F is for farmer field schools
24 September 2014
The latest in our A to Z of food sovereignty: farmer field schools (FFS)
Farmer field schools (FFS) are an educational forum for farmers to learn and share practical knowledge related to farming based on a central learning garden.The approach was first used in Kenya in 1995 and has since spread across Africa (and other parts of the world). To date an estimated 12 million farmers around the world have had some form of training through a FFS. The impacts of FFS have been considerable, ranging from increasing food production (by anything from 50% and 85%), to increasing access and control over food production by women and children.
In Uganda, what started as a FFS with a central learning garden, has evolved into Farmer Family Learning Groups (FFLG), where farmers learn and support different farms each time they gather for a visit:
“FFLG members work together and thereby reduce labour costs. They open more land than when working alone. Due to proper and timely management practices, productivity has increased. The selection of commercial enterprises based on group decisions helps planning for larger quantities to be marketed as a group. In addition to crops that double as both food and cash crops, the purely cash crops grown are coffee, cocoa, and cotton. All FFLGs have established savings and credit schemes. Most groups have increased their minimum total savings from a mere US$1 to around US$3 000. All this has been made possible by the social trust and interaction which enables farmers to access better markets through group marketing.”
The impact of FFS goes beyond learning new skills and increasing crop production. FFS increase people’s ability to make decisions and choices both as individuals and through collective action.
Photo: Organic agriculture school in Morogoro, Tanzania. Photo credit: Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania
About the A-Z of food sovereignty project
The A-Z of Food Sovereignty in Africa shows the positive alternatives to corporate-led agriculture. A new letter was posted each day in the lead up to World Food Day arrived on 16 October 2014.
Africa’s small-scale food producers already know how to produce enough food sustainably to feed themselves but the political and economic rules which govern the food system are set against them. These rules are written by and for multinational companies and political elites, in support of a global food system that benefits them rather than the millions of smallholders and family farmers who produce the food and get little in return.