Pastoralist Field Schools: guidelines for facilitation

A Pastoralist Field School (PFS) can be described as a ‘school without walls’, where groups of pastoralists learn through observation and experimentation in their own context, based on methods of adult education. This allows them to improve their management skills and become knowledge experts on their own resource use practices. The approach empowers pastoralists using experiential and participatory learning techniques rather than advising them what to do. The purpose of the PFS is thereby to improve the decision-making capacity of participants and their wider communities and to stimulate local innovation.

Typical pastoralist field schoolA PFS usually comprises a group of between 30 and 40 pastoralists (including elders, men, women and youths) who meet regularly over a defined period of time to make observations that relate livestock production to the rangeland ecosystem. A trained PFS facilitator, usually from or living in the local community, guides the learning process. Usually the PFS cycle starts before the onset of the dry season, continues through the migration during the dry season and carries on after the dry season ends, enabling participants to observe and asses their coping strategies at each stage of the cycle. In this environment, the PFS learning cycle typically takes about one-and-a-half to two years, and ends with the graduation of the group members.

Pastoralist Field Schools are an adaptation of the ‘Farmer Field Schools‘ (FFS) methodology, first developed by FAO in 1989. In 2006 the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Belgium (VSF-B) embarked on piloting the adaptation of the Farmer Field Schools approach to the pastoralist situation in Turkana, Kenya. With support from ECHO, this has been scaled up and has attracted much interest.

FAO and VSF have published a facilitation guide to provide a set of tools and ideas for exercises that trained PFS facilitators can use to lead PFS groups.

Posted on 14 January 2011 in Pastoralism & Services