The Farmer Field and Business School, or the FFBS, is one of the fundamental change-making methods in Pathways. Currently, there are over 50 different tools that make up the Farmer Field and Business School toolkit in topic areas including agriculture, gender, marketing, monitoring and evaluation, community mobilization, and nutrition.
In order for the Pathways country offices to learn how and when to use the tools, as well as to identify which tools are most applicable to local issues or concerns, the Pathways Core Team conducts periodic trainings in Pathways sites with a subset of the tools. This past February, two Core Team members conducted a 4-day training in Segou, Mali, to train on integrated Monitoring and Evaluation and Gender. During this training, the Core Team members introduced 12 different FFBS tools to 25 CARE Mali Pathways staff and community junior experts (below).
A closer look into what a training day looks like is below:
Activity 1 8:00 – 10:30 am) The participants were asked to use the “Agricultural Case Study” tool to practice group facilitation skills. In particular, the case study focused on women’s access to land. The activity showed that the issues raised in the case study were pertinent as there was a long and heated side discussion about women’s access to land. Additionally, the Core Team learned that the facilitators read the questions word-for-word from the page, recorded each observation, and then moved on to the next question without further probing; this indicated that facilitation training in particular would be necessary for this group.
Activity 2 11:00 am – 12:30 pm) In an effort to combine the Participatory Performance Tracker (PPT) and gender transformative behavior, the core team developed a process for monitoring personal behavior changes. The participants were divided up into two groups of men and women in order to list the “actions and practices of role models for social transformation.”
The women called these “the characteristics of dynamic women” and initially listed general practices including “take decisions together,” “be confident,” or “share household tasks.” The core team then asked them to rewrite these ideas into specific language with clear action-item steps and actors. The women found it very challenging to translate perceived injustices into changes or good practices. The men seemed to find it easier to identify practical changes, but there were observations that some of the powers that men were willing to “delegate” were not significant transformative changes.
Men and women shared many of the same resolutions; the group talked about including some behaviors that are easy to encourage, and others that would take slower change. In the evening, the group re-wrote the findings into some “best practices” for men and women to develop the team’s Personal PPT. All of the participants were excited about being more conscious of their personal gender transformative actions, and even the translator stated that he was leaving the training an “engaged man” and would try to apply these practices in his own home.
Activity 3, 1:30 – 2:30 pm) The group used the FFBS tool called “Learning to Listen” – a tool in which the storyteller is first listened to actively by a partner, then ignored while he or she is telling the story. This facilitated discussions that highlighted: body language, active listening, and feelings of discouragement when listeners stopped paying attention. Facilitators learned the importance of creating environments for active listening, asking questions and demonstrating respect. Overall, the participants learned that good communication is the foundation of “shared power” and joint decision-making. However, they also learned that active listening takes practice and strengthening, and should be included in the personal PPT.
Activity 4, 2:30 – 3:30 pm) The CARE Mali Pathways M&E Expert introduced the full PPT tool, which was pilot tested in December. The tool lists 37 practices and includes an individual photo of women group members who are demonstrating the practice. One staff member linked the PPT experience, and the “Learning to Listen” exercise by highlighting how the pilot test was inclusive of the voices of both older and younger women. This is meaningful because while younger or illiterate women often do not speak up, the PPT motivated them to open up in a safe environment. There was great support and enthusiasm for the tool from the whole team.
Activity 5, 4:00 – 5:00 pm) As the last activity for the day, one of the Core Team staff presented about how photography can be used as a monitoring tool, as it is used in the Annual Report.
Overall, this training was carried out to follow-up on FFBS progress, build understanding of gender issues in Mali, introduce and finalize PPT and gender dialogue monitoring tools, and develop M&E and gender work plans for the upcoming months. This training was full of learning for both the Mali country team and the Core Team, and further highlights the successes and areas for improvement in this learning program.