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5 Implementation and Results of FFS

5.1 Quality and relevance of the FFS approach

FFS in Bangladesh (and many other countries) started because high external input to farming threatened the sustainable production of rice, to a level where food security was under threat. ‘Secondary pests’ emerging from the use of pesticides became impossible to control with other pesticides. To help farmers grasp how the threat emerged and the mechanisms at play in the field, the FFS introduced intensive field-based exploratory/discovery/experimental/experiential learning. Farmers were challenged in the field to experiment with alternatives to pesticides based on learning from the FFS. In one plot they would do as they used to do whereas in another plot they would apply their new knowledge and skills, follow the development and learn by doing. One example of such an exploration: Farmers usually get upset when they see insects eating the leaves of their crops and respond by spraying with an insecticide. In exploratory learning, the farmers will observe how the larvae chewing on the leaves more often than not will be eaten by a spider or a beetle, and they will see some larvae that become strange looking, and after some time small parasitic wasps emerge from them – after having killed the larva. They discover that a lot of these insects are actually useful. The learning approach included weekly sessions of three to four hours, in the field.

Such an insight can only be obtained convincingly by having discovered it, shared it with peers in the group and by having taken management decisions based on the discovery. It further helps the understanding when farmers in a sequence of early-season sessions have been cutting away (literally, with a scissors) part of the plant’s leaves. And then compare at the end of season that the plots where they cut leaves have same yield as the one where they did not – meaning insects that make a few holes in leaves actually do not really do any damage. It further helps, when the groups have seen the insects in action and gotten to appreciate what they do. There are many other key insights to be explored and discovered in this way. And each crop is different, its agronomy, its pest and diseases and even the ‘natural enemies’ of the pests are different. Therefore, it is key to the approach that enough time is allocated to such experiments to allow for proper learning and to ensure sustainability.

5.2 Selection of FFS participants and facilitators in practice

Selection of villages for FFS

As described above, the IFMC register mentions poverty prone areas that are generally free from floods, where communication systems are comparatively good and that areas with social conflict should be excluded.[70] According to the register, the number of households in the village is to be listed, accessibility in terms of roads, number of schools, mosques and ponds/rivers in the area as well as the amount of cultivated and irrigated land.

According to the village information collected as part of the household survey, there are some notable differences in the characteristics between FFS villages and control villages, that indicate that FFS villages are less rural and relatively more developed than the control villages. First, the number of households and inhabitants in FFS villages is larger than in control villages (an average of 699 households and 2,875 inhabitants in FFS villages compared to an average of 439 households and 1,807 inhabitants in the control group). Second, the share of paved roads in FFS villages is higher than in control villages (42% against 28% in control villages). Third, the share of farmers in control villages is larger than in FFS villages (80% against 70% farmers in FFS villages).

It must be noted that this situation is post-FFS, and the FFS interventions may therefore have contributed to the observed development within the FFS villages. However, according to interviews with the village leaders, it is rather unlikely that the FFS have contributed to any substantial development at village level (as discussed in this report, results are mainly at FFS household level, there have been limited spill-over effects within FFS villages). Instead, FFS villages seem to have been better than control villages to attract other development projects during the same period. This again indicates, that other criteria, such us the existence of rural power-elite structures (see context section, Chapter 3), may have weighted higher than ‘poverty prone’ in the selection of villages for FFS.

In Barisal, the Upazila officials were able to explain the selection criteria for FFS in detail and openly shared some of the challenges they met when selecting villages and participants for FFS. Lack of modern technological uptake and accessibility of the area were mentioned as key criteria and a specific emphasis was put on identifying female-headed households as instructions in the guideline requires. When a village had been selected, a community meeting was conducted and, normally, more interested farmers than the numbers needed for the FFS would show up. In the meeting, it was emphasized that participating in FFS is time consuming and it was explained what is expected from participants. Finally, a shortlisting of 30-40 households was prepared and participants were selected based on the production activities that farmers were already engaged in, as well as their level of motivation. FGDs with female FFS participants in Dakshin Hosnabad village and Chandkali village in Barisal confirmed that the selection process within these villages had been conducted according to the established criteria and hence qualitative findings largely confirmed the application of the established guidelines in Barisal.

In Rangpur, Upazila officials were not able to explain to the same extent as in Barisal how FFS households had been selected and important deviations were observed. Here also, lack of modern technology was a key parameter for village selection, however, the selection strategy seemed less focused on poverty prone areas in both Pigacha and Palashbari Upazilas, where the villages visited during the qualitative fieldwork appeared rather affluent. Also, the evaluation came across examples where FFS were being implemented in areas where other development actors were implementing similar type of projects. This is not directly against the guidelines but according to Danida technical staff it had been emphasized that it would be desirable to select areas with few other development projects. Nevertheless, up to ten ongoing different NGO/governmental projects were identified in Rangpur villages, whereas in Barisal villages a maximum of two to three projects were active.[71]

In two villages in Rangpur, large projects such as the Social Development Fund (SDF)[72] are being implemented, i.e. Uttar Chandipur village and Purbo Gopalpur village with relatively large amounts of funds (more than DKK 1 million per village). In Purbo Gopalpur village, SDF initiated their work already in 2008-2009 selecting 115 women for training in various topics including beef fattening, group formation, marketing and value chain, and the SDF also provided credit to initiate businesses. One group of women subsequently registered a CBO doing beef fattening and, with the credit from SDF, they invested in the machines and materials required for beef fattening (i.e. vaccination equipment). The village also funded a community building from SDF funds. In 2012, the same village was selected for FFS (under IPM). In Uttar Chandipur village, SD initiated their projects in 2016 and the IFMC FFS was implemented in 2018. In both cases, it was difficult for the evaluation to grasp for what particular reasons it was decided to implement an FFS in these villages already quite well covered by other substantial development projects.

Selection of FFS households

As described in Chapter 4, FFS participants must be landless, marginal or small farmers and have access to not more than 1 hectare (ha) of land and, in addition, female-headed households should be prioritised. The majority of the FFS households included in the household survey fall within the marginal and small farmers categories, although 7% owned more land than the upper limit of 0.2 ha, as reflected in Table 8.

Table 8. Overall distribution of FFS households in the survey according to selected categories
Households Total # %
Landless (less than 0.2 ha of land) 195 47%
More than 1 ha of land 26 7%
Female headed 17 4%

These survey data findings are largely in line with the findings from a lessons-learned exercise of IFMC,[73] which was based on a sample of internal IFMC monitoring data. The lessons-learned exercise showed a lower share of landless FFS households (36%) but the share of female headed households was found to be higher (10%). A slightly smaller share of FFS households (4%) were found to own more than 0.2 ha of land.

The regional distribution of landless and female-headed households, as well as households with too much land included in FFS, is reflected in the Table 9. Feni District (in Chittagong) had by far the largest number of both landless and female-headed households.

Table 9. Regional distribution of FFS households in the survey according to selected categories
Households Rangpur Rajshahi Barisal Feni (Chittagong)
Landless
(less than 0.2 ha of land)
47% 43% 38% 75%
More than 1 ha of land 2% 10% 10% 1%
Female-headed 4% 4% 2% 11%

In Rangpur the evaluation consulted three non-FFS farmers in one of the villages who had expressed interest in joining the FFS but were declined due to having too little land. According to the guidelines their land holdings were, however, within the target range for FFS. It is obviously inevitable that some households will have to be declined as only 25 households can participate at a time. However, in this specific village in Palashbari Upazila, where a retired DAE official had initiated the FFS and selected the other FFS participants from among his extended kinship, the selection process did not follow guidelines. This provided a practical example of the nepotism and political interference referred to in the context section (Chapter 3).

Likewise, and in line with the survey results, the qualitative fieldwork found only few examples of female-headed households selected for FFS. In Rangpur, participants in the qualitative FGDs described the selection process of IFMC as being based on male farmers being selected first, and then their wives were included secondarily. Female farmers confirmed to the evaluation that men were selected first and that females joined later as spouses. As a result, female-headed households were less likely to be selected and this was the case in both Pigacha and Palashbari Upazila. The evaluation found that several female farmers in Rangpur demonstrated a low level of motivation, because they had been included in the FFS as spouses and not based on their own wish.

In AFSP the selection of households has been quite different than in IFMC. In AFSP, it was not couples who were selected for FFS, but instead one member from each household. Women were motivated to participate and not selected based on their husbands’ wishes to participate. Initially, AFSP experienced obstacles involving women as both Bengali and ethnic minority women were reluctant to participate as agriculture was considered a domain for men only. However, this changed gradually when women experienced other women’s benefit from the FFS. The circumstances in CHT and need for ready cash is also a motivating factor, as discussed in the context chapter. Parents are keen on keeping their grown children away from home since they fear that they will become targets of arbitrary detention. Therefore, they need cash to keep their children in school. This provides one incentive for them to apply and adopt the technologies that can readily bring them cash.

