IN FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH
Farming Systems Support Project
Institute of Food and
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida 32611
Office of Agriculture and
Office of Multisectoral Development
Bureau for Science and Technology
Agency for International Development
Washington, D.C. 20523
NETWORKING PAPER NO. 15
FARMER PARTICIPATION IN FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH
D. L. Galt and S. B. Mathema
Discussion paper prepared for the 17th meeting of the Asian
Farming Systems Working Group, Oct. 6-11, 1986, held at IRRI,
The authors are, respectively, Socio-economist, Department of
Agriculture (DOA)/Agricultural Research and Production Project
(ARPP), and Chief, Socio-Economic Research and Extension Division
(SERED), DOA, Ministry of Agriculture (MOA). Kathmandu, Nepal.
ARPP Agricultural Research and Production Project (Nepal)
CSP Cropping Systems Program (Nepal)
CSR Cropping Systems Research
DOA Department of Agriculture (Nepal)
DOL/AH Department of Livestock and Animal Husbandry (Nepal)
FFT Farmer's Field Trial
FSR Farming Systems Research
FSR&DD Farming Systems Research and Development Division (Nepal)
FSR&E Farming Systems Research and Extension
FTA French Technical Assistance (to Nepal)
HMG/N His Majesty's Government of Nepal
IARCs International Agricultural Research Centers
ICP Integrated Cereals Project (Nepal)
KIS Key informant survey
KSU Kansas State University
LAC Lumle Agricultural Centre (Nepal)
OTA Overseas Technical Assistance (British)
PAC Pakhribas Agricultural Centre (Nepal)
RRA Rapid rural appraisal
SERED Socio-Economic Research and Extension Division (Nepal)
As the practice of farming systems research (FSR) continues to
evolve and mature, farmers' constraints, problems, decision-making
criteria, risk averseness, and opinions are being taken into
consideration to a greater and greater degree (Chambers and Ghildyal,
1985; Chambers and Jiggins, 1985; Fresco and Poats, 1986; Richards,
1985). Part of the growing awareness that farmers should be allied as
partners with both extensionists and researchers has been due to a
natural realization that technically-proposed solutions to farmers'
existing crop and livestock systems did not improve the situation of
the farm household -- especially the women decision-makers (Fresco and
Poats, 1986), or were alternatives which were totally unacceptable to
farmers from the beginning (Chambers and Jiggins, 1985; Richards,
1985). In addition, other social scientists began to complement the
work begun by agricultural economists. Especially active have been
anthropologists and rural sociologists in the analysis of household
and village-level economic, social, cultural and religious situations,
norms, taboos, practices and beliefs (Fresco and Poats), and in the
consideration of nutritional constraints and traditions
The addition of these groups of social scientists to the
traditional combination of biological scientists and agricultural
economists is leading to a much more sophisticated approach to farmers
-- both male and female decision-makers in agricultural systems -- as
partners in the processes of agricultural research and extension
(Chambers and Ghildyal, 1985; Rhoades and Booth, 1982; Rhoades and
Potts, 1985; Richards, 1985). Various approaches to include farmers
as partners in research and extension are evolving world-wide. Some
of them include (1) the "farmer-back-to-farmer" approach (Rhoades and
Booth, 1982; Rhoades and Potts, 1985), (2) the "farmer-first-and-last"
approach (Chambers, 1983; Chambers and Ghildyal, 1985), and (3) the
indigenous (i.e., grass roots) agricultural revolution approach
All these evolutionary approaches have in common the ability
to elevate the actual farmer crop and/or livestock decision-makers to
full partners in the Farming Systems Research and Extension (FSR&E)
process. Where women constitute the major decision-makers in the
component of the farm system in which interventions are proposed,
their opinions and suggestions are actively solicited (Fresco and
Poats, 1986). Where village-level decision-making is the norm or
cannot be avoided, village leaders and other key informants must be
brought into the systems intervention process (Bell, 1986; Fresco and
Poats, 1986; Mathema and Van Der Veen, 1978; Mathema and Van Der Veen,
The remainder of this paper is arranged as follows. The next
section presents a series of incomplete, but frequently-asked,
questions concerning the trend of including farmers as partners in the
research-extension process. While some attempt is made to answer
these questions, the answers are very incomplete and are meant to
stimulate much more thought and discussion. Given the varied
conditions throughout Asia and between Asia and the rest of the world,
consensus is neither sought nor possible. However, what FSR
approaches need, in general, is shorter and more cost-effective
methods for including farmers as co-participants in the research and
extension processes (Chambers, 1981; Chambers and Jiggins, 1985;
Conway, 1985; Gait, 1985; Hildebrand, 1981; Hildebrand, 1985; McKee,
1984; Rhoades, 1982; Tripp, 1986; Wotowiec, et al., 1986). The paper
closes by providing a case study in Cropping Systems Research (CSR)
and FSR in Nepal since 1977.
