Conducting field demonstrations

What is a field demonstration?

A field demonstration is usually established by researchers and/or extension workers— preferably in collaboration with farmers—to validate and demonstrate new technologies.

Why a field demonstration?

The first part of helping farmers is to make them aware of new possibilities. Field demonstrations are an effective way to raise farmer awareness about new options. In turn, farmers may then seek more information about a technology if they wish to try it.

Establishing and conducting a field demonstration

Establishing needs and opportunities:

The first step is to make sure that the farmers' needs are being addressed. Thus a “Needs and Opportunity Assessment” is undertaken to identify problems, their root causes and thus to identify farmer acceptable options for overcoming the problems. Often new practices may need to be validated under local conditions and thus are demonstrated to farmers in researcher-led field demonstrations to raise farmer awareness about “new” technologies. Based on the demonstrations and subsequent interaction with farmers, some farmers may then choose to learn more about the technology in order to trial it.

Establishing the field demonstration:

Characteristics of good field demonstrations sites include:

  • Fields should have good easy access
  • Fields should be visible from the road and have a sign indicating what is being done and who can be contacted for further information;
  • Fields should be established to clearly demonstrate the differences between the new practice and existing farmer practice. Having the demonstration in a corner or alongside another field works well for comparison purposes.
  • Plots should be large enough to be believable e.g., minimum 10 m x 10 m.
  • Fields should represent fields in the area.
  • Implemented with willing collaborators: collaborator should always contribute something to establishing the site (to demonstrate commitment to the activity).
  • Have a sign posted showing:
    • What’s being tested
    • Who to contact
  • Discuss with the participating farmers for their reactions before being implemented.
  • Fields should be visited during the season by researchers and or the extension workers to note developments and problems that may be arising – either through an incorrect application of the technology or due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • Reactions of the collaborating farmers should be regularly requested.
  • It may be necessary to guarantee that any shortfall in yield will be covered by the project, but farmers should not be paid to participate. During the field day and wherever possible, farmers should present at least some of the results from their fields to other farmers.

Conducting the field demonstration:

  • The researcher and/or extension workers should visit the sites the day before the field demonstration day.It may be necessary to provide some refreshments.
  • Plan whether farmers will move to different sites and if so, how?
  • Keep explanations of technologies and demonstrations as simple as possible.
  • Allow the collaborating farmer to make observations and comments.
  • Be prepared to accept criticism of the technology – do not stifle this, as the farmers need to see you are genuinely interested in their perspectives. Use such feedback to improve – "what’s the problem"—the technology or is it their understanding of the technology? Etc.
  • Use field days to informally (and in a non-threatening manner) collect feedback on technology and farmers' needs—what do they like? What are their farming needs? Would they use the technology—if not, why? Etc.
  • Be prepared to accept questions outside the area of technology being tested.
  • Move general discussion to areas where all participants can see and hear. If possible hold discussions under shaded areas of the field.
  • If necessary provide a portable loudspeaker system or megaphone.