By Zablon Oyugi
Poultry farmers across six African nations are set to benefit from an initiative led by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in partnership with Kenya’s Pwani University.
This initiative, supported by the UK’s Fleming Fund, focuses on promoting responsible antimicrobial use in broiler chicken rearing – a crucial step in combating the pressing issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
FAO has planned a three-week regional farmer field school (FFS) training of facilitators, complemented by an eight-week training of master FFS trainers programme at Pwani University. The heart of this initiative is to enhance biosecurity and responsible antimicrobial use in broiler farms.
Collaboration and workshop:
To kickstart the project, a four-day workshop convened in Kilifi, Kenya, from August 22- 26. This workshop brought together master FFS trainers, AMR experts from FAO in Kenya and Rome, and poultry specialists from academia and the Ministry of Agriculture.
This project encompasses a multi-year, longitudinal evaluation that includes 10 to 15 broiler FFSs in project countries, which include Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
AMR is a complex global health threat. It is characterised by microorganisms developing resistance to antimicrobial drugs, affecting humans, animals, and the environment. This issue is driven by various factors, including drug overuse and inadequate infection control practices along the food chain. It involves stakeholders across the livestock value chain, from consumers and farmers to healthcare professionals and policymakers, whose decisions are influenced by a range of factors.
The FFS approach:
To effectively address AMR, comprehensive interventions are imperative. The FFS method, pioneered by FAO in the late 1980s, offers significant potential in agriculture. FFS promotes adult-centred learning and knowledge exchange through group problem-solving. Farmers gather regularly at a demonstration farm under the guidance of trained facilitators to analyse their production ecosystem, identify challenges, and experiment with alternative practices.
The success of the FFS evaluation hinges on the coordinated implementation of FFS across Fleming Fund project countries. FAO is spearheading this effort through a comprehensive training programme, which includes training 18 FFS facilitators in FFS fundamentals, with a specific focus on broiler production over three weeks.
There will also be an intensive eight-week training for six master FFS trainers from the same group to train broiler FFS facilitators within their respective counties.
The initiative also involves the development of a standardised broiler FFS curriculum intended for use in participating countries, along with the implementation of a full-cycle of a broiler farmer field school at Pwani University.
“This collaborative effort with Pwani University represents a significant step towards combatting AMR in agriculture in Kenya and the broader region. By fostering responsible practices and promoting knowledge sharing, we aim to develop a sustainable solution to this pressing global issue,” said Dr Charles Bebay, regional manager for ECTAD Eastern and Southern Africa, during the graduation ceremony for FFS Facilitators.
“We are committed to continued collaboration with the FAO to scale up the Farmer Field School approach to strengthen biosecurity and encourage responsible antimicrobial use in farming communities,” Prof Hemedi Mkuzi Saha, dean of School of Agricultural Sciences and Agribusiness at Pwani University added.
The FFS training approach incorporates several innovative frameworks, including methods and insights from behavioural science, enabling the training team to gain deeper insights into the diverse challenges farmers encounter beyond conventional knowledge and economic constraints when applying FFS lessons to their agricultural practices.