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Story by Dr. Angel Torres
Photos courtesy of Heifer Guatemala

Last August, in Esquipulas, Chiquimula, Guatemala there was training for 16 facilitators on the topic of Farmer Field Schools (FFS), for the regional project GANASOL 1.

This project is being executed with the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE). The facilitators were trained throughout the week in the methodology of field schools to facilitate intervention for farm families participating in the project.
 
Heifer Guatemala and CATIE provide intense training sessions to new FFS facilitators. Success depends on good organization and a clear definition of facilitator responsibilities. Much time and effort is put into planning and preparing the content of the workshops. These facilitators help and encourage participants to work together and learn from each other while supporting and challenging participants to take responsibility for their own learning.

What is a Farmer Field School?  Part of Heifer’s continuous learning as we work with participants all over the world includes making sure that farmers and those who train them, are adequately prepared. So the Farmer Field Schools emerged to address this. Often, the technological packages have almost always been too complex and costly or not adapted to the needs of the farmers.

The Farmer Field Schools strengthen the farm families and local communities to analyze their production systems, identify major constraints and test possible solutions. By adding their own knowledge to Heifer's new information, families can identify and adopt practices and technologies that best fit their farm system and their needs. Ultimately they will become more productive, profitable and adaptable to changing conditions.

The best description of the FFS is that they are "schools without walls", where families can learn through observation and experimentation in their own fields. This allows them to improve their management skills and become experts on their own farms.

Help families care for their environment.