FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

FAO Story: Mohamed Mouldi “I have better control over my olive plot thanks to FAO’s Farmer Field Schools.”

"Seeing as it was not possible to go back to school to learn how to better manage my plot of olive trees, it is the school that came to me " said Mohamed Mouldi, an olive farmer in El Ksour's delegation in Kairouan, a governorate located in the center of the country and a member of the Farmers Field Schools implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) since 2019, under the regional Water Efficiency, Productivity and Sustainability project.

Farmer Field Schools (FFS) is an approach that has been developed by FAO thirty years ago. FFS use an extension participatory method, which aims to create a space for knowledge and experience exchange between farmers. Thhe sessions take place in an experimental plot that invites the selected group of farmers to research on different agricultural practices and discuss results and the problems encountered on their land.

In Tunisia , and as part of the regional project to improve water efficiency, productivity and sustainability, six olive growing field schools have been set up in the north and center of the country. These schools are run by agricultural advisory agents of the regional agricultural development commission. Experts from the Ministry of agriculture, FAO and the Olive Institute ensure, through an agreement, the scientific aspect of these schools.

Mohamed Mouldi, an olive farmer in El Ksour delegation, volunteered to host the El Ksour olive FFS  in his plot as soon as it started. "I see the benefits of setting up this space for learning by doing in our neighborhood. Therefore, when the facilitators approached me and told me about this opportunity, I immediately accepted. We are 15 farmers, in different age groups and experience levels in olive growing. The FFS sessions allowed us to learn from each other, to discuss certain local agricultural practices and their impact on our fields and to learn new ones. During the sessions, we observe the situation of each of our land plots and take notes of this on a board; we then discuss the problems together and suggested solutions. The experts of the Olive Tree Institute presented the scientific knowledge that we then adopted to the local context and to the means of farmers” said M. Mouldi.   

While the focus of the regional project was mainly on the efficiency and productivity of water, the FFS implemented introduced different technical subjects, such as the management of irrigation water, soil and crops management, olive pruning, integrated pest and disease management, value chain and crop loss reduction, and access to regional agricultural development commission services.

“Personally, FAO’s FFS allowed me to improve my olive production which increased from 7 to 10 kg per tree in a year. In addition, I have reduced the expenses from agricultural inputs and pumping electricity budget. Today, I can say that I know when to irrigate and how much water the tree needs. I also know how to manage and maintain the drip irrigation system to use water in the best way” he said, with a big smile on his face.

“Beyond the technical aspects, the school have consolidated the social cohesion in our neighborhood and revived the spirit of intergenerational transmission and exchanges." M. Mouldi added.

Under the regional project, a network of more than thirty FFS dealing with various crops are being implemented in the eight beneficiary countries. In addition to the local and national partners input, the schools also benefit from the support of the team from the University of Cordoba in Spain, bringing in the international expertise and leading the water productivity component.

This activity is implemented under the regional project “Implementing the 2030 Agenda for water efficiency/ productivity and water sustainability in the NENA countries” under the regional Water Scarcity Initiative. This project is funded by the Swedish International Cooperation and Development Agency.