COMMUNICATING WITH SMALL FARMERS
IN THE CHAPARE REGION OF BOLIVIA
L. Van Crowder, Jr.
Bernard L. Delaine
La Paz, Bolivia
L. Van Crowder, Jr. worked in Bolivia for the University of Florida as an
extension/rural communication specialist (1978-80). He is currently an
assistant professor in the Editorial Department, University of Florida.
Bernard L. Delaine was a rural sociologist with the Proyecto Desarrollo--
Chapare Yungas, Bolivia. He now works on an A.I.D. contract in Benin, Africa.
This paper is a summary report of a study entitled "Los Medios de Comunicacion
en El Chapare Un Anal.isis."
A growing recognition by development planners of the contributions commu-
nication can make to rural development programs has led to a concern for the
role of communication in the development process. While the role varies, it
has become clear that communication is not neutral but instead, may reflect
the social and political orientations of both individual communicators and
transmitting institutions. It has also become evident, as Everett Rogers
notes, that the effects of communication are frequently different for
different socioeconomic segments of the rural population. 1/
In the past, the theoretical orientations of many researchers have
emphasized a psychological analysis of the relationships between communication
and development, the result being that change strategies were often concerned
with the altering of individual attitudes, perception, and knowledge. More
recently, and paralleling the concern for differential effects on population
segments, the research focus has shifted from psychological to structural
variables, with greater emphasis on the social, political and economic context
of the communication process. Thus, Diaz-Bordenave writes that "if we have
learned something in recent years, it is the considerable effects of the
socioeconomic structure on farmers' adoption behavior." Referring to various
Latin America investigations, including his own in Brazil, he notes "how small
is the influence of psychological factors on access to instrumental information,
when compared with the structural (socioeconomic) factors." 2/
While communication may not rapidly or alone change social structures
established in Latin America over decades, it is possible that communication
can accelerate rural development and initiate or improve the dialogue between
rural people and change agencies. Communication strategies for rural develop-
ment should, however, in order to be effective, be based on a knowledge of
audience characteristics as well as on information about which media can reach
rural audiences with change-related messages.
The study reported here, which was conducted in the Chapare of Bolivia in
1979, had as its overall purpose the inventory of communication factors which
can be instrumental in the planning of a regional communication strategy.
More specifically, the study sought to identify 1) characteristics of the farm
population which may influence the effectiveness of a regional communication
effort; 2) communication channels, both mass media and interpersonal, which
can be used to disseminate information to Chapare farmers; and 3) information
sources that influence the use of improved farm practices.
1/ Everett M. Rogers, "Social Structure and Communication Strategies in
Rural Development: The Communication Effects Gap and the Second Dimen-
sion of Development." In Communication Strategies for Rural Development,
Robert H. Crawford and William B. Ward (eds.), Proceedings of the Cornell -
CIAT International Symposium, Cali, Colombia, 1974, p.55.
2/ Juan Diaz-Bordenave, "Communication and Adopiton of Agricultural Innovations
in Latin America." In Communication Strategies for Rural Development,
Robert H. Crawford and William B. Ward (eds.), Proceedings of the Cornell -
CIAT International Symposium, Cali, Colombia, 1974, p. 55.
Data were gathered by rural school teachers and area youths who were
trained to administer a simple questionnaire and who spoke both Spanish and
Quechua. Interviewing was done at the monthly sindicato meetings in the
various communities comprising the study region. Since the majority of
Chapare farmers speak Quechua as a first language, interviewers often had
to translate written Spanish questions to oral Quechua. It was necessary,
therefore, to standardize the interpretation of key words. A stratified
random sampling procedure, using sindicatos (farmer syndicates) as the sampling
frame, was employed to draw a statistically representative sample of 216
Background to the Chapare:
The Chapare of Bolivia is a humid tropical region located in the
Department of Cochabamba. The principal town, Villa Tunari, is about 160
kilometers from the city of Cochabamba and is connected to that city by
a semi-paved road which winds from the Cochabamba Valley to 3,700 meters
at the cumbre, or highest mountain pass, then drops precipitously to an
elevation of 300 meters in Villa Tunari.
The climate, typical of the humid tropics, is characterized by high
temperatures and excessive rainfall; average temperature is about 240C and
average yearly rainfall is 3,500 mm.
