How Farmer Field School Changed Farmers Perception

In 2012, With a support of the Belgium Development Agency, BTC SPAT-II, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources introduced a learning farm system called Farmer Field School (FFS).

FFS is a group-based learning approach that teaches farmers how to experiment and solve problems independently. Members of an FFS group meet every week with a facilitator to observe, analyze, discuss and decide what to do. The plant is indeed the teacher.

During the training, a facilitator drive group members into a “learning by doing” process and supervise season long experiments in the FFS field plot of the group.  It is generally a participatory approach to extension, whereby farmers are given opportunity to make a choice in the methods of production through discovery-based approach.

Uwimbabazi Diane is farmer who lives in Gatsibo district, Eastern Province of Rwanda-says that in the FFS approach, they learn from what they experience as they all farmers.

“First of all, we are farmers and we have learned from all our years that we farm. All our individual experiences, good and bad, are valid to learn from. By observing and analysing the plants, we discovered so much! Every week we learn from the decision we took the week before. It truly empowered us to take smart decisions. FFS is such an interesting way to learn and to improve.” -said Diane Uwimbabazi.

In the class, participants(farmers) observe plants in very detail, measure plant growth and discover insects, spots on leaves, etc. They draw the plant and write down all findings and present their finding and recommendations to group members and decide together what to do.

Seraphine Nyirandimubanzi is a farmer in Musambira Sector, Kamonyi District. Previously, Seraphine and other farmers in her village knew very little about the application of good agricultural practices. This changed once She attended FFS.

 “Thanks to the training I have received under Farmer Field School, I am now very well informed on the proper way of producing crops, especially soybean and maize. As a result, I am now able to produce enough for my family consumption while also selling the surplus.” -she said.

“I have improved my household’s standard of living; we now live in a big cement house and we are food secure. I have helped many farmers in my village to adopt good agricultural practices on their farms.” – she added.

Commending the Farmer Field School, Alphonse Nsanzineza, a farmer in Ngoma district, Kazo Sector-said that training he received from FFS helped him to increase production using a small land.

 “I used to gain low production but since I attended Farmer Field School the production increased. For example, I have a land that I used to harvest 20 kilogrammes from 6kg, but last season, the production increased to 120 kilogrammes due to using fertilizers. They taught us how to follow on the plant since it is in the soil until we harvest. .” -said Alphonse.

The Farmer Field School (FFS) approach in Rwanda were introduced in 2012 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources with a support of the Belgium Development Agency, BTC SPAT-II.  In July 2020, the Belgian project “ENABEL /PRISM” took over aiming to support the animal feeds value chain by developing a reliable and sustainable supply system of locally produced soybean and maize for feed companies in efforts to address the lack of poultry and pig feeds.

So far, 114 FFS facilitators were trained on soybeans and Maize by using Farmer Field School in 8 districts including Kamonyi, Gisagara,Rwamagana, Kayonza, Ngoma, Kirehe, Gatsibo and Nyagatare District.