• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Title Page
 Copyright
 Table of Contents
 List of Tables
 List of Figures
 Executive summary
 The Mixteca Region
 The Mixteca project : Participants...
 Participatory action research:...
 Farmer experimentation : Issue...
 Farmer experimentation in the Mixteca...
 Early achievements and disappo...
 Elaborating technical options
 Farmer experimentation in...
 Human resource development
 Conclusion
 Reference
 Acknowledgement






Group Title: Paper - Natural Resources Group - 02-01
Title: Sustainable improvement of agricultural production systems in the Mixteca region of Mexico
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00077510/00001
 Material Information
Title: Sustainable improvement of agricultural production systems in the Mixteca region of Mexico
Series Title: Paper - Natural Resources Group - 02-01
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Velasquez, Julio Cesar
Publisher: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
Publication Date: 2002
 Subjects
Subject: Caribbean   ( lcsh )
Farming   ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage: North America -- Mexico -- Mixteca -- Caribbean
Caribbean
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00077510
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: issn - 1405-2830

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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
    Copyright
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Page iii
    List of Tables
        Page iv
        Page v
    List of Figures
        Page vi
    Executive summary
        Page 1
    The Mixteca Region
        Page 2
        Page 3
    The Mixteca project : Participants and activities
        Page 4
    Participatory action research: Why is it needed?
        Page 4
        Page 5
    Farmer experimentation : Issues
        Page 6
        Page 7
    Farmer experimentation in the Mixteca project : An overview
        Page 8
        Page 9
    Early achievements and disappointments
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
    Elaborating technical options
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
    Farmer experimentation in the project
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
    Human resource development
        Page 45
    Conclusion
        Page 46
    Reference
        Page 47
    Acknowledgement
        Page 48
Full Text








CIMMYT
INTERNATIONAL MAIZE AND WHEAT
IMPROVEMENT CENTER





Sustainable Improvement of
Agricultural Production Systems in the
Mixteca Region of Mexico


Julio C6sar Velasquez
NRG Research Affiliate









Natural Resources Group


Paper 02-01











CIMMYT (www.cimmyt.org) is an internationally funded, nonprofit, scientific research and training organization.
Headquartered in Mexico, CIMMYT works with agricultural research institutions worldwide to improve the productivity,
profitability, and sustainability of maize and wheat systems for poor farmers in developing countries. It is one of 16 food
and environmental organizations known as the Future Harvest Centers. Located around the world, the Future Harvest
Centers conduct research in partnership with farmers, scientists, and policymakers to help alleviate poverty and
increase food security while protecting natural resources. The centers are supported by the Consultative Group on
International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) (www.cgiar.org), whose members include nearly 60 countries, private
foundations, and regional and international organizations. Financial support for CIMMYT's research agenda also comes
from many other sources, including foundations, development banks, and public and private agencies.


F U T U R E Future Harvest@ builds awareness and support for food and environmental research for a
HAR /EST world with less poverty, a healthier human family, well-nourished children, and a better
environment. It supports research, promotes partnerships, and sponsors projects that bring
the results of research to rural communities, farmers, and families in Africa, Asia, and Latin America
(www.futureharvest.org).


a International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) 2002. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed in
this publication are the sole responsibility of the authors. The designations employed in the presentation of materials in
this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of CIMMYT or its contributory
organizations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city, or area, or of its authorities, or concerning the
delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. CIMMYT encourages fair use of this material. Proper citation is requested.


Correct citation: Velasquez, J.C. 2002. Sustainable Improvement of Agricultural Production Systems in the Mixteca
Region of Mexico. NRG Paper 02-01. Mexico, D.F.: CIMMYT.


Abstract: With support from the Conrad N. Hilton and Ford Foundations and in collaboration with three Mexican non-
governmental organizations, the CIMMYT Natural Resources Group (NRG) worked with small-scale farmers in the
impoverished, semi-arid region of southeast Mexico known as the Mixteca during 1998-2001 to increase food
production and improve the quality of rainfed, maize-based agro-ecosystems. Participants worked in four communities
to help farmers identify and test a set of 19 technologies. The most promising were green legume cover crops and grain
legumes such as lablab and pigeon pea, oyster mushroom production by a women's group in one village, drip irrigation
for home gardens, greenhouse cropping, selection among local maize varieties, and triticale production. Several of
these have been adopted in the communities. The project also bolstered farmers' self-esteem, community spirit, and
communication with peers, and enhanced local leadership, organizational, analytical, and experimentation capabilities.


ISSN: 1405-2830
AGROVOC descriptors: Maize; Grain legumes; Cover plants; Natural resources; Resource conservation;
Resource management; Sustainability; Food production; Farming systems; Agricultural
development; Rainfed farming; Small farms; Role of women; Nongovernmental
organizations; Research institutions; Agroecosystems
AGRIS category codes: P01 Nature Conservation and Land Resources
El0 Agricultural Economics and Policies

Dewey decimal classification: 338.16


Printed in Mexico.












Contents


Executive Sum mary ............... .................. .............. .............. ......... 1
The Mixteca Region .............. ............................ .............. 2
General characteristics ................. ...... ..... ......... 2
Traditional, maize-based farm ing systems .......................................... 3
Constraints to agriculture in the M ixteca ....... .................................... 3
The Mixteca Project: Participants and Activities .............. ................................. 4
Participatory action research: W hy is it needed? ............ ................................ 4
Farm er Experim entation: Issues ................................. .... ....... .... ... ....... 6
Farmer Experimenters: Revitalized Managers of Farming Technology? 7
The Mixteca Project: A Participative Research Approach ..................... 7
Farmer experimentation in the Mixteca Project: An Overview .......................... 8
Early Achievements and Disappointments ..................................... ................ 10
Institutional cooperation ..................... ............................... 10
Com m unity cooperation ................ ..... ....... .... ............. ..... ... 11
Project communities ............................................... 11
Results of first diagnostic workshops ................................................ 13
Interactions w ith NG O s ....................... ....... ...... ............. .......... 14
Elaborating Technical Options .................. ............................. ... 15
Proposals from individual villages ..................................... ................ 15
Input from scientists ........................................... ................ 15
Tours and farm er exchanges ........................................ ..... ......... 16
T raining w workshops ...................................... ....... ............ 17
C choosing options for experim entation ................................. ....... ...... 17
Farmer Experimentation in the Project .............. ................................... ........ 20
Participating farmer experimenters ...................................... ........ 25
Experim ents by topic .................. ........................................ 26
Technical achievements ........ ......... ...................................... 27
Soil conservation and improvement measures ..................................... 28
W after conservation and use ......................................... ..... ......... 31
Productivity enhancing options .............. .............................. ....... ....... 32
Testing new crops and varieties .......................... ........... ........ 37
Hum an Resource Developm ent ........................................ ....................... 45
Conclusions ...... ..................................... ............... 46
R efe re nce s ......... .. ....... ...................................... ..... ............. 4 7
Acknowledgments .................................. .............. 48
Appendix 1. Maize varieties tested in the Mixteca, 2000












Tables



Table 1. Basic statistics on rainfed agricultural area and livestock production in the Mixteca. ...........3

Table 2. Characteristics of the primary project communities. ............. .................................... ........ 11

Table 3. Main constraints to agriculture in the Mixteca region of Mexico: results Oof diagnostic
workshops with farmers in three comm unities, 1998. ............. .............................. ....... ....... 13

Table 4. Proposals from farmers in three villages of the Mixteca region of Mexico for addressing
the region's main constraints to agriculture, 1998. .............. ............................. ........... 15