The Chapare is an area of recent colonization of two types: spontaneous
and government-directed, with most settlers being spontaneous colonizers who
seldom hold title to the land they occupy. The current population is approx-
imately 10,500 farm families, most of whom are organized into sindicatos, the
socio-political organizations which prevail throughout Bolivia.
Social and physical infrastructures are deficient in the Chapare as
evidenced by a recent study which found that 92% of the colonos do not have
access to health services and that 47% of the communities do not have school
facilities. The isolation of communities and the lack of access to markets
makes the construction of roads a primary concern of area farmers. 3/
Land clearing is the slash-and-burn type traditional to the humid tropics.
A farmer usually clears between one and two hectares and plants rice and corn
followed by a planting of yuca. Later he will plant such tree crops as plantains,
citrus, papaya, and coca, coca being the principal cash crop of the area. 4/
3/ Gustavo Loza Montenegro and Bernard L. Delaine, "Estudio de Necesidades
Sentidas El Chapare." Proyecto de Desarrollo Chapare Yungas, La Paz,
4/ Jim Weil, "Contemporary Bolivia: National Socioeconomic Integration of
Highland Peasant Migrants to a Tropical Colonization Zone." A paper pre-
pared for the symposium "Contemporary Bolivia: Current Perspectives on
National Development." 1979 meeting of the American Anthropological
Association, Cincinnati. Weil reports that Cocaa directly provides two-
thirds of all income" in the community he investigated.
Coca is the plant source for the manufacture of cocaine and both the
Bolivian and the United States governments are attempting to reduce coca
production through programs of crop substitution. 5/ The Chapare, the
major coca-growing region of Bolivia, is thought to produce about 12,282
metric tons of the coca leaf annually. By comparison, the Yungas of La Paz,
the traditional coca region, produces only about 3,128 metric tons per year.
Of the total coca produced in Bolivia (approximately 15,410 metric tons),
it is estimated that about 6,000 tons are used for legal purposes legally
exported for medicines or consumed (chewed) by the indigenous population.
The balance (9,410 metric tons) presumably goes for the manufacture of
Many of the small-farmer problems which impede rural, and in particular,
agricultural development of the Chapare require technical solutions, and in
the case of coca substitution will involve developing crop alternatives
which can be grown in the area at comparable cash returns for farmers. In
addition, the provision of basic physical and social infrastructure will be
necessary to support crop development programs. It would be a mistake,
however, to view the development of the Chapare as just a technical problem
and fail thereby to recognize the problems of information and communication.
If new crop technologies are to be adopted by farmers, it will result from
the interaction of two factors -- "receptivity to new ideas (Information
Potential) and ability to carry out these ideas in practice (Action Poten-
tial)." 7/ At present, both potentials are greatly lacking in the Chapare.
Characteristics of the Farmer Audience:
The farmer (adult male) population of the Chapare is relatively young,
with 64.82% of the farmers being between the ages of 20 and 39 years. The
average age for a farmer is about 35 years. Intense colonization of the
region has taken place only over the last 20 to 30 years (83.80% of the
farmers settled in the last 24 years), and most colonos are young men who
typically migrate alone leaving their families in the village of origin
until land is cleared, the first crop sown, and a hut is built. There is
also a tendency for older men to leave the Chapare returning to their place
of birth and leaving the farm to a son or nephew.
5/ At the time of this writing both authors worked on a U.S. Bolivia coca
substitution program. Subsequent political events in Bolivia (a military
takeover) have led to a reduction of technical assistance and a halting
of joint coca control efforts.
6/ The figures presented here are estimates provided by the personnel of the
Proyecto de Desarrollo Chapare Yungas (PRODES).
7/ Linwood L. Hodgdon, "The Adoption of New Agricultural Inputs and Prac-
tices by Indian Farmers." In Small Farm Agricultural Development Prob-
lems, Huntley H. Biggs and R. L. Tinnermeir (eds.), Colorado State Uni-
versity, Ft. Collins, Colorado, 1974, p. 83.
The educational level of Chapare farmers is surprisingly high, 73.61%
having completed ciclo basico or four years of formal schooling. A literacy
measure (self-defined) revealed that 82.41% of the farmers are able to read.
