Plataforma Global de las Escuelas de Campo de Agricultores

Nutrition and Farmer Field Schools

Malnutrition is a burden beard nowadays by one in three people in all countries . Some expressions of malnutrition are  chronic hunger, micronutrient deficiency, child stunting and/or obesity. To counter this trend, sustainable food systems for healthy diets and improved nutrition are promoted by FAO worldwide.

Provision of field advisory services  is increasingly recognized to play a critical role on linking production and consumption and enhancing nutrition awareness among smallholder farmers. In particular, the participatory approach such as the FFS methodology has proved to be an excellent springboard for strengthening the links between nutrition and agricultural production and spreading good dietary and nutritional practices among farmer communities. Production diversification and dietary diversity are the inextricable aspects of healthy diets promoted by the FFS approach. The FFS experiences can be collocated within a wide range that can be summarized in two main types: 

  • FFS whose core focus is nutrition
  • FFS whose main topic is different from nutrition (e.g. integrated management of production and pests and diseases, climate, etc.) and where nutrition is considered as a special topic.

 FFS focused on nutrition

The nutrition-focused FFS approach helps beneficiaries prevent malnutrition by providing hands-on learning experiences to address some of the causes of malnutrition related to food, diets and food practices. The main components of these FFS are:

  • Precondition survey: survey on nutritionally sensitive crops available in the environments and food practices. This pre-survey may help identify the underlying malnutrition problems and better target the activities of the FFS. Click here for more information on sustainable food value chains for nutrition
  • Training of facilitators consisting of agricultural instructors; agronomists/veterinarians, community health workers (community-based extension system people). The training is done by certified nutritionists themselves trained on conducting hands-on behaviour-focused trainer-of trainer sessions
  • Develop curriculum based on the results of the survey and on the capacity needs of the community. Click here to learn more about the capacity needs assessment
  • Facilitate sessions based on the main nutritionally sensitive activities: growing diversified crops, culinary demonstrations, breeding of hens and goats, food and clothing hygiene etc. allowing a diversified production, including varieties with high nutritional value that allow to improve and diversify consumption


Nutrition as a special topic in FFS

The practical, hands-on and experimental nature of FFS complement practical nutrition strategies, which aim to increase the diversity of food consumed, preparation standards, and food storage in households. Integrating nutrition activities in FFS may include the following components:

  • Training of facilitators on nutrition-sensitive topics provided by certified nutritionists trained on conducting hands-on behaviour-focused trainer-of trainer sessions
  • In FFS learning sessions, traditional extension topics such as cropping and pest management are being used as an entry point to discuss related issues, including health and nutrition. For example, when learning about diversity in crop production, direct action can be taken by FFS facilitators to stimulate discussions among beneficiaries about the nutritional value of particular crops, preparation, and cooking techniques for maximum nutrient retention. By continuously drawing this link between agricultural and other human spheres, nutrition education gets interwoven and integrated into agricultural extension and rural food and nutrition security can be greatly enhanced. 


Multistakeholder nutrition-based FFS to combat malnutrition in Burundi

A project to combat malnutrition in Ngozi province in Burundi was implemented jointly by four UN agencies (FAO, WHO, WFP and UNICEF) between 2013 and 2016.

It was a pilot project that intervened in the Health District of Kiremba which includes 3 communes: Kiremba, Tangara and Marangara.

Four integrated intervention components were developed during implementation:

  • Nutrition (UNICEF): improving infant and young child feeding practices
  • Agriculture (FAO): training on agricultural practices with high nutritional value for household food diversification, setting up of kitchen-gardens and capacity building for adults and youth through FFS
  • Fortification (WFP): Food fortification through flour fortification at the mill level for distribution to vulnerable households and marketing
  • Health (WHO): Capacity building for the management of childhood illnesses at the clinical and community levels

87 adult FFS and 16 junior FFS were implemented to improve food security through capacity building of households on agricultural and nutritional techniques.

These FFS have promoted high nutritional value crops within 1590 households, 40 households received chickens at a rate of 10 chickens per household, 636 households received 1500 goats and 136 breeding goats.

Although nutrition-focused FFS have shown promising results, they cannot contribute to the fight against malnutrition on their own. As this project showed, a synergy of several interventions is needed, but they play an important role in prevention.