QUESTIONS ABOUT GREATER FARMER PARTICIPATION IN FSR:
The following are just a few of the questions that researchers
and extension workers ask about more intense relationships with
farmers. Many others could and should also be asked. Other answers
than those included here are correct, especially given the multitude
if differing agricultural practices, agro-climatic realities,
institutional arrangements, trained man-power availability for
research and extension, and social, economic, cultural and religious
aspects of societies. Some of our "correct" answers may be absolutely
incorrect under other conditions or settings.
1. Why the increased interest in involving farmers more in
The green revolution considered the conditions of many farmer
sub-groups, and its resultant improved technology impacted positively
a significant group of farmers. However, this impact has been
confined almost entirely to a "special" group of farmers. This
special group is characterized to a very high degree as
a. Being dominated by male decision-makers;
b. Having timely and guaranteed access to those agricultural
inputs necessary to best utilize the package of improved technology;
c. Having access to relatively secure sources of water: those
living in large-scale flood irrigation plains or in close proximity to
d. Possessing the "better" quality soils;
e. Residing on lands with less, rather than more, relative
f. residing in or near villages or communities relatively well
supplied with different types of infrastructure (i.e., roads,
While there are exceptions to each of these items which characterize
those most affected by the green revolution, there is no doubt that
they do describe the majority of green revolution beneficiaries.
When people ask why the green revolution has paused after
serving this group of farmers, most of us reply that the rest of the
farming population is subject to different and adverse conditions.
While most of us agree with such an answer, few of us agree as to its
solution. Most researchers divide into two groups, dominated by their
The first group contends that research and extension must
proceed in traditional ways, including a high degree of dependence
upon high levels of petrochemical inputs to complement improved
cultivars or livestock breeds. Meanwhile, this group insists that the
institutional setting differences which face these farmers left behind
must be changed by policy-makers at national levels before any of
their research technologies will be appropriate for these
disenfranchised groups of farmers.
The second group believes that an intermediate (stop-gap)
approach is needed to address the immediate concerns of these farmers.
This group led in the evolution of the FSR approach. It assumes that,
in many (some would say most) situations, macro policy-makers cannot
(or do not have the interest to) change those institutional conditions
under which these groups of farmers operate. This group assumes that
macro-political institutional conditions are exogenous in the short
run, so what can be done to improve farmers' existing conditions?
Furthermore, many international agricultural research
institutes (IARCs) and country programs have realized that no matter
how institutional barriers are manipulated, the given elevation,
average number of degree-days, maximum and minimum temperatures,
slope, aspect, average and varied seasonal rainfall patterns, soil
texture and fertility, existing and natural vegetation, and degree of
male-female participation in different crop and livestock components
of any given agricultural system are not about to change quickly.
Since these factors determine, to a very great degree, the
acceptability of any given agricultural technology, this group feels
that research must be conducted under the same, or at least very
similar, conditions. The key to such research and eventual
dissemination of relevant technologies is the identification of
relatively large homogeneous groups of target farmers, where
"homogenous" may be defined as agro-biotic, agro-climatic, geo-
political, or culturo-ethnic, among others (Tripp, 1986; Wotowiec, e_.
2. How can researchers, extension workers, and farmers be
equal partners? -- farmers are uneducated!