Both the educational and the literacy levels in the Chapare are higher than
the national average. 8/ The majority of Chapare colonizers originate in the
Cochabamba Valley. It is not surprising, therefore, that 85.65% speak Quechua,
the native language spoken by Valley dwellers; only .93% reported speaking
Aymara, the predominate language of the Bolivian altiplano. Although Quechua
is the preferred language in the home and with friends, 87.04% of the farmers
also speak Spanish. Spanish is the language commonly used by government
officials, extension agents and commercial dealers.
The average landholding in the Chapare was found to be 15 hectares
with 43.50% of the farmers holding between 10 and 19 hectares. However,
because of labor limitations a farmer usually operates only 3 to 6 hectares.
The following table summarizes the principal demographic characteristics
of the farmer audience:
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE FARMER AUDIENCE
Audience Characteristics Absolute Frequency Relative Frequency (%)
Age (20-39 years) 140 64.82
(4 years of Schooling) 159 73.61
Literacy 178 82.41
(First Language) 185 85.65
(Second Language) 188 87.04
(10-19 Hectares) 94 43.50
n = 216
8/ Hernan Zeballos-Hurtado, "From the Uplands to the Lowlands: An Economic
Analysis of Bolivian Rural Rural Migration." Unpublished Ph.D. thesis,
University of Wisconsin, 1975. Zeballos notes that colonizers in general
are a "priveledged group" in terms of education, having a literacy rate
higher than the national average.
Mass Communication Channels
Radio: It is probably not an exaggeration to say, as Rogers has, that
"radio is the single mass media channel that most effectively reaches the
widest audience of villagers at present." 9/ In the Chapare, 90.28% of the
farmers listen to radio and 72.69% have a receiver in the home (Table II).
RADIO LISTENING AND RECEIVER OWNERSHIP
Listen to Radio Have Radio in the Home
A.F. R.F. % A.F. R.F. %
Yes 195 90.28 157 72.69
No 21 9.72 59 27.31
Total 216 100.00 216 100.00
The majority of the farmers (76.29%) listen to radio everyday, but
Saturday and Sunday (traditional rest days) are when most farmers listen
(60.51% and 80% respectively). The hours of heaviest listening are 7 to
8 a.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. These are also the broadcast hours that farmers
indicate would be best for technical assistance (development) radio broadcasts.
These hours and days of prime radio time are largely determined by farmers'
The radio stations farmers most frequently listen to are urban stations
transmitting from La Paz, Cochabamba, and Oruro. Nevertheless, 28.71% report
listening to Radio San Rafael, a member of Radio Schools of Bolivia (ERBOL),
which broadcasts rural development programs. There are not, however, any
radio schools formed in the Chapare.
The radio programs of greatest interest are news (92.82%), music (81.53%)
and sports (48.71%). Farmers receive very limited agricultural information
from radio, and a serious doubt exists whether their information needs are met
by the urban stations they listen to. It may be that the large proportion of
content is "frivolous, irrelevant and even negative for rural development." 10/
9/ Everett M. Rogers and Juan R. Braun with Mark A. Vermilion, "Radio Forums:
A Strategy for Rural Development." In Radio for Education and Development:
Case Studies, Vol. II. World Bank Staff Working Paper No. 266, May, 1977,
10/ Juan Diaz-Bordenave, "Communication and Adoption of Agricultural Innova-
tions in Latin America." In Communication Strategies for Rural Develop-
ment, Robert H. Crawford and William B. Ward (Eds.), Proceedings of the
Cornell CIAT International Symposium, Cali, Colombia, 1974, p. 207.
Farmers were unanimous in their desires for a local station which
would broadcast information of regional relevance such as market prices,
road conditions and social activities. Radio is also perceived by farmers
as a means of group expression whereby community needs can be voiced, as
well as a rapid channel for sending messages to family and friends (as in
the case of an emergency or merely to congratulate a birthday). As Albo
has observed, it is not unusual for broadcast stations in Bolivia to
function in some respects as a "telegraph system". These stations make
available to rural residents fixed airtime at a reasonable cost, so they
can send messages to friends and family in other communities. 11/
When farmers were asked about the type of technical assistance or
development programs they were most interested in, the majority (95.37%)
said agriculture. More than half (66.20%) were also interested in health
education programs, reflecting the lack of adequate health facilities in
Newspapers: Considering the relatively high literacy rate in the
Chapare, one might suppose that newspaper readership would also be fairly
high. And as can be seen in Table III, 68.05% of the farmers state that
they do read a newspaper. However, when asked if a newspaper arrived at
their community, only 28.70% answered affirmatively.
