Is the farmer field school still relevant? Case studies from Malawi and Indonesia

Henk van den Berg*, Jan Willem Ketelaar, Marcel Dicke, Marjon Fredrix

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The capacity of farmers to adapt to changing environments is critical for sustainable, economically viable and resilient rural development. The Farmer Field School (FFS) was developed by FAO in the late 1980s to build farmers’ knowledge and skills for adaptive management. The FFS was subsequently implemented in over 90 countries by a multitude of stakeholders. We conducted case studies in Malawi and Indonesia to answer contemporary questions about the FFS, regarding its relevance at field level, its position in the institutional environment, and its contribution to rural development. We show that the FFS remains relevant at field level, helping farmers to adapt their agricultural practices and livelihood situation to changing circumstances. Differences in institutional arrangements between the two countries highlight the importance of a coordinated support for the FFS. Long-term impacts were found at farmer and institutional level. This study provides insight into the FFS, regarding the causal factors of change, institutional factors, and the role in continued development. As an approach that empowers rural people, the FFS thus contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100329
JournalNJAS - Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Adult education
  • Farmer field school
  • Impact evaluation
  • Rural development
  • Sustainable rural livelihoods


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