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Farmer Field School graduates to increase productivity
Kigali: The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) is getting a new boost from Farmer Field School (FFS) facilitators in its ongoing campaign to increase agricultural productivity as Season A 2016 gets underway. 
The beginning of the season, marked by tremendous efforts to bring agricultural inputs and extension services closer to farmers, coincides with the graduation of over 2,500 FFS facilitators that are also being integrated within ‘Twigire Muhinzi’ – a Rwandan ‘home-grown’ and decentralised extension model that aims to reach all Rwandan farmers through a close collaboration between Local government and MINAGRI.
The graduation ceremony, taking place from this first week of this month of September, will continue in all districts. The event is characterised by presentation, certificate awards and importantly followed by the official signature of performance contracts between Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), districts and the FFS Facilitator’s cooperatives; committing themselves to sign 3-party contracts for extension service delivery in a bid to increase agricultural productivity. This is in line with the professionalisation of the extension service delivery.
“This village-based extension model will provide our farmers with the best agricultural practices – including timely land preparation and planting, quality seeds, fertilizer use, compost, lime and micronutrients use – along the campaign to increase agricultural productivity,” points out Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources.
Farmers are facilitated also to get the right information and knowledge through, radio programs and sketches, educational videos, hard extension materials…etc. This will be a continuous process for MINAGRI to equip facilitators and other field workers to be linked with new information and either existing or newly generated agricultural knowledge.  
Through the government subsides scheme, farmers pay between 15-25% of the total cost of the quality seeds while government covers 75-85% for imported seeds and 41-60% for seeds produced locally. The farmers are also facilitated to access fertilizers and lime through the government subside scheme – Farmers pay between 65-85% and government pay between 15 -35% – meant to help farmers access agricultural inputs and increase productivity.
FFS facilitators, who are among key drivers along this seasonal campaign, are intensively trained by qualified FFS Master Trainers through RAB and the ministry’s partners. Training takes place in the field with as principle: The field is the school and the plant is the teacher! As part of the training process, facilitators work with their own FFS farmer groups where they facilitate the ‘learning by doing’ process and supervise season long experiments in the FFS field plot of the group. All members of the group work and learn together in this plot.
And this ‘learning by doing’ approach equips farmers with practical skills that enable them to increase their yields significantly. For instance, a recent impact assessment revealed that banana production has tripled in some areas thanks to extension services and knowledge acquired through FFS. General figures indicate that 75% of the farmers in FFS groups increased their production by more than 50%.
The FFS Facilitators of each district have already formed a cooperative of FFS Facilitators to be able to work as professional service provider in agricultural activities in the district. For example for Rubavu district, the cooperative is called COFAR (Cooperative de Facilitateur Agricore de Rubavu), and they have already acquired the official papers from RCA (Rwanda Cooperative Agency).
With the 3-party contracts signed between facilitators’ cooperatives, Districts and RAB; the FFS facilitators commit to create more than 3600 new FFS groups with an expected 90,000 members in Season 2016 A. They also commit to train all farmer promoters in how to set up demonstration plots at village level. (End)


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