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Field To Families
This three-year Food Security project implemented in six rural communities was designed to improve and diversify the on-farm production of rural farming households in support of their efforts to protect their livelihoods, health and overall well-being. Working in partnership with District Agriculture, Cooperative, Community Development and Health Departments, CPAR introduced the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach, establishing 30 Farmer Field Schools. Using this method, 735 smallholder farmers (538 of whom were women) participated in a myriad of agricultural activities centred on the promotion of Conservation Agriculture (CA) to boost food production and nutrition. The overriding goal was to create a base of evidence to demonstrate the feasibility of increasing the reach and scale of CPAR’s FFS model to positively impact agricultural growth as well as gender relations in the district, while helping to empower local women.
Some featured results:
Farmers participating in the project increased staple crop production by an average of 383 per cent for maize and 459 per cent for cassava. Consequently, they saw their incomes rise by an average of 641 per cent. The impact of these gains was two-fold: the majority of farmers targeted by this project had sufficient food for their families and additional income to meet other household needs.
Despite irregular rainfall patterns, project participants were able to maintain relatively high levels of crop production as a result of the widespread adoption of improved agronomic practices, including use of improved seeds, the application of manure, proper plant spacing and timely weeding.
Each FFS group had an active village level savings group, providing farmers with access to credit and saving facilities. Training on price negotiation, business management, marketing, as well as having access to savings and loans strengthened farmers’ capacity to make smart business decisions related to their agronomic activities.
In order to accelerate progress in gender relations, the F2F project ensured that women comprised two-thirds of FFS group membership, rather than CPAR’s traditional 50/50 approach. This provided greater opportunities for women to participate in and benefit from training and input provision, for which they are often overlooked.
As part of the strategy to strengthen the position of women farmers in project-targeted areas, all FFS members participated regularly in special topics sessions during their bi-weekly meetings. Led by either CPAR staff, government partners, special guest speakers or FFS facilitators, the groups discussed various topics including gender equity, gender-based violence, living positively with HIV, prevention of vertical transmission of HIV, family planning and sexual and reproductive health. These sessions also often attracted non-FFS members, broadening their reach.
By the project’s close, 54 per cent of women in male-headed households reported shared control over income and expenditures, an increase of 49 per cent from the baseline numbers.