Integrated, multidisciplinary technology generation for small, traditional farmers of Guatemala

Material Information

Integrated, multidisciplinary technology generation for small, traditional farmers of Guatemala
Hildebrand, Peter E.
Ruano Andrade, Sergio Rolando
Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnologia Agricolas
Place of Publication:
Guatemala, C.A.
Sector Publico Agricola, Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnologia Agricolas
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
17 p. ; 28 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Farming ( LCSH )
Caribbean ( LCSH )
Agriculture ( LCSH )
Farm life ( LCSH )
Traditional farming -- Guatemala
Farms, Small -- Guatemala
Agriculture -- Technology -- Guatemala
Spatial Coverage:


General Note:
Cover title.
General Note:
"April, 1978."
General Note:
Includes bibliographical references (p. 17).
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Full Text
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Peter E. Hildebrand Sergio Ruano A.
Presented at the Annual Meeting of
The Society for Applied Anthropology Merida Mexico April 2-9, 1978
April, 1978

Peter E. Hildebrand
Sergio Ruano A.
Small traditional or subsistence farmers who have been left behind in the march of modern agriculture, present a unique challenge to scientists and technicians whose responsibility it is to develop improved technologies adapted to the specific sets of conditions which confront these farmers in their daily lives. Many scientists who are trying to reach the world's small and traditional farmers now realize that it is precisely these site specific conditions which have been responsible for the lack of advance into modern agriculture even while commercial and mechanized farmers are able to adopt new technologies as fast as they are developed. The difference is that the tractor is an overriding homogenizing factor which makes the generation of technology for mechanized farmers a relatively easy task. The differences encountered from mechanized farm to mechanized farm can be as few as two -- soils and climate. Technologies generated in one set of these conditions are not difficult to modify, test and release in another set. But smaller, traditional farmers who do not have mechanization are affected by a multitude of factors in addition to soils and climate. Notable among these can be social, cultural or economic factors which hardly enter into the picture of the commercial farmer. These latter factors, for example, can be
I Agricultural Economist, The Rockefeller Foundation assigned as Coordinador
de Socioeconomra Rural e Investigador Asistente Profesional, respectivamente.

such things as the unavailabil ity' of some inputs, the scarcity of labor during certain critical periods in the production process, or religions taboos concerning cropping practices. In many cases, these "~other" factors are critical to the point of being the most important in determining what the farmer can and cannot do, and hence what technologies he can and cannot adopt.
Three characteristics of the agro-socioeconomic factors tha t influence and affect small traditional farmers complicate the work of the technicians. One, already mentioned, is the site specificity of these factors. Another is that there are more of them to be considered than is the case for mechanized, commercial farmers. Finally, those factors which are important in each area represent. an unknown set to be searched out in each site. Because of these problems, to successfully develop technologies suited to different groups of traditional farmers, several social and biological disciplines must work together. The work of such a multidisciplinary team is to 1) separate farmers into homogeneous groups, 2) discover the factors they have in common and determine which are critical in each particular case, and 3) develop tech nologies for which the productivity of the most restrictive factors can be increased or find another way to relieve the pressure from the restrictive factor or factors. Finally it is important to assure that the technologies are acceptable to the farmers so they will be adopted on a large scale.
A key task in the separation of farmers into homogeneous groups. Obvi-

ously, the larger the group, the more economical is the operation. But in recognizing site specificity, it is necessary to be realistic and accept that political boundaries or farm size classes will not necessarily contain just one homogeneous farm group. Because the product of the multidisciplinary team is crop or Livestock technology, the most appropriate means of separating farmers into homogeneous groups is on the basis of their present, crop or l ivestock systems. Farmers, who over time have responded or adjusted in the same way to thle various agro-socioeconomic factors influencing them, are probably being affected by the same factors in approximately the same magnitude; hence, they would be expected to react in l ike manner to any improved or modified technology. For this reason, the multi-disciplinary approach begins with, and depends on the selection of a specific target group of farmers with which to work.
A corollary to a completely integrated, multidisciplinary approach is that these same target farmers, as representatives of another "discipline" or point of view, be incorporated directly into the process as active participants. This is accomplished by initiating the technology generation process be means of obtaining in formation on farms, by utilizing the farmers as advisors through continuing contacts, by the operation of a coordinated farm record-keeping component, by conducting most experimental work on farms and under farm c onditions, and by requesting the farmers, themselves, to test the technology as part of the evaluation procedure.

