Implementing an FSC requires a well functioning, visionary organisation from national to community level. This is important for planning the process and monitoring achievements, and for providing consistent supervision and support to the FSCs at field level. Training materials are key to successful implementation as technical study materials support the FSCs with new information and learning. Staff and FSC organisers are guided through an implementation manual.
The capacity and selection of FSC organisers is critical. Field experience (6) shows that communities tend to select FSC organisers based on their good behaviour, citing criteria such as good literacy level, model farmer, sober, trustworthy, honest, and hardworking.
The FSC organisers are trained in:
- mobilising and forming FSCs
- orienting FSC leaders in conducting sessions and facilitating active group participation and learning
- monitoring, supervising, and supporting FSCs.
Training and facilitation
Farmer study circles have few expenses. At the community level, FSCs are based on voluntary participation by both the FSC leader and the participants. An FSC may require external technical support; for example, FSCs in Africa use the links and networks of farmer organisations and government extension services to obtain technical support. The training of FSC organisers requires a venue and support logistics including transport, accommodation, an implementation manual, stationery, and meals. From the experience in southern Africa, training costs range from US$120–150 per FSC organiser established. One study circle organiser will typically manage 5–10 FSCs each with an average of 10 members. An organiser managing more than five groups will need support for transport. In Africa, a good bicycle typically costs about US$85–90.
Production and maintenance of training materials
The most common format used is a printed booklet. There will be costs for writing the text, illustrations, graphic design, and printing. In southern Africa, developing and printing 2,000 copies of a booklet will cost in the range US$6–10 per book. As the writing and layout are a one-off expense, reprinting is less expensive, at approximately US$3–5 per book. If an FSC organiser works with 10 FSCs, each with 10 participants, the approximate annual cost of starting and running an FSC is as low as US$4–6 per participant.
To date, FSCs have mostly used written materials, so it is important that participants are literate. However, this isn’t always the case, and the FSC leader must be able to accommodate illiterate participants. Materials must be easy to read and presented in the local language. Discussions must include all participants and bring out their experiences and concrete solutions to problems.