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Week 1 (May 8-21): Reflect on importance of Institutionalizing FFS at local and national levels

Excerpts on importance of Institutionalizing FFS at local and national levels from the report of the Regional Workshop:

The meaning of institutionalization is very much related to context and culture. As such, the notion of institutionalization should be interpreted differently as one of sustainability as it entails internalizing changes within individual practices and organizations which eventually will become the norm. While institutionalization usually contributes to sustainability, it does not guarantee it.

The importance of FFS is more as a “learning process” rather than solely an extension mechanism. Thus, when it comes to institutionalization, it entails the institutionalization of a “culture of learning” and a commitment to farmer education. Institutionalization is a complex, not linear, and long-term process which requires changes in the system/process in which agricultural extension and education operates as well as changes in the mind sets of people who are involved in agriculture and farmer education. While support from policy makers are fundamentally important, institutionalization is not only related to policies, government and other extension providers, but it is also considered as an “organic process” taking place at local groups and communities. Issues of quality, in terms of norms, standards, trainers emerge as a very crucial element. Indeed, if at one hand it is difficult to clearly determine if or how FFS should be institutionalized. On the other hand, institutionalizing FFS would be important in order to assure good quality in scale.

While institutionalization of FFS is very much part of the local groups, communities, and culture, it is crucial to bring this up at policy level in order to have institutional support to scale. Inclusion of FFS approach in policy documents is particularly important for funding purposes, e.g. in gaining financial support from governments. In the process of institutionalization, support from policy makers is also fundamentally important to support FFS activities a t the local level as well as transfer this process to scale. Policy supporting gender empowerment and the participation of women in FFS training and activities at local level is also required.

At the national level, the recognition of FFS as effective training and extension approach for farmers’ and community empowerment at economic, environmental and social level (e.g. can help solving problem cohesively) have played a favorable role in promoting FFS and its institutionalization. 

The rationale behind the institutionalization of FFS is a need for sustainable learning and farmer education, also for next generation. Institutionalization appears to have a direct link with the efficient use of funds and resources as, among other things, it eases coordination among various program stakeholders and provides an innovative platform for engagement and collaboration among key stakeholders such as researchers, farmers, and academia.  

 

Please reflect on the workshop findings and:

1. Share any additional reflections on the importance of institutionalizing FFS at local and national levels

2. Make specific recommendations with concrete examples 

 

The Week 1 discussion will close at midnight on Sunday, May 21, 2017.

Comments

I also agreed Institutionalization FFS is ‘learning process’ all farmers have to be full of courage for long period. All members have to be together since from the beginning stage of forming and getting understanding each other by working and learning together from all steps.

1)      Farmers themselves have to feel FFS is suitable platform for their sustainable agriculture and for the effective learning.

2)      Stakeholder’s support; Government sectors, CSOs and other expertise should support connecting funding sources and several programming.

3)      Usually farmers do believe when they see demonstration plots or other effective result. Only technical inputs not goes far.  

Main challenges; Most related documentations are written in English as well as in the technical training including ToT are difficult to understand for farmers. Normally farmers are more interested in practical sessions not much theory.

Question; Fundamentally what things are important for farmers to be sustainability of FFS and effective learning of all steps? 

Do other countries in the region have examples of national or provincial level FFS Facilitators Forums or alumni organizations similar to the Society of Facilitator and Trainers (SOFT) in Pakistan? Please share details of such working models. 

Following Konda's request to explain what I meant by "schema" (establishing the new schema learned in FFS), I quote here the definition by D'Andrade (1992:28) that "schema" is "...a conceptual structure which makes possible the identification of objects and events"..."...a procedure by which objects or events can be identified on the basis of simplified pattern recognition." By following and observing the introduction of the IPM FFS, for example, I discovered the gradual establishment of a "new schema" among the IPM farmers in which they were able to identify "natural enemy with its role and function in their field ecosystem" which were missing in their "conventional schema" of controlling pests/diseases without their ability to identify other alternatives besides "spraying chemical pesticides prophyalctically". In a short-period of training, that new schema of controlling pests/diseases would not be able to establish in farmers' minds and thus could not be the basis of their decision making and actions.

This process takes time through repetition and activation of the combination of new elements, for examples: by combining the role of natural enemies with the existence of pests/diseases and the unsatisfactorily plant performance. In adjusting to the continuous pests/diseases infestation/outbreaks and the very intensive pesticides promotion, IPM farmers could re-activate their "old schema" without any persistent reminders by the IPM facilitators. In particular, if the proof for the efficacy of the new schema is absence. Thus, a longitudinal facilitation for the educational commitment is a basic requirement for the institutionalization of any new learning.

Once I did a study among a group of farmers in Lampung province (in the most southern part of Sumatera) which was facilitated by an international NGO in adopting the IPM schema and strategies. Learning from the "state national IPM FFSs" which farmers themselves named it as "pesta" (fiesta, once event only and then no follow up), the NGO designed the establishment or institutionalization of FFS in a different way. They took into account the following things: 1) forming the farmers' organization to implement the IPM FFSs in the first place instead of introducing the IPM straight away in the FFSs from the beginning; 2) creating the norms and rules of selecting, training, and evaluating farmer-facilitators; 3) defining the rule that each farmer could only be identified as IPM farmer once he/she completed 3 kinds of IPM FFSs subsequently, namely for paddy, soy-bean, and chili; 4) designing the introduction of IPM FFSs in rotation among the nearby villages so as to add the number of IPM farmers in one farming community; and 5) set up the sanction for those who still use the term "medicines" for chemical pesticides instead of "poison". Those are examples of the norms and rules (including the sanctions and rewards) defined by the farmers' representatives in collaboration with the NGO facilitators by also involvinig local agricultural pest/disease observers (from the state agency) who had been trained as IPM facilitators. This set up was able to sustain the learning among the local farming community. The longitudinal facilitation by the international NGO was designed as such that the farmers themselves would be able to organize their activities over a certain period of time, but would still be their companion in processing their proposals for any events.

Similar to that kind of managing the institutionalization of FFSs, in collaboration with an agrometeorologist, I have been initiated, developed, and still in the process of institutionalizing an educational commitment to help farmers being able to respond better to climate change. To differentiate it from the state FFSs and the various forms of FFSs which were introduced in a short-term basis with a curriculum prepared in advance (e.g. Cllimate Field School), we named our inter- and trans-disciplinary collaborative work as "Science Field Shops" (SFSs). We place farmers as the active learners and researchers in their own fields, as well as the organizers of their activities. Together, we introduce, provide, and exchange agrometeorological knowledge on a dialogue and discussion basis by asking farmers to straight away measuring rainfall in their own fields, observing the impacts of particular rainfall to their fields and plants, as well as the agroecosystem condition, evaluating the yields they are able to earn in a particular planting season, anticipating the forthcoming climate condition after receiving the monthly seasonal scenarios from the agroemeteorologist, and taking decisions for the next steps of growing crops or the next planting season strategies. Learning by doing, incremental and continuous learning, exchanging knowledge between farmers, farmers-scientists, farmers-extension staffs become the basic premises of our educational commitment. In short, farmers gained their strong identity as "rainfall observers", "knowledgeable farmers", "farmer-facilitators" (through formal Training of Trainers), and as the "owners of their own valuable property: rainfall and agroecosystem data for years". The establishment, institutionalization, and scaling-up process have been carried out through an ongoing inter-subjectivity and reflexivity between farmers and scientists, and at a later stage with the extension staffs. In the same way, the approach, methods, and activities in agrometeorological learning have been developed and institutionalized. 

 

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