FARMING SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT ISD
Information note no. 1 Date July 1984
dc/t- ^^ FA _______ __
-FSD Program e, Purpose and Objectives
An FSD approach is recommended based on the assumption that
the success of any element input into a farming system is
conditioned by the success and cohesion of all other elements
within the total system. The fact is recognized that the
introduction of a change in one part of a system usually creates a
wave of 'change' requirements not only internal to the farming
system but often external to such factors as supply availability,
markets and other services.
The purpose of the FSD programme, therefore, is to focus,
apply and properly interface agricultural and rural development
activities directly on case farms and with farm families in
selected areas of member countries to determine how proper
interfacing can be done. Particular emphasis is given to ensuring
the socio-econamic acceptability of all interventions by
participating farm families. Primary emphasis will be directed to
small .landholders often referred to as "small farmers". African
farmers in particular will be a target group for 1984/85. The
programme will, however, be initiated in other regions as
resources permit. Participating farm families are meant to be the
cohesive element to promote team work among the many specialist
groups who have critical inputs to contribute in the development
process but who have tended to work in isolation with
mono-disciplinary activities. The general objectives of the
program are to:
identify the complex of constraints inhibiting agricultural
and rural development in the selected zones;
S determine the potential productivity of different sizes and
types of farming systems on selected farms in different
ensure wise land use as a prerequisite of any farming systems
improvement activity to minimize land degradation;
prepare implenentable proposals of alternative ways and means
to overcame the complex of constraints for member govern-
ments' and financial agencies' consideration.
The Farming Systems Development approach recommended by FAD
is explained/diagramed, along with views on major problems of
member countries which the FSD programme should help solve. A
brief description is included of Farming Systems Development
activities being implemented in 1984. The FSD approach clearly
implies a team of different discipline specialists working towards
a common goal, i.e. effective development assistance to small-
holder farm families of the world.
A Farming System, as the term is used in this paper, is
"The system managed by a farmer. It usually involves a unique
and reasonably stable arrangement of farming enterprises that
a household operates according to well defined practices in
response to the physical, biological and socio-ecn=nic
envirormnt and in accordance with the household's goals,
preferences and resources. These factors combine to
influence output and prouction methods. The farming system
is part of larger systems and contains a number of sub-
There are two levels of assistance which may be considered
under the farming system development approach.
Level one concentrates primarily on the "system managed" by
different sizes and types of farmers accepting as 'unchangeable'
the larger system referred to in the general definition. This
level restricts development assistance progranes primarily to
technical innovations feasible within the fixed or given larger
development system of a participating country, i.e. to existing
policies, institutions, infrastructure, tenure systems and agro-
Level two assumes member governments are willing and able to
adjust or revise the elements of the larger system to remove
constraints imposed on smallholders by the existing external
determinants of farming systems, provided acceptable adjustment
proposals are presented. This assumption makes it possible for
technical specialists to collaborate with selected farmers to test
and determine the total productivity potential of their holding
using known improvement technologies as though there were no
external constraints. Such testing/determination requires the
provision of adequate inputs and services to the test case farm
on the assumption- similar inputs and services could be provided by
the external system if the potential productivities, when
implemented on a large scale within the target group of small
holders, .prove to be viable in economic and social benefit items.
At level two, farming systems development uses similar assumptions
and techniques as used by on-station researchers who tend to
isolate their experimentation fram the governments' influence as
imposed through such elements as policies, credit and markets.
Level two may be considered as on-farm testing and development
research in its most comprehensive form.
