Farmer field schools on land and water management in Africa
Proceedings of an international workshop in Jinja, Uganda, 24-29 April
Land and water management farmer field schools have been
piloted since 2001 in East Africa and Zimbabwe in order to respond to increasing
demands for improved field-level capacities and targeted materials for use by
extension staff and facilitators. From 2004 to 2006, activities were expanded
through capacity building and mainstreaming farmer field school approaches on
land and water management in the region. In East Africa, farmer field schools
are being scaled out and institutionalized, including on land and water
management. Establishing a strong farmer field school support capacity in
general requires close collaboration with country teams and mechanisms such as
improved networking, knowledge and information sharing, and training skills
development to ensure that farmer field school principles are maintained and
quality service delivery is maintained.
It is against this background that over 70 participants
involved in developing and promoting farmer field schools on land and water
management attended a 5-day workshop in Jinja, Uganda. Participants included
farmers, farmer field school coordinators, project managers and staff,
researchers, extension personnel, and managers and staff of government,
international and non-government organizations. Eleven African countries
(Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, South Africa,
Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) were represented.
The workshop concluded that farmer field schools on land and
water management have many benefits, particularly:
Livelihoods and food security. The land becomes more
productive and farmers produce more. They have more to eat, and are better able
to deal with risk. In Agule, Pallisa District, for example, yields of groundnuts
have quintupled – from 400 kg to two tons per hectare.
Improved long-term land management. The soil is healthier
and more fertile, and it retains more moisture, so crop production is more
reliable. There are more trees and soil cover to control erosion.
Better planning. Farmer field schools enable efficient
community action planning. Farmers become more aware of their farming
environment, so can plan better for drought, pests and other problems.
Knowledge and innovation. Farmers are encouraged to
experiment and innovate. They learn how to build on and use their own knowledge.
Faster adoption. Farmer field schools involve many people
within a watershed area, so speed up adoption of improved land management
Extension services. Extension services become more
demand-driven, and farmers can tell if they are getting value for money.
Stronger leadership and voice. Farmer field schools
strengthen the farmers’ “voice” for advocacy and enable strong leaders to
Networking. Groups of farmers are able to further benefit
through exchange of information with each other and with research and extension
The workshop formulated the following follow-up
Invest in land and water management. Investment in
land and water management at the community, district and national levels must be
a priority to sustain the resource base that produces food and livelihoods.
Local people can neither invest nor bear the burden by themselves. The
government must provide incentives for communities to improve their management
of natural resources, so benefiting the nation and the world.
Scaling up. The farmer field school approach in
general, and its use for improving land and water management, should be scaled
up so it can reach a larger number of farmers. It should be incorporated into
the national extension system rather than implemented on a project-by-project
basis. Extension staff can play a key role to initiate and backstop farmer field
schools. Close collaboration between government and NGOs will assure success.
Design appropriate training. Trained facilitators and
technical support are vital. Farmer field schools and land and water management
should be incorporated into the curricula of universities and training
institutions. Facilitating a farmer field school is not easy and cannot be
learned overnight. Training must include extensive on-the-job experience.
Training materials are needed for all levels: extension staff, facilitators and
Build on experiences. A scaled-up programme can draw
on the valuable experiences of existing farmer field schools, and of their
facilitators who have already been trained and have gained invaluable practical
experience. More skilled facilitators are needed!
Link to other education modes. Farmer field schools
should be linked to other adult education approaches – such as literacy
programmes, primary schools and “farmer life schools”. Collaboration between the
ministries of agriculture and education is needed for this to succeed.
Build long-term resilience. Extension efforts should
focus more on practices that build long-term soil fertility and the efficient
use of every drop of water – rather than focusing only on commercial
enterprises. This will help farmers benefit from sustained provision of
ecosystem goods and services, and cope better with drought, floods and other
Funding. Adequate funding support is needed if farmer
field schools are to succeed. For individual groups to be sustainable, they need
to develop their own sources of funding – through revolving funds, group-owned
businesses and other self-financing mechanisms. Strong farmer organizations can
reduce costs because they can buy inputs at lower prices, and can sell their
output for more. Farmers must manage (and contribute to) their farmer field
school grants so they can demand good facilitation and make their own decisions.
Mass media. Radio, television and other mass media
should be used to promote improved land and water management and popularize the
farmer field school approach.
Policies and regulations. Policies must be
strengthened and applied effectively to promote appropriate land and water
management practices. Policies on land use and soils currently being discussed
by the government should be finalized quickly. Byelaws to conserve and make more
productive use of land and water must be developed and enforced, with the full
participation of local stakeholders.
(from the Executive summary)
2 Country and regional reports
- 2.1 Ethiopia:
Review of farmer field school experience in Ethiopia
- 2.2 Kenya: Land
and water management farmer field schools application in Kenya
- 2.3 Tanzania:
Farmer field school experiences in improved land, water and agro-ecosystems
management for sustainable livelihoods and food security in Tanzania
- 2.4 Uganda: Review of land and water management farmer field schools experiences in Uganda
- 2.5 West Africa:
Review of land and water management farmer field schools experiences in West
- 2.6 Zambia:
Farmer field school experiences in sustainable land management in the Zambian miombo woodlands ecosystem
- 2.7 Zimbabwe: Review of land and water management farmer field school
experiences in Zimbabwe
3 Major issues in
farmer field schools for land and water management
- 3.1 Mainstreaming
and institutionalization of farmer field schools for land and water management
- 3.2 Sustainability of farmer field schools
- 3.3 Capacity
- 3.4 Impact
assessment of the farmer field school approach
- 3.5 |mpact assessment of land and water management technologies
4 Keys for
successful farmer field schools on land and water management
- 4.1 Overview of technical issues and need for an integrated ecosystems
- 4.2 Policy recommendations
Published 2008 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Role of Paul Mundy: Editing, layout