The guidelines followed towards the implementation of FFS are as follows:
3.1. Identification of target areas for FFS
In the identification of areas for FFS training, two main aspects are taken into consideration: coffee trees distribution (where coffee is grown) and areas which were not covered since the beginning of Coffee FFS in Rwanda. This activity is conducted by both the implementing agency and the service provider
3.2. Introduction to District authorities
The service provider meets with District authorities for the introduction and presentation of FFS activities in a given District. It is after this introduction that a recommendation allowing the implementation of the activities is issued by the District.
3.3. Advertise for Farmer Trainers and shortlist candidates
Master Trainers advertise for and shortlist young women and men from the local communities to serve as farmer trainer candidates
3.4. Sensitization of stakeholders, farmer’s mobilization and sign up
The program stakeholders (leaders at the cooperative/private wet-mill (CWS), cell and sector authorities) are sensitized on the objectives of the Coffee Farmer Field School (FFS), including the benefits the program can bring to the coffee sector and farmers. The expected role of stakeholders for successful implementation of the project is also explained.
With all the stakeholders on board, local administration is asked to help in setting up village meeting to sensitize, mobilize and sign-up farmers into the FFS Program. All targeted cells in the sector are visited and set up meetings in collaboration with the village headmen and the cell executives.
Master Trainers together with the Farmer Trainer Trainees hold meetings with farmers at the village level to explain the FFS Program, including the benefits to the farmers, how farmers can participate and expectations of implementing practices learned. The role of the Service Provider and the model of support are also explained to align expectations with the program design.
3.4.1. Facilitate organization of farmers into FFS, election of a Focal Farmer and selection of a demonstration plot
Trainers and Farmer Trainers support farmers to organize into small village-based groups (FFS) consisting of 40 farmer households. Master Trainers and Farmer Trainers facilitate farmers in each FFS to elect one farmer among them as the lead farmer (Focal Farmer), who serve as the informal leader of the group and whose field is used as a demonstration plot and training venue. To ensure a strong gender balance, the FFS also elect a Deputy Focal Farmer of the opposite sex to the Focal Farmer.
In collaboration with the Farmer Trainer, each FFS identifies a suitable demonstration plot in the farm belonging to the leader or another centrally placed farmer in the FFS group.
Following the Training of Trainers and the subsequent appointment and deployment of the Farmer Trainers, training in the FFS groups starts.
3.4.2. Farmer registration
After one month of training, farmers who showed up for training are registered and recorded as attending the training. Information collected about each household includes names, number of coffee trees, ages, gender and telephone number. Each month, farmers are encouraged to attend and bring their neighbors or relatives to attend the training. Farmers who have attended at least 50% of the training topics are considered trained and are awarded certificates of participation at the end of the training program. The process of registering new farmers continues as new farmers come to training each month.
Note: Registered farmers are those who attend at least one training. Signed-up farmers are those who show interest in the program during the FFS group formation process.
3.5. Gap analysis and needs assessments in targeted areas
Once targeted areas are agreed upon, Master Trainers conduct a needs assessment in each targeted area through a baseline agronomy survey on a small sample of coffee farms. The needs assessment is designed to understand agronomic conditions, agronomy practices, challenges, and farmer attitudes in targeted areas so as to tailor the design of the project. In addition, the survey collects information on farmer demographics and socio-economic information. The results of the needs assessment also serve as a sensitization tool to show farmers, local leaders, and wet mill management the agronomic challenges and solutions available through FFS.
3.5.1. Best Practice Survey
In order to gain a high-level perspective on the current application of farm-based agronomy best practices as well as demographics, diet and assets, households attending the training are visited. The sample for the survey is randomly selected from attendance lists completed in the first month of training.
The survey is conducted by a team of Farmer Trainers reporting to the service provider and the analysis is performed by the independent research firm. Farmers are assessed on key agronomy best practices.
Agronomy Best Practices taught in FFS
The Coffee Farmer Field Schools teach farmers how to keep records of their income and expenses and at the end of the coffee year calculate their coffee farm profit or loss. As part of this lesson, a pictorial record card is provided.
The Coffee Farmer Field Schools teach farmers how to make compost from farm organic matter, such as manure and crop residues, and the benefits of applying compost to their coffee.
The Coffee Farmer Field Schools teach farmers how to mulch and the benefits of mulching.
The Coffee Farmer Field Schools teach farmers the importance of weeding under the canopy by hand-pulling, mulching to reduce the incidence of weeds and slashing or using intercrops such as beans between the rows.
The Coffee Farmer Field Schools teach the farmers the importance of coffee nutrition with a program based on recommendations from the soil and leaf survey, conducted in 2008. Getting lime to farmers is also an important element of the nutritional program.
The Coffee Farmer Field Schools teach the importance of rejuvenating in a systematic way, maintaining youthful main stems and keeping no more than three main stems.
The Coffee Farmer Field Schools will teach farmers the importance of pruning
The Coffee Farmer Field Schools teach farmers the importance of erosion control in soil management, even on fields without slopes, where wind erosion can take place during the dry season. Farmers learn how to plant stabilizing grasses, one of the easiest and most effective ways to control erosion.
The Coffee Farmer Field Schools teach farmers the importance of shade, which shade trees to plant and how to plant.
The Coffee Farmer Field Schools teach farmers how to control pests and diseases using a combination of integrated methods, such as traps tree health and crop hygiene.
The Coffee Farmer Field Schools teach farmers how to use pesticides safely to avoid contamination of the environment or themselves. Specifically, the farmers learn how to understand pesticide labels, what Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be worn, how to store and dispose of pesticide containers and how to mix and spray pesticides correctly.
3.6.1. Introduction to Coffee Agronomy Best Practices
The Training of Trainers (ToT) training curriculum is updated to ensure that the trainers are equipped with the right skills to facilitate the Farmer Field School effectively. The trainees receive two training courses: (1) an introduction to coffee agronomy best practices and (2) methodology for teaching adults.
The training is designed to provide the trainees with very practical knowledge on coffee agronomy while simultaneously providing the theory underpinning the practices. The trainees received theoretical training interspersed with practical demonstrations and opportunities to practice their new
3.6.2. Methodology on Teaching Adults
The topics covered in the ToT curriculum are the core of coffee farming and cover all practices necessary to sustainably grow a healthy coffee crop.
This module is designed to equip the trainees with the skills necessary to handle a farmer training session. The venue of the training should be where the trainees can practice their new skills with real farmers and find a model coffee plantation for practical demonstrations.
Image 1. FFS farmer trainer carrying coffee plantation
Image 2. FFS farmer trainer at work.