Appraisal of methods to evaluate farmer field schools

The need to increase agricultural sustainability has induced the government of India to promote the adoption of integrated pest management (IPM). An evaluation of cotton-based conventional and IPM farming systems was conducted in India (2002-2004). The farmers managing the IPM farms had participated in discovery-based ecological training, namely Farmer Field Schools (FFS). The evaluation included five impact areas: (1) the ecological footprint and (2) occupational hazard of cotton production; and the effects of IPM adoption on (3) labour allocation; (4) management practices; and (5) livelihoods. The analysis showed that a mix of approaches increased the depth and the relevance of the findings. Participatory and conventional methods were complementary. The study also revealed different impacts on the livelihoods of women and men, and wealthy and poor farmers, and demonstrated that the value of the experience can be captured also in terms of the farmers' own frames of reference. The evaluation process consumed considerable resources, indicating that proper budgetary allocations need to be made. pp 539-550