Table 5. Pooled suggestions and priorities of scientists from various Mexican and other research
and extension organizations* regarding technology options for addressing the main
constraints to agriculture in the Mixteca region, Mexico, January, 1999. ................................ 16

Table 6. Training workshops for farmers in the Mixteca region, Mexico, 1999-2000. ........................... 17

Table 7. Contributions (number of proposals) to technical options from different sources in
the M ixteca P project. ............................................................ ................ 18

Table 8. Number of farmers from three villages interested in specific technological options
for addressing water and soil conservation and management concerns in the
M ixteca region of M exico, 1999 ............ ... ................ ..... ..... ....... ..... ..... ............ 18

Table 9. Summary of the priorities and number of experiments proposed by farmers during
a workshop to address water and soil conservation and management concerns
in the M ixteca region of Mexico, 1999. ...................................... .... ..... .... .............. 19

Table 10. Number of farmers involved in the Mixteca Project. ............. .................................... ........ 25

Table 11. Number of experiments conducted per farmer-experimenter in the Mixteca Project................26

Table 12. Experiments conducted in each cycle of the Mixteca Project ............................. ............... 27

Table 13. Grain and dry matter production in composting experiments with maize,
the M ixteca Project, 1999. ................................... ............ ................ ................. ........... 29

Table 14. Results of composting in maize, the Mixteca Project, 2000. ................................................ 29

Table 15. Results of farmer experiments involving water management in the maize crop,
the Mixteca Project, 2000. .................................. ......... 31

Table 16. Grain yield in farmer-run water management experiments, Lunatitlan, Mexico, 1999 ............. 31

Table 17. Grain yield in farmer-run water management experiments, Nochixtlan, Mexico, 1999.............31

Table 18. Irrigation systems established in the Mixteca Project, Mexico, 2000-2001. ............................ 33

Table 19. Production of vegetables using drip irrigation, the Mixteca Project, Mexico, 2001 .................. 33

Table 20. Estimated water use rates in drip irrigation for growing vegetable gardens,
the M ixteca Project, M exico, 2001. .............................. .. ... .............................. 33

















Table 21. Materials and costs for establishing a drip irrigation system on 140 m2, the Mixteca
Project, Mexico, 2001. ................. ............................ ................ 34

Table 22. Materials and costs for establishing a greenhouse with drip irrigation, the Mixteca
Project, Mexico, 2001. ........................................... 35

Table 23. Data from the greenhouse tomato crop of Anatolio Lagunas of Teopan, Coixtlahuaca,
Oaxaca, Mexico, 2001. ........................................... 36

Table 24. Materials, costs of production, and profits from growing oyster mushrooms
in A yuq uililla 2 000 ............................................................................. 37

Table 25. Production potential of diverse plots in La Mixteca, Mexico. .................... ........................... 38

Table 26. Averages for several yield components in farmers' fields, 1999. ............................................ 38

Table 27. Average and relative grain yield (n=6) in a trial of INIFAP varieties,
M ixteca O axaqueia, Decem ber 1999. .................................. ........................... ............ 39

Table 28. Residue production in a variety trial (n=4), Mixteca, 1999. .......................................... .......... 39

Table 29. Performance of INIFAP maize varieties targeted for areas from 1,500 to
1,900 m asl, the M ixteca, 2000. ...................................................... ............... 39

Table 30. CIMMYT maize varieties tested in the Mixteca, 2000. ............... ...... ......... ......... ......... 40

Table 31. Performance of SC CIM and INIFAP varieties targeted for areas from
1,500 to 1,900 masl, the Mixteca, 2000. .................. .. ..... .......... ............. 40

Table 32. Performance of CIMMYT highland maize varieties in a plot of good soil
quality and with supplemental irrigation at the Rancho Ramirez, Zapoquila,
O axaca, M exico, 2000. ........... ................................. ......... ........... ................ 40

Table 33. Data on triticale trials in Zapoquila, Oaxaca, Mexico, November 2000 March 2001. ............41

Table 34. Agronomic characteristics and fodder production of barley and oats,
Zapoquila, O axaca, M exico, 2001. ................. ........ ..... ... ................. ............... 42

Table 35. Legumes tested in the warm areas (from 1,500 to 1,850 masl) of the
Mixteca Region, Mexico, 1999....................... ....... ....... .............. 43

Table 36. Legumes tested in cooler zones (from 1,850 to 2,200 masl) of the
Mixteca Region, Mexico, 1999....................... ....... ....... .............. 43

Table 37. Agronomic characteristics of some legumes tested by farmers in
LA M ixteca, O axaca, M exico, 2000. ........ ....... ......................................... ..... ... .............. .. 43

Table 38. Characteristics of pigeon pea in shallow, low-fertility soils (lajilla),
Lunatitlan, O axaca, M exico, 2000. ........................... .......................... ............. 44

Table 39. Performance of a maize-lablab-common bean intercrop (kg/ha),
N ochixtlan, O axaca, M exico, 2000. ........................ .......... .................. .................... 44

Table 40. Performance of a maize-lablab-common bean intercrop (kg/ha), Ayuquililla,
Oaxaca, M exico, 2000. ............................ ................. .......... ............ ................ 44











Figures



Figure 1. The Mexican Mixteca: altitude ranges and project work sites. ............................................. 21
Figure 2. Rainfall patterns in three project sites, the Mexican Mixteca, June-October 1999. ..................21
Figure 3. Typical cropping calendar for the Mexican Mixteca ........... .......................... ....... ........... 22
Figure 4. General scheme of farmer-researcher interactions ........... ......................... .................. 22
Figure 5. General scheme of project activities, the Mexican Mixteca, 1998-99. ............. ................ 23
Figure 6. Hypothetical cause-effect diagram of agricultural productivity constraints in
the M exican M ixteca. .......... ..................... ............................ .......... .............. 23
Figure 7. Other locations in Mexico with environments similar to those of Nochixtlan
village, the M exican M ixteca ........... ......... ......... .... .... .................... ................ 24
Figure 8. Relative interest of farmers in a range of technology options, the
Mexican Mixteca, April 1999 .............. ......................... ................. ..... ........... 24
Figure 9. Technologies of interest identified in a priority setting workshop with farmers,
the Mexican Mixteca, April 1999. ...... .. .. ...... ........ ........... ........ ..... 224
Figure 10. Technologies that farmers tested, the Mexican Mixteca, 1999-2000. .............................. ...24
Figure 11. Effects of applying the liquid compost "supermagro" on maize, four farmers,
the M exican M ixteca, 1999. ......... ............................................ ......... ...... .... ............. 24












Executive Summary


The Mixteca region is located at the convergence of
the states of Puebla, Guerrero, and Oaxaca in
southern Mexico. The failure of subsistence
agriculture, lack of alternative employment, and
general marginalization of the population in the region
have resulted in high rates of rural flight in recent
decades fully half of the population has left to seek
opportunities in Mexico's larger cities or the USA. The
region's economy depends on agriculture and
livestock production, especially goat herding; earnings
obtained through street vending, construction work,
handicrafts, and gathering of wild fruits and other plant
products; and (last but not least) cash contributions
from relatives working in cities. Farming is risky and
unable alone to provide household food security.
Comprising mainly rainfed maize and bean production,
with some cultivation of garden vegetables and wheat,
agriculture suffers from insufficient and unreliable
rainfall, poor soils, low or null use of inputs, and a lack
of technical or financial support.


