10. Getting the message across - training

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10.1. Training goals

Training goals should have the objective of meeting specific training needs in the marketing of fruits and vegetables, and these fall broadly into two camps:

Good training can increase manual workers' and management personnel's awareness of their responsibilities and roles in the marketing process and the impact of their contribution in -improving overall marketing efficiency.

Let us look a little more closely at the priority cases for training and what they need specific training in :

  1. Producers - Since marketing begins with the producer and he is also the first to handle the produce, training in his area of influence is a major goal. Advice and demonstration about production planning, harvesting, on-farm handling, field assembly, transport and packing should be directed through agricultural extension services.
  2. Transporters - Transporters of fresh produce may be handicapped in many cases by the types of containers and vehicles which they are currently obliged to use and will certainly be handicapped by poor roads and other infrastructural deficiencies. Nevertheless, instructing porters in the need to treat fresh produce carefully and to avoid rough handling can go a long way in alleviating these problems.
    Transporters need to be sensitized to the advantages of removable covers on vehicles to keep off sun, rain and dust, and the importance of careful driving on bad roads as well as proper maintenance of their vehicles. Special demonstration training is required to show real benefits of improved transport.
  3. Distributors - Included in this category are the wholesalers, retailers, Nigglers, hawkers, traffickers and hucksters since all play a vital role in the distribution of fresh produce.
    The most important element of the training is clear demonstration of the correct way to lift, carry and handle produce so as to reduce damage and post-harvest losses. Other specifics for training include: product knowledge; receipt, storage and stock control of produce; produce display; and, general business administration.
  4. Extension workers - Extension workers are usually generalists with a broad knowledge and experience of many areas. The objective of training extension staff (trainer training!) is not to convert them into specialists, but to sensitize them to the subject and expose them to training and resource materials which they can incorporate into their regular programme. The extension worker can then offer better support to the real target audience, the trainees, be they farmers or whoever.
  5. Planning personnel and policy makers - To many senior government officers, politicians and management personnel, marketing, particularly of fresh produce is a complex area in which many would rather leave alone because they do not sufficiently understand the systems and their importance. Clearly, these individuals do not require a structured training course so much as an introduction to the subject and sensitization to the problems and the possible solutions.
    Sufficiently well-informed policy makers and management personnel can make a significant contribution to overall agricultural marketing development. On the other hand, insufficiently informed managers and policy makers can condemn a programme before it even gets started.
  6. Consumers - Any improvements or changes in marketing and distribution patterns and in the post-harvest systems in operation, may be unsuccessful without the benefit of an informed public sensitized to the need for change in the first place. Many post-harvest losses are caused by the consumers lack of understanding of perishability of fresh produce and how to handle and store correctly at home.
    Training of the consumer may be by media campaigns in newspapers or radio and television programmes or by point*-of-sale posters and other educational materials, or by inclusion in the regular curriculum of primary and secondary schools.

10.2. Training coordination and support

It is relatively straightforward to identify those individuals or groups in need of training in post-harvest and marketing of fresh produce but it is not so easy to identify appropriate support mechanisms for that training and to coordinate the different training courses within a broader programme. When that broader programme is in reality a combination of many different programmes, each with often quite different end objectives and methods even though the target audience is the same, then the biggest problem is coordination in order to prevent repetition and dilution of effort.

The islands of the Eastern Caribbean are frequent if not constant hosts to a very large number of aid and development agencies, many of which concentrate on agriculture, and most of these focus particularly on technical assistance and training. Each of these agencies identifies specific target groups or individuals for training relative to the particular interests or commitments of the agency concerned. The type of training envisaged and the level of that training is subject to many possible permutations depending on the abilities and experiences of the consultants and trainers, many of whom may only be in the region for a short while and may or may not have had previous relevant experience in the Eastern Caribbean.

Staff of the Ministries of Agriculture in each island are frequent targets for training and attendance at training workshops, and often the government has very real difficulties in identifying participants for a training course or workshop because they are understaffed, and perhaps because too many Ministry staff are already attending another workshop elsewhere at the same time.

Each of the island states in the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean has identified agricultural diversification as its major strategy with a concentration on extra-regional exports of fresh produce as its mayor goal in the push for greater foreign exchange earnings and reduced fresh produce imports. Training, sensitization and education are seen by all governments as necessary if this push is to be sustained. Training in postharvest and marketing features prominently in all of the national agricultural plans but few countries if any have a cohesive programme prepared at the national level, let alone the regional level.

10.3. Training materials

Any intended training programmes will need training materials prepared specially for the Eastern Caribbean and more particularly for the commodities to be covered and targetted for one or more particular group of trainees, be they farmers or stevedores, or whatever. Very little training material of this degree of specificity is currently available, although special interest groups like the Dominican Hucksters Association (DHA) and CATCO are producing training materials specific to their needs. However, these materials once prepared are not yet shared with other groups sufficiently to avoid some duplication of efforts.

One of the mayor aims of this manual is to provide specific training materials for direct use by extensionists and technicians in the Eastern Caribbean. However, even with the best will in the world, this manual cannot be considered the answer to all extension workers' and trainers needs. Many groups of trainees will need a simpler and more general approach while others will need more detailed coverage of highly specific areas of marketing and distribution, perhaps for one or two commodities only. For these reasons, users of this manual should feel free to adapt and amend the material to suit their own or their trainees needs, provided of course that the principles involved are not misinterpreted. As with any publication, its use in whole, part, adapted or amended form should always be acknowledged.