While there are many illiterate farmers in the world, there
are very few indeed who could be classified as uneducated. If we
narrowly define "education" as formal training, the answer is, "yes,
many farmers may be uneducated". If, however, we define "education"
as "the acquired and experiential ability to understand a given agro-
climatic situation well enough to survive from year to year under
harsh environmental conditions and declining soil fertility; feeding a
family near, at, or sometimes, below, the subsistence level year after
year; working eight to fourteen hours a day; and, often, seeking off-
farm employment just to make ends meet", then most farmers are quite
Which one of us would voluntarily switch places with a farmer
in the hills of Nepal, who feeds his or her family of six persons on
0.6 ha. of mixed rainfed and irrigated land? Or the Honduran farm
family of seven, renting 1.8 ha. of truely miserable soil, located on
a 60% slope with no terraces? Or the Botswanan farmer, trying to
raise a family of five on a rainfed, single-cropped system of [maize +
sorghum + melon], when rainfall in a "very good" year consists of 400
mm spread over seven or eight months? If the ability to survive under
conditions typified by these examples counts for anything, farmers are
definitely not uneducated. Hence, researchers, extension workers and
farmers can always learn from one another by interacting and coming to
a point where they all agree on making research worthwhile and
relevant to these types of prevailing conditions.
3. Do farmers really perform research?
Definitely. Before organized research or extension existed,
farmers were performing research in their fields and in their herds.
All early breeding work, which took place before the era of Gregor
Mendel, was carried out by farmers. Even by 1974, when Cornell
University had been breeding apple varieties for about 100 years, 94%
of the apples produced by commercial growers in the state of New York
were farmer-developed varieties (Murphy, personal communication,
1974). Similarly, in the state of California, most of the commercial
clingstone peach varieties used for canning are farmer-produced
varieties (Fenton, personal communication, 1982).
In eastern Nepal, one of the most successful improved
varieties of wheat, which has been renamed and multiplied by
researchers at the Pakhribas Agricultural Centre (PAC), has its
origins in a Nepali farmer's field. The farmer, in turn, hand carried
the variety into Nepal several years ago from another farmer's field
in northern India, where he had been working, and had been impressed
with its growth and characteristics (Green, personal communication,
1986). In the Tarai belt of Nepal, many farmers obtain improved seeds
from the Indian borders, then experiment with them in their fields
without knowing anything about the characteristics of the crop.
Nepali agricultural farms and stations lag behind the farmers in
testing and recognizing the same varieties that farmers are already
Farmers do research. Organized research and extension exist
to make these traditional farmer research processes more efficient,
not to usurp all farmer initiative in these areas.
4. What can researchers learn from farmers?
From some of the answers to the previous question, one thing
that researchers can learn is to access and work with the
investigative ("progressive") farmers near their experiment stations.
Researchers can also learn the following from farmers:
a. The prevailing conditions which exist in farmers' fields
and/or herds, so that they may be used for screening technology more
b. Survival techniques adopted over the years by farm families
-- techniques normally referred to as "sub-optimal" by agronomists or
animal scientists -- which allow at least continued subsistence by
spreading and reducing overall risk;
c. The predominant problems and constraints as faced, and
defined, by the farm family, with respect to each crop or livestock
component in the farm household system, so that these problems can be
attacked by researcher and farmer designed trials in farmers' fields;
d. Farmer reaction to such trials, by finding out what they
think of the technological interventions, as well as their reasons
behind these reactions so that trials can also be evaluated using
e. The importance of women, the elderly, and children, in both
various aspects of the agricultural production cycles and in household
agricultural decision-making processes; and, finally, but just as
f. Farmer field innovations, which researchers and extension
workers may be able to multiply throughout the area (the PAC example
from eastern Nepal), or transfer to another similar agro-climatic
area, with or without minor adaptations, such as has been done by
adding peanut after rice in Northeast Thailand through Khon Kaen
University's Farming Systems Research Project (Patanothai, 1985).
5. Can extension do its job efficiently if it takes the time
to learn from farmers?
Yes. In fact, extension should be able to perform more
efficiently if it takes full advantage of farmers, especially groups
of farmers, to assist with the technology multiplication and
dissemination phases. Nothing is more successful than neighbor-to-
neighbor or relative-to-relative transfer of technology (Hildebrand,
1985; Hildebrand, 1986). In fact, this is the key point of farmer-
managed trials, supervised by research and extension. When neighbors
and/or relatives of farmers with trials become convinced that the
circumstances facing them are the same (that the technology has not
simply been "given" to someone; that their major agro-climatic and
socio-economic conditions are approximately the same), and they see
that the benefits to the host farm family outweigh the costs, adoption
of the innovation by these other farm families is generally quick
(Bell, 1986; Fresco and Poats, 1986; Hildebrand, 1985). One of the
major roles of organized extension is to facilitate the multiplication
of these types of verification, demonstration, or production block
trials in concert with research and farmers.
