In the field: Listening to Adaptation Pioneers

  • From
    CGIAR Initiative on Livestock and Climate
  • Published on
    27.06.24
  • Impact Area

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Field days are events that bring people together. In this case, adaptation pioneers, other farmers, different partners, researchers – and everybody wants to share or learn something. The atmosphere is fascinating: there is all this anticipation and excitement in the air, especially with the dark clouds looming over the farms in this rainy May. When we arrive in the morning on the farm, the tents are being erected. The team set up the registration table, puts up the banners, and prepares the disinfectant for people to step in to prevent the transmission of livestock diseases. 

The green dust coats that say Pioneer of Adaptation at the back are being distributed to all pioneer farmers and the other people making an active contribution. Slowly the first farmers participating arrive, to the visible relief of the host pioneer farmers.  

“We are so happy to meet here today and to share our knowledge and experiences with our neighbours. As farmers, we believe what we can see and observe, and learning from each other about our farmers is so much easier for us,” said Adaptation Pioneers Joel and Eunice Rotich.

Adaptation Pioneers Joel and Eunice Rotich introduce the attending farmers to the field day programme on their farm, supported by Leah Gichuki, ILRI Research Officer. Photo by B.Habermann/ILRI.
Adaptation Pioneers Joel and Eunice Rotich introduce the attending farmers to the field day programme on their farm, supported by Leah Gichuki, ILRI Research Officer. Photo by B.Habermann/ILRI.

A pioneer farmer field day brings together between 50 and 100 farmers. Some adaptation pioneers have organized field days on their own, others do it together in groups. The adaptation pioneers decided what to demonstrate, which topics to select, and who said what, and they decided whom to invite. Apart from other farmers, they all have invited partners to contribute, such as Sistema Bio, Equity Bank Foundation, Kenya Forest Service, and KAGRC. An important partner is also the Livestock Production Unit of the County Governments of Nandi and Bomet. This makes the field days very special. Not only the adaptation pioneers themselves but also the partners are eager to contribute 

Regina Koech (KAGRC) explains about the benefits of artificial Insemination. Photo by B.Habermann/ILRI.
Regina Koech (KAGRC) explains about the benefits of artificial Insemination. Photo by B.Habermann/ILRI.

“We rarely get to meet so many interested farmers in one place. This is an amazing opportunity for us to talk to them about improvements in breeding and how to access better breeds,” Regina Koech, KAGRC. 

 

 

 

 

 

Birgit Habermann, ILRI scientist, meets with Pioneer Partners: Vivian Sigei (KFS), Geoffrey Kimutai (Sistema Bio), Felix Kiplangat (Equity Group Foundation) and Raymond Ngetich (Sistema Bio). Photo by ILRI.
Birgit Habermann, ILRI scientist, meets with Pioneer Partners: Vivian Sigei (KFS), Geoffrey Kimutai (Sistema Bio), Felix Kiplangat (Equity Group Foundation) and Raymond Ngetich (Sistema Bio). Photo by ILRI.

The team supporting the Adaptation Pioneers has organized 37 field days with the pioneer farmers, reaching more than 2000 farmers. It has been a unique experience every time, and the positive feedback has been very inspiring.  

Emmaculate Kiptoo, ILRI Research Associate, explains the field day programme. Photo by B.Habermann/ILRI.
Emmaculate Kiptoo, ILRI Research Associate, explains the field day programme. Photo by B.Habermann/ILRI.

“I explained the project’s purpose up front and ensured that people understood the reason for calling the adaptation pioneers like that. I explained our selection process and emphasized that the field days are led by farmers with technical support from experts, based on the demand of the adaptation pioneers,” Emmaculate Kiptoo, Research Associate at ILRI.

The interaction in peer-to-peer learning is one of the most effective ways for farmers to learn. Pioneer farmers showcase what they have been doing on their farms. Other farmers get to share their experiences, which is a great way to learn. Farmers learn by doing; pioneer farmers demonstrated how to establish and plant different fodder crops. This was done practically together with other farmers. 

Organizing the field days in groups worked for some farmers and did not work for others. These were usually between two and four farms grouped. The main challenge was the distance to the venue of the field day. If they were too far apart, it was difficult for them to mobilize others to participate.  

Involving other household members in the planning meeting is very important to ensure inclusivity. In this way, different household members will prepare different contributions for the field days, making it more interesting for their peers to attend the field days, and the whole group gets more diverse. 

Leah Gichuki, ILRI Research Officer, introduces the idea of farmer to farmer learning at a field day. Photo by B.Habermann/ILRI.
Leah Gichuki, ILRI Research Officer, introduces the idea of farmer to farmer learning at a field day. Photo by B.Habermann/ILRI.

 

“For the past 3 years, the farmer-led field days have transformed how farmers learn and share knowledge. Putting pioneer households at the center of decision-making and showing genuine faith in their knowledge has enriched our research process in ways we never imagined at the beginning of the project. Pioneers have developed confidence in facilitating diverse topics, managing logistics, and networking,” Leah Gichuki, Research Officer at ILRI.

The field days for Livestock and Climate have now been concluded, but there is a need for more learning between different farm households, and more interchange with partners. The gap between what an adaptation pioneer can achieve, and where most dairy farming households still find themselves, is too big. All partners interviewed after the field days have plans on how to continue working with the pioneer households, and the pioneers themselves remain highly motivated. We hope to move one step closer to narrowing this gap as we continue this work in the coming years through building knowledge networks between the pioneer households, their peer farmers, and the partners in the networks.  

Story by Birgit Habermann, Emmaculate Kiptoo and Leah Gichuki. 

Banner photo: Adaptation Pioneers Cornelius and Monica Kosgei help Esther Omayio in preparing demonstration on feed formulation. Photo by  B.Habermann/ILRI. 

 

 

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