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Agricultural extension is key to spreading new technologies, promoting behavior change, and improving incomes and resilience to shocks. When national extension services frustrate and disappoint, where can farmers turn for inspiration, empowerment, and sound advice? With the intention of developing a systematic, cost-effective, and reliable way to share information with cereal farmers in Senegal, Feed the Future Senegal’s Naatal Mbay project and its predecessor have developed an approach to farmer extension focused on data-driven decision making, information sharing among farmer organization members, and scheduled opportunities to review and reflect on the annual production and marketing results. Where once farmers were considered data illiterate, they now are seeing the results of their production choices through data. They are adapting to a new way of thinking, based on evidence and shared through internal and external collaboration with fellow farmer members and market actors.
Naatal Mbay has embraced the CLA approach from inception by using farmer-owned data bases not only as the foundation of project M&E data collection, but also as the foundation for farmer-owned extension services. Reaching over 100,000 farmers since 2015, results are impressive with average yields increasing by 16%. It is estimated that while the average cost of extension and advisory services to farmers in Senegal is $100/farmer, Naatal Mbay has achieved positive results at an average of $10/farmer by promoting collaboration among members, continuous learning based on evidence, and funding of annual seasonal debriefing sessions designed for reflection of results, leading to adaptation and adoption by farmer members.