It is important to note that this approach is not Iimloted to small or traditional farmers -- it can be used equally on all types of farms. However, the more traditional or less mechanized the farms are, the more necessary it is that the approach be used. But by the very nature of the procedure -- providing ai clear orientation for technology generation -- it follows tho r the methodology, when used for all farm conditions, can effectively increase the efficiency of all applied research by increasing the probability of its ultimate adoption by the target group of farmers. The primary requirements are the selection of the target group on the basis of their present cropping or lI vestock system and the study of this group by a multi-disciplinary team to clearly define the critical factors which influence the choice criteria of the farmers and hence, the choice of system.
An important consideration and potential problem related to the utiliza'tion of different choice criteria, is the selection of the relevant measures of productivity to use in judging the technology being generated. In common agricultural dialogue,- productivity usually refers only to yield, or production per unit of land. Technically, however, productivity can refer to the amount of a product in terms of any of the inputs used in the production process. No one measure of productivity is necessarily the best for any particular farming system or class of farmers. The most relevant measures will depend on the choice criteria of the farmers in each area and is usually very site specific among traditional and subsistence farmers. Errors in the choice of resources or factors

with which to measure productivity can lead to the generation of technologies unacceptable to the farmers for whom they were being designed simple because productivty of the most important factor from the farmers' point of view and based on their own choice criteria, may actually be less, even though when measured in the technicians' traditional terms, productivity may have improved
over the traditional system. But, it will make no sense to a farmer to measure productivity in terms of land, for example, if this is not the most limiting factor of production in his situation.
In order to meet the challenge of generating technology for small, traditional and subsistence farmers who produce the majority of basic grains in Gua3
temala, the Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology -ICTA- has been developing a methodology in which the social sciences play an integrated role. The methodology reflects the need for rapid results from low budget research. To speed up adoption and help reduce cost, farmers are involved in all phases of the research process and play a key role in decisions. The methodology leads to technologies for precisely specified agronomic and socioeconomic conditions (which vary widely in Guatemala) and minimize the possibility of recommending technologies which are inappropriate and high-risk to the farmers, and hence, technologies which they resist, or ultimately do not adopt.
2 For a more complete discussion on measures of productivity relevant to small
and traditional or subsistence farmers, see Hildebrand, 1976, pp 347-349.
3 The Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnologra Agri'colas -ICTA- was created by law
in October, 1972, and formally inaugurated on May 10, 1973.

This integrated, multi-disciplinary system (Hildebrand, 1977) is flexible and modifications are continuosly being made, but a definite format has emerged and is being utilized at the present time. It is important to note that this is not a theoretical exercise or a demonstration or pilot project, but rather it is being used by a semi-autonomous institute within the Ministry of Agriculture. Hence, it is a practical methodology which fits within a national program budget.
The majority of the technical personnel in the Institute work at the regional or sub-regional level and here they form an integrated and multi-disciplinary team whose work -- the generation and promotion of technology -- is divided into five broadly defined activities:
1. Agro-sociceconomic studies
2. Germp!asm selection
3. Farm trials
4. Farmers' tests
5. Evaluation.
Except for the early stages of germplasm selection and some basic work in agronomic practices, which is conducted at the regional experiment stations, all of the activities are conducted on farms and mostly with farmer participation.
As a project team is formed to work in a new area, the first activity is a reconnaissance to define a target group of farmers homogeneous with respect to their traditional farming systems and technology (agro-socioeconomic charac-

teristics) ard delimit the zone within which this group is an important section of the farm population. The task of the project team in the reconnaissance and the later survey, is to identify the common factors or agro-socloeconomic characteristics and then assess the relative importance of each to the generation of im4
proved technology. The reconnaissance and survey are usually completed in the period between crop seasons and depth of interview rather than number of interviews is stressed. The purpose of the survey is not to obtain benchmark information but to identify factors and problems important in generating technology. Although some preliminary cost information is obtained in the survey, this is based on recall and is not sufficiently accurate to use in economic analyses of farm trial data. For this and other reasons, several collaborators are chose to initiate farm records immediately after the survey is completed. These farm records are simple forms on which the farmer notes each day, for each crop, the work he has done, on what area, with what contracted and family labor, and the inputs which were used. Other information such as planting distances, populations, varieties, etc., are obtained in discussions on the frequent visits made by ICTA personnel. Through these periodic visits, the farmers become permanent contacts for the technicians, and are useful sounding boards on which to test new ideas or to provide information on general problems which in less personal situations may never be discussed.
4 The usual sub-regional team is comprised of 5 agronomists plus one person
from Socioeconomics. For the survey and its analysis, this team is augmented by a group of specialists from Socloeconomics that works on a national level.

