FARMERS FIELD SCHOOLS: APPLICATIONS AND APPROACH

(Haris Latif, Saeed Ullah, M. Modassar Ali)

(IFSN, University of Sargodha)

Farmer Field Schools

Definition:                                                                        

Farmer Field School (FFS) is an educational approach in the form of group, which has been used to support Integrated Pests Management (IPM) by multiple governments, NGOs, and international organizations.

Introduction

Farmers’ field schools (FFS) contain teams of farmers who encounter on regular basis throughout the developing periods to perform research group-wise by means of innovative options for production. Generally, FFS groups have 25-30 farmers. Issues discussed in schools in the fields of farmers include protection, organic agriculture, animal and soil management, and other income-generating activities like handicrafts.A Farmer Field School is a Group extension method which is based on adult education methods. The FFS approach provides opportunities to the farmers for their education based on their performance. This approach enables farmers to improve their basic agricultural and administrative skills to make farmers’ specialists in their personal farms. It empowers the competencies of farmers with expertise, information, and talents as well as sharpens their competencies to assist them in making crucial selections. Because of this perspective, farmers start thinking in new ways and learn how to manage themselves as well as their community. Basically, the FFS is such an opportunity where farmers and instructors discuss new or current facts and figures after opinions, experiences and disseminate new and current information from outside of their community.

History

For the first time, Farmers’ field schools designed and completed the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Indonesia in 1989. At present, above two million farmers have joined in such sort of education.Initially, in the 1980s, farmers’ field schools used FAO experts and specialist experts in Indonesia. Participants were chosen regarding their skills to read and compose and to take part in conferences and investigation. Finally, a 12-year program for rice was held in the 12 countries and developed to grow tubers, potatoes, cotton and additional yields. The process is more promoted so that in order to adopt the fields of farmers in more than 90 countries at the institutional level. Approach

FFS is a participatory approach so that a lot of mangoes, citrus and vegetable cultivators are being trained under Fruit and Vegetable Development Project through FFS system.

FFS is a combination of two approaches:

  • Training of facilitators
  • Selection of field of a farmer

 

Training of facilitators:

In this approach, extension field staff act as facilitators. Master trainers are specialized and professional trainers who train the extension agents to carry on FFS approach.

Selection of the field of the farmer:

Under this approach, any field of the farmer is selected. This field is called the center of activity. Farmers observe insect pests and disease problems in that field by themselves. Facilitators just facilitate and tell mode of attack and give awareness of particular insect pest. In future, farmers identify problems by themselves.

The FFS approach is an advanced, participating and cooperative education method. It highlights solutions of difficulties and underscores innovation-built education. FFS aims to form capability of farmers to evaluate their manufacture schemes, categorize complications, examine potential results, and ultimately boost up members to adopt those practices which are best fit for their rural structures. FFS delivers an opportunity for farmers for rehearsal and for the evaluation of workable acreage use machinery, and present innovative tools by relating their traditional skills established by means of their own belief, custom, and values.

Components and Principles

The components and principles of farmer field school approach are as follows:

Field as the learning place:

Learning takes place in the field of the host farmer. Farm practices must be improved and suitable for local background, which is generally inclined by local ecological and socio-economic conditions as well as the preferences of farmers.

The farmer as an expert:

The FFS approach distinguishes the members of the community as the experts within their individual contexts and reflects intrinsic and native knowledge as a source of information to be used within the FFS learning process. As a result, FFS participants begin to learn how they can enhance their specific capacities to perceive and explore difficulties and to develop realistic and appropriate solutions.

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Facilitation, not teaching:

Facilitator plays a crucial role in effective learning and authorization because FFS does not emphasize on teaching but on guiding the members of FFS through the learning process. Attentive listening, asking questions and motivating participants to discover more in the field for presenting their ideas fastens the learning process.

Hands-on and discovery-based learning:

This learning process follows the principles of adult education and “learning by doing”. Adults have a tendency to learn through their experience. So through learning by doing in a discovery-based manner, group members cherish grip over their knowledge and gain confidence in their learning.

Equity and no hierarchy:

A farmer field school is designed for all to take part on the equal basis. There is no hierarchy between farmers and facilitators, group leaders and common members, diploma holders and illiterate persons. All have equal importance in FFS learning experience.

Team building and social animation:

These aspects are important components of learning sessions. People share their knowledge and culture, learn communication and leadership skills by means of dance, song, and drama.

Participatory monitoring and evaluation:

During the preparation of FFS curriculum, members create a plan for monitoring and evaluating progress to later assess whether they are fulfilling the fixed objectives.

Integrated and learner-defined curriculum:

The learners define the FFS curriculum and that is unique for each group. The basic principle is that all topics are needed to be relevant to what is used for the group members.

Comparative experiments:

Knowledge is increased by doing experiments where various possibilities are compared with each other. This feature of the approach commands the period of an “FFS cycle” that has to tie the life cycle of the originality being studied i.e. from “(planted) seed to (harvested) seed”.                             