Level one may be classified narrowly as farming systems
development. Level two would be more accurately described as "A
.Systems Approach to Agricultural Development" in which inbroved
farming systems are the focal point. Technical specialists agree
that the major constraints to improving farming system are within
the external-to-the-farm development system itself, or inputs 'C'
as described in the following diagram. There is also general
agreement that adjustments to the external elements must be made
specific to the smallholder farmers' requirements if this
predominant group of agriculturists are to be developed. The FSD
programme of FAD will focus initially on level one to test the
productivity of existing technology and identify gaps requiring
research. Simultaneously, the programme will attempt to identify
the constraints external to the various sizes and types of
smallholders. Suggested alternative proposals for removing these
external constraints will be prepared for governments'
The Farming Systems Development approach described in this
note, therefore, attempts to analyze the 'larger national system'
to determine the specific improvements required therein to provide
greater incentives to smallholders or remove institutional
constraints hampering adoption of known improved practices and
A new sub-programe was included in the Programe of Work and
Budget for the 1984/85 biennium, entitled "Farming Systems
Development (FSD)". The Farm Management and Production Economics
Service (AGSP) of the Agricultural Services Division (AGS), was
designated as the focal point for this sub-programme. The Service
was strengthened by the addition of a Farming Systems Officer plus
additional consultant and contractual funds. A mechanism will be
developed within FAD to promote inter-disciplinary cooperation
during the implementation of FSD activities in member countries.
A Systems Approach to Development of Improved Farming Systems
A systems approach to agricultural development by improving
farming systems is illustrated by the attached diagram. Briefly,
the approach identifies three interacting forces which, in
combination, determine the type of farming system being employed
on various sizes and types of holdings in a given area.
Collectively, these individual farming systems represent the total
land use pattern of the area, its productivity and its stability
in terms of resource maintenance.
A B C= individual farming systems
inputs A- Physical, fixed
Soils, land quality,topography
* Water, irrigation
* Disease hazards
* Potential farm enterprises
A B Factor
Inputs B-Farm family resources
* Family size, age, labour force
* Management skin, education
* Farm sizequality
*Available non-labour power
* Cash-credit access
* Attitudes, goals, nutrition etc
Subsistence Cash Farm Cdvash
Savings Improvement Costs -
Potential for system development
Feedback to change
A B faWcor's
Potential feedback to change C'factors
But this will only occur if the right
political/social condir ons exist,
otherwise the system will. cycle
endlessly, in a static state
s- *" r. r-u '
Inputs C- Govt,variable
tenure systems etc
Inputs "A" represent the physical resources and the
environment which set the first limits on the type of agriculture
to be produced in an area and the amount of use that can be made
of the resources without degrading them.
Inputs "B" represent the individual or group of farm
families presently occupying these lands. Farm and pastoralist
families have occupied lands in most regions in various tenure
relationships, long before the concept of "development" emerged,
or at least the development of the type prevalent since 1950.
Traditional systems, built up on the basis of trial and error,
were evolved, which harmonized with the agro-ecological conditions
for agricultural production and were relatively satisfactory to
maintain the natural resources until human .and livestock
pressures, plus the indiscriminate use of new technologies,
initiated a rapid degradation process and consequently deteriora-
tion in the nutrition and standard of living of the rural masses.
Inputs "C" represent predominantly the body of policies and
institutions which have tried to "influence", "encourage through
incentives" or "direct. and regulate" the interaction of inputs "A"
and "B" to achieve "development". "Development" usually meant
increased agricultural production. Statements of intent to
improve farmers' income and prevent land degradation were normally
included in national plans but received little attention through
monitoring and evaluation of impact on these two objectives.
The systems approach to agricultural development recmnended
is as follows:
1. Describe, quantify and evaluate inputs "A" for a selected
agro-ecological zone. Evaluation includes an assessment of
the extent and reasons for resource degradation and the
specification of management practices required to both
maintain and improve the productivity of the land and water
resources. This activity has been completed in many
countries but the critical information available is seldom
2. Describe, quantify, analyze and evaluate the various sizes
and types of individual farming systems being practised in
the area, including: (i) how the present systems operate;
(ii) the systems' outputs and results (outputs in terms of
commodities results in terms of incomes, employment,
effects on land and water resources, etc.); and (iii) how
the outputs are utilized by farm families for subsistences,
cash savings, farm improvements, cash operating costs and
improved life-style. Identify constraints to improved
production both from internal and external sources.
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3. Assess the potential production and results which could be
achieved for the various sizes and types of farming system
if the proper improvements of "A" and "B" inputs were
achieved and constraints removed as indicated by feedback
arrows. The types of changes or improvements required should
then be fcnmulated and implemented on case farms. Adjust-
ments as required should be made during implementation to
ensure farmer acceptance.
