Philosophy and principles
MAFF is an advisory approach based on learning and decision-making processes. MAFF principles are derived from the management sciences. The main objective is to strengthen farmers’ capacities to manage all the resources of their farms (land, labour, inputs, money, crops, and livestock) and other activities (off-farm and non-farm).
Participatory methods are used to enable participants to conduct self-analysis of their practices concerning various farm dimensions (production, processing, marketing, etc.) by considering the different phases of the management cycle (analysis, planning, monitoring, adjustment, and evaluation) and their economic and social environment. MAFF is based on the use of decision-support tools that enable farmers to analyse their technical and economic results; in most cases based on record keeping.
As a result, producers gain a new understanding of their farming systems. They become able to autonomously improve their lives, through the development of new projects or improvement of their agricultural, managerial, or social practices. Based on these principles, MAFF can be adapted to various agro-ecological, institutional, and organisational settings. MAFF is complementary to other advisory approaches (specialised advice or advice supporting collective actions).
MAFF in action
To implement MAFF, tools and methods have to be designed according to the local context, governance mechanisms, and financial and human resources available: thus, there is not one standard model. Two different examples are presented in Boxes 1 and 2.
Box 1: Mainstreaming MAFF in Benin
Benin started implementing MAFF in 1995 through pilot projects. Now it is integrated into the national agricultural advisory policy.
MAFF is implemented through the following phases, facilitated by advisors:
- Farm-diagnosis to identify farmers’ needs.
- Organisation of group training on agricultural practices based on identified priority needs (fertilisation of maize, cotton pest control, etc.).
- Management training (crop-season planning, grain stores management, cash flow planning, revenue–expenditure accounts, etc.). Farmers are taught to use specific tools (records and analysis) for each topic and advised on how to incorporate performance criteria (gross margin, cost/income ratio, etc.) to assess their results and make decisions.
- Individual on-farm advisory visits.
- Analysis of the technical and economic results, both at plot level and farm level, with groups of farmers. Some advisors use computers to perform additional processing on the data. These more accurate results are then presented and discussed with each farmer.
- Self-planning of the next cropping season based on the past results and the objectives farmers want to reach.
Collective activities and exchanges are encouraged: group meetings to discuss results, field visits, trials in farmers’ plots. The tools used to support farmers have gone through several adaptations and are contextualised in each region. A key improvement in recent years has been the design of management tools for illiterate farmers.
The MAFF service is provided by a dozen NGOs, farmers’ organisations, and by the Ministry of Agriculture, which has recruited more than 250 advisors. One advisor works with 7 to 9 groups, each group gathering 10 to 30 farmers. A farmer-facilitator is trained in each group to undertake some of the advisory tasks. Almost 20 000 farmers are now taking part in MAFF activities in Bénin.
Box 2: Recent Development of MAFF in Myanmar
Gret (a French NGO) has been implementing MAFF in Myanmar since 2011. Due to the lack of farmers’ organisations in Myanmar, Gret is implementing the MAFF approach with its own staff in collaboration with a local NGO. MAFF (called Malasaka in Myanmar language) is now delivered in three regions of the country, with tools inspired by West African experiences but adapted to the national and local contexts. MAFF is developed in a participatory way, involving farmers in the design of the tools and the provision of services. The main challenge has been to train advisors who could understand and implement the principles and tools of MAFF. The approach started through individual advice. The process is gradually strengthening closer interactions between advisors and farmers and a greater diversity of advisory tools are being designed. In 2014, besides offering individual advice, a collective touch was introduced through group meetings and the promotion of MAFF farmer-facilitators. MAFF in Myanmar is now directly reaching 580 families in more than 111 villages and 74 MAFF farmer-facilitators are operating.