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6 Comparative Assessment of Institutional and Cost Arrangements for FFS

This chapter provides a comparison of institutional and cost arrangements for FFS within AEC and RFLDC, with references to experiences from other FFS interventions within and outside Bangladesh.

6.1 Institutional Set-up


AEC is, to a certain extent, integrated with its counterpart institution, DAE, in the sense that it is operating through the normal structures of the department and its regular staff. Most of the AEC field activities are implemented by regular DAE staff through Upazilas down to the village level. On the other hand, AEC is still to some extent operating as a ’project’ having its own procedures and a sizable additional staff at the central level for planning, administration and monitoring.

Component funds go directly from the Danish embassy to component accounts, managed jointly by the Project Director and the Danida Senior Adviser. AEC does not pay block grants and does not pay salaries and allowances of government staff and officers[53]. From Danida funds, based on established criteria, AEC provides limited support to the Farmer Clubs (BDT 8-10,000) and UNFAs (BDT 3,000) as seed money for income generating activities or a small business as a way of sharing the risks in the introduction of new activities. AEC also provides honoraria to GOB staff from Danida funds when they act as a resource person or facilitator in a training course. This provision has been created by the Ministry of Finance and follows the practices of other donors operating in Bangladesh.

Although component activities are implemented by DAE staff in Upazilas and Unions, it is the impression of the Evaluation, that the current level of AEC activities could not be sustained within the present DAE set-up should Danida funding cease to exist. Currently the institutional sustainability of FFS within AEC therefore seems to lie mainly with the capacity that has been built at the local level with farmers, Farmer Trainers, Farmer Clubs, UNFAs and local level DAE staff that have been trained (e.g. trained Departmental Trainers will remain in DAE with their knowledge and skills on IPM/ICM-FFS and contribute to the farmers as and when required). Sustainability will also depend on the extent to which future FFS interventions will be able to harmonise strategies and build on existing installed structures and capacity.

The RFLDC-Barisal and RFLDC-Noakhali Offices have the overall responsibility for implementation of the FFS approach within RFLDC, with a considerable number of Danida financed technical staff assisted by Upazila Livestock Officers and Upazila Fisheries Officers. While the Upazila Fisheries Officers, to a reasonable extent, seem to be involved in planning and implementation of the FFS interventions, it appears to be more difficult to achieve the active involvement of the Upazila Livestock Officers. The RFLDC Offices are playing a prominent role in supporting and backstopping the FFS-related interventions, including the CBOs, both in terms of providing financial and technical support and for trouble-shooting.

The Evaluation found that the overall RFLDC institutional set-up will be facing serious challenges in terms of sustainability. The relatively weak institutional linkages through the Upazila Offices provide limited possibility for continuation of activities in a future scenario without RFLDC support. The sustainability of RFLDC interventions will therefore need to come primarily from the local levels, i.e. mainly through the CBO structures (see also sustainability discussion in Section 5.5).

In both RFLDC-Barisal and RFLDC-Noakhali the transfer of block grants compose an important element in supporting further development of FFS farmers through the CBOs. However the approach to the block grant transfer differs between the two sub-components. In the case of RFLDC-Barisal, funds are disbursed directly to the CBOs from the RFLDC-Barisal Office while in the case of RFLDC-Noakhali the block grants are transferred to the CBOs through the Union Parishads (UPs), in those cases where these institutions are assessed to have sufficient capacity for managing the funds. According to the assessments carried out by RFLDC-Noakhali, the capacity of the UPs varies considerably. It is assessed that only 25% of the UPs are qualified to receive and manage block grants from RFLDC properly.

Other relevant experiences on FFS institutionalisation

After having been a forerunner with the prominent involvement of CARE until five years ago, Bangladesh has, at the moment, only limited involvement of NGOs in FFS activities compared to other countries in the region. In most other countries the implementation of FFS interventions has now been decentralised, and taken on by local authorities, NGOs, farmer or community organisations and even the private sector (e.g. cooperative producers unions). In countries like Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam Thailand, Pakistan and India local NGOs have become increasingly involved in the field implementation (running the FFS), but also in the development of target group relevant curricula and training of local FFS facilitators. Often these NGOs closely collaborate with government institutions.

Transfer of responsibility and capacity to local communities has been the backbone of the FAO Community IPM Programme in Asia, which supported the establishment of local farmer organisations capable of their own FFS implementation. In Vietnam the Farmer Union takes responsibility for FFS implementation at local level, including training of facilitators. The farmer organisations receive funds from outside sources (donors, government) or generate their own funds through contributions from members or own income generating activities. Facilitators are either staff or members of the organisation or are contracted by the organisation.

