FAO Launches New Online Course To Capacitate Poultry Farmer Field School Facilitators And Master Trainers

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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) through its Virtual Learning Centre for Southern Africa (SFS-VLC) recently launched an online course to strengthen the capacity of farmer field school (FFS) facilitators and master trainers in Zambia and Zimbabwe to prepare and run quality poultry-focused FFS.

The course will broaden their knowledge and skills in FFS facilitation in poultry production and health and in approaches to promote prudent antimicrobial use and raise awareness on antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The course was developed by a multidisciplinary team from different FAO branches, including the Animal Production and Health Division, the Food Systems and Food Safety Division, the Global Farmer Field School Platform, and FAO country offices in Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The FAO Subregional Office for Eastern Africa, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), FAO Niger and the University of Nebraska – Lincoln also contributed with relevant technical content for the course.

A total of 47 participants (18 women and 29 men) drawn from trained FFS facilitators from Zambia and Zimbabwe, are enrolled in the course. Participants are attending the course from either their smartphones or laptops, making the course accessible to personnel working in remote areas of the two countries. This course will be rolled out over six weeks.

In this course, participants have access to learning materials mainly in the form of videos and images on the course web page. They will also interact with experts on poultry production, FFS, and AMR in an interactive discussion forum and live sessions, including live presentations and group discussions.

An opportunity for raising awareness on antimicrobial use and antimicrobial resistance

Areas covered in the training include principles and characteristics of family poultry production and poultry FFS; planning and designing FFS activities on poultry in collaboration with participating producers; key technical information on poultry production and health such as good practices in animal husbandry, biosecurity and those promoting food safety.

In addition, the course emphasizes the importance of AMR, its potential impacts on-farm productivity and the welfare of people and their animals, as well as the underlying drivers of AMR, such as poor biosecurity and antimicrobial use.

“The capacity built through this training will contribute significantly to improving production and productivity of smallholder poultry, leading to better food security, nutrition, reduced threats to human health as well as reduced poverty.

Informed citizenry and farmers are crucial to the realization of livestock and crop production that meets international trade standards in both quantity and quality,” said Patrice Talla, FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for Southern Africa during the opening webinar for the launch of the course.

Through education and empowerment of family poultry producers, the FFS approach strengthens knowledge of holistic agroecosystem management, improves decision-making skills and facilitates collaboration and collective action. The approach enables family poultry producers to develop more efficient and sustainable production systems, while improving their capacities to face challenges, including the rise of antimicrobial resistance.

“Poultry FFS master trainers and facilitators can enable sustainable changes in practices and behaviours that lead to safer and higher-quality animal-source foods, higher profits, and ultimately limit the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance in family poultry systems,” said Keith Sumption, FAO Chief Veterinary Officer and Leader of Animal Health Programme.

The world over, face-to-face training and meetings have become challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The choice of a virtual platform, in particular, the Virtual Learning Centre for Southern Africa, to host the delivery of this course has been instrumental in filling the training gap created by movement restrictions as part of preventing and controlling the pandemic.

Currently the course is covering Zambia and Zimbabwe as a starting point. Efforts will be made to establish collaborations for the rollout of the training in other countries in the region and beyond. Emphasis will be placed on the trained personnel to go out and make use of the skills gained to cascade knowledge and to facilitate FFS that will lead to more profitable and sustainable enterprises, healthier animals, and address the emergence and spread of AMR. The concept of FFS can be applied to other animal species to address production and health issues.

Financial support for the training was provided from the Fleming Fund of the United Kingdom, the MARS Global Food Safety Center and from the sub-project “Delivering capacity building and country support in the context of COVID-19 crisis using regional Virtual Learning Centres”, under the MDF project.