End of project evaluation
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00075684/00003
 Material Information
Title: End of project evaluation the Farming Systems Support Project, September 1987
Physical Description: 19 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Farming Systems Support Project
Publication Date: 1987
Subjects / Keywords: Agricultural systems   ( lcsh )
Agriculture -- International cooperation   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: "Draft, for discussion purposes only."
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 82217144
System ID: UF00075684:00003

Full Text








For the past five years, since September of 1982, USAID has
provided support to the development of farming systems in the
areas of technical assistance, training and networking through
the Farming Systems Support Project. USAID has decided to end
support of FSSP as of December 31, 1987, for reasons outlined in
the End-of-Project Evaluation and other documents. However, the
potential importance of farming systems work for agricultural
development in general, and for the small farm sector in
particular, continues to be recognized.

The purpose of this document is to open and stimulate
discussion among the members of the Review Panel regarding
the future direction and focus of efforts by USAID and other
donors to support work in farming systems research and
development. It contains a b-ief analysis of the historical
reasons why the farming systems approach came about, as well as a
series of questions and suggestions as to where future work in
farming systems could concentrate.


The farming systems approach to agricultural development
came into existence in response to the inability or unwillingness
of certain types of farmers, particularly small, limited-resource
farmers, to adopt new agricultural technology emanating from the
universities, the international agricultural research centers,
and the private sector.

For many years, it was commonly believed that farmers did
not adopt technology because they were backward, uneducated and
possessed a traditional mentality that rejected change. This
concept gradually changed as professionals undertaking field
research in developing countries began to communicate directly
with small farmers, discovering that resistance to technology
adoption was not due to mentality, but rather to the farmer
circumstances. Among the types of circumstances limiting
adoption were lack of access to capital inputs, output prices
which negated profitability of new technology, difficult access
to markets, or enterprise rigidities which responded to the needs
of farmers for food, off-farm employment or their livestock, but
did not facilitate the application of technology designed to be
applied to a monocrop situation. As further evidence, Theodore
Schultz, in his landmark book "Transforming Traditional
Agriculture", found small farmers to be relatively efficient
producers from an economic standpoint in allocating their scarce
available resources to alternative productive activities.

Why was there a lack of "appropriate technology"? One
reason has to do with the evolution of the structure of
agriculture in the developed world, especially in the United
States. Until the 1930s and 40s, the U.S. agricultural
production sector was characterized by small family farms, which
were served by a land grant research and extension system
composed of professionals from farm backgrounds in tune with the
needs and circumstances of their clientele, the farmers.

The structure of agriculture changed, spurred on at least in
part by the invention of labor-saving technology which enabled a
single farmer to productively farm larger and larger areas of
land. Unfavorable cost-price relationships meant that farm
size had to increase in order to generate adequate incomes. "Get
big or get out" was the theme of the day, and continues to be so.
The rapid pace of industrialization and the development of the
service sector provided the mechanism for absorbing much of the
displaced farm labor. Farms got bigger and controlled more

/ As part of this process, the land grant system also evolved
to better serve the needs of a new clienele - larger farm
businesses with substantial resource bases. In order to address
the more specialized technology needs of the new structure,
universities became more specialized, divided into disciplines
and sub-disciplines, to a great extent losing their
multidisciplinary perspective and interest in the farm-household.
Farm management, the area where the various disciplines were
integrated into a whole farm perspective, was in effect reduced
to a sub-discipline of agricultural economics.

Another contributing factor was the general direction of
technological change, with a definite bias toward innovations
resulting in marketable, patentable products rather than more
general techniques and cultural practices whose benefits are not
necessarily capturable by the innovator. Although the literature
is filled with information about the functioning and
contributions of the land grant system, it appears that in fact
the "private sector" has been the real driving force behind
technological change in world agriculture.

The methodology of agricultural research was transferred to
the developing countries through the education and training of LDC
professionals in U.S. universities who later returned to positions
of leadership in their own countries, and via programs through
which U.S. universities helped organize and develop faculties of
LDC universities. Thus, though perhaps not done intentionally,
the same bias toward larger farmers with greater access to
resources was transferred to the LDC research establishment.