6. Is it enough to involve farmer participation in design of
No, but it is certainly better than simply using farmers'
fields as mini experiment stations and not consulting them on trials
put on their lands. However, farmers should be involved as full co-
participants in as many steps of the FSR process as possible. Thus,
farmers should be involved in
a. Recurrent diagnosis (or tailored, follow-up surveys);
b. Trial design, refinement and redesign; and
c. Innovative technology multiplication and dissemination
(Chambers, 1981; Chambers and Ghildyal, 1985; Chambers and Jiggins,
1985; Conway, 1985; Galt, 1985; Rhoades and Booth, 1982; Rhoades and
Potts, 1985; Richards, 1985).
What is needed is
a. A change of attitude on the parts of all agricultural
scientists as to the potential value of farmer's contributions to
agricultural science; and
b. Enough time and manpower to carry out the necessary farmer-
The first can usually be accomplished by facilitating visits to farms,
and interactions with farmers, by researchers and agricultural policy-
makers in their own country, region or even village. Furthermore,
extension workers can be taught to view farmers as partners in the
agricultural development process, not only as clients to fill contact
quotas, or recalcitrant students needing to be lectured to or taught
The second need may be addressed in a variety of ways. One of
the most effective is by means of directly including more agricultural
economists, anthropologists and rural sociologists in national
agricultural research and extension programs. While some national
institutions may have difficulties with this concept at first, the
dividends that usually arise from having social scientists supplement,
and work jointly with, biological scientists in farmers' fields
generally override traditional institutional separation of the social
from the biological scientists.
7. What level of farmer participation and agreement is
important? Must it be at the individual, group, village, or higher
political sub-unit level?
The answer to this question, perhaps more than any other yet
posed, depends on the situation prevalent in a given country and
society. In countries such as the U.S.S.R., the state does most of
the agricultural planning and decision-making. In others, such as the
People's Repulic of China, agreement on agricultural production must be
reached at the block or cell level. At the other extreme, in some
countries, such as the U.S.A., it is rare for farmers to reach joint
agreement on anything. Most nation's farmers find themselves between
these political extremes. There are many examples of countries where
group and/or village cooperation and joint decisions are required
(Bell, 1986; Fresco and Poats, 1986).
In Nepal, Village Panchayats (governing bodies) consist of
nine wards, each of which elects a chairman and four ward
representatives. The Panchayat itself is lead by the Pradhan Panch,
who is assisted by a vice Pradhan Panch. Theoretically, six village-
level organizations, one of which is a farmers' organization, also
exist. Thus, to implement effective research in a given target area
or Panchayat, these village-level decision-makers must be notified and
included -in all planning processes. These leaders must also agree
upon the objectives of any field research effort.
The important point being made here is that a sufficient
number of farmers, facing relatively homogeneous conditions, must be
in agreement with the objectives of any research/extension effort, or
very little progress can be made. The number of full collaborative
farm households should never begin at less than ten per homogeneous
target group, and should grow rapidly to a much larger number as time
8. Do all levels of household decision-making need to be
monitored? How often should such monitoring occur?
The most detailed farm-level data is required in cases where
researchers wish to be able to formulate linear programming models
from them. To perform linear programming at this level, all farm
household transactions should be monitored for at least one year on a
daily basis (daily budgeting). However, for this to occur
successfully, the requirements of data quality, analytical capacity,
and manpower needs are presently beyond the capabilities of most
country's national programs. While linear programming will be more
common in the future (i.e., IRRI's cropping system sites in Central
Luzon, Philippines), most national research programs today must make
do with less complete monitoring techniques and less sophisticated
models deriving therefrom (KSU FSR Symposium, Oct., 1985: evening
session on socio-economic analytical methods).
The objectives of the use of the data determine the frequency
and intensity of monitoring, and/or the methods used to obtain the
farm- or village-level data. Farm labor can be taken as an example.
If the research program wishes only to avoid labor peaks when
introducing their new, innovative technology, a key informant survey
in the target area is sufficient to determine when these peak labor
times occur. However, if the research program requires more specific
information about labor use (such as the distribution of
crop/livestock labor activities among males, females, the elderly and
children within the household or village), there is no substitute for
either several representative farmer group meetings or the maintenance
of farm records on a statistically representative sample of farm
households (10-40, depending on the relative homogeneity of the
agricultural system and the agro-climatic setting).
