MHAC has so far established 40 Mini-Training Centres (MTCs) in different communities to provide effective and sustainable extension to small-scale farmers. Organized as community based organizations (CBOs), the MTC is an approach that empowers farmers to be trainers of other farmers in their localities. To date, more than 5,000 people have been trained at these MTCs.
The fostering of MTCs by MHAC is a response to the need to help trained Biointensive farmer community groups to continue to build their capacity post-training, and to enable them to provide extension activities to other farmers in their area, especially those who cannot afford to come to MHAC for training.
MTCs have a GROW BIOINTENSIVE demonstration site where trained members conduct weekly courses for the farmers of their community on pertinent lessons of sustainable farm development learned at MHAC. Initially this training is done with technical support from MHAC extension staff until the community becomes empowered to carry on its activities independently. These mini-centers eventually become sites for MHAC student community attachment placement for the 2-year and other longer-term course students.
MTCs organize farmer exchange visits among themselves for experience, sharing, and learning from each other to further improve their skills. They are encouraged to recognize their indigenous technical knowledge. They are also encouraged to develop internal income generation. This often involves connecting them to appropriate market outlets and/or packaging and value adding training to make their local products more competitive; and helping them explore markets for their organic produce.
MTCs provide an ideal set-up for communities to discover and further their own local potential and an opportunity to create “cooperatives” that enable them to pool their resources and compete effectively in the market place.
Other features of an MTC include:
• Empowerment of farmers with knowledge and expertise to become change agents.
• Establishment of viable and profitable income generating projects, for example bee keeping.
• Enhancement of farmers’ ability to plan, monitor and evaluate farm enterprise.
• Farmers sourcing for subject matter specialists in particular topics of their interest.
• Gained vision to organize the communities into cooperatives in order to increase the farmers’ bargaining power for their products.
• Exposure of farmers to a variety of knowledge from different development agents in the community.
MHAC endeavors to share experiences in various ways, for instance through offering attachment placement for students from other training institutions, colleges and universities both local and international. The Centre has had students from the U.S.A., Netherlands, U.K., South Africa, Rwanda, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Tanzania, Chad, Canada, and others.
MHAC exhibition at ASK show in Kitale
MHAC Permanent stand at the Agricultural Society of Kenya Show (ASK)
Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) Show exhibitions have been very effective as one mode of information dissemination about MHAC’s activities. MHAC has continued to exhibit annually at its stand within the ASK Show grounds in Kitale and always wins several awards: 15 prizes for the Best Social Organization stand; five prizes for a stand that best interpreted the show theme; 4 four prizes for best Institute of higher learning stand; one for Most Striking Stand; and many prizes for dairy/farm products and life stock including pigs, poultry, and rabbits.
Graduates of MHAC’s programmes work independently with farmers throughout Kenya. Over 100 NGOs have been registered by graduates who have made a profession of farmer-training in Biointensive skills. MHAC graduates operate as grassroots, bottom-up agents of change, typically starting by bringing the poorest of the poor farmers up to subsistence level and then beyond. Many of these effective MHAC alumni teams are delighted to show those expressing interest the empirical results of the farmers with whom they work who have converted from conventional practices to Biointensive methods. By “growing” fertile soil, the farmers are increasing production, providing more nutrition for their families, selling excess crops at market, and saving the cost of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It is estimated that over a million farmers have been directly or indirectly trained by MHAC and its graduates.