Farmer Field School Guidance Document - Planning for quality programmes

Since the development of the farmer field school (FFS) approach in the late 80s in Asia, thousands of FFS have since been implemented across the world, in over 90 countries and across a varied range of contexts and thematic areas. Demand for FFS programmes is increasing, and in several countries the approach is now institutionalized within public extension systems and NGO programmes. It is estimated that by 2015 millions of farmers and agro-pastoralists had benefitted from the unique ability of FFS programmes to address the technological, social and economic needs of smallholder farmers and land users.

Considering the expansion of FFS, both in terms of scale and in the application of the approach, concerns have emerged around how to best ensure a minimum level of quality of FFS program implementation and harmonization across programmes and actors, while still maintaining the flexibility required for the continuous adaptation and improvement of the approach.

In response to this concern, a Global FFS Review was conducted in 2012 by FAO, including a discussion forum with over 100 participants, who explored the issue of quality in FFS and identified the essential steps and conditions required for setting up strong, solid and sustainable FFS programmes. Based on the results from the Global FFS Review, a Guidance Document for quality FFS programmes was proposed, to serve as a common reference for FFS programme development.

This FFS Guidance Document focuses on the process and critical decisions that are necessary when starting a new FFS programme, and guides the reader through the essential steps required to establish a solid basis for such programmes, in tune with the specific local conditions. It also defines the essential elements and processes required to ensure programme relevance, quality, growth and sustainability. The document differs from most of the FFS manuals and guidelines available in that it focuses on providing support to FFS programme managers and formulators, as opposed to FFS field facilitators or trainers, who are the primary target group for most existing manuals.

The document is not meant to be exhaustive, nor prescriptive, but offers a general framework, to be adapted and revised in future by FFS communities of practice at country, regional or sub-regional level, in a participatory and inclusive process. The intention is that the FFS Guidance Document will become a living text, progressively improved and enriched by local experts, adapted to local conditions and needs, and increasingly able to serve the evolving needs of its primary users.

While this document may become the basis for common understanding and constructive collaboration across countries and regions with regard to quality FFS programming, it is anticipated that the document will evolve over time, possibly resulting in various versions in different languages and with additional stories and materials, authored by local groups of FFS practitioners.

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Core Themes