«Deborah Duveskog Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences Department of Urban and Rural Development Uppsala Doctoral Thesis Swedish ...»
While transformation of mindsets were observed among FFS participants, which normally assumes, according to TL theory, that some level of reflection has taken place it was not clear in this research how this critical reflection took place among participants. The difficulties among participants in describing their reflective process that laid the ground for their transformation might have been attributed to the challenges faced by respondents in recalling from memory reflective moments of their FFS experience, that sometimes took place several years in the past. Another explanation is that critical reflection is possibly an inherent by-product of collaborative learning and presentational knowing. In other words in can occur naturally within those settings if the opportunity allows for it, and does not require specific attention by an educator. This study does indicate that transformative learning sometimes happened in momentary event, through aha-experiences among participants, often in connection to visual/oral expressions, such as stories, theatre etc., rather than through a deep thinking process. This indicates that possibly reflection manifests itself differently in a non-western setting with stronger oral traditions.
While the fairly rigid and structured learning process in FFS makes it possible to build an education system that can be scaled up in a variety of settings and that, as established in this study, serves as a platform for transformative learning it could be questioned to what extent this rigidity possible prevents or limits stronger or more profound changes to occur.
The collective nature of learning in the FFS and collective change as result of the learning process needs additional research. Such research could take TL to test and challenge Mezirow’s framework for TL, which almost exclusively deal with the individual only. Research on the collective nature of learning in FFS and the individual-social interface could also aim to define practical ways of bringing Freire’s thoughts to a more practical level.
Transformation of mindsets was observed among FFS participants, and the important role of the facilitator in this process was also established by the study. However to what extent the qualities in terms of skills, attitude and knowledge of the facilitator influence the learning outcomes among participants was not confirmed by this study. Indications hinted at a relationship here where quality of facilitation have direct impact on outcomes of FFS, however more research is needed to confirm this. Enhanced knowledge on these aspects would thus help in defining the dynamics involved in bringing transformative learning through FFS to scale. Another interesting question is to what extent the FFS facilitators also undergo their own transformative learning journey alongside the participants that they serve and to what extent their transformation in terms of change in worldviews, perspectives and attitude impact on participants.
11 Implications for development practice The study generates a number of implications for policy and development practice, articulated below.
Empowerment in the poverty debate As a result of the FFS experience, the participants developed more meaning and purpose in their lives, as reflected in their greater optimism, outlook and satisfaction in life. This sense of freedom has an instrumental role in development seen from the point of view of capability, the theoretical basis of UNDP’s perspective on poverty (UNDP 2005), where well-being is achieved through a process of expanding the real freedoms that people can enjoy (Sen 1999). The inter-connectedness between the empowering learning process and enhanced well-being that this study demonstrates indicates that enhancing human resources among poor farmers is a crucial element in allowing them to access services and to benefit from development investments. The study thus indirectly questions the current widespread faith in technological solutions to poverty problems, as is for example the case in current attempts to re-launch a green revolution promoted by the Gates Foundation and other major development donors, and it calls for increased attention for empowerment of the poor. Furthermore, the increased power and new opportunities for women, which are shown as leading to an increase in household well-being and income, provides valuable input into the global debate on poverty reduction and the role of women in development (World Bank 2008). Also, it gives support to the notion that ‘empowerment requires structural change and an enabling environment.
While the concept of empowerment has generated considerable policy interest lately and formed a component in many development programs, it has proved difficult to achieve in practice. One contributing factor to this is probably the complexity in measurement of empowerment and the difficulty to find generic indicators that fit into mainstream program logframes. This study contributes to the methodological field of the measurement of empowerment in terms of its attempt to produce definitions through a combination of qualitative and quantitative process indicators and expressions of empowerment in the rural smallholder farming context. This is an important contribution given the global lack of practical tools and processes for measuring the social impact of capacity-building efforts.
It’s the combination of social and technical development that produces change This study indicates that it is the combination of instrumental knowledge (e.g.
practices and innovations) and enhanced individual and collective agency acquired through the learning process in FFS that enables poor farmers to improve their farming as well as well-being and agency. The study further indicates a relationship between confidence and economic status in that, while individual transformation provides the basis for economic development among FFS graduates, such economic development further reinforces the individual’s self confidence and status in the community thus triggers a spiral of increased well-being. This calls for further recognition of the close inter-linkages between material and psychological aspects when addressing poverty concerns.
In this light there is a need to find a balance between technical and social innovations and recognition for the complex inter-connectedness between the two. Lessons can be drawn from FFS programs for how to support informal education or community learning for empowerment outcomes. Implications of this for development practice is that agricultural development programs should focus more attention on processes of empowering farmers as opposed to purely technical solutions that characterize and dominate most capacity building programs, in order to create an appropriate mix of technological and social advancement for a development process that is sustainable in nature.
