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Capacities required

The effectiveness of FFS depends largely upon the facilitator’s role and attitude. S/he is expected to encourage participants to ask questions and reach their own conclusions. It helps if the facilitator has farming experience. More than technical knowledge or higher educational degrees, it is important for facilitators to have good leadership skills, the ability to listen, be sensitive to group dynamics, and be well versed with participatory techniques4. In order to hone their skills, it is recommended that each facilitator guides at least three FFS per year.

In the longer term it is desirable to have a team of farmer facilitators who have the advantage of knowing the community and the area well, and are likely to be accepted better by other farmers who speak their local language. Moreover, being local, they require less transportation and financial support, and can operate independently. Farmers who are interested in becoming facilitators can be identified in course of the FFS process. These “FFS graduates” are usually given special farmer facilitator training of 10-14 days to improve their technical knowledge and develop organisational and facilitation skills.

Costs

Typically most FFS have been implemented through externally- funded programmes that cover the costs of facilitator training, curriculum development, running field schools, field days, supervision, and snacks for farmers attending.

Costs of FFS projects vary according to setting and content. As in most extension programmes, transport is one of the biggest costs. In 1996-97 the cost of an FFS facilitated by a professional extension worker in Indonesia was US$532, which covered the facilitator’s honorarium, preparation and coordination expenses, transport, materials/ inputs, stipends (of around US$0.43 per session), refreshments for participating farmers, compensation for the farmer providing the experimental field, and field day expenses5. In the recent years, the cost per participant is reported to be around US$20-40 per participant. This does not include the cost to participants for attending the FFS and may vary according to the crop and country.6 In Eastern Africa, where self-financed (revolving fund) and semi-self-financed (with a grant) FFS are in place, farmers share costs and contribute towards continuity and sustainability by using commercial plots to repay loans to run the schools beyond third-party funded projects7.