How Farmer Field Schools are strengthening the Farming Community in Maharashtra?
Published: September 30, 2019
Farmer Field Schools were developed as an alternative to the top-down way of providing extension devised under the Green revolution. The school emphasizes on giving focused guidance to small groups of farmers in their fields by way of learning-by-doing exercises.
The school was originally conceptualized by the Food and Agriculture Organization has been in practice for a few decades in Southeast Asia.
Strengthening Farming Community
The school is held every Sunday. In the schools, the agricultural assistant talks about the challenges faced by the local farmers and provide the necessary support to tackle these.
A Unique Initiative in Maharashtra
- At the beginning of the Kharif season in 2018 the dreaded Fall Army Worm (FAW) presented a serious challenge in the regions of Maharashtra. This pest feeds on over 80 different kinds of crops and is responsible for the dip in the maize production
- To tackle the FAW pests’ government decided to launch a multi-pronged approach which included a massive farmers education programme.
- Along with posters, information kiosks etc for farmers education the government started the unique concept of Farmer Field School (called Shetishala in Marathi) as means of reaching out to the farmers.
- The school held right at the farms had officers and staff of the agriculture department getting farmers together on a fixed day to discuss issues related to their crops and fields.
- Contradictory to bigger seminars or workshops, these schools were held much more regularly and with much smaller groups of farmers.
- The topics discussed vary depending on the local conditions. Thus, the schools in Baramati had mainly focused on ways to control pests for maize and sugarcane – the crops most commonly cultivated here. In districts of Marathwada, on the other hand, such schools are providing guidance for crops such as cotton, tur, and moong etc. And the success against FAW in Maize is replicated in other crops as well such as cotton which attracts the dreaded pink bollworm. Information dissemination to farmers through various channels including that of the Farmer Field School is to be credited for better pest control.
- While pest control is a major thrust area of the schools at present, these schools also focussed on better agricultural practices to help farmers improve their yields. For example, in Baramati, the schools guide farmers towards scientifically preserving the fodder to help them tide over periods of scarcity, In Kolhapur, farmers are guided on reducing the usage of chemical fertilizers for their cane crop and better management of the crop to increase yield.
The government of Maharashtra providing last-mile connectivity in educating farmers through Shetishala (Farmer Field School) has shown how tangible benefits can be gained by empowering farmers through agri-education.
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