«Deborah Duveskog Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences Department of Urban and Rural Development Uppsala Doctoral Thesis Swedish ...»
Pedagogically, what facilitates the merging of instrumental and communicative learning is the fact that learning takes place in cooperative learning groups where participants learn from each other through frequent discussions about observational data collected from the field plots. Significant to the learning was the fact that the groups were mixed, providing an opportunity to reflect and share across gender groups in a way not commonly done in everyday life. This sharing contributed to a diversity of perspectives surfacing in discussions and the nurturing of trust and respect for other people’s opinions, an aspect particularly important for the gradual shift observed in participants way of viewing the opposite gender. Activities in FFS groups not only allowed interaction between men and women, but systematically encouraged it. This allowed for friendships to grown across genders, something normally restricted within a society where the spheres of women and men are largely separate. This collaboration in the FFS groups seemed also to translate to change in household collaboration among spouses.
Interestingly the instrumental learning through technical skill-based activities, where farmers regularly collect data in the field on different crop varieties, growth rates, and insect damage seemed to create opportunities for members to question cultural norms and deeply held superstitious beliefs and foster a gradual shift from habitual practice to a stronger focus on empiricism.
The opportunity to question norms seemed particularly important for women participants, possibly since many norms reinforce traditional gender roles.
Within this context the implicit norms of the FFS programme seemed to encourage a safe space for testing of new practices and behaviours, in relationship to farming and between members of the community. Most groups had experimental plots in place where different agricultural practices were tested and compared to each other in a structured manner. Participants were in particular encouraged to compare technical solutions recommended by experts with local indigenous practices, and evaluate pros and cons of each. This was appreciated by participants since it gave space for trying out new practices on group level without having to deal with the risk of failure, something often discouraging the trying of new ideas. In FFS this safe space nurtured group cohesion and trust that develops among members involved in practical learning activities over an extended period of time. The continuous rotation in FFS of roles and responsibilities contributed to the breakdown of hierarchy between wealth and gender groups nurturing solidarity. Meeting in the field rather than in the classroom further stimulated an informal atmosphere where participants feelt at ease with one another.
A significant component of the learning experience was what participants referred to as ‘group dynamics,’ pedagogically usually referred to presentational knowing manifested through “movement, sound, colour, shape line” (Heron 1992, p.165). In FFS this entailed both spontaneous and scheduled local expressions of knowing through stories, song, dance etc., this aspect was particularly important for the marginally literate group members but also a means for entertainment and promoting relaxation. For example, it was often observed that FFS group members would dance and sing as they walk from their gathering place out into the experimental fields or sing and dance in the learning session about their successes in farming. During a group interview of Wameteti FFS, Grace explained how ‘group dynamics’ influences her learning. She stated: ”during the dancing exercise the feelings and stresses elapses and I remain very comfortable during the sessions.” since group members rotate in leading the various group dynamics it also contributed to individuals expression of confidence and leadership.
A final crucial element of the learning experience in FFS was the external facilitation. FFS learning sessions are guided by a trained facilitator that take participants through the learning schedule and guides and mentors activities, without teaching or dictating the content. The facilitator was seen as significance to the overall experience among participants and of importance were the efforts by facilitators to engage with participants on equal basis in a non-hierarchical manner. Many participants referred to the facilitator as a parent or guardian who over time was seen as part of their FFS family.
10 Concluding discussion
This section has multiple purposes. It provides a summary of key conclusions of the study as well as provides more in-depth analysis of some of the findings.
Further it highlights some new perspectives and ideas emerging from the results of the study as well as some limitations. The discussion around findings are structured according to the initial research questions. The first sub section discusses how the FFS learning experience was found to play out in the daily lives of participants. The second sub-section elaborates on the role that FFS play in assisting participants to take control over their own development and well-being. Thirdly the extent that the FFS learning process can be explained through transformative learning theory is discussed. Finally limitations to the study and research gaps are pointed out.
10.1 How the FFS learning experience play out in the daily lives of participants This study indicates that men and women who participated in FFS experienced a change in how they view and relate to each other. Among some of the most significant findings of this study are the changes observed in terms of the household division of labour. Backed by many qualitative statements, it seems that female FFS members have increasingly taken on a stronger role in contributing to the household income, an aspect earlier dominated by their husbands. Through this change, women have become more engaged in the commercialization of agriculture and in relating to market actors outside the household. Overall, there seems to have been a shift in the balance of power between men and women within the household, with more overlapping roles and responsibilities as consequence, allowing women to step more into the commercial domain. As a response to the immediate need for improved food security, this has in practical terms led to a diversification of household sources of income and a generally improved stability of family economy and level of well-being. Related to the fact that women are taking on new roles in life and especially agriculture is the shift observed in terms of belief in taboos and gendered cultural restrictions. FFS appear to have led both sexes to question local traditions that dictate what men and women can and cannot do. The direct implications seem most profound for women, as many taboos were restricting women from engaging in commercial agriculture. In general the study found these kinds of gendered restrictions to be much more limiting for agricultural activity in this setting than what is normally assumed, as well as being connected to a high level of superstition and fear. The study thus brings significant new knowledge to the understanding of education processes that are holistic in nature. However it is important to keep in mind that this study did not look at possible secondary negative effects of changes in gender relations and sociocultural norms.
