This paper reports on how the farmer field school (FFS) approach has been used to successfully catalyse important changes among stakeholders in the savannah zones of West Africa. Improved agronomic practices, better decision-making skills and diversification of smallholder farms in developing countries are shown to provide farmers the opportunity to rebuild soil fertility, optimize input use and introduce new sources of food and nutrition and marketable products for local populations. This is a knowledge-intensive endeavour best addressed through community-based processes of education. By the end of 2010, approximately 116,000 rice, vegetable, cotton and other farmers would have been involved in season-long FFS in four West African countries, resulting in improved yields and incomes and ushering substantial progress in both reducing the use of chemical pesticides and improving the use of fertilizers and organic amendments. The programme is increasingly being successfully integrated into local, provincial and national structures. Experienced personnel are being employed to initiate similar programmes in nearby countries. The evolving network of experienced actors and committed countries provides a platform for collaboration by a growing set of partners and represents a large-scale, long-term programmatic approach to helping sustainably intensify and develop agriculture in Africa.
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