Issues of sustainability of the approach
The design of the ERI approach supports sustainability on a farmer-group level, as the development process is owned and led by farmers. Local committees of elected group members coordinate the monitoring and evaluation, experimentation, market studies and enterprise development. The key actors, once equipped with relevant skills and knowledge, remain active after the supporting organisations have withdrawn.
The risk that farmer groups stop following ERI principles after experiencing all learning sessions can be decreased by prolonged mentoring periods and strengthening the groups to help them become more independent, e.g. through group savings and credit schemes, strong leadership structures and skills, assigning farmer trainers for group mentoring, and linking them with nearby ERI groups so that they can exchange experiences and form producer associations or cooperatives.
Sustainability in the sense that relevant organisations can continue to support ERI farmer groups is increased by including several persons in each supporting organisation (e.g. programme officers) and in potential cooperating organisations (e.g. savings and credit cooperatives, research institutions) in the CDF training. If these stakeholders have a good understanding of farmers’ capacities, the ERI approach and participatory extension approaches in general, they can cooperate better with ERI farmer groups.