Farmer Field School: Farmer centric agriculture extension approaches

Rakhi Saxena & Ajay Saxena

 Forming partnerships and groups to work together for agricultural development is very important.  Participatory extension approaches such as farmer-to-farmer exchanges and Farmer Field Schools encourage farmers to utilize their own knowledge and skills, while integrating new expertise, enhance farmer’s position as managers of their own land and resources. These approaches have empowered individuals, families and communities, by building their sense of self-confidence and self-reliance. Farmer Field Schools promoted under U.P. Sodic project illustrates this.

Farmer field school (FFS), as an informal institution, is based on the assumption that farming communities have a vast body of knowledge, skills and experience, on which they can build their future. The local farmer’s knowledge, insights are based on their vast experience, rooted in their own local context. In this sense, existing knowledge, values, cultures and practices are the key knowledge resources.

The institution increased the participation of farming communities towards agriculture development, appropriate land use, exchanging knowledge and indigenous technology, thereby upgrading the quality of life of members and ensuring effective management of their resources. The institution also demonstrated commendable success in addressing issues critical to sustainable land reclamation like timely availability of agriculture inputs, credit, technical know- how etc.

The farmer field school is a network of progressive farmers of 8-10 sodic villages located in a radius of 5 kms, willing to offer extension services amongst the fellow farmers. The group is guided by the bye-laws framed by the Management committees. To increase the representation of poor, marginalized and women farmers, 2/3rd positions are reserved for poor, marginal farmers in FFS management committee, out of which 1/3rd is reserved for women farmers so that their voices are heard & their interests are addressed. Membership fees are charged for availing the services of FFS

Case of Jan Sewa Kisan Vidyalaya Samiti

Jan Sewa Samiti in Jaitpur village of Raibarelli district of UP  was promoted under UP sodic lands reclamation project in the year 2003. An FFS was formed covering 18 villages under its umbrella.

The management committee of Jan Sewa FFS comprised of 11 members, of which 7 are BC & SC and 3 are women.

Meetings are held as scheduled and training curriculum is prepared by the FFS management committee as per the needs of member farmers. For effective delivery of services two pronged strategy has been formulated under which one nodal-incharge has been appointed by the FFS in all the member villages to enhance membership base and taking the stock of various agriculture related problems existing at his respective village. On the other hand, forward linkages of FFS have been established with the agriculture and allied departments apart from developing master trainers to provide solutions to the member farmers.

 M & E indicators and seasonal calendar highlighting key activities of the month have also been developed in consultation with the FFS to enable them in smooth functioning and also monitoring their own progress.

The progressive farmers are the master trainers in various subjects (Agriculture, horticulture, Animal husbandry, IPM, Credit, organic-farming, Land-reclamation, Soil-testing, Boring and Pumpset maintenance, Marketing, etc.)  where they have demonstrated success. In Jan Sewa Samithi, 12 master trainers in multiple disciplines (Agriculture, Animal husbandry, Health, boring mechanic, Pumpset mechanic, Fishery, Credit, Computer, Soil testing etc) have been nurtured and supported.

These master trainers in turn provide training and support to the other member farmers. For instance, Markendya Chawla,  master trainer of animal husbandry, after receiving formal training is running an animal care centre and is providing services related to animal vaccination, artificial insemination etc. on nominal service charges. Mr Kallu, Boring mechanic and Mr Ashok kumar singh, Pumpset mechanic are also catering to the needs of the member farmers. Arjun Singh, the master trainer of agriculture, and member of Chandrashekhar Samiti of KVK organizes seasonal seminars and conducts learning session (both classroom and field based) for disseminating knowledge on innovative agriculture practices. Similarly all the other master trainers are providing training and regular support to the farmers.

For cross learning’ exposure trips were also organized amongst the FFS promoted under the project as well as to various public and private institutions like KVKs, SAUs, CIMAP, IFFCO, Agri. Expo etc.

