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«To cite this version: Esbern Friis-Hansen, Deborah Duveskog, Edward W. Taylor. PARTICIPATORY EXTENSION PROCESSES AS CATALYST FOR CHANGE IN SOCIAL ...»

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Esbern Friis-Hansen, Deborah Duveskog, Edward W. Taylor

To cite this version:

Esbern Friis-Hansen, Deborah Duveskog, Edward W. Taylor. PARTICIPATORY EXTENSION


POOR. Emilie COUDEL, Hubert DEVAUTOUR, Christophe-Toussaint SOULARD, Bernard HUBERT. ISDA 2010, Jun 2010, Montpellier, France. Cirad-Inra-SupAgro, 9 p., 2010. halHAL Id: hal-00522583 https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00522583 Submitted on 1 Oct 2010 HAL is a multi-disciplinary open access L’archive ouverte pluridisciplinaire HAL, est archive for the deposit and dissemination of sci- destin´e au d´pˆt et ` la diffusion de documents e eo a entific research documents, whether they are pub- scientifiques de niveau recherche, publi´s ou non, e lished or not. The documents may come from ´manant des ´tablissements d’enseignement et de e e teaching and research institutions in France or recherche fran¸ais ou ´trangers, des laboratoires c e abroad, or from public or private research centers. publics ou priv´s.





Esbern FRIIS-HANSEN*, Deborah DUVESKOG**, Edward W. TAYLOR*** * Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) Strandgade 56. DK-1401 Copenhagen efh@diis.dk ** The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Hamrevägen 49, 82134 Bollnäs, Sweden deborah.duveskog@gmail.org *** Penn State University-Harrisburg 777 W Harrisburg Pike, W331 Olmsted Bldg, Middletown, PA 17057 ewt1@psu.edu


— As agricultural education based on participatory approaches expand, knowledge is needed about the impact it has on the daily lives of participants beyond farming gains. The study explores how involvement in the participatory extension practice “Farmer Field Schools (FFS)” results in shifting world views among participants and to what extent it has an impact on peoples’ sense of well-being and agency in society. The paper discuss how transformative learning in participatory research and extension enables poor people to gain agency; generate more equitable spousal relations; improve relationships with community and adopt more productive and profitable farming and marketing practices that contribute to a sustainable society.

Key words : Kenya, participatory extension, Farmer Field Schools, empowerment, transformative learning, resource poor farmers

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Farming among rural small landholders in sub-Saharan Africa is taking place under rapidly changing conditions and the current situation requires farmer to be innovative, make informed decisions and adjust to rapidly changing situations. However, traditional education approaches and methods have proven largely unsuccessful (Purcell and Anderson, 1997;

Anderson and Feder, 2006) and efforts to provide farmers a voice are seldom an integrated part of agricultural programs. Rural educational support for community development has in the past predominantly relied on methods of transfer of technology that has not benefited resource-poor farmers. Meanwhile, globalization of markets further requires increased collective action and negotiation power of farmers (Friis-Hansen 2000). Despite the acknowledged need for participation of the world’s poor in exerting greater influence over decisions that affect their lives, there is still a significant need for mechanisms that ensure genuine participation of the citizenry (Dill, 2009). Supporting empowerment and enhancing the voice of rural population in the development process has increasingly become a central element in poverty reduction strategies (World Bank, 2000; Bebbington, et.al. 2007, GCARD, 2010). However, our understanding of the impact of participatory extension programs on poor farmers ability to break with conservative traditions and norms and to engage with the many constraints facing them in an innovative manner is limited.

The Farmer Field Schools (FFS) in Kenya examined in this study represent a new paradigm in rural adult education that focuses on farmer driven innovation. FFS provides a platform where farmers meet regularly in groups to study the how and why of farming. There are currently a multitude of FFS initiatives in more than 27 countries in Africa (Braun, Jiggins et al., 2005) funded by various development agencies and the approach is gaining in popularity. It represents extension and research efforts that are transformative (e.g, Mezirow,

2000) in nature and enable poor and frequently illiterate farmers to engage in an agricultural innovation and market driven rural development process. Published research indicates substantial impact of FFS in terms of increase in farm productivity, improved farming knowledge (Rola, Jamias and Quizon, 2002; Praneetvatakul and Waibel, 2003; Mwagi et. al,

2003) and indications of empowerment and collective action (Züger, 2004; Mancini, van Bruggen and Jiggins, 2006; Van den Berg and Jiggins, 2007). However, outside of the economic and agrarian implications of FFS little is known about the effect of FFS as a catalyst of change in social dynamics among rural poor, and in particular on the personal, communal and gendered lives of the participants and to what extent FFS contributes to social equity and reduction of poor populations in terms of innovative agency and human relationships. In response to this concern the purpose of this study was to explore FFS and the impact it had on the lives of participants from the perspective of transformative learning.

The paper begins with an introduction to the pedagogy of the FFS approach followed by a discussion of transformative learning as the theoretical framework of the study. Thereafter study methodology and findings are presented followed with a concluding discussion.