In East Africa the institutionalisation of FFS has, over the past 10 years, been shaped with the establishment of FFS Networks that serve as important vehicles for the expansion of the FFS[54]. The FFS Networks could be compared with the UNFAs as initiated by AEC. With donor or self-generated funds the FFS Networks support other farmer groups in the area to start a FFS and assist them with contracting qualified facilitators. New FFS Networks will be established in new areas. The local networks are associated at national level (Kenyan, Uganda and Tanzanian) and at East African level. The networks organise exchange visits, refresher trainings, workshops and seminars together with research institutes and universities (e.g. on the development of participatory monitoring and evaluation). The East African FFS Network has become one of the main partners in the Regional FAO and IFAD FFS interventions.

Alternative funding of FFS interventions

Semi-financed FFS is an alternative to traditional government and donor support for FFS[55]. The expansion of FFS interventions in East Africa is partly or entirely financed from funds generated by the farmers themselves. The self-financing model was first piloted during the 2001-02 growing season by facilitators in the IFAD supported Integrated Production and Pest Management-FFS programme in Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe. Groups initially receive a grant of USD 4-500 for running FFS of 30 sessions over two seasons. Additional expenses are covered by proceeds of income generating activities of the group. The grant has to be repaid, either from the proceeds from the income generating activities or from a share of the benefits made by the participants after FFS completion. Generally the grants are repaid after 2-3 successive seasons.

This grant system is channelled through the FFS Networks. The repaid grant, sometimes with interest, is used to start FFS with other groups (an educational revolving fund). Initially, grants may be provided by donors (in East Africa IFAD has been a strong supporter), but when FFS Networks are well established the grants will be fully covered from own income: subscription fees, interest on revolving funds, bulk sales, registration fees, penalties, donations, shares from FFS members, profit from sale and farm inputs and commercial activities.

6.2 Costs and Benefits related to FFS Interventions

Cost issues

When trying to compile the costs for FFS it is important first of all to consider which costs to include. As illustrated in Table 6.1, the major FFS costs can be grouped into three categories: base costs, start-up costs, and recurrent costs, as the most commonly used in reference literature.

Table 6.1 Overview of FFS related costs within ASPS II
Base costs General overhead costs for institutions at Upazila, district and project level (salaries, office costs, meetings, transport, communication etc.)
Monitoring and evaluation (salaries of M&E staff, survey costs, transport etc.)
Monthly meetings (salaries, transport, refreshments, overhead)
Study tours and exchange visits
Start-up costs Training of facilitators (basics, refreshments incl. hiring of resource persons)
Preparation of (training) materials (salaries, development costs, printing costs)
Recurrent costs Establishing FFS (preparation visits, village meetings, PRA)
Running FFS (venue (shed, mats), training materials (locally available and from outside), stationary (flipcharts, notebooks), school (study) field (rent, inputs, maintenance), refreshments, caps/T-shirts, certificates)
Field Day
Trainer/facilitator: salary (for running and preparation), transport, communication
Supervision/backstopping of FFS by Upazila, district and project-level staff (salaries, transport)
Follow-up costs Assistance to Farmer Clubs and CBOs, CBO staff/facilitator salary, transport, communication, training materials, grants, other materials

The level of costs also depends on the development stage: pilot, up-scaling or 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) these costs will be substantially lower, even in a pilot phase. The start-up costs will be high during the pilot phase when human capacity needs to be developed through ToT courses, often with assistance of national or international consultants. The actual costs will 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 farmer-led FFS, more experienced FFS facilitators (requiring less intensive supervision), reduced financial incentives for the trainers (related to the use of farmer facilitators) or abolishing (or reduction of) incentives paid to participants. In addition, scaling-up[56] can reduce the costs of inputs as a result of potential bulk purchases. The recurrent costs for an FFS are largely determined by the costs of the trainers/facilitators (salaries and transport) and the training venue (shed, mat, school field).

Further on, the value attributed to the costs is highly dependent on the topic (crop), the socio-economic conditions in the country and the geographical ’density’ of FFS[57]. This will affect the costs of inputs, salaries and allowances, transport costs etc.

FFS costs in AEC and RFLDC

Based on the budgets for FFS implementation within AEC and RFLDC, the recurrent costs per FFS have been calculated[58] as follows:

  • AEC: BDT 36,500 (equivalent to USD 21/FFS household (25 households, two participants/household).
  • RFLDC Barisal: BDT 35,000 (equivalent to USD 20/FFS household (25 households, 1-2 participants/household).
  • RFLDC Noakhali: BDT 32,000 (equivalent to USD 19/FFS household (25 households, one participant/household).

As the figures are roughly of the same order, it can be concluded that the dissimilarity in FFS methodology, content and implementation methods between the (sub) components only results in marginal recurrent cost differences between the (sub) components.