Selection of farmers facilitators (FF)

As mentioned in Chapter 4, one very important difference that distinguishes IFMC from AFSP is how the FFs have been selected and engaged. Further, in AFSP the facilitator was required to adopt the technology learnings in her/his own farm so that these could act as demonstrations and also motivate others to adopt. No such arrangement existed in the IFMC-model. On the other hand, in IFMC the FFs should have been FFS participants themselves before being further trained to become an FF, whereas in AFSP FFs have been farmers who have never been in an FFS before.

In Rangpur, the UAOs explained that facilitators were recruited from skilled FFS participants who had demonstrated a high level of motivation throughout implementation of the FFS. Criteria further included literacy, equal representation of males and females, and marital status. The UAOs explained that married women were more likely to stay in the area and therefore were given preference. This is, however, not in accordance with the guidelines where it is explicitly stated that facilitators can be both married and single.

The evaluation found unequal representation of men and women as FFs. According to IFMC monitoring data, a total of 1,755 males and 623 females worked as FFs from 2012 to 2017, hence a total of 26% of FFs were females. The Gender Strategy (2018) specifies that “Front line service providers – those working directly with farmers, such as FF – should be at least 50% women”, thus this target has not been achieved. It is however important to acknowledge that the DAE has made progress in this area and that the figures indicate a continuous increase in number of female FFs over the period. The target for female FF recruitment in AFSP was 40%, but only 24% was recruited. Performance on the two projects as regards recruitment of women have, therefore, been rather similar.

This unequal distribution of male and female FFs was confirmed by the qualitative fieldwork. In Rangpur, the distribution was one female to five male facilitators in both Pirgacha Upazila and Palashbari Upazila. One female facilitator explained that several males and females had been trained to become facilitators but only one of the two female facilitators passed the exam. The female facilitator explained “The project prefers men. There were more women that participated in the exam, but they did not pass. I have no idea why the project prefers men… women are efficient and do well to live up to the needs… but women are treated as if they are uncapable”. The successful female facilitator knew of several potential female facilitators who did not pass the exam but had never heard of any men who did not pass. She was convinced that the woman who failed the exam was equally qualified as herself and as the male facilitators who actually passed the exam. The unsuccessful candidate was not allowed to do a re-examination and was eventually replaced by male facilitators with the official explanation that there was no budget to repeat another training session and therefore no possibility to recruit new potential female candidates. A similar picture was provided by other female facilitators, who explained that there were several good female candidates to recruit as facilitators to ensure an equal representation among facilitators, but they were not recruited.

This is further aggravated by the fact that fewer women than men have been selected for FF training. According to IFMC annual progress report (2017-18), 24 batches of training-of-trainers were conducted with new FFs. 827 male and 368 female FFs were trained, hence only around 30% of trained FFs were women. The annual report also reflects that, initially, few female BFPs were selected for training since IFMC field workers argued that only few women were qualified and interested in participating. Therefore, only 15% of BFPs were women until it was made a specific requirement to have two male and two female BFPs per group. The annual report 2017/2018 concluded: “It turned out not to be an issue reaching the 1:1 gender ratio when mandatory, and female BFPs were as qualified, persistent and regular as men. This became an important lesson learnt for strategy design and supervision of field workers.”

The annual report also raised the issue of having mainly men as IFMC field workers and that this has constituted a barrier for selection of women. Only 5% of DAE staff are females and little progress has been achieved in this area during the project period.[74] The IFMC gender strategy developed in 2018 indicated that advocating for more female staff members was outside the scope of the project. Yet, considering the impact this has had on female participation and selection processes for FFs, BFPs and others, this is considered to be a lost opportunity to not advocate for more institutional changes in DAE. The example mentioned above, with BFPs, indicates that a more equal representation of males/ females is feasible when the requirement is mandatory. However, without requesting DAE to actively address these challenges progress is not likely to materialize as is also the case with percentages of DAE staff. This is indeed a pity since the gender review from 2018 reflects that introducing female FFs is key in order to promote women’s active participation in the project. Therefore, it will be important for DAE to develop and implement a gender strategy to address some of these challenges and to ensure a gender mainstreaming within the institution.

As also reflected in the context section, in Bangladesh women are not considered farmers, although they are increasingly engaged in agriculture. Cultural barriers are therefore likely to have affected selection of candidates for FF and BFP training sessions. According to the gender review 2018, women constitute more than 50% of FFS participants but the perception of women not being farmers is also observed in the training sessions and in decision-making processes. Examples of men talking on behalf of women and marginalizing them in decision-making occurred in the observed FFS sessions conducted as part of the gender review.[75] Stereotypical gender patterns from the households are hence replicated in the FFS and in the project as such. This also applies to the division of work among male and female FFs, since male FFs tend to facilitate large scale vegetables, IPM sessions, etc. whereas female FFs tend to be more engaged in traditional “female issues” such as nutrition, poultry and homestead gardening.

Nine out of 30 Master Trainers (MT) in AFSP were women (compared to a target of 50%). Considering the specific context of AFSP it was a bit unrealistic to propose a 50-50% of MTs and, although several strategies have been applied to reduce this gender gap, it has not materialized. The main responsibility of the MT is to ensure that the FFS are mostly practical/practice oriented, that the topics and technologies go well with the seasonal requirements, and that participatory exercises were carried out by the farmers themselves. The MTs were required to visit each FFS under their jurisdiction twice a year, but in practice they were visiting more times to provide more support to the FFs than foreseen.

5.3 Training of farmers

The combination of more subjects included into the FFS in IFMC and an increased number of modules combined with sessions being shortened has led to the time-consuming exploratory sessions being reduced. Including numerous different topics (rice, vegetables, poultry, cows, nutrition, etc.) in the same FFS, makes it difficult to cover all topics in a participatory and experiential way. Some sessions have been implemented mainly in the form of short lectures followed by discussions, while others (e.g. household gardening) have elements of exploratory learning and emphasis on participation. Poultry and beef fattening are conducted much like the household-gardening session, according to the guidebook and to FGDs held with female farmers. However, findings from the Gender Review (2018) indicate that the squeezing of numerous topics into the FFS has had negative consequences for the encouragement of the farmer’s own problem-solving skills. As indicated in Box 1 in Section 4.1, the exploratory element of FFS builds on using the farmers’ own skills and experience from their fields and encourages them to apply these experiences to problem solving; however, the gender review did not find that this was happening in practice. In addition, challenges related to the scaling up process should be recognised, especially where organisational and logistical issues have been problematic (see also discussions in Chapter 6).

This development confirms that the risks identified in the appraisal report for AGEP (2012) have materialized to some extent: ‘The widening of the scope as well as the up-scaling in the new IFM FFS constitute a risk of an overly focus on technology transfer. During the course of piloting and finalization of the IFM FFS, the AT considers it important to maintain the qualities of the learning process inherent to the FFS approach.’ Discussions from the qualitative fieldwork indicate that this has only been partly achieved. Whereas some participants indicated too little time to allow allocated for proper learning, others emphasized that time had been sufficient.

One critical example of this risk materialising is pest management related to large-scale vegetable production. The technical aspects of this was previously (in the ASPS-phases) a season-long, field-based course with weekly sessions of exploratory practical sessions allowing farmers to see the development of vegetables during different stages. Although it was the intention of IFMC to focus on high-value crops including vegetables, a module for this kind of larger-scale production has not been included in the training guide. In Uttar Chandipur in Rangpur, which focuses on large-scale vegetable production, the training in management of pests and diseases had been covered by the module ‘Integrated management of vegetable insects and diseases’, which was developed for homestead gardening of vegetables. This is not sufficient to cover the subject adequately since vegetable farming systems are complicated. In order for farmers to avoid the risks associated with becoming dependent on pesticides they need, for example, to have directly observed, in the field or in a small experiment, that insect pests have ample natural enemies (‘farmers friends’) in a field that is not sprayed with broad-spectrum pesticides and farmers need to have experienced the effect of practical management actions.

The expected consequence of a reduction of knowledge and experience of the trained farmers may lead to a risk of increased pesticide use. These practices may in turn threaten sustainability of the production (see Chapter 7). It should, nevertheless, be noted that some technical methods implemented as part of IPM, such as pheromone traps (traps to catch males of one specific insect pest), are used in homestead gardening so the methods are already there but currently not implemented as part of larger scale vegetable farming. In AFSP, IPM has on the other hand been well implemented. The end-evaluation found that farmers have reduced use of pesticides and enhanced their knowledge of beneficial insects and benefits of protecting the ecosystem. This knowledge has according to the end-evaluation also had an impact on reducing the depletion of forests in CHT.

As regards the technically somewhat less complicated subjects, such as beef fattening, chicken rearing and household gardening, these have been delivered (according to the training guides and evaluation interviews with farmers) with quite strong elements of exploratory learning. This may well be the reason for the positive results of IFMC in these areas, which will be further explained in next section.

In AFSP, the training has been conducted mainly by using FFS approaches that are still exploratory or at least participatory. Highly positive results are reported, both in terms of adoption of new technologies and increased yields. It should be noted that conditions are much different in the CHT compared to the lowlands, including lower starting points in productivity, different governance systems, less market influences, fewer competing messages, AFSP being in project implementation mode, etc., so direct comparison may be misleading.