Farmer Field Schools The FFS approach was originally developed in Asia in the 1980s as a response to the commonly applied Training and Visit (T&V) extension model that proved ineffective in addressing problems of large pest infestations affecting the area. Within the framework of participatory and demand driven extension (Leeuwis, 2004), the hands-on practical learning in FFS emerged as a means for facilitating critical decision making skills among farmers to deal with complex farming problems (Gallagher, 2003). The FFS approach is based on a constructivist orientation to teaching (e.g, Piaget, 1950) and consistent with this educational philosophy FFS uses a learner-centred, problem-based approach to teaching involving field observations, relating observations to the ecosystem, and applying previous experience through group discussion with new information to make informed crop or livestock

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management decisions (Duveskog, 2006). A group of farmers who meet regularly (usually weekly) in the field form the field school while plants or animals at the learning site form the main study materials. The learning takes place under the guidance of a trained facilitator, who helps promote active participation, group dialogue and reflection. Critical reflection, questioning of deeply held beliefs and norms about farming, is promoted through the engagement of comparative experiments, the regular agro-ecological system analysis (AESA) exercise and discovery-based activities. Apart from the farming related content, small group activities and discussion session address “special topics” relating to nonagricultural issues (e.g., HIV-AIDS, domestic violence). In addition, to enhance learning song and dance is often used as a compliment to the problem based learning and to take advantage of local ways of knowing (Duveskog, 2006).


To understand the change in the daily life of FFS participants, transformative learning (TL) theory (Mezirow, 2000, Taylor, 2008) provides a lens for shedding light on the constructivist context (e.g., Loveinsohn, Berdegue, Guijt, 2002; Piaget, 1950) of participatory extension. It is considered adult learning theory where ‘learning is understood as the process of using a prior interpretation to construct a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of one’s experience in order to guide future action’ (Mezirow, 1996: 162). TL is based on the assumption that an individual’s worldview is framed by structures (e.g., frame of reference) of assumptions that form the bases of individual’s beliefs, values and actions. This frame of reference both limits and shapes an individuals’ perception and provides a filter of what experiences individuals choose to give meaning to and how they construct that meaning.

Most learning reinforces and elaborates existing frames of references. For example, farmers in Kenya have a host of beliefs concerning the role of women in farming and daily life. These beliefs give meaning to their way of farming and are continually reinforced through shared cultural practices and traditions. However some individuals, as result of a significant experience (e.g., FFS) find their frame of reference inadequate in providing understanding to the experience, and are emotionally provoked to question deeply held assumptions leading to what Mezirow (2000: 19) refers to as a “perspective transformation.” In the likelihood of farmers’ transformation, they begin to relate to their world differently by demonstrating a ‘more inclusive, un-discriminating, permeable (open to other viewpoints), critically reflective of assumptions, emotionally capable of change and integrative of experience’ and as a result take on new roles in life.

Since the early 80’s transformative learning theory has been studied through extensive research, although predominantly within a western context. Only recently has research started to explore the application of this theory in non-western settings (Ntseane and Merriam, 2008). A view of transformative learning that both helps address these limitations as well has direct application for this study is an Afro-centric (e.g., Asante, 1995;

Williams, 2003) conception of transformative learning which ‘focuses on Africa as the cultural centre for the study of African experiences’ (Ntseane and Merriam, 2008: 186). This non-Eurocentric perspective of transformative learning gives attention to the context dependent nature of transformative learning and foregrounding the local culture of the FFS farmers. For example, recognising values such as the collective responsibility of learning, the importance of understanding human existence in context to others (Avoseh, 2001, Ntseane,

2005) and recognizing that ‘most African worldviews emphasize belongingness, connectedness, community participation and people centeredness’ (Mkabela, 2005: 180).

This Afro-centric perspective was used to inform this research design in the development of interview questions and the analysis of the data, ensuring tools applied being culturally relevant and appropriate.

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2.1. Data Collection and Analysis Kakamega district in Western Kenya was chosen as study site because of the presence of a large and well functioning FFS programme that had been running over a longer period of time (more than eight years), ensuring a high number of FFS graduates in the area.

The study used a qualitative design (Merriam, 2002) where the researchers sought to interview both current and past FFS participants. Individuals were purposely sampled, and twenty individuals were interviewed, half of which were graduates of FFS from about year 2000, while the other half were made up of current FFS members or more recent graduates.

Interviewees were between 30-55 years of age and mainly belonged to the Luhya ethnic group. The specific aims of the interviews were to understand (a) respondents perception of their experience in FFS both in terms of instrumental and personal gains, and (b) changes induced at personal (both skills and worldviews) and relationships at household/community level following FFS participation.

All the interviews were recorded, transcribed and analyzed, using a constant comparative approach where the two groups of respondents were treated the same. The data was separated from the original transcript using NVIVO-QSR (version 8) in order to identify its essential elements. The three researchers systematically reviewed each transcript and coded responses (Miles and Huberman, 1994) in an inductive manner where themes were developed based on emerging similarities of expressions.

In addition to the interviews, direct observations were made during regular meetings of the FFS groups that the interviewees belonged to. These meetings included group discussions, theatrical role-play, various group activities, performance of songs and dances and visits to group experimental fields. Along with individual and group interviews key informants were also interviewed.

3. FINDINGS Participants expressed a range of changes both in material status, perceptions and behaviors, mainly in connection to their farming activities but also in relation to personal beliefs, relationships with others and outlook on life in general.

3.1. Wellbeing prior to FFS Participants interviewed shared that they had experienced significant improvements in their wellbeing as a consequence of joining FFS. To fully appreciate this change and the nature of the transformation it is important to establish how they made sense of their life prior to FFS.

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