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6 Farmer Field Schools – Costs and Organisation

Section 6.1 below includes a discussion of cost-effectiveness related to FFS interventions in both IFMC and AFSP. Sections 6.2 and 6.3 deal more explicitly with the institutional set-up and M&E system of IFMC.

6.1 cost-effectiveness related to the FFS interventions

When trying to calculate the costs for FFS it is important first of all to consider which costs to include. The major FFS costs can be grouped into three categories: i) base costs, ii) start-up costs, and iii) recurrent costs, as the most commonly used categories used in reference literature. The level of costs also depends on the development stage: i) pilot, ii) up-scaling or iii) consolidation. The base costs will typically be high in the pilot phase, especially if new organisations have to be established or an existing one strengthened. When FFS makes use of an existing ‘infrastructure’ (organisation, human capacity, etc.) these costs will be substantially lower. The start-up costs will usually be high during the pilot phase when human capacity needs to be developed through training-of-trainer courses, often with assistance of national and/or international technical assistance. The actual costs will therefore also depend on availability of suitable local experts and the required level and intensity of the training.

Recurrent costs will, typically, decline over time due to more efficient management, more experienced FFs (requiring less intensive supervision), reduced financial incentives for the FFs and/or abolishing (or reduction of) incentives paid to participants. In addition, scaling-up can reduce the costs of inputs as a result of potential bulk purchases and relatively lower administration costs.

The recurrent costs for a FFS are largely determined by the costs of the trainers/facilitators (salaries and transport) and the training venue. Further on, the value attributed to these costs will be highly dependent on the specific topics, the socio-economic conditions in the country and the geographical ‘density’ of FFS. This will affect the costs of inputs, salaries and allowances, transport costs, etc.

FFS unit costs in IFMC, based on the actual expenditures and activities implemented during 2017/2018,[98] have been calculated as follows:

Table 31. Costs related to FFS implementation in IFMC
2017/18 BDT (million)
Total expenditure (FFS implementation) * BDT 509 million/USD 6.2 million
Total number of FFS 3,844
Total number of FFS participants 192,400
Total cost per FFS BDT 132,500/USD 1,600
Total cost per FFS participant BDT 2,650 Taka/USD 32

Source: IFMC Annual Report 2017-2018. *Costs does not include: Backstopping of FFS, training of Farmer Facilitators and Departmental Trainers. BDT 100= USD 1.2.

Cost calculations made by the evaluation show that the average cost of running one IFMC FFS was BDT 132,500 (USD 1,600) in the season 2017/2018. This is only the direct cost of FFS implementation. In comparison, the 2011 FFS Evaluation found that the costs of running an FFS in AEC and RFLDC during the period 2007-2010 were, on average, BDT 35,000, equivalent to around BDT 55,000 in 2017/2018.[99] This shows that the average costs per FFS has more than doubled from AEC/RFLDC to IFMC.[100] The main difference here is that IFMC included the technical content of both the AEC and the RFLDC FFSs.

At the same time the survey results showed an average increase in total income among FFS households of approximately BDT 50,000 over the last five-years period, or an average of BDT 10,000 per year. A similar calculation made for the control group showed an average increase in total income of approximately BDT 10,000 during the last five-years period, equivalent to BDT 2,000 per year. This give an annual average income increase for FFS participants of around BDT 8,000 attributable to IFMC FFS. With an average cost of BDT 2,650 per FFS participants (or BDT 5,300 per FFS household) this shows an impressive cost-effectiveness effect from IFMC FFS, with a pay-back time of less than a year. And that is only for the first year; the following years the FFS households can be assumed to continue to increase their income.

Even if the total IFMC budget of DKK 300 million (equivalent to BDT 3.8 billion) is used as basis for the cost calculation, this does not change the overall conclusion, that FFS has been a very cost-effective investment under IFMC. With a total of 862,155 IFMC FFS participants, the total cost per participant would be BDT 4,500 (this includes all IFMC related costs, including international staff, FO and marketing activities, training of FFs, etc.). With two FFS participants per household, this would imply a cost of BDT 9,000 per FFS household. In this case the payback time would still only be slightly more than one year.

For AFSP, the End-Evaluation (2018) estimated the cost per FFS participant to BDT 14,400, or around five times the cost in IFMC. According to the survey conducted by the AFSP evaluation of the five-year AFSP implementation period, the total income of the FFS participants increased on average by BDT 83,000 (from BDT 138,500 to BDT 221,500), or BDT 16,600 per year. In the same period, the average income of the control group increased by BDT 38,500 (from BDT 106,500 to BDT 145,000), or BDT 7,700 per year. This gives an average annual income increase for FFS participants of BDT 8,900 attributable to AFSP. In this case, the payback time of the FFS investment has been around 1.5 year, which is still a very cost-effective investment.

