African Great Lakes 

Farmer Field School’s “FFS” Field Day and Graduation Ceremony (Conservation Agriculture)

On FFS Groups of Transformation Leadership Center “TLC Gicumbi”

By Theophile UWIRINGIYIMANA, Agronome and Field Staff 

Field Day and Graduation Carnival, on 23rd January 2020, Gicumbi district, Rukomo Sector 

Monica Maher Coordinator for PLA/ FRIENDS PEACE TEAMS, ECUADOR participates in the Ceremony while she was visiting AGLI programs and other peace work in Rwanda.

In Gicumbi district under the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), TLC is running the Food Security through Conservation Agriculture program. In this project, TLC trains farmers from different sectors who are selected according to government and TLC discussions.

Farmers group together in Farmer Field Schools (FFS), where they can work and learn together. The topics covered can vary from conservation agriculture, organic agriculture, animal husbandry, and soil husbandry, to income generating activities such as handicrafts. TLC prefers focusing on Conservation Agriculture techniques because it is the only one way to increase agriculture production and to overcome the hunger that Rwandan households face. It also provides opportunities for hands on learning and teaches basic agricultural and management skills that will allow farmers to become experts on their own plots of land. FFS is a space where farmers and trainers debate observations, experiences and present new information from outside the community, creating an empowering and educational learning atmosphere.

An FFS group conducts various activities during the agriculture season, but the main task is to learn agro-ecosystem analysis (AESA). The AESA is tool used to guide farmers in how to develop skills and knowledge about ecosystems and to make better agriculture decisions. It is broken into three main components: Observation, analysis and decision-making (done through discussions and consensus among farmers).

Working in groups, farmers observe field situations and make notes about the ecosystem (e.g. crops, insects, diseases, weed, water, weather etc.) These observations are then written down to be examined before making crop management decisions. The agro-Ecological System Analysis may include the following information: Location, date, crop age, variety, beneficial and harmful insects, diseases, weeds, plant height, weather and soil conditions, color of leaves, and flower and fruit initiation.

FFS groups started these trains at the beginning of the season in August 2019. They worked on all the lessons mentioned above through the end of the season in January 2020. After completing their trainings, a field day and graduation ceremony was conducted so farmers can show what they have learned and be celebrated.

A field day (or stakeholder workshop) is an occasion organized by FFS farmers and FFS Facilitators with the purpose to showcase all activities and achievements to other farmers in the community who did not participate in the FFS. Field days are also an opportunity for sharing experiences and encouraging other people to participate in the scaling up of the project in the future. TLC schedules field days on a day preferable when the crop has reached the maturity stage. TLC also is sure to invite stakeholders, members of the farming community, policy makers, researchers and community leaders to view the plots and share in the experiences and observations of the FFS participants.

On 23rd January, 2020 five FFS groups were conducting a graduation. The Field Day took a place at Rukomo sector, Munyinya Cell in Munyinya Village and all those five FFS groups were trained under TLC guidance’s through MCC Project know as Food Security through conservation Agriculture. TLC was luck to have David Bucura who is AGLI Coordinator, and Moniica…… from Ecuador visiting AGLI partners. Photo
David Bucura AGLI Coordinator, who is adviser of TLC enjoyed the program and congratulates the farmers graduands. Each year TLC trains 5 famer groups in Conservative Agriculture for food security in Rwanda. In total the number of farmers every year is 150. This program started five years ago with the support from Mennonite Central Committee.

Here are those 5 groups with more details

S/N FFS Group Name Contact person  Gicumbi Districts Members 
Location/Sector  F M Tot.
1 Ejo heza NTANTUNGANE Jean D’Amour Rukomo  16 10 26
2 Abakundumurimo MUKANDIBUTSE Viviana Rukomo  24 3 27
3 Imbere Heza MUGIRANEZA Jean de Dieu Nyamiyaga  24 3 27
4 Dukore SINGIRANKABO Shabban Byumba  18 9 27
5 Dukomezumugambi II MUJAWIMANA Consesa Byumba  28 2 30

Each group started with 30 group members but at the end as the table shows, some members needed to leave the program out for various reasons. The main issue that caused some members to leave was public work that they were assigned to because they were in economic category 1. 

The picture on the left shows group members celebrating their field day graduation ceremony, then on right the picture shows group members showing stakeholders how the Irish potatoes grew using Conservation Agriculture methodology.  

The field day is also for the farmers that already participated in FFS. That day farmers were given time to present their achievements and the benefits that they have got from in participating the FFS Groups during agriculture season A 2020. 

The picture shows group members performing a skit explaining what Conservation Agriculture is, the importance of being a part FFS, reasons why farmers should join groups (being updated on best ag. practices and empowerment). The skit was helpful for the people who have attended that field day to better understand the project. The game was played in the main hall of Rukomo Sector office on 23rd January, 2020.

The graduation joined by more than two hundred people including farmers, local leaders TLC members and MCC members

Among those local leaders we had Vice Mayor of Gicumbi district Mr. NTEZIRYAYO Anastase, PS JADF NYAKUBYARA Devothe, Admin of Rukomo Sector Mr. HATEGEKIMANA Alphonse, Mr. NIYODUSENGA Jean Pierre the agronomist of Rukomo Sector, Mrs. MBABAZI Julienne in charge of Dasso Gicumbi, UWIMANA Beatrice in charge of Dasso at Rukomo sector level, Mr. SEZIBERA Denis Munyinya Executive Secretary, UWINEZA Francine Sedo of Munyinya Cell and the agronomist of Byumba Sector UWAMAHORO Alphonsine.

The guest of honor was the Mayor of Gicumbi district but unfortunately he was unable to join the celebration day due to visits that were made by parliament members in Gicumbi district accurately on 23 January,2020. 

Later, Vice Mayor was deputized to join the field day. He toured the FFS plots during explanations of what have been done by the farmers. Mr. Vice Mayor NTEZIRYAYO Anastase appreciated the farmers and the explanations that they gave. He agreed with the farmers that Conservation Agriculture is the best method of increasing the production by using less inputs. He encouraged the farmers to go to their homes and practice what they have learned in their household plots in order to feed their household and supply their community’s markets.

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