The main form of contact of the FSA with sugar cane planters is through field visits. Regular visits are carried out in the main cane growing areas by technical staff in order to monitor activities of planters in the field and to assess their problems. They are consequently advised on Good Agricultural Practices. Field visits are also carried out to implement the extension and training work programme of the department.
- Conducted Tours and Demonstration sites
Conducted tours and demonstrations serve as main extension tools. Guided tours are organized for sugar cane planters in order to enhance their skills and knowledge about latest findings from research and on Good Agricultural Practices. Planters have the opportunity to see demonstration plots set up in fellow small planters fields. Typical demonstration plots include better performing sugar cane varieties, optimum fertiliser usage, and effective weed control as well as mechanised field operations in comparison with planters’ practices.
Group meetings are carried out at regular intervals throughout the year to sensitize planters on subjects such as characteristics of newly released cane varieties, weed control, fertiliser use, cane fire prevention and management, harvest organization. The main objective is to impart technical information to small groups of planters to bridge specific knowledge gaps identified by technical staff.
- Planters Information Meetings
Planters Information Meetings are organised for large gatherings of planters to apprise them on topics of such as new support measures announced Government or new facilities and incentives implemented by the MCIA or other stakeholders in the sugar industry.
- Soil Sampling and Analysis
Small planters are advised to apply fertilisers following an assessment of the soil fertility status of plots earmarked for replanting. The objective of this service is to apply the required amounts of nutrients for optimum sugar production and to ensure environmental protection.
To this effect, a free soil sampling and analysis is operated by the FSA in collaboration with the MSIRI Soil Chemistry Laboratory.
Upon request from planters, field staff collect soil samples from planters’ fields and send to the laboratory for chemical analysis. Appropriate fertilizer regimes and soil amendments are then communicated to concerned planters accordingly.
Planters visit the Farmers Service Centres throughout the year for technical advice for e.g. weed control, adaptation of cane varieties and information about various schemes in operation by the FSA or other institutions.
Each FSC has set up a Liaison Committee comprising planters representatives and planters advisers of the sugar mill in the different factory areas covered by the FSC, departments of the MCIA e.g. MSIRI, AMU, CAD and other stakeholders such as Police, Fire and Rescue Services. The objective of this committee, which is chaired by the FSC Manager, is to act as a platform for the sharing of information about current technical matters concerning sugar cane cultivation and to receive feedback from planters.
- Planters Vocational Training
The FSA runs the Planters Vocational Training Programme (PVTP), which is designed to impart the latest recommendations, knowledge and skills required for improving productivity and competitiveness of sugar cane planters. It is adapted to meet the changing sugar industry landscape, and emphasises on the adoption of good agricultural practices in compliance with environmental and market norms. The training is aimed at all existing planters who express the desire to follow the course, in particular, individuals who are taking over the cultivation of sugar cane from their parents and individuals having acquired land and willing to grow sugar cane. The PVTP is of 24 hour duration and includes both theory and practical sessions. It covers a wide range of topics namely:
- The Sugar Cane Plant and its Environment
- Land Preparation and Planting
- Plant Nutrition
- Weed Control
- Harvest and Transport
- Basic Management and Record Keeping
- Cane Analysis and Payment
- Role of Institutions of the Sugarcane Industry.
At the end of the training, participants are awarded a Certificate of Attendance.