FARMING SYSTEMS OF SMALL FARMS IN THE LEEWARD ISLANDS OF THE
EASTERN CARIBBEAN--SELECTED CASE STUDIES
Laxman Singh, K. A. E. Archibald, and J. Hammerton
Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute
LOCATION AND ECOLOGY
The Leeward Island Countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean
are Antigua-Barbuda, Montserrat, and St. Kitts-Nevis. They
lie between 160 45' and 170 25' North and 610 40' to 63'
West. Areas and some agroclimatic parameters are given in
Table 1 (Barbuda was not included in this study).
The islands are generally semiarid with a distinct dry sea-
son ( January -Apr il) when s uppl eme ntal irrigation is neces-
sary for assured cropping. During this period, scarcity of
water and feed is experienced for livestock, particularly in
Ant i gua and Nevis. Most of the rain falls during the
August-November period. Temperature fluctuations are small,
but cooler nights during November-February are conducive to
growing vegetables like cabbages, tomatoes, onions, carrots,
sweet peppers, etc. The rainfall usually increases as one
moves from the sea coast inland, associated with rising ele-
vation. This is particularly true of Hlontserrat, St. K~itts,
CHARACTERISTICS OF FARMING SYSTEMS
Land use patterns, the main crops grown, and the livestock
populations are summarized below.
The 1975 census of agriculture recorded 5550 farms in the
0 to 10 ha category representing 96% of the farm popula-
tion. About 1500 are 0 to 2.0 ha with most of the rest
less than 0.4 ha. The majority of the farmers do not own
land and 96% (Rankine et al., 1980) operate on an annual
rental basis. Fifty-nine percent of these farm as their
sole occupation and 41% have off-farm jobs. The total
annual family income as found in the Baseline survey was:
1001-2500 EC$ 24.1% (of farms)
Over 10,000 -9.2%
The main crops grown are sweet potato, yams, cassava,
eddoes, bananas, cucurbits, carrots, tomatoes, cotton, corn,
and pigeon peas. May-June and September-October are the
main planting periods, but some crops are planted year roundi
wherever possible Livestock populations for 1979 (esti-
mates) were: cattle 9000, swine 3000, sheep 13,300, goat
8,200, and poultry 42,000 layers and 54,000 broilers.
Table 1. Some Geograohic features of the Leeward
Commonwealth Caribbean~ Countries
St:. K~itts N;evis
Range of annual
fall range (mm)
Largely Hilly to
Poor to Fairly
Approximately 713 farm holdings below 2.0 ha in size were
recorded in 1979 with over 600 in the category 0.2 to 0.4
ha. These holdings occupy over 800 ha of total land hold-
ings of 2344 ha. Ninety-one percent of small farms have
annual rented land (Rankine et al., 1930), and 38 3 of
small farmers have off-farm jobs Seventy-five percent of
farms have an annual family income between EC$1000 and
The main crops grown are tannia, cotton, sweet potato, das-
heen, hot pepper, yam, peanuts, carrots, cabbage, toma to ,
beans and peas and onions. Most of these are planted
almost year round except for cotton (September), onion
(October), tomatoes (October) and carrots (April and July).
Livestock population estimates for 1979 were:
Of 9596 ha of agricultural land in St. Kitts (1975 census),
only about 600 ha are in small-holdings of 0.4 to 2.0 ha,
the maj or ity being about 0.4 ha The rema ind er is in
government sugarcane operations. only 5% of farmers own
their land; the rest rent or are allowed to operate on
government land. Over 79% of farmers are part-time withi
The main crops grown are sweet potato bananas dasheen,
tannia, yams, carrots tomato cabbage, bre adfru i t, mango ,
and pigeon peas.
In Nevis, all of the 1841 ha of agricultural land are
operated by small farmers (with hold ing s up to 2.0 ha) .
Most of the farmers are full-time and own their land. The
main crops grown are sweet potato, yams, peanuts, cotton,
bananas, mangoes, breadfruit, tomato, cabbage, and carrots.
The joint St. Kitts-Nevis livestock population is estimated
Total family income of 75% of the farmers in St. Kitts
ranged from EC$1001 to 5000.
