Farmer field school (FFS) is an agricultural and empowerment approach used in an extension program where a group of farmers learn together, study their production environment and constraints and identify the solutions to their problems. The approach emphasizes joint analysis, learning and creative ways of handling farming business. The farmer field school approach is very effective in helping farmers to test and develop improved farming practices and support each other through their groups. It provides farmers with knowledge and skills they need to improve on their farming practices. Farmer field schools (FFS) are used worldwide to support farmers with knowledge.In Uganda, this approach was introduced in mid 1990s by FAO and since then, successful field programmes have remarkably improved production in both food and cash oriented enterprises. Particularly ,Farmers Field Schools were first introduced in Kolir Sub County in 2013 as part of the Agribusiness value chain development by EHCAI supported by Help a Child Netherlands. A communal piece of land is made available to teach farmers proven agronomic practices. Farmers adopt new techniques which they apply on their own farms and once these techniques are well mastered, the taught farmers transfer the skills to others, thus multiplying the positive effects of the methodology. The AVCD programme under EHCAI established 16 FFS in four parishes of Kolir Sub County with four supported enterprises.A total of 874 households have benefited from the project where 56% are women, 24% youth and 20 % of them are men.Some of the agronomic practices taught to the farmers during the farmer Field Schools include seed selection, planting techniques, weeding and harvesting. In addition, they learn about management issues such as record keeping and leadership skills. This has increased productivity on the farm from 500kgs per acre to 2000kgs of maize. Farmers have gone into seed production after signing a contract with Real Agricultural Solutions for Africa(RASA) and this has worked with bean farmers in the area. Farmers qualified to produce quality seeds such as the NABE4 variety. “RASA is responsible for buying the seeds; only the farmers who got the training were allowed to sell seeds to RASA. RASA also gave us bean seeds Nabe4 which we are multiplying. After the first seeds harvest in 2015, I made a profit of 1,200,000 million shillings which will facilitate production costs for the 2016 season and pay school fees for my children.” explained Odeke Tom, one of the learners of FFS and most successful farmers of the group.Farm Field School methodology has been successful in Kolir Sub County and the neighboring areas, farmers have been able to adopt better agricultural practices and recognized that the school was the main source of new knowledge in modern agriculture. However, not all of the 16 FFS formed in Kolir Sub County have been as successful. Some of them are still struggling due to climate changes in the area associated with too much rainfall and prolonged drought and inadequate infrastructure for irrigation during dry season. As a result, they still have to depend on rainfall for their crops which at times is too much with floods.
About Excel Hort Consult Agribusiness Incubator
Excel Hort Consult Agribusiness Incubator (EHCAI) is an agribusiness Incubation, Innovation and Development institution that was established in 1999 in Uganda and is operating in East and Central Africa.