Farmer Field Schools: Innovative and Effective Farmer Training in Nepal

Rijuta Garapaty, Rituparna Majumder, and Suman Dhakal
Thursday, April 25, 2019

Under the aegis of the Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat (DGGW) project, the Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU) has established a seed system in Nepal for the purpose of creating access to quality certified seeds for smallholder farmers in the Chitwan region of Nepal. For the seed system in Nepal to thrive, it is critical to have extension support to continuously upgrade farmer knowledge regarding new technologies and their adoption. The key objective of the DGGW project at AFU was to mobilize, engage and train farmers in the region. Sathguru Management Consultants, in India, has been a key partner in realizing this objective.

Based on input from previous years, this season, AFU revamped their training sessions and initiated a Farmer Field School (FFS) approach to effectively and impactfully train wheat seed farmers. FFS is not restricted to a single classroom session, but focuses on season-long training activities that take place in farmers’ fields including training on various activities from land preparation to sowing techniques to monitoring the different stages of the growth of wheat, to pest management, through until harvest.

With 99 farmers divided into four groups, the first FFS training began with a classroom training that focused on an overview and objective of the seed syste, delivered by Professor Arjun Kumar Shrestha, project coordinator, AFU-DGGW project. It was followed by training on all the different developmental stages of wheat, related management practices and the various extension support, provided by extension officers Udit Prakesh Sigdel and Ramhari Timilsina. The training ended with a stimulating discussion of agronomic management and the best package of practices for wheat seed growing, precautions to be taken during seed growing, possible problems and solutions related to weed and pest control, delivered by Suman Dhakal, director of production and processing. Farmer queries were addressed during these sessions.

Participants at the Farmer Field School in Nepal. Photo by Suraj Karkee and Dinesh Marasini

The classroom sessions were followed by field sessions that exposed the farmers to different sowing equipment and methodologies, like zero tilling and line sowing using the seed cum fertilizer drill, on the AFU farms and in the seed testing laboratory. Farmers also witnessed the seed processing operation. This session was delivered by Balbir Pakhrin and Mangal Singh Lama, director and assistant, respectively, of the processing unit,

To take the learnings from FFS to the farmers’ fields, in each of the nine village clusters, the farmers gathered around the demonstration plots which were created by the AFU extension workers in the beginning of the season. This ensured that farmers were able to see the benefits of new technologies and use the best practices in their own fields. This was followed by detailed discussions on agronomic management, and insect/pest and disease management of wheat. A team of experts including an agronomist, entomologist and pathologist from AFU also visited the farmers’ fields and interacted with the farmers. Technical suggestions were provided by the expert team to all the farmers for better management of the wheat seed crop under field conditions. The FFS method of training proved very effective, as there was active participation by the farmers who also openly discussed their problems related to crop and weed management. Adoption of FFS has also resulted in more farmers enrolling to be a part of the seed system. AFU plans to continue FFS for the next season.

Effective transfer of technology to wheat farmers in Rampur, Chitwan, Nepal and its adjoining regions will help in the adoption of improved varieties of wheat and right agronomic practices thereby increasing productivity and improving the livelihoods of farmers and their families.