The survey information is analyzed by the sub-regional team and the national specialists who use it to plan farm trials in which existing varieties-tre tested and agronomic practices and cropping systems are explored and to orient plant breeders in their germplasm selection process. In the first year, one of the primary purposes of the farm trials, for which ICTA and the farmers share expenses, is for the members of the team to familiarize themselves first hand with the farmers' systems and to continue the process of identifying problems and limitations.
Two different types of Farm Trials are used. The firs- which couid be termed 'Technical Farm Trials" are used when the trial needs to be replicated to provide information on response for each specific site. These are usually, though not necessarily, conducted in more than one location within the zone and include variety trials as well as work on agronomic practices.
Before a practice or "technology'" can be passed to farmers for Farmers' Tests, ICTA technicians must be satisfied that the practice works, that it is prac ical for the target farmers of the area, and that it is economical given the farmers' choice criteria. To satisfy these evaluations, promising practices, crop or livestock systems or materials usually will be subjected to "Agro-economic Farm Trials'. These are designed to provide economic and agronomic information on a regional (rather than a site) basis; hence, there are many trials, well distributed throughout the area but they are not necessarily replicated at

each location. Economic as well as agronomic records are maintained and both economic and agronomic analyses are made. Estimates of risk and regional stability associated with each treatment or practice are calculated to aid in assessing potential effect on farmers who may adopt the technology.
In the Farm Trials, the ICTA technicians evaluate the technology being
produced based on their understanding of the farmers' situation as obtained from the survey, the farm records and continual close contact with target farmers. A critical aspect of the Farmers' Tests is that the farmer is the prime evaluator, because in the final analysis, the technician cannot substitute for the farmer. The technician becomes an interested spectator who obtains what information he can from the trial, but the information obtaining procedure should not interfere with the farmer's capability to judge the practice for himself. It is important that the practice be conducted strictly by the farmer with only the technical advice of the technician. This is different from the Farm Trial in which it is the technician who is responsible for conducting the work. Another very important aspect of Farmers' Tests is that the farmer pays for all costs except technical assistance. In other words, he is a full partner in the evaluation procedure.
Although ICTA does not have extension responsible ities (they are in another agency) it is obvious that Farmers' Tests (and to some extent Farm Trials) initiate the process of technology transfer. Recognizing that the Institute must promote the use of its technology over a sufficiently wide number of cases to

(~. ~)7,10
validate 'ts evaluation process, this amount of promotion or transfer is considered appropriate for research purposes.
It is in the year following the Farmers' Tests, that ICTA again becomes
the evaluator. This time, the evaluation is with regard to the acceptance or rejection of the technology by the farmers who conducted Farmers' Tests. If a high proportion of the collaborators put the technology into practice over a large part of their land on their own initiative, it can be considered as an acceptable technology. When the farmers reject the practice, attempts are made to detiermine why, and then if it still looks promising, it will gQ back to one of the previous steps in the technology generating process for further development. If the practice has been rejected for reasons which cannot immediately be corrected, it joins the pool of basic information for future use and reference.
The farm records provide information which is used for longer run evaluation on changes in practices and yields, and comprise a more representative sample than of only those farmers who participated in Farmers' Tests. Ultimately, a completely randomized sample of all target farmers will need to be conducted to determine adoption of tech nologies,but -this has not been undertaken in any area to date.
In an area in eastern Guatemala, the agro-socioeconomic survey (Reiche, et. al., 1976) provided information indicating that the two controllable factors