Common features of small farm systems in the Leeward
Islands include the following:
-All1 farm operations are done with hand implements
(except in some cases where land is initially pre-
pared by Government tractor service). The implements
usually owned and used are hoe cutlass, and fork.
Because of this, .the land is not fully utilized for
cropping at any one time, so that the cropping index
is always less than one.
-The capital i nv e stme nt in terms of machinery farm
buildings, and recurrent material input costs (seed,
fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides) is negli-
gible. The main input is family labor.
-Farming is rainfed; because the land is semiarid ,
there is a need for irrigation for stability and
increased cropping intensity. The scope for tapping
run-off water exists in the region.
-The average age of small farmers is 50 years. Farm-
ing is dependent largely on family labor, and, since
the younger members of the family are less available
for backbreaking manual farm operations, the con-
straint of labor is increasing.
-The present system of livestock maintenance by small
and landless farmers, in the majority of cases
involves hardly any expenditure on feed and mainten-
ance (except farmer's labor). Cattle are either
tethered on hillsides or on nearby uncropped land
which may or may not belong to the farmer, and are
moved to other similar locations at varying inter-
vals. The cattle are taken to water or water is
brought to them, either daily or less frequently.
Sheep and goats are let loose or tethered in the morn-
ing to graze or browse and are brought back home in
the evening. Poultry and pigs are maintained in home-
-All the countries are importers of food materials
(Table 2) and national policy emphasizes food impor t
The small farm systems are being studied in the region in a
USAID/CARDI Small Farm Multiple Cropping Systems Research
Project. A Baseline Survey (a sample of 120 farmers in
each of the islands studied by a one-shot survey question-
Some food imn-orts into the Leeward Islands.
St. K~itt~s-Nevis Niontscrrat Aint igua
1979 1977 1974
Corn meal &
Peas & Bea~ns
1 71 ,900
Table 2: cont'd
Bacon & Ham
Cheese and curd
j,220,995 (all krindsr
1,911,825 (nilk, butter
2,675.503 (sugar &
Total value of
Food import as
% of total imports 21.C9%
na i re) was cond uc ted under the project, and quantitative
data have been collected over a year to characterize small
This detailed charac terization of the systems (micro or
case studies) was done (and is being done) on a sample of
approx ima tely 20 farms on each island Some of the case
st udies that typify the region's farming systems are dis-
cussed in this paper. The methodology of the study involved
(Antigua, Montserrat, and Nevis) weekly visits to farms to
record activities, inputs, and outputs. In the case of St.
Kitts, a revised questionnaire (in cooperation with the
Bureau of Census, U.S.A.) is being used for this study, but
the case studies of St. Kitts discussed here are based on
partial studies done using the earlier questionnaires.
The cropping and annual production activities in respect to
some typical farms are given in Tables 3 to 8.
A. Interactions among crop and animal activities:
Crop residues like sweet potato vines, leafy parts of vege-
tables, corn stalks, and chopped whole sugarcane and tops
are utilized for livestock. Fruits like breadfruit,
mangoes, and soursop are collected from nearby areas to be
fed to pigs. Thus recycling of by- products from crops
occurs for rearing animals. Fallow lands are utilized for
grazing. In this way both systems complement each other.
However, the time available to the farm family is divided
between these two activities and sometimes they compete.
1. Land preparation and drudgery of labor; hence reduced
cropping intensity and land utilization.
2. Planting material quantity and quality.
3. Moisture or water supply.
4. Pest and disease management.
5. Collecting points and transport to market.
6. Storage and preservation during "glut" periods.
1. The objective of animal rearing is not conducive to
2. Reg ul ated and assured marketing collection and
processing of animal products.
3. Feed scarcity.
4. Veterinary services and breeding system.
5. Poor quality stock.
Chive anrd Onionis
Table 3(a): Cropping activities Planting schedule and land use in 3 parcels of farm 416 (AntigudZ)
Ma June Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Parcel 1 (1.2 ha)
area p anted
3577 m (0.36 ha)
Yam Set do s suash sweet potato
550 potat 226 44
Table 3(a) cont'd
&2 yam 567
Time spent in
(included in boxes)
are areas in
Table 3(a) cont'd
Parcel 2 (0.8 ba)
area p anted
2106 m (0.22 ha)
Parcel 3 (1.6 ha)
12q m@(0.012 ba)
Haos fruit trees
hence less annual
JIarvesting was also done as and when crop was ready and in case of
root crops as per home reqluirement also.
