Farmer field schools on land and water management in Africa


Farmer field schools
on land and water
in Africa

Proceedings of an international workshop in Jinja, Uganda

24–29 April 2006

Download full PDF(729 Kb)

Rome, 2008


Throughout Africa, degrading land resources and poor water management are serious impediments to the development of agriculture. Inappropriate farming practices result in soil erosion, a loss of soil organic matter and declining fertility and capacity to retain water. Once-fertile soils become compacted and crusted, causing valuable rainwater to run off rather than seep into the ground and carrying with it precious topsoil and nutrients. The results are unhealthy crops due to water and nutrient deficits and the build-up of weeds and diseases, poor and unreliable yields, and chronic water shortages due to lack of recharge of ground water.

How to escape from this vicious cycle? FAO and other development organizations have been promoting farmer field schools – an innovative approach to adult education first developed in Southeast Asia for pest management – to improve land and water management in Africa. Unlike traditional approaches to agricultural extension, which rely on extension workers providing advice to farmers, farmer field schools enable groups of farmers to find out the answers for themselves. That means the farmers can develop solutions to their own problems. They are far more likely to put what they have learned into practice than if they had been presented with ready-made (but possibly inappropriate) solutions. The extension worker is a facilitator who guides the learning process, rather than a technical specialist who disseminates information.

As this book shows, farmer field schools have proven to be a very useful approach for helping African farmers to improve how they manage their land and water. Numerous projects throughout Africa have shown that they result in improved soils, better yields and higher incomes for farmers. The document summarizes some of these experiences, points out successes, and – equally important – shows constraints and gaps that need to be addressed. Particularly important is the list of policy recommendations: committed support and funding from governments is vital if this promising approach to agricultural development is to make the difficult jump from the donor-supported project into an accepted mainstream approach applied by research and extension agencies throughout the

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concerning the legal or development status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers, whether or not these have been patented, does not imply that these have been endorsed or recommended by FAO in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.

ISBN 978-92-5-106094-0

All rights reserved. Reproduction and dissemination of material in this information product for educational or other non-commercial purposes are authorized without any prior written permission from the copyright holders provided the source is fully acknowledged. Reproduction of material in this information product for resale or other commercial purposes is prohibited without written permission of the copyright holders. Applications for such permission should be addressed to:
Electronic Publishing Policy and Support Branch
Communication Division
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Rome, Italy
or by e-mail to:

© FAO 2008