4. The various policies or institutions listed under "C" inputs
should eventually be adjusted so that these external
determinants do encourage or influence a positive effect on
farmers' actions and decisions to achieve the potential.
Adequate marketing and credit services, for example, are
critical inputs which have a paramount influence on farmers'
decisions to adopt or reject improvements in their farming
systems. Many activities have been demaostrated in past
years which increased agricultural production significantly,
but farmers refused to adopt the practices because of
inadequate supply or marketing facilities or disincentive
pricing policies. Agricultural production increasing
activities usually require a package of inputs or farm
improvement investments far which small. farmers seldm have
sufficient purchasing power. Even if adequate markets,
supplies and prices are available, adoption may be limited to
the larger more wealthy farmers who are 'credit worthy'. If
wide-scale adoption is expected in the smallholder
communities, agricultural finance systems may need to be
-designed which will supply both -farm development and cash
operating funds on terms whereby the small famer can repay,
once his farm unit has been developed as a viable farm
Sequence of Activities for FSD Implementation
The sequence of activities to implement this Farming Systems
Development Approach in a typical situation is:
a. Establishment of a multi-disciplinary team
Establish a multi-disciplinary team or task force for farming
systems development. The FSD team for level-one activities as
described earlier may be composed of an agronomist, a soil
conservationist, an animal husbandry specialist,' an agricultural
engineer and a farm management economist. The case farm sample
size selected for initial on-farm testing should be small. The
team, therefore, may be required only part time. As the number of .
farms expand, consideration should be given to assigning the group
full time to this activity. Once activities move to level-two FSD
activities, expertise inputs as consultants or full time members
will be required from most disciplines participating in the
development process, especially those concerned with the
institutional, policy and social aspects.
Specialists of various disciplines should assist with
designing the type of information required and analysing data to
identify constraints and propose alternative solutions. One of
the team members should be female with experience in agricultural
production under developing country conditions to -ensure
alternative solutions to constraint removal are designed which are
suitable and acceptable to the women farmers of the area.
It is suggested that in the case of existing activities for
small farmer development, such as transfer of technology
programmes, a re-direction towards the FSD approach should occur.
SThe FSD team should play a central role in these programmes.
b. Evaluation of physical factors
Review and evaluate all studies and other types of
information available on the relatively fixed physical inputs ("A"
in the schema) that determine the operation of the individual
farming system in the target area; assess the major constraints
and identify improvements needed.
c. Conduct a small-scale farm and household survey
This activity should normally be conducted by farm management
economists, in cooperation with other FSD team members. The small
group of farm families to be surveyed (25-30) should be selected
to represent sam of the most cUrmon farm family situations in the
area being studied; i.e. different size holdings; tenure
situations; power source; farms managed by wmnen, etc.
d. Formulation of improved livestock, crop, land use and
sub-systems such as labour/power
Most countries have research results, practices of "better
farmers" and experience knowledge which if collated into an
improved enterprise system would substantially increase production
and income. The FSD programme should promote collation of this
knowledge and the formulation of improved enterprise systems based
thereon. The improved enterprise. systems will be used to
formulate whole farm improved systems for implementation on
selected case farms.
e.. ImDlementation of improved farming systems on a few case
farms representing various strata of situations identified in.
activity (c) above
The underlying assumption of this activity is: if multi-
disciplinary development specialists working intensively with a
few selected smallholders cannot develop these fams to a viable
level, there will be little hope of developing a region spared
of similar types.
This activity is being started on 18 farms in the Machakos
region of Kenya under the direction of the Dryland Farming
Research and Development Project (KEN/74/017). TICA, IDRC, AGIAR
and AGSP/FA are collaborating to plan improved whole farm systems
on three different farm sizes ( 2 ha; 2-7 ha; and 7-20 ha); in
three different agro-ecological zones; representing three
different types of farming systems. Improved whole farming system
plans are being prepared for each farm using the information
compiled in activity (b) above which has been completed' for this
area of Kenya and reflects the existing known improvement
The proposed changes /, not necessarily in order of
implementation, on one of the existing farms (Mr. Kamba's) are .as
i. Cropping systems
early land preparation
- dry or early planting
mechanized weeding using improved, multi-purpose ox-drawn
intercrop maize with pulses, but shifting gradually to
use improved seed varieties
pest control in field and store (including seed dressing)
selection of- good quality seeds for planting
improvement of soil fertility .using both camercial
fertilizers and farmyard manure.
