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Back 2 School: 105 Smallholders Embrace FairChain Training

This weekend Moyee officially kicked off our ‘Call the Farmer’ smallholder training program at Tega & Tula, our partner plantation in Ethiopia. The program was created specifically for a select group of FairChain smallholders in Kaffa. Using knowledge and expertise from leading scientific minds at Wageningen University (Holland) and Jimma University (Ethiopia), the program offers these smallholders organizational and agricultural training based on best practices with the aim of helping them increase their productivity and ultimately their earnings.

Everything we’ve written in this blog up to now has been in preparation for this first training session. Which is to say, as of today our Call the Farmer program is very much for real.

Day 1: pruning and organic composting

We expected 100, but 105 showed up, all eagerly filing into two very crowded rooms at a cozy community school in Kaffa. Standing in front of the class were Kilil, Abraham and Asheber. After an introduction by Kilil, an expert on smallholder associations, agronomist Abraham walked them through the key steps required for increasing productivity, starting with pruning.

When setting up this training program, our aim was very clear: we wanted to offer hyper-practical tips that could help them increase both their yields and revenue immediately. Similarly, we didn’t want to overwhelm them with science they might not understand. Instead, we would teach them science through storytelling.

Admittedly, the light in the classroom was quite dismal, but despite this the farmers enthusiastically made notes in their books and asked lots of questions. Many pledged they would test the new pruning methods the next morning.

In the early afternoon Asheber took over. An experienced trainer from a neighboring village, Asheber taught the famers how make their own compost using organic materials from their farms.

The day ended with a general quiz. Every correct answer was greeted with raucous clapping and enthusiasm. The farmers left the classroom eager to put theory into practice.

Day 2: putting theory into practice

The next day all 100 (excuse us, 105) farmers convened at our partner farm Tega & Tula. It was a beautiful morning and all the coffee plants were covered with white flowers. Abraham stepped forward to demonstrate the pruning. The key takeout for the farmers appeared before the pruning even began when Abraham swabbed the blade of his machete with alcohol. A simple but effective safeguard that prevents the spread of disease from tree to tree.

A few hours later, under Asheber’s guidance, the farmers were roaming the Tega & Tula plantation in search of key ingredients to make the perfect (organic) compost. The farmers sought banana leaves, hay, ash, dirt, animal dung and water. It was fascinating to watch how each farmer went about their search, eagerly heading in different directions as per their usual routines. Women disappeared into the forest to collect leaves and water, men set about cutting branches. In just under an hour we managed to build a composting area surrounded by a fence (yes, they build the fence). Layer by layer they filled the compost ‘garden’ with Asheber’s ingredients. This way of composting was new to most of the farmers. One of them, Tesfaye, was fascinated and said he would try this new ‘recipe’ the next day.

(In a later blog post we’ll reveal Asheber’s DIY Composting tips. We promise.)

Elections & Diplomas

With the compost pile complete, our first Call the Farmer training program came to an end. The farmers drank soft drinks and, with Kilil’s help, elected a Board of Representatives who would speak and negotiate on behalf of the 105 farmers present. The election went smoothly and 7 candidates happily joined the Board.

Each participating farmer returned home with a well-deserved Certificate to hang above their bed and show their families. We hope it will be the first of many diplomas. Because this training was only the first of a long and intensive program we hope will revolutionize the FairChain farming industry – financially, socially and sustainably!

Stay tuned for more.