Research shows that farmers need a set of five core skills to connect effectively and sustainably to markets. These skills are strengthened through the CRS SMART Skills curriculum. Our ICT4Ag Suite of ICT tools facilitates delivery of this training at scale.
What skills do smallholder farmers need to succeed? We studied this question with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Agroenterprise Learning Alliance.
The research revealed that farmers who live in the poorest areas around the world were all trying to acquire the same five skills* to: Work Effectively in Groups, Save, Access and Manage Finances, Sustainably Increase Production, Engage with Markets, and Innovate. We call them Skills for Marketing and Rural Transformation (SMART Skills).
Traditional development interventions often focus on helping farmers strengthen their capacity in just one skill at a time. In contrast, our SMART Skills approach aims to strengthen all the skills farmers need to create effective and sustainable linkages to markets.
The SMART Skills can be layered, sequenced, and delivered according to context to strengthen the capacity of farmers—both men and women—to link with markets and manage their resources.
THE SMART SKILLS CURRICULUM
CRS created the curriculum with the support of 132 practitioners from 19 organizations and 12 countries. These partners helped us to develop, test and refine the modules.
The SMART Skills curriculum has also been endorsed by the Technical and Operational Performance Support (TOPS) program, funded by USAID/Food for Peace.
Each module has four parts:
- Lessons that provide the necessary technical information and guidance on delivery methods that field agents should use to teach the SMART Skills to farmers
- Quizzes for field agents to test their own knowledge
- Staff exercises that give field agents the opportunity to practice their skills
- Field exercises to use when training farmers
TRAINING TOOLKITS FOR EACH CURRICULUM
- Introduction to the SMART Skills for Rural Development
- Organizing and Managing Farmers’ Groups
- Facilitating Savings and Internal Lending Communities
- Understanding Natural Resources
- Managing Natural Resources
- Marketing Basics
- The Seven Steps of Marketing
- Promoting Innovation
- Financial Education
INTEGRATION IN THE CRS ICT4Ag SUITE
We developed the CRS ICT4Ag Suite of ICT tools to facilitate large-scale capacity strengthening. The suite consists of:
- The SMART Skills e-learning modules, which provide instruction in the five skills that farmers need to increase production, income, and effective market engagement.
- The Profitability Assessment Tool, which allows registration of farmers, field mapping, and helps CRS and partner agriculture staff analyze costs, production, and revenue with farmers to increase profitability. Assessment of SMART Skill competencies can also be integrated so that capacity building can be tailored and evaluated. The software supports collection of comprehensive data which can be analyzed in PowerBI to generate reports which can be used for donor reporting and to facilitate participatory analysis for farmer coaching.
The components work together to promote holistic development for transformative and sustainable results.
SMART Skills are valuable contributors to CRS’ portfolio of agriculture projects and are being applied in projects in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The curriculum is often central to our resilience and development food security programs including in Ethiopia, Malawi, and Guatemala. We continue to refine the approach and are now integrating a Competency Model to modularize courses to be tailored to local needs and to facilitate evaluation of behavior change.
For more information about the SMART Skills, contact [email protected].
Learn more about our work in sustainable growth and capacity strengthening for agriculture.
* J. Ashby et al., “Preparing Groups of Poor Farmers for Market Engagement: Five Key Skill Sets,” in Innovations as Key to the Green Revolution in Africa: Exploring the Scientific Facts, ed. Andre Bationo et al. (New York: Springer, 2011), 103–11.