(i.e., excluding limited rainfall and poor soils) most important in limiting production of the traditional farmers on the steep hillsides were the availability of labor in the short planting season and the amount of bean seed the former had left to plant. The "milpa" of the subsistence farmers in this area includes maize, beans and sorghum planted together at the same time in a number of
similar arrays. Through the use of twin or double rows of maize and sorghum and a reduction in the population of beans which consume the majority of planting time, productivity of planting labor and of bean seed was raised significantly by allowing each farmer to plant more land than he previously had been able to with his traditional cropping system. This non-traditional technology is possible because amount of land is not a I limiting factor for most farmers in the area.
Results from Farmers' Tests in 1976 indicate that on the average, each
farmer could plant about 40% more land using the same amount of planting labor and somewhat less bean seed and produce 75% more maize, 40% more sorghum, the same amount of beans and 33% more income (Hildebrand and Cardona, 1977). The system allows him to work about 60 more days on his farm than otherwise would be the case and earn about $1.25 per day which is slightly under what he has to pay for hired labor. The productivity of labor for planting and bean seed (the scarcest resources) rose from $5.48 per dollar invested to $8.73, an increase
5 Details on the use of double rows can be fouhd in: Hildebrand, 1976; Hildebrand, et. al., 1977; Hildebrand and Cardona, 1977; and French and Hildebrand, 1977.

of nearly 60%. Risk of loss is very low and there is no requirement for pesticides or fertilizer that the farmer normally does not use in these conditions.
In the Central Highlands, another survey showed that' land was the most limiting factor and capital was very scarce, but labor was reiat ively abundant throughout the year. In addition, three strata of subsistence farmers were defined (Duarte, et. al., 1977)0 One stratum cannot produce enough maize to sustain the family for the year, a second achieves self sufficiency at times, but not always, and the third always produces enough to satisfy family needs. Each of these three strata has different requirements even though their cropping system is basically the same, and a special technology was designed for each.
For the first stratum, and again, using the concept of double rows, the population of maize was increased 50% without changing the form of planting with in each row and using the same amount of fertilizer and seed per hill that the farmers are accustomed to using. The system, in effect, gives them 50% more land on which to plant, but because of some economies in labor utilization, such as not needing to prepare the extra land, labor costs increase only 30%. Maize production increased,45% and profit, after charging opportunity cost for all labor, rose from $7 per hectare to $60 (Hildebrand, et. al., 1977). More important, it would permit the average farmer in this group to achieve self sufficiency in the production of maize.

For the farmer in the second category who desires to diversify and has a l ittle capital to invest (mostly earned by his wife weaving local cloth) 40% of the land can be planted to wheat (the least risky alternative) and at the same time the normal population of maize is planted on the same land using double maize rows. This systemwith a one meter bed of wheat in the 2 meter space between each set of twin maize rows, presents some very useful labor efficiencies so labor use increases only approximately 30% over the traditional maiZa system used in the area. Maize production dropped slightly (though it was not statistically significant) but 1266 kg/ha of wheat was produced and profit increased to $219 per hectare. This associated cropping system compares with $124 per hectare if each of the crops had been seeded alone.
In another system, cabbages were planted. in the wheat about two weeks before the wheat was planted, and provide a great possibility for the third class of farmer who has some risk capital to invest, in crops wilth more income earning potential (and risk). Nearly 14,000 cabbages can be planted per hectare without having a negative effect on the wheat. Although demand does not exist for large additional amounts of cabbage nor could they be absorbed by the present marketing system, there is potential for the production of broccoli and cauliflower for freezing as well as the incorporation of other crops into the system .
In allI three systems, only the traditional amounts of fertilizer were used

and no insecticides were applied, in accordance with the findings of the survey. Additional advances can, of course, be achieved, with the incorporation of these factors as well as the use of improved varieties, all of which can be included in the longer run.. However, we are finding that ever, in these components of cropping systems, it is necessary to differentiate between subsistence and commercial crops even on the same farm and fcr the same farmers.'
This is most easily seen with respect to crop varieties in the Highlands,
where maize and beans have been the subsistence crops of the area for hundreds of years and wheat is a relatively recent introduction and almost never consumed
in the home. There is a much greater tendency to accept new technology for the commercial crop than for the maize and beans. Evidence of this is available from an evaluation study made in the Western Highlands (Ruano, et. al., 1976). Among the collaborators, 97% of the wheat was improved varieties while only 31 %of the maize was one of the recommended varieties even though there is a high response from maize variety in the area (Schmoock, et. al., 1976). It has also been established that on the South Coast where maize is primarily a commercial crop sold at harvest, farmers readily accept hybrids, while in the Highlands, where they have historically saved their own seed, open pollinated varieties are necessary.
The availabil ity of water in sufficient quantity and under safe conditions
6 An exception has been found in a recently surveyed area in Quezaltenango
in the Western Highlands.