The discrepancy between newspaper availability in the Chapare and
newspaper readership by Chapare farmers can be understood by answers to
the question "How often do you read a newspaper?" 51.02% of the farmers
read a newspaper only once a month and 19.73% less often. During informal
questioning of farmers it was found that many of them read newspapers when
in Cochabamba, which they visit on the average of once a month.
NEWSPAPER READERSHIP AND AVAILABILITY
Read a Newspaper Newspaper Available in Community
A.F. R.F. % A.F.. R.F %
.Yes 147 68.05 62 28.70
No 69 31.95 154 31.95
Total 216 100.00 216 100.00
11/ Javier Albo, "Idiomas, Escuelas y Radios en Bolivia", Centro de Investi-
gacion y Promocion del Campesinado (CIPCA), Cuadernos de Investigacion
#3, 1977, p. 25-26.
The newspaper most frequently read by Chapare farmers (93.80%) is Los
Tiempos, a Cochabamba daily. Farmers were asked if they knew about a rural
newspaper called Ayni, but only 2.10% said they had read this paper.* If
distributed in the region, Ayni, with its emphasis on agriculture and community
development, would be of presumable interest to Chapare farmers.
The type of newspaper information of most interest to farmers was sports
(70.10%), followed by news (55.80%). Farmers also indicated a fairly high
level of interest in political events (42.20%).
When asked if they recieve agricultural information from newspapers,
46.50% of the farmers answered affirmatively. This finding led to a one-
month content analysis of Los Tiempos, the most frequently read newspaper.
Los Tiempos does not feature an agricultural page nor does it publish
market information. However, some general agricultural or rural development
information was found (i.e. a discussion of national rural development problems;
a farmers' federation meeting in La Paz; the visit of the Minister of Agriculture
to a rural area, etc.). The conclusion of the content analysis was that the
agricultural information was of a very general nature or related to agricultural
advertisements, of which very few appeared.
Bulletins and Motion Pictures: Despite the potential usefulness and
effectiveness of bulletins with literate farmers (and to some extent with
illiterates since some member of the family can usually read), very few
Chapare farmers (12.04%) receive agricultural information from bulletins.
Of these farmers (26 in total), 51.85% received bulletins from extension
agents; only two farmers claimed to have received printed materials from
commercial agents. Although few farmers are being reached through bulletins,
the large majority (95.45%) expressed an interest in receiving information
in this form.
*Ayni is an Aymara word, also used by Quechua speakers, which implies coop-
erative action. A system of "Ayni" exists in many parts of Bolivia in which
farmers exchange labor. The newspaper Ayni is published by the Center for
Social and Economic Development (DSEC).
For the purpose of this study, film viewing was limited to educational
or training films. Only 13.89% (30 farmers) had seen educational films in
the last year. It is interesting to note that farmers did not differentiate
between motion pictures and slides. To farmers the two visual modes are the
same. This finding is important in light of studies that conclude that still
presentations are about as effective as motion pictures in teaching factual
information. Various studies have shown no difference between the two visual
modes in terms of learning. 12/ This "no difference in learning" characteristic
is important when considering the comparative costs between producing motion
pictures and producing slide presentations.
Farmer Preferences of Mass Media for Agricultural Information: A deter-
mination was made of which mass media are preferred by Chapare farmers for
agricultural information. Farmers were asked to rank their preferences of
the four mass media investigated and a system of weighting was employed
giving the results shown in Table IV.
MASS MEDIA PREFERENCES
Media Preferences Weights %
1 2 3 4
Radio 169 4 20 23 751 35.0
Newspaper 28 63 75 49 500 23.3
Bulletins 13 80 65 55 477 22.2
Films 6 66 54 87 417 19.5
Total 2145 100.00
12/ Nancy L. Guilford, Current Research on the Relative Effectiveness of
Selected Media Characteristics. Prepared for Westinghouse Electric
Corporation Research and Development Center, October, 1973, p. 38.
Interpersonal Communication Channels
Technical Assistance: Before asking farmers about technical assistance
and change agent contact, they were given a definition of the term "technical
assistance" as follows: "All types of assistance or help received by you to
improve your agricultural production or the quality of your life in general
from extensionists, commercial agents, medics, community development workers
or other persons or groups working in the Chapare."
