The program, started in 2012, is a win-win for the participants, who have the chance to further their education, and for the farmers we support who benefit from that knowledge. To date, seventeen technicians have successfully graduated from the program. Seven candidates are currently enrolled and expect to graduate in the next two years. Moving forward, our plans are to have at least four trainees enrolled in the program every year.
The program offers advanced learning for MLT leaf technicians and managers who provide technical training and extension services to tobacco farmers in Mozambique. Each year, candidates are identified from the MLT agronomy department to enter the two-year program. MLT identifies potential candidates based upon their job performance and work ethic, desire for continued education, leadership ability, and character. Candidates must also be fluent in English in order to attend Blackfordby, as classes are taught only in English.
The program combines a formal classroom curriculum with practical learning components at the college and in the field. For the first year of the program, participants attend theoretical and practical classes at the college. These classes cover crop science, soil science, animal husbandry, farm management, budgeting and farm mechanization.
The second year of the program, participants return to Mozambique for practical and applied learning in tobacco production with the academic and supervisory support of the college. The participants work according to the crop calendar and write monthly reports that are sent to the college. Tutors supervise the participants in the field, and feedback is provided by the college.
Participants are evaluated according to their classwork and performance appraisals by their MLT manager and the Blackfordby faculty. Each student must submit an academic paper, reflecting on the practical field work, which also weighs into the evaluation. Upon successful completion of the curriculum, each participant is awarded a diploma in general agriculture and management.
The program has been a great success. It has enhanced each graduate’s ability to deliver important skills and training to the farmer base, both in tobacco production and in general farming. This has been significant for the farmers. It has also been a source of personal enrichment for the graduates, who are now more knowledgeable and better poised for success at MLT. Because the program has improved MLT's agronomy support to its contracted farmers in Mozambique, it has, in turn, successfully supported MLT’s crop improvement and sustainability efforts in the country.
The trainees are grateful for the opportunity, and say they have really benefitted from the program. One graduate who was acknowledged as the top student in his course year and obtained a distinction in crop science said, “my experience at Blackfordby College of Agriculture has given me a broad and comprehensive learning on all aspects of tobacco production, food crops as well as animal husbandry which in turn has now given me more confidence and insight when dealing with my farmers on a daily basis”.