Farmer Field Schools for Soil Productivity Improvement, Conservation Agriculture and Nutrient Monitoring in Eastern Uganda

A group of governmental, non-governmental, research and academic organizations developed a partnership programme to adapt, validate and test the farmer field school (FFS) approach for improved land mangement. The programme operated in eastern Uganda in Busia, Mbale, Pallisa and Tororo districts where soil productivity levels are low and continue declining. The experiential learning approach of FFS enabled farmers to be better equipped to understand the problems of soil productivity.

Three programmes/projects made up the consortium:

Piloting Farmer Field Schools for Soil Productivity Improvement (FFS-SPI)
This programme aimed to strengthen and equip farming communities, farmers and service providers (extensionists, facilitators and NGOs) with better rain-fed land (including soil, water, crop and livestock) management skills, and decision-making capacity to overcome soil productivity limitations, and to enhance sustainable and economically viable land management practices. The programme was launched early 2002 through a Letter of Agreement between FAO and Africa 2000 Network in collaboration with other stakeholders.

Piloting Conservation Agriculture for Improved Land Management and Livelihoods of Smallholder Farmers
The main purpose of this pilot project was to introduce the principles and adapt techniques for Conservation Agriculture (CA) in Pallisa and Mbale districts as an integral part of improved land management and livelihood strategies of smallholder farmers. The project  also monitored impact in selected micro-catchments, tested/developed appropriate tools and equipment and identified required support services. 

Integrated nutrient management to attain sustainable productivity increases in East African farming systems (INMASP)
This research and development project combined quantitative and qualitative research approaches within the framework of Farmer Field Schools, specifically in the area of Integrated Nutrient Management. More information on INMASP project. 

These programmes/projects were initially designed separately but in view of many commonalties in the intended approach, the partnership programme was established. The idea was to develop the approach and FFS curriculum across Ugandan and not to restrict the work to the initial programme districts. Project Areas of Intervention Busia, Mbale, Palissa and Tororo Districts, Eastern Uganda.


Increase farmer’s ability to take advantage of new opportunities and to cope adequately with new problems in order to improve and sustain the productivity of his farm. To achieve this, farmers need to test and evaluate management options in line with their biophysical and socio-economic environment. A farmer’s capacity to respond to changing circumstances becomes all the more important where farmers have no access to regular and reliable technical support from extension agencies.A second objective is to increase farmer’s knowledge and skills in improved soil and nutrient management practices.

Activities and outputs

The main activity areas of the three Ugandan projects included:

  • awareness raising and demonstrations/field days of suitable technologies with stakeholders;
  • training of trainers: subject matter specialists, extension staff and farmers groups;
  • participatory technology development with farmers' groups;
  • monitoring and validation of technologies with farmers and other stakeholders;
  • assessment of technical options and their socioeconomic implications; and,
  • development of larger-scale follow-up programme.

This programme developed a FFS curriculum ’tool box’ to enable farmers to develop and implement appropriate natural resource management techniques. This included diagnostic methods for crop nutrient deficiencies and toxicities, including simple bioassay methods to demonstrate for example procedures for effective fertilizer placement methods, and crop residue management for soil, water and nutrient conservation.

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