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Maison de la Famille Rurale (MFR, Rural Family House) in Burkina Faso

by Koita Weta Estelle, Director of the National MFR Union of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou 

Introduction

Rural Family Houses (MFRs) are alternate institutions devoted to training of the youth and adults for careers in agriculture and other occupations in Francophone countries. MFRs centres also service Farmer Organizations (OPs) and organize literacy training with the support of the National Fund for Literacy and Non Formal Education (FONAENF).

A typical MFR is a non-profit association of parents (whose children are likely to participate in the training programs) or individuals/ groups committed to the development of the rural populations and the environment. Members of MFRs are trained to take control of the ownership, design and implement actions that affect their own development. The activities of MFRs in Burkina Faso are derived from the Rural Development Strategy (RDS) and the Strategy of Accelerated Growth and Sustainable Development (SCADD). The objectives of MFRs are to:

  • Reduce the rural–urban migration by keeping young people in their homelands;
  • Promote the welfare of women;
  • Improve on the living conditions in rural areas;
  • Improve agricultural productivity;
  • Encourage and support professional and self-employment development in the youth.

MFRs provide sandwich-type programs that occur on and off training centers. The two main types of training are:

  • Long term two (2) year agricultural training targeted at the youth between 15 to 25 years old. Participants of the long term training program spend 4 days in every month at the MFR training center and the remaining training period with the family and at workplace. The long term training qualifies participants for professional and self-employment.
  • Short term thematic training on enterprises such as poultry, fattening and gardening. Short term thematic training last 3 to 6 months. Participants spend 3 days every month at the MFR training center and the remaining period in their farms.  The Short term strengthen the capacities of working adults.

Background and Context

The Union of Naam groups of Burkina Faso is a National Federation with headquarters in Ouahigouyain Northern region of Burkina Faso.  The members of the union on an exchange visit to France organized by the AFDI (French Farmers and International Development) discovered the MFRs in France in 1997. The idea was shared with the teaching staff and Board members who sponsored a second visit of members to the MFRs of Benin in June 1997 to confirm the relevance of creating MFR- type of training centers in Burkina Faso. 

The reports of the visits submitted to members of Naam groups and village communities was used to request for support from the Loire country AFDI for the establishment of two MFRs in Burkina Faso. Federations of French MFRs from Loire Atlantique and Maine-et-Loire sent two experts and conducted feasibility missions to Burkina Faso. This led to establishment of a steering committee in 1998 to coordinate the activities towards the development of MFRs in Burkina Faso.  A delegation of the committee traveled to Burkina Faso in 2000 to meet with the interlocutors and worked with Naam groups in Yako and Séguénéga to create the Yako and Séguénéga MFRs in 2001.

The National Union of Rural Family Houses (UNMFRBF) was founded in 2008 and headquartered in Ouagadougou as an umbrella organization for MFRs. Through the UNMFRBF, three new MFRs have emerged. These are MRFs of Tambaga (Eastern Region), Zabré and Diabo (Central East Region). Several projects have been developed under the MFRs initiative are being implemented. The training centers set up are operational. Teams have completed training and obtain  teaching qualifications.


Challenges Associated with the Creation of MFRs and How to Solve Them

The major challenges of MFRs are lack of supervisory staff at training centers, inadequate technical follow-up visits to farmers and limited access to technological innovations and training.

The MFRs have responded to lack of supervisory staff for training and extension through the provision of alternate pedagogy. The alternate pedagogy is a method based on a two-stage approach that devotes:

·         only 25% of all activities to "theoretical" training at the MFR centers; and

·         75% of activities the "practical" training at the family and at the workplace, or in the field.

A particular attention has been paid to the quality of linkage between practical and theoretical phases of training. Proper study planning, supervision and support to trainers at professional and family environment level have been introduced.

 MFRs face many difficulties in the performance of activities due the positive impact of MFR training on the livelihood of participants. The numbers of applicants always exceed the capacity of MFRs to deliver. To address this, the union has built the capacity of MFRs in the mobilization of resources to make the activities sustainable. MFRs primarily recruit people literate in the local language of producers who are mostly illiterate. The training is also done in the local language.

Farmer trainees often lack of support to implement small agricultural projects such as gardening. Financial institutions, for various reasons, give very little credit to farmers to meet the investment need for production activities. To address this, the UNMFRBF brings in support in the form of agricultural inputs (fertilizers and seeds). The union organizes trained people into associations or groups to enhance their credit worthiness. They are then directed to NGOs and micro-finance institutions to solicit for the necessary funding.


