SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH IN RURAL DEVELOPMENT
THE ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION
APRIL 29-30, 1975
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SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH: CONTRIBUTIONS TO PLANNED RURAL DEVELOPMENT
Susan W. Almy
This paper represents a preliminary exploration of the problems and
advantages of the direct use of social scientists and social science research
in private, national, and international agencies dealing with rural devel-
opment. It concentrates particularly on the non-economists: anthropologists,
human geographers, political scientists, and sociologists. The author is
an anthropologists with sixteen months of fieldwork: in a U.S. private
non-profit agency, six months in a Kenyan joint university and government
project, and nine years of exposure to academic anthropology and sociology.
Below, the changing organization of rural development programs is
described as background to social science involvement. The complementarity
of social to physical science is noted. A distinction is made between posthoc
evaluation of programs and program design and monitoring, and the types of
contributions social scientists can make to the latter two are outlined. The
effects of the research processes used by academics, fully employed non-academics,
and part-time consultants are discussed.
Difficulties of agencies in dealing with social scientists include
poor identification of disciplinary specializations, lack of recognition of
social science inventions as such, and a cultural antipathy to the whole
idea of professional intervention in social systems. Difficulties of social
scientists in dealing with agencies include lack of freedom to complete
NL ",t iEcLw Ik
investigations to their satisfaction, the need to undertake additional
administrative and political tasks if their recommendations are to be
accepted and implemented, and the comparison with a more secure, leisurely,
and prestigious life in academia potentially open to them. Recommendations
are made to improve the use of social scientists in action programs.
The breadth of rural development programs as defined by governments
and international agencies has probably always been in dispute. Essentially',
"integration" of rural development program implies separate administrators
within, or parallel to, existing government offices or ministries. These
units have the same assigned roles as the ministries of health, education,
industry, etc., but deal only with rural areas and interact among themselves
as a kind of shadow cabinet. Sometimes this parallel body will be a mission
operating at the community level, sometimes a foreign aid agency staff at
a regional or national level, others a separate ministry within the national
government. Extant ministries or local authorities naturally resent the
implication that they cannot deal with rural health, education, etc., themselves.
Planners and tax-payers alike wonder whether the additional bureaucracy is
not more costly than it is effective.
The 1950's solution to this problem was the "community development
worker", born out of the needs and ideologies of post-independence India
(cf. Mayer et al. 1958;Sanders et al. 1958). Although the worker's task
was stated primarily in terms of community organization and motivation,
in order to carry out his task he had to judge local development potentials
and draw in external aid where local resources were insufficient. The com-
munity development worker concept came into disrepute on the international
level primarily because the typically isolated, undereducated, often urban-bred
worker could not cope with such a task without massive backup support that
As disillusionment with the community worker concept grew in the 1960's
international development ideology shifted to an industrial-urban mode, with
secondary non-integrated rural projects planned from the national level. During
the project-specific sectoral period the agronomists achieved major breakthroughs
and the Green Revolution began to spread. The widespread input of effective
new technology into extant social systems led to highly visible increases in
social inequalities in many of these nations (UNDP 1974). Social scientists
from academic (e.g. Frankel 1969) and government-consultancy (e.g. Wharton 1969)
positions pointed out the implications of these changes in journals widely
read by political elites, and increasing rural revolts and overcrowded cities
reinforced their warnings. As a result, international assistance ideology
came back again to "integrated" rural development, looking for an effective'
methodology to anticipate and modify negative effects of sectoral programs.
In the abstract, "rural development" is usually defined as the process
of increase in welfare and productivity of all (or poor) people outside
metropolitan areas and cities*. For agency X in country Y, rural development
usually me s continuation of older sectoral emphases (agriculture,livestock,
nutrition, sanitation) with the addition of evaluation criteria specifying
the range of effects on a large percentage of the population. This is a
rational proceeding, given the strengths of present agency personnel and the
importance of the specific goals. But it can lead to situations in which all
the integration is in posthoc evaluations and none in the design and management
of the projects.
The social scientists have already made a major contribution to bringing
*Towns are usually included as an integral part of rural society and economy.
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about the shift in emphasis back to integrated development. They are highly
competent in posthoc evaluation, both as consultant-employees of international
assistance and.local government agencies and as independently financed academic
researchers. But very few are interested in the program-designEt and monitoring/
management aspects that are so necessary to the implementation of the integrated
rural development ideology. They should have the ability to contribute to the
solution of the methodological problems of "integrating" development projects
under given resource constraints.
Aside from the economists, very few social scientists are now working
on these problems. This is a joint failure of the agencies that should employ
such people and of the social-science disciplines that train members**to research
and write independently of non-academic institutions.
The Potential for Social Science
By definition sociall scientists deal with the analysis and modification
of human organizations, and physicall scientists deal with the analysis and re-
combination of non-human elements. When the latter develop a new technique
for rice production or cloth making or water purification, varying information
is spread to organizations in government, business, religion, philanthropy, com-
munities and neighborhoods, who then use, abuse, or ignore the technique to serve
their perceived interests. Social scientists sometimes modify the organizational
environments to make better use of the technique or to protect against its
negative effects; more rarely they work with the physical scientists to build
such inputs directly into the new technique as it is evolved. They can do
much more in these areas.
Agencies which plan to introduce a technology (package of techniques)
into a particular locale for a "rural development" purpose (improving the welfare
**Some masters' programs have recently been developed to train applied
researchers. A few faculty in some PhD programs communicate such
training to their students, especially but hot exclusively in economics.
and productivity of the rural majority) should include "political", "economic",
and "cultural" factors within their analysis. Such categorization of interrelated
social factors does not imply that the analysis and modification of plans will
best be done by a political scientist, economist, and anthropologist working
as a team. Depending on the problem and agency resources, it might be done
by a single sociologist or anthropologist with competence in the three areas
and knowledge of the locale. Usually important questions of power, profit, and
"Political'! besides the agency, what organizations from
the nation state to the family have a stake in the new
technology and its short-term or obvious effects on the
locale? what are they likely to want of it and how powerful
are they? tan some modification in the technology or its
distribution system (including information) improve the chances
of its being accepted and used for the purpose the agency
intends, or should the agency wait until a power shift has
occurred in the country or region?
"Economic' what effects will the technology have on the
total supply and distribution of jobs and capital across
regions and classes? will it be economically profitable to
the average individual under local taxation, marketing,
communications, social and religious arrangements? are there
enough trained people to teach or otherwise administer the
technology? will it help or harm national economic goals?
"Cultural": what extant local organizational arrangements and
preferences will the technology force people to give up if
it is accepted? which are they likely to regard as the most
serious deprivations? what changes in the technology,
distribution system, or other extant organizations could
soften or avert such deprivation?
Social Scientists in Agencies
Why are there so few social scientists at the professional level working
in or for international assistance agencies and national ministries? Anthropol-
ogists and sociologists worked in the British colonial services during the
period of expanding empire, and applied their skills to colonial occupation of
Oceania and to military and civilian morale problems during World War II.
Rising demands for university education ( and McCarthy-ite pressures in the
U.S.) sent them back to academia to teach. Present development planning
teams seldom include a non-economist social scientist.
Lack of a common technical language, scientific individualism, admin-
istrators' fear of higher status employees and scientists' fear of being trapped
into actions discordant with their personal philosophies, are all side issues.
Physicists, engineers, and agronomists face these as well, and yet many work
for governments and private industry. Given adequate motivation by scientist
and agency, these issues can be overcome.
Lack of disciplinary definition is a more central problem. If an agency
hires a plant botanist or a sanitary engineer, they have a high probability
of getting the skill they had expected. A social scientist is not so easy to
type. An economist may concentrate on political factors (e.g. deJanvry's (197h)
resolution of the rural poverty syndrome through revision of national political
strategies), a political scientist on cultural ones (e.g. LaPorte's and Metlay's
(1975) exploration of the U.S. public's evaluation of science and technology), and
an anthropologist on economic ones (e.g. Smith's (1972) analysis of Guatemalan
rural market systems) A Scot legal anthropologist who had worked in Lesotho on
court systems was hired by an engineering firm to analyze community cultural
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factors for a Svaziland agricultural development plan (Hamnet 1973). Hemented
that their hiring procedures were illogical but how were they to know that an
anthropologist/ was not necessarily expert in general community social organ-
ization? The social sciences continue a fertile inter-disciplinary exchange
through such specializations but they make it very difficult for an inexperienced
employer to identify the skill or person they want. One reason for the present
popularity of economists on development teams may well be that from the 1930's
until very recently they had reduced themselves to .a very few easily identifiable
and effective analytic methodologies and were thU3 more predictable to outsiders.
Recent political-cultural upsets on the world scene (OPEC in particular) have
limited the effectiveness of the prevalent methods and may lead to a broadening
and concomitant unpredictability.
A related distinction of the social sciences is that their products are
seldom (if ever) identified as such when they are applied to reality. An automobile,
an atom bomb, or even a new wheat variety is attributed by the public to the
application of a particular science. The carefully formulated balance of local
and British law in colonial African courts, the "war on poverty", and the SALT
talks are attributed to (lay) politicians and administrations. Such attribution
is correct ammsas it is correct to say that the wheat variety is also due to
the industrial organization that managed the research and the replication and
distribution of the product; but a great deal of social science theory and
applied analysis went into each achievement. This lack of recognition may be
tied into a more general cultural distaste for the idea that some people are
more qualified than others to tinker with social institutions. The ignorance
of past social science achievement results in an equivalent ignorance of
potential social science contributions,and agencies do not see a need to consult
or hire them. Economists, again, are better off at present because one of their
number I John Maynard Keynes was brilliant and flamboyant enough at a time
of international crisis to attach his name to the resultant solution. Even there
economists seem to be less connected to the New Deal in popular writing than
is Roosevelt, while the space program is more connected to physicists and
engineers than to Kennedy or his successors.
The crucial difficulty, in all probability, is public distaste for the
idea of a specialist designing social systems. This distaste is a cultural
trait found in the West and in Western-trained elites in the LDC's it may be
universal. It is behind the depth of public to B.F. Skinner's Walden and ~+
George Orwell's 1984. It is so pervasive that even most social and behavioral
scientists who have chosen such specializations for careers justify themselves
by saying their sciences are too imperfect for them to develop the degree of
control and prediction they are working towards. The "layman" fears that the
social scientist" will have different ideas on the ideal shape of an organization
and the power to implement them over his objections or without his knowledge.
Social scientists thus are hired by one group to exercise their skills on another
group the first considers hostile or inferior. Hosugjtals hire them to study
and predict/control patients, housing authorities to study slum dwellers,
minority organizations to study government agencies and political bodies.
Ye- afk-n IL ^k1'tihrrwfca rw-h fll e
Rarely is the job phrased in terms of studying or modifying the "patron,. group'A
as with the clientele as in the mismatching of agency goals for their community
development workers with national resources and priorities in the 1950's. Organ-
izational criticism and revision of the social scientist's "patron" group is a
tricky business. Failure to do it cuts his usefulness to the group and increases
his frustration with applied research.
Social Science Roles in Rural Development Processes
Social science roles span two continue, one of immediacy of impact and
another of scope of analysis. The scientist's research may be fed directly into
the process of choosing rural development strategies, or it may filter into this
arena through a series of screens -- publication, teaching future politicians
andadministrators, teaching future voters. The former may be designated
"applied" and the latter "academic", in the sense that the ideal academic
researcher is an independent, uninvolved observer. Again, a researcher may
concentrate on a single project or on a human organization model that will
predict the impact of a wide variety of projects for a given type of society.
An example of project analysis is Paul Kaplan's (1974) test of the effect of
resident community development workers on long-term village progress in the
Philippines; of modelling, Carl Gotsch's (1974) analysis of the interactions
of rural-national political and economic systems and their effects on the intro-
duction of integrated and sectoral rural development programs.
In the extreme case, the "academic" researcher builds his theory and
hypotheses, collects his data, and writes his reports with only his academic
colleagues in mind. He may alter his publications slightly to attempt to avert
harm to the people he studied. Known in the more industrialized countries as
"academic freedom," this (extreme) case is becoming known in the less-developed
countries as "academic imperialism," and requirements for research visas are
being tightened to force some reciprocal benefit to the countries of the people
studied. Research produced in this fashion goes into scholarly journals and
books, and occasionally builds to a new social theory which influences students
who later become public officials and community leaders. More rarely, a publi-
cation comes to the attention of an official or other development program agent
who is an energetic reader-and A adapt to his program needs.
On the other extreme, the "applied" researcher works with officials of
the government, religious or minority organization, international agency, or
other action group. He discusses and comes to an agreement on goals, and studies
his employers and co-workers to determine the range of means they can accept to
attain those goals. At the same time he tries to do all the work done by the
academic researcher of the same problem. Finally he combines his conclusions on
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the two study groups the agency and the "target" population and draws
up recommendations which form the basis for a discussion with agency personnel
that may continue for months or years before both parties are satisfied and
the changes in procedure fully implemented.
Although the majority of studies lie between these two extremes, there
are more examples of the "extreme academic" case than are usually found at the
end of a continue. One increasingly common variant is the case in which the
researcher tries to make his analysis relevant to a non-academic group by tacking
on a list of problems uncovered or even proposed solutions. Moving toward the
applied end are the scholars who evaluate programs (consult) occasionally for
an agency and the ones who contract themselves to work in agency programs for a
year or more while retaining university links and security. Contrasted to all
the benefits that have been built up for U.S. tenured faculty since World War II,
it is apparent that agency employment is not secure. Many of the best applied
social scientists are drawn back to academic work by professional colleagues who
cannot believe applied research is either good science or a service to society.
The ethic of "academic freedom" consists of a positive freedom (to follow
one's interest into whatever inquiry) and the lack of a constraint (being com-
pelled by contract to carry out research or write reports that may be morally
distasteful or uninteresting). The former is definitely curtailed in agency
employment and consultation: at least for major projects, the researcher must
justify his expenditure of time and supplies to his employers. To a lesser ex-
tent, the academic is subject to the same pressures through grant proposals,
university promotion and tenure fights, and teaching commitments. But:the older
-and more prestigious academics are rewarded by increased freedom, while the
equivalent applied researcher is pressed into more and more commitments to pro-
jects important to the agency but not necessarily central to him. The problem
of constraint arises only to the extent that the researcher has chosen an agency
with which he disagrees on basic goals and is unwilling or economically unable
to forfeit his job to seek another.
At least superficially, project analysis seems to be most suited to
applied research and model-building to academic. Agencies often press for fast
results to specific problems, and academic social scientists are expected to
formulate and test general theories. Models are also more definite expressions
of final goals (participatory democracy or centralism, agriculturally or indus-
trially based economy) and commit agencies to widespread modifications in on-
going programs, and so are more difficult to get accepted. Researchers at the
Institute for Development Studies in Nairobi worked for six years to get .a more
decentralized planning model tailored to the national situation and accepted into
its bureaucracy (Leonard 1973), but a new technique for selecting and training
less progressive farmers in modern agriculture was incorporated into the exten-
sion system within two (Roling et al. 1974). Academic models can be refined.
without such strong pressure to conform to current values, and, over time, through
publication and teaching, can lead to revisions in public goals that allow them
to be applied. Application of a model to use by a particular agency for a par-
ticular locale can be eased when a social science researcher that is familiar with
the model's constraints and ambiguities is acting as consultant. But such advice
is most useful when the researcher also has a knowledge of agency constraints and
potentials that is best gained by full-time employment with the agency.
Most of academic as well as applied reporting (and research) is actually
project-oriented rather than model-building. The chances of academic project
evaluation and recommendations getting into the hands of the community or agency
leaders in a position to do something about them are very small. Officials and
politicians below the national level in most countries are highly unlikely to
have access to the publications or to be able to interpret the scholarly language.
Academic project reporting goes into the process of theory building within the
scholarly community, but does not effect the course of rural life in the area
where the study was undertaken.
