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Training and capacity building

The FOCUS project has a strong focus on upskilling and capacity building. The project has facilitated a range of different training programs for FOCUS staff, university students, DARD staff and farmers. These cover a diverse range of topics including soil salinity training, soil constraints training, technical training (instrumentation, statistics etc) and gender training. The FOCUS project is proud to support and encourage junior staff in their career growth through conference attendances, presentations at team meetings and representing the project in front of important delegates.

This training targeted over 145 farmers and DARD staff in the identification and monitoring of soil salinity. The participatory training workshops were held across the four provinces of An Giang, Can Tho, Hau Giang and Soc Trang as a transect of soil salinity across the Mekong River Delta. Practical skills that were taught included measuring 1:5 soil EC, soil gravimetric moisture content, canal EC and data recording. Prior to the training, only 34% of participants had access to an EC meter and only 2% had ever measured soil salinity using an EC meter. After the training, 99% participants were confident in identifying signs of salinity and 100% were confident in measuring salinity. The training was instrumental in recording soil salinity data for use in spatial and temporal mapping.

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Soil salinity monitoring
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Soil constraints training

The soil constraints workshops were designed and implemented after farmer feedback identified the desire to learn more about soil constraints that were limiting production. Three hands-on workshops were held in Soc Trang, Hau Giang and An Giang that explored identifiable soil principals relevant to farmers experiencing production constraints. Soil constaint issues were linked to practical elements that could be identified including soil colour, texture, structure and chemical  issues (pH and EC). Farmers were encouraged to engage through participatory hands-on exercises using farmers own soil to identify potential soil constraints that may be limiting productivity. Female farmers and DARD staff were encouraged to attend with participation rates ranging from 40-60% female participation. 

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Gender training

FOCUS team members have undertaken specialised gender training to maximise their capacity to include gender inclusivity in their research. Identifying and understanding opportunities for qualitative research which can be performed alongside research objectives has made the FOCUS team think dynamically about the impact of their research. Practical experieince to implement this training continues throughout the project, assisted by the ever-helpful gender studies team. 

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FOCUS staff and associated university students have been upskilled in a range of technical training. Multiple online and face-to-face training sessions have occurred explaining the use and application of Chameleon soil moisture sensors. This allowed for Vietnamese collaborators to successfully use Chameleons in field trials and greenhouse experiments over the past few dry seasons. Statistical analysis training has been conducted to upskill FOCUS researchers on the application of statistical techniques to better utilise their data for publication. Training and mentoring on scientific writing, publication and data presentation continuously occurs throughout the project, particularly focusing on building the confidence and capacity of junior staff. 

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Technical training
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Funding from the Crawford Fund and Select Carbon enabled 6 Can Tho University team members from the Crop and Soil Managment team to attend soil field-based training in Australia. Training included workshops on soil DNA extraction and sampling and qPCR analysis for soil targeted processes at Charles Sturt University, broadacre and irrigation cropping tours, lab tours to The Virtual Irrigation Academy CSIRO campus, greenhouse gas chamber training at Queensland University of Technology Brisbane, biochar sessions at Griffith University, project meetings at Select Carbon, and multiple opportunities for networking and capacity building. 

See participants reviews here

Crawford Fund soils training
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Crawford Fund
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