The road to Rainforest Alliance certification is different for every farming community, but training is often an important component. Our team of experts support farmers and producer groups as they implement the Sustainable Agriculture Network Standard on their farms—organizing training workshops and diagnostic visits and providing training materials such as posters, manuals, videos and an online training platform. Here, the Rainforest Alliance’s technical capacity manager Reiko Enomoto shares her experience working with lead farmers in Madagascar to develop training materials for other farmers within their community.
I never imagined that the cocoa farmers we work with in Madagascar lived deep within the forest. To get to them, we drove two days by car on a very bad road. (The road didn’t really look like a road at all. It was more like a huge puddle.) Eventually, there was no more road, so we carried our luggage on our shoulders and walked for one whole day–crossing through several rivers–until we got to the farming community. Upon arrival, I discovered that there was absolutely no electricity. I knew I’d need to forget about internet (and communicating with my colleagues outside of Madagascar) until I came out of the village. I stayed in a hut made of bamboo and leaves, bathed in the river and called the forest my bathroom.
The lead farmers welcomed us with all of their hearts and were so excited about our arrival. I showed them different types of training materials that they could use to train other farmers in sustainable practices and learned that most of the local farmers cannot read or write (even in their local language). That’s when we realized that a training movie might be the best way to introduce these farmers to standards for socially, environmentally and economically viable farming. Each village has a few people with a generator and those who have a generator always have a TV. Every two weeks, these villages organize a movie night for their entire community–a training movie about Rainforest Alliance certification could fit perfectly within this system.
Together with the lead farmers, we began an incredibly amusing amateur movie production. The farmers were so excited to become movie actors and we invented a lot of interesting scenarios together. The whole village was excited about the process and we had ‘paparazzi’ throughout the movie production.
Since the cocoa movie idea was a great hit, we made short movies about vanilla and clove production, as well. By the end of the trip, we had produced 16 training videos on various themes like pest management and waste disposal. The DVDs are now with the producer groups and the crop exporters. I also produced training posters for vanilla and cloves, and a farmer booklet about cocoa. I left copies with the exporters who are willing to finance the printing and are committed to distributing them to farmers.