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Stories from the field: the implementation of FFS in South Africa


Story from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in South Africa on a recent FFS pilot project conducted in two provinces of the country (Limpopo for vegetables and Northern Cape for livestock). 


The Farmer Field School project in South Africa has been implemented through a collaboration between the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa (DAFF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

FAO approved a budget, under the request of DAFF to pilot the FFS approach in the country and the government provided them with the land where they could perform the FFS experiments. As a result, 36 Extension Practitioners from Limpopo and Northern Cape Provinces received a training of trainers (ToT). The Mopani District in the Limpopo Province began the implementation of FFS right after receiving the training. Celia Baloyi and Vonani Mabunda, FFS trainers and extension practitioners, established a Farmer Field School in the Ba-Phalaborwa Municipality (Ben-Farm). The Field School involved 32 Producers who were trained on the Farmer Field School approach.

Farmers began immediately to follow the instructions of Ms. Baloyi and Ms. Mavunda. They began by selecting the commodities of choice through the pairwise ranking approach. The pairwise approach allows farmers to identify the crop that can be used as a treatment. It is done through listing all the commodities farmers are interested in growing in and around the area and the interest compared amongst one another. After this exercise, producers selected the crops that included spinach, green beans and tomatoes. Thereafter, the FFS committees were elected and groups formed.

To be democratic, Celia Baloyi allowed the producers to use their methods of farming to plant the chosen crop, in this case tomatoes, on a quarter of a hectare. This quarter of a hectare was named as “control” and another quarter of a hectare, where the FFS approach was used, was named “treatment”. Farmers could easily compare the production between the Control and the Treatment hectares. The comparison included counting the number of fruits and leaves, measuring the height, revising the plant’s colour and the moisture in the soil. Farmers also recorded data on daily weather, planting date, crop conditions, weeds and spacing between crops. Producers did not normally follow these exercises in their operations.

Upon realizing that through the FFS methods the yields were much higher, farmers did not agree to do the “control” plantation with spinach. Based on the comparisons made on the tomato plantations, they agreed that in order to save time and resources, it was better to opt for the new techniques learnt through the FFS approach.

Farmers at Ba-Phalaborwa showed to be very energetic and enthusiastic. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa visited the Limpopo Province for the monitoring and evaluation of the FFS approach, noting that the Ba-Phalaborwa Farmer Field School is doing very well and farmers are highly interested in it. The Extension Practitioners (Baloyi and Mabunda) introduced the FFS approach in an easy manner. Farmers facilitate their own meetings and do presentations in local languages (Xitsonga and Sepedi). They argue that the FFS approach helped them deal with issues through group dynamics. Now the groups work together without problems. The Ministry is confident that the approach will strengthen smallholder farmers and that it is a support to deal with poverty and hunger in South Africa. The project will be carried out in many other provinces with the support of FAO.


*Story provided by  Jacoray Lesiba Khunou (FAO South Africa)  

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