With funding from the Conrad N. Hilton and Ford
Foundations, the CIMMYT Natural Resources Group
(NRG) began work in 1998 to improve local livelihoods
through farmer testing and promotion of agricultural
technologies that could increase food production and
contribute to the quality of agro-ecosystems. The
project also sought to bolster farmers' self-esteem,
community spirit, and communication with peers. To
accomplish this, participants worked with four
communities and three other organizationviin
planning, to identify and test a set of 19 improved
options, and in promoting those which proved most
relevant and productive. Some 50 peasant farmers
(20 of whom were women) helped design and conduct
the experiments, with technical and other support from
project agronomists. The participation of women
farmers was particularly significant, given their central
role as food providers in households where men of
economically productive age are working off-farm.


Given the region's lack of water, farmers are strongly
concerned with finding, testing, and implementing
ways to capture moisture and utilize it more
effectively. Participants have encouraged and
contributed to local discussions about natural
resource management and its relevance as a platform
for long-term development. But subsistence farmers
are not intrinsically interested in ecological
conservation or restoration per se; in addition to
conserving precious soil and water resources, any
farming systems or practices proposed must also
increase food production and/or incomes to have a
chance of gaining acceptance. Finally, participants
have sought ways to extend the efficiency and
lifespan of existing soil and water conservation works.


The approach used heavily emphasized local
management, evaluation, and adaptation of the
selection and experimentation processes,
encouraging farmers themselves to take charge as
the main actors in local agricultural development.
Researchers have provided key input, where relevant.


As a result of the above, the farmer-experimenters
who have taken part have a clear awareness of the
problems they face (with the exception of the full
environmental impacts of goat herding) and a menu of
technical options for addressing these problems -
several of which have been tested extensively and
are already being adopted in the communities. In
addition, there is now a critical mass of progressive
local farmers with enhanced leadership,
organizational, analytical, experimentation, and
communication capabilities. They have understood
the value of testing potentially useful practices
scientifically, have seen the relevance of sharing
results with peers, and are now serving as
enthusiastic promoters of specific technologies and, in
general, agents of agricultural and community
development.













The Mixteca Region


General characteristics

The Mixteca is located in southern Mexico on the
borders of the states of Oaxaca, Puebla and
Guerrero (Fig. 1). The prevailing climates are
semitropical (Acw), temperate semi humid (C(w)),
temperate semiarid (Bslk), semiarid (Bsh), semiarid
semitropical (Bslh), tropical semihumid (Aw) (INEGI
1996; 1997). The terrain is mountainous. Altitude
varies between 1,000 and 3,000 m above sea level
(masl). Above 1,900 masl, frosts occur from mid-
October to March. Vegetation is low deciduous forest
with a predominance of bushes (thorny legume
trees), cactus and grasses, maguey; low thorny
forest, thorny shrubs, oak woods, and pastureland
(INEGI 1996; 1997; SAGAR 1999).


Project activities were centered in the Oaxacan
Mixteca, a region comprising 1,958,382 ha, 8
districts, 165 municipalities, and 1,419 villages. Of its
nearly 500,000 inhabitants, 68% live in rural areas
and 35% belong to one of several indigenous groups,
including the Mixtecas (predominant), the Triqui, the
Chochomixtecos, the Amuzgos, and the Tacuates
(SAGAR 1999). The languages and cultures of these
groups are slowly disappearing, as the poor flee the
countryside and basic education erases native
culture and tongues.


The prevailing climate is semitropical (Acw),
semitropical temperate (C(w)) and temperate
semiarid (Bsl k) Annual rainfall ranges from 300 to
750 mm, with a very erratic distribution between June
and October (Fig. 2). Rainfall in the project area was
around 450 mm in 1999, whereas in 2000 it ranged
from 250 to 400 mm, depending on the village, with a
dry spell of from 21 to 40 days during July-August.
The terrain is mountainous, and farming takes place
on small spaces at the edges of gullies or rivers, on
hillsides, hilltops or in depressions.


Mixteca soils generally lack organic matter and are
deficient in nitrogen, zinc, sodium, phosphorus, iron,
carbon, and potassium. They range in pH from 6.8 to
8.7, and are of medium texture, except in certain
areas of clay soil. In the Lunatitlan-Nochixtlan-
Zapoquila area, most fields have slopes of 9 to 20%
and 10 to 25 cm of topsoil. These soils, known as
white and shallow soils, are the poorest because they
are shallow and prone to erosion. Local inhabitants
term the land alongside streams "porous land". Such
soils are deep (40 cm or more) with medium texture
and good fertility, as a result of deposits from rainy-
season watercourses. They are also more productive
than the norm because farmers who work them
normally have access to enough water for at least one
irrigation, in case of an extended dry spell. Soils in
intermediate areas between the slopes and riverain
lands are diverse and of fair quality, being composed
of medium-size soil components washed down from
higher land.


The local economy is based on agriculture (maize,
beans, and wheat) and livestock (goats, cows, and
sheep) production, on money sent back by relatives
working outside the region, and on earnings from
street vending, construction, handicrafts, gathering
local fruits and plants, and hired fieldwork. Handicrafts
include weaving hats (sombreros) and piecework to
produce soccer balls. And production of the basic
staple crops mentioned above fails to satisfy local
demand. In addition to the crops listed in Table 1,
farmers grow birdseed, faba bean, groundnut,
watermelon, capsicum peppers, squash, amaranth
(increasingly popular), peach, and avocado. Fruits
that grow wild in the region and are collected include
guaje, red prickly pear, xoconoshtle, jiotilla and
tempesquistle.


G











Table 1. Basic statistics on rainfed agricultural area
and livestock production in the Mixteca.

Area sown (ha)

Total rainfed cropland 126,781
Monoculture maize 31,550
Maize + climbing bean intercrop 9,993
Monoculture bean 13,286
Bean + maize intercrop 4,282
Wheat 14,560
Area used for raising livestock 690,129
# of heads raised
Goats 428,473
Sheep 141,634
Cows/cattle (milk, meat) 107,381
Draught cattle/oxen 107,751

Source: SAGAR 1999.


The low productivity of agriculture in the region is
exacerbated by and has intensified the migration of
youths over 14 years old to seek work in larger Mexican
cities or in the USA (often as undocumented workers).
Those who remain behind are either the elderly, who
often have little interest in or strength for farming, or the
very young who look for the first opportunity to leave.



Traditional, maize-based farming systems

Agriculture is a risky enterprise in the Mixteca. The
region's chiefly maize-based systems feature extensive
use of hand labor, little use of external inputs, no
mechanization (typically draft animal power), no access
to credit or technical assistance, primitive infrastructure
(if any at all) for water harvesting or utilization, and little
irrigation. The most technologically advanced zones are
the alluvial valleys of Tamazulapan, Coixtlahuaca, and
Nochixtlan (SAGAR 1999).


Some form of maize-bean-squash intercrop accounts
for about 15,000 ha in the region. Yields vary greatly
as a result of the difficult environment; in the case of
maize, from as low as 0.45 t/ha in the predominant,
shallow soils to 2.5 t/ha in the intermediate, clay, or
porous soils in a good rainy period. These yield levels,
taken from the relatively small areas farmers typically
sow (from 0.125 to 1.0 ha), fall far short of household
food requirements.


Maize cropping activities are the following, in
chronological order (Fig. 3):


1. Plowing.
2. Cross plowing to eliminate weeds.
3. Furrowing, hand sowing, and foot tamping carried out
by women and children.
4. Cultivation and manual weeding 25-30 days after
sowing.
5. Hilling up and manual weeding about 50 days after
sowing.
6. Detassling.
7. Harvesting ears.
8. Hand shelling as required.
9. Cutting and storing stover.


