Zimbabwe: Junior Farmer Field Schools Pilot Project, Zimbabwe

The Junior Farmer Field School (JFFS) concept was identified as a potentially useful way to assist rural youth in HIV and AIDS programs.

The JFFS provides technical, business and life skills, while at the same time providing some constructive activities (and avoiding risky ones) to help junior farmers to get started in income generating enterprises and help support their families, and themselves, into the future.

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) proposed using poultry as a model to develop farming/entrepreneurial skills that would yield several benefits. The high turnover rate of poultry allows for the rapid exposure of JFFS members to production and market processes, and is valuable in the financial management planning and learning process as well. Members can learn about extensive and semi-intensive production systems to enable them to choose the production system(s) best suited to their individual situation.

Small-scale poultry production combines easily with other on-farm activities, e.g., chicken manure can be used to fertilize the family garden and to supply nitrogen required in dairy cow diets. As young farmers develop their skills they may graduate to other forms of agriculture; these may include bee keeping, pig production and milk production.

The IRPC was invited to assist ICRISAT to develop and test curriculum and training modules on extensive and/or semi-intensive poultry production, for use in both Farmer Field Schools and Junior Farmer Field Schools (the latter targeting youth involved in HIV/AIDS mitigation and prevention programs) in Zimbabwe.

Participatory curriculum development activities revealed that JFFS members are generally interested in poultry production. A range of participatory rural appraisal (PRA) tools were used to gain information on poultry production and poultry farmers’ aspirations. Members of the JFFS were also invited to write down topics they would like included in the JFFS poultry curriculum. The process indicated that the JFFS members wished to know more about general poultry husbandry (e.g. housing, feeding, watering and disease control) and basic avian physiology (e.g. reproductive cycles).

The IRPC facilitated sessions on improving village chicken production and also assisted workshop participants to prepare three comparative trials to be conducted by the JFFS poultry groups. Due to the lack of reference material dealing with the improved production of indigenous poultry, the IRPC placed considerable emphasis on the preparation of a manual for JFFS facilitators.

The JFFS program can have a significant impact on how rural communities adapt to living with the consequences of HIV/AIDS. With the lessons learnt in this pilot program it is expected that the JFFS program can be improved and expanded to enable young farmers to not only survive but also actively contribute to their communities.

We raise chickens for their eggs and so that they increase in number so that we can sell and get money.

This money will help me to buy what I want. If I have a visitor I can slaughter them and get relish. If a child fails to get school fees, the chicken can be sold to get money. Money to buy sadza comes from chickens.

Chickens give manure that we use in our gardens for green vegetables and tomatoes. The other thing I can do is to buy clothes using chickens. When celebrating a birth I can also use a chicken as a gift. When I want

someone to work in my fields, I can slaughter a chicken. I can also eat the eggs with sadza.

Ms Nomsa Nkomo, JFFS member, Vukuso Village