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AGRICULTURE SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT
ISSUE THREE 2016 PARTNERS
who worked as community facilitators to help
farmers take control of project activities and
ownership of research priorities.
"In selecting the community facilitators, we
made a conscious effort to identify local people
who were trusted in their communities and who
could be trained to provide the project services
under the Landcare Foundation," Mr Vock says.
"We then worked with the facilitators to identify
the best way to engage the community to create
change. That meant protocols were modified and
implemented locally, with assistance from the
network of expertise available to the facilitators
through the project."
Farmers welcomed the approach. Their
traditional production systems involved
environmentally destructive practices such as
producing charcoal from wood and the long-
term monoculture of corn. From this background,
farmers were able to use the landcare model to
rapidly diversify production into nursery trees and
vegetables within a more sustainable farming
system. New farmer groups were formed or
existing farmer groups reinvented to drive changes
to social capital.
"As groups, the farmers were provided with
opportunities to visit innovative farmers and
longstanding landcare project sites to see for
themselves what is possible," Mr Vock says.
"These 'inspirational cross visits' are a key part of
the process and they had a big impact on our
participating communities. Farmers were not
only inspired to make changes themselves but
also shared what they had learnt with other
farmers, in what is a very effective extension
process. By also involving local government and
other officials in the tours, a shared vision for the
community is built."
Gains extended beyond the productivity and
sustainability of the farms, and included renewed
trust in providers and access to government and
other services. Participating communities often
had reduced access to services or had lost trust in
service providers as a result of past conflict.
Mr Vock cites the example of an existing local
government program that seeks to promote tree
planting. He explains that before the project, this
typically involved bringing trees to the western
part of Mindanao from other areas. This was
expensive and often resulted in significant damage
to nursery trees from transport over rough roads.
As a result of landcare-based activities,
authorities with the tree-growing program were
convinced that they could help local farmers
to produce the trees, thereby reducing cost,
improving tree quality and providing local farmers
with an alternative income stream.
Importantly, these tree nursery activities
have also dramatically reduced the practice of
"The landcare-based extension model proved
successful on all three project platforms," Mr Vock
says. "Communities that were once isolated are
now proactive in accessing and tailoring services
from local government, they are selling their
vegetables in town through farmers' markets,
and these communities are now helping to train
Change was observed at all three project
sites, irrespective of the mix of social identities
among the farmers. All sites saw rapid change to
farming systems and in farmers' abilities to improve
livelihoods. There was also varying degrees
of innovation in how farmers communicated
with local government, including among
disadvantaged indigenous people who otherwise
struggle to assimilate modern power structures
with traditional practices.
"We found that communities are interested in
peaceful outcomes and attach a stigma to being
defined as a 'conflict zone' ", Mr Vock says.
"A significant finding from the project is that we
see an increase in the level of trust among different
groups of people, with the local government and
with providers of technical support. We are seeing
a capacity to work together for the common good
and a better future."
Of course, ACIAR projects have a definitive end
point. What happens to the isolated communities
then? Mr Vock says the level of satisfaction from
participating farmers and from the Landcare
Foundation is high, which augurs well for the future.
Together, they have the potential to sustain
support to the farmer groups and the means to
reach out to more farmers. The process could
become self-perpetuating, and how best to help
that happen is the main focus of the remaining
part of the ACIAR project.
The landcare model adapted for conflict-
vulnerable zones has applications more broadly
within government-based extension systems
and aid agencies working in conflict and conflict-
affected zones around the world. "There is a
huge potential for the model to be scaled out," Mr
Vock says. "We have validated that it works and
demonstrated the benefits to farmers' livelihoods,
along with the gain in social capital and trust. As
farmers who participated said, this is a model that
lets farmers know there is a world out there beyond
the conflict zone, and they can be a part of it." n
ACIAR PROJECT: ASEM/2012/063 'Improving
the methods and impacts of agricultural extension
in Western Mindanao, Philippines'
MORE INFORMATION: Mary Johnson,
A Maguindanaon farmer shows a communal coconut seed garden,
established by the Salman Farmers Association, to project staff and visitors.
Members of the project team receive training in vegetable production technologies
on a farm in Bohol. Pictured on either side of the project officer (wearing a green
shirt) are Ben-Errol Aspera (executive director of the Landcare Foundation) and Evy
Carusos (project manager). The fact that the Landcare Foundation has staff involved
in both projects provides an important synergy between ACIAR projects in the
PHOTO: EVY E CARUSOS
PHOTO: JACINTA VOCK
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