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7 The Future for FFS in Bangladesh

7.1 Sustainable practices

High value crops

An objective of FFS in AGEP has been to shift training support much more towards high-value crops. While positive results were demonstrated in AFSP, this has only been partly implemented in IFMC. High-value crops often become high-input crops, and high-risk productions, because of these inputs. Most of these crops are more vulnerable to pests and diseases than rice is, and the usual response is to use pesticides to ‘protect’ the young crop. This has a high risk of eventually leading to similar problems that previously caused food security threats in rice: emergence of ‘secondary pests’, which become gradually more resistant to the pesticides, which then induce even more pesticide use, which eventually may make the pest somewhat or completely unmanageable. In vegetables and other high-value crops the threat is not so much to food security but more to income. Investments in these crops are quite high, and failure or part-failure can severely damage the resources of a household.

While AFSP has developed FFS training modules for high value crops, this is not the case for IMFC, although the demand among farmers is clearly there. Only a few sessions in the guidebook talk about pest management and include some observation exercises. Those modules are in homestead gardening and hence they are more likely to reach women and not men who are in charge of high value crops. In homestead gardening the risks, as outlined above, are smaller, because of the diversity of the area, and the smaller scale. However, for large-scale production of e.g. vegetables, the risk is very real. In e.g. Thailand and Malaysia, but also in North Africa, some productions of vegetables have experienced so severe problems because of this issue that they have had to be re-established in other locations or shift to non-chemical pest and disease management.

In AFSP, the majority of the beneficiary farmers consulted mentioned that their knowledge and capacity on sustainable ecosystem management, adaptations to climate change and risk mitigation had improved. Knowledge on IPM helped them to learn on beneficial insects and benefits of protecting the ecosystem and biodiversity through reducing application on pesticides and adopting environment friendly pest management techniques.

In IFMC, the lack of intensive training in management of pests and diseases in these high-value crops (vegetables, potatoes, fruits, etc.) has put the farmers and their production in some level of risk. The long-term Danida support and application of in-depth exploratory methods in DAE should be applied to develop modules for high-value crops. Likewise, application of exploratory learning in developing market understanding is a real opportunity to strengthen farmers’ skills in this area, and hence their possibilities of benefiting from the markets, as individuals or groups/associations/organisation. There is however a risk that the introduction of more subjects into FFS compromises the possibility of applying explorative learning. This affects the quality of the learning and the sustainability of the FFS intervention. The engagement in high value crops increases the risk of pesticide use and thereby the risk of ‘secondary pests’ to the point where production may have to cease in some areas.[108] The effects may be damaging to future production of these crops in the area, which of course would be detrimental to farmers’ livelihoods.

Progress in women’s empowerment has been observed in both IFMC and AFSP as an effect of FFS as analysed above. These results are likely to be sustainable as women gain increasingly stronger bargaining power in the communities and in the households and, when first acquired, it is unlikely that they will take a step back. Increased income has provided women with the ability to pay for school fees and to expand production activities. Although progress has been noted in terms of mobility, there is still a long way to go and this is indeed an obstacle challenging women’s full benefit from the FFS. Such constraints need to be further addressed in order to ensure women’s full benefit of FFS and the sustainability of results. On the other hand, in IFMC the challenges related to selection and training of female FFs (see Section 5.1) are threatening the potential for FFS’ contribution to longer-term changes in women empowerment.

7.2 Financial and institutional sustainability

As shown in the preceding chapters, the FFS approach is found to deliver highly relevant results in a cost-effective manner, with pay-back times of approximately 1-1.5 years. At the same time, the IFMC and AFSP are highly aligned with GoB policies. Taken together, this is seen to create a positive foundation for continued investment in FFS. However, when working with large-scale FFS support, the required resources are substantial. Thus, financial and institutional sustainability are main concerns for FFS implementers at a time when development assistance to FFS programmes is on a decreasing trend globally. Therefore, other financial and institutional arrangements for FFS need to be tested in order to develop new and more viable business models for the FFS approach in the future.