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There is a need for a spectrum of academic through applied social science
researchers. Presently academic researchers are in the great majority. Agency
and academic organizations must be modified so as to increase the number and
quality of applied researchers as well. A few suggestions towards this end
Disciplinary definition: It is argued above that lack of clear dis-
ciplinary boundaries is an advantage to social science training. But once
trained, movement into the applied field requires that social scientists learn
to present themselves in such a way that others will know what to expect of :
them. Exposure to "laymen" during graduate training helps. One useful
device is the graduate research project in collaboration with a local community
organization, under its guidance/and control, now occasionally being used in
a systematic way (e.g. Leacock 1974). Agencies in return have to learn that
in social science identification the sub-field is sometimes more important
than the discipline. Personal summaries of training and interests may be more
useful than disciplinary identification. Prestige,research freedom, and training
applied research: National and regional research institutes with strong or sole
interest in rural development problems, financed by a mixture of government,
international, and private contracts and grants, could be used to train
graduate-level apprentice researchers as well as development program personnel.
This dual-function applied/research and training institute would parallel
the university at the graduate level and thus could be structured to provide
stronger security and professional status for its staff helping to solve the
problem of holding good researchers in the applied field. Most of the funding
would.be tied to projects, but a small amount of core support (say 20-25%)
would allow the group to free some members for projects or refinements which
were important to them as social scientists in their broad study of rural devel-
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opment problems. More general social science institutes within universities
(CAEN at Fortaleza, Brazil; Institute for Development Studies at Nairobi, Kenya;
etc.) are moving in this direction, but few have moved to formalize training
and research distinct from regular academic departments. Without this step the
institute personnel are under pressure from academic colleagues to return to
full-time teaching, and students continue to be trained primarily by academicians
with little attention to applied needs. Since social science research work in
rural areas presents some special problems of data collection and covers a
different range of problems from urban or national development research, it
would be worthwhile to establish a few specifically rural-oriented regional
institutes around the world.
Time constraints in agency research: This is especially a problem
with model application which takes a longer time period than project evaluation.
Few social scientists are now employed by agencies for long enough to undertake
.initiation or basic revision of development programs. Most of these few are
economists. Career positions for social scientists from all fields who have
shown an ability to grapple with applied research in their graduate or sabbatical
work should be increased within international and national agencies. In countries
where native-born social scientists are in short supply, this should be secondary
to the establishment of the research-training institutes mentioned above, but
should be a publicQ.ly recognized goal for future expansion.
Application of academic project research: As stated above, much of academic
project reporting is lost to the projects studied. One way around this is for
grant-making agencies to institute similar requirements to the research
clearances required recently in many less-developed countries. Only research
which was done with the concurrence of a specific development agency (whether
public or. private) would be financed, and research reports would have to be
returned to them. This would cut out a lot of possibly useful research that
was in some way hostile to the prevailing political elite of a country. Another
possibility is the funding of a research bulletin which simplifies and disseminates
academic research to a network of rural development agency personnel, either
world-wide or regional. Possibly grant-making agencies could prepare a precis
during evaluation of past research grants to send to the American Council on
Education's Network Bulletin, if this new publication could be expanded to cope
with the influx, or to a modified UNRISD bulletin series. Proliferation of
networks covering the same regions is a threat to their purpose, with projects
sponsored by one agency or from one university going to one place and those by
another to a second. Agency agreement should be reached on a single network
center at least for each continent.
Social scientists have much to add to the present emphasis on integration,
or brfl/dening the effects of sectoral programs. At least one discipline anthr
was effectively born out of development programs. It is time for the disciplines
again to normalize their relations with such programs.
a) Francine R. Frankel, "India's New Strategy of Agricultural Development: Political
Costs of Agrarian Modernization", Journal of Asian Studies 28:693-710. 1969
b) Carl Gotsch, "Economics, Institutions and Employment Generation in Rural Areas"
In Edgar O. Edwards, ed., Employment in Developing Nations: Report on a
Ford Foundation Study. Columbia University Press. 1974
e) Ian Hamnett, "The Role of the Sociologist in Local Planning", Journal of
Development Studies 9 (4):493-507. 1973
d) Paul Kaplan, "The Impact of Planned Change and the Testing of a New Framework
for Community Development", Journal of Developing Areas 8 (3). 1974
e) Todd R. La Porte and Daniel Metlay, "Technology Observed: Attitudes of a Wary
Public", Science 188:121-127. 11 April 1975
f) Eleanor Leacock, et al., Training Programs for New Opportunities in Applied
Anthropology: a Symposium Sponsored by the Society for Applied
Anthropology. Boston, March 1974. publication by American Anthropological
Association, Washington D.C.
g) David K. Leonard, ed., Rural Administration in Kenya. East African Literature
Bureau, Nairobi. 1973
h) Albert Mayer, et al., Pilot Project, India: The story of Rural Development at
Etawah, Uttar Pradesh. Greenwood Press (Westport, Conn.) 1958 (reprinted
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i) NielS Ruling, Joseph Ascroft, and Fred wa Chege, "Innovation and Equity in
Rural Development". presented at the Eighth World Congress of Sociology,
j) Rural Development Network Bulletin. Overseas Liaison Committee (American Council
on Education). begun fall 1974. (Washington, D.C.)
k) Irwin T. Sanders, et al., "Community Development". special issue of Rural Sociology
1) Carol Smith, "Market Articulation and Economic Stratification in Western
Guatemala". Food Research Institute Studies 11(2):203-233. 1972
m) UNDP, Global Research on Social and Economic Implications of Large-Scale Introduc-
tion of New Varieties of Food Grains: Summary of Conclusions by United
Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Geneva. GLO/71/002. 1974
n) Clifton R. Wharton, Jr., "The Green Revolution: Cornucopia or Pandora's Box?",
Foreign Affairs 47:464-476. 1969
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April 9, 1975
Ralph W. Cummings, Jr.
THE PUEBLA PROJECT*
The Puebla Project is a rural development program which deserves de-
tailed study for several reasons. The project is aimed specifically at
small farmers. It has managed to achieve the goals originally specified.
It has had a direct influence in stimulating the establishment of similar
projects in other states in Mexico and in several other Latin American
countries as well as having had an indirect influence in the implementation
of programs in Asia and Africa. It has a well-documented history over an
eight-year period. As a result, it should cause students and practitioners
to reassess what is really meant by rural development and what is needed
to bring it about.
This paper has two interrelated purposes. The first is to explain
the Puebla Project as a rural development project. Some observers argue
that because the Puebla Project focused on agricultural production and did
not initially include specific activities in such other areas as health,
* This paper is prepared for a meeting on Social Science Research in Rural
Development to be held at The Rockefeller Foundation, April 29-30, 1975.
The paper borrows heavily from five trips which the author has made to
Mexico since September 1972 as well as several recent excellent accounts
of the Puebla Project including: (1) The Plan Puebla Staff, The Puebla
Project: Seven Years of Experience (1967-1973): Analysis of a program
to increase crop production in rainfed areas of small, subsistence farmers.
Mexico, CIMMYT, 1975 (this report contains a bibliography of 22 theses
and 22 articles and reports written on the Puebla Project); (2) Leobardo
Jimenez S. and Reggie J. Laird, "Mexico: The Puebla Project A program
to increase crop production by small, subsistence farmers in rainfed
areas," appearing in Strategies for Agricultural Education in Developing
Countries, The Rockefeller Foundation Working Papers, December 1974; (3)
Heliodoro Diaz-Cisneros, "An Institutional Analysis of a Rural Development
Project: A Case of the Puebla Project in Mexico," a thesis submitted in
partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Phi-
losophy at the University of Wisconsin, 1974. Sterling Wortman, Reggie J.
Laird, G. Edward Schuh, Donald Winkelmann, Edgardo Moscardi, and Herman
Felstehausen read an earlier draft and made perceptive comments. However,
the views expressed in the paper are the author's alone and should not be
blamed on the others cited above.
education, and off-farm employment, it should be considered as an agricul-
tural development project rather than a rural development project in the
Rural development is an especially difficult concept to define. What
people want from life varies in specifics from area to area and from per-
son to person. However, generally every person, at the minimum, needs
acceptable levels of food, health, shelter, and clothing. No less impor-
tant than these, he also needs less easily defined factors that in sum
contribute to his self-respect, identity, satisfaction, and spiritual well-
being. His notion of "acceptable levels" of wants and needs will, over
time, very likely alter with the rising expectations that accompany develop-
ment. By and large, however, it may be argued that attainment of these
goals as they evolve is contingent directly or indirectly on the growth
and distribution of family income, which becomes a significant objective.
Rural development includes achievement of this broader range of objectives
by a wide group of rural people on a sustained basis.
Some activity or activities must be initiated to increase income. In
rural areas, the most obvious income-generating mechanism is agriculture.
In some cases, agricultural change can result in a limited range of benefits
for a limited number of people. However, a project whose initial concep-
tion, at least as related to inputs, would appear to place it in the agri-
cultural development category, can produce a spread of benefits, indirect
as well as direct, such that the ultimate results are much the same as, if
not greater than, those achieved by projects which begin explicitly as
Arthur T. Mosher, "Projects of Integrated Rural Development," A/D/C re-
print, The Agricultural Development Council, New York, N.Y., December
recognized rural development projects. There too often is a tendency to
attempt to force inclusion of such activities as public health and primary
education from the beginning when a simpler focus initially, followed
several years afterward by the addition of other activities, might be more
appropriate. The Puebla Project is a good example of an "agricultural
development" project which really is a "rural development" project.
The second purpose is to describe the contribution which social scien-
tists made to the implementation of the project. The institutional con-
straints were probably at least as important as the technical constraints
in preventing the majority of the campesinos from using services in the
area. The team members with social science training had the particular
task of identifying these institutional constraints and attempting to work
out methods of overcoming them. This input, appearing in several places
throughout the project, undoubtedly made a significant contribution to the
success of the project.
The paper will be divided into six sections: first, the origin of
the Puebla Project and its objectives; second, its various activities as
they evolved; third, training; fourth, what was accomplished; fifth, impli-
cations which might be applied to other areas of the world; finally, some
Origin and Objectives
By 1967, scientists at the International Center for the Improvement of
Maize and Wheat (CIMMYT) were struck by the fact improved maize varieties and
agronomic production practices which had been developed on the research
stations were not being utilized widely by farmers in Mexico. In particular,
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small farmers did not seem to be picking up the new technology readily.
The question was, why? The scientists decided to determine if, with avail-
able varieties, yields in the region could be raised substantially; if so,
whether with the available varieties new practices would be more profitable
to use; and, if so, to what extent farmers would change and what factors
would influence their decisions. Later after the Puebla Project had met
with some success, two more objectives were added:*
a) To develop an efficient methodology for promoting a rapid increase
in maize production.
b) To train national leaders for maize promotion programs and to assist
them in initiating and operating their programs.
The project area chosen is in the state of Puebla, about two hours drive
from Mexico City. In the area approximately 43,000 families on roughly
116,000 hectares of cropland (about 2-1/2 ha per family), about three-quarters
in maize, farmed land under rainfed conditions. Average maize yields were
only 1.3 tons per hectare and static. There was a good system of roads for
access to the area. Agricultural service agencies, including credit, fer-
tilizer supply, crop insurance, and price support, were already existing
although not widely serving the small farmers. A land reform program had
been carried out previously.
The project was initiated as a learning process (not a demonstration
project). It tested a planned approach, based initially on what was known,
In addition the project staff itself added an internal challenge to them-
selves, i.e., to double the yields of maize within a five-year period.
This was not a formal objective of the project although its achievement,
of course, would have been welcomed.
with built-in mechanisms for learning and subsequent adjustments. CIMMYT
maintained overall control and coordination, but at the same time it tried
to involve the appropriate Mexican institutions as collaborators.
The professional team consisted of ten to eleven professionals with
university degrees. The composition of the team changed somewhat through-
out the project. For example, a corn breeder was involved during the early
period, while a technical assistance agent was not added till the second
year. However, basically the team has consisted of a coordinator, four
specialists in agronomic research (including a maize varietal improvement
specialist), an evaluation specialist, and five technical assistance agents.
A staff of approximately twenty-five local farmers, selected and trained
for specific jobs, has complemented the professional staff. Several staff
members of CIMMYT and the Graduate College at Chapingo provided technical
assistance to the professional project staff. The project staff were paid
salaries competitive with other civil service positions. There were strong
professional incentives in the form of satisfaction of seeing the results of
the work in the project area and its spread to other states in Mexico and
other countries in Latin America.
The total cost of the project for the first seven years was $925,045, of
which $559,851 was provided by The Rockefeller Foundation, $332,737 by
CIMMYT, and $32,457 by the Graduate College and various institutions in
Puebla. This level of financing was generally adequate to permit the level
of activity which was desirable. Administrative procedures were decided
internally and "red tape" was minimized.
The cost of the project, the staffing requirements, and the method of
operation were designed in such a way that it would be practical for the
- 6 -
government to assume full responsibility for the project as well as extend
it to other areas if it were successful.
The Project Components
The basic components of the Puebla Project can be divided into five
main activity areas, some with subactivities:
a. Production research: local production research emphasizing maize
production practices (including soils, planting density, fertilizers, and
sowing date) and variety testing.
b. Technical assistance: communication of agronomic information to
farmers, agricultural leaders, agricultural institutions, and government
c. Coordination of all activities (including the above) impinging
directly on maize production:
(1) Production credit.
(2) Agronomic inputs.
(3) Relationships between input costs and crop values.
(5) Crop insurance.
d. Institutional development
e. Socioeconomic evaluation
We will review activities in each of these main areas.
The project area on which maize is grown is located between 2,150 and
2,700 meters above sea level in a valley bordered by three statuesque volcanoes.
The soils are variable in quality. The climate is temperate with frosts
occurring mostly during the winter months (but occurring in all months ex-
cept July). Frequent hailstorms occur in late summer and early fall. Aver-
age rainfall varies from 777 to 863 millimeters, 94 percent of which falls
between April and October which is the maize growing season.
The initial task of the project staff was to discover technology
suitable to help farmers increase their yields under these physical condi-
tions. They first reviewed the information available, both from previous
research efforts as well as by interviewing farmers, to establish research
priorities. They then initiated field tests of a number of varieties with
different levels of management with respect to fertilizer use and timing,
plant population, and weed control to establish the recommended levels of
production inputs. At the same time they initiated a breeding program to
attempt to develop varieties better suited to the environmental conditions
than those then available.
At the end of the first year of field tests it was found that none of
the improved maize varieties or hybrids performed appreciably better than
certain unique local varieties which had been selected by farmers in an
area irrigated with sewage waters from Puebla.
Thereafter, project research has focused on deriving recommendations
for varieties of maize already in use, taking into account variability in
soil morphology, planting dates, elevation above sea level, and moisture
availability. In 1967, the first year, 27 trials were located over the
project area (ecological knowledge by which to insure optimal location
of the trials was not then developed). Based on these results, the project
came out with new recommendations that increased the rate of nitrogen
(from 80 kg/ha to 130 kg/ha) and increased the plant population (from 40,000
plants/ha to 50,000 plants/ha).
Beginning in 1968, planting date, timing of nitrogen application, and
plant population were additional variables studied in the experiments. A
soil morphologist spent ten days interpreting soil differences. High plant
density was found to be very important to obtaining high yields under good
conditions (but may result in lower yields if weather is not favorable).
Recommendations were changed for a few areas where soil conditions were
limiting. Recommendations were also made for different planting dates
because the length of the growing season was found to have a very impor-
tant influence on yield. Drought and hail were found to be the major
sources of risk. Late frost could also be a factor. In all, recommended
packages of production practices were developed for 16 producing conditions
in the area. Experimental results indicated that project recommendations
could increase yields by an average of 1.75 tons/ha on some areas and an
average of over 1 ton/ha over the whole area, compared to the traditional
practices, and by an average of over 0.5 ton/ha above yields achieved with
the previous recommendations.