10.4. Training techniques

Many people in the Eastern Caribbean are familiar with a few training techniques such as the workshop system, demonstrations and field visits. These methods undoubtedly have their uses, but they also have their limitations depending on the material used, the abilities and experience of the trainers, and the needs and abilities of the trainees.

Occasionally, some so-called workshops may offer little more than a series of lectures followed by questions from the floor. If the lectures were not properly prepared, or the lecturer was not a good communicator, and the audience not receptive or too nervous to ask important questions about what they did not understand, then the whole exercise may have been an expensive waste of time. People who attend training usually have jobs to do. If they are not receiving adequate training but are kept away from their job then the exercise is doubly expensive.

The following is a brief guide to various forms of training that can be used on their own or in conjunction at workshops and other such training meetings:

(i) Demonstration - An expert (trainer or someone else) shows how to do something in the correct (or incorrect) way and which the trainee is meant to imitate (or avoid). This method is useful for training in nearly all of the practical skills necessary in harvesting, marketing and distribution of fresh produce. It is particularly suited to training of farmers, transporters, hucksters and stevedores.

Hints:

(ii) Field visits - planned visits to farms, cold stores and commercial enterprises are extremely effective because they allow trainees to see real-Life situations where the skills and operations are in everyday use. In addition, the trainees get the opportunity to ask questions of the people working on the site and will very often get exactly the information they need to improve their own operations.

Hints:

(iii) Slide or film shows - Films are good at showing movement when training in handling and packaging, but very few films relevant to the Eastern Caribbean exist or are available. Video offers excellent possibilities for the future but equipment and trained operators with experience in recording training material are not present or are fully engaged in other commercial activities. Trainers should contemplate using video as a major training tool and try to get the equipment and training in its use as soon as possible.

For the moment, slides represent the best opportunity for visual training and demonstration as accompaniment to lectures and talks (see below), but there is a shortage of suitable slide materials in the region. CARIRI have developed a slide series recently for use in the region which is particularly recommended for use with this manual, but the slide series is relatively expensive and has only just started to be disseminated in the region (see Section 12 for details). Other slide materials from outside the region may have limited application for techniques but may prove useful in emphasizing principles (ea. slide sets from University of Davis, California.).

Hints:

(iv) Lecture - This is quite a good method of imparting specific information to a large audience but often is not sufficiently interactive with the trainees by way of discussion and resolving individuals problems and doubts. A lecture should be well supported by visual aids to illustrate the main points if the audience is to stay awake.

Hints:

(v) Group discussion - led by the trainer or a chosen group leader is more effective with groups of around 10 trainees. A topic of interest is selected (perhaps from earlier training material or lectures or from current marketing operations) and discussed informally among the group who venture suggestions and ideas for improvement or amendment.

Hints:

(vi) Panel discussion - A group of experts answer questions from the trainees and/or make short presentations on a particular topic. The experts can be drawn from many different sources depending on the topics and operations to be discussed.

Hints:

(vii) Case studies and management games - A case study is where a particular situation or operation is examined in detail by the group such that the reasons for the operations and techniques can be thoroughly analysed and alternatives realized. Case studies are an excellent way of reinforcing trainees knowledge and giving them the confidence to analyse the situation for themselves and act accordingly. The trainer will need to guide the trainees but should keep a low profile. This is a widely used technique in workshops but is often hurried through because not enough time is allowed for detailed examination and analysis.

Management games are a useful exercise for trainees familiar with a particular operation or system but who need training in decision-making and evaluation. For example, the group of trainees is given a particular problem to solve within an organization (fictitious or otherwise) and at the same time they are assigned operational titles and responsibilities. The trainees make decisions about the running of the organization and the resolution of the problem.

During the management game, the trainees can swap roles and further information about changes in the situation and consequences of their decisions can be introduced. Games of this nature take a lot of time to prepare and to play. Trainers/directors shouts ensure that the trainees experience some success or they might reject the game as being unrealistic and "a waste of time".

Many other possible forms of training exist, such as projects for individuals and/or groups and group tasks to be completed without the aid of the trainer. Many organizations train their staff by apprenticing them with an experienced hand or staff member, and although this is very practical and effective for the training of new recruits, it often ignores the importance of trainees learning alternative ways of doing things which are not used or have not yet been considered by the organization. Training should seek to extend the horizons of the trainees knowledge beyond that of their current exposure.

Trainers and extension workers are by necessity generalists with a broad scope of knowledge and experience, and who are good communicators and they can teach. Experts, research workers, commercial people, and others are extremely useful when included in support of a training programme as lecturers, panellists or guest speakers, but trainers should never expect these specialists to be good teachers. When putting together any training programme the trainer should always discuss the material with the specialist concerned, and edit it if necessary, to make sure that it fits in with the rest of the programme and doesn't miss the target.

Training programmes, like marketing programmes, should have a built-in flexibility to cover eventualities such as transport and power failures, extended discussion periods which are perhaps more valuable than an optional lecture or presentation, and the possibility of backup material and ideas if a gap appears in the programme. For example, a lecturer or speaker may not make it on time because of delayed/cancelled flights, or a 'management game' doesn't work out as planned and has to be cut short. there is no substitute for thorough planning and preparation.


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