Over the last three decades, Farmer Field Schools (FFS) have proven to be an effective discovery-learning-capacity building approach to help rural populations to innovate with more clarity and purpose while building the social skills needed for rural transformation and empowerment. The diverse forestry and agroforestry applications of the FFS demonstrate a high impact on fostering ecological literacy and unlocking creative capacities in problem solving. Producers are encouraged to take ownership of change occurring at the local level. FFSs in forestry and agroforestry can help rural families and producer organizations develop multiple ways of reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture and contribute to rehabilitating ecologies and restoring ecosystems.
The experiences of farmer field schools (FFS) around the world show a tremendous potential to advance small-scale forestry and agroforestry. By applying the FFS approach to agroforestry and forestry, it is possible to:
- Enable family farmers to develop the necessary knowledge, skills and social organization to achieve a more regenerative natural resource stewardship in and through small-scale and family farming, and to collectively contribute to sustainability and climate change targets.
- Support people-centred forest extension and community-based forestry by demonstrating the key role of better education and ecological literacy in empowering change in rural communities.
- Develop “response-ability”, i.e. the capacity of small-scale producers to respond to challenges in agriculture, food and natural resources management with renewed creativity, knowledge and technological development.
- Develop multiple ways of reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture while ensuring food security and nutrition and contributing to ecosystems restoration, climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as biodiversity conservation.