The advisors in research were sensitive to social science considera-
tions in deriving the recommendations. Each of the 16 recommendations
was made at two levels, one to reflect limited capital and the other to
reflect unlimited capital.* Care was taken in making these recommendations
* The limited capital recommendations were selected intuitively rather than
based on rigorous experimental criteria. On the average, they called for
lower levels of nitrogen and phosphorus and lower plant populations than
previously recommended by the National Agricultural Research Institute
(INIA). However, the limited capital recommendations were adjusted spe-
cifically to the conditions of each of the 16 producing systems. In prac-
tice, the limited capital recommendations corresponded closely to the
factor combinations that maximized the rate of return on fertilizer.
to ensure that the farmers had a good chance of making at least as much in-
come with the new recommendations as with previous practices in an unfavor-
Recent research has concentrated more attention on combinations of corn
and beans which is an important cropping system in the project area. When
beans are associated with maize, maize yields drop. However, because the
bean price is five times (currently) that of maize, the farmer growing beans
with his maize can end up with increased income. Fertilization with chicken
manure increases yields of maize and beans (especially); it also increases
protein content of maize and beans. The maize stalks and bean vines provide
useful forage for animal feed. Maize and beans have complementary amino
acid balances. Thus, the combination significantly increases both the
calories and protein available from an acre compared to previous practices.
Furthermore, because the combination must be harvested by hand, it also in-
It is not possible to overemphasize the contribution that this strong
research component, which is absent in most projects, made to the success
of the Puebla Project.
Recognizing that identification of superior technology applicable to
specific environmental conditions is only part of the job, the next and con-
current task of the project staff was to develop a mechanism to reach as
many of the farmers as possible in order that they would adopt the recom-
mended technologies to increase on farm yields and incomes.
The estimated 43,000 farm operators had an average of 5.9 members per
family. Average farm size was 2.7 cultivated hectares (90 percent of farms
- 10 -
with less than 5 hectares), consisting of 3.8 separate parcels. Almost
all farmers (over 99 percent) owned their own land or were ejiditarios,
farmers who have free possession of their land for life.
The 157 villages of the area are connected by roads which are passable
during most of the year. Almost four-fifths of the farmers could read or
write, although most only at minimal levels (average school attendance
was 2.24 years). Electricity reached 63 percent of farmers, 14 percent had
potable water, 61 percent had a radio, and 13 percent had a television
set.* In 1967 almost all of the farmers knew about chemical fertilizers
and approximately two-thirds were using fertilizers, although often at
low levels. Over half of the farmers knew of hybrid maize but less than
one percent were using it in 1967.
The agrarian reforms of the 1920's had been accompanied by political
and organizational changes at the village level. However, many promises
were unfilled and many previous private efforts had resulted in frustration.
The villagers had become very competitive among themselves. Furthermore,
they were generally suspicious of outsiders and especially mistrustful of
government and organizations associated with it. After several decades of
experience, the campesinos had come to the conclusion that they were better
off without government services. Often inputs and cash supplied did not
arrive on time. Because the inputs and credit were late, the cash credit
was often expended for nonproductive purposes and therefore the campesinos
had difficulty in repaying it. The inputs received often were not suited
to the ecological conditions in which they were to be used. Corruption
* The last two figures are from 1970 data.
- 11 -
among field agents distributing the inputs and credit made their use even
The problem of mistrust had to be endured and overcome since the Puebla
Project had no alternative in the sense that eventually the government had
to take over the program. For this reason, the staff felt that they had
to use face-to-face communication at the beginning in order to establish
rapport with the campesinos. They began using films, radio, and printed
materials only by 1969. Continuity of staff personnel in this early period
was especially important in establishing trust.
First, through repeated visits to the villages the staff studied the
recognized communications systems already in existence, including both the
formal system operating through the power structure and the informal sys-
tems operating through friends and neighbors. Direct information was given
to everyone, including women and children, who attended the meetings held
in various villages. Several things were accomplished in this process;
first, the farmers felt involved; second, the staff were able to identify
what the people wanted and what problems were most important to the community;
and third, the community leaders were identified. It became obvious that
participation had to be on a voluntary basis to have lasting effect.
From this process, the key role of credit as a motivating force was
identified. The rate of loan repayments had been very low and banks were
reluctant to lend. It was virtually impossible for an individual alone
to get credit and, at the low level of resources owned by the campesinos,
without credit the campesinos were unable to finance the improvements
needed to raise yields. Therefore, the project leaders made known to the
- 12 -
farmers that credit, fertilizer, seeds, and assistance were available to
those who participated in the program at their own choice.
Based on their investigations, the project staff realized that the
campesinos would not voluntarily use the services provided by the govern-
ment agencies. Furthermore, the public banks were not prepared in 1968 to
participate in the program. Therefore, an alternative was sought to permit
those campesinos who were willing to use the new technology, but who did
not have the resources necessary to purchase the required inputs, to get
credit. An arrangement was finally worked out with a private fertilizer
dealer. In 1968, the first year, 103 farmers volunteered to participate
in the project. Eighty-five of them required credit; the remainder had
adequate financial resources but wanted technical assistance. In that
first year, yields of the participants averaged 4.0 tons/ha compared to
2.1 tons/ha for the entire project area.*
In 1969 three major changes were made. First, the project area was
divided into four (and eventually into five) zones. A technical assistance
agent was assigned to each zone (actually only four of the five zones had
technical assistance agents in the first year). Each technical assistance
agent had one or two nonprofessional assistants, local trained farmers, who
assisted in the work with the farmers. Second, in 1969 the number of par-
ticipants rose to 2,561 and the official credit banks joined the fertilizer
distributor in offering credit to the farmers. Third, because the number
of farmers had become too large for individual technical assistance agents,
the participating farmers were organized into groups.
* No comparison of the yields attained by "participants" and "nonparticipants"
prior to the start of the project is available.
- 13 -
Although the need for some form of organization which would permit the
technical assistance agents to work with larger numbers of farmers was
recognized from the beginning, the specific form or forms it would take was
not clear. The planners decided to let the eventual organization evolve
out of the experience of the campesinos as the needs for cooperative action
became obvious to them. The initial participants recognized the weaknesses
of individual action. At an early stage, they spontaneously suggested that
cooperation would have advantages in arranging transport for fertilizer.
They organized in groups for this purpose. As recognition grew that group
action was useful for other purposes also, the actions of the groups ex-
panded to meet these broader needs.
The makeup and specific rules of operation of the groups differ some-
what depending on with which of the credit institutions they are associated.
However, the basic principles are similar. A combination of responsibility
and social pressure is the key element in making the group an effective
element of change. In the case of solidarity groups, only one member has
to have a clear land title to qualify for loans from the Agricultural Bank.
The group also generally takes responsibility for repayment of credit by
individual members. It works out solutions if individual members can not
or will not repay. In some cases a group will take over payments until
the member can assume his load. In other cases, individuals are excluded
from future participation. Some members of communities are restricted
from groups initially because they are not considered to be responsible.
The groups serve to reduce transaction costs of borrowing. Finally, the
groups, made up of many men rather than one individual, can exert pressures
on the institutions to obtain rightful access to services. They have
- 14 -
received strong political support from the President of Mexico who appre-
ciates the need for organization to achieve desired goals.
For various reasons including the lack of managerial expertise among
the rural leaders which has contributed to a history of corruption, coopera-
tives do not extend in any strength to the rural areas of Mexico. However,
it is felt that a few groups are prepared for a more formal and sophisticated
type of organization now.
As the project gained momentum, the staff has come to learn that the
farmers are better prepared to follow than the staff sometimes is to lead.
Coordination of Activities for Favorable Change in Agricultural Institutions
The participation of agricultural service institutions to supply produc-
tion inputs including chemical fertilizers, to provide credit, and to en-
sure a reliable market for outputs is essential to the success of any rural
development program. In the case of Puebla, the necessary institutions did
already exist, but were not fulfilling the needs of the small farmers. Ini-
tially they resisted becoming directly involved in the project. The third
component of the strategy, therefore, was to involve them gradually, using
favorable program experience and pressures from the farmer groups to achieve
Four main credit agencies operate in the area with differences in in-
terest rates charged, requirements to qualify for loans, and other procedures.
These practices range from 9 percent yearly interest with no individual
security (but a government endorsement guaranteeing the overall operation
and a requirement that farmers receive technical assistance from the Puebla
Project staff) of the private fertilizer dealer to 10.5 percent interest
plus 1 percent service charge (the total actually comes to almost 13 percent
- 15 -
because of administrative procedures) with group guarantees (which can be
supported by land title of a single member) and a requirement to purchase
crop insurance (required by all official agencies) of the official Agricul-
tural Bank. One official bank deals primarily with the ejidarios, taking
into account the special conditions under which they operate. A third
official bank is gradually withdrawing because of other interests.
The amount of agricultural credit distributed to the campesinos in
the project area increased from 1,330,598 pesos in 1968 to over 12,500,000
pesos in 1972. The rate of loan repayment has also increased significantly.
In 1972 the private dealer (with 15.8 percent of credit) reported 98.5%;
the Agricultural Bank (with 39.3 percent) 94%; the Ejido Bank (with 40.9
percent) 90%; and the Banco Agropecuario del Sur (with a declining 4.1
percent of credit) only 50% repayment.
Problems still remain, however. The private dealer, who is limited to
interest rates lower than the subsidized official banks, is not making enough
profit to give him incentive to expand. Generally, loan processing is often
lengthy. Personnel turnover is high. Also, legal and communications (for
example, the farmers do not understand the crop insurance) problems exist.
Fertilizer policy was changed in 1971. Previously, individual dis-
tributors purchased fertilizer from the producer for sale, at whatever
price they could get to whomever they favored, in the villages. Now fer-
tilizer is distributed in the town of Puebla and at two other points directly
to farmers at a single (unsubsidized) official price. Usually the fer-
tilizer is purchased by the groups who then arrange for transport to the
- 16 -
There has been a significant change in the type of fertilizer used
in the project area during the past few years. Initially 10-8-4 (which
identifies percentages of nitrogen, phosphate, and potash in a mixture)
was distributed. However, the project staff discovered through their ex-
periments that there was no production response to potash in four of the
five zones and that in one zone, there was response only to nitrogen. As
a result of communicating this information to the farmer groups who applied
pressure on the fertilizer distributor, ammonium sulfate (20.5 percent N)
and superphosphate (20 percent P20 ) are now the primary fertilizers used
in the area.
Floor prices are enforced by the government price control agency
(Conosupo) which purchases maize for announced prices at 14 warehouses
over the area. No quality discount is given up to 14 percent moisture.
This agency has greatly simplified procedures but the farmers still think
the dealings are too complicated.*
Crop insurance, which is obligatory to all who receive official credit,
has been a consistent problem. Insurance can be denied if the campesinos
do not carry out recommended practices. Furthermore, the campesinos have
felt that they already insure themselves by planting in different parcels
and at different times. The criterion for payment of claims has been the
source of repeated dissatisfaction. As a result of the pressure from the
* Until 1973 the floor price was above world prices. However, in practice
the bulk of the maize was sold by the farmers at below-Conosupo prices.
Conosupo often would not purchase small lots, would discount for quality,
and sometimes, when storage space was not available, would not make pur-
chases at all. It is reported that this situation has improved, in part
because of the existence of the groups but more importantly because the
world price is above the floor price.
- 17 -
groups, new procedures for reimbursement have been worked out whereby the
farmers stand a better chance of receiving compensation when damage is
limited to one or two parcels. The premiums paid by organized farmers
using the project recommendations will be reduced by half in future years.
The Puebla Project staff played important catalytic roles in bringing
the campesinos and the service organizations into closer contact and better
understanding. They persuaded the campesinos, who had had little.previous
experience with banks, to follow the rules of the banks. They persuaded
the banks, who were not set up to deal efficiently with many small.units,
to simplify their procedures and to pay their field people better. They
urged upon the fertilizer company the importance of supplying materials on
The project had very fortunate leadership in that it has had three
excellent coordinators. These coordinators have provided both intellectual
as well as administrative leadership. Coordination has been provided through
weekly meetings, often held at night, of the entire technical staff to dis-
cuss problems as they arise. Staff were chosen, in part, on their ability
to work together. The relatively small number of staff, who were both well
trained and highly motivated, undoubtedly has facilitated the coordination
of activities, including the ability to change programs based on the feedback
provided by the evaluation unit.
- 18 -
Improvement in institutional performance was an essential component of
the project which was discovered within the project experience. The leader-
ship of the project came from persons who were aware of the institutional
elements through previous experience in rural areas of Mexico and who had
struggled with organizational issues long before they undertook the Puebla
effort. As a result the technicians consciously and deliberately helped
the campesinos to organize. Furthermore, the organized groups, along with
their advisors, recognized that their task was not just to grow more maize
but also to overhaul the banking system and improve services. The campesinos
themselves insisted on some of the institutional changes. The groups were
able to apply pressures to change the credit system because they represented
a certain collective discipline which does not exist without organization.
The technical assistance agents were not trained in this area and at one
time in the project, displayed their initial lack of organizational competence
by actually suspending critical parts of the program only to reestablish
the activities later. The first campesinos to organize were those who had
ejido experience. Without this model, the project might not have gotten
its ideas together quickly enough or successful enough for the groups to
succeed. Together the campesinos and the technical assistance agents learned
as they went along "by doing." Still, the communicators are only beginning
to make headway in promoting more advanced campesino organizations that can
* This component, not recognized explicitly in the original project plan
but in fact implicit as the project progressed, is included at the sugges-
tion of Herman Felstehausen. The discussion has benefited from correspon-
dence with Felstehausen and the thesis, cited previously, of Heliodoro Diaz.
- 19 -
attack greater problems. The institutional development component is very
important in distinguishing the Puebla Project from numerous other projects
which have been tried throughout the world.
It was agreed to establish an evaluation unit within the project.
The team began by checking Mexican government data; it was decided
these data were not sufficiently accurate so the staff collected its own.
They began by using aerial photos; next identified 100 hectare segments
and the parcels within each; and then took a 12 percent sample of owners
in each segment (25 segments in all). They interviewed each person selected
from a random sample of 10 within each segment; 251 questionnaires were
taken in 1967-68. A comprehensive list of questions was included. A second
survey was carried out in 1971. One limitation of the first two surveys was
that they included only those who farmed land; landless laborers were not
included. A third survey covering a wider coverage of questions and people
may be carried out in the summer of 1975.
The surveys have played a useful role in measuring changes (which are
reported in the next section) during the first four years of the project.
However, the surveys carried out by evaluation unit did not play the feed-
back role which was originally envisaged. Two reasons probably accounted
most for this.
First, formalized social science surveys, especially if they cover a
statistically designed sample and include a broad range of variables needed
to give a comprehensive evaluation of change, tend to be both expensive and
time-consuming. Often the results are not available quickly enough to in-
fluence operations. Second, surveys which are designed to evaluate change
- 20 -
often do not contain the information identifying obstacles limiting farmer
use of new technology which would assist in developing means to overcome
such obstacles. To provide such information requires skill in design, an
understanding of the general problem, and quick analysis. However, the
surveys have been useful in evaluating change over longer periods of time
as a measure of project progress.
Special studies of less sophisticated design which were more quickly
compiled were carried out in 1968 and 1973 to determine the level of per-
formance of the service organizations and to identify the components of the
fertilizer distribution network. These studies, especially the first, did
have some role in making the project staff more aware of limiting factors.
Finally, because the staff anticipated that the farmers would object to the
staff harvesting ears in the field, the evaluation staff derived an indirect
method of measuring maize yields. This was very useful in measuring the
year-to-year results of recommendations under the prevailing conditions.
It should be reemphasized that while the survey studies made a relatively
limited contribution to the project implementation, evaluation and feedback
was built into the project on a continuing basis. The staff utilized direct
personal observation and frequent contact with farmers and service institu-
tion personnel to derive their data. The weekly informal staff meetings
(especially active during the early stages of the project) provided an effec-
tive forum to display and reflect on the observations and make the indicated
- 21 -
A training component of the project was built on the premise-that all
disciplines must contribute cooperatively to achievement of common goals,
that capacities for judgment and professional competence are the key in-
gredients needed to insure transferability of experience from one project
to another, and that a pilot level focus is the best way of learning the
"nuts and bolts" of what makes a project succeed or fail.
