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8 Lessons Learned and Recommendations

The evaluation findings and conclusions lead to the following lessons learned and recommendations.

Wider implications from experiences with FFS in ASPS II, Bangladesh:

Lesson 1: The FFS approach, as practiced in ASPS II, is a cost-effective mechanism for lifting poor rural households, including landless and often excluded and marginalised population groups, out of poverty, hunger and malnutrition. In addition to the direct effects, the level of spill-over effects has been shown to be of large magnitude.

Recommendation 1: Future development interventions, aiming at reducing vulnerability and improving food security, nutrition and livelihoods among poor rural households should strongly consider using the FFS approach, incorporating the other recommendations given here. Although not directly evidenced by the Evaluation, the results from FFS may have the additional potential of contributing to social stabilisation within countries like Bangladesh, characterised by relatively high inequality and poverty.

Lesson 2: Increases in micro-level growth and self-employment (at the household level) due to FFS interventions in ASPS II, have been considerable. In addition to increased market production among small-scale farmers with land access, it has been demonstrated that, through FFS, even hard-core poor households with very little or no land are capable of increasing their income from producing for the markets.

Recommendation 2: Future development interventions aiming at stimulating growth and employment within the agricultural sector should target small-scale farmers as well as hard-core poor and marginalised famers as core FFS members. Even among the poorest and marginalised farmers, there is a potential to contribute with a range of services and agricultural/food products to the markets and for value-chain and enterprise development. Female farmers can also make a substantial contribution.

Gender and other social aspects:

Lesson 3: It is possible within Bangladesh, through rather simple but targeted FFS interventions, to effectively involve and benefit large numbers of women (including young women, female-headed households, widows and women from indigenous populations), increasing their confidence, ability to earn an income, to contribute to food security and participate in decision-making on smaller production issues. However, women’s income remains relatively low and they still do not participate equally in important household decisions. This is largely due to the household approach in FFS which does not explicitly address intra-household relations.

Recommendation 3: Future FFS interventions in Bangladesh should be planned with a view to exploring its potential to build on the achievements, and aim at bringing about more significant changes through more explicit attention to intra-household issues as an integral part of livelihood and farming systems (e.g. it could be considered to incorporate aspects from some other proven methodologies, like the Gender Action Learning System (GALS), where farming is seen as a family business and where gender inequalities are addressed in a cooperative manner with women and men).

Lesson 4: FFS interventions, with their current household-level focus, are not sufficient to notably influence traditional restrictions on women’s mobility, nor do they effectively challenge socio-cultural problems and harmful practices within the villages. This is because these gender/socio-cultural issues are perceived as add-ons and not an integral part of addressing poverty.

Recommendation 4: Future FFS interventions should be much clearer about the interrelationships between different dimensions of gender, social inequality and household poverty and aim at incorporating gender analysis into the technical training. Some of the more in-depth training and supporting activities might need to be taken up by other interventions (e.g. awareness raising through NGOs).

Lesson 5: Additional preventive procedures and mitigations are, in some cases, needed to avoid FFS causing negative, unintended social and environmental impacts within and outside the villages.

Recommendation 5: Future FFS interventions should include a participatory pre-assessment of the potential social and environmental risks related to FFS interventions and, based on this assessment, an Action Plan should be prepared on how to prevent and mitigate these risks.

Organisational issues:

Lesson 6: Farmer organisations have proved to be useful entry points for production/ distribution of various forms of input supplies (quality seeds, vaccines etc.) to the farmers and they possess a strong potential for further expanding their role in marketing and partnerships with private enterprises. Special attention will be required to ensure sustainability of these processes. Sustainability does not come automatically from forming groups and organisations and providing block grants/seed money.

Recommendation 6: Future support to the agricultural sector in Bangladesh should pay attention to consolidating and expanding the role and involvement of farmer organisations (CBOs and UNFAs) in terms of input supplies, marketing and further processing of agricultural products (produced within the villages). The more developed CBOs (from RFLDC) could be used as ’mentors’ for the UNFAs. There needs to be much more focus on including women in decision-making and planning/implementation of women activities.

