Farmer field schools and the future of agricultural extension in Africa
MetadataShow full item record
The continuing saga of efforts to stimulate economic growth in Africa through agricultural development reflects the rise and fall of the many 'fads and fashions' in international development over the past 50 years. Following the poor performance of rural development projects to significantly improve the welfare of the rural poor through the mid-1980s, the region has witnessed an almost universal abandonment of support for large-scale, state-run extension programs. After pursuing alternative policies, such as support of non-governmental organizations and, to a lesser extent, producer associations, a growing number of donors and governments have shown an interest in a renewed backing of state-sponsored agricultural extension programs. Recently, interest has begun to coalesce around the potentials offered by the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach. Included in this paper is a brief look at some of the key elements in the FFS approach, its transfer to Africa, and some notes on the source of information used in this paper. The results and conclusions center around 6 key issues: the responsiveness of the FFS approach to local conditions; FFS achievements in instilling systems learning and generation of new knowledge; facilitation of farmer-to-farmer information exchange; local institutionalization; impact on relationships between farmers, extension, and other stakeholders; and the specific challenges faced by extension programs in integrating the approach into their programs. Some concluding observations are made on the progress, pitfalls, and potentials of the FFS approach to fill a significant role in the revitalization of national extension programs within the region.