Provide an overview of FFBS activities throughout the agricultural season.
Familiarize staff and facilitators with key FFBS activities.
Background: This session provides an overview of scope and format of FFBS activities to be completed for the agricultural season. The facilitator should prepare a work plan that will fit with seasonal agricultural activities within the structure of weekly/bi-weekly farmer workgroup meetings. This will serve as a basis for incorporating modules for other Pathways components (markets, nutrition, gender, and group empowerment) in the farmer workgroup meetings.
Components of the Program:
Program and planning of season activities: A work plan should be prepared in advance of planting and FFBS sessions to guide the facilitator through the season’s agricultural activities (see “Example of an Agricultural Seasonal Program for Cassava” in Annex). The program shows the timeline of the cropping season with developmental crop stages by anticipated number of weeks after sowing, in addition to the activities planned. This program will also serve as the basis for planning around the other Pathways components of markets, nutrition, gender, and group empowerment.
Weekly or bi-weekly meetings: The FFBS activities are based on crucial weekly or bi-weekly meetings depending on timing of the season and the crop. Every fortnight farmers exchange knowledge and learn something new about the crops, constraints, and ways to deal with these constraints. During these bi-weekly meetings, other trainings on gender, nutrition, markets, and community mobilization are delivered.
Planning the meetings: Meeting planning is an important component that involves creating a short list of activities such as: checking who is present /absent, work and observation in the field, identifying special topics to be discussed (see “Sample Daily Plan” below).
Observations: During each meeting, farmers will make observations in small groups on plants, weeds, diseases, insects, and climate. These observations are then presented and discussed with the larger group under the guidance of the facilitator. To standardize observations use a customized observation form (see “Sample Observation Form” below).
Discussions: During every meeting, farmers from each workgroup present their findings and observations to the entire group. This should lead to discussion, recommendations for action, and consensus regarding crop management.
Other topics: According to budget and availability, specialists/ scientists may visit the FFBS at different points throughout the season to discuss or present a special topic on agriculture, marketing, or nutrition. Topics could include germination tests, weeds and weed control, diseases, insect pests and their control, seed conservation practices, etc. for agriculture topics; child marriages, gender based violence, etc. for gender topics; relations with buyers, identifying markets, etc. for marketing topics; and exclusive breast feeding, choosing what to plant, etc. for nutrition topics. The topics may be deleted or added to the curriculum according to the wishes of the participants, emerging issues, and country specific circumstances.
Selecting the FFBS Plots
To select a piece of land for the FFBS experimental plots
Flip chart paper and marker pens
Enough space for all participants to sit
Background: Once participants have registered for the FFBS, a farm for the FBBS plots must be selected in consultation with participants and local leaders. Involving the community in this process will enhance their participation and ownership of the process as well as their willingness to attend lessons in the selected locations.
Steps to follow for the activity:
Step 1: As a group, take the participants through some of the criteria for choosing FFBS plots. The selected farm should:
Be situated in the community in which the growers live.
Be representative of the area’s farms in terms of the soil type, topography (slope), and presence of other crops/trees.
Have management problems common to the area to allow for participatory learning.
Not have problems that will make it difficult to show positive results after implementing Pathways improved practices; avoid abandoned farms or farms with a poor history.
Be close to the village and near a road for easy accessibility; if a road location is not possible, then the site should be along a well-travelled footpath so that non-FFBS farmers can observe operations.
Have a total size of at least 1 hectare; if the farm is too small, the FFBS plots will cover a large area of the total farm and the farm owner may fear implementing new practices.
Have an owner ready to release the plots to the FFBS by agreeing to apply all management/cultural practices on the plots without restriction and to all of the requirements and requests made by the FFBS; written contracts with farm owners may be helpful in some cases (see below).
Be worked on by all participants of the FFBS.
Have a size determined by the planned crop(s) and treatments that are to be evaluated.