Analysis from the quantitative survey data showed a general relationship between FFS participation, empowerment and enhanced well-being among participants, despite contextual differences in the three countries studied. It is thereby argued that support for empowerment can act as a pathway towards increased well-being. The link between FFS participation and empowerment in terms of both perceptions and expressions of power in everyday life was very apparent in Kenya and to certain extent in Uganda and Tanzania as well. All countries showed linkages between innovation uptake and increased access to services and FFS membership. Kenya, however, was the only country that also showed significant differences between the two groups in the aspects of engagement with markets, collective action and social relations. At the individual level, FFS showed significant impacts across the countries on changes in gender, trust, critical thinking and household decision-making capacity, which is in line with a more qualitative study of FFS in Kenya.
However, it should be noted that power and influence beyond the individual or household domain on the community level did not demonstrate a strong relationship with FFS, apart from an increase in leadership positions among FFS graduates, particularly in Kenya.
This study also demonstrates a relationship between the FFS learning process and poverty levels. In all three countries, FFS graduates proved less poor than their fellow community members. It was also shown that typical FFS members were not significantly different from the average community member in terms of the well-being indicators studied here. This strengthens the conclusion of interrelation between FFS participation and increased well-being.
The links between empowerment and poverty are however less clear than the relationships described above. Possibly this indicate that the relationship is a complex one with many additional factors influencing the dependency between the two aspects looked at in this study.
This study provides evidence for a range of positive outcomes induced by FFS. However, while not established by this study it cannot be ruled out that the FFS learning process and its outcomes might also have negative direct or indirect effect among participants or in the community at large in the current time or in a longer-term perspective. For example change in gender relations and social customs might contribute to further breakdown of traditional cultural systems, a trend already underway in African societies with the current modernisation and westernisation, with possible future unknown consequences.
Further while the collectiveness in FFS is empowering and provide individuals with the necessary peer support to take on new roles and responsibilities, it could possibly be limiting as well for individuals who are not in agreement with the group and would wish to go against the collective decisions but due to group pressure and fear of group exclusion do not.
10.2 The role of FFS in assisting participants to take control over their own development and well-being The study shows that learning in FFS relates strongly both to instrumental learning about how to manage the physical environment, as well as learning about one self, others and providing a platform for personal development and changes in relationships with others. These findings are in line with Habermas (1971) differentiated three generic domains of human interests and knowledge.
FFS participants demonstrated an increased capacity to control and manipulate their environment through improved farming practices (instrumental domain), while also enhancing social relationships, interactions and communication (practical domain). Further, participants developed their self-knowledge and self-reflection and relational autonomy (emancipatory domain).
Both the instrumental learning and personal development observed among participation are aspects closely interwoven in the FFS pedagogy and it appear that it is this complex mixture of learning domains that makes the FFS experience successful. The instrumental emphasis ensures motivation among participants since learning directly contributes to food security and ability for livelihood improvements. Frequent participant led presentations and discussions helps members to internalize and process what they have learned as well as to build self-confidence. Hands-on exercises and field experimentation on the other hand triggers aha-experiences, understanding of processes and questioning of held believes. The fact that FFS resembles the formal school in some aspects (structure, graduation etc.), more so than what is typical for nonformal education is of particular relevance in the development context where illiterate participants often aspire schooling and where education equal status.
On the other hand the learning methodology include expression of knowledge through oral modes such as dialogue, storytelling, songs closer to the traditional African education system. This combination might provide an ideal means to bridge the two knowledge worlds, the colonial heritage of formal education with the traditional African system.
Knowledge is power Knowledge empowerment is seen as one of the core aspects of empowerment (Leeuwis 2004) and in gaining voice (Narayan 2005). The study confirms this close interrelations where power produces knowledge and knowledge produces power (Flyvbjerg 2001; Gaventa and Cornwall 2001; Leeuwis 2004). The increased farming knowledge among FFS participants was found to raise their status and power in the community in a variety of ways. As Ingram (1987) pointed out, we learn so that we have more control over our world and learning frees us from dependence on others. The collective capabilities nurtured by the group in FFS appeared as help for participants to break through constraints of powerlessness and this had direct positive effect on their psychological empowerment, a relationship confirmed also by Zimmerman (1990). Freire (1970) talks about each individual winning back the right to say his or her own word, “to name the world” (p. 15). The capacity to aspire is crucial in the concept of agency and means the culturally formed capacity of poor groups to envision alternatives and aspire to different futures, an aspect expressed by respondents in the study through a greater positivism and brighter outlook on life. The sense of freedom connected to greater optimism, outlook and satisfaction in life has an instrumental role in development seen from the point of view of capability, the theoretical basis of United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) perspective on poverty where wellbeing is achieved through a process of expanding the real freedoms that people can enjoy (Sen 1999).