Total cash income from crop sales during the year $3305.00
Isquas~ Ichive ard
S713 1 Ii
Does sweet see
225 potat~ potato
Table 3(b): Animal production activities offarm 416
B~ie nearby land on bill slopen which aso used to graze obeep hoo been adld by Government
to an ehtrepeneur for pineapple cultivation, the Gurner bad to sell his herd of shleep. If
a 1.5 ba piece of ] ad nearby is available he inny replenicb the shocp stock. Uonally
oat' to rearing is done by tetherin6 on forest or waood lnds. SupErenne on the ncw parcel
is led for feeding cattle. The crop products of yard, corn etc. ore also fed as
sup) embnts when needed. Routine control of ticks is done. For dcuoroing anlri other
ania 1 health care be uses a soft of enetun and salt water and sometices brandy.
Live Slau ~hter flat are Averone Total Other
Stok Tcn Adult Agen X v t. younr, groduction prtculars
produced ~ r y~
GEttle 4 1 J- Ilone one 8 bottles
1 bull- of milk a
calf dayi For
(2 coatho) home con-
2 hedfors sumption
(1 yr 8 71e te
6 months) bottle
Sheep and Sold 50 cheep
Gaetat 60 after Lonitoring
Bought one pig
pit. 1 after chrintmas
to be used next
Used for trnns-
Donkee 2 port.
KEpt in back-
Poultry O 8 yard for GCEP
Total cash income from livestock (pigmeat, milk and eggs during osmpin
tbo )rar) 8353.00.
Table 4: Crop and animal production activities on farm 431 (Antigua)
One parcel (0.6ha): Irrigation is done from domestic water supply.
Once a year, Government tractor service is used for ploughing, then ridges are shaped by hoo,
When vegetation needs clearing, Gramoxone or Roundup is used. Weeding is done by hoe and
the debris is left in the field. Spraying for pest control and foliar spray of fertilizer
Sold Consumed ---
Jan to A2pr
74e 8 82 4.4
34 266 0.72
15 449 2.80
'1.0 118 2.20
Jan to Feb Feb to Apr
')ec to Feb
Feb to Apr
snimal Production Dractices:
Table 4 cont'd
16 cows (6 in milk: but not milked for want of time),
4c heifers and 6 young bullcalves.
Some are tethered on waste lands of Governoont and some'
are left loose near the tied ones.
Depending on the season and location animals are
moved front spot to spot more or less frequently
depending on the supply of foraGe. In wet season
they may stay at the: same~ spot for 1 w~eek andi in
the dry season almost every other day the ani-als
have to be moved. They~are taken to watcr daily.
The farmer spends 3 hrs a day attending to anisals.
Eull calves are sold at 2/ yris of age.
Heifers start calving at about 3 ysT old and are kcept
for a full brceding life (8-9) and then sold for neat.
In case of need cows in poor condition are sold.
A relative's bull is used fcr breeding.
Eetwleen 11arch and June and again in noycober when
grass was scanty, the farmer bought C200 worth
of cotton sood meal as a food supplement giving
1 kg/day per animal.
Table 4 cont'd
As and when available corn stalk, sweet potato
vines and carrot and beet tops are also fed.
Tick control and dow~orming are a routine management
practice. Almost every fortnight cattle are
bathed with a mixrture of Sevin for tick control.
Deworning is done twice a year. 4400.00 of medicines
They are grazed in bushes or forest during the day
and penned in the evening. When there is shortage of
grazing they are also fed cotton seed neal. For
breeding the farmer prefers to bring in ran-s front outside
an exchange basis. Doworming and tick control are
done as a routine management practice.