The basic course lasts 6 to 9 months. Three areas of training -
production research (emphasizing research for generating packages of crop
production practices), coordination and technical assistance, and evaluation -
were emphasized. The project staff prepared a training manual for each of
the three areas of specialization (retaining some elements of all three
areas in each manual).
Plan Puebla is now also participating in a training program in which
course work and degrees are granted from Chapingo with thesis research
work in Puebla.
Sixty-six persons were trained during 1967-73 from Mexico (41) and
four other Latin American countries, i.e., Colombia (16), Peru (5), Ecuador (2),
and Honduras (2). Twenty-two of these trainees also carried out academic
programs at the Graduate College at Chapingo. The trainees are presently
participating in the operation of ten regional production programs in
The "official" definition of a participant in the Plan Puebla program
is a farmer who is in a credit list. Based on this definition the following
table shows the growth in direct Plan Puebla coverage during the first six
- 22 -
Estimates of Plan Puebla Participation
1968 1969 1970 1971
Number of Cooperators 103 2,561 4,833 5,240
Percent of Total* 0.2 5.9 11.1 12.1
Hectares in Plan 76 5,838 12,601 14,438
Percent of Total** 0.1 7.3 15.8 18.0
It must be recognized that this is a very restrictive definition of
participation. Not all farmers on the credit lists are necessarily apply-
ing the recommended technology and many other farmers, some of whom do not
require credit, undoubtedly are following the project recommendations.
Farmers are cautious and experiment themselves. They usually only partially
adopt recommended production practices, they will adopt some parts of recom-
mendations more readily than others, and they tend to use new technologies
initially on only a portion of their lands. In order to get a clearer picture
of the adoption process, farmers in the area were divided into the following
categories for three practices.
Levels of Adoption
mately to what
limits for the "low" levels of adoption correspond approxi-
the better farmers were using in 1967. The lower limits of
* Based on a total of 43,300 farmers.
** Based on a total of 80,000 ha of maize.
- 23 -
the "high" levels of adoption correspond to the lowest rates of the inputs
that are recommended presently in the area.
Analysis reveals a significant movement of farmers during the project
period from "low" to "high" levels of adoption in each category.
Levels of Adoption of Each Recommendation
% of all farmers in area
1967 1968 1970 1972
High 7 -- 33 45
Int 11 -- 14 14
Low 82 -- 53 41
High 24 -- 38 4h
Int 8 -- 9 9
Low 69 -- 52 47
High -- 14 25 39
Int -- 35 31 34
Low -- 51 44 27
Average amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and plants used in maize
plantings increased by 129, 93, and 10 percent respectively from 1967 to
1972.* There appear to be several possible reasons for the relatively
small apparent change in plant densities including uncertainties of avail-
ability of fertilizer (which is needed to support high densities) at planting
time, the belief that corn will withstand drought (which is a major concern
of farmers) better at lower stands, and the farmers' desire to increase
* It should be noted that not all of this increase in fertilizer use was due
to the project. Between 1967 and 1971, the actual maize/fertilizer price
ratios for nitrogen and phosphates declined by 20 percent, thereby in
itself giving a greater economic incentive to use more chemical fertilizer.
- 24 -
production of large ears which they feel is best achieved with relatively
low plant densities. The above table would suggest that the changes in
plant densities might be greater than the averages suggest.
The following data tend to confirm the observation that the farmers
themselves experimented with recommendations, often adopting them in stages
rather than as a complete package.
Level of Adoption N=200 N=200
of Three Practices All Farmers Farms in Credit List
High all 3 10 20
High for 2; intermediate for 1 11 28
High for 2; low for 1 19 27
High for 1; intermediate for 2 3 6
High for 1; intermediate for 1;
low for 1 15 8
Total 58 89
One important implication of these data is that it is very difficult
to analyze participation quantitatively, at least in any simple manner.
Since the only measurable definition of participation was not meaningful,
comparisons of performance between "participants" and "nonparticipants"
generally were not carried out.
The main purpose of the project was to increase maize yields. Maize
yields in Puebla (over whole area) are estimated to have risen as follows:
- 25 -
Average Maize Yields in Puebla
Year General Average kg/ha
1967 was a poor rainfall year. 1968 and 1972 were considered roughly
comparable weather years. (1968 was actually considered to be slightly
better.) Two different methods were used to "deweatherize" the production
data to estimate the influence of new practices in increasing yields during
the 1968 to 1972 period.* One method indicated a yield increase of 24.2
The first method was to utilize the average yields of 8 to 12 experi-
mental plots using practices approximating those of the farmers of the area
(50 kg/ha of N, 25 kg/ha of P 0 and 30,000 plants/ha) in each of the years
from 1968 to 1972. The seconQ Kas to utilize the average yields of the upper
third of the farmers in the credit lists each year who were assumed to be
using the recommended practices accurately and reasonably constantly over the
years. In both cases, the average yield of all farmers was then deweatherized
to give an estimate of the increase attributable to the new technology. Each
method has deficiencies. In the first, the number of experiments was not
large enough to adequately sample the area nor were they distributed over the
project area in a way to give proper weight to the 16 producing systems.
(They were not designed for this purpose.) In the second, closer supervision
may have led to higher levels of usage of the new technology in the first
year, 1968. Also, the upper third of farmers in credit lists does not provide
a representative sample of the producing conditions in the Puebla area. The
two methods gave similar weather factors for 1969 through 1971 but differed
considerably for 1972. A rough averaging of the two methods gives an annual
yield increase of 7.5 percent.
CIMMYT also made calculations by comparing the average production of the
last two years, 1972 and 1973, with the average of the first two years, 1967
and 1968. They concluded that average yields rose from 1.7 tons/ha to 2.5
tons/ha, an increase of 47 percent over 7 years or 6.7 percent per year.
- 26 -
percent; the other an increase of 41.9 percent between 1968 and 1972. The
Plan Puebla staff feel that a 30 percent yield increase between 1968 and
1972 is a reasonable compromise.
The following data indicate how these production gains were translated
into increased income for the farm families of Puebla.
Changes in Income and Welfare*
Average Total (cash & imputed) Net Income of Farm Families (sample from
total people of area who farm land; U.S. dollars adjusted for inflation)
Total family income US$ 666.80 US$ 825.52
% from crops 30.4 35.5
($ 202.57) ($ 293.06)
% from animals 28.4 30.0
($ 189.37) ($ 247.66)
% from off-farm activities 40.7 27.7
($ 271.53) ($ 228.67)
% from other activities 0.5 6.8
($ 3.33) ($ 56.13)
* The data on changes in income and welfare should be used with caution for
three reasons. First, the samples for 1967 and 1970 are not strictly com-
parable. It is felt that the direction of change, although not necessarily
the absolute amounts, is a reasonably accurate indicator. Second, the
breadth and depth of the project progress has not been fully reflected in
the data collected. The survey data do not pick up income by nonfarmers.
This is especially important because towns like Puebla generate a lot of
economic activity which must contribute significantly to the welfare of
the rural people, especially those who do not farm land. Furthermore, the
data as presented thus far do not give a complete picture regarding com-
parative benefits of participants compared to nonparticipants. It was
agreed that the available survey data, while being useful for some purposes,
still left many unanswered questions in part because the questions were
not asked when the surveys were designed. In order to improve the situa-
tion, a third survey is planned for the summer of 1975 which hopefully will
give a more comprehensive and more accurate picture of change in the project
area and provide answers to many questions. Third, obviously, not all the
income gains in the project area can be attributed directly to the Puebla
Project. Maize yields nationally have been rising at between one to two
percent per year. Per capital income in Mexico has been rising at about
three percent per year although these gains have not generally been extend-
ing to the dryland, small farmer areas.
- 27 -
The income from crop production is mostly from maize (61.5 percent in
1970). Net income from crop production was estimated to have increased
by 44.7 percent (from $202.71 to $293.06) over this three-year period (it
should be noted that 1967 was a poor year for maize production while 1970
was below average).
These data indicate a surprisingly high percentage (at least it was
surprising to many of the reviewers who did not know the area well) of
income from animal production. The reason for this apparent result is
that a large part (66.5 percent) of the gross change in animal income comes
from milk and somehow four large dairy producers (who represented 81 percent
of gross income from milk) got into the sample. Still, animals are signifi-
cant. They are used primarily for savings and income rather than for con-
sumption. Animals eat corn stalks, bean vines, and grass (pigs and chickens
will eat grain) so the cost of maintaining animals is not high. The rural
banking system for savings is not very well developed. Squirreling money
at home loses value to inflation. It would appear that income from animals
could be increased much more with new technical assistance. Beef, milk,
and swine seem to pose best opportunities. Marketing poses a big problem
for eggs (although it is not obvious why egg marketing is any more difficult
than milk marketing).
Limited inquiries do not indicate that the income from off-farm activities
in the rural area around Puebla would have been expected to decline; quite the
contrary. The apparent reason for this result in the reported data is that
survey figures account only for those who farm land. People who work in
brick factories, etc. (which seems to be increasing considerably) may be non-
land owners. Therefore, the growth in incomes from this activity probably
- 28 -
was not picked up by the survey. One other reason that the percentage
off-farm income for farm families appears to be falling is that on-farm
income opportunities may be even more attractive with new agricultural
techniques. The campesino prefers to farm his own land rather than work
in the city or in brickyards if his income from farming is reasonably
close to what he can earn elsewhere.
Distribution of Annual Family Income*
Ranges in Income (US$) % of families in range
$400 or less 55.8 43.5 -
401-600 12.3 20.1 +
601-1000 16.3 18.0 +
1001-2000 10.0 11.3 +
2000 + 5.6 7.1 +
These data suggest that the increases in farm family income appears
to have been accompanied by a desirable distribution of income. More
information is needed before a positive conclusion can be made on this.
Information on employment changes is meager. It appears that the
total number of days of off-farm work for farm families remained nearly
constant during the three-year period. (However, due to increases in popu-
lation, the average number of days worked off-farm per worker decreased.)
There is no reliable information on changes in on-farm employment. The
labor "requirements" for the traditional and recommended maize production
practices are estimated as follows:
* Family income in 1970 was adjusted to 1967 prices.
- 29 -
Labor Requirement for the Production of Maize
traditional planting planting using recom.
1 hectare for one crop season (man/days) tech (man/days)
land preparation 9.1 9.1
planting 4.3 7.7
cultivations 8.6 10.2
harvest 18.6 25.7
Total 40.6 52.7
It would be interesting to know on what the increased disposable income
is being spent. This information has not been collected comprehensively as
yet. There is, however, some information on changes in food consumption.
Beef or pork
Every 1-3 days
Several Foods by One
Every 4-7 days
Member of Family
prices as well as
time period is short, these data would suggest that diet
fruit, and vegetables) has improved. Changes in relative
higher incomes probably had some influence on this pattern.
Improvements in farm homes between 1967 and 1970 were reported by the
following percentages of farmers: 5.1 percent of the sample of farm families
changed the floor (from earth to concrete, brick, or mosaic), 13.4 percent
added another room, 6.7 percent painted the walls, and 4.2 percent repaired
- 30 -
There are also some encouraging signs of improvement in basic rural
facilities. These nonagricultural changes, of course, cannot be attributed
to the Puebla Project.
Percentage of Families Who Have Access to:
Electricity 63 77
Potable water 14 21
Plumbing 6 6
No data were collected in the first two surveys which measure degree
of change in such other areas as education or health. An anecdotal bit of
information is revealing however: one campesino reported that the increased
maize yields and incomes gave the townspeople enough money to improve the
road from their village. This permitted easier exit of village products and,
as a result, a brick industry was begun which now employs half of the labor
force in the village. One of the early uses of the bricks was to build a
school for the village to which the state supplied a teacher. This apparently
was not an isolated incident.
The Puebla Project staff did attempt to evaluate changes in attitudes of
the farmers. Forty-four percent of the sample of all farmers in the area
stated that they had increased their maize production between 1967 and 1970,
and four-fifths of these attributed their success either directly or indirectly
to the Puebla Project. This, in turn, had a favorable influence on their atti-
tudes to farming. In response to the question of what activity they would
engage in if they suddenly were to receive a greater amount of income than
they were currently getting, the number who said they would continue to farm
- 31 -
and improve their production practices increased from 53 percent in 1967
to 73 percent in 1970.
Perhaps just as importantly, based on the credibility established by
the agricultural progress of the Puebla Project, there is growing pressure
for the project staff to move into new areas such as animal production,
horticulture, education, and health services. Long-term loans are being
serviced through groups to drill deepwells for irrigation in order to grow
higher income crops like alfalfa and vegetables. Another group has coopera-
tively purchased a tractor. The groups are providing a means by which the
campesinos can increasingly use their newly discovered cooperative power
to pressure institutions for constructive changes in services beneficial to
Benefit/cost analysis was carried out by project staff using alternative
assumptions regarding who benefits, how much, for how long, and under what
opportunity and costs of resources. Counting only the increase in income from
maize production of participants in credit lists, i.e., the direct benefits,
the benefit/cost ratio directly attributable to the project (discounted at
14 percent interest rate) was 2.54. When additional account was taken of
nonparticipants in credit lists who also benefited from the project, i.e.,
the indirect benefits, the benefit/cost ratio was raised to 4.03.* No
calculations were made to include the intangible benefits accruing to the
farmers. It is recognized that benefit/cost analysis is only a partial
* Alternative calculations also were made using several labor cost assump-
tions. It was concluded that the most reasonable assumption was existence
of seasonal unemployment, i.e., zero opportunity cost, except at harvest.
Based on this assumption, the "most plausible" benefit/cost ratio is
- 32 -
measure of success. However, even acknowledging the limitations of this
analysis, this magnitude of return on investment from the project does
appear to be an impressive achievement.
Perhaps the ultimate test of the influence of the project is the ex-
tent to which it has been imitated in other areas. In March 1974, financial
support was assumed by the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture. The Mexican
states of Mexico and Tlaxcala, as well as the countries of Colombia, Peru,
and Honduras have adopted similar projects. The Puebla Project also has
had indirect influences on rural development projects in the Philippines
(Masagana 99) and in Nigeria (near Ibadan).
Implications for Other Projects
Technology for maize production in this area did not automatically
flow to the farmers as it did with wheat in northern Mexico or in India.
This situation is representative of a large part of the low-income world.
The project was initiated as a learning process. Many specific lessons
were learned. The more general implications of Plan Puebla for similar
situations elsewhere include the following:
1. Feasibility studies including both statistically designed surveys as
well as in-depth interviews and personal observations should be carried
out at the very first stage to identify the major activity components
in the region, the available technology, the agro-climatic conditions,
and the socioeconomic structure of the people and to provide a baseline
survey against which progress can be measured.
- 33 -
2. Based on these studies, clearly defined goals should be established
against which progress can be measured.
a. The goals should be as simple in focus as feasible.
b. A time phasing for activities and progress should be worked out.
3. Budget considerations should include:
a. A budget that is adequate both in amount and ease of administration.
b. If using external resources, the program should be funded at a level
which the government eventually can assume.
h. Staffing considerations should include:
a. A capable, highly motivated, well-trained, interdisciplinary, analyti-
cal staff covering production research, technical assistance to the
farmers, and socioeconomic evaluation organized into a single team
(there should be no escape from team responsibility for achieving
the goals of the project).
b. Incentives to make the work professionally and personally rewarding
to the staff.
c. Strong leadership.
d. Continuity of operation assured far enough in advance so that a
reasonable time is provided for achieving the objectives.
5. All possible efforts should be made to bring in and coordinate all the
activities impinging directly on crop production, specifically of small
farmers, including the following:
- 34 -
a. Production research which is related to the national research program
(rather than an autonomous effort) and which includes on-farm re-
search on a wide range of soil, fertilizer, and climatic conditions
within the project area and development of management techniques
which can promise the farmer substantially higher yields and profits
than he is currently obtaining.
b. Effective communication of agronomic information to farmers, agri-
cultural leaders, agricultural institutions, and government offi-
cials the technical assistance agents must have an adequate knowledge
of technology and have confidence and be expert themselves in the
practices they are recommending.
c. Adequate production credit at reasonable rates of interest with
d. Easily accessible and adequate amounts of agronomic inputs when
e. Accessible markets with stable crop prices.
f. Favorable relationships between input costs and crop values.
