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Farmer field schools: a participatory approach to capacity building for efficient, sustainable and inclusive food production systems

FAO holds a regional Farmer Field School workshop to make agriculture more sustainable

© FAO/Makhfousse Sarr

12 December 12, 2015, Dakar - The FAO and its partners have opted for a "produce more with less" approach for several years. By promoting sustainable intensification of agriculture, this agricultural production model aims at boosting income while enhancing the environment and improving the health of farmers and rural communities. Farmer field schools (FFS) equip millions of small farmers with the knowledge and skills necessary to implement this approach and improve living conditions.

FFS have already proven themselves in Africa in sustainable agricultural intensification programmes, such as the pesticides and integrated pest management (IPM) programme.

Tata Djire Coulibaly, IPM coordinator for the Association of African Cotton Producers (APROCA), is in no doubt about the benefits of FFS for farmers. "Cotton growing in Mali is largely in the hands of the cotton companies: all the decisions are top-down. With the FFS, on the other hand, it’s the farmers who decide what they’re going to do on their plots of land. It’s a question of giving responsibility so that the right decisions can be taken. And it’s of fundamental importance for us, the farmers.”

The FFS participatory approach provides capacity building and educational tools that are especially useful for the FAO as part of its strategic objectives, especially Strategic Objective No. 2: making agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and sustainable. In helping to meet the sustainable development goals, the FAO will pursue SDG 2, which aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

As Vincent Martin, FAO representative in Senegal, noted when opening the workshop organized by the FAO in Dakar: "In the current context not just of Sustainable Development Goals but also in the fight against climate change, we - as actors in agriculture and rural development - must show that farming is not, and must not be, part of the problem but part of the solution. Building the capacity of farmers now is more important than ever if we are to achieve these ambitious goals.”

Regional networks for sustainable farming systems

The aim of the regional workshop on the FFS approach in West and Central Africa was to foster the development of a regional network of specialists consisting of the FAO and local players, and to agree on a common understanding of the FFS method.

Modou Mboup, technical advisor at Senegal’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Infrastructure, explained: "FFS will enable grassroots communities to adopt agricultural, forestry and pastoral practices that are resilient to climate change. It is pleasing to note that the FAO, through an innovative FFS approach, is assisting countries across the world to ensure that producers acquire technical knowledge and strengthen organizational dynamics." 

The meeting concluded with participants agreeing on a closing statement promoting the quality of the approach among decision-makers and a coordination system for scaling up in the region.

The five-day meeting was attended by about fifty experts from twenty-one countries in West and Central Africa: FAO representatives, governments, farmer and civil society associations, researchers, trainers, project managers, and technical and financial partners.

The Dakar workshop was the third of its kind following a first meeting in Zambia in December 2014 for the Southern Africa sub-region, and another in the North Africa / Near East region last November. Other sub-regional workshops will follow, setting up similar networks in East Africa, South America and Asia.

About farmer field schools (FFS)

The FFS approach is a participatory approach for strengthening community capacity to increase agricultural production and improve livelihoods in a way that is adapted to local contexts. 

FFS are a forum for exchanging experiences and expertise, helping farmers to learn by doing, and providing them with the tools needed to analyse their practices and identify solutions to their problems.

The FFS approach was initiated in Asia 25 years ago as part of an FAO programme operating in several countries, for IPM in rice and vegetable crops. Numerous FFS projects and programmes have subsequently been carried out in more than 90 developing countries, including in Asia, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe. FFS are an excellent example of successful South-South collaboration using experienced local experts to deliver projects in new countries.


Available on-line at:



Further information:

-    On FFS: http://www.fao.org/agriculture/ippm/ippm-home/en/

-    On the FAO’s work on climate change: http://www.fao.org/climate-change/en/

-    On agro-ecological practices in Africa: http://www.fao.org/africa/news/detail-news/en/c/342065/


Contacts: Communication

Guilaine Thébault Diagne, Senegal FAO Office

Email: Guilaine.Thebault@fao.org Tel: +221 77 430 99 46

Yacine Cisse, Senegal FAO Office

Email: Yacine.Cisse@fao.org Tel: +221 77 245 64 46

FAO representative in Senegal - 15, Rue Calmette X Rue El-Hadji Amadou Assane Ndoye, Dakar


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