Farmers do not act alone in their farming activities. They work with other people in different ways, with each having their own roles and responsibilities. Farmers also draw on information from different sources and use a variety of tools to help achieve what they want with their land. They are therefore involved in what is known as an Activity System.Powerpoint 1.4 explains farming as an Activity System and provides an example of how to describe a farming enterprise as an Activity System – click on the box below.
In the areas in which the Amanzi for Food project has been working, it has been seen that one of the most effective ways in which farming activities (and activity systems) can be strengthened is through the development of learning networks. These bring together all the roleplayers, from farmers and farmer associations, extension services, education and training institutions, NGOs, and others to share their ideas and experiences, and support each other in their work.
Network members maintain almost constant communication via WhatsApp groups, where they can share their ideas and inform others of developments in their farming practices, notify each other of training opportunities or interesting articles they have come across in the media, or plan for meetings or other activities.
Members come together whenever they can to discuss issues of shared interest, or to support each other through lending their labour (for ilimas) and/or equipment to help develop new practices. In the case of the people involved with the Amanzi for Food project, it is often to implement new RWH&C practices. One key focus for these learning networks has been to support members in establishing Productive Demonstration Sites (more on these in Module 2), where they can share active RWH&C practices with other farmers and neighbours beyond the network.
Figure 2 shows how different members in the learning networks are connected around their shared interest in sustainable water use.