In the extreme case, that the whole AEC budget[59] (Danida and GOB contributions) would be used as basis for calculation of the total costs per FFS implemented (including base costs, start-up costs, recurrent costs and follow-up costs) the average cost would be of BDT 111,111/FFS (equivalent to USD 1,613/FFS (or USD 65/FFS household). It can therefore be concluded that the total cost per FFS/household within AEC is somewhere in the range from USD 21 (recurrent costs only) to USD 65 (based on the full AEC budget), depending on how much of the AEC budget that is considered to be directly FFS-related.

In terms of RFLDC-Noakhali, when including costs at Upazila and district level for coordination and monitoring of FFS and the costs of the Season-Long Learning courses for the Local Facilitators and motorbikes, the total costs increase to BDT 46,281/FFS (equivalent to USD 27 per FFS household)[60]. To this should be added costs of national and international management and staff.

Comparing with cost calculations from other FFS interventions

International literature and studies referring to FFS costs are not consistent in their content, obscuring comparison even more: costs that are generally included in reports are the recurrent costs (e.g. Field Days and fees of permanent staff) but not always all; costs that are sometimes included in reports are start-up/maintenance costs (with or without costs of external consultants); and costs that are rarely included in reports are the base costs and international costs.

The average costs for other FFS interventions inside and outside Bangladesh appear to be somewhere around USD 20 (recurrent costs), which makes the costs of FFS within ASPS II in line with what is commonly spent per household on FFS implementation elsewhere. Costs from other FFS interventions within Bangladesh range from USD 10-35/household, depending on the crop, the number of sessions, phase of the project and whether start-up and supervision costs are included[61]. Cost data from FFS interventions in other countries (mainly from IPM-FFS programmes and projects related to different ’crops’, in different years, in programmes in different stages of development and in different socioeconomic situations) ranged from USD 7 for Rice IPM in Sri Lanka (only recurrent costs) to USD 77 for Cocoa IPM in West Africa (recurrent and start-up costs).

Benefits from FFS

Since FFS is an educational approach and not a simple, straightforward transfer of technology method, with activities and implications at different levels, the benefits are many-fold: economic, social, health, educational, environmental, organisational etc. The benefits can further be allocated to different stakeholders: individual FFS participants, participating households (including non-participating members), local community, implementing institutions, individual staff of the institutions, and societies as a whole (including consumers) etc.

Comprehensive assessments of cost-benefits from FFS interventions are rare, as it is often difficult to give a monetary value to a number of the benefits. Many of the benefits will be an indirect and/or long-term effect of the FFS and are difficult to ’measure’. Some of the FFS outputs will have more clear-cut indicators (e.g. income, production, yield).

The assessments are therefore usually restricted to the financial analysis (at farm level)[62], although attempts have been made e.g. to give a value to improved health, or reduced medical costs, as a result of reduced pesticide use[63].

Calculation of benefits from FFS

In order to calculate the cost-benefit of FFS, the costs of the FFS per participant are generally compared with the average change in profit of the FFS participants[64] over one, or a few years, after completion of the FFS.

Data from the RFLDC Mid-Term Evaluation allows making a rough calculation of the economic benefit from FFS within ASPS II: while the average annual income within FFS households increased from BDT 52,000 to BDT 72,000 in the period from 2007 to 2010, the average annual increase within control village household in the same period was only from BDT 47,000 to BDT 57,000. The FFS households, on average, had therefore increased their annual income BDT 10,000 (equivalent to USD 145)[65] more than control village households. When this figure is compared to the cost per FFS household within ASPS II (see above), there is a clear indication that the ’investment’ in households through FFS is paid back in less than a year after FFS has been completed.

Somewhat similar experiences are found from other countries: based on available data it was concluded that the costs of the above mentioned IPM-FFS programmes were recovered by the increased production of the FFS households after 1-3 seasons[66]. It was found that the pay-back period was very much dependent on the initial level of production and competency of the FFS farmers, the product, the value of the products, the access to the market and the socio-economic context of the FFS. Calculations from the FAO-EU IPM Programme for Cotton in Asia, implemented in six countries in South East Asia between 2000 and 2005[67], showed that the full cost of the five year project reached its ’pay-off’ moment in the last, fifth year.

6.3 Monitoring and Evaluation of FFS interventions

Monitoring and evaluation within AEC and RFLDC

Overall, the Evaluation found that the approach for monitoring of implementation of FFS activities within AEC is building on appropriate arrangements. At field level, monitoring is taking place according to three distinct, but integrated systems: i) DAE monitoring by extension officers at Upazila level; ii) Master Trainer monitoring and technical backstopping and; iii) participatory monitoring by Farmer Trainers, as well as members of the Farmer Clubs and UNFAs.

The tools used for the monitoring include mobile supervision and supervisory visits to field activities. AEC also organises seasonal Review and Planning Workshops of which each Farmer Trainer attends one per year. During this planning workshop the past FFS season is analysed (especially problems and ’mistakes’), the executed field trials are analysed and evaluated, the planning of the next FFS season discussed and training given on additional or new topics. The Evaluation attended one of these workshops and found it well organised and constituted an important learning element in the monitoring process. It is however doubted whether sufficient time is available during these one-day events to cover new topics sufficiently[68].