Agro-ecosystem analysis:

The agroecosystem analysis (AESA) is one of the basics of the FFS approach. The members of FFS perform the practice of AESA through all stages of FFS cycle. This activity improves analyzing skills, presentation and knowledge-based decision-making abilities of the participants in addition to their communication skills.

Special topics:

The whole group concentrates on special topics and this plays a central role in FFS. Special topics can comprise of multiple topics. Such special topics should be selected that they would address a variety of livelihood issues.

 Uses

  • Farmer field school enhances knowledge of farmers.
  • It helps and encourages farmers in learning by action.
  • It dismays the application of pesticides and sprays.
  • It helps in the native plant protection ways.
  • It may be responsible for systematic training and learning process.
  • It guides farmers in the identification of their problems by themselves.
  • It allows the use of fertilizers in stable amount.
  • It decreases the production cost.
  • FFS stimulates community association and union.
  • It improves supremacy, communication and management skills of farmers.
  • FFS provides a suitable and appropriate environment for making a linkage of farmer-

Extension-research.

  • FFS justifies gaps of local knowledge.
  • It helps farmers in applying their decisions.
  • It provides an organized assessment of various tools.
  • FFS alters the attitude of farmers.
  • It increases the overall socio-economic conditions.
  • Farmer field school builds confidence in the farming community.
  • FFS rises per capita income of farming community.
  • FFS increases the skills of farmers in crop and pest management.

 

Problems

Lack of classrooms:

There are no appropriate classrooms in farmer field schools.

Heavy expenses:

Heavy expenses are required on the implementation of FFS approach.

Time consuming process:

FFS approach is a time taking and long-lasting process.

Less marketing facilities:

There are less marketing and management services in FFS.

Weekly routine:

There is weekly routine to attend farmer field schools, so it seems to be difficult to attend the school.

Less use of mass media:

There is less use and implementation of mass media and mass communication in FFS.

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Low-ranked and inappropriate curriculum:

There is poor and inadequate curriculum included in FFS approach so that it misleads the achievement of this approach.

Inexperienced facilitators:

In various farmer field schools, facilitators are not so much trained. Ultimately, training is not successful.

Cultural norms:

Cultural norms also hinder the working of farmer field schools.

Low level participation of farmers:

There is low level participation and contribution of most farmers in FFS approach which causes obstruction in the progression of this approach.

Limited budget:

Lack of funds and budget minimizes the chances of growth and development of this approach.

Competitive environment:

Sometimes, an environment of competition is developed between farmers and EFS during learning process. As a result, farmers do not coordinate and cooperate with each other so that agricultural information is not disseminated among farming communities.

Discrepancy with other participants:

Sometimes, participants are not agreed with each other. As a result, it is difficult for them to come at a common point and to finalize their decision. So, problems in FFS approach occurs.                               

Implementations

Generally, FFS contains 8-12 weeks of hands-on farmer experimentation and non-formal training

Within a specific period of an emergent crop. During a growing season, farmers take part in weekly classes. Meetings can be held fortnightly.

There are different primary phases which lead up to the application of FFS:

Detecting the emphasis of the FFS:

This is the supreme precarious phase in organizing for a FFS movement. It is necessary to devote plenty of time to prevent farmers from those actions in which they are unresponsive. The needs of farmers, their interests and problems determine the selection of FFS activity.

Training of facilitators:

Facilitator plays a vital role in the FFS process. A facilitator is essential for each FFS because he receipts members over a succession of practical trainings. Facilitators must go through an extraordinary 2-3 weeks training program. Facilitators can be extension staff of government or non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private enterprises, or graduates of a prior Farmer field school.

Recognizing contributors and establishing the learning group:

The FFS movement focuses and categorizes about 30 to 40 farmers who share a mutual interest.

They have to be capable to attend all sessions, and enthusiastic to work collectively in the form

of groups and share their ideas with each other. Firstly, more numbers of farmers are selected to form a group, later on this group gets shrink after a first few sessions. The significant elements in the selection process are familiarity of facilitator with the history of the community, sexual characteristics and relations, and its cultural practices. Groups may comprise of men, women or both genders which depend in regard to their beliefs and theme.

Identification of the learning place:

FFS needs a site to conduct seminars and a learning item such as a field. The location must be fit for FFS activity and need to be demonstrative of the complications in the region. The site must be easily available and must be present for most of the time.

Developing the curriculum:

After formation of FFS group, the organizer improves the program which is founded on the complications. Within a set, facilitator decides which activities are taken up to give rise to further investigation of problems, conclusion of solutions and detect which sources are required.  The main activities which are included in the curriculum are agro-ecosystem study, discussion as a group, and comparative trials on the field or learning trainings. Occasionally, field calls to new FFS sites may also be included. Each activity is full planned, i.e. consists of method for action, belief, exploration, and decision-making. This provides support to cover total phases of the topic and associates to what will occur in the field of farmer so that the knowledgeable training can be applied directly.

Mujahid Ali

I am a Ph.D. scholar in Institute of Horticultural Sciences, UAF and Ex-Visiting Lecturer in Horticulture UOS, Ex-Research Fellow in ACIAR project on vegetables and Erx-Teaching Assitant in Horticulture UAF. Moreover, Ph.D. IRSIP done in the United States.

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