The learning processes and linkages

The farmer field school organizes learning sessions on contemporary issues during Rabi, kharif & Zaid & also organizes field trials with the support of SAUs, KVKs and DOA to mobilize member farmers for adoption of new technologies and crop diversification for higher returns. Training in  field school follows the seasonal cycle and field is the learning venue. Farmers learn by carrying  out for themselves the various activities related to the particular farming practice they want to learn about. Their training is based on comparative studies and on-farm trials. Through local analysis and experience, farmers are adjusting inputs and technical packages to better suit local conditions

FFS is also supporting in availability of quality agriculture inputs as some of the FFS have procured seeds and fertilizer licenses.

Agriculture implements like Soil & Fertizer testing kits, IPM kits etc. were also provided under the Sodic project which is widely been used by the farming community.  Jan Sewa FFS is providing the facility of soil and fertilizer testing with the help of testing kits. Soil testing has been made an integral part of FFS training curriculum.

Promotion of low-cost technologies e.g. organic-farming, IPM etc. is also one of the key mandates of the FFS. Jan sewa facilitated in establishing  34 Nadep and 44 vermi composting units.

Owing to their repute, FFS are also facilitating credit from banks for the farmers. These initiatives serves as binding force for the members and are also enhancing further memberships

Support initiatives

Linkages have been established with various public and private institutions. FFS in liaison with the Horticulture department has established a Nursery and is providing seedlings to the member farmers at reasonable prices. FFS facilitated farmers in availing KCC and linking SHGs with banks for CCL. Owing to good relations of Mr Omkar, master trainer of credit, with bankers, FFS has been instrumental in mobilizing bank loans for the farmers. With the endeavors of FFS, two villages namely Jaitpur and Sakatpur are 100% saturated with KCC.

FFS procured the fertilizer sale license and nominated Mr. Umashankar, the master trainer of agriculture for sale of quality fertilizer to the farmers. The linkages of FFS with INDOGULF Fertilizers and IPL further supported the initiative.

 The FFS has also been able to link with the on going government as well corporate developmental programmes. For instance, SGSY supported FFS in establishment of cattle shed and Reliance Industries had established a Dairy center for milk collection and the President of FFS is in-charge of the centre

Dissemination efforts

To interface with outer world, sodic e-chaupals have been established. A computer Center has been set up by Jan sewa which has been providing computer training to rural youth as well as disseminates technical information to the member farmers on package of practices. The centre is also generating surplus income for FFS to meet its daily expenditure.

An independent assessment carried out by IIM, Lucknow, concluded that farmers using sodic e-chaupals make significantly better decisions on three aspects related to farming activities viz, (i) soil testing, (ii) balanced plant nutrient management and (iii) minimization of cost of production.

Addressing other social issues

This apart, FFS is also playing a key role in addressing social issues.  It facilitated issuance of 354 old age pension and 37 handicap pension. In liaison with Health Dept. Jan Sewa Samiti organized 10 health camps, ensured regular visit of ANMs in the villages and also facilitated the Health Department. in selection of 24 ASHA under NRHM. Due to the significant contribution of FFS, the president of FFS, Mr Arjun Singh Bhadouria and two other members of Jan Sewa Samiti have been elected as Gram Pradhans of their respective villages.


FFS promoted under the project have now expanded their domain as they have realized that there is more they could do to improve rural livelihoods. They started to organize new alliances, networks and became involved in planning and implementing their own interventions. These interventions are highly diverse, ranging from research and training, to marketing and advocacy work. FFS are sensitizing the rural communities on environmental issues. Community health and hygiene, advocacy against social evils and malpractices have also found space in FFS regular agenda.

Nowadays, not only FFS are trying to reach to Public or private agencies for back-end support. The Government of UP has also recognized their potential by nominating a member of FFS in Farmers Advisory Committee of ATMA at Block Level, thus, helping in mainstreaming its role in raising farmers’ priorities in District Agriculture Plan (DAP). Public extension workers are also acknowledging the role of CSOs in better outreach of the extension services. Encouraged with FFS, effective presence in the extension system, the GoUP has been actively implementing the policy to setup one FFS at each block in the State.

Rakhi Saxena, is working as Advisor, Participatory Management and Ajay Saxena is working as Senior Manager (M&E) in U. P. Bhumi Sudhar Nigam, Lucknow, a Govt. of UP undertaking. Please send your feedback at or

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