SIRDI is a Research and Development Institute in the Belize Sugar Industry with more than 5000 registered farmers. It is actively engaged in developing innovative, environmentally sustainable production technologies and disseminating these eco-friendly systems to the farming community.
The large group of farmers makes outreach programs complex. SIRDI has found that the Farmer Field School (FFS) program, a hands on approach, is extremely effective at building capacity and exciting farmers about substituting old inefficient practices with new technologies. SIRDI is embarking on a new partnership with Hershey’s who is contributing 250,000 USD to its Farmer Field School through its Learn to Grow Program.
SIRDI is enthusiastic about this new partnership as it will highlight to farmers the linkage between producing high quality sustainable sugar cane and high end products such as Hershey’s chocolates.
The SIRDI Farmer Field School Perspective
The Farmer Field School is implemented by SIRDI’s highly trained extension team in 6 geographical zones in the northern sugar belt. The team selects 6 accessible and visible field plots belonging to participating farmers in the areas. The team recruits and registers 25 farmers per site and evaluates their current practices to establish a base line.
The FFS program commences in December of each year and runs for a period of 24 months following the crop cycle. The farmer students attend 11 hands-on field sessions that cover best practices in Sugar Cane Cultivation.
Throughout the program the participating farmers are monitored for the practices they conduct in their own fields to determine the adoption rate along with the cost benefit analysis.