To better target sustainability trainings to smallholder farmers, it is crucial for trainers to know where farmers see gaps in their own knowledge and abilities. Solidaridad's self-assessment toolkit addresses this need.
The toolkit consists of a questionnaire that asks the smallholder farmer to answer a series of yes/no questions related to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of their farm system. The questionnaire is designed to be easily scored (on an included scorecard) and processed into a set of recommendations, and the farmer also receives a one-page instructional leaflet. The toolkit is effective for four key reasons:
1. It uses farmer-friendly language, without judgment
2. It serves as a learning guide, and stays with the producer
3. It uses a continual improvement approach, rather than a checklist.
4. It is something most smallholder producers in the Brazilian soy context could handle themselves (though some did need assistance).
In a pilot study of the toolkit, a small group of field workers was trained to administer the self-assessment, and 378 smallholder farmers completed the assessment during the study period. The guide proved to be a powerful engagement tool, with field workers often spending more than two hours at a farm discussing the questionnaire with the smallholder, providing a powerful starting point for looking forward to and seeing the possibilities of incremental sustainability improvements on the farm.