- Technical assistance helps producers understand and use new technology and methods.
- It may be necessary to train technical specialists who can then go on to train farmers in more productive and sustainable agriculture.
- Technical specialists should draw up a step-by-step plan with producers and pay regular visits to the farm or facility.
In many cases, farmers can increase productivity through using different methods such as agroforestry systems or crop rotation. For other supply chains, boosting productivity will depend on using new technology such as seeds, chemicals or machinery. Farmers will need technical assistance to help make these changes effectively.
Technical assistance will be designed to help farmers increase productivity in the most sustainable way, following environmental and social Codes of Conduct. These are designed to align with the minimum requirements of other common schemes such as organic or sustainable certification schemes.
1. Who will carry out the technical assistance?
Sustainable landscape initiatives will need to engage partner organisations with experience and interest in carrying out the training. The availability of such organisations is a major consideration while considering supply chains’ overall viability. If an intervention needs technical assistance, and it seems difficult to find appropriate experts, the intervention may be impossible to implement.
In many cases, it will be difficult to find an expert who is knowledgeable about both improving productivity and the specific sustainability criteria to be followed. In many cases, these technical assistance providers will need to be trained before they can go on to train farmers.
It is much easier to connect with farmers if they are organised in cooperatives or other producer organisations. Cooperatives often have several technical experts such as engineers and agronomists which can help disseminate new methods and help them meet the Codes of Conduct. Alternatively, cooperatives may hire an external expert to help them. This model is commonly used by certification schemes.
2. Funding training
Unless a training programme can generate revenues, private investors are unlikely to fund it. Moreover, it is likely that farmers will need technical assistance the most during the first few years of the transition, precisely when they do not yet have the funds to pay for the service.
This means that technical assistance may initially need to be funded by grants or other funds that complement payments from the farmer. For instance, cooperatives and local government might be interested and able to contribute with a proportion of these costs. In addition, some companies may be able to fund this, including companies providing inputs such as fertiliser or companies with offtake agreements for the produce.
3. Baseline assessment of producers
This may involve technical expert visiting farms and considering various issues, including:
Whether the land is registered with the government.
Current farming practices.
Compliance with current conservation laws.
How the farmers can adapt to meet specific Codes of Conduct for the supply chains they are working in.
Using this information, the technical specialist will work with the producer to design an environmental and agricultural management plan, which includes annual milestones.
4. Regular visits
Over the course of the transition period, the technical specialist will visit the farms regularly to provide further training and assistance.