Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization

Global Innovation Challenge on Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization and Farmer Field Schools for small-scale producers


Following the successes of the FAO Global Conference on Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization and of the Global Forum on the Future of Farmer Field Schools for Sustainable Agrifood Systems in 2024, the Plant Production and Protection Division (NSP) and the Office of Innovation (OIN) are inviting you to apply for the “Global Innovation Challenge on Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization and Farmer Field Schools for small-scale producers”! 

Sustainable agricultural mechanization (SAM) refers to mechanized operations using mechanization technologies along the value chains to improve efficiency while ensuring sustainability in terms of environmental impact, social equity, and economic gains. SAM plays a critical role in increasing productivity, reducing labor, creating jobs, and generating incomes in rural communities, crucial for addressing poverty and hunger. However, many rural communities, particularly youth and women, lack the resources and access to affordable SAM solutions. Machinery maintenance issues further hinder productivity and sustainability.

Farmer Field Schools (FFS) use a people-centered, learning-by-doing approach for farmer education and problem-solving. Active in over 90 countries, FFS covers diverse topics such as soil, crop, water, and landscape management; participatory variety development; agropastoralism; aquaculture; agroforestry; nutrition; and market and credit access. This process enhances empowerment and collective action at individual, household, and community levels. FFS successfully support rural development and empower small-scale producers, but few FFS initiatives currently include SAM. Scaling up SAM within FFS could enhance production efficiency, sustainability, yields, incomes, and job creation, introducing innovative business models for small-scale producers.

This Global Innovation Challenge will support FAO field teams to experiment solutions to support SAM through FFS, with the ultimate goals to:

  1. create employment and innovative agri-business opportunities at community level by scaling-up the adoption of small-scale machinery through FFS groups and networks;
  2. enhance vocational training programmes and other support mechanisms on sustainable agricultural mechanization through FFS;
  3. reinforce innovative collaboration of stakeholders at national level among the public, private and non-profit sectors to support solutions on SAM through FFS programmes.


Business models on SAM include but are not limited to: hire mechanization services (e.g. provision of harvesting or transport services for a fee); value addition of food crops for sale in markets; and local repair and maintenance services.

For this challenge innovation is defined as new processes, participatory approaches, technologies, and business models that are promoted and suited to local contexts, and that solve problems recognized by all those concerned.


Who can apply?

FAO Country offices with ongoing Farmer Field Schools (FFS) projects are invited to apply to the Innovation Challenge.

The recipient country needs to have:

  • Public or private organizations or institutions providing training on SAM (e.g. vocational training centers, NGOs, associations, etc.).
  • Significant on-going FFS projects with the potential and interest to include SAM
  • FAO country office team* with adequate capacity for the implementation of the proposal
  • Previous experience with beneficiary grants is an asset
  • It is considered an asset if countries have a national policy, strategy or programme on SAM and on FFS

The application from the FAO country office to the Innovation Challenge will be reviewed and assessed, only if it complies with these minimum requirements


Selection Criteria

  • Identification of a genuine and pressing problem with a viable innovative solution
  • Potential to generate economic value and foster entrepreneurship in rural communities
  • Proven track record and organizational capacity in implementing FFS or similar grassroots programs, fostering partnerships, innovation, and participatory approaches
  • Presence of significant ongoing or planned programs related to SAM and/or FFS
  • Evidence of engagement and collaboration with diverse stakeholders, including private and public sectors, in relevant technical areas 


What are the benefits for participants?

Two FAO country offices will receive FULL support (up to USD 300k each), while six to eight country offices will receive SOFT support from FAO HQs to implement their innovative solutions.

Soft support includes collaborative learning, participation in knowledge exchange events, and co-development of guidelines on FFS and SAM. It aims to inspire and draw inspiration from fellow innovators, offering opportunities to connect with practitioners, researchers, and leading experts globally. This support provides recognition and visibility on the Global FFS and SAM Platform. Additionally, soft support involves incubation, coaching, and specialized technical assistance to refine SAM training under FFS, develop SAM-based businesses, and more.

The support from FAO HQ will consist of developing capacities for joint innovation (soft skills), upgrading technical capacities in the domain of SAM through FFS (technical skills) and financial support:



Full support

Soft support


Join a collaborative learning initiative, engage in knowledge exchange events, and co-develop guidelines on FFS and SAM. Inspire and get inspiration from fellow innovators.


Access networking opportunities with practitioners, researchers, and leading domain experts from different regions. Gain recognition and visibility on Global FFS and SAM Platforms.


Receive coaching and specialized technical support to refine and enhance your work design and execution of training on SAM under FFS, create business on SAM, etc.

Pilot and Scale

Receive financial support through small grants for piloting and scaling innovative SAM solutions in FFS initiatives.



The FAO country office can use the funds to work with country-level stakeholders to inter alia: 

  • Collaborate with FAO HQ to launch a call with grants selection process for identifying implementing partners and beneficiary farmer groups for small grants.
  • Conduct gender-sensitive mechanization needs assessments for FFS groups, market analysis and development, tracking of local innovations; and support innovative business models, capacity development, access to mechanization technologies, use innovative ICT solutions, M&E to track impacts and more.
  • Create or strengthen innovative partnerships with key strategic actors, including the private sector, NGOs, academia and research, social entrepreneurs, incubators, microfinancing institutions, producer organizations, and service providers.
  • Allocate the majority of the funds to grants for national and local stakeholders and related technical assistance.

*The FAO country office can also allocate part of the funds to finance human resources coordinating the Innovation Challenge. This includes:

  • Outreach, identify and select grant beneficiaries
  • Make contracts with beneficiaries
  • Disburse grants
  • Manage service providers
  • Monitor performance


Submission of application: By 10 July 2024

Review of application and selection of short-listed countries: By end of July 2024

Bootcamp and field activities implementation: September 2024 - November 2025

The result of the bootcamp will determine which countries will receive full support and soft support.


How to apply?

The FAO country office should submit their application here ( no later than 10 July 2024.

For questions on the application, reach OIN/NSP at: [email protected]; [email protected] and [email protected]