In West Africa, volunteer “animators” lead communities in learning

In West Africa, volunteer “animators” lead communities in learning

In FRB’s West Africa 1 program, volunteer “indigenous animators” are 15 program participants who have taken on a larger role in making sure that training -- on appropriate farming techniques and village savings and loan practices -- actually takes hold among their peers. Over time, as the number of West Africa 1 participants has grown, the trained animators have taken on more of a leadership role. They lead meetings and trainings for community groups and follow up to make sure participants understand and are able to use the information in their daily lives.

They visit other villages to promote formation of community groups, and guide those interested on how to form a group, develop group rules, run meetings and begin saving money together. In time, these newly formed groups have requested to join SEL's program so that they too can benefit from trainings, exchange visits and access to larger loans.

The animators have made it possible for the program to include more groups without having to increase staff. Programming staff has developed a monthly animator training curriculum on new topics and has devised a simpler, more effective reporting format for the animators to use. Trainings include analyzing a community’s resources, planning out a farm, water and soil conservation, and other sustainable agriculture techniques.

The new reporting format and process improve on the previous technique of asking each individual group member every quarter. It used to take a long time to collect the data, and was often too complicated for the animators to analyze on their own, making much of the data gathered unhelpful to them.

The new reporting forms have images to point to so that illiterate farmers or those who speak another language can readily understand and reply. Also, when participants are asked questions by the animator they respond by putting color-coded beads in a bag, allowing them to save face if their answer might not be well perceived by the others in the group.

So, for example, the indigenous animators show the two images to the left and ask “Did you put something into practice that you learned from the training on raising poultry?” Participants then respond with a green bead if they did and a red bead if they did not. The animators can then ask follow up questions about what they put into practice, what stood in the way of adopting new methods, and more. The presence and interest of the animators encourage people to keep trying, and turn the reporting processes into a time of learning and reinforcing ideas taught during the trainings.

One indigenous animator noted, “We found the reporting a bit difficult at first, and it took the groups time to get used to this method, but they've already told us that they really like it. One reason is that their answers are anonymous now.”

Local program staff feels encouraged by the change, saying, “We are all learning together about the importance of following up with groups, and doing it in a more constructive way. Our hope is that this will lead to even better programming.”

West Africa 1 encompasses 55 communities, 2000 households, and 14,000 individuals. For security reasons, identifiers of country and local partner are withheld from this report and all names are changed.

02/27/2014 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment