Horticulture Livelihood, Innovation and Food Safety Project in Ethiopia piloted Farmers Field School (FFS). The project has reviewed its progress. The review revealed that FFS is contributing in boosting yields and income while reducing the use of harmful pesticides.
The Farmers Field School (FFS) is an informal group of 30 farmers that regularly meet to learn from demonstration plots on the field of four lead farmers.
In the second half of 2016 Horticulture Livelihood, Innovation and Food Safety Project in Ethiopia (Horti-LIFE) established 108 Farmers Field Schools in 55 villages in Amhara, Oromia, Tigray and Southern Nations Nationalities and People Regions of Ethiopia in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
On these fields farmers learn about the improved technology shown on these plots including new varieties, quality seedlings, starter solution, proper spacing and a proper spray program. The project focuses on four vegetables: onion, tomato, pepper and cabbage.
In May 2017 a participatory review has been done to assess the result of the first year. The next graph shows how the yields on the demo plots related to the average national yields, the baseline data and yields of the lead farmers own field.
On average the demo plot yielded 50-150% more. The cost per ha was 5-60% higher. The costs price per kg of produce was 20-50% lower. The net income of farmers increased by 100%-200%.
Horti-LIFE aims to improve food safety. The spray program on the demo plots indeed resulted in a 15-20% reduction in pesticide use per hectare and a 66% reduction in the use per kg of produce. The farmers are also linked to agro-dealers who can deliver the inputs. To address the financial gap the project will sign with two MFIs that can offer individual loans to FFS members to purchase better inputs.
The lead farmers are also benefiting from hosting Farm Field Schools. Mohammed Ibrahim was especially successful. He earned ETB 26,500 (1,000 USD) from his 200 m2 tomato plot and bought a motorcycle from it. Similarly, Aredom Gufaya, earned ETB 21,385 by selling 2.1 tons of tomato from her small plot. Another interesting element is that some farmers started to do follow up experiments by combining new technologies with their normal practices.
Such kind of positive changes and support have attracted smallholder farmers to apply the new technologies even when these are more expensive. Based on the review the project has planned to organise a workshop on Inputs Supply in Horticulture (WISH) to link farmers with Input Suppliers
The review has also identified that although 21-27% of the participants in different types of learning events are women yet only few of them are actively involved. A gender training for the field staff is planned, as well as special training for women on leadership and technical aspect.
The team leader added, “The review showed that the project is on the right track and inspires many stakeholders to think boldly about the opportunities for smallholders to substantially increase their yields and incomes while reducing the use of harmful pesticides.”
Horti-LIFE is funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN). It is set up in cooperation and coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources .The project is implemented in 11 Woredas of Amhara, Oromia, Southern Nations Nationalities and People Regions and Tigray.