Perhaps more important than education regarding research
organization and methodology was the transfer to LDCs of the
technology itself, for the most part contained in hybrid seeds,
chemical inputs and machinery and implements. It facilitated
concentration of agricultural production on larger units while at

the same time lowering overall labor requirements. In contrast
to the U.S. situation, displaced labor could not be absorbed by
the usually underdeveloped industrial sector. As a result,
significant portions of the population settled on hillsides and
marginal lands less well suited for agriculture.

Though generally not significant in terms of area farmed and
in contribution to overall national production (with some
exceptions), small farmers do make up a large percentage of the
rural population. Thus, a definite demand, more latent than
expressed, existed for the development of the farming systems
approach to research and extension.


The farming systems approach to research was developed and
refined over time through trial and error field experience of a
relatively small, sensitive group of highly trained researchers
who came to develop a better understanding of the constraints
faced by small farmers in the developing countries of Asia,
Africa and Latin America. Among the better known developers and
proponents of the approach were Collinson and Norman in Africa,
Hildebrand and Hart in Latin America, and Bradfield, Harwood and
Zandstra in Asia. Apparently, in the early stages, there was
little or no communication among the researchers among
continents, and with the exception of Asia, within continents.

The downfall of farming systems began when, in a pattern
similar to other short-lived approaches to agricultural
development (e.g. integrated rural development, institution
building, agricultural sector modeling, and most recently,
private sector development), it became a fad among the
international donor community. The notion and concepts
surrounding farming systems research, or FSR as it was more
commonly known, were accepted and adopted by members of the
broader academic and research community who had not really
participated in its development. They did, however, "sell" the
idea to the donor community, and soon farming systems came to be
viewed by many as a panacea. USAID commissioned a survey on
farming systems research and development work worldwide, which
when published helped promote the concept.

A major problem early on was the lack of a uniform
definition of what farming systems was and was not. Confusing
terminology proliferated, and many people assigned their own
definitions, thereby adding to the confusion. The lack of clear
definition and uniformity of terms meant that some projects and
programs were doing farming systems type work without
acknowledging the label, while others were doing something else
and calling it farming systems. The term farming systems
proliferated in the development of new AID projects, mainly
because project developers believed that using that label would
assure approval of the project. During the early 1980s, the
number AID-financed farming systems projects or projects with

farming systems components being implemented worldwide increased
significantly to the point where the majority of countries in
which AID works now have or have had farming systems projects.

Though highly regarded as a development approach, there were
few well-trained professionals with real field experience who
would be capable and available to provide the quantity and
quality of technical assistance necessary to promote the
integration of farming systems research methodology into LDC
research and extension systems. To further complicate matters,
since farming systems work involved research and extension, the
representatives of the U.S. Land Grant system successfully
convinced USAID that they should be the principal providers of
technical assistance in farming systems worldwide. Thus arose
the rather ironic situation of U.S. universities attempting to
teach professionals in LDCs to do something that those
universities had stopped doing long ago.

Virtually all USAID farming systems projects, including
FSSP, were designated Title XII, which limited prime contractor
competition to Title XII institutions, mainly U.S. universities.
Not having many qualified professors to teach farming systems,
and with an incentive structure that penalizes people for
international work, the universities were forced to recruit
project staff members from the outside.

Given the nature of events that had occurred, it becomes
clear why farming systems fell so quickly from favor. Initially
alot of "hype" was generated because farming systems appeared to
be something new, it involved potential changes which would
benefit everybody or at least not hurt anybody, and it focused on
helping directly the poorer segments of the rural population. A
vocal minority of university faculty members and the small group
of professionals with actual field experience eagerly jumped on
the bandwagon. Many of the senior university faculty viewed
farming systems as a reinvention of an old wheel (farm
management), resented the notoriety that farming systems was
getting, and for the most part have not participated in the
projects and networks. Looking back, this was unfortunate, as
input from those with a broader historical perspective perhaps
could have benefitted the emerging farming systems methodology.

