Signboards: A Valuable Tool for Knowledge Transfer
Crop demonstration plots, set up by key farmers in their fields, are a core East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation approach. They present an opportunity for area farmers to observe new techniques—and to see firsthand the results of adopting improved farming methods. Training events held by EWS-KT field staff at demo sites also provide farmers with hands-on, practical experience in implementing new practices.
But there is another way for farmers to learn EWS-KT techniques at demo sites: signboards. Not only do these engaging outdoor signs alert area farmers and curious passersby to the presence of a learning opportunity, but they also serve as excellent knowledge transfer tools in and of themselves.
What’s on a Signboard?
The signboard posted at a demo plot presents technical information about growing the crop on display. Signboards are, in essence, a bigger version of the crop guides available on the EWS-KT GrowHow site. In developing the crop guides and signboards, EWS-KT staff work with farmers to determine the essential information they need in order to implement the recommended techniques. Signboards typically cover field layout, seedling production, transplantation, fertilization, and crop protection, including integrated pest management. Numerous visuals complement the text to make the material easier for farmers to understand.
Farmers Learning on Their Own
Paschal Athanas, a young farmer in northern Tanzania, has impressed other farmers with his cucumber demo plot, but he is not always there to answer visiting farmers’ questions. “Many farmers visiting my field learn and understand from the signboard, even in my absence,” Paschal reported.
Signboards at demo plots are positioned for maximum visibility, and their large size and colorful design attract attention. Soon after Mganga Togolai, a Technical Field Officer with EWS-KT Tanzania, helped a key farmer install a technical signboard at his tomato demo, a group of passersby on bicycles stopped to find out what was happening.
“We started to explain to them what is in the signboard,” Mganga said, “and they promised to make timely visits to the demo and to tell their fellow farmers this good news.”
Using Signboards for Training
Signboards posted at demo plots can also serve as learning tools during in-field trainings by EWS-KT field staff. In the first two photos below, Technical Field Officers in Uganda provide theoretical training on crop protection, using the signboard to highlight some pests and diseases to look out for. Going over the information shown on the signboard also enables Technical Field Officers to explain crop protection treatment tables or anything else that farmers might find confusing. In the third photo, Nigerian farmers learn about field layout.
Whether they convey information on their own or in concert with field staff and key farmers, signboards are a highly effective way for EWS-KT to share farming knowledge.
Opportunities for Growth
At EWS-KT, we are always looking for ways to increase our effectiveness, and that extends to signboards. We recently assessed farmers’ understanding of the signboards and were pleased to see that most farmers understood the information displayed. However, we found that the crop protection tables presented some challenges. These tables show pests and diseases and indicate the appropriate active ingredient for prevention or treatment. Interpreting the tables can be complicated for farmers if they encounter the signboards on their own.
Another opportunity for improvement lies in ensuring the inclusion of women farmers during the development of crop guides and signboards. Our 2022 study of women farmers made us more aware of their needs and perspectives, and gaining input and feedback from both male and female farmers will help our extension materials reach the widest audience.