Sustainable Agriculture Project Sangthong

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Implementation of Technical Trainings

Following the implementation of Demonstration Gardens, the primary activity of the project has been to hold technical trainings on topics selected jointly by the project and by local farmers.

Trainings usually take place during the dry season as the rainy season is dominated by rice cultivation which consumes the majority of the working day. Trainings typically take place either in half days, or as whole day sessions with long a lunch break for communal eating and non-formal discussion. Often, the morning will be devoted to formal training in a village office or the home of the village chief, with the afternoon being used for practical demonstration and practice by participants.

One to two weeks before each training a date and time is arranged between the village chief and project officers. All members of the community are invited to attend each session. Commonly, participants are equally divided between men and women, but generally with little involvement of youth or the elderly. Participation varied from 24 to 97, but averaged closer to 32 farmers per training. Through the course of the year, the project witnessed an increase in participation with successive trainings, which indicated that farmers considered project trainings beneficial.

All training materials are prepared by the project in advance of the session, usually involving writing and production of folded leaflets explaining topics and basic principles in an easy-to-understand fashion, heavily relying on diagrams and images rather than text. These leaflets provide a valuable source for information for other family members and to remind the participants of the principles and techniques which were learnt during the training.

The project has selected topics in keeping with the aims and objectives of MCC and the Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, specifically, the promotion of settled rather than swidden agriculture, non-burning of crop wastes, the promotion of non-chemical pest management, and the sustainable utilization of natural (forest and aquatic) resources.

Topics selected by farmers have often been similar to many of those held by the project. In the initial planning stages of the project, care was taken to focus on those areas which project officers felt were pressing concerns in other parts of Laos. In some cases it seems that these topics were well chosen in for the local context. There were, however, some divergence which will discussed in greater detail in the Discussion section to follow. In brief, however, the project has sought to promote sustainable food production for home consumption. The project farmers (men and women), however, felt a greater need for increased capacity to produce marketable agricultural products to increase family income. Project activities and training topics were altered accordingly to reflect the felt needs of all stakeholders. The methodology for assessing topics of interest to farmers included informal discussion with village farmers and village chiefs in part, but primarily by requests for farmers at the end of each training session, where the group would discuss topics for future trainings. The limitations of this method are discussed later.


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