A review of A.I.D. experience:...

Title: A.I.D. evaluation highlights
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00055243/00001
 Material Information
Title: A.I.D. evaluation highlights
Alternate Title: Agency for International Development evaluation highlights
Physical Description: v. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: United States -- Agency for International Development
Publisher: U.S. Agency for International Development
Place of Publication: Washington D.C
Publication Date: 1988-
Subject: Economic assistance, American -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
Dates or Sequential Designation: No. 1 (Oct. 1988)-
Funding: Electronic resources created as part of a prototype UF Institutional Repository and Faculty Papers project by the University of Florida.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00055243
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 18806741
lccn - sn 89033352

Table of Contents
    A review of A.I.D. experience: Farming systems research and extension projects, 1975-1987
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
Full Text


June 1989

A Review of A.I.D. Experience:
Farming Systems Research and Extension Projects--1975-1987

Center for Development Information and Evaluation
U.S. Agency for International Development (A.ID.), Washington D.C. 20523


Farming systems research and extension
(FSR/E) projects funded by the Agency for Inter-
national Development (A.I.D.) have had a mixed
impact on technology development and transfer
and institutionalization of FSR/E. These projects
have provided research and extension personnel
with opportunities for training and field experi-
ence in FSR/E, but FSR/E has yet to be effec-
tively incorporated into technology development
and transfer systems to an extent that would per-
mit FSR/E to begin to achieve the impact on
agricultural production assumed in project
Key constraints to FSR/E project implementa-
tion and impact have included the lack of the fol-
lowing: a problem-solving approach, effective
collaboration across disciplines, links of research
with extension, consensus on methodology for
FSR/E, stakeholder understanding of FSR/E,
agricultural policy and strategy defining FSR/E's
role in research and extension, staffing of proj-
ects with trained manpower, and government
funding to meet recurrent costs.
While the FSR/E concept often has not been
well understood by project implementors or
A.I.D. management, agricultural projects that
seek to strengthen technology development and

transfer can benefit by using the FSR/E concept
more effectively. The lessons learned from this
Center for Development Information and Eval-
uation review can serve to improve design,
implementation, and evaluation of agricultural
projects having a technology development and
transfer component.


FSR/E gained momentum during the 1970s as
the perception grew that the conventional
approach to agricultural research and extension
did not work well in most developing countries.
Typically, commodity or discipline research
based at experiment stations followed a top-
down technology development and transfer
model. Scientists proceeded without considering
the actual problems that farmers faced. Lacking
knowledge and understanding of the manage-
ment conditions under which small farmers
operate, many researchers erroneously assumed
that smallholder farming systems are static, that
small farmers reject technologies out of sheer
ignorance or traditionalism, that small farmers
seek to maximize yield and profit, and that
commodity-oriented research can generate
broad-based technologies relevant to smallholder

C/V, 57

farming systems. As a result, "improved" tech-
nologies frequently failed to attract farmers to
adopt them.


A.I.D. responded by committing project funds
to FSR/E, a new approach to agricultural
research. Since 1975, more than 75 A.I.D.
agricultural projects have included some form of
FSR/E. FSR/E projects use on-farm research and
extension to test, adapt, integrate, and dissemi-
nate new technologies for adoption by farmers.
Technology development is based on a knowl-
edge of the whole farming system, and technol-
ogy evaluation takes into account technical
criteria (such as yield improvement) as well as
the farm family's socioeconomic circumstances.
Further, knowledge of farming systems is used to
help define on-station and on-farm research
agendas, with the expectation of generating
productivity- and income-increasing technolo-
gies more acceptable to smallholder farmers.
Viewing the farm as a system, FSR/E prac-
titioners focus on farm family attributes-goals,
preferences, skills, resources (such as labor),
production activities, and management practices;
interdependencies among system components
that family members control; and interactions of
these components with physical, biological, and
socioeconomic factors not under the farmer's

