The Farmer Field School is a form of adult education, which evolved from the concept that farmers learn optimally from field observation and experimentation. It was developed to help farmers tailor their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices to diverse and dynamic ecological conditions.
In regular sessions from planting till harvest, groups of neighboring farmers observe and discuss dynamics of the crop’s ecosystem. Simple experimentation helps farmers further improve their understanding of functional relationships (e.g. pests-natural enemy population dynamics and crop damage-yield relationships). In this cyclical learning process, farmers develop the expertise that enables them to make their own crop management decisions. Special group activities encourage learning from peers, and strengthen communicative skills and group building. A detailed description of the Farmer Field School approach is given by Pontius et al. 1
IPM Farmer Field Schools were started in 1989 in Indonesia to reduce farmer reliance on pesticides in rice. Policy-makers and donors were impressed with the results and the program rapidly expanded. Follow-up training activities were added to enhance community-based activities and local program ownership. Eventually, IPM Farmer Field School programs for rice were carried out in twelve Asian countries and gradually branched out to vegetables, cotton and other crops. From the mid-nineties onwards, the experience generated in Asia was used to help initiate IPM Farmer Field School programs in other parts of the world. New commodities were added and local adaptation and institutionalization of these programs was encouraged. At present, IPM Farmer Field School programs, at various levels of development, are being conducted in over 30 countries worldwide.
These diverse programs have generated a variety of data on the impact of the IPM Farmer Field School. Such data generally are presented in project reports that have a limited circulation. Impact studies that are published in official literature tend to focus on specific aspects of impact. Impact studies varied in focus, approach, methodology and robustness. Some lack description of methods. The nature of impact studies typically varies with the developmental stages of programs. Pilot projects often compared pesticide use and yields or profits of field plots grown with IPM practices and those under regular farmer practice, to demonstrate the merit of the approach. More advanced projects evaluated the adoption of IPM practices, studied expertise or recorded the developmental impacts resulting from farmer empowerment.
This synthesis presents a review of twenty-five available impact studies on the IPM Farmer Field School. To be included in this review, the study was required to describe the methods used and to present sufficient results to support its conclusions. The characteristics and findings of each study are presented in a standard format summary sheet. The summary sheets are annexed.
The report starts with a general discussion of methodological aspects of impact assessment. It then provides a summary overview of the results of the twenty-five data sources, from FAO and other agencies and organizations, followed by a discussion of these results.
1 Pontius, J.C., R. Dilts & A. Bartlett (2002) From farmer field school to community IPM: Ten years of IPM training in Asia. RAP/2002/15, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok. 106 pp.