FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Farm Business Schools: available training package to enhance the much-needed entrepreneurial and market-orientation of farmers

31 August2021, Beirut - Dramatic changes are taking place in farming worldwide as a result of globalization, liberalization, and rapid urbanization. Farmers are intensifying existing patterns of production and diversifying their farm enterprises in an attempt to improve their livelihoods. Technical know-how is not enough. To be competitive and take advantage of the new opportunities that are arising farmers increasingly have to adapt their farm business to changes in the market and to improve efficiency, profitability, and income.

Jihad Abdel Kader, a farmer from the village of Mresti in Mount Lebanon strived to improve his agricultural products to meet market demand and make more profit. He joined the Farm Business School (FBS) in his village together with a group of “like-minded farmers” to gain new skills in business and farm management.

“Before you grab your pickaxe and go to the field, grab a pen and a paper and go over what you have learned to decide what is best to grow. You will surely make a profit. That’s what I have learned from the Farm Business School program” he explained.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) developed the FBS approach to help farmers learn how to manage their farm operations, respond to market demand and make their farming enterprises more profitable. FBS is a curriculum-based and participatory extension approach, which aims to promote market orientation and “farming as a business”, through a shift in focus from production to improving farm management and market-oriented business farming.

For the first time in the Arab Region, FAO successfully launched and piloted the FBS in Lebanon, in collaboration with the Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and technical support of the Inclusive Rural Transformation and Gender Equality Division at FAO HQ. This was done through the project “Promotion of Agricultural Livelihoods and Employment through Investment in Land Reclamation and Water Reservoirs” funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In this context, it adapted and contextualized the FBS training package and developed the Arabic version to meet the needs of farmers in Lebanon and other Arab countries. Operating at the village level, the FBS applies a “Learning-by-Doing”, participatory and experiential and peer-learning approach that capitalizes on farmers’ existing experience and knowledge while conveying simplified business concepts through a series of facilitated group meetings.

Through this programme, 91 farmers, including 25 women, were able to improve their knowledge in keeping farm records, computing costs and profitability, simple farm investment analysis, market appraisal, and farm business planning, among many other topics. Men and women participants were engaged in theoretical and practical group exercises and case studies while working on their farm businesses over a period extending from 12 to 15 weeks covering the production cycle from planning to marketing. Each FBS group consisted of 8 to 14 farmers guided by a facilitator who is often an extension agent or a lead farmer from the same region.

 “It is a curriculum during which farmers go through four main phases: Diagnosis, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation” explained Rachad Chamas, MoA extensionist and FBS facilitator from Hermel, Bekaa. The farmers exchanged this information in small groups during seasonal sessions at their own agreed pace and time.

In 2021, under the EU-funded project “Enhancing resilient livelihoods and food security of host communities and Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon through the promotion of sustainable agricultural development” FAO further developed and updated the FBS training package based on the pilot implementation, and made the six manuals and books available for the practitioners, farmers, and general public at the FAO global website. The project will be implementing more than 50 FBS to add value to farmers’ investments benefitting from agricultural support grants.

“FBS is not intended to teach farmers how to produce crops or manage livestock. It is assumed that they already have this knowledge. It is neither a set of lectures. Exchanges of information and knowledge are facilitated through the meetings/sessions, with observations, dialogues, and discussions,” said Dany Lichaa El Khoury, FAO project manager. He added: “It is a programme of learning and a venue designed to bring smallholder farmers together and share knowledge to produce for the market and to make their farms work profitably. Accordingly, business concepts are simplified for smallholder farmers with minimal education to understand and apply. Therefore, larger farmers may find these concepts simplistic and use a more formal approach.”

Importantly, the availability of a training package adapted to the Arab context and successfully tested in an Arab country is an important premise to further expand the FBS approach in the Arab Region. In this context, the FBS approach would contribute to enhancing the much-needed entrepreneurial and market orientation of farmers and service providers.

For this, FAO is sharing the FBS training package for easy reference to farmers, extension agents, and practitioners wishing to understand more about the FBS approach.

These publications were produced with the financial support of the European Union and the Netherlands.

Trainers’ Guide

Facilitators’ Guide

Farmers’ Exercises

Fatima Story

Business Plan (Template)

Farm Records (Template)

The below documents were produced with the financial support of the Netherlands

Fatima Story

FBS Brochure


31/08/2021