The fact that FFS is a non-formal education process does not imply that what students learn is of less importance than formal education, such as primary and secondary school. With regard to empowerment, on the contrary, the non-formal setting gives FFS an advantage over formal education because of its propensity for immediate action, providing learning opportunities that have direct application, and it is often close in proximity and accessibility for those that need it (Brembeck 1973).
Need for investment in human capacity The inter-connectedness between an empowering learning process and enhanced well-being that this study demonstrates indicates that enhancing human resources among poor farmers is an important element in broader rural development. This significant impact of FFS observed in terms of building the capacity of farmers to make choices and decisions that ultimately lead to increased uptake of agricultural innovations, access to services and markets as well as collective action. While most programs include smaller components that support institutional support, support to farmer empowerment in the sense of the production of knowledge for a framework of action, as is the case in FFS, is seldom given adequate attention by donor agencies nor national governments in their support for agricultural development. While the concept of empowerment has generated considerable policy interest, it has proven difficult to achieve in practice. Facilitating community empowerment through means of external support for is not easy and is a delicate undertaking.
However experiences with the IFAD/FAO supported FFS program in East Africa show that it is possible.
The study particularly offers policy implications for the effectiveness of support for demand-driven services. Demand-driven agricultural advisory programs, such as NAADS in Uganda, ASDP in Tanzania and NALEP in Kenya, as well as many other participatory rural development programs, require farmers who are able to articulate informed demands if they are to benefit fully from services offered by these program. The cost-effectiveness of agricultural programs could therefore probably be enhanced with a stronger focus on investment in human resources, through informal education that builds human and collective capacities. The fact that FFS appears to encourage active and committed farmers basing their activities on empiricism rather than cultural beliefs may provide opportunities for improving the impact of demand-driven service provision and as well as mechanisms to genuine participation of citizens in development interventions more generally.
Attention to the quality of facilitation in FFS Lessons from FFS indicate that stimulating empowerment requires a comprehensive approach combined with high-quality training and facilitation.
Loss of quality, linked to the facilitation, when scaling up empowerment processes is well recognized in the critical participation literature (Cooke and Kothari 2001). FFS as a rather complex learning process that depends highly on personal attributes and commitments of individual facilitators and program managers is thus easily subject to loss in quality with resulting limitation in levels and types of impacts observed. This calls for increased attention for measures to support continuous on-the job program mentoring of training activities and facilitators, a concept not well recognized in mainstream capacity building where the Training of Trainers (TOT) model often is seen as a standalone activity. Further, if aiming for empowerment of the poor, targeted training for transformation of mindsets among service providers is possibly a crucial element to consider as a baseline activity of such interventions.
Men and women need to change together The results of this study strongly support the notion that women should not be targeted in isolation, and that real change in gender dynamics can only come about when both men and women change together. FFS seem to generate gender impacts not only because they empower women, but also because they also provide opportunities for the men, the agents of oppression in this case, to change as well. Targeting women separately may be valuable in certain scenarios such as in relation to land tenure, asset endowment etc. However, when talking about the well-being and household economic development of the rural poor, men and women need to move ahead as a team, and targeting women in isolation may possibly reinforce oppressive barriers in the society.
Farmer groups as entry point for rural social change The secondary or ripple effects in the community observed following FFS participation such as increased leadership roles, work ethic, more equitable gender relations, serving as role models for colleagues etc. suggests that FFS can potentially provide an important entry point for rural social change by introducing new ideas, practices and behaviours beyond the technical measures that are often associated with development interventions and beyond the target group level. The more equitable spousal units (female empowerment, a stronger work ethic by men) could be economically more productive and offer an explanation for the increase in well-being and household income found among FFS participants.
The broader societal role of FFS highlighted in this research as a community of practice for situated learning and platform for institutional change hints that the FFS approach might be mal-placed when considered mainly within the field of agricultural extension and advisory services, which currently is the case. This might also be the reason for frequent problems experienced in evaluating impact of FFS and when trying to compare it to other extension approaches. Previous research on FFS has focused almost exclusively on its effectiveness as an approach to promoting the adoption of agricultural innovations, not paying adequate attention to all the unanticipated effects on participants in other areas of their lives. This study argues that FFS, while including a component of technology development and dissemination really is not an agricultural extension approach as such but more of a community development approach more broadly. Therefore, maybe it is time to free FFS out of the “extension” box and give the approach another home in order to fully take advantage of the potential for FFS to support wider capacity building and act as entry point in rural societies for transformative livelihood changes.
12 References Alsop, R., & Heinsohn, N. (2005). Measuring empowerment in practice: structuring analysis and framing indicators. Washington DC: The World Bank.
Amudavi, D. (2005). Exploring the effects of farmer community group participation on rural livelihoods. Strategies Analysis for Growth and Access (SAGA) Policy Brief. Ithaca: Cornell University
Anderson, J. R., Feder, G. & Ganguly, S. (2006). The rise and fall of training and visit extension:
An Asian mini-drama with an African Epilogue. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper
3928. Washington DC: The World Bank Asante, M. K. (1998). The Afrocentric idea. Philadelphia: University Press.