Step 2: Based on the understanding of the key criteria (above) discussed during the training, help guide the assembled farmers’ group through a selection of appropriate plots.
Step 3: If desired, the plot owner and the community should sign a mutually binding contract outlining the terms and conditions of their agreement. Use the contract found in the Annex as an outline.
Setting Up FFBS Demonstration Plots
To set up the experimental plots for the FFBS; Determine plot size, experimental options, and materials required to conduct activities throughout the season.
Flip chart and marker
Enough space for both standing and sitting
Background: As part of the planning process for the FFBS, the demonstration set-up exercise will have facilitators and farmer workgroups consider the plot size and materials required to run their specific FFBS plots. Farmer workgroups should identify their priority constraints in production and possible solutions at a group level prior to this session.
Steps to follow for the activity:
Step 1: Determine plot size. Together with farmers, determine the ideal demonstration plot size. The ideal FFBS plots should be 30 meters x 20 meters for the farmers practice and 30 meters x 20 meters for the experimental practices. Small side plots can be established for additional trials, up to a maximum of three topics per site.
These can differ per site according to the wishes of the farmers and the priority constraints of each crop. Plots that are too large may cause farmers to concentrate on working rather than learning, and those that are small may prevent the comparison of treatments.
Step 2: Determine experimental plot practices. In the group, pick 1-3 experimental plot practices. The number of plots will depend on the number of FFBS sites and the number of participating villages. Additionally, the number and type of experimental plot practices will vary based on the size of the plot(s) and the desires of the group. This can change from season to season as more collectives are brought into the program.
These topics can include:
Use of organic fertilizer, alone or in combination with mineral fertilizer
Local and improved varieties –early maturing, resistant to pests and diseases, etc.
Different intercrops and sowing densities
Step 3: Identify materials required for installing the experimental field. Based on the size and type(s) of experimental plot(s), prepare a list of materials required to establish them. This list may include the following:
To encourage use of locally available materials to prepare organic fertilizer that is economically and environmentally sound in line with Pathways’ approach to sustainable agriculture.
Shovel, forked hoe, composting materials, yard waste and kitchen scrap, garden hose/buckets for water, finished compost or garden soil
Outdoor location that will be suitable for a long-term compost pile
Background:There are two ways to prepare compost:
The pit is filled with thin layers of organic matter that release nitrogen, such as kitchen waste and grass clippings (green organic matter).
Water is added after each layer.
Soil can be added between these layers.
The pile is turned regularly to keep it aerated.
Compost will be ready within 6 to 8 weeks.
Main ingredient is organic matter that is rich in carbon, such as paper, branches, and sawdust, (brown organic matter)
Fill half of the composting pit with carbon-rich organic matter.
Add kitchen waste or vegetable peelings daily.
Soil can be occasionally added along with the kitchen waste.
The pit content will gradually decompose and compost can then be harvested from the bottom of the pit.
Compost will be ready in up to 4 months
What is so special about compost? Why not use organic matter directly? The biggest advantage of using compost is that the organic matter is partially decayed and has a much smaller volume. Further, the microorganism activity has started in the compost before it is applied to crops, allowing for a very high concentration of these microorganisms. This makes the compost a concentrated, easy-to-absorb source of organic matter that benefits crops and reduces waste. By learning about the benefits of compost as well as how to construct and maintain a compost pile, members of the FFBS group will be able to transform their household waste into material that improves their crops.
Steps to follow for the activity:
Step 1: Clear a corner of the backyard by the fence or near the edge of the farm for your compost pit. It should be close to a water source and easy to reach (to throw in household waste), but out of the main traffic flow. Make sure the compost pit is out of the direct sunlight, but away from buildings.
Step 2: Prepare a pit of 1m height, 1m width, and 1m length. The length of the pit can be increased according to the space available in your garden and your compost requirement.
Step 3: Add :
Brown organic matter, such as fallen leaves, woody matter (bark, twigs and branches, sawdust, wood chips), and other materials that contain carbon, such as shredded cardboard and paper. Composting fallen leaves is a much safer alternative to burning them.