Despite the amplitude of this definition, only 22.69% (49 farmers) had
received technical assistance in the last year. The assistance received was
for the most part crop-related (59.18%). However, a small number of farmers
received health assistance (10.20%), livestock assistance (8.16%) and help
in forming cooperatives (8.16%).
Sixty-five farmers (30.09%) said that they knew an extension agent but
only 24 farmers (11.11%) had received assistance from extensionists. When
farmers were asked if they had visited either of the two Ministry of Agri-
culture experiment stations located in the area, 71.76% stated that they had
not (See Table V). Of the 61 farmers (28.24%) who had visited the stations,
the majority (36.07%) had done so for the purpose of buying plants; 28.87% to
"know" the station; and 18.03% had attended field days. The main reasons
given for not visiting the stations were: 1) a lack of knowledge of the
existence of the stations (36.12%) and 2) a lack of time (35.48%).
KNOWING AN EXTENSION AGENT
AND EXPERIMENT STATION VISITS
Know an Extensionist Visited
an Experiment Station
A.F. R.F. % A.F. R.F. %
Yes 65 30.09 61 28.24
No 151 69.91. 155 71.76
Total 216 100.00 216 100.00
Interpersonal Communication and the Use of Improved Practices
Data were gathered to determine the extent to which Chapare farmers
use improved agricultural practices and the information sources which
influence their decisions to use these practices.
Four improved practices were chosen for investigation: improved seeds,
chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. As can be seen in Table VI,
76.38% of the farmers use herbicides; 50% use pesticides; 14.81% use improved
seeds; and 7.87% use chemical fertilizers.
USE OF IMPROVED PRACTICES
Practices A.F. R.F. %
Herbicides 165 76.38
Pesticides 108 50.00
Improved Seeds 32 14.81
Chemical Fertilizers 17 7.87
For each of the improved practices, farmers were asked "From whom did
you learn the practice?" In all cases, except the use of chemical ferti-
lizers, the principal sources of information were friends and neighbors
(fellow farmers); for chemical fertilizer use, the primary source was comm-
ercial agencies. The following graph shows the relative importance of the
various sources of information for the use of all four improved practices:
x Informal questioning of farmers revealed that herbicides and pesticides are
used primarily in their cocales. Since coca is the principal cash crop of the
region, it is not surprising that many farmers are willing to invest in inputs
that can improve production. (One hectare will produce about 45 cargas of coca
per year. At an average value in 1978 of $50 per carga, a farmer could gross
approximately $2250 annually with one hectare of coca.) Coca production is
labor intensive, requiring, for example, four weedings per year. Since labor
is frequently in short supply, herbicides are commonly used.
The importance of friends and family was underscored by the question
"Whom do you consult when you have a farm problem?" The results, as seen
in Table VII, show that neighbors were the most frequently consulted sources.
When farmers were asked if they received agricultural information through
the sindicato organization, 66.62% stated that they had not.
SOURCES CONSULTED ABOUT FARM PROBLEMS
Sources A.F. R.F. %
Neighbors 146 67.59
Family 34 15.74
Commercial Agents 25 11.57
Extension Agents 25 11.57
Community Workers 3 1.30
As can be seen in Table VIII, the main reason given by farmers for not
using any of the improved practices was a lack of knowledge or information
about the practice. 13/
REASONS FOR NOT USING
THE FOUR IMPROVED PRACTICES
Reasons A.F. R.F. %
* Lack of Information 353 61.71
Fear of Risk 59 10.31
Lack of Inputs 43 7.52
High Costs 32 5.59
Lack of Credit 23 4.02
Other 62 10.85
Total 572 100.00
13/ A lack of information about prices was also given by Chapare farmers as
the main problem associated with the marketing of agricultural products.
Bernard L. Delaine, "Coca Farming in the Chapare A Form of Collective
Innovation." Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Saint Louis University, 1979.
Results of a Correlation Analyses
A bivariate correlational analysis was utilized to identify rela-
tionships between pairs of variables. The measure of association used
was the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient (r). This statis-
tical procedure measures linear relationships between two variables, in-
dicating the strength and direction of the relationship. Therefore, a
strong linear relationship is assumed as the value of r approaches +1.0
or -1.0. All correlations reported were significant at the .01 level of
confidence (p .01).
