Term starts for 100 more cassava Farmers Field School participants: one million cuttings distributed
21 February 2011
RIU Rwanda has scored a great success with the cassava Farmer Field School pilot in Gatsibo District The Cassava Innovation Platform has now made good its commitment to open up Farmer Field Schools in four new areas of Gatsibo District - Kiziguro, Gasange, Rwimbogo and Ngarama.
Cassava is important in Rwanda both as a cash crop and due to its impact on food security, but it is prone to attack, particularly from mosaic virus
Farmer Field Schools (FFS) were introduced to cassava farmers in Rwanda in November 2009 by RIU in collaboration with ISAR (the Rwanda Agricultural Research Agency) and with support from the Rwanda Development Organisation.
The approach was adopted as part of RIU endeavour to promote community-based production system of clean (i.e. mosaic virus resistant) cassava planting material. The schools focus on building farmers' capacity to make well informed cassava management decisions using a hands-on 'learning by doing' approach.
The initial four sites were in Murambi, Rugarama,Kabarore and Kiramuruzi within Gatsibo District. At three of the sites, farmers' cooperatives were identified to own and be responsible for Farmer Field School activities. At Kiramuruzi there was no farmers' cooperative, so the school was organized by the platform members in collaboration with the Gakoni Secondary School. Each FFS had a core group of 25 farmers.
, RIU Rwanda country coordinator, said:
"Once in three months, the Farmer Field Schools participants made field observations and used their findings, combined with their own knowledge and experience, to judge for themselves what action needs to be taken. Mutual learning was put at the centre of the Farmer Field Schools process and was characterized by free and open communication, confrontation, acceptance, respect and the right to make mistakes. RIU facilitated the process of collecting and analyzing data and finding a consensus: as a result farmers developed a greater confidence in their abilities and knowledge."
Augustin went on to explain that farmers particularly appreciated the agro-ecological system analysis (AESA) process. At each quarterly visit, participants were divided into groups of 5 people. Each group made observations, which they wrote down and later reported back to the whole group. These observations covered:
- plant health: strong, vigorous plants are able to tolerate insect and pest damage
- natural enemies: many natural enemies live within the crop field, others live in wild plants in nearby fields, for example white flies
- diseases, particularly cassava mosaic
- growth stage of the crop
- the weather
"The growth in the farmers became abundantly clear in November  at the Farmer Field Schools graduation when a number of farmers gave testimonies on what they have learned. In particular they highlighted a strong knowledge of the characteristics of the 4 new cassava varieties, preventing plant diseases and how to ensure the full potential of cassava varieties through effective crop husbandry."
Four new mosaic disease-resistant cassava varieties were successfully introduced through the Farmer Field Schools. These were:
- Garukunsubire (MM96/7204)
- Mavoka (MM96/0287)
- Seruruseke (MM96/5280)
- Rwizihiza (MM96/3290)
The farmers involved in the first four Farmer Field Schools have committed to supply, free of charges, all cassava cuttings required for the new sites. RIU has therefore only had to supply the transport to get the planting materials to the sites and to continue facilitating the mutual learning process.
The Cassava Innovation Platform has decided to promote new varieties by supplying one million cuttings to farmers as mini demonstrations.
Abover: Farmer Field School graduates displaying their certificates
Executive Secretary of Rugarama Sector, launching the second phase of Farmer Field School on cassava.
On 12 November 2010, RIU organised a colourful graduation ceremony for 100 farmers who participated in the cassava Farmer Field Schools pilot. The graduation ceremony was attended by hundreds of farmers who gathered in Rugarama Sector. The vice-mayor in charge of economic development in Gatsibo District was guest of honour. The event was broadcasted on national radio and television.