«Deborah Duveskog Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences Department of Urban and Rural Development Uppsala Doctoral Thesis Swedish ...»
Farmer Field Schools as a
transformative learning space in the
rural African setting
Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences
Department of Urban and Rural Development
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Acta Universitatis agriculturae Sueciae
Cover photo: A Farmer Field School group carrying out field analysis of their
crops. (photo: D. Duveskog)
© 2013 Deborah Duveskog, Uppsala Print: SLU Service/Repro, Uppsala 2013 Farmer Field Schools as a transformative learning space in the rural African setting Abstract The aims of this research was to understand how education in the rural African faming setting can contribute to development and well-being in a way that is empowering for the poor. The Farmer Field School (FFS) approach provided an empirical frame for the research. By reflecting on experiences of FFS participants in East Africa, the research tried to answer how the FFS learning experience play out in the daily lives of participants and their families and the role that FFS play in assisting participants to take control over their own development and enhanced well-being. Conceptually the research was framed by constructivist line of thoughts, adult education and transformative learning theories. The research applied a mixed methods approach with a variety of qualitative and quantitative tools including participatory identification of indicators of empowerment, large-scale household surveys with a total of 2000 farmers and in-depth interviews. Data analysis from the quantitative survey work indicated a relationship between farmer participation in FFS, empowerment and increased wellbeing in all three countries studied. The study thus argues for an empowerment route to well-being, triggered by group based learning. The research further indicate significant impact of FFS in terms of building the capacity of people to make choices and decisions that ultimately lead to increased uptake of agricultural innovations, access to services and markets as well as collective action. Qualitative data revealed significant social impacts of FFS in terms of changes in everyday life of participants, transformation of self-concept, change in gender roles and relations, customs and traditions, community relations and an increase in household economic development. A number of pedagogical tools applied in the FFS were found to be instrumental in facilitating transformative learning and empowerment. Major conclusions of the study are the need for investment in human capacity and the importance of an appropriate mix of technological and social advancement for development. The implications of the research are relevant within the fields of rural development, gender studiesand for transformative learning and adult education theory. Further, the study contributes knowledge on how to measure empowerment in the poverty setting.
Keywords: Farmer Field Schools, East Africa, transformative learning, experiential learning, agricultural extension, empowerment Author’s address: Deborah Duveskog, SLU, Department of Urban and Rural Development P.O. Box 7012, SE-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden E-mail: Deborah.Duveskog@ slu.se Dedication To all learners and educators in pursuit of knowledge, may your learning journey not be one of domestication, but of liberation.
I Duveskog, D., Friis-Hansen, E., and Taylor, E. W. (2011) Farmer Field School in rural Kenya: A transformative learning experience. Journal of Development Studies 47(10): 1529-1544.
II Friis-Hansen, E. and Duveskog, D. and Taylor E. (2012) Less noise in the household: the impact of Farmer Field Schools on gender relations. Journal of Research in Peace, Gender and Development 2(2): 044-055.
III Friis-Hansen, E. and Duveskog, D. (2012) The empowerment rout to wellbeing: an analysis of Farmer Field Schools in East Africa. World Development 40 (2): 414-427.
IV Taylor, E., Duveskog, D., and Friis-Hansen, E. (2012) Fostering transformative learning in non-formal settings: Farmer Field Schools in East Africa. International Journal of Lifelong Education 31(6): 725-742 Papers I-IV are reproduced with the permission of the publishers.
The contribution of Deborah Duveskog to the papers included in this thesis
was as follows:
All papers included in this thesis were produced by close teamwork among all contributing authors. For papers I, III and IV the doctoral student held the primary responsible for all planning and organization of fieldwork in Kenya and was responsible for the collection of secondary data. Sampling and establishment of contacts with respondents in the field as well as interviews with key informant were the responsibility of the doctoral student. All coauthors were involved in conceptualisation of the studies, the interview field data collection, analysis and writing. Most writing was done collectively, however the doctoral student wrote parts of the introduction and background sections alone. The doctoral student held a major responsibility for certain parts of the discussion. For paper I, where the doctoral student is the first author, she student held the primary responsibility for finalization of the paper for journal submission.
Paper II was equally prepared by both co-authors who were both involved in all stages of the conceptualisation, analysis and writing. However, major parts of the collection of empirical material were carried out separate by the two authors. The student was solely responsible for the planning and collection of the empirical material in Kenya and Tanzania. In Uganda the doctoral student was responsible for one of the quantitative elements. In all three countries, the student was responsible for method development related to the participatory identification of variables for measurement of empowerment. The analysis in SPSS software was jointly conducted by the two authors, but with the doctoral student taking a lead in the analysis of the data from Kenya and Tanzania while the first author took a lead in analysis of the Uganda data set.
Some section were written entirely by the doctoral student. The theory section was designed together by both authors, and writing was done jointly.