Chances for success, including longer-term continuity of program, are
strengthened if these activities are built into the ongoing governmental
process from the beginning, i.e., if political support is achieved.
6. Some process must be established to multiply the technical assistance
capability of a limited number of trained people to a large number of
participants. In the case of the Puebla Project, farmer groups served
very effectively in this objective and, in addition, served as a very
effective "grass roots" force in accelerating change in practices of
the institutions serving agriculture.
- 35 -
7. Certain functions such as some aspects of training can be centralized
while others such as field experiments and demonstrations must be carried
out close to the farmer, preferably on farms of participants. Dividing
the area into zones may be helpful to establish areas of responsibility
for technicians. The criteria for selecting zone size should include
nature of soils, other climatic factors, social and political organiza-
tion of the population, degree of mobility of the team, and amount of
financial resources available. However, the division of responsibilities
is carried out, the researcher must not be insulated from the farmer,
i.e., should not be separated from seeing the field results of his work.
8. Continuing in-house evaluation is extremely important to provide feed-
back so that project activities are responsive to changes within the
project in pursuit of the designated goals (or so that goals can be ad-
justed if needed).
The Puebla Project was initiated as an experiment in 1967 with limited,
but important, goals. The project followed a planned approach based ini-
tially on what was already known with built-in mechanisms for learning and
subsequent readjustment. A methodology for promoting a substantial increase
in maize production (the first objective in the original project statement)
was developed. The new practices did not represent radical changes from what
farmers were doing previously; the new recommendations utilized the same seeds
but with more nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer and higher plant populations.
Average maize yields for the whole project area were estimated to have in-
creased by about 30 percent by 1970. Welfare in the area, as measured by
- 36 -
increase in income and such other evidence as increases in number of families
who have access to electricity and potable water, appears to have been im-
proved. The benefit/cost ratio for the project was very high.
The Mexican Government took over the financing of Plan Puebla after
Rockefeller Foundation and CIMMYT support was terminated in March of 1974.
In large part, based on the example of the project, maize promotion pro-
grams have spread to other states of Mexico and to other countries in Latin
America. The Puebla Project has trained leaders and staff of these programs
(the second objective in the original project statement) and has assisted
them in initiating and operating their programs.
But somehow as a pioneer project achieves success, the objectives
change during the course of the project and people expect even more than
the revised objectives. One question asked frequently is: "If the Puebla
Project is so good, why is the number of farmers in credit lists after six
years 16 percent of farmers and 26 percent of maize area so low?"
First, it must be reiterated that the participation figures cited above.
refer to farmers who officially signed up for credit under the program. As
the data at the beginning of the section on "Accomplishments" suggest, the
influence of the Puebla Project recommendations was much more pervasive than
this restrictive definition of participation indicates. However, this
clarification notwithstanding, the following factors, identified by the
project staff as being most influential to the farmers in deciding whether
they adopt or not, appear to provide part of the answer to this question.
- 37 -
a. Adequacy of recommendations. Theoretically a project could have any-
where from a single recommendation for the whole area to separate recom-
mendations for each farmer's field. Under fully irrigated agriculture,
the former might be feasible. Farmers will make their own adaptations
to suit individual tastes anyway. However, in rainfed agriculture,
particularly when the area has a variety of soil conditions and when
planting dates vary, more than one recommendation must be offered. The
project staff feel that 16 different recommendations, influenced mostly
by different planting dates but also by soil conditions, is optimal
for the area.
The project started with only one recommendation the first year. The
staff do not think this hurt the credibility of the project. The
initial number of participants was small and they received individual
attention. The package did not incorporate new elements but only
suggested more appropriate combinations of traditional elements the
same seed, more fertilizer, and higher plant populations. Fertilizer
use had already been prevalent; 80 percent of the farmers reported
having used chemical fertilizer previous to the project although some-
times in relatively small dosages. The project recommendations were
based on careful field testing and the changes from traditional prac-
tices were introduced gradually in order to allow the farmers to
adjust. Perhaps the best rule would be that if one has to start with
only one recommendation, then it is probably better to start on the
conservative side, yet with enough change to show noticeable yield
and income increase. Or possibly it would be better to recommend two
levels, both conservative, depending on the capital available to the
- 38 -
b. Communication of recommendations. A second aspect of the problem is
that while the recommendations may be adequate, communication of the
recommendations may not be adequate. The project area was divided into
five zones, an extension man for each, which was a compromise between
the resources available and the desire to operate as closely to the
farmer as possible to transfer information and assist farmers in using
the information. The unanswered question is whether dissemination could
have been faster if more and smaller zones with more extension men were
used, i.e., could the benefit/cost ratio have been maintained? One pos-
sibility would be to subdivide the zones into subzones under which sub-
professionals (similar to paramedicals in health care) could carry out
closer farmer contact. To some degree, the 25 subprofessionals played
this role. Responsibilities could be allocated by concentrating the
team of specialists in agronomic research at a central location, the
trained technical assistance agents at the zone headquarters, and the
subprofessionals moving through the villages in personal contact with
campesinos. However, a strong two-way relationship between applied
research and extension whether carried out by the same or separate
persons is very important. It is undesirable to insulate the various
functions. When there are a limited number of professionals, the ques-
tion of how best to utilize the trained manpower becomes a key decision.
It is agreed that five technical assistance agents is a minimum number
to serve 43,000 farm families; 100 agents is probably too many.
Aside from the number of technical assistance agents, another question
arises about the quality of their training. Project staff acknowledge
that this is an area of which weaknesses do exist. There was little
- 39 -
to go on in trying-to prepare the men for their jobs and to provide
continuing assistance after they were actually on the job. The people
involved in technical assistance feel that they do not have the same
kind of backup as their colleagues in research work; the reason is that
the technology in research is very well worked out, whereas in the
case of technical assistance the basic methodology is not as well known.
The new technical assistance people who came into the project learned
from the people who had been there before. They had relatively little
in the way of theory to guide them.
c. Agronomic risk. The assumption on which the project was organized was
that the farmer could increase maize yields as a low risk means of in-
creasing income and security. While higher incomes are undoubtedly de-
sired by the campesinos, the decision-making process is undoubtedly
more complex than this simple, although convenient, assumption suggests.
For historical and social reasons, the campesinos are highly individualis-
tic and suspicious of others who do not belong to the same extended family.
The role of the wife in the decision-making is quite significant in many
subtle, although not adequately understood (by outsiders), ways. The
campesinos have very limited financial resources.upon which to fall
back on in the case of failure. Many aspects of the so-called "culture
of poverty" probably characterize these people.
In particular, aversion to risk may be an important component of the
decision-making process of the farmers. Drought, disease, pests, frost,
nonavailability of credit and production inputs, limited access to
- 40 -
markets, poor health, etc., are some of the sources of risk which must
be considered. Under rainfed conditions, the amount and distribution
of rainfall is the biggest source of agronomic risk. Limiting variability
in yield may be just as or even more important to farmers than achieving
high levels of yield; if so, then farmers may tend to be conservative in
their adoption of new practices until they are assured that their yields
will be relatively stable.*
The Puebla Project staff feel that, while there are instances where farmers
will reduce their net incomes by changing from traditional to the new
technology, farmers generally assume less risk by using the project recom-
mendations. Their data show:
1) For average or better years, there is a high probability of an attrac-
tive'net income from using either technology. The expected net income
is nearly twice as large with project recommendations as with the tra-
2) For less favorable years the value of net income will be equal to or
less than 0.5 tons/ha of maize in many cases. The probability of these
low incomes is much higher with the traditional than with the recom-
3) For the least favorable years net incomes less than zero can be ex-
pected. The probability of net losses is similar for the two tech-
* Edgardo Moscardi is carrying out research, "A Behavioral Model for Decision
under Risk among Small-holding Farmers," which should have very interesting
implications for future projects.
- 41 -
d. Availability of credit and inputs. During the early period of the project,
services were inefficiently operated, i.e., slow processing of credit,
fertilizer available late or not at all, etc. Over the life of the project,
some innovations in the delivery of inputs which were used in the other
projects were not tried in the Puebla Project. For example, "minikits"
which have been used successfully in several countries, have not been
tried in Puebla. Furthermore, the farmer is responsible for carrying his
fertilizer from the central town back to his village. It does not take
many bad experiences to convince a farmer that he is better off by staying
with his traditional methods which, although not very productive, are
mostly under his control. I have not seen any studies which indicate
whether the interest rates and fertilizer prices are at the most desirable
levels from the viewpoints of the farmers and the fertilizer dealer.
e. Crop insurance. This is a service which obviously was not understood and
possibly was not administered properly. It has a legitimate function yet
apparently was not popular with the farmers who saw it as an unnecessary
f. Organizing the farmers into groups. Sheer numbers of participants relative
to extension agents forced some sort of grouping arrangement. Groups are
a convenient means for a limited number of technical assistance agents to
spread themselves among a larger number of farmers. The project staff
also used these organizations as a means of promoting change in the service
institutions a group of farmers has much more influence than an individual
in getting changes in credit.
However, some people have feared that the formation of groups in which
membership is a prerequisite to getting credit and other services could
serve as a means of excluding as well as including participants. The Plan
Puebla staff do not think this is a big negative factor. Their studies
indicate that the major reason that there are not more participants in the
credit groups is that the operating conditions of the credit institutions
are not sufficiently attractive to the majority of the farmers, i.e., they
apprehend a series of problems related to the policies that regulate the
authorization of institutional credit.
It is also possible that the groups can serve to give an unfair advantage
to the stronger farmers. Groups are probably composed of relatively
homogenous memberships. The bigger groups of wealthier farmers would
tend to associate together and could probably have advantages in being
serviced first at the banks, have privileged access to fertilizer which
often runs short at the crop season, etc. Actions such as these or
systematic exclusion of the less responsible members of the community
could contribute to faster disintegration of the traditional society.
No evidence was presented to indicate that these are actual problems.
The alternative to groups is not obvious in the Puebla situation. How-
ever, the total organization of the village in all its phases, including
an examination of what motivates different factions, must be examined
closely in determining how to influence total community participation.
g. Labor shortages. It was noted that the new recommendations require more
labor, 30 percent more, than traditional practices. The additional labor
- 42 -
requirement competes directly with the opportunities for employment
off-farm in such places as the town of Puebla. Although possibly limit-
ing the spread of new agricultural practices,* such a tight labor market
should work to the total economic advantage of rural laborers by bidding
h. Farm size. It must be admitted that many one-half hectare farmers were
just not willing to go into debt in order to accept the risks necessary
to achieve the gains which the Puebla Project promised. Is it realistic
to expect any credit program to include even more than half of the very
I stated at the beginning that this paper had two interrelated purposes.
The first was to explain the Puebla Project as a rural development project.
In intent, the Puebla Project was established neither as a rural development
project nor even an agricultural development project; it was initiated as a
learning process testing a planned approach, based initially on what was
known, with built-in mechanisms for evaluation and subsequent readjustment -
and this is the basis by which it should be evaluated. However, in fact,
it went beyond this. Through applied research and feedback, technical credi-
bility in agriculture was established. Project leadership and farmer par-
ticipation promoted the spread of the technology by inducing the relevant
institutions to become more responsive to farmer needs. Welfare was increased
* This hypothesis is being investigated by Manuel Villa-Issa in his study
"Labor as a Constraint to the Adoption of New Production Technology: The
Case of the Puebla Project."
- 43 -
throughout the area. Could a project which was initially designed as a
"rural development" project have accomplished as much of the rural de-
velopment objectives of improving the standard of living during the exis-
tence of the project and laying the groundwork for continued future im-
provements as did the Puebla Project with its seemingly narrowly defined
As to the second purpose of the paper, I think it is clear that social
scientists did play an important role, working jointly with technical
agricultural research and production specialists in the project in many
ways. Essentially three types of research approaches were used: 1) a
technocratic approach of introducing changes on a trial basis and evaluating
results, 2) socioeconomic surveys, and 3) continual informal observation
and interaction with the farmers and service agencies. Each of these ap-
proaches has its role and, when properly carried out, can contribute very
positively to project success. However, it is also obvious from this ex-
perience that there are still numerous questions to be answered and that
improvements must be made in social science research approaches in order
to provide the needed answers. For example, it would have been very
valuable to have introduced more rigor into the evaluations, especially
the feeding back of hypotheses to be tested in carrying out specific
activities. Methods for evaluating institutional change are particularly
In discussing the role of social science research in the Puebla Project,
or any rural development project, one must be relaxed regarding what is
considered social science research and one must do the best he can with
the resources which are available. The important consideration is that
- 44 -
social science research however defined and however carried out should
be viewed as a means to an end rather than the end in and of itself, i.e.,
the objective is to bring social science considerations into the decision-
making process of the project in order to increase the success of the project
in achieving desired goals. Social science research did make this contribu-
tion, effectively, in the Puebla Project.
comments are welcome
THE ROLE OF SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH IN RURAL DEVELOPMENT: A VIEW FROM MEXICO *
Santiago I. Friedmann **
In this paper, I first describe in broad terms the institutional infra-
structure for research on rural development and the past experience on, and
present opportunities for, relating research with policy.and action in Mexico.
In spite of the limitations of the analysis it seems fair to assert that in
Mexico, as it has been the case most other countries, the contribution of the.
social scientists to rural development has been minimal. This has been caused,
on the one hand, by the belief among doers thatthe problem was essentially-
technical and rather simple and that they knew all the answers, and, on the other
hand, by the inadequacy of the concepts, theories and methods of the social
sciences for dealing with the rural poverty sector. These theories have mainly
been developed in and for a modern urban-industrial setting. There are several
elements in the Mexican scene which give grounds for hope that a promising
opportunity exists for finding and demonstrating the ways by which social sciences
can contribute effectively to rural development: (i) general recognition of the
limitations and failures of previous approaches, including land distribution,
which has led to an awareness that there are no easy solutions to rural poverty,
(ii) existence of a basic institutional capacity for training and research
in the social sciences which could expand and become relevant to the problems
of rural development, (iii) the history and variety of past actions coupled
with the magnitude of the resources presently committed to rural development
* Prepared for a conference on this subject hosted.by the Rockefeller Foundation
in New York, April 29-30., 1975.
** Project Specialist, Ford Foundation, and Visiting Professor at the Center for
Agricultural Economics, Postgraduate College, National School of Agriculture,
that provide a unique "laboratory situation" on which to build social science
relevant to the rural poverty sector. Because of these factors in Mexico
the way is open for a new start by social scientists, policy makers, program
managers and citizens. In section 3, I indicate the changes in subjects and
style that I consider necessary and I try to demonstrate the need for com-
plementing the distant and critical observer, excellent in denouncing short-
comings but poor in providing solutions, by a participatory and committed
The last section is devoted to a selective discussion of the role of
external agencies. General principles are proposed for-guiding foreign
participation in rural affairs which are intrinsically national in character
and decision. I refer, in particular to the role of external agencies in co-
operative efforts aimed at development of national and international networks
by which multidisciplinary capabilities for policy and action research are
enhanced and a wider utilization of research results is insured. It is asserted
that foreign support should be focused on the development of the lo.:al decision
makers and academic community's capacity for: (i) identifying the problems
to whose solution social sciences research could contribute and, (ii) designing
and implementing the necessary research projects including the definition of
the need for foreign resources.
Following my own inclination and the letter of invitation for this
conference, throughout this paper "rural development is being defined in terms
of improvement of both productivity and well-being of rural lower income peoples."
1. The Infrastructure and Environment for Social Research in Rural Develop-
ment in Mexico.
This section suffers from limitations on time that I could devote to
data collection for the paper and the absence of any systematic inventory
of research on rural development in Mexico.
