Petronella works as a Field Supervisor for FINCA International partner Good Nature Agro (GNA). In this position, she oversees a group of 10 Private Extension Agents, who each provide training on improved agricultural practices to around 40 farmers. Petronella’s role in providing extension services often takes her throughout the region on her motorbike, as it is a crucial part in bridging the gap between information from agricultural experts and GNA’s farmers.
A Shared Vision of Helping Farmers
Petronella lives in the village of Lembani in Eastern Zambia. A diligent student, she had the good fortune to attend university. She received a degree in agribusiness management with the hope of helping other farmers in Zambia to improve their ag practices and, thus, their lives. In a country where the majority of the population are farmers, this was a significant and meaningful goal, which came to fruition after she was recruited by GNA.
GNA works with small-scale farmers to help them increase the value of their harvests and thus improve their lives. The organization does this by providing farmers with agricultural inputs—like seeds and fertilizer—at no upfront cost. It also guarantee to purchase their entire crop at the end of the season at a fair market price. GNA focuses on legume crops that enrich the soil, as opposed to traditional crops like corn or cotton that deplete the soil’s nutrients.
Throughout the growing season, GNA also provides each of its farmers with a Private Extension Agent (PEA). This person provides training, advice, best practices, and other useful information to each of his or her farmers, helping ensure their success throughout the growing season. GNA provides one agent for every 40 farmers. This is in stark comparison to the government model, which has one agent for every 5,000 farmers.
The Crucial Role of Extension Services
As a graduate with a specialized degree in agriculture and business, as well as a working farmer herself, GNA recognized that Petronella was supremely well qualified to be a Field Supervisor. In this role, she manages 10 agents. She’s responsible for ensuring that each PEA is successful in helping the 40 farmers they oversee. However, with the growing number of GNA farmers, Petronella also serves directly as a PEA to around 40 farmers. Furthermore, she grows crops for GNA on her own land and has had much success as a farmer.
In all three roles—as a GNA farmer, PEA, and Field Supervisor—Petronella is able to stay grounded. She uses her first-hand knowledge of the land combined with her specialized degree in agriculture and business to teach her PEAs and farmers the best practices and techniques to ensure a successful season. She sees herself as a bridge between the technical expert knowledge and the local farmers who need it.
Working in extension is exciting. Farmers lack a lot of information. In my role, I fill in the gaps between the specialists and the farmers.
Extension Services as a Means of Success
Since starting with GNA, Petronella has proven herself as a huge asset to the organization’s growth. She has not only been successful herself, but she is also using her success to motivate others to achieve their own. She is playing a crucial role in helping farmers work their way up, out of poverty and into a better life.