.cow on hoof (270 kg)
live animfals(1206 kg)
June 1980 1
July 1980 4
October 1980 1
October 1980 3
January 1981 2
Total crop sales $2052.00
Table 5: Crop and animal production practices on farm 494 (Montserrat)
(one parcel of 0.4 ha on flat to gentle slope, on annual rent)
hEr net d (kg)
to 1)- yrs
on border 28
in the samt
Table 5 cont'd
Sheep and goat
1 20 ke
1 mutton $250.00
1 pig sold 31 kg
16 born in the year
Animal sales total $370.00
Tabe 6a):Cropping~ practices on funnm NA (St. Kitts)
(sowing months, crops planted and area planted in sq m)
Jan Feb M~ar
Se Ot 1)
dp & June~ Jul
plants 2 yr old.
Hired as eone
cutter fill time
from? Jafn-J Uly.
Froparce luir:d in
are dcnc in
One rpeak plan-
ting occurs in
liay. Eic hircs
all ic p:c-
Rotation is not
the diagram. In
would have been
3'73 "E m
Tomaito Onion Cobbago Yam Swc~t Cucumbnter Dach Swcct
po0tate cn potnte
50bo 20j 85 19 07 490 245 97
IEgg I Cabbaoc /Tani-
GC7 26 19 ~G
Carrot Towato Swed
err r 5 I rc
Table 6(a) cont'd
was the trans-
port of the
the field to
opoiled by anthracnose
areas in square
Livestocke production practices on farm 891
9 4C (23-3 Tls
Young Youny; ones born
5 (6 month) 1+2+2=5 (sept, Oct Nov.)
1 Iian sold (7 months o~d) $4~5.co
1 Ram givan to frienId-
1 Sheep bought (9 months) 830.00
Sheep are `tethered on any grazing area. In the evening they are brought back
home. They feed on fallow land, grazing lanid or ulnused land between canefiends.
Nlo fecd is bout ht. Waftor is given in the afternioons to the animals on their
Cropping practices on farm NA (St. Kitts)
I1arvested ('uantity Anount
1125 750.00 Land is preared3 ence
a year by tractor
service from the
5L40 700.00 Corporn tion. Part
of the land is on
155 500.00 the gravelly ghout,l
hence onie crop a
year in the wet
season i s grown,
112 400.00 on the nearby slopeo.
The crops grown
For home consumption are banana, dasheon
aind feed pigs anid taniai.
Breadfruit, manago and
750.00 soursop are collected
from nearby Fhouts and
ifd to piL~s cay-
1500.00 Aulgust, Ievember) .
Su~arcone is used
from Jan-July. Food
for pigs is scarce
period when imported
mill feed is tourht
and fed 5.5 krG for
all piCgh in t'ime
months period, once
*i AGhout is a dry
G''lly that carries ucter
duirinrr ncriod of hear.:
In rows on borders approx 6,500 ag m,
TABLE HS) NTTIL PRODUCTION PRACTICES: FARMER N.A.
P'igs: From 1974l unt5 i 19 785, the farmer was mainly a
crop-growrer but sta~r'tecd k-eeping pigs to utilize
the dry season more effectively. During the
January-August period, there is; not much crop-
ping activity. To start with, he bought, in
August 1978, three female pigs 3 months old at
$35.00 each. He used a village boar for breed-
ing in N~ovember 1978 and got 7, 8, and 9 piglets
in Marchh 1979. By June 1979, he sold 17 of
these at $40.00 each. Second littering occurred
in December but of reduced size (6, 5, 5) and
only 10 survived. The same basic lot of 3 sows
continued to litter twice a year. In-bre eding
resulted in reduction of litter size to 2 but
when the sowis were mated with another village
boar, litter size increased to 9 in one case.
In December 1981, 18 piglets (2 months old)
died, considered to be a case of food poison-
ing. The present strength is 6 adults (2 boars
and 4 sows) and 2 piglets. The farmer got dis-
heartened because of deaths and scarcity of
food He spends 2 hours every day collecting
feed and taking care of pigs. In 1980, he
bought about 675 kg of imported feedstuff (rice
bran) at $25.00 per 45 kg, and used this, spar-
ingly to overcome the worse period of feed scar-
city. He also bought molasses at $7.00 for a 22
liter quantity ( including transp ort) which
lasted for 2 weeks (fed in solution with water)
and poured over the feed mixture.