Significant correlations were found between age and education (r= -.373)
and between age and literacy (r= -.368). The negative r's denote inverse
relationships; that is, as age increases, education and literacy decrease.
Clearly, older farmers have not had the same or equal educational opportunities
as have younger farmers. In this respect, it is not surprising to have found
a negative correlation between age and ability to speak Spanish (r= -.213).
Also since formal schooling is conducted in Spanish, it is consistent to find
a strong positive correlation between literacy and ability to speak Spanish
It is interesting to consider what Albo terms the "functional-institutional
conflict" between Spanish and native languages. He observes that there exists
a "linguistic polarization" which results from Spanish being the predominate
language of the technical/professional world, while Quechua and Aymara are the
languages of the rural/traditional world. 14/ This points to the importance of
communicating with farmers in their native language, as in the case of radio
programming for the Chapare in Quechua. Also, in order to gain the confidence
of farmers, extension agents should speak the indigenous language of the region
where they are assigned to work.
Expected positive correlations were found between education and radio
listening (r= +.290) and education and newspaper readership (r= +.492), as
well as a positive correlation between education and receiving agricultural
information from newspapers (r= +.458). Positive correlations were also
found between education and the use of improved seeds (r= +.188) and
herbicides (r= +.187).
It is not at all remarkable that farmers with greater education listen
to radio and read newspapers more than farmers with less education, or that
they are more inclined to use improved seeds and herbicides. In this regard,
it should be noted that newspaper readership was found to be positively
related to both herbicide and pesticide use (r= +.189 and r= +.227, respectively).
These findings support Beltran's observation that the higher a person's education
(income and status), the "higher" the level of access to mass media messages." 15/
14/ Javier Albo, Idiomas, Escuelas y Radios en Bolivia. Cuaderno de In-
vestigacion de Promocion del Campesidado (CIPCA), La Paz, Bolivia, 1977,
No. 3, p. 3.
15/ Luis Ramiro Beltran, "Rural Development and Social Communication: Re-
lationships and Strategies." In Communication Strategies for Rural
Development, Robert H. Crawford and William B. Ward (Eds.). Proceedings
of the Cornell CIAT International Symposium, Cali, Colombia, 1974, p. 17.
It also may be that access to one medium improves access to another medium, as
evidenced by the finding that radio listening was positively related to newspaper
readership (r= +.311). This brings to mind Roger's centripetal effect--"exposure
to one medium is positively related to exposure to other media." 16/
Better educated farmers also appear to have more access to extension
agents. Positive correlations were found between education and receiving
bulletins (r= +.220) and between education and viewing technical assistance
films (r= +.222). When farmers were asked from whom they had received bull-
etins or who had shown them films, in both cases the most frequently given
response was extension agents. Confirming this are the positive correlations
found between knowing an extension agent and receiving bulletins (r= +.196)
and viewing films (r= +.236). The implication of such findings is that
extension agents concentrate their efforts on better educated (and presumably
more receptive) farmers. However, it is also possible that these farmers
have more access to extension information through their own initiative.
Worth noting are the significant positive correlations found between
the four improved practices studied. Use of better seeds was found to be
related to fertilizer use (r= +.265) and to herbicide use (r= +.209);
fertilizer use correlates with herbicide use (r= +.292); and herbicide use
correlates with pesticide use (r= +.207). Clearly, there are rational farm-
ing reasons for using a set of improved practices rather than one practice
alone. For example, a farmer who cultivates rice will often have serious
weed problems in the second-year crop, a problem which is compounded by the
application of fertilizer. Therefore, in order to fully realize the benefits
of increased rice production resulting from fertilizer use, the farmer will
need to control weeds by timely herbicide applications. One implication of
this for research and extension is that the benefits of improved technologies
cannot be fully realized by farmers if only a part of the "technological
package" is adopted. What is required to insure that partial adoption,
often resulting in negative outcomes for the farmer, does not occur is
farmer-participant, on-farm evaluations of the various technological com-
16/ Everett Rogers, Modernization Among Peasants. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston,
Inc., New York, 1969, p. 102-103. Rogers notes that the clustering of
.media exposure (centripetal effect) has both desirable and undesirable
results for development. He writes: "On the one hand multiple media
exposure probably increases media influence in producing effects in the
audience, for each mass medium tends to reinforce the others. On the
other hand, peasants who are not directly reached by one mass medium tend
not to be reached by others either, a fact that leads to two categories
of peasants: (1) those who are in the audience for all the mass media
and (2) the 'unreachables'".
