Global Farmer Field School Platform

Building Practical Collaborations between Higher Education Institutions and Farmer Field Schools: Experiences from the Agribusiness Program at the University of Nairobi and Smallholder Farmers in Western Kenya


Farmer Field Schools (FFSs) play a key role as the critical link between farmers and many other important stakeholders in the agricultural value chains. To the institutions of higher learning including Universities, the FFS model offers an avenue through which young trainees in their mid-stage Degree studies can interact with farmers to learn real challenges at the farm level and gain opportunities to test/apply various theoretical concepts learned.

Since 2011, the Agribusiness Management Program at the University of Nairobi has partnered with Bungoma FFS in a process whereby third year Bsc. Agribusiness Management students conduct their field attachment at the community level. Typically, the students spend a full semester (13 weeks) learning various Agribusiness value chains and how farmer groups operate. During this period, the Chairman of the FFS (Mr. Peter Waboya) takes the students to over 100 farmer groups dealing with diverse practical aspects of agribusiness value chains in Bungoma County. Working with the Agribusiness Program Coordinator at the University of Nairobi (Dr. David Jakinda Otieno), the FFS chairman develops a training schedule that allows both the undergraduate students and farmers to share insights on theoretical and practical aspects of agricultural production, processing, marketing, farm business recording, use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in knowledge dissemination and environmental conservation. During the last 6 years, a total of 10 undergraduate students have successfully had their field attachment in the FFSs in Bungoma. Narratives from the community members indicate that this approach has enabled farmers to gain useful insights on how to use simple ICT tools such as mobile phones to seek information on various issues such as where to buy farm inputs at affordable prices and where to sell easily perishable commodities such as tomatoes to reduce postharvest losses. Some farmers also appreciate the community-based student attachment model as a way of helping farmers to learn and practice farm business planning and record keeping – which enable them to assess viability and profitability of their farm enterprises. Students on their part, have come from this process with evidence of practical ability to do some of the things that were hitherto considered to be theoretical – for instance, more than half of the undergraduate students coming from the FFS-based attachment have ventured into processing of cassava by-products, baking of various new products and use of mobile phones for better video capturing of farm activities and using them to train other farmers.

During the last 3 years, this collaboration has also involved 4 Masters students doing their thesis research on how to improve smallholder farmers’ livelihoods in the area by exploring opportunities for livelihood diversification – into biofuel investments, off-farm and on-farm transport businesses, less-land intensive enterprises such as mushroom production, and relaxing gender constraints to market participation. Moving forward, each year there will be 2 undergraduate and 2 Masters students working with the farmers in the FFS model. The experiences and insights from these activities will possibly enlighten County Development planning and contribute positively towards rural livelihoods, besides making University training more focused towards practical problem solving at the community level. Targeted support to facilitate scaling up of this collaboration approach could greatly enhance its impacts.


For more information, contact Dr. David Jakinda Otieno: [email protected], [email protected]

Picture: Mr. Calvin Onyuka a student intern at Simana FFS
©Bungoma Umbrella FFS Network