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Training for Transformation helps farmers make agricultural change

September 29, 2006

By Kiriyo Spooner, Hesperian staff

Front cover of Training for Transformation The Health and Empowerment Bookshelf has recently added a title which has particular resonance for many of us – Training for Transformation.

“Oh, my gosh — We used that book!” our Business Manager, Perry Sakai, recalled as he saw me unpacking a box. Perry worked with World Concern in northern Laos in the 1990s. “We had a copy of a copy. This looks much nicer than the faded photocopies we used to train community workers.”

The upland farmers Perry worked with practiced slash-and-burn agriculture, where an area was cleared and planted for two years. Then the whole community moved to new fields while allowing the others to rest and recover for the next 15 years. But these methods were being squeezed by development and increasing population, to the point where fallow land was being re-used every 3 to 5 years, making it far less productive. “They knew what was going on,” Perry recalled, “but they had been doing the same things for centuries” and weren’t keen on making a change.

In situations like this, all too often aid workers come in and try to dictate change. But solutions will not work unless people make and embrace the changes themselves, usually basing their decisions not just on agricultural efficiency but on social and cultural factors as well. Training for Transformation helped them “introduce new concepts by animating the knowledge people already had.” The farmers assessed the situation, identified areas for improvement and change, implemented the changes, and reviewed their progress, using the “Learning Cycle” pattern identified in the book, as they gradually shifted to intensive gardening, orchards, and terrace gardening.

Perry remains to this day an enthusiastic supporter of the Freirian training methods championed in this book. Training for Transformation “equips people to be able to work with change.”

Hesperian is making the original 3 volumes of Training for Transformation available as a set, plus offering the new Volume 4 workbook. For information on how to order these classics, please click here.