17/ For a detailed explanation of farmer-participant research, see Richard
R. Harwood, Small Farm Development, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado,
1979, pp. 32-38.
Extension/ Communication Strategy for the Chapare
Research and experience have shown that the best communication strategy
for many situations is a combination of mass media and interpersonal commu-
ication. This approach is based on the premise that multi-channel communication
is more effective than single channel communication. In this respect, Rogers
observes that "mass media alone can reach a larger audience at the price of
a lesser message impact, while interpersonal communication provides a greater
message impact at the price of a smaller audience." The effects of the two
communication modes together are greater than the effect of either alone. 18/
To be effective, however, a strategy of communication must have the
support of the development institutions working in the project area. The
success of a communication strategy in affecting change in the Chapare rests
on the ability of development agencies to anticipate the need for and provide
access to the supplementary services and materials (fertilizers, seed, credit,
etc.) whose acceptance or adoption is being encouraged by the communication
From the study findings, it is clear that radio has excellent possibilities
for communicating effectively with Chapare farmers. Radio could be an important
tool for supporting regional development activities. Radio campaigns, prepared
to reinforce direct-contact efforts, could contribute greatly to extension
effectiveness. Nor is it unrealistic to expect that a dialogue between a local
radio station and Chapare residents could be developed.
Consideration should also be given to the use of the printed word to
reach Chapare farmers with change messages. For example, distribution of
Ayni, a rural newspaper which at present reaches only 2% of the farmers,
could be expanded. Ayni prints articles dealing with community improvement
activities, health, indigenous culture and history, as well as agricultural
topics. Since the agricultural topics relate more to the highlands, it might
be worthwhile to consider a special one-page tropical insert for copies
distributed in the Chapare. The cost of doing this is unknown, but it could
be absorbed by development agencies whose interest is in communicating with
farmers or offset by advertising from commercial agencies interested in
selling their products locally. Ayni could be distributed at the monthly
sindicato meetings in Villa Tunari to the leaders, who in turn would distri-
bute copies to members. At $bl.50 (6 cents US), Ayni is well within the
financial means of most farmers.
Regarding extension agent contact with farmers, it is worth recalling
that only about 11% of the farmers had received technical assistance from
extensionists. In part, the effectiveness of extension could be improved by
providing agents with basic audio-visual equipment and materials (flip-chart
easels, battery-operated slide and filmstrip projectors, cameras, etc.). There
18/ Everett M. Rogers and Juan R. Braun with Mark A. Vermilion. "Radio Forums:
A Strategy for Rural Development". In Radio for Education and Development:
Case Studies. Vol. II, World Bank Staff Working Paper No. 226, May 1977,
p. 362. Rogers et. al note that the most likely main effects of mass media
channels is increased knowledge, whereas for interpersonal channels they are
attitude changes. In combination the effects are increased knowledge and
is also a need to produce regional farm bulletins; the few available often
relate to crops not grown in the area. Simple crop fact sheets could be
produced with inexpensive mimeograph equipment.
However, the problem of limited extension effectiveness in the Chapare
cannot be solved merely by providing agents with AV equipment. Extension in
the Chapare is afflicted by many of the same general problems found elsewhere:
too few agents spread over too large an area; no direct line of technical
support and supervision; inadequate mobility; a lack of resources; and low
status in relation to research personnel. All of these factors (and others)
add up to low morale, a sense of frustration and a high turnover rate of
personnel. For many of these constraints there are no simple or immediate
solutions. In part what is required is a restructuring and expansion of the
extension service with an emphasis on decentralization. 19/
There also exist some doubts whether extension agents have anything of
great value to extend to farmers. Such doubts are raised by the finding that
over 70% of the farmers had not visited the two area experiment stations, the
reason being that many of them did not know the stations exist.
However, it is our opinion that there is agricultural information which
can be disseminated immediately and which can help increase farm productivity.
