Farmer field schools for improving farming practices and farmer outcomes in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review

Waddington, Hugh, Snilstveit, Birte, Hombrados, Jorge, Vojtkova, Martina, Phillips, Daniel, White, Howard and Davies, Philip (2014) Farmer field schools for improving farming practices and farmer outcomes in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review. Working Paper. Campbell Collaboration, Oslo, Norway.

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Farmer field schools (FFS) are a common approach used to transfer specialist knowledge, promote skills and empower farmers around the world. At least 10 million farmers in 90 countries have attended such schools. FFS are implemented by facilitators using participatory "discovery-based" learning based on adult education principles. Many different implementing bodies have been involved. Field schools have a range of objectives, including tackling overuse of pesticides and other harmful practices, improving agricultural and environmental outcomes, and empowering disadvantaged farmers such as women. We conducted a systematic review of evidence on FFS implementation to investigate whether FFS make a difference, to which farmers, and why or why not. We synthesised quantitative evidence on intervention effects using statistical meta-analysis, and qualitative evidence on the barriers and enablers of effectiveness using a theory of change framework. The results of statistical meta-analysis provide evidence that FFS are beneficial in improving intermediate outcomes relating to knowledge learned and adoption of beneficial practices, as well as final outcomes relating to agricultural production and farmers' incomes. The findings suggest this to be the case for FFS promoting integrated pest management (IPM) technology, as well as other techniques. However, the rigorous impact evaluation evidence base is small and there are no studies that we were able to identify as having a low risk of bias. There is no evidence that neighbouring non-participant farmers benefit from diffusion of IPM knowledge from FFS participants. Therefore, they do not experience improvements in IPM adoption and agriculture outcomes. The evidence of positive effects on agricultural outcomes is largely limited to short-term evaluations of pilot programmes. In the few examples where FFS have been scaled up, the evidence does not suggest they have been effective in improving agricultural outcomes among participating farmers or neighbouring non-participants. Although empowerment is a major objective of many FFS, very few studies have collected information on this outcome in a rigorous manner. A few studies suggest farmers feel greater self-confidence. What explains the lack of scalable effects among FFS participants, or diffusion of IPM practices among the community? FFS differ from standard agricultural extension interventions, which tend to focus on disseminating knowledge of more simple practices such as application of fertiliser and pesticides, or adoption of improved seeds. The experiential nature of the training, and the need for the benefits of the FFS technology to be observed, are barriers to spontaneous diffusion. Furthermore, the effectiveness of scaled-up interventions has been hampered by problems in recruiting and training appropriate facilitators at scale. The review provides implications for policy, practice and research.

Item Type: Reports and working papers (Working Paper)
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > Economics
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Depositing User: Jorge Garcia Hombrados
Date Deposited: 04 May 2016 10:07
Last Modified: 04 May 2016 10:07
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