Institutionally, many FFS programmes around the world are beginning to work more directly through community-based organisations and are training and supporting local farmers as FFS facilitators, rather than relying on NGOs and professional extension agents that are highly reliant on external funding sources. This has, at the same time, led to the exploration of self-financing mechanisms, where the operation of the FFS covers the costs of facilitation. Cost reductions during the scaling-up and consolidation phase are generally achieved by making more use of local Farmer Facilitators, who receive limited fees and do not require transport costs (in Kenya a reduction of 50% for farmer-led FFS compared to extension-led FFS was reported). In Ecuador, some IPM-FFS graduates are linking up with supermarket chains as recognised producers of preferred traditional crop varieties, with the supermarkets beginning to invest in expansion of IPM-FFSs in order to secure guaranteed volume purchases. Also, in Eastern and Southern Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) considerable progress has been made in recent years in supporting farmers to run semi-self-financed and self-financed FFSs.

In the self-financed model, the FFS includes a commercial plot for production. The proceeds are sold and re-invested using the group’s own bank account. The money can then be used to finance farmer-led FFS. This self-financing model works based on revolving funds. The operational costs are pre-financed, and the group retrieves the costs in the form of an operating fee at the end of the season from funds generated by the sales from the group study plot and education fees levied on the participants. Problems of “leakage” of funds, crises brought about by failure of the rains, drought or flood, and the lack of physical security for money-holders in some areas are problematic issues but they are not unique to FFS.[109]

Other institutional and financing modalities for FFS are also continuously being tested and experiences are being collected. In Bangladesh, there are still few experiences with alternative financial and institutional FFS models. However, as development assistance for FFS programmes is also on the decrease here, it will be necessary to look more closely at experiences with self-financed models from other countries and consider whether these could be re-calibrated to the Bangladeshi context.

In terms of the institutional models, the evaluation findings show that both a number of the hoped-for strengths and envisioned challenges of working with a more DAE-led model, with regional offices playing a key role, have materialized. The FFS approach has indeed been scaled up, and while issues regarding quality, fidelity, etc., have been encountered, substantial results have been delivered. In a situation where the future of Danish support to Bangladesh under debate, the fact that additional capacity building and more practical experience with the IFMC FFS approach has been gained by the DAE is seen as steps forward towards larger institutionalisation.

At the same time, a range of the challenges and risks foreseen at the time of programme design are found to have influenced performance and have led to “missed opportunities”, for instance in relation to recruitment of female FFs, ensuring that selection processes are fully supportive of programme priorities and on maximizing the effect of training in, for instance, IPM. The evaluation findings indicate that if a continued Danida presence is relevant there is a need to continue dialogue on DAE internal policies, including governance issues, such as elaborating a gender strategy, as indicated in Section 5.1, provide technical assistance for capacity building and curriculum development, adjustment of modules, etc., to support further development of the FFS approach.

The experience from AFSP may further point to a way forward: while the AFSP FFS component has had much higher costs, this is seen as, at least partially, related to the different context. The set-up has the AFSP component being implemented by the UNDP-managed CHTDF under the MoCHTA, with GoB line departments, including DAE, being engaged in the form of trainers, technical backstopping and some monitoring of FFS activities. In addition, partner NGOs were involved in providing follow-up technical support and training to the FFS in new target Upazilas. While it cannot simply be assumed that such a multi-actor model would be effective or efficient if simply transferred to other parts of Bangladesh, the different forms of partnerships may be explored. Incorporating other actors, such as relevant and experienced NGOs or INGOs, with sufficient oversight and backstopping from MoA and DAE, could both be relevant in relation to overcoming limited DAE resources and capacity in relation to, for instance, FO training. Further, including NGOs in various aspects of the FFS process may be relevant if testing how to work with more local FFs, in line with the experience briefly outlined above.

While the backstopping and ultimate support of the DAE is crucial, involvement of other actors may help provide additional checks and balances while making the process less dependent on one specific organisational incentive structure and capability. It is also important to note that DAE is, first of all, a “crops” organisation. The IFMC FFS included fish and livestock, which are not the normal topics to work on for DAE staff. This justifies working with other partners (government or NGOs) who are more experienced in these technical topics. On the other hand, involvement of more actors comes with its own set of problems, challenges and extra costs. Thus, the issue of how to ensure sustainability comes with clear dilemmas and trade-offs.

[108] https://www.growingproduce.com/vegetables/3-ways-to-save-your-vegetable-crops-from-diamondback-moths/

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


This page forms part of the publication "Evaluation of Agricultural Growth & Employment Programme (AGEP), Bangladesh – October 2019" as chapter 7 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