Global Farmer Field School Platform

Farmer field schools revitalizing a fragile region in Pakistan in times of COVID-19


The anti-terrorism military drive after 9/11 displaced some two million people from the formerly called Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) whereas schools, hospitals and houses got destroyed.  In 2017, the federal government considered a proposal to merge the tribal areas to form the Newly Merged Districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province of Pakistan, a semi-autonomous tribal belt in the northwestern Pakistan. Nowaday, these areas are known as the Merged Districts (MD), which include Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North, and South Waziristan.

The Merged Districts have a conservative culture and health facilities are not enough for the local population; they get access to nearby districts to acquire health facilities, whereas only 43% people have access to clean drinking water. Literacy rate is 33% that is well below the nationwide ratio of 56%. Due to discouraging literacy figures, unsubstantial agricultural activities and absence of worth-mentioning industrial units, unemployment rate is very high while the socio-economic development front is much bleaker for the MDs’ women.

Security situation has affected the food and livestock production, food consumption patterns, damaged infrastructure and markets, and further exacerbated the already fragile food security and livelihood situation for households. Recently, security in the area has improved. However, the affected population has not been able to restore their livelihood assets and their overall food security conditions are still below the mark. The vast majority of local population lives in rural areas and is largely dependent on agriculture including livestock and the natural resource base for their livelihood.


The direct implementation of projects by FAO, in close collaboration with the Govt. Line Departments, contributed to their capacity development and farmer communities of the area. FAO strengthened the capacity of farming communities through Farmer Field Schools (FFS) and Farm Business Schools (FBS) approaches. This approach helped the communities in building back better. The various interventions under FFS and FBS increased awareness amongst the participating farmers about efficient management of their crops and livestock. Now farmers have knowhow and do how about the sustainable agricultural practices like efficiently stored farmyard manure, importance of quality seed, IPM, ICM and marketing of their surplus produce.

 So far, 8,459 farmers (with 35% women) in all districts have been capacitated through the FFS during the last three years. These FFSs were beneficial in improving the knowledge level and adoption of beneficial practices, as well as outcomes relating to agricultural production and farmers' incomes. FFS in MDs enabled farmers to understand and track local agro-ecosystems and, based on their understanding of these technical monitoring tools, improved their understanding of the options and their decision-making. Now graduated farmers can make better decisions which crops to grow during the dry season based on their new knowledge and monitoring of ground water availability. 

Graduated farmers are also capable to analyze ecosystem development, problems and opportunities encountered in the field and improve decision-making skills regarding farm management, building on the critical group discussions to put out shared understanding of different components and their interaction in agro-ecosystems.


Special Topics on COVID-19 Awareness

 Livelihoods of millions of farmers were adversely affected across the country due to COVID-19. During the pandemic, FAO Pakistan actively extended support to farmers and vulnerable rural communities in the MDs of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while adhering to all necessary precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Larger FFS groups were split into smaller groups of 8-10 participants while maintaining social distancing. Furthermore, all sessions were conducted in open fields - avoiding indoor meetings and activities. These sessions were held to keep the farmers informed and build their capacities so that the season-bound agricultural activities are not affected. During the pandemic, the FFS facilitators mainly focused on COVID-19 awareness through special topic since farmers didn’t have access to information through internet or any other communication means. FFSs have proved to be a viable platform for raising awareness against COVID-19. The objective was to aware the community enough to cope up with the difficult situations and to follow prevention and mitigation measures to fight with the pandemic. Homemade sanitizer has practiced in the community by using different disinfectant liquid and plant species like Aloe Vera as communities cannot afford expensive sanitizers. Relevant IEC material designed by UN agencies were used for awareness and disseminated to 3678 households through FFS groups while clearing all the misconceptions and rumors regarding vaccination.


Total 220 special topics on COVID-19 were organized whereas 1,438 men, 811 women and 407 children were oriented on the preventive measures against the pandemic. In total, 2249 households and 15,743 indirect beneficiaries were targeted. Women played a major role by adopting the measures for themselves and their families despite movement limitations and certain cultural constraints.