Global Farmer Field School Platform

Business & Farmer Field Schools

Today there are about 570 million farms in the world, most of which are small and supply nearly 80% of the food produced in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. Small farmers who work to increase their income often have limited capacity and know-how to compete and take advantage of new market opportunities arising from urbanization, liberalization and globalization. Farmers must consistently adapt their farm business to changes in the market while improving efficiency, profitability and income.

Drawing from the concept FFS, FAO developed the Farm Business School (FBS) approach to assist small-farmers in this process.  The Farm Business School is:

  • ‘entrepreneurial’ and relies on simple decision support tools, checklists and strategic questions;
  • focused on enhancing efficiency of productivity and on making “business choices” using a learning-by-doing approach and participatory methods.

FFS (production centered) and FBS (business centered) have complementary objectives and should be jointly implemented for farmers to improve farm management decisions. As in the FFS, learning happens in the farm and covers the production cycle from planning to marketing with practical exercises based on available resources. Together with a facilitator, farmers work in small groups at their own pace and agreed time.

Building knowledge and skills to make farms more profitable
FAO supported, adapted and implemented the FBS approach in dozens of countries, mostly in Asia and Africa, including Nepal, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Malawi.

An estimated 400 000 farmers – 20–40 % women – have been trained in business-oriented field school approaches. Farmer business schools, farmer marketing schools and related approaches continue to grow around the world.

Over the years, FBSs have shown to support farmers to benefit from global changes, by shifting the focus of extension services to support market-orientated farming.

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In Nepal, FAO trained technical facilitators to strengthen their capacity to engage in agribusiness development and link to markets. In Kenya FAO is working with Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and GIZ to increase the average productivity in prominent potato production areas, aiming at setting up FBS reaching at least 12,000 farmers by mid-2021. In 2018, FAO – with the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) and Care International – developed the Women’s Empowerment Farmer Business School (WE-FBS). The purpose of this tool is to support the economic empowerment of rural women by strengthening the capacities of men and women to create profitable enterprises and value chains, while transforming the gender relations within the household, community and markets. The guide demonstrates how gender equality and women’s empowerment can contribute to increased farm management outcomes, when the contribution of male and female farmers are fully taken into account.GIZ has developed FBS on cocoa, cotton and other commercial crops.

The approach has been taken up by other development partners who customized it to local contexts. Kisan Business School (KBS) has tailored the approach to the needs of the Indian farmers, building capacity in entrepreneurial and management skills and promoting villages as business hubs to develop a business perception towards agriculture.

What an FBS is not...

  • It is not intended to teach farmers how to produce crops or manage livestock. It is assumed that they will already have this knowledge.
  • It is not a set of lectures. Exchanges of information and knowledge are facilitated through the meetings/sessions, with observations, dialogues and discussions.

In brief, an FBS is...

  • A program of learning designed to help smallholder farmers produce for the market and to make their farms work profitably.
  • A venue that brings farmers together to carry out collective and collaborative action to address business and marketing problems and opportunities.
  • A forum for sharing knowledge between farmers through discussion, practical exercises and self-study.