At this point in time, it is inappropriate to pass judgement
on the overall effectiveness of farming systems work worldwide,
since many of the projects are on-going and some are
just getting started. It can be said, however, that farming
systems has not been the panacea that many expected it to be.
Though modest progress has been made in small farm technology
development, the overall impact of this has not been measured
and weighed against the added costs of employing the approach. I
Furthermore, it appears that real progress in technology
development and transfer requires a longer time frame than is
usually conceded in a project-type framework. Thus, farming
systems projects tend to be downgraded because tangible results
in terms of increased productivity and incomes are not evident

two or even four years into a project. What farming systems does
offer is a process which is philosophically and logically
appealing, but with no guarantee of the end result.

In a few short years, farming systems has gone from being a 7
"buzzword" to a "dirty word". There is still, however, a
substantial group of people who believe in the basic validity
of the farming systems approach, which involves a strong client
orientation and a good deal of reliance on a few simple common
sense procedures and analytical techniques. A few of the methods
commonly associated with farming systems, especially the rapid
rural appraisal or "sondeo", have been and are being adopted by
other types of development efforts, such as the analysis of
agricultural markets. In a sense, they have taken on a life of
their own but are properly attributable to work in farming
systems. It is clear, that whether or not farming systems
survives as a methodology per se, its influence on agricultural
development will be felt for a long time to come.


The star of farming systems has faded and the focus of USAID
attention is on strategies to rapidly increase foreign exchange
earnings through export promotion to alleviate the debt crisis.
At the same time, there are still a number of ongoing FSR/E projects,
and significant progress has been made in training, networking
and methodology development by FSSP, CIMMYT, IRRI and others.
Should support of farming systems work be withdrawn? Are the
networks and programs established strong enough to stand on their
own? If further assistance is required, what should the nature
of this assistance be? What are the plans of donors other than
Aid? Given current budget and manpower constraints, what is the
capacity of USAID to provide financial and technical support for
farming systems? Should there be a "bridge" with the existing
project while a new strategy comes on line?

These questions cannot be answered at this time without
further consultation and thought. To help guide thinking, a
number of possible topics and directions in which farming systems
could move are presented in the next section. Some of the topics
represent support for the continuation of ongoing activities,
while others suggest some new areas into which farming systems
could expand. The panel is asked to consider the merits of
these, suggest others, and then help determine which activities
deserve highest priority.


A. Support of On-going Farming Systems Activities

This section presents some ideas regarding activities that
are currently being undertaken by FSSP and others to promote the
adoption of the farming systems approach in LDCs. Should these
activities be continued? How? What nature of support, if any,
should be provided by USAID?

1. Training

Over the past few years, considerable progress has been
made in operationalizing farming systems research and development
in developing countries as well as in the United States.
However, in many parts of the world, the process of learning and
applying the farming systems approach is just beginning. In
order to capitalize on the considerable investments already made
in developing training materials and trainers, it may be
appropriate to continue to provide both formal and in-service

o In-service training programs, in the form of short
courses and workshops, could orient and assist local
professionals involved in agricultural research and
extension toward more effective involvement and service
to-farmers. Such courses would either introduce the
basic concepts of farming systems, or build upon the
already existing knowledge and experience base.
Ideally, the training would occur periodically on a
regular basis, with the content of the courses changing
as local institutions evolve and become able to adopt
new methods of technology development.

o Formal training could be targeted toward potential
researchers and extensionists through local
agricultural trade schools and universities. Rather
than dealing directly with students, support in this
area would concentrate on training faculty and staff as
trainers so that, over time, most of the training
functions would become self-sustaining with minimal
outside support.

2. Networking/Newsletter

Farming systems research as a methodology of
technological development is constantly evolving, encountering
new constraints and finding ways to address them. It is
important that farming systems practitioners worldwide build and
maintain communications linkages so that joint learning can take
place, and people can be informed of new developments. Thus,
support should be given for communication activities such as

newsletters (regional, national, worldwide), and the support and
improvement of existing networks of practitioners who share
information and help advance the state of the art of the farming
systems aspects of agricultural research.