5.4 Adoption of new skills and techniques

According to the survey findings, 75% of the IFMC FFS households (male and female) have adopted at least five of the new technologies promoted by FFS (Table 10). This is slightly below the programme target of an 80% household adoption.[76] In non-FFS households, only 16% have adopted more than five technologies and in control households this is only 10%. This indicates some spill-over effects on non-FFS households.

Table 10. Share of households that introduced minimum five new technologies*
  FFS Non-FFS Control
Minimum five new technologies 75% 16% 10%

*Non-FFS households are villages where FFS operated. Control groups are households in villages where FFS did not operate.

The data shows a higher uptake of new practices in the South (Barisal and Chittagong (Feni)) than in the North (Rangpur and Rajshahi). Table 11 illustrates the differences across regions and here it is clear that targets have been achieved in the South but not entirely in the North.

Table 11. FFS households that introduced minimum five new technologies per region
  Rangpur Rajshahi Barisal Feni/Chittagong
FFS 77% 49% 88% 93%

This finding is in line with the evaluation’s observations from the field, that farmers in the South seemed generally more motivated to learn and adopt new technologies to boost development in the area. The qualitative fieldwork indicated that other NGO and GoB implemented projects were fewer in the South than in the North. This could explain the difference in participants’ motivation to apply and adopt new FFS techniques in the two different geographical areas. In CHT, findings from the evaluation of AFSP revealed that about 84% of beneficiary farmers of the targeted communities adopted at least five IFM FFS promoted technologies so here the target has been over-achieved.

Crops

In rice[77] and vegetable production (in larger fields) the farmers report an increased use of chemical and organic (cow dung) fertilisers after training in FFS. Likewise, line transplanting of rice seedlings coming from the seed bed has been adopted by around half of the FFS farmers. This corresponds with findings from the qualitative fieldwork where line transplanting was observed and FFS participants explained how they use cow dung in their fields. Findings from the survey on new techniques introduced by FFS are illustrated in Table 12.

Table 12. New yield increasing techniques in rice and field vegetables, which farmers have introduced after FFS, in IFMC
Technologies FFS Non-FFS Control
Urea 52% 10% 2%
MP 49% 16% 3%
Gypsum 50% 11% 5%
Zinc sulphate 42%  9% 5%
Cow dung 41% 14% 8%
Line transplanting 56% 22% 14%
Testing of high-yielding crop varieties 42%  9% 5%
Hand pollination
(of vegetables, e.g. cucumber)
50% 11% 5%

Some techniques like use of urea and line transplanting were already extensively used by rice farmers (especially Boro rice) before the introduction of FFS; however, the FFS has added new yield-improving ways of using these techniques with only limited efforts.[78] Nevertheless, only half of the farmers have adopted these techniques. This may indicate that farmers are using less time in their rice fields, where farming is quite simple, as they adopt more new technologies in other types of farming. The survey, as well as the qualitative fieldwork, confirmed that more diversification is now taking place due to FFS.

The level of testing of high-yield varieties has been quite low, possibly limited by access to these varieties of seeds or their price. Especially in the North of Bangladesh, farmers have introduced additional, higher-value field crops, partly replacing rice. These are mainly potatoes, maize and some fruit trees (oranges and dragon fruit). Maize production alone has, in 2018, increased by 18%.[79] IFMC training does, however, not cover these crops.

Table 13 below illustrates the IPM techniques acquired in larger fields. Here the adoption rate among FFS farmers must also be considered quite low, considering that bird perching is a very simple technique (put an L-formed stick in the ground), while light-trapping requires access to electricity in the field. The qualitative fieldwork observed few examples of application of these techniques in larger fields, but female farmers indicated that they had learned how to make light traps for homestead gardening.

Table 13. Adoption of IPM techniques in larger fields: Perching branches for insect-eating birds and light trapping of night-flying insects
Technologies FFS Non-FFS Control
Perching 52% 10% 2%
Light trapping 49% 16% 3%

More positive findings were observed in CHT. The AFSP end-evaluation found that use of IPM techniques in vegetables was very good with a great impact on conservation of natural resources, the ecosystem and biodiversity as well as management of the environment. 65% of FFS households adopted IPM techniques and reduced their application of pesticides with one litre per year.[80]

Fish farming

Fish culture is undertaken by few due to limitations in pond access.

In most cases, for farmers who adopted fish culture the knowledge retention was good in relation to pond preparation, timing of the operations, release of fingerlings, feed application, etc. However, as Table 14 illustrates, the adoption rate is low and only 25% indicated introducing new fishery techniques.[81] The evaluation did observe application of these techniques in practice but lack of access to ponds is reflected in the low uptake. Fish farming techniques have not had a spill-over effect on non-FFS farmers in FFS villages since the application rate is the same as with the control groups.

Table 14. Fish culture techniques farmers have introduced after FFS
Technologies FFS Non-FFS Control
Cleaning the pond side/dyke of weed growth 25% 2% 2%
Cleaning of the pond; removing waterborne weeds 26% 2% 2%
Using lime in pond water as part of pond preparation 25% 4% 2%

*Non-FFS households are villages where FFS operated. Control groups are households in villages where FFS did not operate.

Fish farming can be started all times of the year, as long as water is available. The dried-out ponds in the northern districts is one reason for a low scale of fish culture there and was observed during fieldwork that those engaged in fish culture were pumping water into their ponds from tube-wells to maintain proper water levels.

Profit from fish farming was reportedly good (see further discussion in Section 5.6) and there were some examples of wealthier farmers who managed to engage in fish farming in the North. In Purbo Gopalpur village (Palashbari Upazila) where the FOs invested in joint fish farming and in Uttar Chandipur village (Pirgacha Upazila) where a farmer cultivated carps and managed to increase production three-fold by applying new techniques.

In Southern Bangladesh conditions for fish culture are much more favourable and larger impacts of the aquaculture training were found by the qualitative survey. In Dakshin Hosnabad village, men were trained in fish farming and were now cultivating fish in shared ponds. They had managed to increase the production due to the application of the techniques, with a positive impact on both consumption and income.

In AFSP, none of the villages visited had engaged in fish farming also due to lack of ponds. One village had initiated preparation of a pond but was yet to start cultivating. However, according to findings of the evaluation, 68% of FFS households prepared the pond/creeks for stocking compared to only 4% of control groups. This resulted in a considerable increase of AFSP fish production of the beneficiary farmers increased from 8 kg to 15 kg per 0.2 ha for pond and for creek it increased from 19 kg to 22 kg per 0.2 ha. Statistical analysis revealed that productivity of pond fish and creek fish were significantly positively correlated with adoption of IFM FFS technology.

Poultry

Most farmers have been engaged in poultry production for decades but by applying easy techniques promoted by FFS[82] and with low investments they have increased their production of eggs and poultry. Findings from the survey on new techniques introduced by FFS are illustrated in Table 15.

Table 15. Poultry techniques introduced by IFMC with a significant difference between FFS and non-FFS*
Technologies FFS Non-FFS Control
Hatching pan 36% 3% 2%
Chick separation 17% 0.6% 0%
Vaccination 41% 6% 6%

*Non-FFS households are villages where FFS operated. Control groups are households in villages where FFS did not operate.

This data demonstrates that new techniques such as hatching pan, chick separation and vaccination of poultry are being applied more often among FFS households than in control and non-FFS households in villages with FFS. Vaccination was applied by 41% of the FFS participants whereas only 6% of non-FFS in FFS villages vaccinated their chickens. Interestingly, there is no difference between non-FFS and the control group indicating that there has been little spill-over from FFS members to non-FFS farmers living in villages where FFS have been implemented. Qualitative interviews confirmed that FFS members now vaccinate their chickens and female farmers explained that chickens are, to a greater extent, now surviving because of this. Availability of vaccination services in the villages was found to be a contributing factor for the high uptake. These services are being provided by NGOs and GoB projects also engaged in training farmers in poultry production, especially in Rangpur. In AFSP, a much higher uptake of vaccination services was recorded among FFS households compared to control households. 81% of FFS households received vaccination services and 98% of these considered services to be effective. For comparison, only 13% of control households received vaccination services.[83]

Hatching pan was used by 36% of FFS members surveyed whereas chick separation is being conducted by 17%. These techniques were well explained by female farmers in both Rangpur and Barisal (Chandkali village, Dakshin Hosnabad village, Uttar Kawnia) during the qualitative fieldwork and a higher application was indicated than the numbers derived from the survey. Hatching pan and chick separation from the hen were largely non-existing techniques among non-FFS and control groups surveyed.

In AFSP, the evaluation found a significant correlation between uptake of FFS techniques such as vaccinations, hatching pan and increased production. Due to these techniques FFS women have considerably increased their production from 9.5 to 43 kg on average per household.[84] FGDs with farmers confirmed that the technologies introduced by AFSP were new to them as they were doing poultry production in the traditional way before FFS. Several of the ethnic minorities’ (i.e. the Chakmas) religious beliefs prevent them from slaughtering and consuming chickens and, therefore, they sell the chickens on the market so there is no direct impact on the families’ nutrition in this regard.