Factors Contributing to the Success of MFRs

Producers are mostly illiterate with low efficiency and lacked adequate means to modernize the production systems (Bako, 2011). Moreover, supervision at farmer level was low. MFRs are designed to increase productivity of the poor rural communities through training and awareness creation on good agricultural practices. This is line with one of the agricultural sector development actions within the Core Strategy “Development of the growth pillars" of the Accelerated Growth Strategy and Sustainable Development (SCADD)(MEF,2010).There is a growing appeal for the MFR program, for example in 2010 nearly 500 000 young people (15-29 years old) expressed the desire for training in agricultural production and productivity (MESS, 2010).

Another element of success of MFR is the development of training to meet the needs of specialized group of people as described in the example of women producers in Séguénéga below. In 2011, MFR workers in Séguénéga were approached by a group of women producing onions in the township. Despite the potential of the area for onion production, there was low soil fertility, poor access to water resulting in low yields while the prices of input remained high, particularly that of the seed. Out of this observation, MFRs workers and trainers proposed a training schedule that meets the expectations and address the constraints of family life of the women. The training followed the onion production cycle such that:

·         At MFR training centre, theoretical study was done for the establishment of the nursery;

·         In the field, the women practiced the knowledge acquired from the center usually with assistance from the trainer;

·         At MFR training centre, the study of soil preparation and planting was done;

·         In the field, soil preparation and planting plans were put into practice;

This approach of training that alternated periods of theoretical training at MFR training centre with practicals immediately in the field allowed for a rapid and effective adoption of technologies. This training which lasted over three months included 12 days at MFR training centre and involved 90 women divided into two groups. The community vegetable garden increased from 2 to 3 hectares. Each of the 60 women developed a land (measuring 700 m2 per woman on average) for production. Another group of 24 women grew onions on an area of 350 m2 each. 

The MFR provided women with subsidized inputs including 4 boxes of seeds and 5 bags of fertilizer (NPK) valued respectively at 110 000 FCFA and 90 000 FCFA respectively on the market.

MFRs trainers in Burkina Faso receive training on the pedagogy of alternate training and production techniques in the fields of agriculture and livestock every year under the auspices of French MFR partners. In addition, trainers have participated in a training program called "Rural Technical Animateur" that strengthens the skills of young producers in project design and management (training, production, processing and marketing).

MFRs operate in an open professional and political environment. This allows them to work with various stakeholders in agriculture, fisheries and livestock subsectors. For example, the MFR trainers have in the course of carrying out their activities, worked in close collaboration with the agents from the decentralized services of the Ministries of Agriculture and Animal Resources. 


Lessons Learned That can be Applied Elsewhere

The MFR approach is built on the idea that learning occurs at the workplace. The time dedicated to learning at the workplace constitutes a training period in the same way as the training period at MFR centres. The teaching tools and topics are provided such that they actually facilitate the connection between training the center and the work in the field. The interesting aspect of this pedagogy is that:

·         It is an efficient and rapid training system; the techniques learned are transferred immediately to the workplace.

·         It is an not an expensive system and does not require the mobilization of learners to center located far away;

·         Young people and adults can participate in the training in their greater numbers.

Considering the positive impacts of MFR training activities, application for training are received from all over Burkina Faso but it becomes increasingly difficult for the union to meet all demands. The need to establish technical and financial partnerships is increasing. This is the major factor of sustainability that needs to be addressed if the MFRs wished to pursue their participation in economic and social development of the territory.

In terms of outlook, the National Union is considering to:

·         Increase its visibility by distributing the maximum communication materials;

·         Participate in calls for projects to ensure its financial capacity and have more producers benefit from the MFR interventions;

·         Strengthen the technical and teaching capacities of the trainers;

·         Diversify these trainings; and

·         Open three new MFRs per year in other parts of the Burkina Faso.

 


References

Bako, D. (2011). Agriculture and agricultural growth funding, case of Burkina Faso. Paper presented at a the Scientific Conference «Direction et des Prospectives Agricoles et Alimentaires»

MEF (2010) Accelerated Growth Strategy and the Sustainable Development 2011-2015.  Bamako, Mali:   Ministry of Economy and Finance.

MESS (2010). Study of opportunities for the analysis of needs in terms of quantification of human resources in agribusiness. Bamako, Mali: Ministry of secondary and Higher Education

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