COMACO develops trust and loyalty with its member farmers by providing high-quality extension services that build self-reliance in providing their own services. This approach encourages local farmer cooperatives to take on greater responsibility. Progress in supporting this approach has reduced the annual support cost per farmer from $25 to $16 while maintaining high farmer impact on yields, food security and increased incomes.
Key elements of COMACO’s farmer support include:
Local trainers are trained and organized into three levels of lead farmers: Group, Senior and Principal Lead Farmers. With a total workforce of over 1700, these lead farmers support a year-round training and farmer compliance to a farm calendar of recommended practices to 167,400 registered farmers. This allows COMACO to improve adoption rates of recommended farming practices on a large scale fot increased yields, crop diversification, and more efficient aggregation of crops to facilitate markets.
Farmer schools and Demonstration farms bring farmers together to share experiences, showcase best practices, and reinforce community understanding of the COMACO “deal” to access market benefits and the skills and practices COMACO recommends. A training manual, called the Better Life Book, supports these schools and covers such topics as soil management, agroforestry, crop management, composting, beekeeping, poultry husbandry, nutrition, family health and much more.
Radio broadcast training and information services. COMACO Farm Talk airs 3 times a week to over 1.2 million listeners in local language. These one-hour programs motivate, inspire and educate farmers by listening to their peers on what they have learned and achieved and to technical experts who explain the technology in terms that farmers can understand. It also offers formal courses aired on radio with certificates upon successful completion of examinations.
Farmer cooperatives represent COMACO’s future. Though the process will take time, they are learning how to provide the needed organization and management for sustaining long-term community commitment to the COMACO mission. COMACO believes in a few years cooperatives will be managing their own farmer input shops, their extension staff of lead farmers, local seed growers to maintain low cost quality seeds for their members, loan/credit service to members, and strategic leadership on a whole range of conservation issues in their area.