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Building an Integrated 5 Skill Sets Curriculum and Training Schedule

posted May 26, 2011, 12:11 PM by Andrea Bohn
     by Catholic Relief Services  
The key approach for strengthening capacity of smallholder farmers for market engagement is the combination of the five skill sets. Each skill strengthens a specific capability that complements and reinforces one or more of the other skill sets. The building of an integrated 5 skill set curriculum requires good planning that fully involves the community in assessing their assets so as to achieve ownership and correctly identify entry points and sequencing of activities.

Learner Objective

Following the course, the field agent will be able to:

  • Explain the 5-skill sets approach, how it was conceived and why it leads to more sustainable community and agricultural development
  • Undertake diagnostic and assessment activities with communities
  • Plan a program to train and use the 5-skill sets with target clients

Sections and Lessons

Lesson 1. Theory of change. Outlines the critical factors involved in a multi-skill approach as compared to a single component extension method, and describes how the basic skills can be combined into a cohesive and structured training program.
Lesson 2. Introducing the skill sets. Explains the individual skills, why they are important and how they are combined to improve performance of farmer groups.
Lesson 3. Engaging communities. Provides practical tools for engaging communities to explain the 5-skill development approach, the roles and responsibilities of service providers and their clients, and to negotiate with the community about which segments of the population to target, how assets will be transferred, and the how planning, implementation and evaluation will be carried out.
Lesson 4. Identifying entry points. Examines different entry points for initiating a skill sets program based on a community’s immediate needs and wants and its present level of skills.
Lesson 5. Characterizing client groups. Provides methods and tools to characterize target clients with respect to a set of basic criteria such as business acumen, wealth, skills and gender, which is used as a baseline against which progress can be evaluated.
Lesson 6. Identifying community and farmer group vision. Provides participatory tools to establish a medium and long-term vision for a community or farmer group and the process that the members will follow to reach the vision.
Lesson 7. Prioritizing skills. Maps out the scale of the intervention – numbers of farmers, numbers of groups. Shows how, with the community, existing skills are analyzed, need for upgrading is detected and gaps are identified.
Lesson 8. Preparing a curriculum plan. Develops a training plan based on the information that has been gathered and covered in the previous lessons. The plan’s design takes into account available resources, timing of production cycles, and local knowledge of the service providers and the targeted communities.
Lesson 9. Preparing a training schedule. Familiarizes field agents with the didactic materials available for implementing the training program: (i) hard copy manuals, (ii) distance learning tools, (iii) software packages and (iv) laminates to guide farmer sessions. Develops season-long and weekly training plans and a calendar.
Lesson 10. Monitoring successes and challenges. Identifies key indicators and provides tools to gather information. Examines how information is analyzed and its use in decision making to adjust training plans.

Key References for This Module

  • CRS; RII-CIAT. 2007. Preparing Farmer Groups to Engage with Markets. A Field Guide for Five Key Skill Sets. Catholic Relief Services, Baltimore, USA. Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical, Cali, Colombia.
  • Gonsalves, J., T. Becker, A. Braun, D. Campilan, H. De Chavez, E. Fajber, M. Kapiriri, J. Rivaca-Caminade and R. Vernooy (eds). 2005. Participatory Research and Development for Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management: A Sourcebook. Volumes 1, 2 and 3: International Potato Center-Users' Perspectives with Agricultural Research and Development, Laguna, Philippines and International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada.

Time Required to Teach This Module

This module is ideally delivered in three workshops over a period of 3 months:
  • Workshop 1. Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. 12 hours.
  • Workshop 2. Lessons 6, 7 and 8. 12 hours.
  • Workshop 3. Lessons 9 and 10. 8 hours.
In between Workshop 1 and 2 and Workshop 2 and 3, field agents collect information that is used as input for the next workshop.
This is Module 1 of the course suite on

"Preparing Farmer Groups
to Engage Successfully with Markets"

This module is intended for face-to-face delivery.
  • The course material, additional resources, and assessment tool will be attached below.
  • The video lecture will be made available at
    Simply set up a free account, place the course in your cart and get started! The courses are offered free of charge.

Preparing Farmer Groups to Engage Successfully with Markets

Introduction to the Course Suite

Many small-scale farmers in the developing world learn how to grow crops and raise livestock in a very practical way: by working in the fields and by tending animals. They grow food for their families, and sell any extra to visiting traders or at the local market. But they have never studied farming in school. They have not learned how to earn more money by marketing their produce in a better way.

The transition from semi-subsistence to commercial agriculture is difficult and risky for poor farmers. To succeed, they require new skills and knowledge. Among others, these include how to: do bookkeeping, find market information, carry out market analysis, manage savings, experiment with new technology and develop new products. While these skills alone are no guarantee of success, poor farmers benefit from using the skills when they are taking their first steps in the transition to managing their farms as a business.

This set of courses aims to provide field agents with the ability to foster skill sets that are crucial for preparing groups of poor farmers who are at the very early stages of engaging in markets. Often field agents have strong skills in a particular and focused area – such as organizing communities or in advising farmers how to increase their production. But many are relatively new to the idea of developing agricultural markets and supporting farmers to engage in business activities, which includes managing financial resources.

Success in engaging with markets results from farmers using a combination of skills and not by relying just on one or two. Modern field agents will therefore need to complement their existing skills with new ones, and be able to impart these skills in an appropriate and balanced way to farmers and other rural actors. 

The skills that are described in this set of six modules cover:

  1. Building an integrated 5-skill sets curriculum and training schedule
  2. Organizing and managing groups
  3. Managing finances through internal savings and lending
  4. Linking farmers to markets and developing agroenterprise
  5. Managing natural resources for sustainable production
  6. Being innovative by accessing and applying new technology

The six modules are designed to be taught over a period of 18 to 24 months, the actual time depending on the skills level of the client farmers and other rural actors that will be involved.

Expected Completion Date for the Course Suite Material

End of September 2011


These modules are developed for field agents that facilitate community agricultural development processes and impart knowledge and skills to smallholder farmers and other rural actors on how to produce profitably and sustainably.

Learning Objectives of the Course Suite

After participating in this set of courses, the field agent will be able to plan and implement a series of inter-related trainings to build farmer and other rural actors’ skills in 5 critical areas for successful engagement with markets.