Meet Betelhem Adane. Betelhem is an agriculture extension agent [development agent, DA] working in Arba Minch Zuria District in southern Ethiopia. She graduated with Plant Science from Dilla University in 2016 and was assigned as a DA to Chano Dorga village in 2018, supporting farmers on general plant protection. She visits farmers’ fields, trains farmers in Farmer Training Centres (FTCs) and provides support to individual farmers who request advice on specific plant protection questions.
Betelhem began facilitating weekly cotton Farmer Field School (FFS) training in Chano Dorga in May 2019, with regular supervision from PAN Ethiopia’s field agents. The FFS gives her a chance to meet farmers more frequently and learn from them too. Basing sessions in the cotton field makes the FFS much livelier than traditional farmer training.
Betelhem explains how the cotton FFS Integrated Pest Management course for DAs helped her refresh her memory on what she learned at college. “It is always nice to see what you know in theory in practice” said Betelhem referring to the use of natural enemies for pest management. She also points out that farmers enjoy the sessions as they are run outdoors and are practical. Each farmer is free to ask questions, make jokes about the looks of insects, some were very amused when they found out that insects that they thought were attacking their crops were actually their friends! “These whole dynamics during the training make it enjoyable for me and for the farmers.”
Betelhem is one of the enthusiastic new DAs in the three new project villages. Hand lenses and the insect identification pocket guide are two items she always brings to the field when supporting FFS groups, in order to identify the insects they find during weekly Agroecosystem Analysis. Betelhem also highlights how the FFS exercises help farmers discover their surroundings, get to know which insects are beneficial and which are harmful, practice collective decision making and build social interactions. She recommends using the momentum to try the FFS approach on farmers’ other crops. Read more about our work on cotton here.