Focus groups can be important for getting a broad overview on agricultural and seed security trends. They are also key for identifying quickly critical constraints (and opportunities) linked to issues such as seed storage, seed quality, new variety access or seed-linked enterprise. Community focus groups (mixed men and women) and separate women’s groups are both important: for building a good analysis of the full agricultural and seed system; and for honing in on special women’s/family issues, including those linked to household food security, nutrition, and women’s income opportunities.
Tips for use
- Focus groups are best conducted at the very beginning of an assessment in a region and community (see fieldwork schedules for insight on timing).
- The community focus group (mixed men and women) and women’s focus groups can be conducted simultaneously (with two strong facilitators) but in separate locales.
- Each focus group should not last more than 2 ½-3 hours.
Guide questions for a community focus group
The community focus group covers a range of issues quickly: crop trends; seed channels options; community’s evaluation of current seed security issues. It also allows the community and local authorities to engage in and shape the SSSA at a formative stage.
Tips for use
- A skilled facilitator is needed to encourage many to speak within this mixed group of 30-50 people.
- To save time and encourage precision, flipchart sheets might be prepared ahead of timing to record information on each topic, with sheets used to capture information in local language and with local symbols
(See attached file community focus group flipchart formats showing a format for the 12 basic flipchart sheets (here prepared in English
(See section on seed mapping for linked exercise with community focus group)
Community focus group flipchart formats
This file shows the actual flipchart formats (N=12) that can be used to record information and stimulate discussion during a Community-based Assessment (Focus Group). They need to be tailored to the local context (use local language and symbols) prior to the focus group taking place
Mapping changes in seed sources over time
This exercise allows the community to reflect on seed channel use crop by crop and to compare current seed source strategy with that practice ‘five years ago’ (or at an interval important for the community). It highlights seed channel preferences and constraints.
Tips for use
- Try to focus on key crops as identified by the community but also crops which may have different seed source challenges: perhaps compare a legume, with a vegetatively-propagated crop and, if possible, a crop sourced mainly from the commercial sector with one that draws seed mainly from informal sources.
- Use the visual charts as aids to discuss what might be sensitive issues: e.g. why some have abundant home stocks and others not; any difficulties in getting planting material from neighbors; possible imbalances in aid distributions.
- Note that the seed mapping exercise is routinely included as part of the community-based assessment. If desired, it can also be used during the women’s focus group.
Flipchart formats for community focus groups
Find below the flipchart sheet formats that can be used with the community focus group guide. The recording on flipcharts has proven useful in many communities.
The women’s group provides an opportunity to give women central voice as well as to understand a) fundamental gender differences in agricultural or seed system strategy and b) diverse concerns among women. The focus group can be particularly useful for shedding light on food security and nutritional issues.
Tips for use
- A skilled facilitator is needed to encourage many to speak within this mixed group of 10-15 women.
- Gathering women of varied ages as well as those from male- and female-headed households can be important to understand diverse constraints and opportunities of women.
- Follow-up with organized women’s groups, e.g. marketing groups or cooperatives might be programmed after the general women’s focus group discussion.