In Betagi Upazila, the women in the village have specialised in producing eggs which they sell through the FO and their business has expanded quite markedly. They explained how they have applied several of the techniques promoted by FFS (implemented in 2015), i.e. the house management technique: “Poultry is everywhere. We built three storage houses for chickens. It is not only us (members of FO) who does this, but the entire village is doing it. Men are not interested… The collection center is open twice a week and we collect min. 80 eggs and max. 100 eggs every time” (FGD with female farmers, Uttar Kawnia). This example shows that, contrary to what the survey data above illustrates, there is some level of spill-over effect in this village.

On the other hand, female farmers in a non-FFS village (close to an FFS village) in Barisal explained that they were not applying these techniques, although they had heard about them. The women here explained: “We are not doing it because we are lazy. We are doing it the traditional way”. This is an example of the need for “exploratory learning” in FFS; new techniques are not getting adopted only by hearing a story or by a lecture, but by “experiencing” it.

Homestead gardening

Homestead gardening techniques are, to a large extent, applied by female farmers with positive impacts on yield and family consumption.

The table below illustrates the findings from the household survey and identifies new practices introduced within homestead gardening.[85]

Table 16. Homestead gardening techniques introduced by IFMC with a significant difference between FFS and non-FFS*
Technologies FFS Non-FFS Control
Soaking seed beds before growing seedlings 52% 13% 9%
Sorting & selecting seedlings 49% 13% 6%
Hand pollination 26% 7% 2%
Organic and herbal (botanical) pesticides 29% 3% 7%
Year-round homestead gardening 35% 4% 7%

*Non-FFS households are villages where FFS operated. Control groups are households in villages where FFS did not operate.

According to the survey, more than half of the FFS participants surveyed soak the seed bed before growing seedlings (52%) and also sort and select seedlings (49%). Only 13% of non-FFS participants surveyed do that and less than 10% in the control group apply these techniques.

29% of FFS households surveyed indicate using botanical pesticides whereas only 3% of non-FFS do this. Interestingly, more farmers in the control group uses botanical pesticides (7%). This was confirmed by the qualitative FGDs. There were members in all FFS groups who explained that they have started applying compost fertilizer to increase yield and they were able to explain how to protect vegetables against insects.

In Gunjar Khan Amintari village in Pirgacha Upazila female farmers explained how compost fertilizer is a healthier way to produce vegetables, how they have stopped buying vegetables at the market and that they are now consuming more in the household.

In both Rangpur and Barisal female farmers were able to explain how to protect vegetables and fruit against pests and diseases, how to prepare compost, and plant rows of vegetables 12 inches apart to ensure better yields. In most villages, women explained that they have started growing more varied vegetables and fruits reflecting that they are applying the year-round vegetable/fruit production.

In AFSP, a much higher uptake of techniques was recorded within homestead gardening compared to under IFMC. This included 85% of FFS households applying hand pollination compared to 26% under IFMC. 65% of FFS households in CHT also used IPM techniques in vegetables and fruits. The qualitative FGDs in CHT confirmed findings from the evaluation of the high uptake of technologies within homestead gardening. Several techniques were observed including bed/land preparation, application of fertilizer and use of proper seeding. Also in CHT, the bulk of homestead gardening is conducted by women, although, there were examples of men helping to irrigate the vegetables. Women were very motivated and dedicated and income increased considerably as a result of new techniques and hard work. Especially, ethnic minority women were to a large extent able to control the income from this work.

Small and large ruminants

The practical work around large ruminants such as cattle and pig rearing and small ruminants such as goats, was primarily conducted by female farmers. The qualitative field work to FFS villages in Barisal and Rangpur showed that beef fattening, cow and goat rearing[86] were the most common practices, whereas pigs rearing was also conducted by ethnic minorities in CHT. Contrary to rearing of cattle and goats in Rangpur and Barisal, pigs rearing in CHT was mainly conducted by men. Beef fattening was conducted in all villages that the evaluation visited in Rangpur region whereas dairy production (milking cows) with beef fattening as a by-product was more applied in Barisal and in CHT. Table 17 illustrates the findings from the household survey and identifies new animal feeds used for large ruminants.

Table 17. Feeds given to small and large ruminants last year with a significant difference between FFS and non-FFS households*
Technologies FFS Non-FFS Control
Cereal bran 30% 5% 3%
Pulse bran 20% 6% 3%
Oilcake 26% 4% 2%
Green grass 25% 3% 3%
Straw 22% 3% 1%
Urea molasse 7% 0.6% 0.7%

*Non-FFS households are villages where FFS operated. Control groups are households in villages where FFS did not operate.

Especially cereal brans were found to be commonly applied with 30% of FFS households using this feed for their ruminants but also oilcakes and green grass were applied as feed. These feeds were not applied by non-FFS and the control groups and a very small spill-over effect has occurred. In almost all FFS groups visited during the qualitative field mission female farmers explained how they applied urea molasse mix especially for beef fattening. This is, however, not confirmed by the survey data where only 7% of FFS households responded applying this feed. In Chandkali village in Betagi Upazila, female farmers explained that they were aware of the urea molasse mix but they do not use urea but instead mix molasse with grass and rice and lentil brims. In Basudebpur, Bhagwanpur village in Rangpur they also knew about the urea molasse mix but farmers did not have access to urea and were, therefore, not able to apply it in practice. Lack of access to urea was, therefore, a hindering factor for applying this technique in practice.

The survey findings indicate that de-worming of cattle/goats occurred in every second FFS household last year whereas deworming only occurred in 8% of non-FFS households. A similarly high number (39%) of FFS households indicated vaccinating farm animals last year (refer Table 18). Deworming and vaccinations were confirmed as having been applied by the qualitative fieldwork in Rangpur and Barisal. Vaccination services for pigs in CHT were, however, observed to be less available.

Table 18. Other techniques for small and large ruminants applied last year *
Technologies FFS Non-FFS Control
Deworming of cattle/goats 46% 8% 6%
Vaccination of farm animals 39% 8% 8%
Goat housing with ventilation 10% 0% 2%

*Non-FFS households are villages where FFS operated. Control groups are households in villages where FFS did not operate.

A low uptake of goat housing with ventilation was found in the survey with only 10% of FFS households applying this technique. At the same time, the evaluation did not observe any goats housing during the qualitative fieldwork to Rangpur and Barisal. Contrastingly, goats would often run around without being tied up. As for cattle, there were on the other hand several examples in Rangpur of ventilated housing and cows were always tied and placed in the shade. In AFSP, managing housing for goats, cattle and pigs were applied by 54% of all FFS households.[87] This was confirmed by the qualitative field visit to CHT where the evaluation observed concrete examples of housing for goats (Borodona village in Rangamati Upazila). The AFSP evaluation also found a statistical correlation between higher milk production and better management of houses for cows and providing supplementary feed.

In Gunjar Khan Amintari village in Pigacha Upazila in Rangpur, female farmers explained how they had changed the fodder fed to the cows, how they protect cows from diseases by having them dewormed every third month and by vaccinating them, and how they monitor their growth by measuring their weight. Four out of 11 of the women took credit with NGOs to purchase cows for beef fattening. However, since women cannot themselves take their cows to the vet for vaccinations nor to the market, their husbands and sons are involved in these tasks and ultimately, they also get the money for selling the cow and decide what to do with the cash. Although women are doing most of the work of rearing cows, they do not decide over the income derived from it (see further below).

In Barisal several of the villages visited by the evaluation consisted of a mix of Hindus and Muslims and, since milk is an integrated part of Hindus traditional consumption, the focus was on milking cows in Betagi Upazila. “We have milking cows here. All are drinking milk and selling it. Hindu communities normally have milking cows. We sell the cow when it gives no more milk. But it is difficult to sell because Muslims will not buy from Hindus. They fear the cows will not be divine enough when it is reared by a Hindu” (FGD with female farmers, Dakshin Hosnabad village). One of the Muslim women attending the FGD confirmed that Muslims are not interested in buying from Hindus and this constitutes an obstacle for Hindus and is likely part of the explanation why few Hindus are engaged in beef fattening although they were taught how to do it (five out of 14 FGD participants were fattening calves as a side activity to the milk production).

5.5 Women’s empowerment

Women’s empowerment has been explored by using the WEIA, as mentioned in Chapter 3, which focuses on women’s access to and decision-making power about agricultural production, resources, use of income, leadership in community and time allocation.[88] Findings around these indicators will therefore be discussed in this section.

Women in FFS households have been empowered in terms of decision-making on agricultural production and, according to the survey, this change has been significant. Table 19 below illustrates that 60% of FFS women responded that they have become more involved in decision-making during the last five years whereas, for the control groups, 12% mentioned an improvement. This is also the case in terms of providing input into the application of new technologies in agriculture, input into use of income and selling/marketing.

