In 2020, FAO project implemented a program through Farmer Field Schools (FFS). The objective of this program was to enhance capacity of smallholder agricultural producers. As the FFS sessions are targeted at prevention of hunger and ensuring of food security, they also support agricultural production of smallholders and sustain their livelihoods. Gender mainstreaming was an integral part of all FFS trainings. By doing so, the conducted FFS program contributes to SDGs 2, 5, and 15. This activity was conducted under funding support of the “Central Asia Desert Initiative (CADI)” project being implemented by FAO as part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.
The following innovative practices were up-scaled horizontally using Farmer Field School (FFS) approach developed by FAO. FFSs are mainly set up for smallholder farmers or land users who are resource-poor and often have limited access to education, information, extension services, market access and financial capital. The conducted series of FFS sessions included the following themes: 1. Cultivating uncultivated desert rainfed lands with cold tolerant chickpea variety and improved management practices for economic benefits and soil improvement (participants 15 TOTAL: 8 female and 7 male participants); 2. Improving wheat productivity using high quality seed of improved varieties in comparison with farmers’ variety and seed (53 TOTAL: 30 female and 23 male participants); 3. Improving vegetable production by introducing quality seeds of improved varieties in comparison (35 TOTAL: 22 female and 13 male participants); 4. Capacity building in tree nursery production in resource saving, low cost greenhouses (participants 36 TOTAL: 20 female and 16 male participants); 5. Apiculture for higher honey production (participants 13 TOTAL: 7 female and 6 male participants).
In 2020, the project provided FFS trainings for 152 smallholders including 87 women and 65 men. As it is difficult to measure the immediate impact of the program, in the medium and long run, smallholders who attended the specified sessions will benefit from innovative agricultural practices and resource conservation approaches. The trained agricultural producers are also expected to maintain agrobiodiversity through development of nurseries. Apicultural activities will increase pollination of crops and support ecosystems.
Relatively low costs required for establishment of farmer field schools should be emphasized among factors making FFS approach accessible. Development of COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the implementation of FFS program. However, regardless several lockdowns, the project team succeeded in program implementation.
The implemented program addresses several issues that explicitly contribute to sustainability of agricultural production systems through introduction of improved crop varieties, conserve agrobiodiversity by multiplication of the planting materials. The FFS methodology can be replicated widely. However, the technical part and program content should build up on local knowledge and practices to be well accepted by smallholders.
Disruption of the former centralized large-scale state farms led to emergence of numerous smallholder farmers with limited knowledge in agriculture. The existing public extension system as well as fragmented advisory services provided by the Farmers’ Association and various projects do not provide enough training for all smallholders. In this regard, the described FFS approach can be employed to serve as a sustainable option filling knowledge gap among smallholder farmers.
SDGS & Targets
Deliverables & Timeline
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While the field activities were implemented through a partnership agreement with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the FFS process has been facilitated by the National project partner – State Committee on Forestry of Uzbekistan (SCF). The Committee facilitated successful organization of FFS events in both project sites in Uzbekistan.