|Yustina Sebastian with three of her kids|
FFS is a group-based learning process or ‘school without walls’ that builds on farmers’ existing knowledge and experience. The farmers themselves choose the problems they want to work on and come together in the field, on an experimental plot, to experiment, observe, discuss, analyze and adapt farming methods to suit their own particular environment.
The farmers themselves lead the process, initially with a CPAR FFS facilitator, meeting on a regular basis over the course of one full cropping season to make regular field observations, relate their observations to the ecosystem and apply their previous experience and any new information to make crop and livestock management decisions. They apply the knowledge gained from the experimental plot to their plots at home.
Although originally established as a season long process after which members would ‘graduate’, in reality FFS groups having experienced the benefits of working together as a group tend to choose to stay together and move on to establish savings groups and initiate other activities.
|Yustina and two of her kids in her cassava field|
Yustina joined her FFS group in October 2010 and, among other things, learned about short maturity cassava which takes about five months to mature. She is now harvesting cassava, a staple food, in under a year. With material support of improved drought resistant seeds and the application of conservation agriculture methods and sound agronomic practices learned in her FFS group, Yustina has been able to increase her maize production from 5 bags to 12 bags per acre, worth an additional $400. Her goal for now is to keep her children -- Efrasia(8), Anastazia(10), Pius(12), Deonatus (14),and John (16) – healthy and in school.