15 April 2020. FAO transferred the FFS approach in Eastern Africa in the mid-1990s and it has evolved since then.
While the practice has become widespread, mainstreaming FFS within national extension systems has been slow. A reason for this is the inability of extension graduates to apply FFS to real world contexts.
To address this gap, FAO has promoted the integration of FFS knowledge in the curricula of the universities in three countries: Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, with a view to institutionalising the FFS approaches.
The initial work began in 2017 with a three-week Training of Facilitators (ToF) module at Pwani University, Kilifi, Kenya. Staff from the University, with additional participants from Ethiopia and Uganda, took a three-week FFS ToF to become certified FFS facilitators.
In 2019, the institutionalisation process continued by adding more universities to the initiative. Hawassa University from Ethiopia, Makerere University, Bukulasa Agriculture College, Arapai Agriculture College [Busitema University], Uganda Christian University, Gulu University, Serere School of Agricultural/Business Studies and Kyambogo University from Uganda all joined.
FAO exerted considerable resources to develop the knowledge and skills of university staff to develop, integrate and deliver FFS curricula in academic programmes. Professors and lecturers from Ethiopia and Uganda took part in a three-week training, which focused on facilitation skills, discovery-based learning, participatory monitoring and evaluation, and the agro-ecosystem analysis. In Kenya, Pwani University continued with the second series of training to produce FFS Master Trainers, who attained the highest level of certification in the FFS realm.
A second aspect of the training involved the establishment of outreach groups in local communities. The trainees were responsible for contacting communities to establish outreach sites and practice their FFS knowledge in the field, literally. One community in Ethiopia, five in Kenya, and three in Uganda were selected as outreach sites for the trainees to practice their new extension skillset.
Farmer participants in Kenya conducted group-led experiments on soil fertility using organic and inorganic fertilizers. In Ethiopia, participants conducted trials on cabbage production; and in Uganda outreach beneficiaries participated in problem ranking exercises to identify challenges affecting ginger production. These exercises enabled the university participants to reinforce FFS skills and to test their academic knowledge applied to the context of farmers.
The universities in the three countries have now developed contextualised curricula at several academic levels - Bachelor’s degree, certificate and short-course levels - to enable current and future extension workers acquire the necessary skills in FFS. The courses will proceed as soon as the relevant university Senates approve. FAO will organize a workshop to bring together all stakeholders to share experiences to support this validation process.