In many situations there exists a gap between what farmers are doing in their
fields and what could be done to improve production. "Generally such gaps
exist in all kinds of agricultural areas and in all crops. Where research
findings are not readily available, the gap can be the difference which often
exists between what a few good farmers do and what the rest of the farmers in
the area practice." 20/
The job of extension is to close these gaps. Initially, management and
cultural practices which require little risk or cash expenditures should be
stressed. While extension closes the "gap," a viable research program should
be established to generate information for extension to carry to farmers.
The program should be a joint research/extension effort and should focus on
field trials which are a final test of experiment station findings. "Without
a network of field trials upon which new recommendations can be based and
without continuous feedback to research from the fields, the extension service
will soon have nothing to offer farmers and the research institutions will lose
touch with the real problems farmers face." 21/
Even armed with a "package" of information, extension will be limited
unless there is a viable delivery system to farmers. And while the present
communication picture can be greatly improved by the use of radio and other
19/ For a detailed report on extension services in Bolivia see "Small Farmer
Communication Improvement Project" by the University of Missouri team,
William Herzog, team leader. Prepared for USAID/Bolivia, August, 1979.
20/ Daniel Benor and James Q. Harrison. Agricultural Extension The Training
and Visit System. World Bank, Washington, D.C., 1977, p. 10.
21/ Benor and Harrison, op. cit., p. 14.
media, the core of the delivery system should be interpersonal contact with
farmers. Farmers can learn from radio and bulletins, but their attitudes
towards cropping alternatives will change most through interpersonal commun-
Extension has an important role to play working with groups of farmers
and farm leaders who can influence their fellow farmers. Even when farmers
hear about a new improved practice from extension agents or commercial dealers,
they are persuaded to try the practice by farm neighbors. Traditionally,
farmers have relied upon the experiences of their more progressive neighbors
before adopting a new practice.
In the Chapare, the sindicato is the logical basis for the formation of
an extension/farmer contact system. It is not possible, nor even necessary,
for extension to reach the majority of farmers directly. Instead, extension
agents should focus on contact farmers who will be able to spread recommended
practices to others.
One way to establish a farmer contact system is to encourage sindicatos
to elect one or two members to represent the organization in agricultural
matters. These are essentially the contact farmers who inform other sindi-
cato members of extension recommendations and serve as demonstrators of the
practices. These farmers participate in the evaluation of the innovations
and if they approve, advise other farmers to adopt. Extension should also
work with regional sindicatos to establish agricultural councils who could
have inputs into the design of extension programs. In such a manner, the
needs and problems of the local community are reflected in extension plans.
In conclusion, the Chapare offers a viable and potentially effective
mechanism for including local participation in development efforts the
sindicato structure. Sindicatos should be the basis for interpersonal
communication activities. It is not unrealistic to imagine them serving as
an important link to mass communication efforts, as in the formation of
radio-listening groups. As a social group which influences (and legitimizes)
the behavior and attitudes of its members, the sindicato is an instrument
through which development programs can be implemented. They should form the
basic units in a broad communication network, combining radio, other support
media, and interpersonal contacts. Sindicatos are the organizational structures
for channeling technical assistance to farmers and feedback to development
institutions. To a great extent, the development of the Chapare depends
upon the transformation of the sindicato into a group which fully participates
in the development process. Currently the sindicato structure is not being
fully utilized as an information network, as evidenced by the finding that
over 65 percent of the farmers had not received agricultural information
through the sindicato.
It should also be remembered that extension is only one of the many
sources of information for Chapare farmers. As noted earlier, the principal
source of information for the use of improved practices was friends and
neighbors. Commercial agencies also figured importantly as information sources
in the use of these practices. Extension, therefore, could perform an important
function by providing commercial dealers with reliable information.
Stavis refers to the informal information that farmers get from other
farmers, and in some cases from merchants and salesmen, as a "spontaneous
extension service." He writes that "an extension system can make a crucial
initial input into the spontaneous extension system. It can play a catalytic
role in energizing the spontaneous system." 22/ In the Chapare, the mechanism
for extension input into the farmer information network is the sindicato
structure. Working through sindicatos, extension should be able to improve its
ability to raise the information potential and the action potential of Chapare
22/ Benedict Stavis, "Agricultural Extension for Small Farmers." Michigan
State University Rural Development Series, Working Paper No. 3, East
Lansing, Michigan, 1979, p. 16.