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Cost for ERI projects vary considerably with the number of farmer groups and the distance between these groups and where CDFs are based. In most ERI projects, salaries of CDFs, overhead costs of implementing partners, travel by CDFs to the field, mentoring sessions and exposure visits of farmer groups (e.g. market studies, field days) constitute the major costs. Other costs to be considered are for training materials (ERI facilitator’s manual and charts), CDF training and mentoring (about six weeks’ group training by ERI trainers) and operational costs of the supporting NGOs and their implementing partners.

A set of training materials costs about €250. Costs for training and mentoring one CDF range from €1500 to €2000. Facilitating and then mentoring one farmer group (15–25 members) in all ERI modules and crosscutting issues over a 2-year period costs between €1850 and €4300 in HORIZONT3000’s ERI East Africa Project.

Strengths and weaknesses

The greatest strength of the ERI approach is the visioning at the onset of the process in combination with resource-based planning, while the PM&E module enables farmers to track progress towards their goals. This combination leads to a demand-driven development process. Farmer groups build on existing resources and develop enterprises suited to their specific needs and the local context.

Another strength is that farmers gain knowledge and skills that can be applied not only for one specific crop or livestock species, but for a broad range of agro-enterprises. Farmers develop a business-oriented mind-set and, by giving explicit attention to sustainability issues, they learn to balance production, natural resource management and food security.

A challenge in the approach is that it requires long-term commitment by the supporting organisations (e.g. about 30 training sessions followed by mentoring). Farmers also need to make a large investment of their time and labour to work through the ERI modules. For example, the module on farmer participatory research sometimes takes several seasons.

The ERI approach does not provide financial support for developing agro-enterprises. Therefore, farmer groups depend on capital from group savings and credit schemes or they must approach nearby financial institutions to seek loans. This can slow down the process of expanding their enterprises and requires them to start on a small scale, with limited profit in initial years.