Farmer Field Schools

CaseStudy_Training Session Kenya

CaseStudy_Training Session Kenya

Introduced in 2008 with support from the Ethical Tea Partnership and IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative, Kenya’s Farmer Field Schools are effective, economical classrooms without walls.

Kenya’s tea is mainly cultivated on small plots of land by the 560,000 farmers who belong to the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) a cooperative that operates 62 factories. Together they account for 60% of production, earning most of the $1.3 billion in foreign dollars Kenya received in 2013.

Leaf quality varies widely in a nation that ranks third among the world’s tea producing nations and is the top exporter of black tea.  A changing climate in the Rift Valley of North West African presents other serious challenges.

CaseStudy_extension officer dividing demonstration plot for training Kenya

CaseStudy_extension officer dividing demonstration plot for training Kenya

KTDA has established 1,600 schools with 48,000 graduates who studied in groups of 30. The 12-month program is hands-on with field exercises in composting, digging irrigation ditches and caring for the plants.

At the start of the year farmers are consulted about the key issues affecting both their tea crop and their farm so that the training can be designed around their needs. The FFS tea curriculum includes modules on integrated soil management, harvest- and post-harvest management, eco-system conservation, composting techniques, replanting and rejuvenation and agronomic management. Common additional topics cover diversification of income, HIV- Aids, kitchen gardens to improve nutrition and food security.

The Farmer Field School methodology is increasingly recognized as the most effective mechanism to generate improvements for smallholder tea farmers, according to ETP.

Yields have increased as much as 36% on land tended by graduates of the program according to an independent university study by LEI Wageningen UR. The 73-page report: For All the Tea in Kenya (2014), Impact assessment and baseline situation of Farmer Field Schools, can be downloaded with a click.