In broad terms the Mexican situation is well illustrated by the papers
of Gelia Castillo and Rolf J. Luders presented at the Bellagio Conference on
the Financing of Social Science Research for Development, February 12-16,
1974 (See references 2 and ).
In Mexico the scarce senior social scientists are subject to the same
excessive demands in the universities from teaching, consulting and administra-
tion and in government for execution and day-to-day decision making. One finds
very little long-term and intensive commitment to a research subject and
few means of communication with other scholars in the country, while at the
same time enjoying full membership of the international jet-set. There exists
no institution like the Filipino Community Development Research Council. The
National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) has just established
a special group for rural development research as part of an effort to develop
the national plan for science and technology. It is expected that as a result
of this effort some inventory of research on rural development will become
available in the near future.
Social science research is carried out in private and public universities,
research institutes with or without graduate training programs, government
ministries, public corporations and a handful of private development organiza-
Higher education has been growing very rapidly in recent decades, not
only in terms of larger admissions but also through developing graduate training
programs often with substantial external financial support and participation
of foreign professors. Now, master programs are offered in every social science
discipline, and Ph.D. programs in most. They are increasingly based on full-
time Mexican faculty trained in the U.S. or Europe. University research in
the social sciences is handled mainly by graduate divisions and research
institutes of the National University, the National School of Agriculture in
Chapingo, the Instituto Polit&cnico Nacional and four or five state universities.
In 19 74 the Center for Research and Training in Economics (CIDE) was founded
with the purpose of catering to the needs of the public sector. Ihe main
private universities/in the field of social sciences are : El Colegio de.Mexico
and the Iberoamericana in Mexico City, the Monterrey Institute of Technology
(ITESM) and the Universidad de las Americas in Puebla
In most of these institutions, economics is the strongest discipline but
Chapingo and ITESM have adequate and improving master's programs in agricultural
economics; El Colegio de Mexico is strong in demography and sociology; the
Iberoamericana has a Ph.D. in anthropology and Chapingo has also a master's
program in rural sociology. CIDE is planning research on the public institutions
eemparingsthe supporting system for agriculture, focusse&don the traditional
sector. The focus of both training and research has been outside the rural
poverty sector. The main exception comes from anthropology where many studies
of Indian communities have contributed to documentation of the situation but
~egre.tably have provided no operational guides for policy or action aiming at
improvement of such communities. The rural situation has been discussed mainly
in terms of its relation to the rest of the society and mostly from a theoretical
or ideological framework (class structure, duality, dependency, resources
... / There are more than students enrolled in graduate programs in .social
science in Mexican institutions.
2/ In the four years 1971/1974 approximately 450 social scientists have
received scholarships for graduate study abroad. IV, i A,..\ '
A- 3/ See -4 1 f9r daton total/e-nrollment 'and..graduates. N. ? v \ ,, .. <, 0
- ..- ..
transfered out of agriculture). Little empirical work has been done to help
in defining the whats, where, when and hows for rural development programs.
In the case of non-training research institutes one can mention the
Mexican Institute of Social Studies (IMES), the Center for Agrarian Studies
(CDIA) and the Center for Educational Studies (CEE). These institutions are
staffed with capable professionals ; IMES has developed proficiency in
population studies but only about 10% of its research refers to the rural
poverty sector. CDIA has focused on studies of the land tenure situation,
serving as a basis for regional research and as a host for foreign people
working in this field. More recently CDIA has become interested in the study
of organizational structures for marketing, production, financing, etc.,
within ejidos and small holders, and in studies in support of a National
Agrarian Training Program to be implemented by the newly created Ministry
for the Agrarian Reform with technical assistance from FAO and UNDP. Both
IMES and CDIA are committed to problem-oriented research and keep close ties
with developing institutions. The CEE has kept track of development in
education and does evaluative studies of educational programs.
In the case of government institutions one finds well staffed groups
doing study and analysis of the operations of the federal government agencies
and public corporations. Again these groups are stronger in economics. The
recently created Coordinating Commission for the Agricultural Sector (COCOSA)
has been ab-le--o put together information and analysis done by technical groups
within its member institutions. This effort is contributing to a better
identification of short and medium term problems in the agricultural sector and
to formulation of policies which reflect a better understanding of the inplica-
1/ Total full time professional staff of IMES, CDIA and CEE numbers 27.
2/ FAO/UNDP project involves 18 social scientists half of which are foreign
tions for the backward sub-sector in agriculture. COCOSA has also promoted
meetings of members of academic and research institutions with people responsible
for policy and action in areas related to rural development. These discussions
resulted in preparation of an outline of a comprehensive research program for
rural development. Similar results have been obtained from seminars held on
specific issues of rural development like organization, agrarian reform
financing, irrigation, etc., with the participation of personnel of related
institutions and social scientists. The personnel from universities and
research institutes participating in these meetings have been able to identify
more clearly relevant research questions and as a consequence new research
is being organized along these lines. Government efforts will be implemented
through a newly created institution, the Center for Research on Rural Develop-
ment (CIDER). A group of the major academic and research institutions is
trying to coordinate research and is looking for the necessary funding.
Private institutions doing work in rural development (like the Mexican
Foundation for Development) have a small group of social scientists engaged
in evaluation research on their operations. Services of research institutes
are also contracted for this purpose.
To complete the picture one should mention the existence of several
foreign research groups supported by UN agencies, ECLA, FAO UNDP, 0, OAS,
ILO, etc., which are concerned with social research on rural development,
mainly on questions of employment and on the effects of investment in physical
and social infrastructure. The Economic Division at CIMMYT together with the
graduate division in Chapingo have been studying the impacts of the Green
Revolution on the rural poor and trying to identify means whereby the benefits
of new agricultural technologies accrue to disadvantaged groups.
In general, one can say: (i) in the past very little social science
1/ The planned staff of CIDER is 36 professionals .
research has been done that is relevant for policy formulation and program
design and implementation for rural development; (ii) at present the
universities are capable of training the human resources for these activities.
Their graduate divisions, other research institutions and government agencies
are staffed with hundreds of people with graduate training in the social
sciences whose past experience in other areas of research could be developed
to proper respond to the challenges and opportunities that are discussed
in the following section; (iii) both policy makers and managers in government
programs are becoming aware of the need for policy and action research and are
showing interest in the social scientists' involvement in their activities.
There is evidence that the latter are willing to respond positively.
2. Challenges and Opportunities in Mexico
Mexico, among Latin American countries, has special characteristics both
in terms of challenges and opportunities for social science research. In
most Latin American countries the little rural development research that exists
("there is much less on R.D. than the subject merits." Luders, pg. 198) is
related to agrarian reform programs. The Mexican Revolution which resulted in
elimination of latifundia; the stagnation of agriculture in the last decade and
the concentration of poverty in the rural areas have been confronting Mexico
with the question of what is needed besides and beyond land distribution.
Answers have been coming from many sources in many ways: federal invest-
ments in irrigation and other rural infrastructure; attempts to bring the Green
Revolution to small farmers in rainfed areas (Plan Puebla); industrial des-
centralization; marketing services; socio-political and economic organizations
17 ~ o~l../.....p.. in .r.... Ul-dcv^ lprnpmn r-qonnsn..don' t .lend themselves
t-6acy-- ido logic als wev s. iziz fi.zal/
II* .! \
of ejidatarios and small farmers, concientizaci6n and education and so forth.
These activities have been promoted by federal state and local governments,
international private and public organizations, national private groups and
individuals. (Several interesting community projects are being carried out
individually by professors of the National University, the Agricultural
University in Chapingo and others).
Most of these projects have been initiated as a result of the push of
individuals who had a quasi Mesianic belief in their ability to provide a
panacea to rural problems and generally the same individuals have been
responsible for their implementation. This explains two common features of
rural development programs: (i) the programs are often discontinued before.
completion when their promoters lose interest or power, and (ii) little or no
documentation exists to permit their evaluation on the basis of knowledge of
what was done in the program and what happened as a result of such a program.
Frequently they are also paternalistic: objectives and actions are chosen by
the outsider without consultation or participation of the expected beneficiaries.
The present administration is giving top priority to the amelioration of
rural poverty. Massive outlays are being made to provide the rural communities
with physical infrastructure and social services (roads, telecommunications,
employment, formal and vocational education, potable water and sewage, health
centers, etc). Institutional means for descentralizing and coordinating these
efforts and insuring the participation of the rural people in project selection
and execution are being developed. At the same time steps are being taken
to carry out research to support the design and implementation of the action
programs and to learn from them. An important part of the investments,being
made under the-aegis of the Integrated Rural Development Program (PIDER),
partially supported by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank,
which is expected to reach about onemillion more families over the next five
years (more than one tenth of the Mexican population). A more modest effort
is the national program for development of rain-fed agriculture (PRONDAAT)
which aims to promote technical change among small producers (with less
than five has. of cultivated land) in non-irrigated lands using the experience
of Plan Puebla and other projects. It is expected that this program will
reach more than.250,000 families in the next five years. In both these
programs, research groups are being assembled to provide supporting research.
In summary, the persistence of agricultural stagnation and rural poverty;
the wealth of experience with the most varied instruments for promoting rural
development, which at present remains largely untapped by systematic research;
and the strong national commitment to rural development expressed in a massive
allocation of resources to action, poses a challenge and provides an opportunity
for social scientists to go beyond denounciation and to demonstrate their
potential for contributing concretely to effective rural development programs.
1/ Supporting research is a set of activities of study and analysis that are
carried out in a problem solving context with the purpose of: (i) utilizing,
at the initiation o: the problem solving process existing knowledge in the
development, evaluation (ex-ante evaluation) and selection of the alternative
to be pursued; (ii) (program monitoring) verifying during the implementation
that activities are executed as planned; (iii) (feedback analysis) utilizing
incoming information about the actual effects of actions already executed
and the actual values of non-controllable intervening factors in deciding
if and how to redesign the ongoing alternative and/or to redefine its
objectives, i.e., deciding ways of utilization of currently available
resources in future actions; and, (iv) (ex-post evaluation or validation)
at the end of the process: (a) verifying if, as a consequence of the actions
implemented during the process, its goals were reached; (b) to observe non-
anticipated results; and, (c) to check the extent by which the fulfillment
of goals and the non-anticipated results influence the solution of the
The results of the ex-post evaluation and the feedback analysis are used
in the definition of the sub-problems and for the selection and evaluation
of the alternatives to be considered in the next stage of the problem
solving process (Friedmann, pg 4)..
Paraphrasing Gelia Castillo (pg. 185), one could say: the Mexican
social scientist has come of age. He is respected and his advice is sought....
Also, one is tempted to repeat her call for humility -- "For his long term
survival he should not bungle this golden opportunity t4 overselling what
he cannot deliver."
It is my feeling that for the social scientist to succeed in responding
to the challenge and the opportunity, a question of style is important. In
the following section, I stress the importance of close interaction of social
scientists, program managers and beneficiaries through direct involvement of
the former in the program, in what one could call participatory supporting
3. The Uses and Style of Social Scientists in Rural Development.
Traditionally the social scientist has been used in rural development
programs in two capacities: (i) to help.in justifying and or in implementing
a project that has been selected.and designed without his participation, and
(ii) to perform ex-ante and ex-post cost-benefit analysis in order to comply
with regulations of the budget office or of some international institution
supporting the program.
The situation is very much the same of most-multi-disciplinary efforts
in which members of several disciplines are invited or requested to contribute
their skills within a conceptual framework and a methodology defined by.a
dominant discipline. It is not surprising that the members of the "minor"
disciplines become desinterested and only few, which are frequently not the
best qualified, continue to participate-and the members of the dominant
discipline are reassured in their initial skepticism about the relevance of
It is my conviction that opportunities exist for a much more comprehensive
use of social scientist's abilities for rural development. Gelia Castillo
(see Ref. 2; especially pgs. 159-163) has much to say that is pertinent to the
Mexican situation on the nature of social scientists' work and on the means
of communicating results to policy makers. I will.only stress the need to study
the processes of technical innovation, the nature and changes of societal
structures internal to the rural communities and of the external linkages
with institutions of the supporting system and with the markets fbr labor,
inputs and outputs. The differential impact of the changes in rural situation
on small farmers, landless peasants, women and children also should be studied.
Most of this section will be devoted to discuss questions of style. For the
full exploitation of the potentialities of social sciences in development.
changes are necessary both in the program managers' and in the social scientists'
view of the letters role in rural development activities. On the one hand,
the social scientist should not be conceived as an element alien to the program,
observing it as any research topic and having' no responsibility for what
happens with the program. On the contrary, he should be a part of Che profes-
sional team in charge of the program, adding to knowledge of the technical
processes involved in rural development actions (i.e., use of fertilizer,
irrigation works, sanitation works, etc.) an understanding of the social
processes that are essential for rural development to occur. This implies
1/ I have claimed e(ewhere (Friedmann, pp. 8 and 9) that this is not just a
matter of expedience. (Uma-Lele in Ref. X presents a conclusive case for
the operational importance of participation in rural development programs). In
a seminar on supporting research given to the social scientists in the staff
of PRONDAAT, I made explicit my value judgements by defining development "as
a process by which a society changes in multiple ways striving to realize its
own2prdjecto de civilizaci6n." This results from its own past and its inter-
pretatibn of the experiencesbf other societies. Development is a process in
which human potential is progressively realized by means of individual and
social learning process that improves the ability to adjust to and modify
the environment and to more adequately utilize dthe natural and social
characteristics of the environment., Development creates the conditions that
allow the human being, as an individual and as a member of a social group to
identify and manifest his needs; and to satisfy them by developing and ap-
plying his abilities."
also changes on the subjects of his concern, he will no longer be
limited to measuring economic gains and costs associated with an irrigation
project or advising on the design of a "concientizaci6n" program to make the
local people accept a new technology. Instead, or besides, he will try to
understand the decision-making process and the aspirations of the potential
beneficiaries so as to utilize the resources of the program in a way that will
maximize the improvement in their well-being as measured_by.them. He will
also study the motivations of the staff and the rules and procedures of the
institutions surrounding the rural communities trying to find there reasons
for the failure or weaknesses-of rural development programs instead of seeking
such reasons solely in the "traditional" rural culture.
For the social scientist input to be useful it is necessary that he and the
program managers and beneficiaries become educated on each others worlds so
that the social scientists'sactivity of study and analysis refer to aspects
that are relevant to the rural development process and his results can be
utilized by managers and beneficiaries of rural development programs. These
conditions can only be met if a large fraction of social scientists concerned
with R.D. spend time doing participatory supporting research for R.D. policy
formulation and program design and implementation. In the rest of the section
I try to argue the case for advocating a participatory role for the social
scientist in R.D. programs which will provide for mutual educational interaction.
a. The education of the social scientist. No social science discipline
provides the concepts and theories capable of dealing with the complexities of a
concrete rural situation. In order for the social scientist to isolate a
relevant part of the problem, amenable to the tools of his discipline, taking
1/ These in general are based in generalizations, abstractions from a -tcher-,
urban industrial society. The main exception are the anthropologists; but
most of them have been more concerned with providing a static picture of ,\,
aBpecific situation than with identifying mechanisms for supporting develop-/
mental changes. ...-
('' AV^.^'^ '1;c1
due consideration of the boundery conditions, he must become inbedded in the
concrete rural reality. For this purpose the insights that program officers
enjoy thanks to their close exposure to reality can be of great help. In
fact, I would claim that only by matching the detailed, anecdotic, varied
knowledge of the program managers with the concepts, theories, and.scientific
methodology of the social scientists, one can hope to gain the necessary under-
standing of the processes of change within the rural societies, Program
managers are in general, strongly motivated people who work long hours in
order to alleviate rural poverty. They have no patience with uncommitted
professors or students interested in studying.the "rural guinea pigs" and
whom he perceives as the most recent addition to the zoo of rural exploiters,
in this case taking time, food, shelter, and adding frustration to the rural
poor, for the purpose of completing a study that will promote their careers
or allow them to get a degree. Additionally, the interaction with beneficiaries
is necessary in order to understand their social and economic conditions, aspira-
tions and their perceptions of the R.D. program. The initial attitude of the
beneficiary towards the social scientists will be very similar to that just
described for the program officer. Only the social scientist who brings to
the program contributions perceived by its staff and beneficiaries to be at
least as equal to what he takes from them can te hope to receive the additional
information and insights necessary to start developing the concepts, theories
and methods of his discipline to a point where it can cope with the conditions
in this new environment.
b. The development of program staff and beneficiaries. By participating
in the program the social scientist will not only be educating himself as
described above, but he will also contribute to the personal development of
the rest of the staff in the program and of the beneficiaries. In order for
the results of social science studies on rural development to be fully utilized,
it is necessary to complement the technical knowledge and the missionary
zeal of most program personnel, with a basic understanding, and a basic
analytical capability bearing on the social elements. This should allow
them to process the anecdotic and scattered information they capture on their
daily errands in order to : (i) identify and implement the adjustments in
the program activities that are necessary to eliminate bottlenecks, (ii)
correct unexpected and unwanted effects, and (iii) take advantage.of unanticipated
opportunities. The interaction between the social scientist and the program
officers also provides the opportunity to instill in the.latter a scientific
style. This will on the one hand, help him to consider experimentally the
instruments and strategies of the program: not as given and good in themselves,
but as means to achieve an end whose efficiency and adequacy should be validated
by actual experience. On the other hand, he will recognize the need to define
the goals of the program not on the basis of his own perceptions and values,
but in response to needs and aspirations of the rural people. This leads us
to stress the role of the social scientist in contributing to the process of
these people's social learning which, I believe, is the essence of development
(See footnote on page 11).
