Creation of a Regional network on Farmer Field Schools in West and Central Africa: upscaling of quality FFS from local to global level

Participants call for action to strengthen support to participatory farmer education through FFS

Some 50 experts from 21 countries in West and Central Africa met in Dakar last December for a 5 day regional workshop on Farmer Field Schools.

During the workshop participants highlighted that FFS and other participatory extension systems provide an effective and inclusive mean to meet the challenges for the sustainable improvement of food security and living conditions of agricultural producers. FFS represent a proven way to promote the sustainable development of grassroots communities by addressing challenges such as food and nutrition security, sustainable agriculture, adaptation to climate change, social cohesion, and gender equality.

As the potential of the FFS approach is increasingly recognised by governments and other actors in over 90 countries, workshop participants drafted a joint ‘Dakar declaration on Farmer Field School Networks’ calling on Technical and financial partners, governments and the FAO  to work together to promote sustainable agriculture. 

The declaration called on the FAO to:

  • Consolidate its strategic and technical support role to countries in the field of FFS;
  • Incorporate FFS into the funding of its Regular Programme, especially under the Strategic Objectives (SOs), including the Regional Initiatives (RIs), and integrate FFS into the work plan for South-South cooperation;
  • Create a unit and a mechanism responsible for the quality and coordination of FFS that brings together the FAO offices at headquarters and in the decentralized offices;
  • Initiate two Technical Cooperation Projects (TCPs) for the two sub-regions of West and Central Africa together with a TCP at regional level to support the creation and operation of regional and national FFS networks.

The workshop resulted in the creation of a Regional Network of committed specialists across Central and Western Africa to support the implementation of quality farmer field schools. This network will:

  • build an information platform for sharing experiences and expertise;
  • provide technical / methodological assistance for enhancing FFS capabilities;
  • help ensure the quality of FFS by harmonizing approaches;
  • Carry out advocacy for FFS institutionalization, resource mobilization and visibility.

First tested by the FAO in Indonesia in 1989, the FFS approach supports participants to improve their individual and group capacity by developing their technical, organisational and decision-making skills as to find solutions to problems in their field and communities. As the effectiveness of FFS as an educational approach to bring about improvement in the livelihoods of rural households is increasingly recognised by development actors, FFS programmes and projects have now spread and been set up in more than 80 countries worldwide.

The results of the workshop in Dakar are in line with FAO’s continued effort to facilitate and support quality FFS programmes worldwide. In 2015, other regional networks with similar functions were set up in the Southern Africa and NENA regions, and are expected in Eastern Africa and Asia in 2016.

Regional developments are complemented by global efforts to improve coordination and quality control of existing and future FFS activities, which are coordinated by the FFS team within AGP. In January 2016, FFS specialists from different regions met in Rome to create a ‘global FFS support team’ with a mission to support FFS activities at different scales. Following the FFS global review which took place in 2012, the team has been working on a set of FFS support products: a FFS guidance document for quality planning, an official FAO FFS website and a global FFS Knowledge Platform and resource centre among FFS practitioners worldwide.

Key resources:

An official FAO-FFS webpage will be launched in the coming months.

Contact people:

FAO Rome: Manuela Allara, Anne-Sophie Poisot

Southern Africa FFS network: James Okoth (FAO MW), Joyce MulilaMitti (FAO SFS)

Northern Africa FFS network: Alfredo Impiglia (FAO RNE)

West and Central Africa FFS network: Sourakata Bangoura (FAO RAF), Sagnia Sankung (FAO SFC), Anne-Sophie Poisot

Eastern Africa FFS network: Deborah Duveskog (FAO KE)

Asia: AlmaLinda Abubakar (FAO RAP), Marjon Fredrix (FAO PK)

Photo©FAO/Olivier Asselin / FAO