Integrated farm plan

The power of a plan: The PIP approach

Facilitation process to stimulate farmers to become more resilient

A quick overview for facilitators, extension agents or other people working with farmers

What is the PIP approach?

PIP stands for ‘Integrated Farm Plan’ (Plan Intégré du Paysan in French acronyms). It is an approach that stimulates ownership and motivation within farmers. By creating awareness around social and ecological problems and facilitating the process how to make a farm plan within the household, farmers start to realize their own envisioned future, demand for the knowledge that they need and build their own resilient farming system.

Instead of thinking for farmers, the approach works with facilitators and extension agents on thinking with farmers, stimulating them to find their own solutions and personal goals.

Fig. 1. The 3 PIP founding principles lead to resilient farming systems

There are three overarching principles that the PIP tries to stimulate (Fig.1), within farmers, amongst stakeholders, but also amongst you, people working with farmers towards sustainable local development. These principles can therefore also be seen as the foundation of the PIP approach and are focused on constantly stimulating empowerment, integration and collaboration within farmers’ households and beyond.

What problems does it address?

Coping with soil erosion and decreasing agricultural production are a major challenge for smallholder farmers whom are depending on land for their livelihood. The cost associated to investments in conservation practices, however, often remains a limitation for farmers. Programmes to stimulate sustainable land management such as trenches on the contour-lines and tree planting, are therefore mainly undertaken through incentive-based projects, using cash- or food-for-work strategies. However, these projects have not been able to reverse the trend of land degradation, with farmers not being empowered and motivated to manage their land more sustainably in the long run. The PIP approach is addressing exactly this problem, by creating ownership and motivation within farmers.

Why does PIP work?

By means of visioning together, planning for the future and integrating all activities leading to a more sustainable farm, the PIP approach allows other innovations to find firm ground and generates farmers willing to innovate, to enable them to reach their own vision and goal. This goal, which is written down in the Integrated Farm Plan, creates a change in mind-set and motivation to invest in the future, which is a core outcome of the PIP approach, and builds the foundation for empowerment, integration and collaboration towards more sustainable farming (Figure 1).

Challenges addressed with PIP approach

Often agriculture related innovations are developed, while adoption of these innovations by farmers stays low, for many different reasons. Creating more social and environmental awareness amongst farmers, and getting them skilled in finding their own solutions, creates a demand for knowledge and practical skills, that creates a different motivation to adopt innovations.  Since the context a farmer is living in, is different from those of everyone around him/her, this would almost demand for a tailor made solution, which is only possible when the farmer knows how to create this solution for him/herself. The PIP therefore empowers farmers  to think and decide for themselves what is best for them, because they also know what kind of solutions fits best to their own reality.

Stages / Phases in the PIP approach

The PIP is applicable in farming communities, and beyond. When people start becoming aware of their situation and how they want to change it, the momentum is created where much is possible. After starting with an initial small and motivated group (the ‘PIs’), chosen by the community itself, this small group starts training others in their proximity, until everyone (who wants to be part of the process) is reached (Figure 2).

Fig. 2. PIP phases towards scaling-up

The PIP has been implemented within InnovAfrica in Ethiopia, South Africa and Rwanda. In all the three countries farmers are practicing improved land and crop management practices as a result of PIP interventions (like terraces and trenches) and gained more awareness around the need for good land management. The intervention has led to change in crop and livestock diversity which resulted in increased yields, a more diverse diet, and increased income. This change in sustainable land management practices and especially awareness around these practices is a result that is at the basis of the PIP approach. This change in knowledge can be seen with the 1st generation of farmers and everyone they trained in later generations (2nd, 3rd and 4th) in Burundi, where the PIP started in 2014 (Figure 3).

Fig. 3. Change in knowledge over the past years for the 1st generation of farmers, the 2nd generation (trained by the 1st generation) and the 3rd and 4th generation, concerning different crop and soil management practices, compared to farmers who were not involved with the PIP (non-PIP) from a study done in Burundi in 2017 (0 = practice unknown; 1 = same knowledge; 2 = more knowledge; 3 = much more knowledge)

Key success factors of PIP approach

Through implementation of PIP within InnovAfrica we were able to define a couple of key success factors to make the PIP work in different contexts:

  1. Change starts within the team implementing the approach.
    The team implementing the approach guide the farmers into their own envisioned change. Therefore, it is crucial that they also understand well why and how to do this and guide the process well.

  1. Implementing the PIP well, demands for intensive coaching.
    When starting with the approach, awareness creation and the facilitation of the process demands for presence. Relationships and trust need to be build, and the change that the PIP envisions can only be achieved by coaching, not teaching.

  1. Creating a change in mind set takes time, patience and collaboration
    Change has never come easy, and facilitating this change takes time. A change in mind set takes multiple moments of having new realizations, insights and patience with people. More is achieved within households and/or with community members when they are collaborating, and this often is a positive stimulus for a change in mind-set.

  1. Empowerment is stimulated when no incentives are given
    People become more motivated and active if they do things for themselves, not if other people tell them what to do, or when they are given incentives to do it. Once incentives are given, this suppresses the development of empowerment.

 Want to learn more about the PIP approach or you want to start implementing it? Reach out to us!

More information can be found here:

About the PIP approach: WUR website PIP
Projects implementing, or who have been implementing the approach:
PAPAB, InnovAfrica, W4V’s, MWARES

PAPAB project - PIP-Mboniyongana approach