Participatory Technology Development: Farmer Field Schools in Nepal
Participatory technology development is an approach that promotes farmer driven technology innovation through participatory processes and skills building involving experimentation to allow small scale farmers to make better choices about available technologies. These innovations could be in improving local technologies or through introducing new technologies from elsewhere.
Key characteristics of participatory technology development are:
• Understanding existing knowledge and building on it.
• Field based innovation rather than classroom based learning
• The promotion of experimentation and confidence in the assessment of technologies
• The promotion of new ideas
• Strengthening links with local research organisations and other sources of new technologies
• Ensuring that participants have the capacity to manage and maintain the technologies they have and are able to pass them onto future generations.
Case Study: Farmer Field School
In Western Nepal families in remote villages were struggling to sustain year round livelihoods through traditional staple crops of rice, mustard, ginger and maize. A farmer field school was initiated in communities and a 12 week program on alternative vegetable farming was conducted with village members. Villagers were able to experiment and plant new crops such as cabbage, cauliflower, tomato chilli and onion. They were also able to produce excess produce that they could sell in the market which was an achievement and built up enthusiasm for experimentation and diversification. The farmer field school is a participatory technology development methodology, which is crucial for building capacity because groups of farmers can grow in confidence from seeing their hard work pay off through ‘learning by doing’. Now this knowledge has spread throughout the participant’s villages and has led to increased income to spend on food throughout the year and less reliance on slash and burn agricultural crops that damage the environment and contribute to landslides in the area.