Not all household decisions must be monitored, especially as
an FSR effort first begins in a new target area. Instead, FSR
programs should go slowly and add socio-economic monitoring at a more
detailed level as the need arises and only when no other alternative
exists for obtaining the information more rapidly or more efficiently.
Both the collection and analysis of farm-level socio-economic data are
time- and manpower-consuming activities (Delobel, 1986; Delobel and
Shrestha, 1985; Galt, 1985). To date, several national approaches to
FSR have floundered around on the over-collection of socio-economic
data and the under-implementation of systematic farm-level trials.
Socio-economic data collection must complement, not lead, FSR&E
approaches (Galt, 1985).
Agricultural research programs must be more and more
innovative in the collection of socio-economic data. National
programs must be more aggressive in encouraging selected graduate
students from their agricultural universities and colleges to pursue
thesis topics with farm household foci, with the support and
collaboration of the national research scientists. National graduate
students can be an excellent source of manpower to obtain the detailed
data required for more and more sophisticated understanding of the
socio-culturo-economic conditions facing farm households. This
potential resource currently is vastly underutilized.
9. What is the refined role of research in the new farmer-
Researchers should be able to look forward to a more
efficient utilization of their new technological innovations by
farmers, if they add to their techniques of technology evaluation
those important constraints facing major systems components of
important, homogeneous farmer target groups. Take plant breeding as
an example. Breeders should encourage earlier farm-level testing of
new cultivars in their breeding pipelines before official varietal
release. To do this efficiently, breeders need practical
methodological suggestions to assist them to tailor their breeding
pipeline to the diverse needs of different groups of farmer clients
(Buhr and Galt, forthcoming).
Researchers should also view both extension workers and
farmers as equal partners in the technology development and
dissemination process. Researchers must consider how extension
workers can multiply their individual research efforts, making their
efforts reach many more farms on a trial basis. For this to occur
more efficiently, extension workers should be included more frequently
in training courses tailored to answer such questions as, "why are
trials replicated?" "what are the objectives of these trials?" "why
are we measuring plant height and days to maturity?" etc. All too
often, extension workers are simply told to set out a certain number
of trials, to "guard them with their lives", to take harvest data, and
then to send results back to a research program. What is in this
process for them? Does such an approach make them feel like co-
professionals? Hardly. Finally, researchers must realize that
farmers have been performing research in their fields, herds and homes
long before formal research programs were funded at the national
10. What is the refined role of extension in the new farmer-
Extension in third-world countries is seldom, if ever,
professionally rewarding. While researchers in national agricultural
programs rarely have adequate levels of financial resources or
manpower with which to carry out their research programs most
efficiently, extension is usually one more power of magnitude further
removed from an ideal financial and professional situation. Usually,
in comparison with research, extension suffers from
a. Lower levels of education;
b. Lower salary levels;
c. Lower and less frequent per diem allowances;
d. Less (or, in some cases, no) mobility;
e. Fewer opportunities for either formal or informal training;
f. Less potential for professional or civil service
g. Greater levels of frustration; and
h. Lower levels of motivation
in any given national research and extension program.
Seldom are extension workers involved in farm-level trial
design, even if they will be the ones asked to carry out trial
implementation and analysis (FSR Training Workshop, The Gambia, May,
1985). More serious and widespread is the fact that extension workers
may never have received from research any innovative technology which
offered the farmers in his or her district a real improvement over
local practices or varieties.
Under conditions such as these, it is largely up to
a. Admit to themselves and to extension that they have been
unable to provide the technological breakthrough innovations
b. Offer to include extension representatives in planning and
trial design, not just implementation, in their extension districts;
c. Offer to act as partners in the testing and verification of
new technology with farmers in these same extension areas.
Everyone stands to gain from such a change in approach.
