Smallholder farmers taking the lead: Farmer Field Schools in Tajikistan

Public Organization "Rushnoi"
Published: 12 July 2020
Last edited: 02 October 2020
remove_red_eye 990 Views


Assisting farmers to implement land conserving approaches and to foster biodiversity through Farmer Field Schools (FFS) is an initial and important step to tackle challenges in Tajikistan’s agriculture. During FFS farmers are taking the lead during an adult educational approach where everyone meets at eye level. The knowledge and experience of the farmers is a driving factor during the workshops.


The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (WHH) as implementing partner held 37 FFS in two districts in Tajikistan.


The focus of the FFS was not on a specific crop, but on diversification of crops and cultivation methods. The technical approaches came from an assessment that was done prior to the FFS and the participating farmers itself. The emphasis was on local needs and included good practices in pasture management, orchard management and diversified irrigation methods. In addition, approaches to reduce soil erosion were implemented.


North and Central Asia
Scale of implementation
Rangeland / Pasture
Access and benefit sharing
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Disaster risk reduction
Erosion prevention
Forest Management
Geodiversity and Geoconservation
Local actors
Erratic rainfall
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Ecosystem loss
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of food security
Sustainable development goals
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 13: Safeguarding genetic diversity
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge




The agricultural sector is one of the most important sectors in Tajikistan, accounting for more than 30% of the GDP and employing 70% of the people. Besides plant cultivation, livestock breeding plays an important role for the farmer's income. Irrigation cultivation is only used in a few overused hotspot areas. Monoculture, overgrazing and overuse with high application of pesticides and fertilizers put a stress on ecosystems. With 9.771 plant species Tajikistan is a globally important biodiversity hotspot that is worth being protected.


Furthermore, climate change will have far-reaching effects. With extreme weather events more likely to occur, Tajikistan’s fragile, mountainous ecosystems are under threat. Soil erosion and land degradation pose a risk to food security and economic income of farmers.


The main beneficiaries are farmers and their families in Ayni and Rasht District in Tajikistan as well as the communities they live in.


In addition, trainers and cooperating NGOs increased their capacities through training that was given.

How do the building blocks interact?

FFS were first implemented in 1989 in Indonesia by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and partners. It was designed to give an answer to the then dominating top down approaches. Since then, the concept has played an important role in various implementations.


During FFS a group of 20-25 people meets once a week/month at training fields. Through the guidance of a facilitator the skills and knowledge of the farmers are improved. New practices are tested and validated, and an informed decision making is fostered. Best practice examples are presented, but the decision for the best solution is left to the farmers. FFS guide through at least one cultivation process to give participants the possibility to implement new methods successfully.


There is numerous material on how to best develop and implement FFS in general. The building blocks will present the most important aspects that were identified during the FFS that were held in Tajikistan by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and Deutsche Welthungerhilfe e.V. as implementing partner.


During the FFS more than 700 farmers (57% female) were reached in 6 thematic and 2 evaluation sessions. Workshops were spread over a growing season to provide support from sowing to harvesting and the subsequent preparation for the next season.


Impacts on farmers' living

  • Diversified household diet
  • Less risk of total failure of harvest
  • Increased food security
  • Increased capacity (e.g. preparatory techniques) and problem solving skills
  • Increased self-reliance

Impacts on biodiversity

  • Behavioral change of farmers towards natural resources
  • Newly created habitats (living fences, planting trees as shelterbelts)
  • Increased crop variety and reintroduction of traditional, local crops
  • Production and application of organic fertilizer
  • Usage of intercropping
  • Farmers conserving and sharing local seeds in seedbanks

Climate change resilience

  • Designing contour lines properly and contour ploughing
  • No/low tillage techniques
  • Water management (improved furrow irrigation and water harvesting)
  • Reseeding of rain-fed pasture land

Social Impacts

  • Strengthened local collaboration and community building
  • Strengthened local knowledge
  • Exchange of information between farmers living in different regions


Deutsche Welthungerhilfe

We would love to present a story here. Due to COVID-19 it is unfortunately not possible to conduct field visits. If longer meetings are possible before the end of the project we will publish a story here later. In the meantime you are welcome to look at other stories and solutions from the project:



Contributed by

Thure de Frenne Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH