To run an IPM Farmer Field School (FFS), experienced facilitators are needed, who have sufficient background knowledge of IPM, a good understanding of the crop, and who above all have the skills and the right attitude to make it a practical and participatory learning experience for the farmers.
Many extension workers have received their own training in a rather formal setting. They attended lectures in a classroom and studied theoretical facts from books. As a result they will have a tendency to train farmers in the same way. They lecture the farmers and provide them with theoretical information while giving top-down recommendations.
To organize farmer field schools it is necessary to first develop the people who are acting as “teachers/trainers” to make them become “facilitators”. Long experience in many countries has shown that this can only be achieved through season-long “training of trainers” (TOT) courses. Often such a course will have a duration of 3 months or even longer so that it can accommodate an entire crop cycle.
The season-long training (from seed to harvest) provides the opportunity to get a deeper understanding of IPM during all stages of the crop and it also allows sufficient time to develop the appropriate approach and to practice the required skills. The TOT participants have to practice these new skills several times with real farmers while being guided by experienced master trainers. The knowledge and skills they need cannot be learned in shorter courses of just a few days and can certainly not be learned from a book.
This guide is therefore clearly not meant to be a training manual for new facilitators. It is designed as a collection of suggestions to refresh the memory of existing facilitators (who graduated from a season-long TOT), providing them with some practical information and tips for planning, running, and evaluating their FFS.