Global Farmer Field School Platform

Universities across three Eastern African nations integrate Farmer Field School methodology into curricula


For Lilian Dama Kadenge, farming was the last possible option. She once declared that she would rather take up menial jobs than turn to farming. However, when a local university professor came to teach about good agricultural practices, curiosity got the better of her and she joined the Boyani Farmer Field School (FFS) group. Now, the 43-year-old mother and guardian of six has realised her first bumper maize harvest.

‘Being in the FFS is very educational,’ she notes. ‘Learning simple things such as when a maize plant has 15 leaves is when it starts developing the cob, has helped me to track when I should inspect my farm to catch pests like the Fall Army Worm. I now know that instead of getting rid of livestock manure, I can use it to fertilize the plants and ensure good soil fertility’. She has come to appreciate the pros and cons of farming and is now planning to use the knowledge gained to apply an agribusiness approach on her maize farm.

Like it happened for Kadenge, this story repeats itself for many smallholder farmers who enrol in FFS in Eastern Africa. FFS has repeatedly proven useful to enhance skills and knowledge of farmers toward increasing productivity and employing more sustainable agricultural practices.

FFS develops observation skills, promotes collective action and enhances farmers’ understanding of their environment to solve real world agricultural production problems. For more than 30 years, the FFS methodology has been practiced globally and it is estimated that more than 400 000 farmers participate annually. Kadenge is now one of those farmers who graduated from the FFS with honours!

FAO transferred the FFS approach in Eastern Africa in the mid-1990s and it has evolved since then. While the practice has become widespread, mainstreaming FFS within national extension systems has been slow. A reason for this is the inability of extension graduates to apply FFS to real world contexts.  To address this gap, FAO has promoted the integration of FFS knowledge in the curricula of the universities in three countries: Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, with a view to institutionalising the FFS approaches.

The initial work began in 2017 with a three-week Training of Facilitators (ToF) module at Pwani University, Kilifi, Kenya. Staff from the University, with additional participants from Ethiopia and Uganda, took a three-week FFS ToF to become certified FFS facilitators.

In 2019, the institutionalisation process continued by adding more universities to the initiative. Hawassa University from Ethiopia, Makerere University, Bukulasa Agriculture College, Arapai Agriculture College [Busitema University], Uganda Christian University, Gulu University, Serere School of Agricultural/Business Studies and Kyambogo University from Uganda all joined.

FAO exerted considerable resources to develop the knowledge and skills of university staff to develop, integrate and deliver FFS curricula in academic programmes. Professors and lecturers from Ethiopia and Uganda took part in a three-week training, which focused on facilitation skills, discovery-based learning, participatory monitoring and evaluation, and the agro-ecosystem analysis. In Kenya, Pwani University continued with the second series of training to produce FFS Master Trainers, who attained the highest level of certification in the FFS realm.

A second aspect of the training involved the establishment of outreach groups in local communities. The trainees were responsible for contacting communities to establish outreach sites and practice their FFS knowledge in the field, literally. One community in Ethiopia, five in Kenya, and three in Uganda were selected as outreach sites for the trainees to practice their new extension skillset.

Farmer participants in Kenya conducted group-led experiments on soil fertility using organic and inorganic fertilizers. In Ethiopia, participants conducted trials on cabbage production; and in Uganda outreach beneficiaries participated in problem ranking exercises to identify challenges affecting ginger production. These exercises enabled the university participants to reinforce FFS skills and to test their academic knowledge applied to the context of farmers.

The universities in the three countries have now developed contextualised curricula at several academic levels - Bachelor’s degree, certificate and short-course levels - to enable current and future extension workers acquire the necessary skills in FFS. The courses will proceed as soon as the relevant university Senates approve. FAO will organize a workshop to bring together all stakeholders to share experiences to support this validation process. 

While the institutionalisation of FFS in higher learning is a demanding task, there is a bright future to expand the initiative across the subregion, particularly to train the existing and future national extension workers to meet the growing demand for FFS.


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