FSR/E's Core Characteristics

FSR/E entails the blending and sequencing of
nine core characteristics:
FSR/E is farmer oriented. FSR/E targets
small-farm families as the client group for
research and identifies technology relevant to
this group's management conditions. This is
done by identifying these conditions before
proposing technological solutions and by adapt-
ing technologies to local circumstances and
FSR/E involves the client group as parti-
cipants in the research and extension process.
FSR/E practitioners involve and work with client

group members to design, implement, and
evaluate research and extension activities.
FSRIE recognizes the locational specificity of
technical and human factors. FSR/E prac-
titioners identify client groups of farmers that are
relatively homogeneous in terms of agroclimatic,
socioeconomic, and other factors.
FSRIE is a problem-solving approach.
FSR/E practitioners identify the constraints to
increased farm productivity and income. Their
primary concern is to help farmers solve
FSRIE is systems oriented. FSR/E views the
total farm as a system of natural and human
components. It evaluates the potential for intro-
ducing improved technology in one or more
production subsystems, as well as the impact of
this technology on the farming system as a
FSR/E is interdisciplinary. Collaboration
among agricultural and social scientists facili-
tates identification of the conditions under which
small farmers operate; diagnosis of constraints;
and design, conduct, and evaluation of research
and extension activities aimed at developing and
introducing improved technologies suitable to
the client group of farmers.
FSR/E complements, not replaces, conven-
tional commodity and discipline research.
FSR/E adapts technologies and management
strategies from discipline and commodity
research to the farmers' agroclimatic environ-
ment and socioeconomic circumstances.
FSR/E tests technologies in on-farm trials.
On-farm collaboration between farmers and
FSR/E practitioners provides each with a deeper
understanding of the farming system and the
farmer's decisionmaking criteria and allows for
development of technology under farm-level
environmental and management conditions.
FSRIE provides feedback for shaping
research priorities and agricultural policies.
FSR/E, a dynamic and iterative process, provides
information on farmer goals, needs, priorities,
and criteria for evaluating technologies and on
how new technologies perform under farm con-
If any of these core characteristics is missing
from a technology development and transfer
methodology, the methodology is not FSR/E,
and its practitioners are not doing FSR/E.


Assessing FSR/E project impact on technol-
ogy development and transfer is confounded by
three factors:

1. The relative contributions of conventional
agricultural research and FSR/E are not
readily separable-they are complementary.

2. Technology adoption depends on factors not
under the control of FSR/E teams, such as
physical infrastructure, policy environment,
and agricultural support institutions (such as

3. Because FSR/E encompasses technological
development and institutional change, sig-
nificant results may only be achievable in a
longer timeframe (such as 15 to 25 years).

Beyond these factors, expectations about how
quickly or the extent to which FSR/E could by
itself increase the productivity of a country's
agriculture may have been unrealistic. For
example, FSR/E project "logical frameworks"
often assumed goals and objectives for farm-
level impacts that could not be achieved within
the typical A.I.D. project timeframe. Some
project designs erroneously assumed that tech-
nologies were available for on-farm testing and
adaptation to a variable agroecological environ-
Although evaluations and case studies of 12
A.I.D.-funded FSR/E projects provided insuf-
ficient data to assess direct beneficiary impact
(e.g., farmer income), they indicated some suc-
cess in training development personnel in FSR/E
and providing them with practical opportunities
to gain field experience. Participation in FSR/E
not only changed researchers' attitudes about
small farmers as the clients of research but also
influenced how researchers defined research
problems, set research priorities, and carried out
problem-oriented research on farms. Such
changes have increased the likelihood that
research and extension will focus on problems
that are relevant to farmers.
Despite these successes, the total time needed
to institutionalize FSR/E is probably 15 to 25
years or more. Most FSR/E projects, with a life-

of-project funding of 5 years or less, did not have
as much of an impact on technology develop-
ment and transfer or institutionalization of
FSR/E as had been assumed in these projects'
designs (logical frameworks).


The gap between actual and expected impact
was caused not by any shortcoming in the
FSR/E concept per se but rather by the
failure of FSR/E projects to address core, opera-
tional, and generic constraints to implementing
the FSR/E concept.

