Farmer Field School is empowering farmers to adapt to a changing climate
Despite a difficult and uncertain year, the resilience of women in Senegal against climate change is shining through, thanks to an innovative partnership with Crossroads International, local partner APROFES (Association pour la promotion de la femme sénégalaise), the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) of the United Nations and the provincial government of Québec.
The Strengthening Agricultural Adaptation (SAGA) Project, piloted a Farmer Field School (FFS) aiming to increase food security and nutrition through series of on-the-ground trainings. Farmer Field Schools provide a series of trainings with groups of farmers in an outdoor class that takes place in the field for the entire duration of a growing season. The school provides opportunities for farmers with similar interests to share experiences and knowledge and to research, discuss and make management decisions. The project grew out of the International Symposium on Food Security and Nutrition in the Age of Climate Change.
The best of both worlds: new techniques and traditional knowledge
The training for facilitators provided women farmers with tools and curriculum to learn about plants and their needs including soil, pests, seed quality, the agricultural ecosystem, the use of natural and organic insecticides as well as the food safety and agricultural products quality. The training consists of in-class theory and hands-on components in the field. The establishment of a market garden in Nguindor (a village in the region of Kaolack) made it possible for the facilitators to be trained on-site in modern techniques for adapting to climate change. It also provided them with an opportunity to enhance and share their knowledge of traditional farming techniques with one another.
The goal is to leverage and share knowledge among a network of 32 women-led market gardens in the Kaolack region of Senegal who in turn can share their learning in their communities. To date, the initiative has provided training for 25 women facilitators, including 23 farmers from 11 of the network’s market gardens and two technicians from Crossroads’ partner APROFES.
The training included 41 days led by 25 facilitators from the Réseau National des Facilitateurs du Sénégal [Senegal national network of facilitators] who were trained in a specialized gender sensitive approach over a period of five months. They conducted a survey to identify the issues and challenges involved in adapting to climate change in their areas, as well as those related to gender. The specific training themes were chosen in response to these challenges. Pairs of facilitators were selected from 11 of the network’s market gardens to foster sustainable learning.
Where empowerment meets innovation
The organization collaborates with governmental actors, the academic and research sectors as well as civil society actors to implement a holistic approach to the project.
Integrating gender-based issues into the school training modules represents a major innovation. The revised training addressed some major intersectional issues within the concept of gender in relation to leadership, gender-based violence and access to the means of production. The training was brought to life through sketches, discussions, role-playing and theatre pieces presented to men and the local communities.