Table 19. Percentage of women indicating positive change in decision-making compared to five years ago
  FFS Non-FFS
Input into decision-making 60% 12%***
Input into new technology 57% 12%***
Input into use of income 61% 10%***
Input into selling/marketing 57% 13%***

***Significant at 1% level.

The findings from the survey are largely supported by the qualitative interviews but with some variations. FFS has contributed to a significant improvement in women’s role in household decision-making processes and female FFS participants are significantly more involved in taking decisions compared to non-FFS women. The opinion of married women is more valued on issues such as schooling for children but when it comes to (agricultural) production and income the husbands still have the final say. As reflected in the context section, agriculture has traditionally been associated with men’s domain and it is therefore quite an achievement for women to be involved in the process, although there is still some way to go in terms of equal decision-making.

In CHT (AFSP), ethnic minority women have acquired access and partial control over income (especially poultry and income from homestead gardening). Poultry and homestead gardening are mainly conducted by women and the increased income to the family based on these activities has affected women’s position in the household, leading to larger involvement in decision-making. The majority of the FFS women (80-87%) indicate having more liberty to spend the money individually than the control group (56-77%). In some cases, they even take the decision on their own without consulting their husbands, i.e. if they need to have a private tutor for children, because they do not need money from their husband. According to FFs this is a considerable change compared to 2013, when the second phase of AFSP was initiated, since both ethnic minority and ethnic Bengali women were reluctant to participate in FFS and now, they are even joining community events.

In terms of ownership and access to productive resources, IFMC implemented FFS has not contributed to larger female control over household assets. Female land ownership is, in general, an area with slow progress in Bangladesh. Only one example of female land ownership was found during the field visit to Rangpur and Barisal (in Betagi Upazila) where a woman, as the only child, inherited land from her parents. The survey data shows no significant difference between FFS women and control-group women in terms of female control over assets. The only exception is poultry where there is significantly more ownership control in FFS households than in control households. These findings were largely confirmed by the field observations, which showed that few women owned assets and, even if they did, it was the men who decided how to spend the profit. There were examples of females taking loans in order to purchase calves for beef fattening but since they cannot go the market to sell the calves, they rely on their husbands and sons and thereby they cannot control how to spend the profit. The evaluation found hardly any examples of women owing large ruminants, such as cows.

Poultry production is mainly the responsibility of the women, and men are often not interested in taking part in this, as the profit is relatively limited (e.g. in Uttar Kawnia in Betagi Upazila). Since men cannot keep track of how many eggs are produced, women are able to control whether eggs are consumed by the family or sold. Eggs can easily be sold to neighbours discretely but when it comes to selling chickens the picture is more mixed and if women cannot sell them from home and access to a market is required, women need to involve their husbands which again means restricted control of the profits.

In terms of use of income, the survey data (Table 20) shows that FFS women had more control over income from poultry and homestead gardening, compared to women from non-FFS and control groups across all four regions (significant at the 5% level). This is, in particular, the case in Barisal where more than double as many FFS women have control over income from poultry (72%) compared to non-FFS (35%) and more than three time as many when compared to the control group (25%). This picture was also confirmed by findings from homestead gardening where four times as many FFS women in Barisal had control over income compared with non-FFS. In Rangpur, only around 40% of FFS women had control over income from poultry and homestead gardening.

Table 20. Percentage of female control over income from poultry and homestead gardening per region*
  Rangpur Rajshahi Barisal
  FFS Non-FFS Control FFS Non-FFS Control FFS Non-FFS Control
Poultry 42% 32% 34% 58% 32% 24% 72% 35% 25%
Homestead gardening 39% 23% 27% 38% 17% 30% 68% 15% 24%

*Non-FFS households are villages where FFS operated. Control groups are households in villages where FFS did not operate.

Female control over household income and expenditure also shows a significant difference (at the 5% level) in FFS households. Interestingly, the control groups across the regions (except for Rajshahi) had more control over household income and expenditures than non-FFS groups. Whereas women in Barisal had considerably more control over poultry and homestead gardening, they have less control when it comes to household income, see Table 21.

Table 21. Percentage of female control over household income and expenditure per region*
  Rangpur Rajshahi Barisal
  FFS Non-FFS Control FFS Non-FFS Control FFS Non-FFS Control
Income 43% 19% 26% 51% 22% 25% 39% 9% 21%
Expenditure 42% 28% 32% 56% 31% 25% 52% 11% 22%

*Non-FFS households are villages where FFS operated. Control groups are households in villages where FFS did not operate.

In terms of use of income, the evaluation of AFSP found that the majority of the women from FFS households (80-87%) had more liberty to spend the money individually than women from the control group (56-77%). These findings were supported by the evaluation’s visit to FFS villages in CHT. In all the villages visited with ethnic minorities, the women could keep and spend the money they get from sale of eggs and poultry, with only limited or no interference from men.

As documented by several studies, women’s lack of mobility is a key impediment hampering their full benefits of development processes.[89] If women do not have access to markets and cannot move around without their husbands’ permission, they are not capable of participating equally in the FFS. Findings from the survey data indicate significant changes in the mobility of FFS women compared to non-FFS women, in terms of their ability to go unaccompanied to the market and visit family. Further, the survey data indicates a significant difference for FFS women in terms of going unaccompanied to collection points where FOs are collecting vegetables and other produce for further distribution and sale. Table 22 shows that 20% of surveyed FFS women have noticed a positive change during the last five years in their ability to go unaccompanied to the market, compared to 6% non-FFS women and a similar finding relates to family visits. Much fewer (8%) of FFS women responded that they can go unaccompanied to the collection point; however, it is still a significant change compared to non-FFS.

Table 22. Improvement in women’s mobility comparing with five years ago
  FFS Non-FFS
Unaccompanied to the market 20% 6%***
Unaccompanied to the collection point 8% 3%*
Unaccompanied to visit family 21% 5%***

*Significant at 10% level, ***Significant at 1% level.

Table 23 summarises on a scale from 0 to 6 women’s mobility, based on their ability to go unaccompanied to markets, collection point and visit families, in the different regions where the survey was implemented. Women’s mobility in Rangpur is much better comparing to Barisal and especially Feni in Chittagong has positive results on women’s mobility.

Table 23. Women’s mobility index[90]
  Rangpur Rajshahi Barisal Feni
(Chittagong)
FFS 3.45 3.96 1.57 4.53
Non-FFS 2.67 3.47 0.89 3.12

Nevertheless, the general observations, derived from the qualitative field visit, were that female mobility among FFS participants is still very restricted. Access, especially to markets, is restricted for most of the women consulted (both FFS and non-FFS) and even more so for young women who have no access whatsoever. Older women, widowers and divorced women have slightly more access to markets, and literature confirms that it is more acceptable for women to go to the market when husbands are away and no alternative exists.[91] In Barisal, 40 women were consulted in three different villages in Betagi Upazila and only three of them could go unaccompanied to markets and none of them had husbands living in the village (widower or divorced). A similar pattern was found in Palashbari Upazila where women were restricted to errands concerning children, such as schools and medical clinics, but were not allowed to visit families unattended. Notably, selling products at the market is not considered a female business and there were no examples of this with married women. Therefore, the significant difference found in the survey between FFS participants and the control group can perhaps be explained mainly by less restrictions among FFS women on going to the market to purchase selected items, i.e. school uniforms. This also correlates with only a few being allowed to go to the collection point, as this is where business is being done.

Lack of access to markets is a constraining factor for women’s empowerment, and the assumption that women can benefit from FFS on the same terms as men does not hold. However, FOs play an important role in diminishing this constraint. To allow women to fully benefit from the FFS in terms of increased production and, subsequently, income from this production, requires that women can sell their produce and have decision-making power over how they want to spend their profits. Although, women have significantly more decision-making power over poultry and homestead gardening products (as mentioned above), the mobility constraint reduces their ability to benefit from this if they need to go through their husbands to sell the products. In addition, in general, the production of vegetables has increased and, therefore, female farmers cannot sell to their neighbours; moreover, since women cannot go to markets themselves, they need to have their husbands sell the vegetables. This was confirmed by female farmers from Purbo Gopalpur and Paschim Goalpara villages in Palshbari Upazila as well as Chandkali village in Betagi Upazila).

Here the farmers organisations/associations proved important as they bring the market to the women. There were some good examples of women who, through the collection points, could now sell their products at market prices without having to take their products to the market. In Uttar Kawnia in Betagi Upazila, for example, women have gained bargaining power and they control their own income from eggs/gardening. Although they have no access to the market, they can sell their produce through the FOs and at collection points, without paying overprices to a middleman and, to a larger extent, control the profit. This was also the case in Basudebpur, Bhagwanpur village, Palashbari Upazila, where the FO has created an opportunity for women to sell their products without physically going to the market.

