Measuring adoption of good agricultural practices by farmers is a key metric and some argue the only reliable way to track the impact of agricultural interventions on issues such as and higher yields and quality. There are many approaches to increase practice adoption (for example, a focus on empowering farmers to make decisions rather than practice prescription) and much debate surrounding how to best measure uptake (for example, observation versus self-reporting, or monitoring every single farmer versus sample data being ‘good enough’). Several NGOs and companies that are having success utilizing different service delivery models for improved farming practices shared their stories of their given approach and how measurement data on practice adoption rates has informed changes to their programs.
- Technoserve detailed their 2-year farmer training school that emphasizes consistent practice of the identified GAPs in line with the practices that should be applied to the farm at that given time. Technoserve proposed that observation is critical to accurate measurement, and utilizes detailed observation methods by youth enumerators who are trained to look for very specific attributes that illustrate practice adoption in intervention areas. Using Survey CTO software, Technoserve believes this approach improves accuracy, costs less and saves time. They also remind us that not all farmers are of the same homogenous group, and within any cohort of trained farmers there are varying adoption rates. Although segmentation of farmers is possible, it will ultimately not be an effective use of resources.
- Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) spoke about their approach which emphasizes continuous improvement, licensing farmers based on practices adopted instead of results. As an organization that is a bit newer to this field, they shared their approach to measuring practice adoption through farmer field books and the balance they are trying to strike between collecting enough high quality data to inform strategy without overburdening their partners and farmers. BCI partners in India determined their own sustainable production issues, against which they will monitor practice adoption. Their work in India also showed that trust between farmers and implementing partners on the ground is key to adoption, which was echoed by many participants during the workshop.
- Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) illustrated the success of their farmer field school model, which brought participating farmers together every two weeks for a year to focus on cultivation and harvesting practices, as well as livelihoods skills of the cohort’s choice, such as AIDs/HIV training, beekeeping, etc. Using monitoring data, ETP was able to update and improve the farmer field school trainings to the farming communities’ needs and context, for example adding new modules on climate change and business skills. They also explained why, for this crop, measuring quality improvement was a better metric to demonstrate practice adoption than yield. Results to date show adoption rates are increased when farmers see positive changes in demonstration farms. The farmer field school is a popular method for capacity building of farmers used by many other organizations, so there are many opportunities for sharing lessons on what is working best.
- Wrigley and Agribusiness Systems International (ASI) is working in India with 22,000 smallholder mint farmers supplying Wrigley, where they have developed economic and social baselines for their farming communities with the participation of all value chain actors. This information, along with horticultural information, was used to establish best practices for mint farming. This information was then disseminated to farmers to increase adoption of good agriculture practice in order to increase income. The process also served to set targets and build trust with farmers, communities and industry. A key element of the intervention was giving farmers access to information on what support the local government should be providing. The mint value chain case study provided an interesting example of where the purchased crop is only a small part of the farmers’ income, raising the question, to what extent can interventions support the achievement of a living income for the household.