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Global Farmer Field School Platform

Livestock and Farmer Field Schools

In many countries across the world, livestock are an integral part of poor people’s livelihoods, contributing to household income, food security and nutrition. They can provide quality food (meat, milk, and eggs); capital (sale, barter and hire); fertilizer (manure); draught power for cultivation and transport; building materials (fibres and hides); and fuel (manure). In some societies, livestock also have important sociocultural and religious functions.

FAO promotes and facilitates the sustainable development of the livestock sector through actions such as: facilitating the access of small-scale livestock producers, particularly in developing countries, to increasingly competitive markets for livestock commodities; contributing to safeguarding animal and veterinary public health; maintaining animal genetic diversity; and reducing the sector’s environmental impact. Within this framework, FAO has, over the past two decades, integrated livestock-focused Farmer Field Schools (FFSs) in several of its projects and programmes and has contributed to building the capacity on FFS of many development stakeholders (INGOs, NGOs, research institutes, etc.) for the benefit of thousands of livestock-dependent communities across developing regions.

Agro-ecosystem analysis (©FAO/Solomon Nega)

The FFS approach, originally developed with a focus on crops, has contributed to developing the critical analysis, decision-making and communication skills of small-scale livestock producers, both women and men, in many different contexts and environments, allowing them to build more efficient and sustainable systems, while building on local knowledge. Livestock FFS have been implemented/supported by FAO and many other development stakeholders, including the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the World Bank and numerous NGOs (VSF, Heifer International, etc.).

Over the years, the approach has been applied to many different livestock production systems, including pastoralism and agro-pastoralism, dairying, poultry production, integrated rice-duck systems, rabbit production, pig production, beekeeping, beef production, camel production and small ruminant production. Today, FFSs are used for livestock development throughout developing regions, and interest in using the approach is growing among governments, NGOs, the private sector and other stakeholders.

Livestock FFS group meeting (©FAO/Solomon Nega)

Why is FFS a relevant and valuable approach for sustainable livestock and rural development?

  • Livestock producers often face particularly complex, dynamic and location-specific challenges that cannot be tackled with blanket recommendations and conventional extension methods.
  • Given that livestock are often central to small-scale producers’ livelihoods, they can be resistant to changing their livestock practices just because someone tells them what and how to change.
  • Many livestock FFSs result in the formation or strengthening of associations and marketing groups.
  • The FFS approach can be applied to the wide range of different livestock production systems and species, from cattle to poultry and from small ruminants to insects.
  • Livestock FFS can develop new/strengthened networks among livestock producers, local institutions, service providers and researchers.
  • Livestock FFSs have shown themselves to be an effective vehicle for women’s empowerment and gender equality because they can lead to changes in household gender dynamics and decision-making.
  • Livestock FFS can be used to introduce livestock production as a new income generating activity within non-livestock communities.