Researchers give in-field and informal classroom training to extension
workers, who in turn learn something practical about trial design and
analysis. Extension workers, in turn, provide researchers with an
improved (better trained) manpower resource, within which farm-level
research efforts can be multiplied most efficiently. Furthermore,
farmers benefit, as extension workers began to test (with researchers)
agricultural system innovations which are more relevant to their needs
and given situations. This, in turn, maximizes the likelihood of
innovative breakthrough in any given agricultural system. Such a
breakthrough, in turn, should lead to an improvement in the conditions
of the affected rural farming population. This improvement in
conditions, in turn, should enable the concerned nation to accomplish
at least one of the following: (1) save scarse foreign exchange
because less critical food crop or livestock imports are required; (2)
shift such critical imports to other areas where the need is greater
and which have not yet been affected by a systematic approach to
research and extension; or (3) add more, or greater quantities of the
same, food commodities and/or livestock products to the export list.
Options (1) and (3) improve the national balance-of-payments
situation, while option (2) cannot help but improve the internal
political situation while averting starvation.
CASE STUDY: CSR AND FSR IN NEPAL
Inclusion of socio-economic aspects of farmers' agricultural
situations has a long history in agricultural research in Nepal
(Mathema and Van Der Veen, 1978; Mathema and Van Der Veen, n.d.).
When systems research in Nepal was referred to as CSR, socio-economic
research was conducted at various cropping systems sites for these
a. The analysis of yields and costs of production of maize,
rice and wheat under typical conditions of farmer management (Mathema,
et al., 1979; Cropping Systems Staff, 1979; Mathema, et al., n.d.);
b. Examinaton of those factors causing differences in maize
yields under typical conditions of farmer management (Mathema, et al.,
c. The analysis of yields and costs of producing winter crops
(wheat, pulses, mustard and linseed) under typical conditions of
farmer management (Mathema, et al., 1980b);
d. The economics of farmers' use of inorganic fertilizer
(Mathema, et al., 1981); and so on.
The main tools employed by the socio-economic group have been
key informant and baseline surveys, sometimes alone and sometimes in
tandem. An additional tool used has been the intensive monitoring of
farm household practices on approximately four carefully-selected,
representative farms per cropping systems site (Mathema and Van Der
These tools were used first by the socio-economic unit of the
Integrated Cereals Project (ICP) of the Cropping Systems Program
(CSP), from 1977 to 1985, and later by the Agricultural Research and
Production Project (ARPP) in the Socio-Economic Research and Extension
Division (SERED) of the Department of Agriculture (DOA), from 1985 to
the present. SERED will work closely with another new division,
Farming Systems Research and Development Division (FSR&DD), in some
old, and some new, FSR sites.
SERED is sympathetic to all of the socio-economic research
being conducted in Nepal under the rubric of FSR. Later this year,
SERED will participate in a joint meeting to achieve agreement on the
socio-economic methodologies most relevant for all unique areas of
Nepalese agricultural systems. Such agreement will be reached with
three other foci of FSR in Nepal. These centers are (1) Pakhribas
Agricultural Centre (PAC), (2) Lumle Agricultural Centre (LAC), and
(3) the French Technical Assistance (FTA) to Nepal. While each focus
has developed a different approach to farm household interactions, all
have approached the recently-created SERED to urge closer
collaboration between their approaches to socio-economic surveying and
farmer involvement in FSR, and that evolving in SERED (First Annual
Meeting of FSR Groups of Nepal, August, 1986). In order to work
toward this goal, a methodological consensus meeting between SERED,
PAC, LAC and FTA is being planned for the fourth quarter of 1986.
PAC and LAC approaches to FSR:
The FSR approaches of both PAC and LAC are funded by British
Overseas Technical Assistance (OTA). Both approaches are centered
around activities at their respective research stations at Pakhribas
and Lumle, but now depend to a greater degree upon extensive research
trials in farmers' fields in their respective target areas. PAC's
target area is four hill districts in the Koshi Zone of eastern Nepal
(Dhankuta, Terathum, Sankhuwasabha and Bhojur); LAC's target area is
27 Village Panchayats in three districts of the Western Development
Region of Nepal: Kaski, Parbat and Myagdi (Pandey, et al., 1986;
Bell, 1986). Both approaches are similar and involve unique
innovations in socio-economic survey methods and trial design
procedures to accommodate to Nepali hill conditions.