Cattle: Two adults (1 cow, 1 bull)
Total animal sales in the Year EC$1,730.00
$2050.00 beef sold
$1054.00 mutton sold
Total sales $3104.00
Table 8: Crop and animal production practices on farm 731 (Nevis)
(one parcel. of 0.2 ha)
home use 4 cattle
288 litres of
milk for home
use (one year)
home use 165 shocp
are tethered on communal land of a Government Estate. Sheep roan in
forest land for grazing and are penned on governoont land at night.
Increasing the capability of crop production, and incorpo-
rating feed and fodder production into the cropping system,
would be achieved if some power source (draught animal
and/or tractor service), trans-port and collection and pre-
servation and assured cash flow through both (crop and
animal) enterprises were organized through farmers' collec-
tive efforts, supported by public and private entrepreneurs.
C. Research Opportunities:
1. Crop production:
a. Small farm implements and power sources (animal
and machine) _to increase cr opping in tensity and
b. Better varieties and seed production of major
food crops grown in the region.
c. Inter- and multiple-cr opping systems under dry
land and under limited irrigation systems.
d. Pe st management ( include ing rats monkeys stray
cattle, goats, and praedial larceny).
e. Home scale or small commercial postharvest pre-
servation and processing ,i e., ag ro- ind u stry for
human food preservation cattle feed processing ,
2. Animal production:
a. M-aking of feed homee scale and small commercial
agro-industry) from locally produced crop by-pro-
ducts, e.g., brewery waste, citrus waste, bagasse,
hay, molasses, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, cotton
seed, coconut, breadfruit, cassava, etc.
b. Breed improvement.
c. Community grazing land improvement and management.
d. Collecting marketing and processing of animal
products, assured cash flow, and services (tech-
nological, health, feed, etc.) for animal produc-
tion organized by farmers' groups and catalyzed
and assisted by research and extension personnel
and private entrepreneurs.
3. Crop-animal component:
a. Items (c) and (e) for crop pr od uc t ion, and (a)
and (d) of animal production should be inte-
Specific cases (an example)
1. Helping him/her get a piece of better land (0.4 ha),
and land preparation service, would permit the raising
of feed (sweet potato, corn, and beans) in the off-
season for pigs.
2. Better penning system for his pigs would reduce deaths
by stray grazing and poisoning.
3. Improved breed of his stock.
Livestock are maintained with minimal cost (except family
labor) largely as a reserve to be sold when cash is needed,
irrespective of live weight and age. As no recurring cost
is involved for maintenance, no milking of cattle, etc. is
done to raise any recurrent income. Moreover, as they are
frequently tethered away from home, milking and tending them
for milk production becomes a difficult proposition. Since
no cost is involved, and the number of livestock is often a
status symbol, the number of cattle, sheep, and goats may
increase out of proportion to what they produce. Almost all
of the milk and most of the good quality meat are imported.
Th e uncared-for animals thus become a nuisance with stray
animals grazing food crops and overgrazing hill slopes,
thus creating soil erosion hazards.
W7i th this background any attempt to develop a c ropp ing
system integrated with the livestock component would be
unattractive unless the objectives of livestock rearing and
the method of their husbandry were also modified. Likewise
any increase in cropping intensity (e.g., more intensive
land use by inter- and multiple-cropping ) would require
additional power sources and efficient farm tools to handle
the increased farm operations.
Risks involved in cropping in a dry farming system, such as
pests and diseases, transport bottlenecks and unassured
marketing systems, are also stumbling blocks to intensified
Component on-farm tests would be several, depending on the
1. Using improved varieties of sweet potato, cassava,
peanut, yam, corn, grain legumes, and vegetables.
2. Intercropping of grain leg ume s with root crops and
cereals by fitting-in suitable short duration varieties
3. Improving plant population agronomic management;
(mulching, stak- ing, etc.) and pest management.
4. Testing of efficient tools.
5. Tapping of run-off and underground water resources.
6. Using year-round vegetable production systems.
Field Station testing of components of pr od u ct ion should
1. Variety testing and the multiplication of the most
suitable planting material. This source is the most
important vehicle of change and risk factor avoidance
(if germination and resistance to diseases and pests
and adverse weather conditions are incorporated).
