FFS Burkina Faso Sept ’16


Agroecology Innovations in Smallholder Farming Systems

(French version) french-icon 

Kaya, Burkina Faso, 26-30 September 2016

This FAO-funded course aims to provide the knowledge, skills, tools and competences to identify, document and systematise agroecological processes (structures and functions) in smallholder farming landscapes and use this knowledge for the design of more sustainable farming practices and systems through a co-innovation process that involves the rural community, within the context of FAO’s Farmer Field Schools (FFS).

Specific objectives

  1. Characterise the diversity in structure and function of low external input agroecosystems in the local context.
  2. Analyse the biophysical dynamics and interactions between components of mixed family farming systems in local farms.
  3. Quantify the integration between internal and external systems components in terms of cash, labour, nutrient and energy flows of agroecological innovations identified in farming systems.
  4. Evaluate the sustainability of current and alternative farming systems through critical assessment of trade-offs and synergies in the present and in future scenarios.
  5. Highlighting and enhancing links and synergies between agroecology and FFS and providing input for a further development
  6. Define guidelines for policymakers that contribute to sustainable intensification of local agricultural systems
  7. Document and assess the learning process during the course to draw lessons and guidance for the implementation of similar training courses in other contexts 


  • Participatory classroom learning
  • Field excursions
  • Integrated assessment of natural resource allocation at farm level of case study locations
  • Quantitative agroecosystems analysis at farm, village and landscape level
  • Feedback to farming families through a participatory workshop
  • Develop a policy brief for policy-makers based on the principles of agroecology and the diagnosis made in the field 


  • Results of the assessment will be presented to farming families and neighbours and to local researchers through a final workshop
  • Collective report on the current state and trends of agroecology in Burkina Faso
  • Advice for FAO on the opportunity and modality to enhance links between Agroecology and FFS approaches
  • Collective manuscript on specified research objectives to be developed into a policy brief and international publication
  • Report documenting the learning process and the major lessons for other similar training initiatives

Format and contents

We will develop the whole course within one week, combining lectures with field excursions in a case study region in Burkina Faso that presents a diversity of farming systems. We count on existing data on natural resources and socio-economic structure from the farming systems that will be analysed, which will allow for advanced analysis and learning. The course will be structured in four phases or units as follows:

Unit Themes Format
(I) Characterisation of agroecological systems Properties, analysis and design of sustainable agroecosystems

Socio-political dimension of agro-ecology: Agriculture, biodiversity and Campesino a Campesino movement in the African context

Resilience, adaptation and mitigation


Farmer interviews Group work

Field data collection

(II) Analysis of dynamics and interactions Biodiversity, landscape structure and ecological services Decision-making and management of communal resources Lectures

Group work

Field data collection

(III) Trade-offs quantification Exploration of observed agroecological innovations

Trade-offs analysis


Farmer interviews

Group work

(IV) Synthesis of agroecological innovations and reporting Reporting back to farming families

Recommendations on agroecosystem redesign and possible management innovations

Draft manuscript based on research question and objectives

Group work


Introductory lectures and practical field-visits will be distributed during the week as planned with local partners. During the lecturing time, participants will be exposed to concepts and knowledge pertaining to four dimensions of agroecology:

  1. Biota, diversity and landscape integration
  2. Farmers (families), communities and livelihoods
  3. Crops and livestock systems
  4. Energy, water and nutrients cycling
  5. Climate regulation, adaptation and resilience

The field practicals will consist of on-site analysis of social and ecological dimensions of agroecosystems, scenario analysis around observed innovations using data and information collected in the field, and reporting to the farming families. Each group of (3 to 6) students and one mentor will visit a different case study. All groups (5 max) will convene at least three times during the field practical to share their progress and results.

During the last phase, groups will round up and write the draft manuscript and present the results to the farming families involved in the study and local scientific community.


Course program

Time Activity Venue Description
8.30 – 12.30 Lectures Classroom ·       Introduction to course and participatnts

·       Principles of Agroecology and of Systems Analysis and Design

·       Examples from around the world, with emphasis on crop-livestock-tree systems, semiarid environments, resilience & climate change adaptation, community-wide initiatives, biodiversity, landscape and ecosystem services

·       Introduction to landscape reading and assessment of livelihood trajectories

·       Participatory research and Farmer led research

14.00 – 18.00 Practical Classroom ·       Work in groups: exercises on systems analysis based on Yilou village case study

·       Presentation and discussion of results

·       Preparation of protocols for next day’s field work


7.00 – 16.30 Field visit Yilou ·       Characterisation of local farming and livelihood systems at Yilou at field, farm and landscape level

·       Resource mapping – soils – biodiversity

·       Interaction with local community

·       Diagnosis of current problems and identification of research and development needs

·       On-farm experiments on biomass transfers

7.00 – 12.00 Lectures Classroom ·       Flows of water, carbon and nutrients at different scales

·       Crop and crop-livestock associations, organic matter and soil microorganisms

·       Biotic interactions in agroecosystems

·       Tradeoffs analysis and indicator based assessments

14.00 – 16.30 Practical Classroom ·       Processing field data and reporting on farming and livelihood systems analysis

·       Exercises on soil fertility, soil water and crop-livestock interactions

·       Exercises on integrated and tradeoffs analysis using indicators

8.30 – 18.30 Field visits various ·       Examples of agroecology transitions at Loumba

·       Long-term experiment on soil restoration using native shrubs (Kamboinsé)

·       Community urban gardens in Ouagadougou

7.00 – 12.00 Practical Classroom ·       Preparation of diagnosis and policy briefs per group
15.00 – 18.00 Final presentations Venue to be identified ·       Open seminar to the development and policy-making communities, students and members of the academia

·       Groups to present their diagnosis and policy briefs, with participation of steering committee members as jury

·       Discuss with the Yilou community the findings of the week’s analysis, possible ways forward and needs

Download program: ffs-agroecology-course-program_26sept2016_tittonell

Download full course description: ffs-agroecology-course-burkina-faso_sept-2016


Pablo Tittonell, Georges Félix, Yodit Kebede

Read more about them

Lectures and material


Introductory lecture

Case studies


Information about Yilou village

Reading material