Farmer education and training (FARM-ED): enhancing access to agricultural education in Africa
The vast majority of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)are smallholders, many of whom are women, who have limited access to inputs and markets and face a growing number of production challenges. Few young people are being attracted into agriculture because they see better opportunities elsewhere. New knowledge can help farmers to significantly enhance their productivity and income and stimulate the creation of rural businesses, but such knowledge is not available in many rural communities. An innovative Pan-African initiative on farmer education and training in SSA (FARM-ED) aims to address these issues by exploiting the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and emerging information and communication technologies. // FARM-ED draws on the lessons from successful large-scale OER programmes in the education and health sectors, run by the UK Open University (OU) in collaboration with local partners in Africa and South Asia. These programmes have demonstrated how high quality learning materials can reach substantial numbers of people within a short period of time. A key feature of the approach is to establish partnerships which bring in relevant expertise and facilitate local ownership. FARM-ED is led by a consortium of knowledge institutions including the OU, the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich and the regional university networks in Africa, RUFORUM and ANAFE. But the partnership extends much more widely and includes civil society organizations, the private sector and government agencies. The emphasis is on strengthening the capacity of intermediaries to respond more effectively to the demand from farmers for knowledge on how to improve their farming systems. // An initial scoping study carried out in East Africa in 2012 revealed that there is considerable interest among different types of organization to participate in the development of OERs and to receive training in their effective use. Another clear message was the importance of addressing the needs of women and young people, and to help them overcome barriers to success. A particular challenge for FARM-ED is to reflect the wide diversity of agricultural systems and socio-cultural practices within and between countries in SSA. Generic learning materials are being developed for use with different media (including print and mobile) and will be freely available online. Although generic, there will be a strong emphasis on adaptation of the learning materials for the local context and, through working with communities of practice, improving them in line with feedback from users. // FARM-ED also aims to help to create a more favourable enabling environment for the implementation of best practice in priority areas such as adaptation to climate change, nutrition and rural entrepreneurship. It will do this through the development of special courses for policy makers and by engagement with national policy processes. // Paper ID: 184
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