2. Testing of efficient farm implements and cheap sources
of power (animal or mechanical) for land preparation,
weed control, harvesting, threshing, and preservation.
3. Agronomic practices of weed control, increased cropping
intensity (inter-and multiple-cropping), under rainfed
and irrigated systems.
4. Pest and disease management.
Research on several crops on all the above aspects cannot
be undertaken at one time and is a continuous process.
Hence priorities must be fixed for short-term and long-term
Component on-farm tests specifically in relation to live-
stock should involve:
1. Comparing improved systems of feeding livestock, in-
cluding feeding equipment with the traditional systems
and in particular evaluating various protein feed
sources as well as developing Le hman n type feeding
systems for pigs using the various carbohydrate feed
sources available and balancing these with suitable
2. Providing mineral supplements for livestock.
3. Developing feeds for cattle, sheep, and goats based on
green (dried) forages, fresh-chopped sugarcane and
crop wastes, and including forage legumes (protein
4. Comparing improved genotypes of various classes of
livestock as breeding sires, and instituting improved
breeding programs together with simplified effective
5. Improving the availability and supply of drinking
water to livestock and the monitoring and improvement
of health programs.
6. Improving existing housing and animal management
7. Establishing livestock marketing points and improving
organization of the livestock marketing system.
Field Station testing would involve specific lines of
1. Establish a Pilot Feed Production Project and evalua-
tion program which would develop and test new balanced
rations and feed supplements in nutritional studies
wijth different classes of lives tock. This program
would include feed mixing but feeds tuffs would be
obtained from crops similar to those produced on the
small farm and collection of crop was te s and
by-products for feed processing.
2. Conduct breeding studies to compare reproductive per-
formance growth rate (and carcass output) milk and
egg production using improved stock ( ge notype s) the
best of which would be used on small farms.
3. Develop improved animal management and recording pro-
grams to be used on farms, and investigate systems of
housing and health to be demonstrated and recommended
for application on small farms to improve animal
performance. These programs would compare costs and
carry out economic evaluation of all the activities to
ensure that recommended practices would be economically
feasible when tried in crop-animal small farm systems.
On- farm tests and Field Station Research for Systems of
Improving the i nteg ra ted c rop- an imal production system
requires a multidisciplinary approach ( te amwork ) and the
involvement of several other agencies that could influence
No research data from field station or on-farm tests are
available to indicate for any 0.2, 0.4, 0.8, or 2.0 ha
farm, which would be the most productive cropping and animal
system, nor how much net income could be generated within
different physical and biological constraints.
At a field station therefore repli ica ted units of 0.1,
0.2, 0.4, and 0.8 ha, both rainfed and irrigated, should be
set up to integrate varying numbers of cattle, sheep,
goats, pigs, and/or poultry in combination with different
cropping and livestock systems. Data on economics, perfor-
mance and pr od uc ti v ity should be obtained Information
from component research would be used in this systems
For on-farm tests, two types of systems projects are sug-
1. Production and processing of individual crops, or group
of crops in a rotation for human food and animal
feed. This should involve a group of farmers right
from production to marketing and processing where
2. Specific animal product-based systems (milk, egg, meat)
involving a group of farmers from cr op- an imal
production to marketing.
Several variants within each should occur and, depending on
capability and resources, only one or two systems should be
chosen to start with for a period of 5 years.
AC KNOWLE DGEMIENTS
The field data of individual case studies were collected by
Country Te ams in An t igua Montserrat, and St. Kitt-TNevis.
Their contribution to this information is gratefully acknow-
ledged. The officials involved in collecting the data used
in this paper were Charles Wjilliams, H-. F. Batson, and A.
Farrier, St. Kitts; J. Lowery and S. Powell1, Nevis; J.
Ad am, Montserrat; L. Nicholas, D. Roberts and V. Belle ,
Rankine, L. B., P. I. Gomes, T. U. Ferguson, K. A. E. Archi-
bald. 198 0. A profile of small farming in Antigua,
Montserrat,, and Grenada. CARDI, Farming Systems, Base
Data Series No. 3.
BOTAPNICAL NAMES OF THE CROP PLANTS MENTIONED INJ THIS PAPER