4. On. the Role of External Agencies.
I will open this section by transcribing from Friedmann and Lomnitz
some general remarks on the role of international cooperation in transfening
Then I will add some remarks on the specific issues of this conference.
(l. General remarks on "The Role of International Cooperation".
The process of development which takes place within a country should
reflect the particular values, and the cultural and institutional traditions
of that country. Consequently the objectives and measures employed in devel
programs should emerge from a decision making process dominated by individuals
and institutions directly affected. However, virtually all of the decisions
involved possessed both political or value aspects and scientific and tech-
nical aspects. Public and private institutions of the richer countries may
contribute profoundly in the generation and diffusion of the needed scientific
and technical knowledge without intruding upon the process of making the basic
political and value decisions involved.
The external aid granted for the support of .specific programs in a particu-
lar country should be applied for and oriented by the receiving country and
should conform to their priority needs.
The experience of the governments of the advanced countries in the
mobilization of their scientific and technical resources may be used to encourage
in those same countries basic scientific research and the technological develop-
ments orientated towards the satisfaction of the development needs of Latin
America. The universities of the more advanced countries can offer programs
intended for the training of their own nationals and of Latin America'in order
to perform the needed tasks. The multilateral institutions and foundations
can support the development in Latin America of the research capacity for looking
after their national problems. They can also contribute to the financing of
studies and to the application of development programs in which the possibility
of different instruments of change can be explored and which allow the drawing
up of more suitable strategies for their large scale application. The trans-
national corporations can include through their local operations in Latin America
research and development activities specifically orientated toward the economic
production of goods and services which satisfy the needs of the poorest.sectors
.and toward the design of production procedures and techniques which utilize
human resources and materials available in the said sectors.
Finally, the academic and professional associations can contribute with
their meetings and their editorial policies to focus the attention and to induce
their members to work more effectively and more frequently on the problems
of development as understood in the terms used by Mahbub Ul Haq *... the
problem of development should be defined as a selective attack on the worst
forms of poverty."l.(Friedmann and Lomnitz, p. 72 and 73).
V. Some Specific Remarks.
Again I must refer to the comments by Castillo and Luders who stress the
importance of foreign inputs in establishing standards and introducing new
techniques; making possible research that otherwise would not be supported
because of its high risk or potentially and undesirable political implications;
promoting communications among disciplines, etc. It seems to me that the
case made on section 2 show that Mexico offers a unique opportunity to external
agencies interested in"rural development for (i) helping in learning and ap-
plying the lessons from the variety of actions underway, and (ii) making these
lessons available to other nations.
I concur with Castillo and Luders in assigning great potential to loose
research networks which is considered as a natural "turf" for external agencies.
From my previous comments it should also be clear that I agree with.Castillo's
statement:"The actual question therefore is, who decides the subject and
object of the research network".
In closing I will extract from a memo by Michael Nelson and myself
reacting to an initiative to establish a Latin America Research Network larnN).
"In our view the majority of the potential advantages and disadvantages are
already on the table, the next step is a decision on how to create a mechanism.
which is essentially Latin, to address the various questions and generate a
proposal to the FF. We will return to this point later..." "We have two
models in mind: (i) the network would be set up with a permanent headquarters
and a wide-ranging charter to identify and promote research in any aspect of
rural development, seek collaborating scholars and institutions, and carry out
fund-raising activities from an array of national and international donor
organizations... (ii) The network would be set up around a single research
topic (or set of topics). The core group would be selected specifically
to address this topic(s), and the most appropriate location would depend on the
topic. ... "The second model would respond to one of Yiv. concerns that the
network 'self-destruct' after 3 to 5 years if it.is not responding to the
needs and concerns of the institutions and countries which expect to benefit
from the activity. Our position is that the second model is vastly superior
to the first in the initial stages of setting up the network. If the system
responds well one has two alternatives in the second phase -- set up the
core group in a permanent location or -- reconstitute and relocate the core
group in accordance with each new set of research topics agreed upon. One
might even contemplate more than one core group. This latter aspect is in
line with suggestions made in earlier discussions that a family networks may
evolve. However, in the first stage we feel that the second model avoids
many of the problems raised by 2 -- excessive bureaucratization, creation
of a new center with infinite life expectancy, siphoning off of scarce Latin
American talent which is needed to resolve national problems, and the undue
attraction of international salary scales.
'On the question of 'scope' it is our view that the network, if it is to
make any real contribution where the final product is not merely the summation
of the individual pieces, must be mutlidisciplinary and under no circumstance
should the start be only in the field of agricultural economics. An effort
should be made to follow, and build on, Ernie Sprague's initiative at CIMMYT
for interdisciplinary team training tied into problem-oriented research. Tivs .
This suggests that the core team be interdisciplinary and that similar criteria
be applied in arriving at which institutions and individuals within institu-
tions, will be involved, *
'Participation from "without the region" implies: (i) that considerable
training of Latin Americans will continue to be done outside the region and
therefore it is important to have foreigners in foreign institutions involved
in research on Latin America, and (ii) that for purposes of education, research
and policy in countries outside the region, it is important to have scholars
from these countries working with Latins on problem-oriented research in the
region itself. The pros and cons need some airing.
'With respect to research topics, following the second model suggested
above, the objectives should be highly specific with clear identification ouf
those countries with a common element of interest and how those countries
may benefit from complementary research and experience, inter-country comparisons,
or adoption of comparable methodologies. We are assuming that LARN will address
as a principal focus, .selected aspects of rural poverty in Latin America. On
this point.Ai has expressed doubts on how the regional research effort
eventually will benefit the rural poor. Taking this as an ultimate goal, he
asks what the alternative opportunities ar4 for use of FF funds. Answers to
these questions must be formulated in the process of generating the LARN proposal
to the FF. It would seem essential that government decision-makers play a
role in selection of the research topics and methodology; as the prime users,
it is to be hoped that such people have confidence in the findings. In
principle the widest possible range of institutions would have an opportunity
to participate in the selection of research topics, collaborating institutions
and individuals, and the core group. However, this democratic approach cannot
be adopted at the outset. Which brings us to our final comment on the LARN
The Next Step:
'It appears that the crucial questions to be resolved in advancing the
proposal is -- by whom and how, will this research network be set in motion?
Since this is to be a Latin American network, it might be appropriate to
start by putting the various questions raised to the Latin American clientele
of the network. Questions such as:
mechanisms for offering wide opportunity for participation in research,
and in decisions on collaborating institutions, staffing,.salaries,
and research topics.
translation of social science research into action
expected benefits to institutions and countries from participation,
leading to criteria for judging the usefulness of the network
need for a permanent core group
composition, size and nationality (Latin American vs. non-Latin
American) of the core group
location of a core group
type of or need for association with non-Latin American scholars
priority research topics of international interest
funding requirements and sources of funds
the problem of loss of professionals from a national to an-inter-
procedures for: phasing development, and on-going evaluation of
'In order to get started along such a line it would be necessary to
form an ad-hoc committee. "Plan Valdes" is a perfect example of the effective
functioning of such a committee at the national level. Similar committees
could be formed elsewhere. However, at some stage it would be necessary to
bring together what we consider to be a "representative" group of Latin
Americans to review the type of questions listed above. It is quite evident
that such a group could not represent all institutions from all countries.
It should represent both government and academic institutions and may even
include someone from the private banking or agro-industrial sector.
..."Members of this ad hoc committee could be provided with all the
background materials on the IARN proposal and be requested to review it with
institutions which may have potential interest. It is to.be hoped that each
member would synthesize the views expressed. At that point the committee
chairman should put together a discussion paper reviewing alternative proposals,
the principal problems to be resolved, and the various reactions to the problems
posed. The committee would then be called together to consider this document
plus any other models a member cares to present. (Observers could be invited
from the FF, other potential donor agencies, international organizations; or
individual specialists could be invited for their professional contribution).
The expectation is that this committee would address issues such as those
listed above. If a proposal results, the Foundation could raise certain
ideas for further consideration at that time.
'It will be important to build on the spirit of Alberto Valdez' lead,
and assure that the initiative for LARN remains with the Latins."
The last sentence summarizes the message. International agencies should
help in building basic capacities for training and research and should support
the evolution of the local social sciences communities and decision makers
Since September 1972 I have been in Mexico. For two years I benefitted
from a close association with Bill Lord, also a visiting professor at the
Centro de Economia Agricola of the Graduate Division of the National School
of Agriculture of Chapingo, and with the students and local faculty. I have
also had the good fortune of being given the opportunity of working in close
contact with Eduardo Dominguez,.his staff and the peasants in subregion
IV of the Plan Maiz with Heliodoro Diaz and his staff at PRONDAAT and
with Jos6 Silos and his staff at the Coordinating Commission for the
Agricultural Sector. Their insights and frequent exchanges with Teresa
now at El Colegio de Mexico)
Rend6n/and Mike foelson provided a general framework for this paper.
Mike Nelson and Barry Schuman of the Mexico office of the Ford Foundation
made very valuable comments to a first draft of the paper. Carlota Barrientos
and Olga Cardenas of the local Ford Foundation staff were very helpful in
gathering the data for the first section. Carlota also contributed with
very useful comments and insights during the actual writing of this paper.
1. Ballesteros, Juan, "Balance de la Reforma Agraria Mexicana", Economia
Political Vol. IV No. 3, 1972, p. 47-63.
2. Castillo Gelia, "Social Science Research; The Philippines Experiment" in
The Social Sciences and Development, World Bank, 1974, p. 141-190.
3. Friedmann, Santiago I. "What is Rural Development", paper presented to
IBRD, Development Research Center workshop. on Rural Development,
Washington, D.C., Jan. 6-8, 1975.
4. Friedmann, Santiago I and Larissa Lomnitz, "Development of Latin
America: The Rural Poor. Can the Haves Help?, ITCC Review,
5. Lele, Uma. "A Conceptual Framework for Rural Development," prepared for
Development from Below Field Trip Workshop. Oct. 12-20, Addis Abeba,
6. Luders, Rolf J. "Social Science, Research in Latin America." The Social
Sciences and Development. World Bank 1974. p. 191-213.
SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH IN RURAL DVi') DI:i'I:T
LESSONS FROM THE AFRICAN E,(EHIEJNCEv
* A paper prepared for presentation at the meetings on Social sciences
Research in Rural Development, organized by the'Rockefeller foundation ,
to be held in New York during April 29-30, 1975.
1/ The views expressed in this paper are those cf the author ajnd do not
necessarily represent the views of IBRD.
SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH IN RURAL DEVELOF'ENT:
LESSONS FROM THE AFRICAN EXPERT. IICE*
This paper is based on the African Rural Development St.ldy (ARDS)
carried out in IBRD during 1972-74 /. The paper complements mnd presup-
poses the knowledge of the previous paper also based on the stidy; which
concentrated on lessons of the African experience for designing rural
development programs 2/
To appreciate fully the observations made in this paper about social
science research, it is useful to know the factors that prompted the study,
and the approach adopted in the analysis.
The origin of the study is attributable to two interrelated factors:
(1) the very substantial interest of the East and West Africa Regions of
the IBRD in finding ways of designing rural development projects which will
effectively "reach" large numbers of low income rural people, given the
constraints of finances, trained manpower and institutions encountered in
rural development in Africa; and (2) the realization that the knowledge
as how to bring about the development of the subsistence rural sector is
The study was, therefore, aimed at (1) :sessing the existing state
1/ The main report on the Study is forthcoming as a book. See: Uma Lele,
Design of Rural Development: Analysis of Programs and ProiEcts in
Africa, Johns Hopkins Press (July 1975).
2/ See: Uma Lele, "Designing Rural Development Programs: Less(ns from Fast
*Experience in Africa", a paper presented at the Second International
Seminar on Change in Agriculture, organized by Reading University and
the Overseas Development Institute, Reading, England, September 9-19,
of the knowledge as to the factors that' promote (and inhibit) participation
of the lowest income groups in rural development programs, (2) to point out
areas that need further investigation, and (3) wherever possible, to provide
guidelines on the basis of analysis of past experiences for design and implenen-
tation of the World Bank's future rural development programs in Africa 1/.
Three areas of concern were predominant in initiating the study.
First, there was an explicit interest in promoting participation of the
lowest income groups. Second, development was being viewed mo 'e broadly
from the perspective of improved welfare as well as of increase d agricultural
productivity. Consequently, there was a keen interest in identifying ways of
establishing priorities and of time-phasing between and among -oth productive
and social service activities. Third, there was an overt recognition of the
financial, manpower, and institutional constraints encountered in rural
development, and hence of the need to find ways of making maximum use of the
existing rural potential with regard to these resources, and of augmenting them
The focus of the study was, therefore, consciously operational. The
purpose was to examine the factors which influenced the choice of interven-
tions in planning past programs, including the knowledge that existed in
the course of planning and implementation of these programs about the actual
constraints and potentials, and to assess the extent to which the programs
were able to deal with circumstances-including with adverse effects of overall
policies and institutions which were initially not foreseen. One of the vrain
objectives of the ARDS was to investigate whether and how the projects.
1/ See: Uma Lele, Design of Rural Development for description and detailed
analyses of the projects analyzed.
- 3 -
reviewed, and similar other projects should have been designed, had there
been more concern with broad participation, overall welfare and with the
utilization of local financial and institutional resources, and equally
important, had the knowledge of economic, physical, technological and
institutional factors required for designing and implementing such
programs been better.
The Analyticall Approach
Due to the severe limitations of the existing conceptual
framework, discussed later in this paper, generalizations were
drawn on the basis of empirical analysis. For comparative evaluations,
seventeen sets of rural development projects and programs involving
participation of a number of multilateral, bilateral and national
Agencies, were selected from various parts of sub-Saharan Africa to
represent diversity in design and implementation as well as in the
environment in which they are situated. The reviews were carried out
with a view to raising a consistent set of questions about these programs
and projects, particularly in regard to their design and implementation,
so as to derive lessons for designing future rural development projects
in Africa. In addition, rural sector surveys were conducted in Kenya and
Tanzania to analyze overall development policies in these two countries
and to develop the Bank's lending strategies.
All the reviews were based on data that had already been collected
by a number of agencies. With a .few exceptions no systematic field
surveys to generate additional quantitative data were conducted. However,
in all cases analyses of existing data were combined with very extensive
field investigations. These consisted of (a) interviews with persons who
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had considerable experience in design implementation, supervision and
evaluation of the specific programs reviewed or similar other programs,
(b) interviews with the rural people who were being "reached" through
program; and (c) searches for additional sources of datp rel ted to
programs reviewed from other donor, government and research agencies.