1/ There wiLL be a complete description of each change. DetaiLs
have been omitted for brevity. Staff are confident farmers can
implement and manage these system changes provided the external
services required are-ensured..
ii. Livestock production system
improving productivity of natural pasture through selective
bush clearing, burning, reseeding, etc.
improving utilization of crop residues by proper harvesting,
storing, treatment and supplementation
inclusions of cultivated pasture and fodder crops in the
maintenance of a systematic disease prevention and control
installation of appropriate watering facilities and stock
introduction of one cross-bred heifer for commercial milk
elimination of unproductive and inefficient livestock from
the herd and- upgrading of indigenous cattle through
iii. Soil and water conservation
- construction of cut-off drains
construction of grassed waterways
remeasuring and construction of terraces and planting of
grasses on banks
planting fruit trees in water harvesting structures
re-vegetation of severely eroded land.
Since the farming systems in Machakos involve livestock
improvement, the time period required for testing improved systems
will be relatively long (5 to 6 years). It is estimated that Mr.
Kamba's unit will become sufficiently viable in the fifth year to
start repaying development capital investments and cover his
recurrent costs. Improvements in annual crop production and soil
conservation controls should be substantial even after one year of
During the testing years) the Research Station, with the
assistance of donors, will arrange supplies, financing, transport,
marketing and advisory services. Contracts will be arranged with
the University of Nairobi to design proposals for appropriate
smallholder development and operational financing; appropriate
supply, marketing, processing arrangements/facilities, and means
to provide training/advisory services which would prprote
widespread adoption of the improved systems. The University
contractors will also be requested to review agricultural policies
to determine their impact and adjustments required to facilitate
development. Follow-up investment proposals will be prepared as
the concluding activity.
Proposed FSD Proramme 1984/85
The FSD program proposed may be visualized as three
Phase 1 Inventory and analysis of the present farming
situation on selected farms in a target area and the formulation
of improved enterprise systems and sub-systems (duration
approximately one year).
Phase 2 Planning and implementation of the improved farm
system. The duration of this activity would vary according to the
type of farming system employed. Collaboration of other develop-
ment/donor agencies would be required to assist with financing of
farm developments. It is envisaged that the amount of funding
Required for each target area will be relatively small, ranging
from $20,000 to $80,000, depending again on the type of system,
number of farms involved and the complexity of the interventions.
The Regular Programne funds of AGS will partially support this
Phase 3 Analysis of institutional agricultural policies and
development support systems. This phase will normally be
contracted to local institutions in cooperation with the relevant
participating divisions of FAD.
Phase 4 Formulating long-term investment follow-up and
design of new farming systems in cooperation with the Investment
National expertise will be employed under an FAO contract to
the fullest extent possible to complete all three phases.
Provision for international consultant backstopping should be
arranged as required, either frm Regular Programme staff;
existing expertise on FAD field programmes, arrangements with
other bilateral or multilateral agencies in the area or specified
consultancies planned in FAD's Programme of Work and Budget. The
objective of the program will be to establish national expertise
in farming systems development in member countries.
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In addition to these activities, regional seminars could be
organized, followed by national workshops. These seminars are
important for the promotion of the FSD concept, since they will
assist member countries to familiarize themselves with the FAD
approach and contribute ways and means to improve the over-all
program. These activities should also lead to the
identification of problem areas where an FSD project may be
helpful to development.
AGS activities in 1984
The rationale for selecting countries and areas therein for
initiation of farm management related FSD activities was based on
the following principles:
direct support to on-going or planned UNDP/FAO, Trust Fund or
WFP operated projects;
- opportunity to collaborate with national or international
- opportunity to support/train nationals in farm management/FSD
- opportunity to interface activities with multi-disciplinary
teams either national or international.