Upon arriving at a new hill research site within their target
area, PAC staff undertake a "joint trek", while LAC staff undertake a
"combined trek", both lasting from one week to 10 days. Regardless of
the terms used, the purpose of such a working trek is to allow a
multidisciplinary group of station-based researchers to interact with
farmers, both on an individual and on a farmer group basis (Bell,
1986). Farmers are asked to identify their predominant agricultural
systems and their major problems and constraints, as well as to offer
their own ideas as to solutions to such problems and toward potential
future research actitivies. PAC and LAC staffs then return to their
respective research bases, develop trials in the multidisciplinary
mode designed to address these farmer-identified problems, and return
to the target site for further dialog with farmers. Such dialog
includes verification and/or modification discussions to reach
agreement between the research team and the farmers of the site on the
specific details of each proposed trial (Bell, 1986). Researchers
next return to either PAC or LAC, design and plan finalized trials,
accumulate the inputs necessary for their installation, and return to
the trial site to implement trials with varying degrees of farmer
participation (Bell, 1986). Such trials are under the overall
management of a field assistant in each Village Panchayat where PAC
and LAC work.
FTA approach to FSR:
FTA worked firstly with ICP and secondly with ARPP in the
Pumdi Bhumdi cropping (then farming) systems site in Kaski District,
Western Development Region, Nepal (personal communication, T.
Delobel, 1986). Recently, FTA has signed a new agreement with HMG/N
to expand their activities into two additional districts: Gumli and
Arghakhanchi in the Western Development Region (Bergeret, 1986).
In Pumdi Bhumdi, the FTA linked with ICP and ARPP to undertake
12 intensive farm household case studies. Six of the collaborators
are farmers with whom ICP and ARPP have been conducting farm-level
research trials; six farmers are non-participants in the farm-level
trials. Each group in turn is sub-divided into samples of farmers who
cultivate (1) less than 1.0 ha, (2) 1.0-1.5 ha, and (3) more than 1.5
ha. Farms larger than 2.5 ha are excluded from the sample (Delobel
and Shrestha, 1985). Extensive data are collected, including the
detailed measurements of the sizes of each terrace (an average farmer
in the Pumdi Bhumdi area has more than 100 terraces under his or her
control), household purchases and sales, and details of the
livestock/fodder components of each farm system (T. Delobel, 1986).
In addition to the detailed household case studies, several additional
studies have been conducted on various livestock species and livestock
products, focusing mainly on water buffalo and cattle (milk production
and sales; draft power and feeding requirements, etc.).
Several problems have surfaced over the last year during the
implementation of this intensive data collection approach. Some of
the most important, from the point of view of agricultural research in
HMG/N, are (1) the lack of trained manpower in the field for
collection of consistent socio-economic data, (2) the issue of
monitoring frequency and type, and (3) the high cost of the approach
HMG/N-DOA approach to FSR through FSR&DD and SERED:
SERED's plans for increased interaction with farmers include
the use of more rapid rural appraisal (RRA) techniques. SERED has
drawn upon its own experience (as the socio-economic group under ICP
and ARPP) and the experiences of PAC, LAC and FTA in formulating joint
plans with FSR&DD this year. These plans include jointly developing a
flexible approach to new farming systems sites in Nepal.
Consider the joint FSR&DD-SERED approach to the new FSR site
in Naldum Village Panchayat, Kabhre District, Central Development
Region. In September and October, 1986, the socio-economic data
collection phase begins by locating and digesting secondary data
(reports, maps, etc.) on the Naldum target area. This short phase is
followed by a RRA visit to the target area to select the target site
wards. Three of the nine wards comprising the Village Panchayat will
be selected. This RRA activity includes visits to key Panchayat
decision-makers (including the Pradhan Panch), and is carried out by a
multidisciplinary team of socio-economists from SERED, agronomists
from FSR&DD (the site coordinator and the site monitor), and Peace
Corps Volunteers assigned to ARPP.
Once the target site wards have been selected, a key informant
survey -- KIS -- will be adapted and administered in the field.
During the KIS, at least two knowledgeable farmers per target site
ward are interviewed (Mathema and Van Der Veen, n.d.), along with the
Pradhan Panch and representatives of (1) cooperatives, (2) the
Agricultural Development Bank, (3) the Agricultural Inputs
Corporation, and (4) other relevant institutions in the target site
wards (Krishna K. C. and R. B. Shrestha, personal communication,
Given the short time between starting activities in the Naldum
FSR site and planting winter crops in November, the KIS will only be
partially analysed before the following activity: the group survey
and trial design. Representatives of FSR&DD and SERED will meet to
decide which pieces of information from the KIS are of most importance
for summary before the group survey and trial design activity.