In CHT, the evaluation found that mobility has improved considerably among ethnic minorities. As mentioned above, women do the work around poultry and homestead gardening; moreover, it is increasingly becoming accepted that they sell at the market themselves and decide on how to use the income. This however only applied to ethnic minorities and not to ethnic Bengali women. Literature indicates that Muslim women are less likely to venture outside the home than Hindus or ethnic minorities, although religious differences are absent when it comes to decision-making power within households.[92]

According to survey data, FFS has contributed to an increase in women’s confidence in speaking in public. The share of female FFS participants stating that they feel comfortable or very comfortable matches and even slightly surpasses the programme target of 80% (see Table 24). The data shows that the confidence of women in FFS villages has increased significantly more than among non-FFS and control village women. It is also considerably higher than findings from IFPR’s WEIA survey from 2012 where only 67% of surveyed Bangladeshi women indicated being comfortable in speaking in public. Leadership in the community is measured by women’s confidence in speaking in public and their qualitative participation in group dynamics in the community. As mentioned in the context section, this is one of the areas that contribute most to Bangladeshi women’s empowerment and is, therefore, a key area to prioritize.

table 24. Women feeling either “very comfortable” or “comfortable” when speaking in public
  FFS Non-FFS*** Control***
Today 82% 44% 37%
Five years ago 49% 33% 24%

***Significant at 1% level.

In the field, the evaluation found examples of changes in women’s leadership in the communities. In some villages, men were appreciative of women’s contribution and enhanced leadership while in other villages this was not the case. In Purbo Gopalpur village in Rangpur, women were in charge of organising the FO activities at the community level (such as collecting vegetables, sorting and grading them and ensuring that everything is ready for transportation). Women were buying vegetables from village farmers – members as well as non-members – and coordinated the work and employed FO members, including youth to carry out the various tasks and ensure that they were paid. Everything was done in a very transparent manner, and males and females were paid per kilo handled (sorted, grated, etc.). The male members of the FO were then in charge of transporting and selling the vegetables in the market. The profit/loss was split equally among the BFPs. Female farmers explained that their husbands were very appreciative of their efforts and that they now contribute to income generation. On the other hand, in Uttar Kawnia in Betagi Upazila, female FO members explained that their husbands were, at times, frustrated that women were included in leadership in the FO: “Why did DAE request that women are trained and involved in the FO, they are breaking household rules.” This indicates that women are gaining bargaining power in the FO which they also bring to the household, thus challenging husbands. It also clearly confirms findings from literature[93] that agriculture is considered a man’s domain and, hence, they are frustrated to see women involved in decision-making.

As regards participation in community groups, it is mainly in the farmers’ associations/organisations that group dynamics have been assessed. Leadership in FOs does comply with the guidelines and have 50% males and 50% females in the executive committees. The quantitative target of minimum 90% of FOs with a female in the executive committee is confirmed by the survey data (all 11 farmers clubs in the survey have females in their executive committee). This does, however, not reveal anything regarding women’s qualitative participation and there was only one example in the FOs where female members served as president and vice-president.[94] Instead they are mainly included in the executive committees as treasurers and secretaries.

The qualitative fieldwork showed that women have increased their workload and reduced their resting time. This is the case across the regions and Upazilas. The increased number of activities with livestock, homestead gardening and support to husbands in the field has decreased women’s possibility for leisure. However, work burden is not only increased due to increased agricultural activities. Legislation requesting small children to go to pre-school was mentioned by several stakeholders as a change that has increased women’s burden because they must get the children ready for school, prepare food for them and take them to school early in the morning.

5.6 Farmer’s organisations and marketing

The developed and applied model for FOs in IFMC and the linkages to BFPs appears not to have worked as intended and implementation has been done with insufficient testing and learning. The evaluation found that both the reasons for establishing the FOs, as well as the level of functionality of these organisations, varied a lot across villages. In several cases, the FO leaders appeared to have been ‘selected’ by the local DAE representatives, as was the case for all BFP’s. IFMC has also supported development of collection points, which are both for physical collection of the products, pick-up by the BFPs or contractors, and they also have a small office for bookkeeping and meetings.

The FO/Farmers Association in Purbo Gopalpur (Rangpur) appeared to be, by far, the most organised and successful FO observed by the evaluation. However, it should be noted that its history is long, and it was nurtured through other support since before 2008.[95] The IFM-FFS then came as an additional support. The marketing person contracted received 80% of the margin obtained between prices at their Collection Point in Purbo Gopalpur and the market where the products are sold. The processing, sorting, grading, cleaning, packing of commodities organised at the village centre was fully carried out by members, who are paid in full for their labour. The elaborate book and record keeping shows that the specific training on bookkeeping by IFMC and the support from TA staff, to help check and update the books, was useful.

Another quite well-organised FOs was found in Gunjar Khan Amintari village (Pirgacha) which had a strong focus on members’ improvement based on member savings. The idea was to buy a cow for each member, one by one, from their own contributions, from where they will share re-investments into the organisation and slowly advance. The idea is innovative and centred around serving each member equally. The FO visited in Uttar Kawnia (Barisal) was found to be well organised around collection and bulking of vegetables from members, and other neighbouring non-members, to sell them mostly in the nearby Miar Haat town. Here also the BFPs were functionally playing the role of middlemen and received 80% of the obtained mark-up price. The FO at Uttar Chandipur also appeared to be heading for good results, but the credit here goes more to the GoB project SDF, which provides huge and continuing institutional support to the FO. In this case the IFMC certainly duplicates other efforts.

The DAE considers the Fakira Adarshapara IPM Krishak Shangathan to be a very successful FO and it is often used as a showcase. The evaluation found, however, that although the members have become well-organised in the business of milk collection, including arrangements for its onward sale to a commercial company in the nearby market, the profit-sharing mechanism seemed highly tilted in favour of the male BFPs who take the margin without sharing with female BFPs. Male BFPs have managed to convince female BFPs that they are not eligible to a share of the profit as they are not able to sell at the market, so their profit is returned to the FO. Therefore, in effect, the male BFPs/FO leaders (they have dual roles) become new middlemen for the farmers. In addition, the institution-building process is not strengthened through the business, but rather through the usual slow-moving savings of the members.

The evaluation’s visits to FOs in both Bhagwanpur village and Balarampur village (Palashbari Upazila) revealed that these FOs appeared to be non-functional, despite some training efforts undertaken by DAE. The motivation and incentive on the part of the FFS members appeared to be low. In one of these villages, FFS members were only persuaded to join the FO by one wealthy member who wanted to have an FFS in his village. Within two of the villages visited (Hoshnabad and Chandkali) there was no FO at all. In Uttar Chandipur village (Rangpur), the secretary of the (emerging) FO was very likely the most influential and wealthy person in the village, producing 2,000 chickens on contract to the Thai-based multinational food company Charoen Pokphand Group. It was not possible to be clearly informed how he may have participated in an FFS leading to the FO.

Overall, the evaluation found that many FFS farmers are still reluctant to use the FO for selling their products as they often have access to other, competing, middlemen, so they do not see advantages in selling through the FO collection point. In addition, the BFPs, through whom the FOs are expected to market their products, are frequently appointed/ identified by DAE officers. And although the original intention was that the BFP functions would be held by different community members in order to ensure checks and balances in the organisations, the evaluation found a high degree of overlap between BFPs and leadership in the FOs.

Although the margin received by the BFPs (80% in the cases presented above) was considered high by many of the farmers, the margin has to be understood in relation to volumes of sales and time spent by the BFPs. In fact, the commission share is rather complex to fix, and require assistance to the groups to get it right and ensure a sufficient incentive to the BFPs. The FO model has included meetings with participation of all members to discuss the commission rate and full transparency on group and BFP earnings. Further, according to the model the commission should be re-assessed and developed over time according to time spent and margins earned. The model developed for the BFTs was meant to attract buyers to the collection point to ensure transparency in transactions. However, the scale was many times not sufficient to attract buyers and BFPs ended up bringing the produce to the market instead.

The IFMC regions have been assigned the task of securing quality assessment of the IFMC-FOs and maintaining a ranking system.[96] IFMC conducted specific training for FO leaders with the modules ‘Leadership in organisational development and roles and responsibilities of a leader’, ‘Good governance, transparency and accountability’, ‘Collective marketing; roles and responsibilities of a FO leader’, as well as ‘Financial Management of the FO, linkage, networking, agreement’. The intention was to eventually include all FO members in such training sessions to ensure a common ground in the organisation; however, the evaluation only came across one case where all FO members had received training.

In both FO and BFP training, such business practices, tools and tactics are needed by producers, aiming at getting good prices and conditions. These trainings would include practices such as practical identification of markets and prices at different markets and seasonal price variations, financial understanding of running a business (beyond recordkeeping), and elements of negotiations (conditions, timing of payments, interest on outstanding debt or credit etc.) and others.

The evaluation findings show that FFS has resulted in FFS households applying more actively marketing practices than non-FFS households. In the household survey, FFS participants were asked regarding their marketing practices before and after their participation in FFS. Almost all households were already drying and cleaning products before FFS with no significant difference between FFS, non-FFS and control groups (refer Table 25). However, a significant difference was found in terms of sorting products where FFS households experienced an increase from 72% to 82%. A significant increase was also noted in terms of grading. Packaging is conversely not applied much by neither FFS nor control households and this has not changed much after attending the FFSs.

