Climate change is making it more difficult for people in the developing world to escape poverty and protect the natural resources they rely on for food and income. At the same time, tradition keeps too many women from fully participating in the development of their communities and the conservation of biodiversity.
In Mozambique and Tanzania, the CARE- WWF Alliance works with women and men in farming and fishing communities, their governments, and private sector partners to develop more just and sustainable food systems; with the strategy of empowering the poorest and most vulnerable women and their communities to (1) manage natural resources and adapt to climate change in ways that pull them out of poverty, and (2) shape local policies and institutions to promote sustainable development and ensure the conservation of biodiversity.
Capacity building is a common approach to promoting best practice adoption in both conservation and development sectors. CARE’s approach to Farmer Field and Business Schools (FFBS), prioritizing gender and equity, in Tanzania reaffirms the power of demonstration and illustrates how Training of Trainers (TOT) can accelerate uptake in a wider geography.
The Alliance’s 2016 baseline assessment in Nachingwea showed that fewer than one-third of farmers practiced even one climate-smart agriculture (CSA) technique. Rather, farmers still practiced traditional slash and burn agriculture to regularly open new fields and prepare the soil for production.
Yet competition for scarce, fertile land and our changing climate make this approach increasingly unsustainable—and even more so for women. Through Alliance FFBSs, farmers learn techniques like the use of crop rotation and improved seeds that are more tolerant to variable rainfall and diseases — that reduce the frequency with which farmers need to open new land while also producing higher yields. In the 2018 season, farmers adopting CSA practices and seeds on their own plots increased sesame production by more than half compared to those using traditional practices and local seeds harvested.
The Alliance has multiplied FFBS impact through TOT at two levels. The Alliance employs a TOT methodology to train both government extension agents and community paraprofessionals to facilitate day-to-day CSA mentoring and FFBS activities with community members. As the learning brief “Effective strategies for improving policy implementation and law enforcement at the community and district levels in Tanzania” explores in greater detail, a 2017 TOT for Nachingwea District Agricultural Officials and Ward Extension Officers also underlines how training influencers, in particular, can create the enabling conditions for wider best practice adoption.
In short, the FFBS model successfully simultaneously empowers women farmers and promotes adoption of CSA because it gives risk-averse farmers a low-risk environment in which to experiment. Through learning-by- doing, FFBS members both build their capacity for technical best practice and collective action. Importantly, through their collective labor, they also witness the tangible benefits of new approaches relative to traditional ones. Moreover, training others to implement the FFBS curriculum or to otherwise promote CSA increases the number of people who learn about CSA.
For another example of CARE-WWF Alliance strategies for empowering marginalized groups and addressing gender inequalities, please reference “A rights-based approach to community conservation” learning brief focusing on the Hariyo Ban project in Nepal.
Ms. Colleen Farrell