” He currently supervises a staff of 22 paraprofessionals (extension officers) and 5 ward extension officers to whom he provides active support.
Mochiwa sees Pathways as an extension of the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach, which allows farmers to see for themselves the differences between traditional and new production techniques or seed varieties. Through the farmer field school demonstration plots, adoption of new technologies happens more quickly. The critical addition of the “business” element to the Pathways Farmer Field and Business School (FFBS) approach takes the farmers first through the process of searching for a market before production. “If you can assure farmers of a market, then you can be sure they will produce. And with tools like the cost-benefit analysis sheet, they can improve their negotiation skills. They know the value of what they produce.”
They are particularly important for Pathways’ group members. Even when they are in mixed training groups, women put themselves behind the men. He notes, “They’re very good at doing the work and implementing, but if you ask them a question—they will wait for the men to respond. The women have to be encouraged to speak up and really feel part of the group work. In the homes, they are doing all the work, but they are not appreciated, and they are not organized. They are working as much as men, harder than men—but they need to know it’s not just for them to carry all this normal loads. Sometimes the men don’t allow their wives to join the groups. The men also need to be trained.” The promising news, he says, is that there really is demand for this type of discussion.
“Yesterday, I went back to the village (where we tested various exercises with the community), and they asked me, ‘How did you know this would be so beneficial to us! How did you know we really needed this? When are you going to do more? We want the whole community to hear this.’ Those who attended were saying that it was really important, and that already the men wanted to change. So I told them that the paraprofessionals were going to train them on more and more, and that we were going to continue to work with them on these issues.”
The paraprofessionals left the training with documents in hand, energized to start implementing these exercises immediately. Mochiwa is confident that they will take this forward.
But the most important thing, Mochiwa emphasizes, is to provide continuous supervision and support: “If we don’t do that, the feedback and supervision, it’s like playing guitar to a goat—there will be no reaction. After every training, we need to be in the field, and following up the work-plan that we do together. And the paraprofessionals need these interactions, so that they can share their experiences and learn from each other.”