Table 25. Marketing practices – share of farmers doing the task
Drying FFS Non-FFS Control
After 82% 79% 89%
Before 82% 78% 88%
Cleaning FFS Non-FFS Control
After 83% 84% 87%
Before 81% 83% 86%
Sorting** FFS Non-FFS Control
After 82% 67% 75%
Before 72% 61% 70%
Grading*** FFS Non-FFS Control
After 56% 32% 38%
Before 43% 27% 34%
Packaging FFS Non-FFS Control
After 10% 4% 6%
Before 8% 4% 6%

** Significant at 5% level, *** Significant at 1% level.

The evaluation found large variations in perception of the market linkages training sessions and whereas some did not benefit from the training, others did. The BFPs who were interviewed all reported going through the training and learned some useful aspects. Male FO-members in one village reported having been through market training by BFPs and found it of very limited use. Three female FO members reported having received market linkage training, but no exams were attended, and this specific FO decided not to use the BFP set-up. Although, the FO model is considered rather standardized this does indicate room for some flexibility in terms of adjusting FO rules to members’ wishes and needs.

FOs in AFSP have not been an explicit focus of AFSP but group organisation have been promoted in the PDCs. They were primarily tasked to keep peace and harmony within the community and have performed well in this regard. The bearing on market linkages has been limited as this was not their main purpose. During the qualitative field visit to CHT, the evaluation did meet examples of how PDCs can play a role in market linkages. In Jogendrapara village in Naniarchar Upazila, the PDC encouraged women to rear cows collectively as a group which had an impact on the production of milk and the group’s ability to sell cows at a higher cost.

5.7 Impacts from the FFS approach

Income and employment

The evaluation findings show that FFS has contributed to a significant increase in FFS farmers’ household income compared to control households, both in IFMC and AFSP, and that the programme target of a 10% higher income increase in FFS households, compared to control households, has been fulfilled. Table 26 provides an overview of the income estimates reported in the IFMC household survey (total income as well as for main agricultural production groups) as well as a percentage increase or decrease. While the exact numbers should be interpreted with caution (due to the use of recall data), these findings from the survey data are backed up by information provided to the evaluation during the field visits.

Table 26. Comparison of household income (Taka) five years ago with last 12 months
Product category FFS Non-FFS Control
Last 12 months 5 years ago % increase Last 12 months 5 years ago % increase Last 12 months 5 years ago % increase
Total *** 213,065 168,104 27% 192,684 190,240  1% 196,258 187,878  4%
Field crops***  48,334  38,180 27%  45,379  43,918  3%  54,890  54,004  2%
Orchard  20,485  16,357 25%  20,125  15,730  28%  15,907  12,469  28%
Farm Animals***  22,628  21,744  4%  18,237  29,313 -38%  21,452  31,827 -33%
Poultry and eggs***  6,444  4,879 31%  3,274  4,146 -21%  3,479  4,343 -20%
Vegetable gardening***  1,885  1,196 58%  1,170  1,039  13%  1,221  1,299  -6%
Fish production***  7,108  4,305 65%  4,602  5,099 -10%  3,686  3,499  5%

***Significant at 1% level. Note: Income correlated for inflation. Other large income categories include remittances and income from wages and service delivery.

The econometric calculation based on the survey data shows that the income increases are significantly higher for FFS households than for the non-FFS and control households for all product categories, except for orchards. In total, an increase of more than 20% has occurred and fish production has increased with 39%. This was confirmed by the qualitative interviews where the farmers engaging in fish culture experienced a quite substantial increase in income, for example in Uttar Chandipur village (Pirgacha Upazila) where farmers used to harvest 37.5 kg of carps once a year but after applying techniques from FFS, they now harvest 37.5 kg three times a year.

The only exception is income from farm animals which only increased with 4% for FFS households. However, considering the substantial decrease non-FFS and control households experienced (a decrease of 61% and 48% respectively compared to five years ago), this result seems to be a good achievement. In non-FFS and control households, a considerable increase of orchard production has occurred (22% for both groups) but several other productions have decreased significantly, such as farm animals and poultry and eggs. For non-FFS vegetable gardening has increased with 12% indicating some spill-over effect from FFS households compared with control households which experienced a decrease of 6%. On the other hand, fish production has increased with 5% for control households but decreased with 11% for non-FFS. In the qualitative fieldwork, the evaluation found that only a few farmers per village were engaged in fish culture and mainly the wealthier ones were engaged in fishery. In addition to the increase in income, the evaluation found, during fieldwork, that more children are now going to school (an indication of increased income).

A few examples were provided of FFS leading to employment creation, outside or in addition to family labour. As mentioned above, the evaluation only observed one case of employment creation in the qualitative fieldwork. The FO in Purbo Gopalpur village collected vegetables from members of the FO as well as others in the village. Before sending a representative to the market for sale, the vegetables were cleaned, sorted and grated and this process created employment for FO members and their families. There were examples of youth and women being employed. According to villagers, there were also employment spin-offs in services for livestock, such as vaccination services.

The survey findings show that income increases from FFS have been more statistically significant for less poor FFS households than for the poorest FFS households. Although survey data (see Table 27) show statistically significant income effects for all four income quartiles, the significance is stronger for income quartiles 3 and 4 (significant at the 1% level) compared to income quartile 1 and 2 (significant at the 5% and 10% level, respectively).

Table 27. Comparison of household income (percentage change from last year) for different income quartiles
Matched FFS Control Significance
Quartile 1 (lowest income) 34% 13% 5%
Quartile 2 26% 13% 10%
Quartile 3 25% 2% 1%
Quartile 4 (highest income) 29% 7% 1%

The findings from AFSP also show large income increases from FFS. The Evaluation of AFSP (2018) showed a significant income increase for FFS households compared to a control group.

While it was found that the income of the FFS households increased from a baseline level of Taka 103,167 to Taka 128,206 after FFS (almost 20% increase), compared to that of the control group which declined from a baseline level of Taka 114,461 to Taka 93,992 (decrease of 18%) during the same period. The evaluation found, from the field visit to CHT, that income had increased significantly within all the FFS villages visited. Especially, income from homestead gardening and from poultry and eggs increased but also income from fruit production increased considerably.

Table 28. Difference in income before and after FFS under AFSP
  FFS Control***
2018 128,206 93,992
Baseline 103,167 114,461
Difference (%) 20% - 18%

*** Significant at 1% level. Note: Based on the End-Evaluation of AFSP (2018).

Food safety and nutrition

The evaluation found large variation in demonstrated knowledge and nutrition skills but, in general, nutrition seems to have improved in FFS villages. The fieldwork showed that in Uttar Chandipur village (Pirgacha Upazila) female farmers demonstrated good knowledge of nutrition and sources of proteins, carbohydrates, the need to consume different vegetables and how to prepare food to keep the nutritive quality and ensure food safety. They were able to explain how to prepare vegetables to balance their nutrition, the importance of getting protein from eggs, chicken, beef and lentils and how to ensure hygiene while cooking, including how to wash hands and clean cooking tools. “Before we took rice and potatoes and not any vegetables although they were within our reach. Now, we are trying to include vegetables in all our meals” (FGD with female farmers in Uttar Chandipur Village).

Knowledge of hygiene was, however, limited in most villages and it was only in Uttar Chandipur Village where they demonstrated skills within almost all areas included in the FFS training (food classification, nutrition, safe food and proper cooking). In Jugendra Para, Naniarchar Sadar (AFSP in CHT) there were examples of female FFS participants demonstrating knowledge of hygiene and the importance of hand washing and washing vegetables before cutting them. In Paschim Goalpara village in Palshbari Upazila on the other hand, women demonstrated limited knowledge of hygiene.

In several villages, female farmers explained that they need to include more vegetables in their cooking but not all are doing so in practice. One reason for not applying knowledge in practice is that cooking habits are difficult to change, and they prefer cooking as they have always done it (FGDs with female farmers, Balarampur village, Palashbari Upazila and Gunjar Khan Amintari village, Pirgacha Upazila). In Betagi Upazila, another explanation was lack of access to varied types of food. The women understood that they needed more protein and vegetables, but they struggled to acquire these. As for access to protein, by contrast, the enhanced production of eggs and chicken has improved the situation. “We now have chicken to serve to guests… Before it was difficult to buy chicken, now it is not. It increased for all households” (FGD with female farmers, Dakshin Hosnabad village). In one of the non-FFS villages in Betagi Upazila, women also demonstrated skills on nutrition and differentiated food. They fully understood that small children need protein and eggs are prioritized for babies. This information they have acquired from health workers and television shows.

The positive correlation between FFS and nutrition was also found in AFSP. The evaluation of AFSP found increased daily calorie intake and consumption of nutritious food in FFS households also compared to the control households. The evaluation’s field visit to AFSP villages largely confirmed these findings.

Enhanced homestead gardening and poultry production in FFS households have a positive impact on FFS families’ nutrition. There is no doubt that families are benefitting from increased access to eggs and chickens and families are reducing costs when they can provide important protein sources themselves. This has been confirmed by all villages in both Rangpur and Barisal. However, the impact seems to have been bigger on villages in Barisal where access to animal protein has been more limited in the past than in Rangpur. Opportunities for fish production have also been better in Barisal. At the same time, farmers in Barisal were more challenged here due to lack of space for gardening and an increased risk of floods. In CHT (AFSP), the evaluation found that in ethnic minority villages the enhanced poultry production has increased income but, due to cultural barriers that prevent them for slaughtering, most chickens are sold. Chickens are an important source of cash and therefore the families still do not consume much animal protein but instead rely on fish. Consumption of eggs has, however, gone up.