Before plowing or cultivation, organic fertilizers (goat,
cattle, or horse manure) may be applied. Applications
comprise approximately 3 kg per straight meter, each
line being separated by approximately 85 cm. It is also
applied in patches on the most deteriorated areas.


Maize farming has developed in response to
environmental and management conditions. Varied
rainfall patterns in the area have influenced
phenological cycles and conferred a high degree of
drought tolerance. Seed selection of local varieties
interacts with management practices: farmers define
suitable sowing dates and management practices for
different varieties when sown at different sites. Sowing
dates vary among the three communities even though
they are separated only by short distances. However,
flowering and grain filling coincide with the wettest time
(end of August to the beginning of October), which in
turn depends on the hurricane season. Given the
semiarid conditions, plowing and cultivation are done
transversely to the slope to capture and retain moisture.



Constraints to agriculture in the Mixteca

The main production constraints are drought, erosion,
and poor soils (Cruz 1988), together with overgrazing
(Cruz and Bravo 1988) and frosts (SAGAR 1999).


AD










The shortage of moisture from insufficient rainfall is
exacerbated by soils' poor capacity to capture and
retain water. Erosion has worsened, as farmers
abandon former practices of soil conservation, such as
terraces and soil and stone wall barriers. Excess tilling
is common; and rotations have disappeared. Hillside
fields where slopes exceed 12% can suffer losses of
more than 70 t/ha each year; far beyond the
permissible levels of 6.7 t/ha for hillsides (Bravo
1990). Overgrazing has compacted soils and deprived
them of crop residues. Finally, frosts can damage
crops in highland zone during October-February.


Farmers lack access to credit or technical support,
such as management packages for low-yield
environments. On occasions when farmers wish to
market excess production, they must sell it to
intermediaries at below-market prices. Adding to
Mixteca inhabitants' woes are the lack of a viable job
market, uncertain land tenure, low educational levels,
the disinterest of seed companies or other distributors
of agricultural inputs, and the absence of effective
research or extension activities for the region.



The Mixteca Project:
Participants and Activities


The project "Sustainable Improvement of Agricultural
Production Systems in the Mixteca" (hereafter referred
to as "the Mixteca Project"), undertaken by the
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
(known by its Spanish abbreviation, CIMMYT), began
as a complement to the project "Water Forever"
conducted by the Mexican non-government
organization Alternativas y Procesos de Participaci6n
Social, A.C. (known as Alternativas), an effort aimed at
promoting and focusing local action for locating or
harvesting water for agriculture. Both projects were
funded by the Conrad N. Hilton and Ford Foundations
and were intended to improve the livelihoods of
Mixteca inhabitants.


CIMMYT is a non-profit research and training
organization headquartered in Mexico that works
throughout the developing world to improve the
wellbeing of farmers and consumers who depend on
maize and wheat for food and incomes. The Mixteca
Project was executed by CIMMYT's Natural Resources
Group (NRG), which studies ways for productively and
sustainably managing maize and wheat farming
systems, and as a complement is exploring approaches
for developing, testing, and promoting adoption of
improved management practices.


Alternatives, located in Tehuacan, Puebla, is a private
organization that has worked since the mid-1980s to
advance rural development in the Mixteca zone of
Puebla state and since the mid-1990s in Oaxaca. Its
offerings have centered around the cultivation,
processing, and marketing of the pre-Colombian seed
crop, amaranth (Amaranthus hypocondriacus) on
around 60 ha with 400 farmers. "Water Forever" has
resulted in various water capture, storage, and transport
works (dams, small reservoirs, piping systems, among
others) and environmental restoration efforts (including
soil containment barriers and reforestation). Alternatives
has also leveraged government contributions to support
amaranth producers, as part of the project. In Oaxaca,
Alternatives has collaborated with the NGO Centro de
Apoyo Comunitario Trabajando Unidos, A. C.
(CACTUS). Both NGOs are widely recognized in rural
communities and regional institutions.



Participatory action research:
Why is it needed?


One of the most severe criticisms of traditional research
is based on the contention that its products have not
served the poorest rural farming and indigenous
communities. In fact, critics claim that where technology
developed via the conventional approach of technology
generation and transfer has been adopted, its effects


G










The shortage of moisture from insufficient rainfall is
exacerbated by soils' poor capacity to capture and
retain water. Erosion has worsened, as farmers
abandon former practices of soil conservation, such as
terraces and soil and stone wall barriers. Excess tilling
is common; and rotations have disappeared. Hillside
fields where slopes exceed 12% can suffer losses of
more than 70 t/ha each year; far beyond the
permissible levels of 6.7 t/ha for hillsides (Bravo
1990). Overgrazing has compacted soils and deprived
them of crop residues. Finally, frosts can damage
crops in highland zone during October-February.


Farmers lack access to credit or technical support,
such as management packages for low-yield
environments. On occasions when farmers wish to
market excess production, they must sell it to
intermediaries at below-market prices. Adding to
Mixteca inhabitants' woes are the lack of a viable job
market, uncertain land tenure, low educational levels,
the disinterest of seed companies or other distributors
of agricultural inputs, and the absence of effective
research or extension activities for the region.



The Mixteca Project:
Participants and Activities


The project "Sustainable Improvement of Agricultural
Production Systems in the Mixteca" (hereafter referred
to as "the Mixteca Project"), undertaken by the
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
(known by its Spanish abbreviation, CIMMYT), began
as a complement to the project "Water Forever"
conducted by the Mexican non-government
organization Alternativas y Procesos de Participaci6n
Social, A.C. (known as Alternativas), an effort aimed at
promoting and focusing local action for locating or
harvesting water for agriculture. Both projects were
funded by the Conrad N. Hilton and Ford Foundations
and were intended to improve the livelihoods of
Mixteca inhabitants.


CIMMYT is a non-profit research and training
organization headquartered in Mexico that works
throughout the developing world to improve the
wellbeing of farmers and consumers who depend on
maize and wheat for food and incomes. The Mixteca
Project was executed by CIMMYT's Natural Resources
Group (NRG), which studies ways for productively and
sustainably managing maize and wheat farming
systems, and as a complement is exploring approaches
for developing, testing, and promoting adoption of
improved management practices.


Alternatives, located in Tehuacan, Puebla, is a private
organization that has worked since the mid-1980s to
advance rural development in the Mixteca zone of
Puebla state and since the mid-1990s in Oaxaca. Its
offerings have centered around the cultivation,
processing, and marketing of the pre-Colombian seed
crop, amaranth (Amaranthus hypocondriacus) on
around 60 ha with 400 farmers. "Water Forever" has
resulted in various water capture, storage, and transport
works (dams, small reservoirs, piping systems, among
others) and environmental restoration efforts (including
soil containment barriers and reforestation). Alternatives
has also leveraged government contributions to support
amaranth producers, as part of the project. In Oaxaca,
Alternatives has collaborated with the NGO Centro de
Apoyo Comunitario Trabajando Unidos, A. C.
(CACTUS). Both NGOs are widely recognized in rural
communities and regional institutions.



Participatory action research:
Why is it needed?


One of the most severe criticisms of traditional research
is based on the contention that its products have not
served the poorest rural farming and indigenous
communities. In fact, critics claim that where technology
developed via the conventional approach of technology
generation and transfer has been adopted, its effects


G











have been either onerous or null, largely for their
failure to reflect social, economic, or cultural
realities. Approaches that emphasize sustainable
development, gender considerations, and
participation represent attempts to address the
above criticisms, and now comprise essential
components of research and development for
development agencies, research institutes, and
donor organizations, among other actors.


