Strengthening climate resilience through Farmer Field School practices in Oromia, Ethiopia

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In rural Ethiopia, small-scale farmers have suffered from recurrent extreme climate events, such as droughts, that have caused crop failures and the death of livestock. The Farmer Field School (FFS) approach is an agricultural extension approach considered to support climate-resilient farming and livelihoods.

Focusing on an FFS project implemented by the Oromia Bureau of Agriculture and Natural Resource in collaboration with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), this paper aims to observe the effectiveness of the FFS approach in strengthening the climate resilience of rural communities and to explore factors that further improve and enhance community resilience.

The analysis shows that the FFS project in Oromia contributed to strengthening the climate resilience of rural households in two ways: (i) income source diversification, nutritional diversification, and reduction of soil erosion were achieved, and (ii) the personal attitudes and behaviors of farmers were transformed; this was particularly observed where farmers started new processes to solve farming problems, developed new enterprises for income generation, and supported neighboring farmers to develop skills after the project ended.

Although the resilience of participating rural households against climate disturbances was strengthened, it is not clear whether their capacity to cope with and recover from prolonged climate disturbances was sufficiently improved. This can be addressed by integrating climate information and simulation practices into FFS curriculums. By contemplating the potential severity of climate disturbances, particularly recurring droughts, farmers and concerned stakeholders can develop and share images of what could happen and how they should prepare for it. Additionally, FFS should address the capacity of rural communities to expand networks with external stakeholders and initiate collective action to address common issues by themselves. Taking collective action is particularly important for ensuring that natural resources and ecosystems are cared for, which in turn, strengthens the climate resilience of socio-ecological systems at the community level.