Rwanda’s Farmer Field School (FFS) has been recognized by a French based international organization among top ten innovations that transformed lives of farmers in a short time.
FFS consists of learning-by-doing process where technicians from the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) reach out to farmers and teach them good agricultural practices from farming to harvesting.
The program teaches farmers how to improve their farming techniques and are trained to train other farmers.
This approach impressed the French based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and listed Rwanda’s FFS as 6th initiative that deserve a Prize by DAC (Development Assistance Committee).
Every year, the DAC prize recognizes organizations that have taken an innovative approach, instrument or mechanism beyond the pilot phase to wider application.
Started in 2009, the program selects a groups of farmers at the cell from all districts. They meet in a demonstration field and learn all it takes to grow one crop, among the 12 major crops of the country.
Currently, over 350,000 farmers included in 14,837 groups were trained in modern farming skills.
“We go to a designated demonstration plot, spend a week cultivating with farmers,” Joseph Higiro, coordinator of FFS told KTPress.
After two weeks, depending on the crop, the facilitators from RAB’s extension programreturn to the farm for weeding.
They spend another week with farmers, and then return to their routine business at office until harvest period where they return to farmers to evaluate and give appropriate recommendations.
“I have influence in my community because I showed them that I can produce big banana bunches on an arid land,” says Thomas Nizeyimana, a 56 year old banana farmer from Bugesera who was trained through FFS and has now become a trainer.
A bunch of banana could barely make 10 kg on his land. After the training, he can now grow bananas weighing 150kgs and beyond.
Trained farmers have become agricultural consultants themselves; their neighbours call them for help when they encounter a challenge at a given stage of their farming,” says Higiro.
Another group, Ingeli mu Buhinzi from Musanze district in Northern Province was trained on growing tomatoes in 2012. After harvest, members bought a pig for each other. They rear the pigs and sell piglets to buy cows.
Groups of farmers under FFS have consolidated social cohesion. They have formed a financial scheme ‘ibimina’ to pay for health insurance and many of them have started other projects.
Meanwhile, African Cashew Project, an initiative which is increasing production of 430,000 cashew farmers in West African countries was the winner of DAC Prize 2015.
Plantwise, a trans-continental initiative that connects farmers to information they need, came 2nd, while a Ugandan solar energy initiative came 3rd.