In comparison, the 2011 FFS Evaluation also showed high cost-effectiveness from FFS. In RFLDC, the FFS households increased their income by BDT 10,000 more than control village households in the period between 2007-2010. When this figure was compared to the cost per FFS household within RFLDC, it also showed a payback period of less than a year after FFS has been completed. Somewhat similar experiences have been found from FFS experiences within other countries, where cost calculations from IPM-FFS programmes have shown cost recovery from increased production of the FFS households after one to three seasons. The studies showed that the payback period was very much dependent on the initial level of production and competency of the FFS farmers, the product category, the value of the products, the access to the market and the socio-economic context of the FFS.[101]

This brings up the importance of scale and of institutionalization for the FFS costs. Although the literature recognizes that these issues are critical to questions of unit cost and recurrent costs, there is no final answer to these questions[102] Nevertheless, given the substantial donor investment in FFS programmes since the 1990s, the issue of impact and cost-effectiveness has become more pressing, at a time where development funding for FFS is going down and, consequently, other more sustainable FFS approaches will be needed (see discussion in Chapter 7 on Sustainability).

6.2 Efficiency related to institutional set-up and management

While the analysis above clearly shows that FFS in both IFMC and AFSP have been good investment, the evaluation has nevertheless found various “missed opportunities” as well as areas where resources have not led to the expected results.

In IFMC, part of the ambition was to help build capacity in DAE and to help enhance the wider application of the FFS approach through dialogue, sharing of knowledge and strengthening of effectiveness through coordination. While there is a clear point in working with DAE as a partner in view of the scaling-up, the approach has also entailed a range of challenges and risks. This includes: i) unclear and/or non-compliance with original mandates, roles, and responsibilities; ii) weak coordination and communication internally and with regional offices; iii) uneven staff qualifications and; (iv) unfortunate de-facto power structures both at central and regional offices. Stakeholder interviews indicated that incentive structures and power relations within DAE have been a key challenge to managing the project. This was found to have led to a situation where both central and regional level staff were demotivated and performed sub-standardly. At the same time, performance was not found to be monitored or reacted upon systematically and crucial elements of quality assurance, results monitoring and internal audit had, to various degrees, been left either uncoordinated or entirely omitted.[103]

Such a situation clearly has implications for efficiency and effectiveness. A range of steps have been taken to rectify the situation, including stronger Danish embassy oversight, and transfer/reassignment of staff, which reportedly has improved the situation.[104]

Nevertheless, the evaluation found indications that not all issues have been resolved. There still seems to be power struggles at management level, and a range of examples of non-compliance in implementation were found at the field level. While these examples may to some degree have their root in earlier decisions, for instance regarding selection of participants, it highlights that the risk of elite capture and “unholy alliances” needs to be considered when deciding on set-up, checks and balances and oversight mechanisms.

In AFSP, the evaluation found that the institutional arrangements had been well organised and well managed by CHTDF/UNDP. The activities seemed well implemented and supervised and the division of roles and responsibilities have been clear and in general worked well.

The major institutional challenge in AFSP seems related to ensuring sufficient capacity, coordination and collaboration in and between the three HDCs linked to the three extension line departments (DAE, DLS and DoF). As mentioned in Section 4.3, officials of these three government extension departments are transferred to HDCs in CHT. This provides a number of administrative challenges, when the government staff become administratively under CHT authority and not under their respective department. As a consequence of this, it has been very difficult to encourage government extension officials to join the HDCs and mobility of the officials across CHT and outside CHT is hardly practiced. All three HDCs are facing scarcities of manpower (often more than 50% of the staff position within the HDCs are vacant).

Previously, Planning Units had been established in the three HDCs through funding from FAO. HDC staff members found that these units contributed to better integration of the work across the HDCs. However, the units have been closed now due to end of the FAO project. It therefore seems necessary to develop another mechanism to improve coordination and collaboration of extension services with regards to the HDCs.

National platform for dialogue and coordination:

One of the aims of the AGEP was to strengthen the national dialogue on farmer-centred approaches by establishing a national platform. Progress has clearly been made, but the national platform is still found to be a very valid pursuit to enhance both effectiveness and efficiency.

The mid-term review indicated that The Bangladesh Agricultural Extension Network has been established under the leadership of DAE and includes membership of other government departments and institutions (notably Department of Fisheries and Department of Livestock Services), NGOs and national and international extension organisations. This is clearly an important achievement as a foundation for future dialogue.[105] The 2017-2018 IFMC progress report outlines a range of activities and outputs towards this target, and a document providing an overview of extension approaches with various “good practice” sections has been shared with the evaluation.

Nonetheless, as this evaluation has shown, guidelines and good practice documents are not enough to ensure compliance. Furthermore, as mentioned above there are still indications that important aspects of the FFS and FO approaches are not in practice fully supported by staff of DAE. While joint visits have been carried out, it is not possible to assess whether the dialogue platform has yet led to increased coordination. Based on the impressions from the field, the evaluation finds that there clearly is still room for improvements.

