Sameh Fraij Jordan

How farmer field schools improve lives as well as incomes

"We help each other when there is a need."

Sameh Fraij is a farmer from the Jordan Valley. In 2007, he was contacted by the facilitator of the local farmer field school (FFS), which was being run as part of the FAO regional programme. Sameh had never heard about FFS before. “We were quite sceptical about it,” Sameh says, “as we couldn’t imagine how we could significantly increase our income.”

After some reflection, Sameh eventually decided to join the FFS group on tomato production – he then remained for three FFS cycles! “I was a typical father-to-son farmer,” Sameh says. “The knowledge I had was that of my daddy. Thanks to the experience I gained through FFS, however, I became an expert in what I’m doing.”

Using the knowledge gained through FFS, Sameh was initially able to increase the area of land he farmed. Although he has subsequently had to reduce this, because of the effect of the Syrian crisis on export routes, he has been able to improve his planning and minimize production costs thanks to what he learnt in FFS.

Sameh and his fellow farmers from the FFS also now grow a wider range of crops and actively practise integrated pest management, reducing the amount of pesticides they use by more than a half. They also share their knowledge with other, non-FFS farmers. “There is always somebody asking me for advice”, says Sameh. “We help each other when there is a need.”

On a personal level, Sameh acknowledges that he has much more self-confidence. “The communication within my family is very open now. We discuss everything, including economic issues. I feel supported.”

There have also been social benefits. “The ex-FFS group is a strong group and our community recognizes us,” says Sameh. “We have created a new association, which is mainly active in the agricultural sector, but we also try to address social issues locally, such as when we established a new nursery school.”

From time to time, the group also mediates conflicts at community level. “People trust us.”