4 Pages

Agricultural innovations

During impact assessment interviews, on average 67 per cent of FFS farmers observed a positive change in livelihood aspects over the two years. The most observed positive changes in livelihoods were better empowerment, access to information, personal development, conflict resolution, relationship with the factory and leadership ability. They attributed the change to the FFS process. Although the BLCF had been set up specifically

as an instrument to encourage business partnerships, the ways of working that this project required were new to the business partners involved. Lipton and the KTDA had to develop a more collaborative and trusting working relationship, across very different business cultures with different expectations and priorities. Most of the difficulties involved with forming

farmer groups were avoided in this project, by linking FFSs into existing KTDA structures and buying centres already familiar to the farmers. Even so, given the distances between farms in rural Kenya, it was not always easy for farmers to get to their school – with some having to walk for over an hour. This meant that meetings often started late and ran over, or that farmers had to miss them altogether. The FFS philosophy requires that farmers come

together in ‘schools’ or groups to learn. Each of the early schools was composed of around 30 farmers, selected primarily for their enthusiasm for the project, but also to ensure that different farm sizes, tea yield and (although men were initially overrepresented) gender were represented. A key feature of the success of the FFS approach is the social dynamic, where lively debate is accompanied by group activities such as singing, joking, clapping, dancing, prayers and storytelling that help cut across social divides and create a mutually supportive group with shared learning experiences. Learning actively and practically gave farmers the independence and confidence to address challenges and introduce changes in their own farms. It also helped bond learners together, leading to shared conclusions and empowerment for members to become leaders and farmer-extension agents themselves and then use links to other members of the local community to ‘spread the word’ further. As testament to the high level of social capital

created within the first few FFSs to graduate within the project timescale, all the schools wanted to continue to meet and to extend their activities (e.g. to goat or bee-keeping) when no longer supported directly by the project.