Green organic matter, like grass clippings, green garden waste, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, fruits, and other kitchen waste. These items release nitrogen as they break down.
There are different methods of combining the materials. One is to mix brown and green matter together, tossing kitchen or yard waste into the bin or onto the pile as you collect it. The other is to alternate layers of carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials, starting with a 6-inch layer of brown stuff topped by 3-inch layer of green stuff, followed by another 3-inch layer of brown stuff, and so on.
Tip: Avoid using meat and dairy products, including meat and fish bones, oils and grease, and carnivorous animal manure. Don’t use grass or plant clippings that have pesticides on them, or pressure-treated wood. Lastly, don't use diseased garden plants or weeds.
Step 4: Add safe animal manures to the compost heap if available. Use manure from grass, grain and hay eaters, such as cows, rabbits, and chickens.
Step 5: Moisten the pile periodically with water as you add to it. Sprinkle a shovel or so of finished compost (in subsequent seasons) or healthy garden soil over the compost materials to add live microorganisms that will begin to break down the trimmings and scraps.
Step 6: Watch for the pile to settle, a sign that the composting is working. Natural decomposition does the work of transforming the materials, heating up the pile to between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit (49 and 60 degrees Celcius) in a few weeks. Speed things up by turning the pile with a shovel or forked hoe every week or two. Move materials on the outside of the pile into the center. This allows the material to decompose more evenly.
Step 7: Check for signs that the compost is finished in 1 to 4 months. If you layer material and regularly turn it, one or 2 months is sufficient. Your compost is ready to use when all the materials turn into a clean-smelling, crumbly, earth-like brown substance. Use it to enrich your farm soil-rates.
To verify the quality of the available seed and determine its viability to improve chances of good crop establishment
Germination and establishment
Flip Charts, Markers/pens, Containers, Soil, Seed, Water
A ready-to-use seedbed
Background: The germination test allows the farmers to check whether their seed is of sufficient quality for sowing and whether they are adequately prepared for the cropping season. The germination test can also be used to test the quality of several different seed lots, different varieties of a crop, and different seed treatments, as well as evaluate seed storage conditions.
Steps to follow for the activity:
Step 1. Introduction: Explain that to grow crops, you need three key elements: the seed, the soil, and the climate (which includes temperature, rainfall, and sunshine).
Step 2. Preparation of the seedbed: Explain that germination heavily depends on the preparation of the seedbed; proper preparation requires that the plot be clear of weeds, plant material, and debris and that the soil is tilled and evened out. The soil also needs to drain well to avoid water logging.
Step 3. Planting: Count out 100 seeds of the given crop species 4 times (a total of 400 seeds). Sow them in four 1-meter rows. Each row should have 100 seeds with 1 centimeter between holes and there should be 25 centimeters between rows. Wait for the plants to grow over the next 2 weeks. If there is no rain, make sure to water the plot well every 2 days.
Step 4. Determining germination percentages: After 2 weeks, count and record the number of germinated (emerged) plants in each row. In order to determine the germination percentage, use the following formula:
germination percentage = (total # of germinated plants/total # of rows) So, if 250 plants emerged from four rows, the germination percentage would be (250/4) = 62.5%.
Step 5. Follow up: Base future action on the following:
If the seeds plot has about 70% or more germination and emergence (good seed quality), the seed lot can be used as planned (normally 3-5 seeds per planting hole).
If the seed lot has between 50%-70% germination and emergence, it is advisable to search for another seed lot or to increase the number of seeds per hole (e.g. 5-8 seeds per planting hole).
If the seed lot has less than 50% germination and emergence (poor seed quality), it is not advisable to use the seed lot.
To plan for seasonal activities and other Pathways component activities while being sensitive to the participant’s farming commitments; identify and characterize annual agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, and/or fishing activities.