Core Constraints

During the early years of FSR/E projects, the
"farming systems" concept was neither well
defined nor widely understood. FSR/E project
implementors, trained in conventional disci-
plines, were not well versed in the FSR/E con-
cept, lacked field experience with it, and were
not accustomed to the interdisciplinary approach
to solving agricultural problems that were of
concern to farmers.
There were few bona fide FSR/E practi-
tioners; within A.I.D., probably even fewer per-
sons understood the core characteristics required
for technically sound FSR/E. As a result of con-
fusion and uncertainty about what FSR/E is,
should be, or could be, many so-called FSR/E
projects were not doing FSR/E. Indeed, the most
frequent core constraints, appearing in at least 7
of the 12 projects, were lack of a problem-
solving orientation and lack of an interdiscipli-
nary approach.

Operational Constraints

FSR/E projects often did not address opera-
tional constraints to implementation. At least 7
of the 12 projects suffered from lack of the fol-
lowing: consensus on FSR/E methodology,
agricultural research policy or strategy defining
FSR/E's role, links of research with extension,
and stakeholder understanding of FSR/E.

A major constraint was the lack of consensus
among technical assistance, counterpart, and
A.I.D. personnel on how to implement FSR/E.
Also problematic was conducting FSR/E in set-
tings where agricultural policy and strategy did
not define FSR/E's role relative to research and
extension and where FSR/E was perceived as
competing for scarce resources. FSR/E also was
hampered by failures in ensuring that key
stakeholders (such as managers of research and
extension) understood FSR/E's benefits and
requirements, that FSR/E practitioners could
analyze and interpret the data collected, and that
extension was effectively linked with research as
a source of technology.
In short, A.I.D. introduced FSR/E without
realizing that FSR/E projects could not make an
impact unless they could fulfill a broader set of
conditions than those implied by FSR/E's core
characteristics alone.

Generic Constraints

A generic constraint is present when FSR/E
implementation is impeded by problems that can
arise in any A.I.D.-funded project, regardless of
the project's technical focus. The two most fre-
quent generic constraints, appearing in at least 7
of the 12 projects, were lack of staffing with
trained manpower and lack of government fund-
ing to meet recurrent costs.
All too frequently, A.I.D. attempted to imple-
ment FSR/E projects where adequately trained
manpower to fill counterpart staff positions and
funding for recurrent costs (such as fuel for
project vehicles) were not or could not be
Other areas in which problems were encoun-
tered included project management structure,
management of training, and management of
technical assistance. Technical assistance prob-
lems included delays in the arrival of personnel,
turnover of personnel, lack of experience in
FSR/E, and allocation of technical assistance
time to project administration rather than to

Most Frequent Constraints
Found in 12 FSR/E Projects


Problem-solving approach (9 projects)
Interdisciplinary approach (7)


Links with extension (9)
Consensus on FSR/E methodology (8)
Stakeholder understanding of FSR/E (7)
Research policy/strategy defining FSR/E's
role (7)


Staffing with trained manpower (10)
Government funding to meet recurrent
costs (9)
Management of technical assistance (7)


This review of A.I.D.-funded FSR/E projects
suggests the following as key lessons learned
(many of which are reinforced by similar
conclusions emerging from a recent A.I.D./
Bureau for Science and Technology/Office of
Agriculture-funded "results inventory" of FSR/E

The Farmer in FSR/E

In FSR/E, the farmer plays a central role in
technology development and transfer-one of an
active collaborator, not just a passive observer or
receiver. Yet FSR/E practitioners often have had
difficulty implementing this concept because
highly centralized and vertically structured
research and extension systems are geared to
respond to top-down lines of authority rather
than to farmer-identified needs and priorities.

Farming in FSR/E

FSR/E projects have tended to focus on the
food crops raised by subsistence farmers, paying
little attention to the other commodities that
these farmers produce for sale. Several evalua-
tions raised the issue of whether FSR/E should
place greater emphasis on cash crop technologies
to help farmers produce and market higher
valued crops or animals.

