Farmer Field Schools: Boosting Farm Productivity And Confidence

Farmer Field Schools: Boosting Farm Productivity And Confidence

In October 2021, Oxfam India had organised an exposure visit for farmers, from the intervention villages in Nalanda, at the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA). This included training and visit to the fields at the Advanced Agricultural Research Centre in BISA. The farmers were thrilled to see the latest developments in agricultural methods. One of them said, “We are not educated enough to note down what we learn and see here. I wish we had support like this in our own villages.”

This incident was the motivation for our Holistic Rural Development Programme* (HRDP) team to set up Farmer Field Schools. In November, Oxfam India set up two Farmer Field Schools in each of its 15 villages. The School is a demonstrative farmer field—where a selected lead farmer demonstrates advanced and technology-savvy agricultural methods.This is also the learning centre for other farmers in the village. Narendra Kumar of Oxfam India trained the 30 lead farmers, undertook a keen monitoring schedule for the farmer fields, and provided up-to-date information on the latest developments in agricultural practices.

From the Nagar Nausa, Harnaut and Hilsa blocks in Nalanda, 30 lead farmers from 15 villages were selected. Intensive training sessions were held. The trainings helped farmers familiarise with the latest developments in agricultural technology which they then implemented in their respective farm fields.

An agriculture tool bank was set up at the offices of the Village Development Committee in every village. Through the tool bank, all farmers in these 15 villages (including the lead farmers of the FFS) have gained access to equipments such as delivery pipes, power weeder, spraying machine, and motor pumps (both electrical and petrol-operated). As part of their training, the lead farmers were encouraged to sow their fields using the zero tillage method. After which the farmers got the zero tillage machine on rent from neighbouring villages. Our team then trained them to use the machine. The machine ensures that all the seeds are sown at the same level, and that all the plants receive an equal amount of water and fertiliser.  

The farmers were provided with green nets that protect crops from wind, rain, hail, frost, snow, insects, etc. Green nets are a time-saving process since saplings placed in green nets can grow faster. They have also been provided drip irrigation equipment, which has the potential to save water and maintain soil nutrients by allowing water to slowly drip into the plant roots.

The farmers have now adopted agricultural practices in accordance with what they learned at the Farmer Field School. Sangita Devi, a lead farmer from Amar village, says, “This time, our produce is considerably better than last time. The seeds that you have provided were of good quality. We are resolved to continue using this and we will advise other farmers to use the same as well. Initially, we were quite apprehensive about these new methods, but the frequent training has helped to boost our confidence. My field has now become an exceptional example and the other villagers undertake frequent visits to the field to ask my husband and me about the measures we took“.

*The Oxfam India-HDFC initiative, titled ‘Project Utthan’, contributes towards the socio-economic empowerment of people from marginalised communities by aiding with sustainable livelihood options and improving access to essential services (especially women) across 15 villages in three blocks in Nalanda.

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