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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Peter E. Hildebrand
Sergio Ruano A.

Presented at the Annual Meeting of
The Society for Applied Anthropology
Merida Mexico
April 2-9, 1978

Socioeconomia Rural
April, 1978



Peter E. Hildebrand
Sergio Ruano A.

Small traditional or subsistence farmers who have been ieft behind in the

march of modern agriculture, present a unique challenge to scientists and tech-

nicians 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 commer-

cial 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 rela-

tively easy task. The differences encountered from mechanized farm to mecha-

nized 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 an-

other 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

1 Agricultural Economist, The Rockefeller Foundation assigned as Coordinador
de Socioeconomra Rural e Investigador Asistente Profesional, respectivamente.

such things as the unavailability of some inputs, the scarcity of labor during cer-

tain critical periods in the production process, or religions taboos concerning crop-

ping 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 that 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

unknown set to be searched out in each site. Because of these problems, to suc-

cessfully 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 technologies 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-

= I


ously, the larger the group, the more economical is the operation. But in rec-

ognizing site specificity, it is necessary to be realistic and accept that polit-

ical boundaries or farm size classes will not necessarily contain just one homo-

geneous 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 livestock systems.

Farmers, who over time have responded or adjusted in the same way to the var-

ious 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 like 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 information 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

conditions, 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 limited to small or tradi-

tional 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 a

clear orientation for technology generation -- it follows thodt 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 tar-

get group on the basis of their present cropping or livestock 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 ag-

ricultural 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 tra-

ditional 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

productivity 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 fac-

tor of production in his situation.

In order to meet the challenge of generating technology for small, tradi-

tional and subsistence farmers who produce the majority of basic grains in Gua-
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 recommend-

ing 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 Tecnologia 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 continuously 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-socioeconomic studies

2. Germplasm selection

3. Farm trials

4. Farmers' tests

5. Evaluation.

Except for the early stages of germplasm selection and some basic work in agron-

omic 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) and 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-socioeconomic character-

istics and then assess the relative importance of each to the generation of im-
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 in-

formation but to identify factors and problems important in generating techno!-

ogy. Although some preliminary cost information is obtained in the survey,

this is based on recall and is not sufficiently accurate to use in economic anal-

yses 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 dis-

tances, populations, varieties, etc., are obtained in discussions on the frequent

visits made by ICTA personnel. Through these periodic visits, the farmers be-

come 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 Socioeconomics that works on a national level.

The survey information is analyzed by the sub-regional team and the na-

tional 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 germpiasm 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 could 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

practical 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-eco-

nomic 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 sta-

bility associated with each treatment or practice are calculated to aid in asses-

sing 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 responsibilities (they are in an-

other 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

validate its 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 re-

jection 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 deter-

mine why, and then if it still looks promising, it will go back to one of the pre-

vious 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 evalua-

tion 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 technologies,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 pro-

duction 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 farmer

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 sig-

nificantly by allowing each farmer to plant more land than he previously had

been able to with his traditional cropping system. This non-traditional technol-

ogy is possible because amount of land is not a 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; Hilde-
brand, et. al., 1977; Hildebrand and Cardona, 1977; and French and Hilde-
brand, 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 relatively abundant

throughout the year. In addition, three strata of subsistence farmers were de-

fined (Duarte, et. al., 1977). 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 sys-

tem 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

within 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 utiliza-

tion, 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

little 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 system,with a one meter bed of wheat in the 2 meter space

between each set of twin maize rows, presents some very useful labor efficien-

cies so labor use increases only approximately 30% over the traditional maize

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 in-

creased 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 wilh 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 broc-

coli and cauliflower for freezing as well as the incorporation of other crops

into the system.

In all three systems, only the traditional amounts of fertilizer were used

and no insecticides were applied, in accordance with the findings of the sur-

vey. Additional advances can, of course, be achieved, with the incorpora-

tion 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 even in these

components of cropping systems, it is necessary to differentiate between subsis-

tence and commercial crops even on the same farm and for 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 avail-

able 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 availability 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 little liquid insecticide

had been used, we found a rapid acceptance of granulated insecticides that can

be applied easily with virtually no purchased equipment and w?'hcut the need for

water except for washing hands after use.

Another cultural factor is very important in maize technology in the High-

lands. 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 optimum 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 tremen-

dous 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, tradi-

tional and subsistence farmers may be very different from those of commercial

farmers, yet they can be among the more important choice crteri% t!E -armers

use when judging alternative farming systems and technology. The Guate-

malan institute of Agricultural Science and Technology -ICTA- which is respon-

sible 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 cri-

teria 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 agro-

climatic 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. Tecnologia y
estructura agro-socioeconomica del minifundio del Occidente de Chimal-
tenango. 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 Agron-
omy. 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, Esau 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 pequefis y medianos agricultores, La Barranca, Jutiapa, 1976.
ICTA, Guatemala.

Reiche C., Carlos E., Peter E. Hildebrand, Sergio Ruano y Jaime T. Wyld.
1976. El pequeno agricultor y sus sistemas de cultivos en ladera: Jutia-
pa, Guatemala. ICTA, Guatemala.

Ruano, Sergio, Valerio Macz Pacay y Peter E. Hildebrand. 1976. Evaluacion
de la aceptacion de la tecnologia generada por el ICTA para el cultivo
de marz, en la Region I, 1975. ICTA, Guatemala.

Schmoock P., Werner J. 1976. Informe Anual 1975-76 del Equipo de Produc-
cion A, Prueba de Tecnologia. ICTA, Guatemala.