AgroBIG is co-financing a scheme to support farmers with access to irrigation in North Mecha, North Achefer, Bahir Dar Zuria and Dera districts to improve the quality and productivity of vegetables through the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach. This is being undertaken in cooperation with Horti-LIFE, one of the agricultural projects run by Dutch development agency SNV. Since the cooperation between AgroBIG and SNV-Horti-LIFE was launched, 1800 farmers have been engaged in the scheme.
The FFS approach emphasizes participatory and discovery-based learning, aiming to help farmers learn and adopt new agricultural knowledge and skills, and to make better decisions related to agriculture production. Farmers meet bi-weekly during the growing season to discuss agricultural issues based on what they observe in the field. They learn by comparing, analysing and discussing the progress of crops in a “learning plot”, which employs modern horticultural practices, with the progress of the rest of the field, which uses traditional practices. Comparison is easy – as the same crop is grown on both plots.
Of the 60 FFS groups involved in the scheme, each is composed of 25-30 members. In each FFS group, four members are selected to be “lead farmers”. Lead farmers manage one learning plot each, placed within their own fields. 240 lead farmers are participating this season, and the selected crops are onion, tomato, potato, pepper and cabbage.
Although FFS have been successfully introduced in many countries; in Ethiopia they are still relatively new. It is hoped this approach will tackle the critical challenges facing Amhara region’s horticulture sub-sector: poor quality produce and low productivity due to lack of skills and knowledge.