Phase 1 Activities (major emphasis on Africa, covering a
variety of farming systems, including shifting cultivation.
Activities are being (or will be) initiated in Ghana, Zambia,
Sierra Leone, Mali, Niger, Nepal, Thailand, Uganda and two Latin
American countries yet to be identified.
Improved plan implementation (entering Phase 2):
Kenya, as already explained.
tentatively Zimbabwe, as a follow-up to UNDP/FAD Project
ZIM/84/024 Benchmark Farm Household Surveys, Analysis
and Farming Systems Planning for Small Farm Development.
An example programme planned for Ghana :
Ghana support to project GHA/81/011 UNDP/FAO supported:
Fifteen to twenty farms near Ejura and Mampong will be
surveyed and data collected on farming activities input/outputs
during the farming year 1984/85. Selected farms will be represen-
tative of three size groups and different forms of farm power. A
national expert will be contracted to conduct the survey and
prepare the improved enterprise budgets supported by a 2 m/m
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consultancy to train/advise the national, assist with survey
preparation and recommend methods of study. The consultant will
also review the farmers' cooperatives and recmend actions to
establish them as multi-purpose farmer owned/operated cooperatives
during the course of the project. Improved total farming systems
for the. selected 15 to 20 case farms will be planned and imple-
mented starting March 1985.
This activity is in progress.
A very brief description of other activities is included as
Reporting on FSD Activities
Periodic and final reports should be prepared for each member
country activity, including the following sections:
(a) background and situation report for project area;
(b) inventory and analysis of farmer or farmers' starting
situation as baseline information;
(c) description and analysis of existing and improved enterprise
systems, crops, livestock tree-crops;
(d) improved farming systems planned for different size and types
of farms in sample;
(e) implementation of improved farming systems plans, problems
encountered, adjustments made, etc.
(f) evaluation of results of improved plans:
increased productivity in cmmodities over baseline;
critical aspects in farmers' successful implementation;
analysis impact on woaen's role, land use.
(g) evaluation of external constraints requiring adjustments to
ensure widespread adaptation;
(h) implementable alternatives for removing constraints.
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FSD Data and Information Management
The Farming Systems Development Approach as any type of
development program requires the judicious use of farm and
household survey data and community information. Surveys to
inventory present farm and household situations, which may be
considered as a starting point of FSD, will yield considerable
data and information required by different specialists assisting
with the development programme. Such data will be used to
identify/quantify present constraints and as benchmarks to
evaluate progress over time. Additional data will be generated as
improved enterprise systems are formulated. New data will evolve
from on-farm testing results. Proper management of this type of
data and ensuring access to it by many users to avoid duplication
of surveys has been a major problem with past development
programmes. FAD has developed a computer software package to
process farm and household data, which has been labelled FARMAP
(Farm Analysis Package).
A Farming Systems Development Prograznue will be a relatively
long-term activity to provide the results required. The results,
information and experience gained should demonstrate 'how' small
landholders and the rural poor can be brought into the main stream
of development. Furthermore, if these experiences are properly
utilized, ways and means can be identified to solve many macro
problems facing member governments, such as alternative ways of
providing adequate extension at least cost; decreasing number of
government employees and services by developing more self-reliance
among farm communities. The principles of WCARRD should be
utilized as an integral part of the Farming Systems Development
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A contract has been given to Njala University to study
shifting cultivation in an adjacent area. A consultant will visit
the University in September 1984 to assist with analysis of the
data and collect any missing information. The consultant will
return to Rome with the national consultant to complete the report
and plan next year's activity. The national expert will be
trained in computer processing of the data.
A farm sample from a selected villages) will be surveyed to
support the River Blindness Programe.
A contract has been awarded to a local firm,"New Era", to
complete a survey of a representative village, identify.
constraints to systems imrovement arnd frmulate improved
enterprise system to be tested in 1985.
AGSP is providing 2 m/m consultant, plus $5,000 for a
national expert to THA/70/006, which deals with livestock based
farming system under the technical supervision of ACA.