AESA Agro-Ecological System Analysis ASDP Agricultural Sector Development Programme ASSP Agricultural Services Support Programme FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FFS Farmer Field Schools HIV Human immunodeficiency virus IFAD International Fund for Agricultural Development IPM Integrated Pest Management NAADS National Agricultural Advisory Service NAEP National Agricultural Extension Policy NAEP National Agricultural Extension Project NALEP National Agricultural and Livestock Extension Programme NALERP National Agricultural and Livestock Extension Rehabilitation Project NFE Non-Formal Education NGO Non-governmental organization PRSP Poverty Reduction Support Programmes SIDA Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency SPSS Statistical Package for the Social Sciences SRA Strategy to Revitalize Agriculture T&V Training and Visit extension system TL Transformative Learning TOT Training of Trainers UNDP United Nations Development Programme 1 Preface This thesis has its roots in my work practice in Eastern Africa over the last ten years. Young and relatively inexperienced, but well equipped technically I was assigned as soil and water conservation specialist at a field duty station in rural Kenya in 1999, my role being mainly to provide technical support through group based learning among smallholder farmers. I eagerly embarked on providing advice to extension staff and farmer groups on how to conserve soils and better harness scarce water resources. However, quickly I realised the complexity of local farming and livelihood systems and discovered the gaps between theory and practice. The skills and knowledge I had did not always seem relevant in the local context. Each farm was different and the technological innovations that I knew the design features of so well often proved in appropriate, for reason I had never imagined. I gradually got involved in Farmer Field School activities, and initially tried to focus my input within my areas of technical expertise, but over time found myself doing less and less advising and more of running around solving all kinds of problems that seemed far from my domain. Linking people up with each other and with information sources of all kinds seemed to be the most valuable use of my time.
My shifting role in practice, initially led to disorientation as trying to respond to demands was constantly throwing me outside my area of expertise and into areas of work where I felt less confident. I gradually came to see myself more as an information broker and facilitator than technical advisor, and this is when I started drawing parallels with my own experience and what I saw in the field among extension staff, and realised that the personal change that FFS facilitators were undergoing in their endeavor to serve farmers was in many ways identical to what I was experiencing.
During my numerous visits to rural FFS groups I was amazed by the variety of pathways that the skills and knowledge gained through education seemed to take; one 82 year old lady had suddenly decided to go back to formal school since she had realised that literacy would be important for her to sell her crops, a child in Taita mentioned that his father had stopped drinking alcohol and now put more effort and time in his farming. A woman described that there were less conflicts with her husband since she now had her own little income, a group that originally was trained on maize production had suddenly realised maize was actually not that profitable and instead gone into commercial tomato jam production and many more cases. The increased confidence and proud that farmers developed through their education experience was exemplified by Catherine’s statement of “before if somebody asked me what I do, i used to say ‘nothing’, but now if somebody asks me, I proudly say I am a farmer”. This made me conclude that learning and experimentation in the agricultural field seemed to serve more as an entrypoint for making informed decision and change, in all aspects of life, rather than as an end in itself. It seemed not to matter so much what people learned, the difference in impact seemed more related to how people learned and the relationships that emerged along the way.
Through a combination of reflection on my personal practice as technical advisor, and my observations of what was taking place in the field sprouted an interest in me for understanding more deeply what education is all about and what learning does to people. I engaged in a search for literature on theories and concepts that would explain what I experienced and saw. It is a great privilege to have had an opportunity to pursue this passion into formal PhD research. Doing this alongside my work practice has provided unique opportunities to along the way improve actions and development practice based on information and lessons gained. It has thus been a truly transformative experience for myself as well as many around me.
This study is about the realities of daily life among resource-poor farmers in rural Africa and the ways by which participatory education impact on these livelihoods. It looks at what happens when people jointly learn together and how this may stimulate individuals and groups to gain more control and power over their lives.
While most developing countries are making progress towards the UN goal of halving poverty by 2015, Sub-Saharan Africa is not. This region, where nearly a third of the world’s extremely poor rural people live, continues to descend into poverty, according to IFAD’s Rural Poverty Report 2011, a cause for serious concern. The development community broadly agrees that fostering pro-poor economic growth and favouring poor people's access to services is crucial in order to support poverty eradication and provide an acceptable standard of living for all. IFAD (2011) estimates that seven out of ten of the world's poor live in rural areas and derive their main livelihood from agriculture. The agricultural sector thus forms an obvious platform for poverty reduction. The World Development Report 2008 (The World Bank 2008) marked the culmination of a long row of international reports that all point towards smallholder-based agricultural growth as being the most effective way of reducing poverty in Africa (NEPAD 2007; IAASTD 2009). Even though structural transformations are important in the longer term, more immediate gains in poor household welfare can be achieved through agriculture, which can help the poor overcome some of their critical constraints (Chikaire et al.