October 10, 2014

Training farmers in Africa

Africa holds the greatest potential for increased agricultural productivity, but to get there the infrastructure, accessible markets, necessary equipment and knowledge need to be in place. The latter is an issue Yara takes seriously.
training farmers in Africa
training farmers in Africa

Dar Es Salaam, literally translates into “Harbor of peace”, and it is both the largest and the most important city in Tanzania – being the financial hub of the region. The coastal town also includes the location of Yara Tanzania, and one of the company’s most important terminals for fertilizer distribution.

As part of Yara’s tasks, training farmers is one that Yara agronomists do not take lightly. Knowing that usage of fertilizer always include application knowledge, the Business Unit Africa Agronomy Workshop took place on September 9-11 in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

Approaching farmers the right way

Eleven agronomists from five countries representing Yara units, joined together to learn, discuss and develop an understanding of the diversity of agriculture within their respective countries.

The event started with an Agronomy Update from Yara’s Agronomic Competence and Training Director Barry Bull and Regional Agronomist Sub-Saharan Africa, Dirk Schröder, presenting “How to make a Yara Crop Nutrition program", including the use and interpretation of soil and plant analysis results.

The important realization that, without guidelines, analysis is useless, triggered an in-depth discussion about the essential information required to develop a fertilizer program and when a soil or plant analysis result can be useful or a requirement.

"Yara's Crop Nutrition approach and the concepts behind it are an integral part of how we expect a Yara Agronomist to approach a farmer. This was the basis for lively discussion during the workshop with all participants actively taking part,” Barry said.

A key learning was that when asking a farmer to change their practices, it is important to understand the farmer's needs and put in place changes that the farmer can understand and accept. “Sometimes it takes a few seasons to implement the full range of changes that are needed and the role of the Yara Agronomist Is to help the farmer through these steps," he concluded.

“My best demonstration trial”

A positive development evident from the reports is the reduction of the number of demonstration trials in favor of a smaller number of targeted and meticulously managed and harvested demonstrations.

The “My best demonstration trial” presentations showed impressive results from the agronomists’ daily field work convincing farmers how a Yara fertilizer program can offer substantially higher yields and profits.

“We were pleased to see that most presentations included a cost-benefit analysis. The participants had been asked to bring samples of the leaflets used in their regions as well as prepare a list of other marketing tools used,” Dirk said. "There was a lively discussion about the pros and cons, and why one method can be efficient provided a cross pollination of ideas."

“Our ambitious growth targets and goal to make Yara the leading fertilizer company, also in Africa, requires agronomic expertise, a good understanding of farmers’ needs and the ability to develop and sell commercially successful solutions,” Dirk emphasized. “It’s a key role Yara agronomists have to fill. During the workshop the Africa agronomy team showed great engagement and took an important step ahead.”