AEC is not monitoring performance development within the Farmer Clubs and UNFAs. There is currently no system built-in within DAE to monitor performance development within the Farmer Clubs and UNFAs. However, with constant encouragement from AEC, contact is kept with some Farmer Clubs and UNFAs on an irregular basis.

After initially, in ASPS II, working through different monitoring and evaluation systems and separate reporting in RFLDC-Barisal and RFLDC-Noakhali, the two sub-components are now applying a common system for participatory assessment of the FFS interventions. Likewise, the RFLDC Mid-Term Evaluation carried out in 2010 was a joint study covering both Barisal and Noakhali. The two sub-components are still making efforts for further strengthening of coordination and coherence in this area and frequent interaction and visits are taking place among the responsible M&E Officers in the two sub-components.

In general, the Evaluation found that the M&E system currently applied in RFLDC is good. A considerable amount of relevant data is being collected, and often also used for targeting and adjusting the interventions. This is for instance the case in relation to the CBO Performance Assessments carried out yearly.

The Evaluation recognises the strong efforts within AEC as well as RFLDC to undertake two major FFS assessment and evaluation studies in, respectively, 2009 and 2010. On the other hand, the Evaluation finds that in terms of planning and implementation of the external assessment and evaluation studies, the AEC and RFLDC could have taken more advantage of possibilities for planning and coordinating these interventions (e.g. on selection of external firm/institution for conducting of the studies, sample design, methodologies, questionnaires, surveyors and methods for data analysis). In terms of sampling design, there has been a general tendency in the studies to under-sample the number of control village households and the questionnaires have had limited focus on gender disaggregation and exploring of socio-cultural, employment and spill-over effects from the FFS interventions.

Internationally, the M&E of FFS interventions is receiving much attention[69]. Several international institutions (e.g. World Bank) and universities (e.g. Institute of Development and Agricultural Economics of the Leibniz University of Hannover) have published on the issue of FFS evaluation methodology. The FAO-EU IPM Programme for Cotton in Asia[70] was designed with a strong evaluation and impact assessment component to ensure proper set-up and implementation of the designed methodology throughout the programme. It may be useful to further explore some of these experiences in relation to designing of M&E frameworks for future FFS interventions.

[53] The GOB funds in the budget are used for paying salaries and allowances of GOB staff and officers.

[54] Okoth et al, 2006; Braun, Okot et al, 2007; Braun & Duveskog, 2008.

[55] Braun et al, 2006; Braun et al, 2007; Braun and Duveskog, 2008; Okoth et al, 2006; CIP-UPWARD, 2003.

[56] 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) and by the participants/community providing the venue costs (use of own shed or existing meeting place, use of the school field free of charge, maintenance of the school field either as communal activity, or from the (extra) income from the school field).

[57] If FFS interventions are thinly distributed over a geographical area it will require more travel and also limit the number of FFS the facilitator is able to implement.

[58] There is a difference in how the costs of the Farmer Trainers and Local Facilitators are incorporated in the calculations: within RFLDC, the Local Facilitators are employed by the CBOs (which receive funds for their payment from the RFLDC office). The Local Facilitators have a full-time contract and earn BDT 3,600/month in Barisal (based on 18 working days of BDT 200/day) and BDT 2,500-3,500/month plus bonus in Noakhali. In AEC, the Farmer Trainers receive BDT 150/FFS session which includes time for session preparation and transport costs. For establishment of the FFS an additional five days are paid. The Farmer Trainers also receive BDT 500 monthly for travel costs to the Upazila office and for FFS materials.

[59] There are activities under AEC which may not be considered directly related to FFS.

[60] Overhead costs and costs of national and international staff were found difficult to include as the activities of the project are wider than the FFS implementation.

[61] See literature study in Annex 3 for more details.

[62] Van den Berg, 2004; Fleischer et al, 1999.

[63] Ooi et al, 2005.

[64] After correction for change in profit obtained by a control group.

[65] It should be noted that this calculation does not take into consideration inflation.

[66] Van den Berg, 2004; Van den Berg and Jiggins, 2007.

[67] Ooi, et al, 2005.

[68] In some cases the workshops are extended by a further day if there are new technical issues to be covered.

[69] It was the topics of the International Learning Workshop on FFS held in Yogyakarta in 2002 and an International Workshop on ’Impact Assessment of Farmer Field Schools’ in Garbsen, Germany in 2004

[70] Ooi et al, 2005.

This page forms part of the publication 'Evaluation of the Farmer Field School Approach in the Agriculture Sector Programme Support Phase II, Bangladesh' as chapter 10 of 14
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