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).