Dairy Learning Lab in East Africa

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As a volunteer for PUM (www.PUM.nl) in 2015 I was asked to participate in training trainers and farmers in Dairy Learning labs (DLL). The format of these DDL.s is developed by Agriprofocus (www.Agriprofocus.nl) and consist ideally of a two day workshop with a farm visit in the morning and theoretical part in the afternoon to discuss the specifics of the farm and share knowledge about the topic of the Learning lab. Commenting and adding to the manuals and information farmers use is another task in the Diary learning labs. Gathering all information and uploading it is the third aim of the DLL (https://agriprofocus.com/topic/dll_toolkit?topic=dll-toolkit ). Topics of the learning labs has been feed and feeding, fodder production, harvest and storage, dairy breeds, breeding and reproduction, animal health and treatments, animal welfare, farm economics, record keeping, water conservation and greenhouse gas emission.

Participants generally are willing to learn and share their knowledge and experiences with their colleagues and are challenged to ask question to the trainer. The moto is: there is only one stupid question and that is the question you don’t ask, when you should have done. Majority of farmers participating are smallholder farmers with a mixed farm and 1 or 2 dairy cows. The milk is for the household and a surplus is sold in the village. In some areas farmer groups have a milk collection center and the milk is collected by a milk processor. Some are in the board of farmer ‘ s organizations or cooperatives and will spread the knowledge they gather between the members.  Advisers, technicians, veterinarians and governmental officers are a minority in the dairy learning labs, but they might reach a larger circle around them.

Sometimes the costs of the DLL are payed by a project or sponsored by an organization, sometimes the farmers pay a fee to participate and sometimes participants get payed to be there, or get the transport cost refunded.  Handouts are available (when needed in the local language) and normally there is tea with breakfast in the morning and a good lunch in the afternoon.

For organizing a dairy Learning lab, the Agriprofocus office in the country try to find a co-organizer and spread info about the content of the lab and the dates via local media and internet. Local organizers find host farmers and venues for the workshop and arrange food and the transport to the host farms if necessary. Venues can be fancy hotels but also a room on a farm or even a tourist shop or a bar. In any room where 25 – 30 people can be and preferably sheets  can be shown or flipcharts or blackboard can be used, it is possible to have a workshop. Most important is that attendants feel well and a good atmosphere can be created with trust and people can listen to each other. And that I as a trainer can ‘reach’ all participants and be able to ask them questions about their farm and experiences. And if there is space, groupwork can be incorporated.   

My dairy learning labs so far were very divers and didn’t all meet the format: one or three day workshops, no farm visits, seven farm visits on one day. The organizers adapt with great creativity and  flexibility to the local conditions. And mostly it works well, although farmers miss visiting a colleagues farm when the farm visit is omitted. From March 2015 – May 2018 as can be seen from the table,  38 dairy learning labs are held, in 4 different countries and with almost 900 participants and 31 co-organizers. It is amazing to see that within an hour farmers start asking each other questions and tell their experiences, so all participants can learn. Exchanging information might be the start of working together, a way to improve farming and conditions. 

Farmers like the approach and they really appreciate to be invited to the farms of their colleagues and learn in an easy way. Although the farming conditions in East African are completely different from those in the Netherlands, farmers are very similar: they need inspiring colleagues, they want to see examples and they like to develop the farm. The Dairy Learning Labs inspired Agriprofocus to start also Poultry Learning Labs.   

Dairy learning labs in East Africa in 2015 – 2018

Country

Period

Location

Topic

Attended

 

Uganda

2015

Kampala

Feeding dairy animals

15

 

Zambia

March

Chisamba

Feeding dairy animals

21

 

Tanzania

June

Tengeru

Health & Repro

15

 

Zambia

 

Kasisi

Health & Repro

28

 

Uganda

 

Mbarara

Health & Repro

13

 

Tanzania

Nov

Tanga

Feeding dairy animals

23

 

 

 

Pangani

Feeding dairy animals

36

 

 

 

Tengeru

Feeding dairy animals

13

 

 

 

Arusha

Feeding dairy animals

27

 

Rwanda

2016

Nyagatare

Feeds, breeds, calculations

34

 

Zambia

March

Monze

Feeding and Water Harvesting

15

 

 

 

Namwala

Question/answer session

20

 

 

 

Lusaka

Dairy Economics, feeding

32

 

 

 

Luanchya

Cow Health and Artificial Insemination

25

 

Rwanda

Nov

Rwamagana

Feeding, reproduction, economics

42

 

Tanzania

 

Bubale

Grasses, feed, soil, storage feed

34

 

 

 

Kihanga 2*

Grass, feeding, soil, cooperation

14 + 28

 

 

Dec

Kahororo

Feed, conservation, fertility, breeds, calculations

15

 

Rwanda

2017

Rwamagana

Feeding, breeding, economics

34

 

 

March

Gicumbi

Feeding, breeding, economics

40-83

 

Tanzania

April

Bukoba

Animal welfare, feeding

22

 

 

 

Kihanga

Idem + animal health

10

 

 

 

LITA

Management, milk quality

38

 

 

 

Bunazi

Animal welfare, feeding, health, reproduction

13

 

 

 

Rungwe

Feeding, health, milkquality

32

 

Tanzania

2018

Lyamungo

Feed, mastitis, fertility

30

 

 

March

Nronga

Feed, mastitis, fertility

21

 

 

 

Kalari

Feed, mastitis, fertility

28

 

 

 

Marukeni

Feed, mastitis, fertility

23

 

 

May

Bunazi 2*

Feeding, breeding, heat detection, reproduction

29 + 34

 

 

 

Kiziba 2*

Idem

24 +23

 

 

 

Nshamba

Idem

12

 

 

 

Kyerwa

Idem

29

 

 

 

Nyaishozi

Idem

34

 

 

 

Mramba

Idem

11

 

 

 

Bukoba

Idem

11