3. Farming Systems Symposium

Since 1981, the Annual Farming Systems Symposium has
brought together farming systems professionals from all over the
world to share experiences, report on new developments, and renew
and maintain personal and professional contacts. A new project
could also support the organization of regional symposia in order
to promote better communications among farming systems
professionals working under similar environmental and cultural

B. New Directions in Farming Systems

Experience in undertaking farming systems projects has
revealed areas of weakness in the farming systems approach as
currently envisioned in being able to reach the goals of
increased food availability and rural incomes. This set of
topics deals with new directions in which farming systems
work could be examined and addressed to improve the effectiveness
of the farming systems approach as a development methodology.

1. Periodic Rapid Reappraisal

One of the drawbacks of the project approach to
development is that once the project is designed and technical
assistance is fielded, it is difficult to add activities to
address unanticipated constraints that may arise which prevent
attainment of project goals. In order to address this problem,
the new project could promote a periodic rapid appraisal
approach to examine, besides farm-level technical and socio-
economic constraints, conditions with respect to access and
efficiency of agricultural markets, access and cost of credit,
and the general price policy environment. This would be
undertaken in specific regions of interest to AID Missions to
determine whether there is scope for significant technological
and productivity improvements and to assess whether or not
changes in productivity would likely result in increased household
incomes, enhanced availability of food, and better management of
the existing natural resource base. Service in this regard would
be provided to Missions in the form of multidisciplinary teams to
perform the rapid appraisal and offer guidance as to which
factors are most limiting and should be treated by establishing
linkages among existing projects and activities (e.g. between a
farming systems research project and an agricultural policy
analysis project).

2. Linkages Between Farming Systems and Policy

One of the criticisms that has been levelled at farming
systems approaches is that they tend to take restrictive economic
conditions (such as difficult access to credit and markets, low
product prices, high input prices) as given and static. One of
the possible roads to improved productivity is to relax economic
contraints so that existing technologies can be adopted, or more
productive technologies can be developed for a less restrictive
environment. This points out the need for improved communication
between farming systems researchers and planners/policy makers.
In the process of farming systems research, information about
farms and farm households is generated which could help policy
makers understand the income and output effects of current
policies as well as help predict response to policy changes.
Efforts could be undertaken to help establish and maintain
communication linkages so that farm and village-level information
is available in a usable form so that decision makers can make
better, more informed policy decisions. Such an effort may be
able to build upon the recently-developed Policy Analysis Matrix
methodology which explicitly uses the micro-level cost and
returns information commonly gathered by farming systems
researchers as an aid in developing policy reform

3. Technology Transfer

Though the farming systems approach incorporates
concepts and methodologies relating to both agricultural research
and extension, there is a continuing concern regarding the means
for passing new technologies from the research community to the
ultimate users, the farmers. INTERPAKS, a centrally-funded
project looking at agricultural knowledge transfer systems, is
exploring ways to make existing extension systems more effective
in bringing about positive technological change. Through its
emphasis on field work, a new project may be able to test and
help develop new means and methods of effective technology

C. Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Farming Systems Work

This section presents two topics of interest in determining
how effective farming systems work has been in the past, with a
view to ratifying its strategy or suggesting modifications which
might bring about better results.

1. Cost/Benefit Analysis

It is believed by many researchers that the recurrent
costs of farming systems research and extension are generally
higher than those for on-station research. To test this
assertion, a possible new initiative could be undertaken to

examine whether the added benefits of a farming systems approach,
in which the clients are heavily involved in the technology
development process, compensate for the added institutional and
financial costs. This issue could be explored using a case study
approach to document costs and benefits, not only in financial
term but also in terms of the equity with which technological
change benefits farmers as well as the effects of technology on
the natural and cultural environments.

2. Integration of the Farming Systems Approach into Local

Farming systems efforts have been ongoing in various
levels of intensity for several years. Has the farming systems
approach been integrated into the standard operating procedures
of local institutions, or is it a breed apart dependent on
outside funding for its existence? How can (or can) the farming
systems approach be integrated into national agricultural
research and extension systems in order to improve the
performance and responsiveness of the overall system? How has
the responsiveness of the national agricultural research
institutions toward small farmers changed? How are the
multidisciplinary issues being handled in the various countries
given the trained manpower shortages? These questions could be
explored using a case study approach.

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