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Effects of participatory approaches on change in farming practices

The case of Farmer Field Schools in West Africa

Effects of participatory approaches on change in farming practices
PhD thesis Teatske Bakker - UMR Innovation - Montpellier, 2021

Abstract

The reconsideration of the intensive agriculture model has been coupled with the emergence of agro-ecology and an evolution of the representations of innovation in agriculture to support farm transitions, particularly in the case of family farming. This thesis studies the effects of Farmer Field Schools (FFS) on family farms in the cotton growing area of West Africa. FFS are a participatory advisory tool based on experiential learning and collective dynamics.

The research was conducted through a literature review and a field survey in the villages of two development projects that have used the FFS approach, in northern Togo and in southwestern Burkina Faso. In these two situations, the production systems and pedoclimatic conditions are quite similar with degradation of cultivated land and mixed farming systems. The rainfed cropping systems based on cereals, cotton and grain legumes were the subject of FFS. Northern Togo is characterized by the rapid development of vegetable gardening, which was the subject of specific FFS. We show in this work that (i) FFS are implemented in various ways ranging from technology transfer to collaborative participation ; (ii) the majority of FFS evaluations focus on short-term indicators (acquisition of knowledge, adoption of innovations, agronomic or economic performance); (iii) the way in which FFS are implemented influences the trajectories of change in practices, and in particular that the processes operating in collaborative FFS are similar to the co-design of new cropping systems adapted to local conditions; (iv) changes in cropping system practices following participation in FFS have repercussions on other sub-systems of family farms (livestock breeding, production of organic manure) non included in the attended FFS.

Thus, by evaluating contrasted FFS with participating farmers' changes in practices, we studied the effects of FFS at the cropping system and farming system levels. Our approach enabled us to propose a comprehensive evaluation method of the effects of FFS. We also provide operational recommendations for the implementation of FFS reinforcing farmers' participation and their competences in co-designing innovative farming systems linked with agroecological transitions of family farms in West Africa.

Defended on 18 may 2021

Under direction of

Stéphane de Tourdonnet et Patrick Dugué

Jury

  • Jean-Marc Meynard, INRAE, 
  • Marc Tchamitchian, INRAE,
  • Eric Malérizieux, CIRAD, 
  • Ismaïl Moumouni, Université de Parakou (Bénin),
  • Katia Roesch, AVSF, 
  • Suzanne Phillips, FAO, ,
  • Patrick Dugué, Cirad,
  • Stéphane de Tourdonnet, Institut Agro,

See also