Further, very substantial literature on African rural development was
reviewed to support or oppose the observations made on the basis of
research results, field investigations and interviews.
The study, therefore, provides an unusual vantage point front which
to (i) enumerate some of the major questions currently faced in making
policy and operational decisions in rural development (ii) the amenability
of the social sciences to carry out the necessary analysis fr these
decisions (iii) the influence that research has had in influencing policy
and operations (iv) the areas in which the knowledge gap reins sub-
stantial and (v) the implications of these various factors f-r future
research. It is important to emphasize that this paper is n>t intended
either as a survey of literature jhich has been drawn upon extensively
in the main report of the study) or of research methods available for
analyzing specific problems, but rather as a way of examinin; the inter-
action of social science research with policy and operational decisions
in rural development, and of exploring the factors that may increase the
effectiveness of such interaction.
Major oIsues Faced in Rural Development
One of the most basic issues currently faced in rural development
is, whether and what set of objective criteria can be developed for use
under a diverse set of conditions (i) to establish priorities in overall
allocation of resources (ii) to determine sequencing and phasing of
activitio. over time and (iii) to choose policy and institutional inter-
ventions that will .maximize the effectiveness of the resources allocated,
if the given objective function is to improve welfare of cer iain socio-
economic classes, regions and sectors, by a given amount within a specified
time.period. For instance, under what conditions should development of
agricultural technology and extension services receive priority over health
services and literacy, if the objective is to increase welfare of certain
socio-economic groups within a given time.frame? Or do these activities
always have to be complimentary? And with what activities do such
Further, what, if any, kinds of rural social structures and political
and administrative institutions are particularly conducive tW increasing
incomes of the lowest income groups? And relatedly, if certAin types of
socio-political structures and asset distribution seem less effective in
realization of the objectives than are others (as for instance was the case
in Ethiopia in comparison with Tanzania until recently), should there be an
effort to bring about the necessary structural changes? Alternatively, in
allocating resources, should priorities be given to those social structures
that are more conducive to equalitarian distribution or to the others
because these latter provide little hope for the improvement of the well-
being of the lower income groups? And once resources are allocated to
countries, regions, sectors and activities, what kinds of overall pricing,
'manpower, credit and technology policies are necessary for increasing incomes
of the lowest income groups? Further, are institutions that are on the surface
participatory such as Ujaman necessarily effective in increacsing incolmeis
of the target groups? And if so, in what time period? If not, what is
the nature of trade-offs between political participation and growth?
These are, of course, highly complex questions involving very
important ethical and socio-political values. No objective criteria
exist by which to arrive at solutions to any of the above quEstions, even
including those related to establishment of priorities between agriculture
and health that on the surface sees more easily amenable to traitforward
Our knowledge about these questions is based mainly o: subjective
judgements derived from existing analyses of a number of parlial relation-
ships, that almost always assume the basic economic and socio-political
. structures as given. The absence of an objective set of criteria for solution
of-these problems results from a number of factors. No rigorous conceptual
framework exists for analysis of the relative importance of the factors thit
explain the phenomenon of rural poverty. The multiplicity o0 such factors,
the diversity in their importance among various rural envirornents, and the
substantial interaction among them has made the development of such a
conceptual framework difficult. An interdisciplinary approach that can
simultaneously take into account the economic, technological and socio-
political factors also seems essential for such analysis. O, r knowledge
as to how to measure many of these variables is poor even wh(:n their
impact is known to be substantial as for instance in analyzing the 'effect'
of the various aspects of Ujamaa policy on incentives, and welfare.
Consequently, the data on many necessary variables are poor, as are the
- 7 -
methods available for their analyses.. Third, the supply of social l
scientists who have both the ability-to capture the complexities of the
societies that they have to analyze,and to translate the observed
relationships into a cohesive conceptual framework is extremely limited,
even if there existed a useful dialogue between the theoreticians and
the empirists, and even if they together were inclined to undertake.
research that may involve prescriptions related to basic structural
relationships. Both these conditions are frequently absent. /
And finally of course, policy makers are rarely interested in
receiving solutions that touch upon the very basic fabric of the society.
By the same token, if radical changes seen necessary in structural relations,
1/ Social scientists of several disciplines have show.n eluctance to
undertake an explicit prescriptive function,and have instead confined
themselves to analyzing.and explaining the nature of relationships between
their variables and development. Economists have taken a .mch more active
role in this regard. However, until recently they have arrived at
prescriptions in isolation of the sociopolitical relationships, assumed
that the solutions prescribed by them had few serious sociopolitical
consequences or that even if the consequences were andesir ble in the
short run, as for instance the worsening of the distribution of income
with growth, that these effects woui somehow take care of themselves in
the long run, either through an improvement in the relative income
distribution or at least through improvement in the absolute incomes of
the lowest income groups.
ns through the land reform and the villdgizaticn currently underway in
ithiopia. and Tanzania, rarely are policy makers willing to wait a
scientirf:ic analysis of the problem before arriving at such policy decision
Social scientists.can of course exercise useful influence on implementa-
tion of such policies as for instance by providing assistance in assessing
how much land of what potential should be distributed to whom and under
what legal and social arrangements both in Ethiopia and Tanzania. However,
policy makers have frequently taken the view that such radical changes
should not await formulation and implementation, if the resea:'ch results
are not already in hand, particularly, given the existing state, both of
the conceptual and empirical research in social sciences. Th:s view has
very important implications for the nature of research to be ccfducted if social
scientists are to be effective in improving the quality of pl inning and imple-
To overcome the deficiencies in research it would seem that social science
research may be aimed in two directions. First, social scientists may
strive to improve the overall conceptual framework available for developing
criteria for identification of complementarities and priorities; and for
sequencing and time phasing of activities. It is important to emphasize,
however, that if such line of enquiry is to be cf genuine operational
significance as distinct from being an esoteric exercise that mainlyy leads
to generating employment among fellow social scientists, cons-ilerable
1tter-nti on must be devoted to the trade-offs between simplicity of asc'~rmptior~n
and the empirical applicability of the conceptual framework based on such
assumptions, to the propriety of the choice of variables and to their inter-
actions, to the simplicity of methods for empirical testing of hypotheses,
to the ue. of critical minimum data and to the vays of ccl3.ect:.ng reliable
data promptly, given the shortage of trained manpower and irntLtutions within
which such analyses must be carried out in tackling most r ,erational. probler3.
This is a tall order, and the possibility of 1 I. I ufi~ !:- rot M er'
only of conjecture.
The fact that at present social scientists have no .:.-.telati,.c
criteria for analy.sing ,the 'big' questions of overall priori.-ies, and
choice of policies and institutions is, however, not to suggst that
they cannot play an important role in improving the basis of these
decisions in yet another and probably a far more effective w:<.y, namely
through the microanalytical approach. Such analysis nay be partiall in
the sense of examining a limited number of important economic technological
and administrative factors and the interactions a.ong then as they affect
the realization of the rural development objectives within g:.ven socio-
political frameworks (an approach followed in the AP 3), or :-t may be
partial in an even more restricted sense of analyzing only a particular"
constraint, such as agricultural technology, or pricing policy, that appears.
to exercise an overwhelming influence on rural.welfare. Par',ial analysis
can be effective despite the multiplicity of factors, because many such
factors can be isolated, whose effect although important in.-'ealization
of the objectives of rural development, may not be radically different
among a variety of environments.
If rural development planning and inpler.ontation is to be of a
participatory nature that draws on the e;nowledre, experience and wishes
of the local people, leaders and administrators rather than. elitistt, that
relies on economists or planers from external agencies, then also of course,
it is necessary to emphasize this second line of enquiry in social l science
research, to disseminate the knowledge of the processes of riral development
broadly to such decision makers and thus to improve the quali.-ty of planning
- 10 -
and implementation of the programs.
A substantial, although highly fragmentary, body of such micro
research and information already exists on African rural development
among various donor agencies, national governments and research
institutes. The existing analysis and information may be classified into
two interrelated categories:
I. A. Evaluation of past policy interventions to assess tle extent to which
1. they were effective in realization of the implicit or the stated
objectives of the national governments;
2. to assess the unforeseen consequences of these policies; and
3. to judge the efficacy of such policy interventions in realization
of the stated objectives in comparison with other alternatives 1/.
B. Evaluation of the effectiveness of institutional interventions: In
such research effectiveness is assessed by certain stated criteria
e.g., the effectiveness of decentraliz'aticn in Tanzania rnd Kenya
in increasing: administrative efficiency, in improving the quality
of planning and implementation, in local participation,.in resource
mobilization, etc., or the effectiveness and efficiency of the
cooperative societies in carrying out: certain credit and marketing
functions, in increasing local self-reliance, in 2uglenting resource
1/ Numerous examples can be cited of this type of research co ducted in social
sciences on rural Africa, as for instance the examination if the magnitude
of the resources allocated to and actually expended .in the rural sectors
through national planning in various countries, and cf the types of activities
to which they have been allocated, of the effectiveness of the specific
strategies adopted in the use of those resources, e.g., th. improvement approach
and the villagization approach followed in Tanzania in the 'SOs and the '60s,
or of the effect of certain agricultural price policies on income stabilization,
resource mobilization or on production increase. See: Uma ,ele Design of Rural
Development, for discussion of information on specific isses.
- 11 -
The evaluation of policies and institutions may be a posthumous
exercise, undertaken with a view to improve the policy formulation and
implementation generally in similar situations through increasing the
insights developed from analysis of specific interventions, or it may be
undertaken on a regular basis, as a device for identifying the constraints
to realization of stated objectives, and for enabling the necessary.improve-
ments in the course of implementation, to maximize their effectiveness
Nuch of the research carried out by the Institute of Development Studies for
the government of Kenya on the Special Rural Development Programs at least
in principle was meant to fall in this latter category.
II. Description and analysis of the existing systems is the second type
of research available on African rural development. The objective of such
research is to understand the basic structure of the various traditional
systems, to explain how they function, to examine their potential for
realization of rural development objectives, to identify constraints and
to derive implications for policies, planning of programs and for choice
The existing research has numerous shortcomings, in terns of coverage
of issues, data, methods of analysis and concepts, that are already well
recognized. A substantial scope thus exists for carrying but research on a
variety of aspects of rural development to overcome these shortcomings and
to improve our knowledge I/. However, despite the shortcomings and the highly
fragmentary nature, the existing information and analysis already provide a
1/ See: Umra Lele, Design of Rural Development, for detailed discussion of
- 12 -
sufficient basis for making intelligent ;judgemcnts as to the priorities in
policies and planning.
The Implication of the existing Social Science research roi further Action
and Research in rural development in Africa
The existing analysis reinforces that the bulk of the rural population
in Africa is poor and, unlike in many latin American countries, this poverty
is not confined to a few regions or classes. ItI is almost alv.ys spread over
the entire rural sector. Consequently, targett groups" in Afr;ca are large
relative to the financial resources and in particular the trai ed manpower
and the institutional capability frequently available for leve'Lopment.
Therefore, if the emphasis in rural development is to be on maass participation
and on the viability of the process of rural development, in Arica rural
development programs have to be viewed as part of a continuous, dynamic process,
rather than as an 'extensive', or a 'max-irum' vs. a 'minimum' effort. The
emphasis on mass participation also means that a sequential ap '-roach is frequent-
ly necessary in planning and implementing a rural development strategy, involving
establishment of clear priorities and time phasing of activity s.
Given the low productivity of the subsistence rural sector, for a
variety of reasons analyzed in the ARDS, in many cases an initial emphasis
on broadbased increase in productivity through a certain minimim1 number of
interventions and level of institutional developomiiin to carry )ub those
interventions, appears to be a far more effective ;ay of ensuring viability of
mass participation than the substantial initial concentration of resources
through a large number of activities in a few regions.
-I 'I -
Some constraints to improvement of productivity, such as
technology thnt is profitable at the farm level, effective extension and
adequate and timely supply of inputs, a network of feeder roads, and trained
manpower are common to much of the subsistence agriculture in frica, whereas
others, such as ill-health caused by malaria, as n the squatter settlements in
Kenya, or the inadequate incentive system and organization as Ln Ujamaa villages
in Tanzania are location specific. Therefore, no unique blueprint for planning
is possible. The establishment of priorities needs a combination of a few
critical general interventions such as those listed above, applicable to
several regions, along with emphasis on development of capability of the
regional administrations to identify and ameliorate additional constraints
specific to individual regions. However, in all cases, including the cases
-of priorities established at the national level, the effectiveness of implementation
depends on the efficiency and the coordinating ability of the regional
administrations, and on the general institutional development at the
regional and local level. This is why a regional focus in institutional
development is necessary from the outset even when a broad coverage of
services is being aimed at. 'Ihis is particularly so if more complex programs
involving a number of sectors are to be planned and implemented by regional
administrations over time.
Frequently the first step has to be the improvement of %he regional admin-
istrative capability for effective planning and implementation of programs
directed at only a few productive activities, including food crops. Attention
to food crop production often seems critical since a majority of the low
income population derives its livelihood from this activity.
Because the existing methods of analysis in social sciences do not
offer a basis for improvement in the establishment of priorities over the
intelligent judgements arrived at on the basis of past experience, it
seems desirable to allocate the limited research capabilities to improvement
of the effectiveness of the implementation of the actual priorities and for
identification of, and planning and implementation of, interventions for
removal of the location specific constraints.
To achieve this end, three types of research seems in order.
1. Analysis of Overall Policies
The past experience indicates that if the priority activities are to
have a significant impact on the lowest income groups, the particular
country's existing sectoral policies and plans, as well as the indigenous
.institutions available for rural development have to be examined .explicitly
to assess the extent to which these effectively "reach" the lowest income groups
in the rural areas. Such analysis will allow overt recognition of the existing
government policies which are inconsistent with the goals of rural development.
This information is necessary either to develop possible ways of bringing about
the necessary changes in policies and of ensuring their effective implementation,
or alternatively to modify design of programs to cope with the existing
policies. For instance, pricing policies, particularly in regard to food crops,
have frequently adversely affected both the distribution of benefits to the
lowest income groups and the incentives for production beyond the very
minimum domestic needs. In such cases a change in pricing policies is
necessary for improving the benefits of a specific rural development program.
Alternftively a more modest increase in market sulrpluse rne!d( to be planned
for ;Juch questions were not analyzed suffic.ien.tly prior -to planning and
inplcmentation of many of the past program. 'Tir iel;.i has ie;-;ultel in
num.rerou'r iifficmlties during the course of hnpl:.l ett.ior. TI has, of
course, also meant only a very limited irnmpict on the target population.
II. ie:ealrch Related to Planning and Ir;lmn.ntation of .Specific Activities.
The experience indicates that priority activities themselves require
substantially greater planning if their effectiveness is to be maximized.
To achieve this objective research needs to be directed towards resolution
of a number of pertinent questions. For example, which particular technologies
are actually profitable at the farm level, how well do they fit into the
existing cropping.pattern, and, therefore, which specific crops are to be
selected for promotion? Do existing marketing systems serve low income
farmers in the program areas effectively? Given the social ties that often
exist between peasants and traders and given the extreme scarcity of trained
manpower available to implement market interventions, will a new marketingg
system which may seem desirable in principle actually benefit the lowest
income groups? Or will it only aggravate the tensions between the cultivators
and the merchants, with adverse effects on the cultivators as has frequently
been the case in the past programs? In sum, what really are the
constraints to increasing agricultural productivity in a specific case and
what steps are necessary for effective implementation of the interventions
if these critical constraints are to be ameliorated? How to develop the
necessary implementing capability? And what is the time hox:iz.on implicit in the
results to be expected from the program? To answer such questions planning of
progr.nms will of course require considerably greater and direct support of
operationally oriented research than has been the case in the past. In a few
cases, where an effective technical and institutional capability to coordinate
and deliver such services already exists, the 'fir-st phase of research and develop-
ment outlined above may of course be skipped.