Systems in FSR/E

FSR/E practitioners often have not gone
beyond "lip service" to the concept of the farm
family household as a system of natural and
human components that must be understood if
FSR/E is to influence agricultural income.
Some FSR/E practitioners spent so much time
studying the farm as a "system" that they never
got around to testing potential technologies or
institutional changes to overcome constraints.
Others focused on a single crop (for example,
maize) but failed to examine the crop's inter-
relationships with other system components
(such as livestock).
Research mandates have caused FSR/E prac-
titioners to focus on improving production tech-
nology (primarily for crops) as the end rather
than a means. Not building increased farm fam-
ily income into the design of FSR/E increases the
chances that FSR/E will not focus on the farm
and farm family as a system, thereby losing the
systems concept as FSR/E's guiding rationale.

Research in FSR/E

Because FSR/E emphasizes research aimed at
developing technologies to relax production
constraints, FSR/E practitioners often have failed
to address institutional constraints to adoption of
the technologies being developed. Farmers fre-
quently cannot adopt such technologies unless
they also have access to such agricultural support
services as credit, production inputs, and mar-
kets. FSR/E practitioners, particularly social
scientists, need to place greater research attention
on identifying means to remove or relax institu-

tional constraints that impede farmers' access to
agricultural support services.

Extension in FSR/E

Each FSR/E project reviewed was located in a
research organization, thereby raising the prob-
lem of how farming systems research would be
linked with extension. Many FSR/E projects
viewed the "farming systems approach" as a
research strategy, not as a strategy to integrate
research and extension.

The Research/Extension Link in FSR/E

Although improved agricultural technologies
are rarely transferable directly from research to
extension, FSR/E teams can play an important
role in linking research and extension by work-
ing with farmers and extension to test and adapt
technologies derived from research and with
researchers to provide feedback to establish
research priorities. However, without an ade-
quate incentive structure, it will be difficult to
link research and extension into a productive

Methodology of FSR/E

A.I.D.-funded FSR/E projects have provided
an opportunity for field-level development, test-
ing, and adaptation of FSR/E methodologies.
However, FSR/E's impact on technology devel-
opment and transfer will be negligible until
research and extension personnel work out a
joint strategy to institutionalize FSR/E methodol-
ogy in research and extension programs.

Current Status of FSR/E in A.I.D.

Many of FSR/E's core characteristics (such as
on-farm trials) are now designed almost rou-
tinely into A.I.D.-funded agricultural projects.
Further, an A.I.D.-sponsored survey of A.I.D.
missions found that the missions place a high
priority on training in FSR/E, institutionalization

of FSR/E, and technology transfer. These trends
indicate that FSR/E is playing a role in Agency-
funded projects aimed at strengthening agricul-
tural research and extension.

There Are No Panaceas

As A.I.D. turns its attention to "new" prob-
lems (such as sustainability of natural resources),
the Agency should refrain from assuming there
are "magic bullets" that will quickly lead to
smallholder development in the developing
countries. Achieving smallholder development
objectives will be served best by systematically
addressing the problems of agricultural research
and extension on a sustained, long-term basis.


Three outstanding issues merit consideration:
(1) sustainability of FSR/E, (2) sustainability of
natural resources, and (3) project orientation to

Sustainability of FSR/E

The FSR/E concept cannot be institutionalized
unless recurrent costs can be met. This is
impeded by government research and extension
budgets that leave few resources for carrying out
on-farm activities (such as on-farm trials). Exter-
nal support for FSR/E must provide incentives
for public and private funding of research and
extension, and must ensure that host-country
research and extension organizations develop a
capability to assume FSR/E's recurrent costs.

Sustainability of Natural Resources

Those concerned with "new" issues (such as
sustainability) may fail to see the role that FSR/E
can play in natural resources, agroforestry, and
agricultural projects. If properly implemented,
FSR/E could offer an excellent vehicle for
addressing the sustainability of the natural
resource base. The challenge is to ensure that

sustainability initiatives involving FSR/E's core
characteristics are not undermined by the same
constraints (core, operational, and generic) that
plagued past FSR/E projects. Those developing a
"sustainable agriculture" agenda should ensure
that the constraints impeding past FSR/E projects
do not come back to haunt new projects aimed at
supporting a transition to sustainable agriculture.