It was in this context that the alternatives of action
research and participatory research emerged.
Action research is meant to create knowledge to
transform and improve a situation (Schmelkes
1991). Participatory research is its complement and,
unlike conventional top-down approaches, proposes
that the knowledge generated should become the
property of all parties involved. This has several
implications: such research must address local
problems; the community should make decisions
about the process; the process should help people
to recognize their skills and resources; and external
agents should consider themselves both
participants in the process and students of it (Hall
1983; Schmelkes 1991). When the two approaches
are combined, they give us participatory action
research, a form of knowledge generation in which
individuals play a conscious role in research to
bring about the desired changes in their situation,
while working towards a position of self-
management (Farrington and Martin 1989;
Schmelkes 1991).


In agronomic research, the Farming Systems
Research (FSR) approach applied in some
research centers emphasized the need to include
farmers in research and to learn from them. Both
approaches form the foundations of participatory
research in agriculture (Farrington and Martin 1989:
Nelson 1994).


Examples of participatory research in agriculture can
be found in projects involving the Centro Internacional
de Agriculture Tropical (CIAT), the Tropical Agricultural
Research and Higher Education Centre (CATIE), and
the Programme to Strengthen Agronomic Research on
Basic Grains in Central America (PRIAG), in
collaboration with the Center for International
Cooperation in Agricultural Research for Development
(CIRAD).


One of the best known and most firmly established of
these is CIAT's project for participatory research in
agriculture. Its strategy of designing experiments that
follow scientific guidelines has won it recognition from
the scientific community. It has also been a fruitful
source of information and manuals, including a series
of 13 handbooks for local farming research committees
and the Manual for Evaluating Technology with
Producers (Ashby 1998). Its strategy involves
establishing local research committees, with members
elected by the community, to design a research
program of interest to the community. An expert assists
the committee members, among other things offering
them a menu of options.


The PRIAG-CIRAD initiative is known as the farmer
experimenter (FE) strategy. Like CIAT's, it involves
forming committees, but in this case the members are
recognized farmer experimenters from the community,
assisted by a facilitator (Hocd6 1997; Hocd6 1997b;
Espinosa 1997).


The CATIE approach-with a rich, versatile
methodology that allows small farmers to make
decisions at different levels-places great importance
upon agreements between small farmers, facilitators,
and experts as a means of implementing strategies
tailored to fit each case. This approach has been used
mainly in integrated pest management (comments
made by Falguni Guharay, a researcher in the CATIE
Integrated Pest Management project).


0











Other interesting approaches are the farmer-to-farmer
projects implemented by several NGOs and Bunch's
proposal for participatory development. In 1982, Bunch
proposed a strategy based on getting people
enthusiastic about solving problems. The idea is to start
with simple things and small-scale experiments, not to
give things away without payment, and to let people do
things for themselves. His view is that development is a
process through which people learn to play a
constructive part in solving their own problems.


The leader in participatory diagnoses in Mexico is the
Environmental Studies Group (GEA), which has
produced several manuals. Also, important is the
Regional Centre for Cooperation in Adult Education in
Latin America and the Caribbean (CREFAL) for its work
at the forefront of popular education. In the 1960s other
attempts at participatory development and popular
education were made at various places in Mexico.


More recently in Mexico, the Rockefeller Foundation
has sponsored several research and development
projects with a participatory approach. Among them is
the Small Farmers Experimentation Group, whose
members study strategies to complement research
undertaken by farmers. Among other schemes with a
participatory approach are those of NGOs such as
GIRA, CESE, and PAIR in Michoacan, Mexico, and the
farmer experimenter methodology proposed by the
Mexican Institute of Forestry, Agricultural, and Livestock
Research (INIFAP) in Guanajuato.


In each case, the idea is to encourage small farmers to
take part in producing, evaluating, adapting, and
diffusing farming technologies that suit their local
circumstances. The level of decision-taking by the
farmers, the acquisition of knowledge and
methodological processes, and the interaction between
small farmers and experts vary greatly according to a
project's aims and purposes, the type of organization
promoting it, and the training given to the experts and
facilitators.


Farmer Experimentation: Issues


Participatory farmer experimentation is an innovative
strategy that complements and is an alternative to
conventional research for evaluating, adapting, and
disseminating farming technology. It can be defined
as a process in which small farmers, whether
individually or as a group, consciously decide to test
a technical option to improve food security and
quality, production conditions, and income, orto cut
production costs.


As part of the above, small farmers analyze, plan,
and carry out actions aimed at improving their lot.
External agents may play a role, complicating
matters for farmers, since it means that agreement
has to be reached on objectives, aims, contributions,
and an agenda.


As pointed out by Valverde et al. (1996), an FE
process without the presence of an expert occurs
spontaneously whenever a farmer attempts to take
control of his immediate environment in response to
his everyday needs. In such cases, the process
differs from a conventional one because, instead of
being scientifically controlled, it is shaped by the
farmer's aims and not bound by conventional criteria
or methodologies (e.g. it almost always lacks a
simultaneous check and homogeneity), and
evaluation is based on observation. One of its
weaknesses is the lack of systematization and the
fact that its findings are usually transmitted orally.


Although experts introduce a methodology that
simplifies the farmer's complex reasoning, they
complicate the farmer's timetable by adding to work
(e.g. diagnosis, recording data, and documentation).
What is gained by the farmer in this process?
Scientific knowledge that can strengthen his
methods, experimental designs, results, and the
scaling up and out of results.











When external guidelines are adopted for an
experiment, the farmers' agenda will necessarily be
limited by the external organization's agenda. External
agents must understand that, if they are to make a real
contribution to the process of local management,
decisions have to be taken jointly and fairly: they must
be facilitators, not manipulators.



Farmer Experimenters: Revitalized Managers
of Farming Technology?

Rural communities have no lack of enthusiastic small
farmers open to innovation; people capable of studying
problems and alternative solutions and of using their
own judgment to evaluate them. These small farmers
are known as farmer experimenters (FE; Hocd6 1997).
They are constantly trying out new seeds or new tools,
and it is not surprising that their findings are often later
adopted in formal science. The output-oriented
approach once taken by some scientist long ignored
ecological interactions and the marginal environments
where large numbers of poor farmers struggle to
survive. Areas where environmental conditions were
once good are now suffering from pollution and falling
production. Faced with this situation, we can try to
restore the ecology in these areas or turn our efforts
towards increasing the production of food in marginal
areas. However, in the latter areas, there is a risk that
the fragility of the ecological interactions may trigger
irreversible environmental degradation.


In this scenario, farmer experimenters are social actors
who are aware of their problems, needs, limitations,
and social interactions. They can contribute on more
equitable terms to the generation, evaluation,
acquisition, and dissemination of technology that is in
keeping with their situation. This may at times conflict
with scientific and governmental views about the
modernization of agriculture, but it may also provide
pointers to the kind of technology that scientists ought
to be generating for small farmers.


Farmer experimentation can complement or serve as
an alternative for conventional research to test, adapt,
and promote adoption of agricultural innovations.
Farmer experimenters are perfectly capable of posing
questions and identifying problems for study,
formulating hypotheses and possible solutions, and
testing these using their own criteria. The participation
of external agents adds to the process of agreeing on
objectives, on a program of activities, on specific
contributions by participants, and on possible follow-
up (how outputs are used; evaluation of contributions,
outputs, or the entire process; and the planning and
execution of additional research, to name a few
things).



