This paper compares the objectives, principles and processes of Farmer Field Schools (FFS) and local agricultural research committees (CIAL) as a basis for exploring their most appropriate use.
This is particularly pertinant since they have begun to operate within the same geographic areas, and on occasion are supported by the same organisations (i.e. in Ecuador and Brazil).
The paper first compares the two platforms as they were originally conceived, then discusses the evolution of each and, finally, explores future directions. The basic questions addressed are:
what are FFS and CIALs?
what are their objectives and what type of problems do they address?
who are the actors and what are the fundamental principles and processes involved in each case?
how have both approaches evolved and matured?
what are their differences, similarities and complementarities?
what is their future potential?
Conclusions and future potential:
many institutions perceive chronic funding difficulties as the cause of this crisis in agricultural R&D systems in the developing world. However, underlying the problem of funding is a more pervasive questioning of the value of agricultural R&D and its relevance to the needs of society as a whole
both the FFS and CIAL platforms described by this paper require and promote a much closer engagement of agricultural research and extension with rural society, building local institutional structures and processes for agricultural development. They also offer the chance of making R&D more relevant because they place farmers themselves at the centre of development processes
if widely implemented, FFS and CIALs open the possibility of a more fundamental transformation of agricultural R&D systems which could help alleviate the current crisis
developing the capacity to support platforms like FFS and CIALs implies that agricultural R&D systems must: (a) construct general theories of the structure and dynamics of specific agroecosystems required for the development of FFS curricula; and (b) involve farmers in the testing and adaptation of technological options; while (c) simultaneously building the human resources required for facilitating farmer research and discovery-based learning
Growing interest in both FFS and CIALs by a wide range of financing and implementing organisations reflects an underlying perception that they form viable new alternatives. Under these circumstances this paper states that there is good potential for applying both FFS and CIALs more widely. Both platforms will evolve further, and their future development should be carefully managed so as to draw on their underlying synergy