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The Hunger Project Uganda and researchers from Makerere University have published a new study that shows the efficacy of Farmer Field Schools in empowering farmers to adapt to climate change.

The researchers studied farmers in the Kiboga District of Uganda, an area characterized by unreliable rainfall. The study found that Farmer Field Schools were an effective tool to spread knowledge that supported farmers in adapting to changing weather patterns. The research compared a randomly selected group of farmers who participated in the Farmer Field Schools program to a group of farmers who did not. Both groups were selected from the same district.

In recent years, changing climate patterns have resulted in the movement of warm, dry air toward the drylands of Uganda, where the Kiboga District is located. This area is also suffering from the effects of deforestation. As a result, the Kiboga District and surrounding drylands have experienced both catastrophic droughts and erratic rainfall that causes flooding and damages infrastructure. The farmers interviewed for this study identified drought as the main manifestation of climate change in their region.

Farmer Field Schools were first set up at the end of 2013 to combat the effects of drought and to support farmers with new agricultural technologies that increase resilience to climate change. Initially funded by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, the project grew to include additional schools across the country over the following 18 months.

By the end of the project, The Hunger Project-Uganda had worked with community partners to establish a total of 52 schools, supporting 1,196 farmers. The most common techniques implemented by the schools included comparative studies, commercial enterprises and member training. They also distributed agricultural inputs, assessed performance and integrated village savings.

Through comparative studies, farmers were able to solve local problems by designing and testing simple experiments. For example, farmers set up study plots where they tested various farming techniques to support them in choosing the best solution. The Farmer Field Schools also trained farmers in a variety of agricultural techniques and adaptive technologies. Often, training took place on field days, during which farmers visited each other’s fields to learn new skills and techniques.

The study concluded that, when compared to farmers who did not attend the schools, Farmer Field Schools farmers were more knowledgeable about farming techniques to adapt to climate change. Participating farmers implemented a variety of agricultural methods, such as kitchen gardens, effective irrigation, agroforestry and drought-tolerant pastures for their livestock.

As the study shows, when farmers have the opportunity to learn and develop new skills, exchanging best practices with each other, they can be empowered to sustain their livelihoods, even in the face of a changing climate.