Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Education

First Advisor

Daniel A. Wagner

Abstract

Farmer field schools (FFSs) in South Asia are designed to promote improved productivity among smallholder farmers. However, there is a dearth of research investigating the impact of non-formal learning on both female and male farmers’ productivity in these schools in the region. With a population of over 162 million and a coastline of 580 km, Bangladesh has an agro-based economy highly susceptible to climate change. For over two decades FFSs, first introduced by the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations and the United Nations Development Program in 1990, have educated Bangladeshi farmers on cost-effective environmentally sustainable practices to combat the adverse effects of climate change. This study evaluates the impact of non-formal education in the Integrated Agricultural Productivity Project (IAPP), a cluster-randomized controlled FFS trial in Rangpur district supported by the government of Bangladesh, FAO and the World Bank, designed to improve food security in northern Bangladesh. The goal of this study is to examine the impact of FFS education on farmers’ livelihood outcomes and to better understand the workings of such an education system. By comparing 15 treatment and 6 control groups comprising 623 individuals in 21 villages (J=21, N=623), using mainly cross-sectional data, this study measures the impact of IAPP education on farmers’ knowledge, use of environment-friendly technologies and productivity. Along with the major outcomes, the study assessed literacy, resource status and schooling background – indicators responsible for farmers’ overall success – utilizing a culture-specific approach to measurement. Multilevel, multivariate analysis and structural equation modeling were employed to examine the relationship between non-formal education in IAPP schools and farmers’ performance at both school and program levels. Results indicate that IAPP education significantly improved performance in all three areas: knowledge, environmentally sustainable technology skills and productivity. Overall, the findings suggest that access to literacy, agricultural resources and information are critical factors for determining farmer success in these schools. The study highlights the importance of learning for adult farmers, especially women, from resource-poor backgrounds for sustainable technology skills and productivity outcomes. This research has direct implications for similar development programs for adult female and male learners in low-literacy and low-resource contexts.

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