The Mixteca Project:
A Participative Research Approach

Participatory and action research approaches,
together with sustainability and a gender focus, have
taken their place as integral components of modern
agricultural research and development and are
generally required in any project proposal.
Participatory research in particular responds to the
failure of conventional development and transfer
approaches to reach resource-poor farmers in
marginal areas with options relevant to their social,
economic, and cultural conditions. The aim is to foster
the participation of peasant farmers in the generation,
testing, adaptation, and adoption of agricultural
technology relevant to the local context.


AD











Farmer Experimentation in the
Mixteca Project: An Overview


The Mixteca Project centered on farmer participation
and the interactions between farmers and researchers
and extensionists (Fig. 4) to identify and analyze
problems and test solutions. Many project resources
were invested in motivating and empowering farmers
in ways applicable for addressing any local problem
they choose, as active participants in change to
improve their surroundings. Project researchers
served as catalysts, assistants, and resource persons
in each step of the process (occasionally even as
mediators in conflicts within and among communities).
Funding agencies and other external institutions
contributed information, "venture capital" for
experiments, and other forms of support.


An historical account of the process. The first
major step was for the institutional participants to
decide upon a program, a central theme, a strategy,
and the communities in which work would take place.
The chief guidelines were to protect biological
diversity, respect local practices and agroecosystems,
avoid use of agro-chemicals or maize seed
introductions, focus on organic agriculture, and strictly
respect the communities and Alternativas' work with
them. Regarding site selection, care was taken to
ensure that they embody contrasting circumstances
and be representative of the region, so that methods
and results developed as part of the project might
apply widely throughout the Mixteca. After this,
participants visited the proposed communities to
reconnoiter and assess the possibilities for work there.


The second major step was to obtain the agreement
and active participation of the communities
themselves. In three of the communities (Lunatitlan,
Nochixtlan and Zapoquila) the project was initially
presented to farmers who were growing amaranth with
the support of Alternativas. They later participated in


discussions with local authorities to plan meetings in
which the proposed work was presented to the entire
community. In the meeting, approval for the project
was sought from the local assembly. At the end,
farmers who were interested in participating came
forward and helped set a date for a subsequent
"diagnostic" meeting (Fig. 5).


During the CA and OA phases, project researchers
described to farmers the strategy envisioned, from
initial diagnostic workshops through farmer
experimentation. Farmers' roles as key agents in the
process and, later, as knowledge disseminators were
emphasized, as well as researchers' chiefly support
functions. It was clearly stated that any potential
solutions for testing should respond directly to farmers'
needs; for this, they learned the watch-phrase "can
you eat it or sell it?". Project implementers described
participating institutions as "additional partners" whose
objectives for this project would be brought in line with
the farmer needs identified and who would provide
technical support and limited funds to carry out
experiments. Finally, it was suggested that
achievements and profits from project activities be
leveraged to scale benefits up and out, via the
obtention of credits or other forms of external support.


During November-December 1998, project
researchers conducted diagnostic workshops with
participants from the three communities mentioned
above. Methodological tools employed included
climate and cropping calendars, trend diagrams,1
descriptions of soil types, a listing of potential
problems, and field visits. Problems identified were
analyzed as to their causes and prioritized, after which
possible solutions were examined. In the diagnosis
with organizations (OA) in the second year, project
technicians defined actions to address the agricultural
constraints identified. These included greenhouses,
drip irrigation, cultivation of vegetables and production
of mushrooms.


1 Graphs of production levels over several years based on farmers' observations and local "memory."











The menu of technical options was enriched by
contributions from 1) local proposals from the
diagnostic workshops; 2) scientists who visited the
region; 3) a visit of farmers to research centers and
other farmer participatory research sites in Mexico; 4)
technical courses and workshops for farmers on topics
of interest relating to the problems identified.


To help farmers decide which technology to
investigate, exploratory meetings were held in
individual communities and, subsequently, priority
setting and technology selection workshops attended
by participants from all three communities. Among
other things, participants were able to weigh the
relative merits of the most attractive options, applying
the following criteria:


* The extent of use of local resources.
* The availability of the required information and
materials.
* The cost of applying the option.
* The amount of work needed to apply the option.
* The risks involved.
* The ease of learning the option.
* That the technology offer several benefits of value.


For each criterion, participants scored the proposed
options on a 1-4 scale. The options with the highest
scores were deemed the most acceptable. Finally, the
farmers themselves gathered in their individual
community groups and, in the absence of the project
scientists, drew up a list of the technologies they were
interested in studying.


The next step was to define and plan farmers'
experiments (EC). During the previous steps,
researchers had outlined some of the principles of
scientific experimentation and their purpose. It was
recognized, however, that farmer experimenters have
their own aims and methodologies and that, for the
purposes of the Mixteca Project, scientific methods
would be adapted to or simply complement farmers'
own approaches. With this in mind, farmers were


queried about their conceptual framework and
experimental methods, using the following questions:


* Why conduct a given experiment?
* Where should the experiment be conducted?
* How should the experiment be carried out?
* How do you determine if what you are testing is
actually not better than farmers' normal practices?
* How do you share what you have learned with
others?


From there, the following steps were followed to design
the experiments: 1) analyze the results of the priority
setting workshops or previous local experiments in the
community; 2) planning and design; 3) follow-up and
evaluation, with visits to individual and group plots; 4)
evaluation workshops; 5) exchange of impressions
among farmer-experimenters.


Project scientists suggested comparing each test with
a simultaneous check and uniform management of the
checks and all experimental treatments, conducting
both in the same types and slopes of soils and under
the same conditions. The project scientists visited
experiments and took note of farmers' comments to
obtain complementary information. The information
was used to plan subsequent experiments.


Technical support from the project came in the form of
information on participatory techniques to facilitate
decision-making and priority-setting, mediation in
conflicts, and assistance in recording data. The project
also provided material support to establish
experiments. During the second cycle of experiments,
each group of farmer experimenters also received a
small amount of risk capital or money to be managed
as revolving funds.


Finally, project scientists also conducted experiments
that either complemented those of farmer-
experimenters or tested other promising options.
Farmers were encouraged to visit the plots, give their
opinion, and test options of interest in their own fields.


0











Early Achievements
and Disappointments



Institutional cooperation

During August-October, 1998, Alternativas and
CIMMYT discussed project objectives and strategies.
The differences in institutional philosophies and
approaches were strongly evident in the inability of the
two organizations to agree about a clear philosophy or
approach for the project, as well as concerning their
respective roles or overall project supervision.
Alternatives' portrayed CIMMYT as an "imperialistic"
promoter of seed + chemicals technology in a fragile,
marginal area surrounded by an ecological reserve (a
national cactus preservation zone), while Alternativas
felt they stood for ecological conservation and
practices associated with organic farming. The debate
concerned the use of improved seed, conservation
tillage, external inputs, and maize-based agriculture.
Alternatives' proposal centered around amaranth and
downplayed the importance of the maize-bean-squash
intercrop. Moreover, their water harvesting proposal as
part of "Water Forever" was not aimed at providing
irrigation for agriculture.


Given the above differences, it was agreed that
activities should follow these guidelines: 1) ecological
diversity should be protected and fostered; 2) local
practices and production systems should be
respected; 3) the introduction of improved seed and
the use of agro-chemicals should be avoided; and 4)
the communities and the community projects of
Alternatives should be respected. There was
disagreement, however, regarding the Mixteca
Project's basic methodology as well. On the one hand,
Alternatives was demanding a participatory approach,
but on the other they balked at a methodology that
invested farmers and communities with increasing
levels of control over choices of technology. For
example, the NGO opposed the diagnostic workshops,
because their personnel already "knew" the problems.


