Farmer Business Schools create livelihood opportunities in Asia and beyond
Farmer Business Schools (FBSs), developed by the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), have been implemented across Southeast and South Asia, starting in Indonesia, and expanding to Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Latin America.
Developed in the late 2000s by RTB’s lead center, the International Potato Center (CIP), FBSs build on the Participatory Market Chain Approach (PMCA) and on Farmer Field Schools. The FBS approach has been adopted by national development programs, supported by investments from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in four Asian countries: India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
In FBSs, small groups of 25 to 30 farmers, usually women, learn about each other and how to work as a team. They visit markets, learn about opportunities for new products, and other useful innovations. They meet traders, extensionists, suppliers, and support service providers. The group writes a business plan and develops innovative products or marketing techniques, which they launch at publicized events for potential customers and supporters.
The FBS approach has become integral to farmer capacity development initiatives across Asia. After the success of FBSs in Indonesia, IFAD invested in CIP’s FoodSTART project to promote FBSs elsewhere in Asia to strengthen farmers’ entrepreneurial capacity as the farmers seek to participate in dynamic agricultural value chains. In the first phase of FoodSTART, CIP partnered with the Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management Project in the Philippines.
The FBS approach has become integral to farmer capacity development initiatives across Asia.
Based on lessons learned during the first phase of FoodSTART, climate change and gender perspectives were integrated into the FBS curriculum, and the nutritional value of marketed commodities is being progressively incorporated. As a commodity-neutral approach, the FBS curriculum can be applied to any commodity. For example, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in the Philippines has used FBSs to not only develop sweetpotato and cassava chips, jams, and other root and tuber value-added products, but also bottled mussels, fish crackers, seaweed noodles, dried fish, and much more. The FBS curriculum is also being used by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for a mentoring program for youth.
In addition to the new knowledge we have gained, FBS has brought unity to our group, and this is possibly the most important thing.
In the second phase of FoodSTART (which is called FoodSTART+ and funded by IFAD and the European Union), the FBS approach was incorporated into IFAD-funded projects throughout the region: the Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management project and the Fisheries, Coastal Resources, and Livelihood project in the Philippines; the Meghalaya Livelihoods and Access to Markets project in India; the Sustainable Rural Development for the Poor project in Vietnam; and the Smallholder Livelihood Development project in Maluku and North Maluku in Indonesia. In 2020, an IFAD investment in the Philippines continued to adopt and scale FBS principles by establishing 12 additional FBS (with 230 participants), despite the end of the FoodSTART project.
The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has adapted and replicated the approach in Vietnam with funding from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The replication of an innovative approach across multiple organizations is the result of integrated programs where partners develop synergies.
As of 2020, 3,874 farmers (76% of whom are women) have attended an FBS throughout Southeast and South Asia. These graduates, working in groups, have created over 140 small enterprises. FBS participation has been shown to improve the organization of farmer groups, enhance business skills at the individual and group level, promote gender equity, food security and income opportunities connected to improved production and processing techniques, and contribute to improved linkages to local markets.
As of 2020, 3,874 farmers (76% of whom are women) have attended an FBS throughout Southeast and South Asia. These graduates, often working in groups, have created over 140 small enterprises.
Methodology in Peru and Bolivia has recently been introduced with funding from the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) Foundation. In these countries, a total of 10 FBS have been implemented, directly benefiting 206 farmers.
I believe that knowledge can be gained not only by the youth, but also by the older generation. My confidence to do business was strengthened, even though it’s not an easy job. I am happy with this kind of business. In terms of my finances, I dream that our business will strive, and our community will be united through this venture.