Farmers in local communities have a considerable amount of information on their genetic resources both at the individual and community level. The farmers' knowledge is interweaved into their daily practices as a reserve accumulated over the generations. The Farmer Field Fora approach (FFF) has been conceptualized in order to activate farmers to identify the existing resources both in the crops they cultivate and in their knowledge, to recognize its value and to start using it more consciously. The FFF approach links the use of existing diversity to the possibility of having new varieties and to improving productivity. In weekly meetings farmers observe changes in the field between varieties, debate on them and draw conclusions. In every session a theme on plant development is debated among farmers with the aid of a facilitator. Close contact with researchers allows involvement with the breeding practices and enables the aims and conduct used in research to be understood. This empowers farmers to participate in a more active way in research, to apply more precise ways of observing and managing their genetic resources, and to link their work to conservation activities at the national and local level. The results of the FFF trial, which was carried out in 10 villages in the region of San in Mali in 2001, show an increased interest among farmers to observe varieties. The appreciation criteria used is multiple including yield, earliness, strong tillers, high number of tillers, and resistance for diseases and Striga. It seems obvious that even though the goal of the approach is on-farm conservation of plant genetic resources, it must be closely linked to farmers' interest. The variation of the results between villages demonstrates variability of climatic condition in this region and a high genotype—environment interaction. Further modifications of the approach are required in order to improve equitable participation of different stakeholders and improve the institutionalization of on-farm conservation.