Farmers are the primary actor of food security. Their work is essential to ensure the stable production of food that prevents the world from hunger and malnutrition. Alas, it is quite often we find the farmers are in vulnerable condition due to ecosystem degradation, unfair commodity trade, and low capacity development. To make the farmers more resilient and independent, empowerment programs are considered as one of the solutions to improve their capabilities.
To put simply, empowered means having the capacity to make effective choices that result in desired outcomes. By being empowered, someone can expand their assets and capabilities to participate, negotiate, influence, control, and hold accountable institutions that affect their lives. Essentially, empowerment is a process and an outcome of participation.
The above concept is the framework that becomes basic principles of many capacity development programs. In line with this notion, Coastal Field School (CFS) has been deployed to equip the fish-farmers groups with skills and knowledge to enhance their livelihood. Our collaborator, Blue Forests, have been implementing this approach in a number of sites including in Sulawesi and Central Java.
The fish-farmers were gathered to enable group discussion, situation analysis, presentation, and collective action in building sustainable practice. CFS facilitates the fish-farmers to identify the problem they face and how to address them. The program duration typically lasts for one farming cycle or a year with a total number of meetings that might range from at least 12 up to 16 meetings. CFS consists of ten program principles which include:
- Field as a learning practice,
- Facilitation instead of teaching,
- Learning by doing,
- Farmers as experts,
- Comparative experiments,
- Integrated curriculum,
- Team building,
- Agro-ecosystem analysis,
- Special topics,
- Participatory monitoring and evaluation.
These aspects are a form of comprehensive approach to implement a farmer empowerment program with the main aspiration to have tangible impact in empowering the targets.