Training is an essential part of the UTZ program. It is through good quality training that farmers learn how to adopt sustainable agricultural practices and improve their lives. Yet with UTZ now working with 900 trainers who train 1.2 million farmers and workers around the world, it can be hard to monitor whether training is delivered to a consistently high standard. A pilot project in Côte d’Ivoire offers a new solution to this challenge – a network of approved UTZ trainers. We caught up with Felix Kodjia, UTZ Program Officer in Côte d’Ivoire to find out more and hear about the benefits.
The science of good training
Kodjia explained to us that when it comes to training, content and delivery are both equally important. A trainer may be an expert in agronomy but still lack the training skills to communicate that knowledge to farmers in the most effective way.
“Training is a science”, says Kodjia. “We were finding that trainers had the technical expertise but weren’t necessarily using the right techniques to get that knowledge across to farmers.” The new network addresses this, helping participants adopt professional training approaches. This means better quality training and more impact on farm standards.
A network of approved trainers
To set up the network, all 200 trainers that help farmers to implement the UTZ code and adopt good agricultural practices in Côte d’Ivoire were invited to complete an initial assessment. The best participants were selected to complete a new course developed by Kodjia and his colleagues and available on the UTZ Academy.
This has been time intensive, but well worth the effort, says Kodjia. “I can’t just sit in my office and hope to influence people. I need to get to know the trainers and work with them to get results.” The graduates from the program will become UTZ approved trainers and act as ambassadors for the UTZ standards out in the field.
Participation is key
One of the most important aspects of the new training program is the emphasis on participation. “We have been teaching people about the importance of using participatory training methods – don’t just show a PowerPoint presentation in a class room. Use hands-on techniques and help farmers learn by doing. That is much more effective in getting farmers to implement the UTZ standards”.
Participants have also been learning about the importance of conducting a needs assessment and tailoring training to the different circumstances of each group of farmers.
Strong results from the pilot phase
Kodjia has seen trainers start to conduct their training in a different way following the course and has had positive feedback from both trainers and farmers:
Farmers are happy because the training is more valuable to them. It is good for UTZ too because we now know who the trainers are and can monitor what they are doing.
“I’m very proud to see the quality of training improving – this will make a real difference to people’s lives”, he concludes.
Following the success of the pilot, the official training network launched in Côte d’Ivoire during August 2017. Kodjia and his colleagues will continue to monitor and improve training quality through visits to the field and regular feedback to trainers on their training plans and materials. There will also be opportunities for trainers to work with each other, share information and use peer-to-peer review to further develop their professional training skills.
The UTZ Academy is looking at the best way to scale-up this approach and to establish networks of approved trainers in other UTZ producing countries. Stay tuned on www.utzacademyonline.com for further developments.