Lesson 7: There is a risk that farmer organisations established from FFS turn into exclusive clubs for the village elite, possibly leading to increased polarisation and exclusion of the poorest households and women. Limited absorption capacity in the CBOs and obligations of payment of regular membership fees are barriers for the poorest FFS members, including many women, to become members of the farmer organisations.

Recommendation 7: It is recommended that current procedures and criteria for selection of participants for FFS and membership of farmer organisations be reconsidered, in view of the potential risk for exclusion of groups of women and men from participating in FFS/farmer organisation related activities.

Lesson 8: When farmer organisation offices (CBO/UNFA offices) are located outside the village neighbourhood, women’s participation is dramatically reduced. Having physical access to and being member of the organisation does not automatically promote women’s leadership and give them voice or benefits, equal to those of their male counterparts.

Recommendation 8: As an interim measure to address this, it should be considered establishing temporary quotas for women’s participation in farmer organisations and leadership/leading positions in the executive committees (e.g. established in by-laws). This should be accompanied by explicit discussion of ways of enabling more active involvement and benefitting of women in farmer organisation activities.

FFS approach and facilitation:

Lesson 9: There is not only one ’blueprint’ FFS approach that works. Rather, it is possible, through a demand-driven focus, to adapt the traditional FFS approach efficiently and effectively to different contexts and target groups.

Recommendation 9: Future FFS curricula should be developed with sufficient flexibility to ensure that each FFS can be adjusted to different target groups and local conditions (e.g. in the case of the most resource-poor groups of households, including women, it may be possible through an initial use of demonstration-oriented methods to improve the participants’ FFS ’skills’ to a level where they subsequently can be treated topics using a ’full’ FFS methodology). The curricula should also be flexible enough to address different climate change and other risk parameters within the main agro-ecological zones. More attention should be paid to the potentials for increasing the value-added to the agricultural production through FFS (e.g. through introduction of other, higher valued, crops than rice). Explicit attention to the gender dimensions of these issues needs to be incorporated.

Lesson 10: The preparation and performance of the Farmer Trainers/Facilitators is of key importance to the quality of the FFS. Personal attitude, facilitation skills, previous FFS experience and gender sensitivity are more important skills for the trainers/facilitators than formal education. Female trainers/facilitators, especially young women, find it often hard to work in a male-dominated society.

Recommendation 10: During the training of the Farmer Trainers/Facilitators more explicit attention should be given to improve their facilitation skills, including how to work with illiterate women and incorporate gender issues as an integral part of other training. Possibilities to increase the incentives for women to become trainer/facilitator should be further explored (e.g. use of married couples).

Institutional arrangements and M&E:

Lesson 11: It is difficult to assess sustainability aspects and extract learning as long as financing, technical support and backstopping is still in progress. Supported organisations/ institutions are not able to demonstrate their ability to continue activities until interventions are completed.

Recommendation 11: Future FFS interventions in Bangladesh should address more explicitly sustainability aspects, including increased country ownership and financial sustainability. Different models for sustainability (e.g. establishing of FFS networks, commercialization of services and income-generating activities for the organisations to become self-financing) and stronger collaboration and harmonisation with other extension service interventions should be explored at an early stage through the GOB. Strengthening peer training networks should also be considered a key element in sustainability.

Lesson 12: When the M&E framework is not properly designed or in place on time, this limits the opportunity for continuous extracting of learning and experiences from FFS interventions with the aim of improving the services provided.

Recommendations 12: In relation to planning future FFS interventions, it is recommended to carry out the following in terms of M&E: i) an assessment of experiences and best practices for designing the baseline studies and M&E frameworks for FFS interventions, including gender disaggregation and indicators; ii) a proper evaluation of the current pilot IFM phase before final decision on possible up-scaling, including gender analysis; iii) a systematic assessment of the experiences and learning from the support provided to the CBOs in Noakhali/Barisal (through RFLDC); iv) establish a system for tracing Farmer Trainers/Facilitators that leave their position; v) establish a common UNFA/CBO/Farmer Club performance monitoring system based on a few, easily collected indicators ; and vi) better monitoring of potential socio-cultural, employment and spill-over effects from FFS.

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 12 of 14
Version 1.0. 22-12-2011
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