After joining his local Farmer Field School in 2019, Ntahondereye Silas has seen his production, income and livelihood grow year by year. Read how he has transformed his new skills and 50 kg of maize seed into more land, resources and education opportunities for his children than he previously thought possible.
The Global Farmer Field School Platform from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) is comprised of vast networks active at all scales, all with the intention of bringing farmers closer to a common goal of food systems security and sustainability. Farmer Field Schools (FFS) have come a long way globally since their inception in 1995, but the stories of how individual farmers and their families have transformed their lives remain at the core of the initiative’s impact.
As a partner of the Resilient Food Systems (RFS) programme, FAO has been implementing the FFS methodology in the Burundi and Uganda country projects, providing technical support, resources, capacity building, inputs and more to strengthen value chains and support sustainable land management.
In Gitega Province of Burundi, Ntahondereye Silas recounts how his life and that of his family changed upon the introduction of FFS to his community. Members of the Giheta Commune on Rweru Hill, Mr Silas quickly signed for the Dukingire Isi Yacu FFS alongside his peers after years of frustration at the low yields he sowed on his family’s 1 hectare of land.
The local FFS facilitator adopted the principle “as soon as said, as soon as done,” and Mr Silas takes this to heart, earnestly putting into practice the skills and tools he learned.
The results couldn’t have been more exciting for him.
In 2019, Mr Silas
sowed 50 kilogrammes (kg) of maize seeds provided by FAO and harvested 1650 kg.
This was a stark contrast to previous seasons where he struggled to reap as
much as he sowed! From this harvest, he sold 1470 kg at 410 Burundian Francs
(FBu) (approx. 0.2 USD) per kg and invested in a cow and agricultural equipment
to strengthen his harvest even more.
For the 2020 cropping season, FAO provided 100 kg of bean seeds and technical training through the FFS. From this, he harvested 1800 kg which he sold at 1000 FBu (approx. 0.5 USD) per kg. “[This was] a sum that I had never pocketed in my life,” said Mr Silas. “From this money from the sale of beans, I bought a plot of land with an area of 1.5 ha at 550,000 FBu and with the remaining sum, I bought a solar panel to light my house.”
Ever growing, Mr Silas put everything he learned into his third season since participating in his local FFS activities and used his earnings to purchase a motorcycle and an additional 1.2 hectares of land to cultivate. He now provides motorcycle transportation services in the afternoons when he is finished his work on the farm and brings in a total income of 450 000 FBu (approx. 216 USD) per month. More than he could have imagined. “I easily manage to provide for family needs (health care, clothing needs, schooling of children, etc.),” he said.
It’s easy to see how the decision to give the FFS activities a try can truly transform lives and scale the benefits to individuals as the years go on. Ntahondereye Silas is just one of the countless smallholder farmers whose lives have been changed by FFS. As of June 2022, there are 106 FFS across Burundi and their benefits extend to the farmers, their communities and beyond.
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