The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) first introduced Farmers Field Schools (FFS), which are based on the idea of learning by doing, in Zanzibar in 2007 as part of their Agricultural Services Support Program (ASSP). The program has three main objectives: reducing poverty, improving food security, and increasing rural income.
FFS functions by utilizing a communal plot, which is used like a school, to teach agricultural practices. Once a farmer masters techniques, she or he can teach other farmers. Instruction is geared toward showing farmers methods that can protect their crops, as well as increase yields and production. According to Miriam O’Kongo, IFAD’s Country Program Manager for Tanzania, “farmers have been able to adopt better agricultural practices and recognized that the school was the main source of new knowledge.”
According to IFAD, the ASSP program has benefited at least 22,124 households. The first FFS was established in 2009—the Kisongoni FFS. Farmers were taught skills from seed selection to weeding and harvesting. Following this success of the first season, farmers were taught about HIV/AIDS, child labor, and malnutrition. Finally, during the third season of training, farmers were taught about management issues such as record keeping. Collectively, this process has had the net effect of increasing productivity. Under a contract from the government, seeds are produced locally with a guarantee of sales for farmers.
In the Unguja West District, farmers were trained to produce milk and they were able to increase production from one to three liters of milk per cow per day to ten to sixteen liters per day, on average. Farmers in this district even began producing an excess of milk, but they were able to transform the excess milk into products and sell them to a hotel.
Mwatima Juma, Program Officer for Tanzania, says that “the most positive impact we see of the farmers field schools is the empowerment of farmers. Before farmers were asking for cash, now they are asking for training and support to develop new activities, and of course they are also more food secure now.”
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