- Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs based on the Farmer Field School approach are being implemented in many countries. Their benefits have been recognized by a broad range of stakeholders, including farming communities, local and national governments, NGOs and donors, who are now supporting such programs. Substantial investment in this approach calls for comprehensive documentation of its impact and sustainability.
- This study reviews twenty-five impact studies and discusses the overall results. Most of the ongoing programs have conducted impact evaluations of a kind. These varied in focus, approach, methodology and robustness. Results, however, commonly remained buried in project reports.
- Impact evaluation of the IPM Farmer Field School has proven to be complex because of methodological obstacles, because of the range of immediate and developmental impacts, and because of different perspectives of stakeholders. Consequently, there is no agreed conceptual framework for measuring impact.
- Studies were designed to be either statistically rigorous (but with a restricted scope) or comprehensive (but with limited coverage), but never both. Nevertheless, by converging the results of diverse sources, the comprehensiveness of the overall evaluation was enhanced and the benefits were substantiated through patterns obtained from different perspectives.
- The majority of studies measured the immediate impact of training through aggregated data, and reported substantial and consistent reductions in pesticide use attributable to the effect of training. In a number of cases, there was also a convincing increase in yield due to training. Most studies focused on rice. Pesticide reduction and farm-level returns were higher in non-rice crops (vegetables and cotton) than in rice.
- A number of studies described broader, developmental impacts of training often using qualitative methods, and in some cases involving farmers in identifying and describing the impacts. Results demonstrated remarkable, widespread and lasting developmental impacts, which have been best documented for Indonesia. It was found that the FFS stimulated continued learning, and that it strengthened social and political skills, which apparently prompted a range of local activities, relationships and policies related to improved agro-ecosystem management.
- It is recommended that future studies combine diverse perspectives to evaluation, and pay more emphasis to participatory approaches to evaluation. Further, it is proposed that the IPM Farmer Field School is placed in a broader sectoral perspective, because benefits also accrue to sectors such as education, environmental protection and public health.