|An FFS session in Bahawalpur District, Pakistan|
Farmer Field School (FFS) is a well tested approach based upon “learning by doing” to empower the communities to build their capacity for informed decision making. FFS provides a platform to the farming communities where they can share their experiences and knowledge to improve their existing practices through experiential learning processes leading towards sustainable agriculture production.
The Farmer Field School (FFS) approach evolved from the concept that optimal learning derives from experience - in the case of farmers, from observation in the field. The FFS integrates the domains of ecology and non-formal education to give farmers the opportunity to learn about their crop and to learn from each other
In general, Farmer Field School (FFS) consist of groups of people with a common interest, who get together on a regular basis to study “how and why” of a particular topic. The topics covered can vary considerably from soil health, optimum tillage operations, right variety selection, rationalizing agro-chemicals, IPM and cooperative marketing.
Farmer Field School (FFS)
An FFS session in Bahawalpur District, Pakistan
The FFS activities are based on discovery learning process through non-formal adult education techniques involving simulation and group dynamic exercises. This model aims to help farmers to discover and learn about field ecology and integrated crop management starting from land preparation to right seed selection, rational use of irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides, harvesting and marketing. Under these FFS, farmers learn how to best utilize indigenous resources and implement best natural resource management strategies based on financial input.
Each FFS also needs a technically competent facilitator to lead members through the hands-on exercises. There is no lecturing involved, so the facilitator can be an extension officer or a Farmer Field School graduate. Extension officers with different organizational backgrounds, for example government, NGOs and private companies, have all been involved in FFS.
The FFS curriculum taught to the farmers, is designed to help them in developing skills to identify their localized issues, formulate & test solutions (BMPs benefits), conduct analysis & draw conclusions, and to test which BMPs are the most appropriate under their respective conditions.
The Cotton curriculum which is taught to the farmers was developed by Nat - IPM Programme and CABI - Pakistan in 2002. However, in year 2006, WWF-P revised the existing curriculum in consideration with the changing scenario of WTO, SPS & GMOs. It was updated for the Farmer Facilitators of WWF - Pakistan and also for other professionals to use while implementing the BMPs on cotton.
The basis for a successful FFS depends nurturing and empowering farmers, facilitators etc. The empowerment is done through education on skills and concepts (how’s and why’s). FFS are not difficult to set up if there is a commitment to, and faith in farmers and facilitators ability to learn and apply learning to local problems themselves.
WWF also involves extension people primarily for the sustainability of the project. The agriculture extension departments of Sindh and Punjab provinces are very active partners of WWF activities.