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SEARICE empowers farmers, encourages them to become critical of their own strengths and weaknesses, and enables them to make decisions in a manner that protects and conserves natural resources. SEARICE helps build farmers’ research capacities for them to be recognized and respected as co-equals of scientists, plant breeders, and extension agents in the quest for agricultural biodiversity.

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The Farmers Field School (FFS) is the core approach in enhancing farmers’ empowerment. Adopted from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) system for integrated pest management (IPM) training, the FFS is a season-long process of activities where farmer-participants are provided with breeding materials and hands-on learning in participatory plant breeding (PPB) and participatory varietal selection (PVS).

PPB enhances farmers’ skills and techniques in the proper conservation, development, and use of plant genetic resources though many farmers are eager to develop new crop varieties from their own crosses, pre-breeding materials are sometimes prepared by formal research institutions based on farmers’ breeding objectives. Farmers themselves select advanced generations and segregating materials and cultivate them in their own fields for testing of adaptability to local soil and climatic conditions. As a result, farmers are able to select and adopt varieties that match their own preferred characteristics.

After completing the FFS curriculum and having produced their own varieties, farmers present these in biodiversity fairs and farmers’ field days (FFD). These events present opportunities for interactions and exchange of ideas with other community members, technical experts, government officials, and representatives of civil society organizations, and academic institutions. It also facilitates exchange of ideas and experiences among farmers and experts through national and international cross visits.

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