Our Community Agricultural Support Officers (CASOs) provide training and guidance to farmers
Once we began working with communities to develop their agricultural skills and understanding, we soon realised the demand for our programmes and training.
Our pilot programme had already proved impactful, so we decided to advertise in the community for secondary school leavers with an interest in agriculture.
From a raft of applicants, we selected four candidates from three different communities. We then sent them on a two-year residential training course, where they gained the skills and understanding to become Community Agricultural Support Officers (CASOs).
Our key reasons for training our own CASOs were to:
- ensure that MCDO had the resources to scale up the Smallholder Farmer Training Programme
- allow additional training topics to be added to the programme, such as feeding and wellbeing of livestock
- provide a resource within the community to assist with advice, guidance and emergency livestock care
- assist schools with their market gardens and support teachers to teach the students
Having completed their training, three of our CASOs are now working in their communities, providing training and guidance to farmers, households and schools.
Our fourth CASO assists in four different communities and is responsible for running our Edible Garden project. He also manages our demonstration garden at the office.
We knew that having our own CASOs could be greatly beneficial to the delivery of our work and to the communities we work with. And, as expected, their impact has been instantaneous.
As soon as the CASOs were introduced to their community leaders, they were in high demand as they began to provide training and advice to farmers and households. They are now the first port of call for any livestock and crop-growing queries, releasing the burden on the ward agricultural officers and the town vet.
The teachers at the schools now have a point of contact to discuss their market gardens, helping them plan their yearly activities to get the very best from the land.
We have also found that this approach has hugely enhanced the trust and respect communities have for LTT - simply because the CASOs have come from those communities to begin with.