Project Orientation to FSR/E

FSR/E would not be where it is today in many
countries without the support that A.I.D. and
other donors provided FSR/E projects. However,
implementation of FSR/E has not been facilitated
by an assistance mode (the project) that provides
support for only a 3- to 5-year span; indeed, the
limited impact of FSR/E projects reviewed was
to a certain extent predetermined by these
projects' short lifespan. Success in research and
institutional development requires a longer
timeframe, and this is no less true in FSR/E.
FSR/E is not a substitute for conventional
research but can be instrumental in accelerating
the speed with which technologies are developed
and transferred. But this process is not aided by a
short-term orientation to agricultural research in
general or FSR/E in particular. Support needs to
be sustained over the long term (15 to 25 years).
The challenge for future A.I.D.-funded agri-
cultural projects is to address the constraints to
FSR/E more effectively. A.I.D. can strengthen
the contribution of agricultural research and
extension to technology development and trans-
fer by ensuring the following:

* That FSR/E's nine core characteristics are
systematically built into technology develop-
ment and transfer methodologies;

* That agricultural research and extension
projects provide a means to remove or relax
the operational constraints that can impede
implementation of FSR/E; and

That project assistance to relax core and
operational constraints to FSR/E is not
undermined by generic constraints.

The problems encountered in implementing
the FSR/E concept in FSR/E projects did not
result from any shortcomings in the FSR/E con-
cept but rather from limited knowledge and
understanding of the requirements for imple-
menting this concept. FSR/E, when properly
implemented, can strengthen the technology
development and transfer capability of agricul-
tural research and extension systems.
The challenge is to integrate FSR/E into tech-
nology development and transfer methods and
not permit it to be undermined by the same core,
operational, and generic constraints that have
impeded FSR/E's implementation and insti-
tutionalization in developing country research
and extension systems. FSR/E explicitly recog-
nizes the need for links among farmers, exten-
sion workers, and researchers, and defines the

essential conditions (FSR/E's core character-
istics) for increasing the impact of donor, gov-
ernment, and private investment in agricultural
research and extension.
However, such impact cannot be fully realized
unless development assistance also addresses
the various operational constraints that can
impede institutionalization of FSR/E. This will
require a long-term commitment to institutional-
ize technology development and transfer systems
responsive to the problems faced by smallholder
farmers in the developing countries. If A.I.D. has
the vision and the means, the Agency's con-
tinued support for institutionalizing FSR/E can
play a crucial role in increasing the productivity
and income-earning capability of small farmer
agriculture throughout the developing countries.

This "Highlights" is based on a review of evaluations and case studies of 12 farming
systems research and extension (FSRIE) projects funded by the Agency for International
Development between 1975 and 1987, as follows:

Botswana Agricultural Technology Improvement (633-0221)
Gambia Mixed Farming and Resources Management (635-0203)
Lesotho Farming Systems Research (632-0065)
Malawi Agricultural Research (612-0202)
Senegal Agricultural Research and Planning (685-0223)
Tanzania Farming Systems Research (621-0156)
Zambia Agricultural Research and Extension (611-0201)
Nepal Agricultural Research and Production (367-0149)
Philippines Farming Systems Development (492-0356)
Guatemala Food Productivity & Nutrition Improvement (520-0232)
Honduras Agricultural Research (522-0139)
ROCAP Small Farm Production Systems (596-0083)

This study, prepared by Kerry J. Byrnes under a Center for Development Information and Evaluation
(CDIE) contract with LABAT-ANDERSON Incorporated, was completed in December 1988, and the
judgments are based on data available at that time. The views and interpretations expressed are those of
the author and should not be attributed to A.ID. or LABAT-ANDERSON. Send comments or inquiries to
CDIE, Bureau for Program and Policy Coordination, Agency for International Development, Washington,
D.C. 20523-1802.


University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs