It never fails. I’m abandoned at a mixer party, stirring my watered-down manhattan, when the person I just met asks the #1 question of cocktail hour: “So what do you do for a living?” I’ve worked hard on my “elevator pitch” for IFDC (you development workers understand this), and I’ve come to expect a common response, “Oh, I get it…” – I see the flicker in their eyes; the old adage is coming – “…So it’s like, teach a man to fish.”

Yes. But no – there’s so much more. IFDC prides itself on effective training. Our field projects have reached millions in nearly 100 nations – we were just shy of training one-million last year alone. According to our current strategic plan, it is a pillar of sustainable development. We’ve said previously that innovation in a vacuum is useless – knowledge transfer is necessary. But teaching a person to fish is an incomplete analogy. Training is more than teaching and more than handing out innovative fishing poles. When IFDC trains, we go fishing with them (figuratively), learning their techniques and sharing our own. Yeah, we’ll bring some brand new poles. But training is more than bringing farmers new ideas and technology. It’s about tapping into potential to cultivate skill.

IFDC employs two types of training: project-level and specialized. In the next few weeks, we will discuss each of these in-depth. Here’s a quick summary.

Project-level training works with target beneficiaries. We use many methods, depending on local or regional needs. For example, in Bangladesh, where we have built a market for urea deep placement (UDP), we don’t just give the new technology away. We teach fertilizer retailers and producers the ins and outs of the technology. Then, using that knowledge, we help them establish demonstration plots to show their customers the benefits of UDP. When a customer asks, “How did you get such high yields out of that plot?” the shop owner explains the new technology. At this point, if the farmer buys, the retailer can provide further training to ensure that his customer can use UDP correctly and receive the same benefits. Done correctly, this ensures sustainability in the UDP supply system. The farmer, seeing for herself how much better UDP is than her old practice, spreads the news to (and trains) her friends and family – and returns to buy more next season.

IFDC holds specialized training events several times a year. These attract many different levels of people, from farmers to NGO researchers to officials from ministries of agriculture. Uniquely, these trainings do not operate on a top-down teaching model. Instead, trainees and participants interact at a peer-to-peer level, learning with and from each other. Every year, IFDC headquarters hosts an international training and study tour. Participants travel across six states meeting and learning from farmers and researchers in the U.S. Along the way, trainers help cultivate the knowledge gained at each stop, so that learning becomes skill.

Have you participated in an IFDC training? If so, share your story with us on Twitter and Facebook, and we may include a quote from you in the upcoming blogs. Stay tuned!

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