Analysis of these pieces of information will be completed by SERED
personnel, an abbreviated report prepared and circulated to the larger
group to be involved in the group survey and trial design process, and
a briefing/orientation meeting held to discuss the objectives of, and
methods to be used during, the group survey and trial design activity.
The group survey and trial design activity:
The group survey and trial design activity is the key to the
FSR process. It will be used to reach consensus between researchers'
goals and farmers' priorities, interests and problems. This phase
will incorporate many of the excellent techniques developed by PAC and
LAC, including the "combined group trek" concept and incorporation of.
farmers' opinions and ideas into trial design in the field. However,
the group survey and trial design phase goes beyond these approaches
in one very significant way: the group survey and trial design
attempts to adopt the method to practical use entirely within the
HMG/N system of research and extension. Thus, while the process is
initiated by joint decision-making between FSR&DD and SERED within the
DOA, it will also include representatives from the Division of
Livestock (DOL/AH) and the Ministry of Forestry. Furthermore, within
DOA, it is expected that representatives from important winter crops
in the area -- vegetables, fruit trees, wheat, and potatoes -- will
participate in the group survey and trial design activity. A direct
link with LAC will be requested, so that one livestock researcher will
participate in the group survey and trial design who has field
experience in socio-economic data collection.
The five-day long Group survey and trial design will keep the
multidisciplinary group together in the field in the evenings as well
as during the days. The first two days will be spent in individual
farmer interviews and at least one farmer group meeting per ward,
extending into the third day if needed. During the evenings, informal
dialog will occur between different teams of interviewers. The
objective of these informal meetings is to move toward group consensus
on these issues:
a. The major winter cropping and livestock patterns; and
b. The major constraints/problems in each crop or livestock
component of the system during the winter months, as identified by the
Sometime during the third or fourth day, the entire
multidisciplinary group will meet for formal trial design discussion.
Brainstorming will follow the development of a list of predominant
crop/livestock patterns and farmer-revealed problems and constraints.
The group will then agree upon the best approach for exploratory
(first stage, or FFT) farm-level trials, proceeding to outline the
generalities of such trials. The next day will be spent in another
group meeting with ward farmers, and their priority problems and
constraints will be presented back to them, along with the general
trial designs developed by the group to address these problems.
Farmers' responses, suggestions, modifications and ideas for
improving, changing, eliminating, or adding trials will be solicited
Back in Kathmandu, this multidisciplinary group will reconvene
for one to two days the following week to finalize trial designs, and
reach agreement on levels of inputs and the degree of researcher
versus farmer trial management. FSR&DD will begin the process of
obtaining the necessary supplies necessary to implement the trials,
including field equipment and inputs. SERED will be responsible for
reporting upon the group survey and trial design process, including
any suggestions for modifying the process to improve it in the future.
FSR&DD will produce the results of the Naldum-Farming Systems Site
Group Survey and Design Activity.
Later during 1986 and 1987, agreement will be reached between
FSR&DD and SERED as to
a. The need for additional socio-economic surveys in either
Naldum or other farming systems sites;
b. The need for follow-up, tailored surveys to elucidate
additional details of any important parts of any of the
crop/livestock/forestry components of the predominant systems; and
c. Agreement on site monitoring needs, details, frequencies
and responsible manpower.
Farmer reaction and opinions will form a key component of site
monitoring activities. If varietal changes are introduced anywhere in
the system, consumer (farm household) tastes will verify their
acceptability. Any innovation which increases labor input (such as
the introduction of a food grain which requires more threshing or
processing time) will be monitored closely. Finally, where women, the
elderly, and/or children form integral parts of the agricultural
decision-making process and are responsible for the labor in key field
activities, both SERED and FSR&DD personnel will actively solicit and
incorporate their views, opinions and suggestions.
It is hoped that such a hybrid methodology for interacting
with farmers in the HMG/N-DOA approach to FSR&E will prove to be
sufficiently (1) feasible, (2) cost-effective, and most importantly,
(3) useful to both researchers and extension workers. Every effort
will be made to fit the overall FSR/E methodology into the existing
financial and manpower constraints of the DOA.
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