Use of Training of Facilitators (ToF) and Farmer Field Schools (FFS) has been demonstrated as an effective means for the dissemination of Better Management Practices (BMPs). The approach is field-based and participatory. Each setting has its own problems and solutions, and farmers must be equipped to best address their problems. Under the ToF, 25-35 participants (mostly agricultural extension agents, but also some representatives from NGOs, and research are trained over a cropping season. The ToF course contents are developed on the basis of problems and issues identified by experts and farmers collectively to address all aspects of farming as well as taking into consideration the socio-cultural aspects. Group dynamic activities are also done and the methodology is completely non-formal in nature in which all ToF participants work in the field with farmers. For first 2-3 days each week, the ToF participants observe a selected field and do Agro-Eco-System Analysis (AESA) and then discuss what they observed in the field including the soil, seed quality, biological pest controlling agents and crop variety, the crop health need for water, insect pests and their natural enemies etc. This is done throughout crop season. For next two days the ToF participants break into groups of five each to run 5-10 FFS (a total of 125-250 farmers). There too, the farmers do the AESA, where they collect the insects, disease specimens and weeds etc., draw their figures and present results. On the basis of which, further cultural practice and action is decided collectively. This practice requires farmers to be organized, vigilant and realistic and if some thing is not clear, some short very simple experiments (not too scientific) are set up by then to determine the unclear issues. This approach is field based and participatory. The farmers become better organized, learn to work with community and make their own day-to-day decisions instead of dependence on others.
Farmers are trained through Farmer Participatory Technology Development and Dissemination (FPTD&D) in a Farmer Field School (FFS), during which farmers learn how to make and record detailed observations, how to conduct simple experimentations to solve complex issues and learn to analyze and interpret the results of the findings.
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.
The key to the success of these approaches is the empowerment of the farmers with an understanding of the agro-ecology of their own fields. This enable farmers to become informed decision-makers, making crop management decisions based on detailed observations of their own fields and on the experience they build-up over the course of the training and afterwards. This is basically a skill development program enhancing capacity of the farmers towards observation, analyses, interaction between different factors, developing and establishing simple experimentations based on their own hypothesis and making right site specific management decisions. In this way farmers become active learners and independent decision makers through a process of learning by doing. This usually results in increase income of the farmers which in turn help in improving the livelihood.