Capacity Development Portal
Good Practices

Rural livelihoods and food security

  1. Farmer field schools
  2. Micro-gardens
  3. Livelihood Diversification and enterprise development: improving small farmer livelihoods
  4. The Livelihoods Support Programme: Bringing people-centered approaches and livelihoods at work in FAO
  5. Introducing a Livelihoods Approach in Emergencies

Active learning approaches to agricultural extension, with an emphasis on experimentation and local knowledge creation

What problem did it address, where?

During the early 1990s, traditional approaches to agricultural extension were increasingly observed to be ineffective, particularly when it came to local adoption of new approaches which challenged orthodox opinion. One example was the case where research findings showed that in some situations use of pesticide, far from solving them, could actually make pest problems worse. However farmers were initially reluctant to try Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approaches reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides, and allowing field ecological processes more scope to react to pest outbreaks. One solution to gain farmer confidence was to conduct local field experiments under the umbrella of a Farmer Field School, engaging farmers in a process of experiential or active learning (learning by doing). The approach was tried originally with Rice and Cotton in South East Asia but has since been extended t

  1. Water and soil management (SE Asia, E Africa) - efficient use of water resources
  2. Conservation Agriculture in East Africa
  3. Junior Farmer Field and Life Skills (Orphans and vulnerable children, 7 countries in S and SE Africa)
  4. Dairy Cattle in Kenya
  5. Food security field schools that combine technical and organisational skills, including Sierra Leone, Cambodia - crop and livestock extending field schools for further seasons to look at longer term effects.
  6. Organic Agriculture


The FFS curriculum follows the natural cycle of its subject (crop, animal, soil, or handicrafts). For example, the cycle may be "seed to seed" or "egg to egg". This approach allows all aspects of the subject to be covered, in parallel with what is happening in the FFS member's field. For example, rice transplanting in the FFS takes place at the same time as farmers are transplanting their own crops - the lessons learned can be applied directly. Activities are sometimes season-long experiments - especially those related to soils or plant physiology (for example soil or variety trials, plant compensation trials). Each FFS needs a technically competent facilitator to lead members through the hands-on exercises

Where next?

The Farmer Field schools approach may be applicable wherever a subject is open to a process of active learning in the field, either using demonstration techniques or real experimentation to uncover new local knowledge.

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