Global Farmer Field School Platform

Gender and Social inclusion and Farmer Field Schools

The Farmer Field Schools (FFS) play an important role in reinforcing the technical and functional capacity of participants and simultaneously contribute to inclusive community development, women’s empowerment and gender equality.

By addressing the specific needs and vulnerabilities of men and women, and by building mutual trust between them within the community, the FFS can support positive changes in attitudes, behaviours and practices thereby transforming gender relations.

FFS use participatory and hands-on approaches enabling men and women to observe, experiment and raise their concerns about the production system, thus facilitating learning on how to improve or adapt to changes in the agricultural context.

Gender equality implies equal participation of women and men in decision-making, equal ability to exercise their (human) rights, equal access to and control of resources and benefits of development, and equal opportunities in employment and in all other aspects of their livelihoods. While women’s empowerment is the process through which women improve their capacity to make life choices, and to transform these choices into actions and outcomes.


In most developing countries, women play a critical role in the fight against rural poverty and hunger by managing natural resources, building resilient livelihoods and contributing to food security and nutrition of their households and communities. Women make up about 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries.  The majority of rural women not only are responsible for the care of their families and homes but they are also subsistence farmers, small businesses operators or carry out wage work. Ensuring that rural women and men benefit from equal opportunities and access to agricultural markets, is not only a way to narrow the gender gap in agriculture, but also to support smart economies and ensure sustainable and productive  agriculture and food systems. Increasing gender equality leads to reduced poverty and food insecurity and improved nutrition both at the household and community levels.

Integrating gender in FFS activities

FAO’s FFS Guidance document points out that FFS formulation and process must be gender-responsive, by recognizing and addressing the specific needs and priorities of men and women, based on the social construction of gender roles. As such, FFS should be implemented under the prism of a thorough gender analysis, where specific information, training content and priorities are tailored based on the local gender-specific needs. Program staff and FFS facilitators are trained to increase their gender awareness and familiarity with the concepts of social inclusion and social vulnerability. Over the years, gender-responsive good practices and lessons learned are collected and disseminated, showing how FFS can influence social dynamics and reinforce social inclusion.

Social inclusion considers different needs and abilities due to other social factors such as ethnicity and caste, socioeconomic status, or disability status.

Vulnerability: the characteristics and circumstances of a community, system or asset that make it susceptible to the damaging effects of a hazard.

Social vulnerability is a risk of not being able to fully participate in economic, social and civic life in the community.

Did you know…?

  • Gender equality has been at the core of the design of FAO Asia’s community education programmes on Integrated Pest Management (IPM)/pesticide risk reduction and National IPM Programmes, by accounting for the different roles of men and women in pesticide use and risk management in communities and their specific needs in the design of training curricula.
  • FFS can provide information on how to  set up saving funds to meet the financial cost for education or health care of children, not only enabling FFS members to access loans, or to use these resources for emergencies, but also building community trust.
  • FFS learning activities are scheduled according to gender-based work outside the field to allow women’s participation. Boys and girls are encouraged to participate with their parents in training activities to expose them to learning opportunities.
  • Field practitioners make increasing efforts to collect sex-disaggregated data and use gender-sensitive indicators to design gender-responsive programmes and to monitor and  report the different impact of their interventions on men and women.

FFS and Dimitra Clubs

Several projects with a focus on FFS have developed their own gender strategy.  Some projects implemented in Niger and Senegal in the context of climate change adaptation have established strong synergies with the Dimitra Clubs FAO approach. These Clubs are spaces of dialogue and collective action at community level to discuss common development challenges, make decisions and take action using local resources. As part of this methodological alliance, the clubs provide support to the Farmer Field Schools in the area of gender-sensitive participatory communication in rural areas, with additional spaces for discussing gender roles in communities, and raising local awareness of existing gender gaps. The system used by the Dimitra Clubs (three separate groups per village: young people/women/men who also meet regularly in village assemblies) ensures the inclusion of all. The process enables the “voiceless” to make themselves heard, especially women and youth - strengthening their leadership and self-confidence. Through community radios, the FFS and Dimitra clubs can broadcast information at a regional level on food security, farming practices but also dealing with social issues, such as violence against women or reproductive health.


Gender-based violence is an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed (i.e. gender) differences between males and females. This term is most commonly used to underscore how systemic inequality between males and females – which exists in every society in the world – acts as a unifying and foundational characteristic of most forms of violence perpetrated against women and girls.

Sustaining peace encompasses activities aimed at preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict, including by addressing root causes and moving towards recovery, reconstruction and development.

In recent years the Dimitra clubs and the Junior Farmer Field and Life School (JFFLS), have dedicated special attention to protection from gender-based violence (GBV), which undermines household and national food security by reducing the resilience of survivors, weakening their capacity to be productive workers and earners, and creating a vicious cycle of abuse. Technical guidance and policy support were provided to address GBV, promote gender equality and abolish discriminatory practices and legislation.

In view of the increasing number of conflicts around the world, special attention is also given to support rural communities by building a sustainable peace process and achieving food security. Both the Dimitra Clubs and the JFFLS provide vocational training tailored to the most vulnerable boys and girls, men and women. They also facilitate their access to employment and markets, thereby contributing to reducing social tensions and conflicts; strengthening social cohesion; building sustainable peace and resilience; and transforming armful social norms and behaviours.

In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, support was provided to boys and girls to develop their self-confidence, agency and resilience, and enhance their entrepreneurial and agricultural skills. Positive behavioural changes were observed at individual and community levels, ensuring more economic and social opportunities outside the conflict.

In 2018, FAO collaborated with several development partners to create the Women’s Empowerment Farmer Business School (WE-FBS) toolkit aiming to enhance female farmers’ capacity and improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of their activities and enterprises.