to be able to use liquid pesticides is a limiting factor for many small farmers that has often been overlooked. On the South Coast, where l ittle l iquid insecticide had been used, we found a rapid acceptance of granulated insecticides that can be applied easily with virtually no purchased equipment arid itr?hcut the need for water except for washing hands after use.
Another cultural factor is very important in maize technology in the Highlands. Among the indigenous farmers, young maize plants are treated as a child (Ruano, et. al., 1976), so they are almost never knowingly destroyed until they can provide a useful product. Hence, the farmers plant only a few seeds and then reseed if the number of plants drops too low in any hill. The net result is a less than opti mum productive population. The usual technical solution is to plant a higher than necessary number of seeds and thin after germination to the desired number of plants per hill. But for obvious reasons, this meets a tremendous cultural resistance on the part of these farmers, and will probably not be adopted on any large scale in this area.

The social and economic goals and cultural constraints of small, traditional and subsistence farmers may be very different from those -f commercial farmers, yet they can be among the more important choice crter%; t farmers use when judging alternative farming systems and techno!ogFP,. The Guatemalan Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology -ICTA- which is responsible for the generation of technology for small, traditional farmers who are the most important producers of basic grains in the country, has been developing a methodology which includes the definition of the most important factors which influence these farmers. Multi-disciplinary teams comprised of both social and biological scientists work closely with the farmers in surveys, farm records, and farm trial in attempts to develop technologies which meet the site specific criteria of the farmers in each area. Then the farmers are asked to evaluate the technology themselves as part of the overall evaluation process.
Perhaps the most important concept presented in this paper is that at least one national institute has accepted that for small, traditional and subsistence farmers, social, cultural, and economic factors can be as important as agroclimatic factors in designing appropriate technology. Several examples are presented in which land, labor, capital, water, seed and a religious belief all have been key elements in determining the nature of a modified technology which traditional farmers would accept.

Duarte Mo, Rolando, Peter E. Hildebrand y Sergio Ruano. 1977. Tecnolog'a y
estructura agro-socioecondmica del minifundio del Occidente de Chimaltenango. ICTA, Guatemala.
French, Edwin C. and Peter E. Hildebrand. 1977. Dynamic multiple cropping
systems for small farmers of El Salvador. Food and Resource Economics
Department and Vegetable Crops Department. University of Florida.
Gainesville, Florida (In press).
Hildebrand, Peter E. 1976. Multiple cropping systems are dollars and "sense"
agronomy. Chap. 18. In Multiple Cropping. American Society of Agronomy. Special Publication Number 27. Madison, Wisconsin.
Hildebrand, Peter E. 1977. Generating small farm technology: an integrated
multidisciplinary system. Invited paper, 12th West Indian Agricultural
Economics Conference. Caribbean Agro-Economic Society. Antigua,
West Indies.
Hildebrand, Peter E., Sergio Ruano, Teodoro Lopez, Esad Samayoa y Rolando
Duarte. 1977. Sistemas de cultivos para los agricultores tradicionales
del Occidente de Chimaltenango. ICTA, Guatemala.
Hildebrand, Peter E. y Daniel Cardona. 1977. Sistemas de cultivos de ladera
para pequefios y medianos agricultores, La Barranca, Jutiapa, 1976.
ICTA, Guatemala.
Reiche C., Carlos E., Peter E. Hildebrand, Sergio Ruano y Jaime T. Wyld.
1976. El pequeKo agricultor y sus sistemas de cultivos en ladera: Jutiapa, Guatemala. ICTA, Guatemala.
Ruano, Sergio, Valerio Macz Pacay y Peter E. Hildebrand. 1976. Evaluacidn
de la aceptaci6n de la tecnologra generada por el ICTA para el cultivo
de marz, en la Regi6n I, 1975. ICTA, Guatemala.
Schmoock P., Werner J. 1976. Informe Anual 1975-76 del Equipo de Producci6n A, Prueba de Tecnologa. ICTA, Guatemala.