Alternatives also disagreed with the practical training
offered to farmers on preparing organic fertilizers and
insecticides, because their technical staff were already
familiar with the practices. (In this case it was evident the
knowledge had not been effectively transferred to the
communities.) In the end, an agreement was reached
with Alternativas whereby the Mixteca Project would:


1. Identify the main constraints to agricultural
productivity and sustainability
2. Identify diverse technical options that could help
improve production and sustainability.
3. Evaluate through farmer experimentation the
performance of the options identified.
4. Support Alternativas with strategic research on
amaranth and serve as a liaison between the NGO
and research centers.


The central theme was to be the conservation and
rational use of water and soil, as a way to deal with the
semiarid conditions and the degradation of agricultural
land. A complementary study on male-sterility in
amaranth was proposed, as well as an analysis of the
region's prevalent soils. It was also agreed to conduct
participatory rural assessment workshops to analyze
problems and possible solutions together with farmers,
as well as to continue with farmer experimentation as
an approach for testing, adapting, and promoting
technology.


Regarding site selection, it was agreed to work within
a micro-zone where the NGO had recently begun
activities and wished to strengthen them. The addition
of altitudinal and soil diversity as criteria resulted in the
selection of sites representing a broad range of
conditions found in the region.


Notwithstanding, the initial polemics created an
atmosphere of uncertainty and friction that left
Alternatives unsatisfied. Finally, in mid-1999 Alternativas
officially abandoned the project, although in practice the
NGO had stopped participating as of the beginning of
that year.











Community cooperation


Obtaining the approval and cooperation of the
communities for the project was an important
accomplishment. Initial contact was established with
Lunatitlan, Nochixtlan, Zapoquila, and Fronteras. This
was accomplished with the help of the leaders of
Alternatives' amaranth program, who put the Mixteca
project representatives in touch with authorities in each
community. It was the decision of the leaders of the local
amaranth project to present the project proposal to local
authorities, and this turned out to be crucial. They in turn
authorized a community assembly, which allowed the
Mixteca scientists a public forum to present the project to
all community members, rather than linking with a select
group and possibly creating or exacerbating rivalries and
divisions in the community. The assemblies were
arranged as part of the normal program for such events,
and were well attended, but only 10-15 farmers from
each community finally ended up participating in the
Mixteca Project. Participants in the meetings were mostly
men in the first three communities. When work began
with the farmers' associations, women from those groups
also began to participate in project activities.


Farmers in two other communities approached by project
representatives were disappointed upon learning that
they would receive only technical support and small
financial contributions for experimentation. They had
expected more extensive financial support or credits, a
full-time technical advisor, and assistance in marketing
products. For this reason, they declined to participate.


Project communities


The first cycle of experiments was established in
Lunatitlan, Nochixtlan, and Zapoquila, located in a
small watershed about 35 km long in the north of the
Mixteca Oaxaqueia. The villages cover a range of
environments typical of the Mixteca (Table 2; Fig. 1).


In early 2000, project participants linked with other
organizations and communities that had ties with the
original three, as a way of fostering exchanges of
experiences and technologies. Two communities
from the Mixteca Alta, a highland zone (2,200 masl,
dry temperate climate) were chosen (San Francisco
of the municipality of Teopan and La Labor of the
municipality ofAsunci6n Nochixtlan); and one
women community group from the Mixteca Baja.


Despite the differences in environment, the
communities share certain features: scarce
precipitation, mostly in rainfall from June to
September with a dry spell from mid-July to mid-
August; thin, shallow soils, with medium depth
topsoil only in riverain areas and valleys; a pH of
6.5-8.0; and scant vegetation (bushes, cactus, spiny
plants, grasses, and some oaks only at higher
altitudes).


The maize-bean intercrop predominates, followed by
bean, wheat, and amaranth monocrops. Cultivation
is done by hand and with draft animals, with little
use of agro-chemicals. The following are more
detailed descriptions of the communities.


Table 2. Characteristics of the primary project communities.

Altitude Maximum Minimum Annual Soil
Community (masl) temp. (C) temp. (C) rainfall (mm) types

Lunatitlan 1,580 27 12-15 625-700 Regosol and Litosol
Nochixtlan 1,810 24-27 12 700 Feozem and Litosol
Zapoquila 2,020 24 12 700 Litosol and Rendzina

Source: Maps of the Mexican National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Informatics (INEGI).











Lunatitlan belongs to the municipality of Santiago
Chazumba. It has a semiarid, subtropical climate and
receives the least precipitation (250-400 mm per year)
of any of the project communities and a long mid-
season dry spell (as much as 45 days) during July and
August. It is chiefly hillsides with small plateaus. Soils
are very thin, shallow (10-20 cm), gravelly with rocky
outcroppings, and of medium texture. Inhabitants
practice few soil or water conservation measures.
Cactuses constitute the predominant vegetation, with
some shrubs. Amaranth and red prickly pear cropping
has recently been promoted. The mainstays of the
local economy are goat herding and gathering prickly
pears (pitayo and jiotilla); basic grain production
provides only partial subsistence. The locals say that
half the original population now lives in other cities;
these emigrants send back money to supplement their
families' incomes. Inhabitants are well-organized and
receptive to external assistance. They have maintained
good relationships with a range of outside
organizations and obtained various types of aid.
Alternatives has worked intensively in the community
on amaranth cropping and in the construction of small
dams as part of its ecological restoration efforts.


San Juan Nochixtlan also belongs to the municipality
of Santiago Chazumba. The climate is semiarid
subtropical with 350-550 mm of precipitation per year.
The landscape is rugged, with a small valley. Farm
fields are located at the bases of hills and bordering a
seasonal stream; soils are of medium depth. Most
plots feature the beginnings of soil conservation works.
The maize-bean intercrop again is predominant, and
provides food security for most inhabitants in those
grains. Land tenure conflicts are a serious problem in
the community; some farmers conserve the traditional
concept of communal land (these are most often linked
with the political opposition), while others consider
themselves as small-holder owners of the land they
farm. Mixteca Project participants came principally
from the former group.


Zapoquila is the seat of a small municipality. The
climate is semiarid temperate, with frosts during
October-February. Rainfall oscillates around a
mean of 550 mm per year, with a mid-season
drought during much of July-August. Vegetation
includes oak trees with scrub grasses and shrubs.
Some inhabitants keep peach and avocado
orchards. Farm soils are shallow and of medium-to-
fine texture. There are soil conservation works that
have been abandoned. In addition to maize and
some wheat, farmers raise cattle and goats. During
the project a dispute arose for the mayor's position;
the resulting discord hampered efforts to promote
farmer experimentation. Most notably, the village
has lost half its population in the last 15 years.


Ayuquililla is situated in the extreme northwest of
the Mixteca, in Huajuapan District. At 1,550 meters
above sea level (masl) and with an annual
precipitation of 400 mm, the village has a semiarid
subtropical climate. The predominant vegetation is
composed of low trees, shrubs, and cactuses.
Farmers' fields are located on hillsides, small
plateaus, and at the foot of hills. Soils are of
shallow-to-medium depth and intermediate texture.
Ayuquililla is home of the association "Mujeres
Productoras de Amaranto (Women Amaranth
Farmers) comprising 22 women and 2 men. It is
part of the group of villages supported by the non-
government organization CACTUS, which promotes
amaranth cropping and small development projects.
The Mujeres project was established in the mid-
1980s as part of a political party and received
diverse support at that time in return for its political
commitments and activities. In recent years, the
group has successfully compartmentalized its
productive and political activities.