In addition, there are several issues, where the evaluation has noted a need for strengthened dialogue within DAE or between Danida and DAE. Above, several examples of non-compliance or deviation from intentions have been given. This indicates that there is a need for further discussion of the key elements and drivers of change in the FFS and FO approaches, to ensure that the foundation for a continued use of the good experience from the FFS projects is in place in DAE. Moreover, the evaluation has noted that there is a need for developing internal guidelines or policies (and on following up on their implementation) regarding recruitment of women for DAE and IFMC positions. Without leadership on such issues, it will be hard to ensure representation of women in positions where their presence can enhance women’s empowerment.

6.3 Monitoring and evaluation

In IFMC, the evaluation found the M&E system to be both comprehensive and systematic. However, the evaluation also found some important challenges which have been mirrored in reviews and studies of IFMC and were raised during interviews with key stakeholders, including: i) the M&E Officers within the regions have not been reporting to the M&E National Adviser at HQ, but to Regional IFMC Coordinators, who appeared to be deputed government officers and the de facto authority in the regional IFMC offices (this has created an obvious risk of conflict of interest and trying to make their region ‘look good’); ii) some M&E Officers were known to have relatives at high levels within the DAE system, protecting them independently of their performance; iii) the positive numbers generated in the M&E unit did not correspond to scenarios observed during field visits, especially not from unannounced field visits, which could tally with the former observations; iv) the M&E Officers were rarely asked to physically verify any information given by farmers; v) some M&E Officers have been asked to adjust their findings in a positive direction.

Other threats to the accuracy and validity of monitoring data include: i) all 12 M&E Officers were men, which for example constitutes a barrier towards interaction with female farmers; ii) a lot of monitoring was done through mobile phone, not by physical presence, according to information from the M&E staff and; iii) although capacity building takes place, the M&E National Adviser does not systematically train, coach and control M&E Officers in the field to make sure they asked questions in the right way and collected data correctly. Furthermore, not all M&E Officers had an M&E background.

In addition, the evaluation found indications of lack of compliance with procedures as well as quality issues that have either not been flagged by the internal monitoring system nor acted upon, for instance in relation to selection of participants that fit target group criteria. The monitoring manual explicitly mentions “proper process followed in selection of FFS farmers” as a performance question.[106] This is linked to monitoring for backstopping on FFS management, but the checklist related only to procedural steps and not to whether the selection is in line with the target group and criteria. The serious shortcomings related to the selection process (discussed in previous sections of this report) underlines the need for validation within this particular area. In addition, the monitoring data on adoption of new techniques presents a more impressive picture than the results from the household survey. There may be several reasons for this, but a key explanatory factor seems to be the operationalisation of this key indicators.[107]

Finally, the IFMC Baseline Study is seen as a laudable attempt to follow the results from the various cycles of FFS, including by inclusion of a control group, but to make full use of the baseline data collected it should be linked to conducting an end-line/impact survey. Therefore, if there is a real wish to include this type of results monitoring, there will be a need to devote sufficient resources to sampling, data collection and analysis. If this is not deemed feasible, it should be considered to change the effort from gathering additional control group observations and instead collect additional information on FFS participants and enhance the reliability of the data gathered.

The investigation of the AFSP M&E set-up has not had the same depth and broadness of scope to allow for a more specific assessment, but the qualitative field visit to CHT to a large degree confirmed results presented in the internal reporting and the end evaluation results. The evaluation found that the M&E mechanisms seemed well-planned and executed. However, challenges to overcome linguistic and physiographic barrier were identified. Likewise, the lack of coordinated supervision of the monitoring activities by the line extension departments had made the monitoring less effective. More joint supervision could accommodate this, for instance by establishing of a monitoring committee with representatives from all line extension departments (DAE, DLS and DoF).


[98] Annual Progress Report 2017/2018.

[99] By using of a 6% inflation rate.

[100] It must be noted that in RFLDC, the FFS were often only 25 participants.

[101] Global Survey and Review of FFS, 2018.

[102] Global Survey and Review of FFS, 2018.

[103] Danida 2017, AGEP mid-term review.

[104] See Danida 2017, AGEP mid-term review and DAE IFMC Annual Progress Report 2017/18.

[105] Danida 2017, AGEP mid-term review.

[106] DAE 2015, Monitoring and Evaluation Manual, 3rd draft, p. 22.

[107] The degree to which farmers actually adopt the promoted technologies is a key outcome indicator and is included in the results monitoring system. However, the operationalisation of this key result area is based on a criterion as to whether specific technologies have been applied “at least once”, according to information from the M&E team. This would mean that, in a case where an FFS participant attempted to implement a new technology but encountered problems (could not manage or did not find it worthwhile to repeat), this will still count positively in the assessment of difference in use of technology.

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This page forms part of the publication "Evaluation of Agricultural Growth & Employment Programme (AGEP), Bangladesh – October 2019" as chapter 6 of 8.
Version no. 1.0, 2020-01-16
Publication may be found at the address http://www.netpublikationer.dk/um/evaluation_agep_bangladesh_oct19/index.html