Agricultural extension and farmer education programs are key policy
instruments for governments seeking to improve the productivity of
agriculture while protecting the environment. Accordingly, there is
great interest in the impact on farmers of such public investments and
in their financial viability. In recent years, a number of development
agencies have promoted farmer field schools (FFS) as a more effective
approach to extend science-based knowledge and practices to farmers.
The typical FFS approach educates farmer participants on agro-ecosystems analysis, or what can be more generally described as integrated crop and pest management (ICPM), as it includes practical aspects of i.e. plant health, water management, climatic variability, weed density, disease surveillance, as well as observation and collection of insect pests and beneficial organism. Studies suggest that the information contained in the training program could, if property applied, lead to improved farm practices and productivity.
The FFS approach relies on participatory training methods and discovery learning approaches to transfer knowledge to participants so as to make them become confident pest experts, self-teaching experimenters, and effective trainers of peer farmers (Settle et al, 1996). For vegetable related interventions, a typical FFS entails depending on the crop between 8-12 weeks of hands-on, farmer experimentation and non-formal training during a single crop-growing season. A facilitator (typically government employee, but, in some cases, NGO or specially-trained fanner) leads this village-level program, focusing initially on problem-solving approaches in pest management, but also conveying knowledge pertaining to overall good crop management procedures and practices. Through group interactions, FFS participants sharpen their decision-making abilities, and are empowered by learning leadership, communication, and management skills.
This study focused on the evaluation of the FFS that was implemented by AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center through the Vegetables for Indonesia Project in Bali and East Java Provinces from March 2011 to December 2014. For more than three years the Vegetables for Indonesia project has been transferring knowledge and skill related to vegetable production technologies for over 3,000 farmers in Blitar and Kediri of East Java, and in 6 districts in Bali, through field demonstration and farmer field schools (FFS). Besides targeted farmers, other beneficiaries of this project are staff members of national project implementing partners, namely, Balai Penelitian Sayuran (Balitsa/IVEGRI), Balai Pengkajian Teknologi Pertanian (BPTP or Assessment Institute for Agricultural Technology) and Dinas Pertanian (Agricultural Extension Services) of East Java and Bali provinces, Udayana University and Farmer Initiatives for Ecological Livelihoods and Democracy (FIELD) Indonesia.
The specific objectives of this study are to analyze the impact of FFS on farmers knowledge and skill related to vegetable supply chain, particularly for chili and tomato; and to analyze the impact of FFS on farming practices, especially on production.
Discussant: Harlan Dimas