FAO Investment Centre

The power of farmer-to-farmer learning in Rwanda


Rwanda is seeing good results since mainstreaming farmer-to-farmer learning in its national agricultural extension system several years ago, a new study by FAO and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has found.

Twigire Muhinzi – meaning ‘self-reliance in farming’ – is Rwanda’s homegrown, decentralized and farmer-oriented agricultural extension system. 

By combining farmer promoters and farmer field schools, the system is helping Rwandan farmers sharpen their skills and knowledge and become more empowered. This, in turn, is leading to greater uptake of technologies and practices that can improve farmers’ livelihoods and incomes.

Institutionalizing farmer field schools: Twigire Muhinzi national extension system in Rwanda is one of several successful cases featured in a global study on agriculture human capital investments carried out by the FAO Investment Centre and IFPRI, with support from the FAO Research and Extension Unit and CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets.

Thanks to financial support from public-private partnerships, Rwanda has been able to scale up this approach, says Kristin Davis, Senior Research Fellow in IFPRI’s Development Strategy and Governance Division and one of the global report’s lead authors.

“Through Twigire Muhinzi, agricultural extension has managed to reach every village in the country, offering a holistic curriculum that combines technical topics with skills such as group management and critical thinking,” she says.

“It’s a community-based approach that allows entry to farming communities for development activities by government, public-private partnerships, NGOs and others,” she adds.

Strengthening skills and capacities

Agriculture is the backbone of economic growth in Rwanda and the main or only source of income for most rural households. The country’s farmers are also relatively young, with an average age of 44 years. 

Twigire Muhinzi trains farmers rather than government or NGO staff as farmer field school facilitators, and relies on farmer promoters who provide local demonstrations. The case study’s authors note that this allows for “peer-to-peer training, communication in local languages and sensitivity to local culture, farming practices and farmers’ needs.” 

The system focuses on developing the capacity of a critical mass of frontline extension agents and empowering farmers to make smart decisions based on experimentation, observation and analysis.

Farmers and field school facilitators interviewed across four provinces have gained a range of technical, social and functional skills. These run from increased competencies in livestock management and cropping practices to cooperation and market analysis. Farmers were in a better position to plan their agricultural activities and negotiate higher prices for their produce.

According to the study’s authors this “has changed the farmers’ approach to farming, causing them to shift to a more intentional approach that factors in market trends when making decisions on key factors of production such as planting or selecting varieties.”

‘Seeing is believing’

Various factors contribute to the success of the farmer field school and farmer promoter approaches under Twigire Muhinzi, from their integration into national policies and strategies to coordinated support and planning to partnerships with development practitioners, NGOs and civil society.

The power of farmer-to-farmer learning and of working in groups is also key. The use of field plots allows farmers to apply innovative technologies and see for themselves what works and what does not – reinforcing the schools’ ‘seeing is believing’ motto.

Farmer field schools, originally created to train farmers on integrated pest management, are now entry points for training on other issues like water management, climate change adaptation, marketing networks and agribusiness development. 

Strengthening the skills, knowledge and capacities of farmers, especially small-scale farmers, to navigate agriculture’s rapidly changing environment can help improve their livelihoods and well-being.

In addition to this case study, you can read about interesting work in Cameroon, Chile, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Peru, the United States of America plus West and Central Africa, along with the global report. 




In addition to Rwanda, FAO and IFPRI have published the country case studies in ChileIndiaIndonesiaKenya,  Peru, the United States of America, and the global reportIn 2022, further case studies for Cameroon and West and Central Africa to follow along with four thematic investment briefs – on digital agriculture, economic analysis, private sector and youth – to guide investors on strengthening farmers’ capacities