Global Farmer Field School Platform

Fisheries, aquaculture and Farmer Field Schools

Aquaculture* plays a significant role in global food security, providing 53 percent of the global food fish production as of 2016 (SOFIA, 2018). With an expected global population of 9 billion by 2050, and the limited capacity of capture fisheries, further aquaculture development is critical to help meet the increasing worldwide demand for seafood products, an integral part of healthy diets (Fish to 2030). 

Aquaculture Field Schools adopt the FFS approach to help communities expand their aquaculture activities by enhancing market leverage, supporting technological adaptation and promoting a co-creation of good aquaculture practices. Depending on the local context, these practices are developed by the farmers themselves through direct observation, discussion and decision making in the field school. However, instead of a field, the classroom is the pond, lake, mangrove, coastline or rice paddy where trainees can experiment with hands-on exercise.
The aquaculture component was introduced in the mid-1990s in Vietnam within the rice integrated Pest Management FFS programme when an IPM rice–fish training was organized with local communities to re-establish fish production in the rice fields as well as reducing and phasing out chemical pesticides toxic for fish. Aquaculture Field Schools are currently being scaled up to support countries in a larger scope. FAO supports programmes in Haiti on small-scale tilapia production, in Indonesia on milkfish/shrimp polyculture, and other aquaculture FFS activities in Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Kenya, Lao PDR, Mali Suriname and Viet Nam.

Under the Asia and the Pacific Regional Rice Initiative, FFS supports the uptake of rice–fish systems across Asian countries. FFS on rice–fish promote efficiency in rice farming practices and value chains, as well as reduction in pesticide use through IPM. Rice-fish systems include integrated farming systems, which can be practiced in various intensities of input-use ranging from the harvesting of wild fish to the introduction of cultured fish. These systems are a triple win scenario: improving nutrition, increasing income and sustainably managing the agricultural landscape.
In the Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic, FAO supported the Department of Livestock and Fisheries in the implementation of Farmer Promotion Trials to facilitate small-scale aquaculture development, and connected these trials to ongoing FFS IPM activities. The integration of aquatic resources (aquatic animals and plants) in rice fields generated triple win benefits of integrated agriculture-aquaculture.  Rice–fish field schools are now being implemented beyond Asia. In Latin America, in Suriname and Guyana, a training programme enabled facilitators to better conduct FFS. Farmers learned how to maintain the balance of the three main components of rice ecosystems (crops–pests–natural enemies), ensuring higher crop yields and household income, while reducing use of chemical pesticides and improving environmental quality. In Africa, FFS approach have been used to develop Rice-Fish farming in Guinea-Bissau and Mali. 


Seaweed farming is practiced in more than 50 coastal countries, representing an important income-generating activity for small communities, in particular for Small Island Developing States’ export markets. 

Seaweed farms are exposed to a large variety of pests and diseases that can wipe out the entire production; FFS can facilitate farmers in mitigating production challenges. FFS allow the adaptation, testing and development of location-specific production and post-production technology options from which seaweed farmers can choose. This can foster the up-scaling of innovative ideas and enhance growers’ skills to observe and analyze their production to make decisions based on their own experiences and understanding.
FFS seaweed projects have been supported by FAO in Indonesia, Kiribati, and the Philippines to foster the up-scaling of innovative ideas and enhance growers’ skills to observe and analyze their production to make decisions based on their own experiences and understanding.


*Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Farming implies some sort of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, etc. Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated, the planning, development and operation of aquaculture systems, sites, facilities and practices, and the production and transport. (


The International Community

Aquaculture Field Schools are a recognized extension strategy by the international community. The success of non-formal education activities, as applied to fish farming, has been acknowledged at the 2nd International Symposium on Aquaculture and Fisheries Education (ISAFE 2) (See page 47 of FAN 54) which noted the importance of approaches such as FFS during South-South Cooperation. Also, Members of 9th Session of the COFI Sub-Committee on Aquaculture discussed Aquaculture Field Schools, and some Members urged FAO to continue its efforts in mapping needs and strengthening extension for aquaculture through participatory mechanisms, such as Farmer Field Schools.