FFS is one of many sources providing information on nutrition in Bangladesh. In Betagi Upazila, women in both FFS and non-FFS villages explained that they receive messages on nutrition from several sources including governmental health clinics, television and from NGOs. Especially health clinics have become a key source for nutrition information and caretaking of infants and small children. Therefore, households are exposed to these messages from many sides and progress in this area cannot be attributed to a single source.

FFS has contributed to a reduction in the risk of food crises within FFS households. According to the survey data, the risk of a food crisis is significantly reduced in FFS households compared to control households (Table 29).

Table 29. Percentage of households that experienced food crisis
  FFS Non-FFS* Control***
Last 12 months 19% 21% 22%
Five years ago 47% 37% 37%

*Significant at 10% level, *** significant at 1% level. Note: Food crisis understood as a period when some members have to eat less or skip meal or eat famine food.

While 47% of the FFS farmers in FFS villages indicated that they would experience food crises prior to FFS, this has now decreased to 19%. During the same period, the risk of a food crisis has also decreased within the control group, although at a slower pace (from 37% five years ago to 22% today). If only control households within FFS villages (Non-FFS) are taken into consideration, the difference becomes less significant, indicating that the effects from FFS within this area may also, to some extent, have spilled-over to non-FFS households within the FFS villages.

FFS has contributed to a similar reduction in the risk for food crises in AFSP households but on a smaller scale. The AFSP evaluation (2018) found that the percentage of FFS households in AFSP having food deficiency was reduced from 58% to 42%.

Other unintended impacts

The evaluation found no indication that FFS has contributed to increased land ownership within the FFS households. Although the land size has increased significantly for FFS households, the same has happened within control households during the period (Table 30), and there is no significant effect attributable to FFS.

Table 30. Land ownership (decimals of land)
  FFS Control
Today 40.5 46.2
Five years ago 37.1 42.9

According to the survey data, 13% of the FFS household stated that they engage in land-lease agreements more now than was the case five years ago. However, this increase is not significant when compared with the control group. Likewise, a small increase is noted in terms of land transactions among FFS participants, but this increase is not significantly more than in the control group. In terms of land security,[97] both FFS and control farmers express the same level of security of their land as five years ago (respectively, 86% for FFS farmers and 90% for the control group).

The evaluation found that more children (both girls and boys) are attending school in both FFS and control households compared to the situation five years ago. Nevertheless, the evaluation also found that traditional gender stereotypes prevail, and cultural and traditional practices are difficult to change. Children – both girls and boys – are continuing in school more years than 10 years ago but families continue to raise girls to become good wives and mothers. Girls are strictly raised and if they do not obey, they are beaten which is not the case for boys.

Girls are helping after school. Boys play with their friends. Who can afford have children in private schools, mainly boy? We beat the girls to raise them to become good mothers. This is not the case with boys” (FGD with Female farmers in Uttar Chandipur village, Pigacha Upazila). Girls are taken out of school due to boys bullying them and the risk of them bringing shame to the family reputation. Therefore, the majority of girls still marry at the age of 14-15 years old and this applies for all the regions. Although women do know that it is illegal, and they fear to speak openly about it. However, they don’t know what else to do apart from marrying them off when they start showing an interest in boys and men.


[70] IFM FFS Session guidebook, November 2016.

[71] This is, however, only partially confirmed by the survey data where numbers of other projects in Rangpur are estimated to four including FFS, so a relatively lower estimation than what was derived from the qualitative FGDs. In Barisal the estimation from the survey data of three other projects correlates better with what was found during the fieldwork. The difference between the number of projects in the two regions is not significant according to the survey data but according to qualitative FGDs the difference was quite notable, not least the size of the projects.

[72] SDF calls itself an ‘autonomous organisation under the Financial Institutions Division, Ministry of Finance’. Therefore, it is rightly a government institution, but different from the departments.

[73] “Lessons Learned exercise, IFMC”, power point presentation, Henrik Kjærsig, December 2017.

[74] Annual progress reports 2015-2016; 2016-2017; 2017-2018.

[75] Christine Hunter and Nasima Akter, Review of the gender activities of the Integrated Farm Management Component (IFMC) Bangladesh, April 2018.

[76] The findings regarding use of skills and knowledge and adoption of techniques build on a combination of survey results and information from the qualitative fieldwork. It should be mentioned that the survey has not been able to carry out a comprehensive assessment of all skills and techniques, due to both the fact that FFS contains a wide range of skills and techniques, often comprising various elements, and that the questions need to address specific activities. Thus, while care has been taken to cover a wider range of skills and techniques in the quantitative survey than was the case for the baseline survey, it does not cover all possible applications. The survey covered about 33 different technologies/practice changes, with an option to indicate “other” practices as well.

[77] Technologies promoted by FFS: Characteristics of good seed and rice varieties, use of balanced fertilizer, Integrated Plant Nutrition Management, age of the seedlings, plantation distance and number of seedlings per hill, water management in rice, major pest insects of rice and management according to IPM, major pest diseases of rice and management according to IPM, weed and weed management, roughing, harvesting and post harvesting procedures, storage of seed.

[78] The transplanting in rows ensures even space between ‘hills’ of rice plants, so all have enough space to grow. In more haphazard, traditional transplanting some hills get too much space, others too little.

[79] Interview with UAO in Palashbari Upazila.

[80] End-Evaluation/Impact Assessment for Agriculture and Food Security Project (AFSP) Phase II, 2018.

[81] Techniques promoted by FFS: Pond preparation, selection of fish species according to types of pond, number of fingerlings for stocking considering different layers of pond, identify the quality fingerlings, transportation, adaptation and release of fingerlings, feed and fertilizer management after stocking, water quality management, fish diseases and their prevention, technique of FMA practice in pond, measures for fish marketing.

[82] Techniques promoted by FFS: production plan for poultry, different breeds of indigenous poultry and their characteristics, improved poultry house management, laying and broody hen management, chick and duckling management, diseases and their prevention.

[83] End-Evaluation/Impact Assessment for Agriculture and Food Security Project (AFSP) Phase II, 2018.

[84] End-Evaluation/Impact Assessment for Agriculture and Food Security Project (AFSP) Phase II, 2018.

[85] Techniques promoted by FFS: Space utilization of homestead area through vegetable and fruit cultivation, technique of year-round vegetable/fruit production, technique of Agro-Eco System Analysis (AESA) practice in vegetable/ fruit gardening, insect pest and disease of vegetables/fruit and their prevention. Fertilizer & water management and pruning in fruit trees.

[86] Production plan for beef fattening/cow rearing considering market price of meat/milk, cattle/cow feed, nutrition and health management, cattle/calf/ cow diseases and their prevention, selection of cows/cattle, improved cow house, technique of Farm Management Analysis.

[87] End-Evaluation/Impact Assessment for Agriculture and Food Security Project (AFSP) Phase II, 2018.

[88] Sabina Alkire Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Amber Peterman Agnes R. Quisumbing Greg Seymour Ana Vaz: The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index. IFPRI Discussion Paper 01240, December 2012.

[89] Evaluation of Farmers Field School Approach in the Agriculture Sector Programme Support Phase II, Bangladesh, Danida, 2011; Christine Hunter and Nasima Akter: Review of the gender activities of the Integrated Farm Management Component (IFMC) Bangladesh, April 2018.

[90] Women mobility index (WMI) is obtained combining information from three questions: “Can you go unaccompanied to (i) markets, (ii) collection points, (iii) family members”. Ranges from 0 (low mobility) to 6 (high mobility).

[91] Deborah Rubin et al., Qualitative Research on Women’s Empowerment and Participation in Agricultural Value Chains in Bangladesh”, USAID, 2018.

[92] Sonalde Desai and Gheda Temsah: Muslim and Hindu Women’s Public and Private Behaviors: Gender, Family and Communalized Politics in India, Demography, 2014 December.

[93] Deborah Rubin et al., Qualitative Research on Women’s Empowerment and Participation in Agricultural Value Chains in Bangladesh”, USAID, 2018.

[94] One example from Basudebpur, Bhagwanpur village, Palashbari Upazila where two women used to be president and vice-president before the new committee was elected.

[95] Purbo Gopalpur was a previous IPM FFS but did not form club or learn bookkeeping from the IPM FFS, and the group did not get specific support from other projects/agencies. The group is a show case group and TA staff have been careful to ensure good bookkeeping in it. This is a result of IFMC.

[96] FO Ranking tool, in IFMC guides and tools.

[97] Security of ownership and access to the land controlled by the farmer.

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This page forms part of the publication "Evaluation of Agricultural Growth & Employment Programme (AGEP), Bangladesh – October 2019" as chapter 5 of 8.
Version no. 1.0, 2020-01-16
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