Global Farmer Field School Platform

Integrated Pest Management and Farmer Field Schools

For decades, farmers have been putting their crops, health, and environment at severe risk through massive overuse of highly toxic pesticides promoted by private industry. Overuse of pesticide has led to resistance and in some cases resurgence of pest. In terms of food security, crops losses to pests represent the equivalent of food required to feed over 1 billion people.
The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Farmer Field School programme emerged in the late 1980’s to address food security and health issues arising from pesticides overuse.
IPM Farmer Field Schools:

  • seek to empower farmers,
  • enabling them to become ‘experts’ in managing the ecology of their field
  • bringing better yields, fewer pest problems, increased profits, and less risk to their health and environment

What is integrated pest management?
IPM combines different management strategies and practices to grow and protect healthy crops by minimizing the use of pesticides. A cornerstone of sustainable agriculture, it aims to enhance farmer practices to support higher income while improving conservation and management of natural resources and the health of rural communities and consumers.  IPM emphasizes the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms (International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management, FAO/WHO, 2014).

IPM - not a "package", but a decision-making process

IPM is not a "packaged technology" that is "adopted" by farmers.IPM is a process of decision-making and farming which is gradually improved with greater ecological knowledge, and observation skills.

In an IPM-FFS learning cycle:

  • groups of neighboring farmers observe and discuss dynamics of the crop’s ecosystem during regular sessions from planting until harvest.
  • Simple experimentation helps farmers improve their understanding of functional relationships (e.g. pests-natural enemy population dynamics and crop damage-yield relationships).
  •  farmers learn to make their own crop management decisions.
  • Special group activities encourage learning from peers, and strengthen communicative skills and group building.



Building resilient agricultural systems through Integrated Pest Management in Vietnam

In 2008, FAO introduced Viet Nam to the concept of minimum tillage potato growing using integrated pest management (IPM) in lowland rice production systems. Between 2009 and 2011, profits from growing potatoes increased by 60 to 73 percent using minimum tillage potato IPM compared with conventional potato growing methods. Rice fields were not ploughed, or tilled, after harvesting. Instead, the paddies are drained using drainage furrows that result in raised beds. The beds are ideal for growing potatoes without the usual need for labour intensive ploughing, or tilling. Initially, the initiative involved one province and 25 farmers. Today, 1 200 farmers have adopted minimum tillage potato using IPM in 15 provinces; 840 of those farmers are women. As a result, minimum tillage potato IPM was recognized as a promising model and, in 2011, the ministry issued a directive calling for all potato-producing provinces in the country to apply the practice.

Because conventional potato production is labour-intensive, many families shifted to planting other crops. Today, minimum tillage potato IPM may be the potato's salvation in Viet Nam, helping to conserve resources and grow more food that can improve diets and increase farm incomes for families in many provinces across Viet Nam. In 2009, 23 women in the IPM Farmers’ Group in Thai Giang village were able to buy television sets with the extra money they made growing potatoes. From their potato-farming income in 2010, they bought gas stoves while others said they were saving the money to send their children to university.


IPM programmes have given rise to the concept of ‘sustainable livelihoods’ - by ensuring a security of incomes, food supplies and health, and improvements in rural civil society – and contributed to the growing recognition of the integrated nature of development.