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Farmer Field Schools in Action

Ethiopia-story-7.jpgIt is one thing to sit in Toronto and read and write reports about project activities. It is an entirely different thing to witness them first hand. Last week I had the opportunity to visit a number of CPAR’s project sites in Ethiopia. After travelling nearly 700 kilometres by vehicle from the capital city of Addis Ababa, I found myself in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia. Located north-west of the capital, at this time of year, near the end of the rainy season, the landscape is lush and very beautiful. Although it is my third time here, there is always something new to learn, observe and understand.

When CPAR carries out its food security and nutrition programming, it uses an adapted version of the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach. If you have read our blog before, you will have read a number of success stories about farmers participating in the FFS approach. If it is your first time here, in short, Farmer Field Schools bring women and men farmers together in groups of about 30 to learn, test and adopt improved farming practices to increase crop production and therefore household food security. They provide a forum for discussions on various issues affecting the community and are a great way to affect change in the community.

While in the Benishangul-Gumuz Region, my colleagues and I met with a number of newly formed FFS groups. The change taking place in these groups after only six months of working together was remarkable. As we sat with the project participants, I was struck by the same feedback they provided on the approach – farmer after farmer highlighted the power of the group. People emphasized how important it was to have the opportunity to come together and share knowledge, challenges and successes. They stressed the impact of having a support network to face difficulties together and apply solutions as a team. FFS brings people together, providing a platform for dynamic discussions and innovative ideas to emerge that stimulate change beyond the group itself.

Ethiopia-story-7-1.jpgFFS has proven a successful programmatic approach for CPAR in Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda. Farmers empower themselves to make sustainable change and become examples and leaders in their communities. The impact is big and the change is lasting.

CPAR appreciates the ongoing support of all donors whose contributions enable us to continue this great work.

Alison MacDonald
Program Manager, CPAR