Two other important non-government organizations
in the region are the Centro de Desarrollo Integral
Campesino de la Mixteca "Hita Nuni", A.C. (the Hita
Nuni Center of Integral Peasant-Farmer
Development; CEDICAM) and the Uni6n de
Pueblos Choco Mixtecos, A.C. (the Union of
ChocoMixteco Communities, UPCHMAC).


CEDICAM was founded in 1982 and works out of
Nochixtlan to promote integral rural development
through alternative technologies that raise living
standards in Mixteca communities. Its activities in
more than 20 villages include soil and water
conservation, reforestation, community health, and
agricultural production. It has a solid base of
farmer-promoters who follow a strategy described
as "farmer to farmer." It is recently reorienting its
aims toward outputs that allow promoters and
farmers to improve their incomes.


Constituted in 1991 with seven member
communities, UPCHMAC has its offices in San
Francisco Teopan, Coixtlahuaca District in the
northern zone of the Oaxacan Mixteca. Its
objectives include integrated conservation and
improvement of soil, water, and forest resources, as
a platform for enhancing agricultural productivity,
food security, and household incomes.


Both organizations work in the Mixteca highlands, a
zone with elevations from 2,000 to 3,000 masl, rugged
terrain, and severe erosion. Annual rainfall is around
600-700 mm, with the typical July-August drought and
strong risk of frost from October to February. Oak trees
and scrub grass dominate the vegetation. The main
cropping pattern is maize in association with climbing
bean, but wheat and bean monocultures are also
grown, and UPCHMAC participants grow amaranth.
This area contains small valleys that are important
wheat cropping environments, and peach and apple
trees are dispersed throughout the region. Some
farmers even use tractors for plowing. Both
organizations also obtain government support, financial
and of other types, for the communities where they
work. Neither has professional or technical staff; rather,
their extension activities are carried out by their teams
of farmer-promoters.



Results of first diagnostic workshops

From the various sessions with farmers, the problems
that emerged as priorities were lack of moisture and
land degradation (Table 3). The lack of moisture stems
from a perceived decrease in rainfall and the mid-
season drought; both have intensified, in farmers'
estimations, as a result of deforestation, climate
change, and pollution. The low moisture retention
capacity of the soil was also cited.


Table 3. Main constraints to agriculture in the Mixteca region of Mexico: results of diagnostic workshops
with farmers in three communities, 1998.

Number of
Lunatitlan Zapoquila Nochixtlan times mentioned

Lack of water CC, T, L CC, CC2, T, L CC, CC2, T, L 11
Degraded soils CC2, T, L CC2, S, L CC2, T, L 9
Diseases and insect pests L CC2, L T, L 5
Erosion CC2, T T, L 4
Heavy, compacted soils CC2 S, L CC2 4
Lack of residues CC2 CC CC2 3
Frost CC, L 2
Hillsides T, L 2
Weeds CC2 L 2
Late planting L 1

CC = climate calendar; CC2 = crop calendar; T = trend line; S = soil type; L = list of constraints.











Soil degradation is attributed to soils' shallowness,
the reduced application or complete absence of
manure, general erosion, the abandonment of
conservation efforts, and monoculture (understood
here as continual maize-bean intercropping).



Interactions with NGOs

Members of the organizations with whom the Mixteca
Project interacted were already familiar with the
constraints to agricultural productivity in the region,
and were engaged in activities to address some of
them, especially through options to increase incomes
and which complemented their other activities.
Echoing Alternativas' concerns, both CEDICAM and
UPCHMAC objected to the use of improved maize
varieties from CIMMYT, on the basis of 1) their
confidence in the qualities of local materials
developed through farmer selection; 2) the dffculties
of producing or obtaining hybrids locally and the
likelihood that hybrids would perform poorly in the
Mixteca; and 3) the possibility of introducing
transgenic germplasm that might contaminate the
local varieties. But both organizations were willing to
extend the portfolio of their activities beyond simple
water conservation and basic food self-sufficiency
and, building on these, develop technology options
that could generate income for farmers. For
UPCHMAC this meant a serious water harvesting
and utilization proposal, while CEDICAM was open to
testing diverse technical options to enrich its
offerings.


Farmers' participation in the analysis of constraints
showed their knowledge of their environment and its
conditions, as well as the causes of some problems.
However, other constraints went completely
unmentioned, including soil compaction, soils' low
organic matter content and poor water capture and
retention capacity, over-tilling, and over-grazing.


Building on farmers' perceptions and observations
of researchers and participants from the other
organizations, a diagram hypothesizing constraints
and their interrelationships was developed (Fig. 6).
After the diagnostic workshops, important questions
were 1) how best to address the constraints clearly
identified by farmers and 2) how to help farmers
recognize problems that did not emerge from the
workshops, define their causes, and take proper
action. The methodological tools of the Mixteca
Project scientists allowed them as outsiders to
understand the local circumstances and vision quite
well, but the farmers seemed to weary at times of
discussing in detail problems that were common
knowledge for them, and some farmers even withdrew
from the process, complaining that there was a lot of
talk with few clear proposals or offers to show for it. It
also may have helped for the scientist leading the
workshop to emphasize more the importance of going
through the diagnostic exercises to get farmers to buy
into the process. Collaboration with the NGOs was
easier in this sense, since there was no need to
organize groups nor define a set of problems. Working
with them, however, did entail adjustments in the
project's ideology, methods, and agenda of activities.


The most effective tools in the workshops were the
crop cycle calendar, the trend graphs, and the list of
problems. Through the calendar, participants clearly
identified points during the crop cycle when problems
occurred or certain actions were required. Using the
list of problems gave a firm sense of priorities by
providing a head count of the farmers who felt one or
another of the problems to be paramount and also
revealing the diversity of constraints. Finally, this
approach also got around the hurdle of discussions
and outcomes being dominated by the most eloquent
participants. The trend line also depicted the
constraints of greatest concern and helped
participants to consider their changes over time.
When using these three tools, the recommended


2 CIMMYT never aimed to introduce hybrid maize specifically, but rather discussed offering a selection of both hybrids and open
pollinated varieties that were deemed most adapted to the conditions of the Mixteca, a region where the center had never
worked before. Finally, CIMMYT does not conduct field tests of transgenic maize nor promote this product anywhere in Mexico.











order is first to work through the problem list, then to
draw up the crop cycle calendar to indicate when
constraints are felt and when corrective actions
should be taken and, finally, to construct the
trend line.



Elaborating Technical Options


Lack of water and soil degradation were identified as
the region's priority problems. To address them,
project participants developed a menu of technical
options based on or modified according to 1) the
opinions farmers expressed during the diagnostic
workshop, 2) the opinions of scientists and other
specialists working in the region, 3) the ideas of
farmers after visits to research centers and farm fields
in central and northern Mexico, 4) knowledge gained
by farmers in training workshops, and 5) close
collaboration with the other organizations mentioned
in this document.



Proposals from individual villages

The initial proposals for technology amendments from
the three main villages are largely aimed at correcting
soil degradation, and less at addressing the lack of
water (Table 4). This outcome reflected farmers' clear



Table 4. Proposals from farmers in three villages of
the Mixteca region of Mexico for addressing the
region's main constraints to agriculture, 1998.

Lack of water Soil degradation

Lunatitlan Reforest Use farmyard manure
Organic fertilization
Build barriers and drainage
Rotate crops
Nochixtlan Build water retention
barriers Select seed of local maize
Level land Organic fertilization
Select seed of
local maize Use green manures
Reduce erosion
Zapoquila Select seed of
local maize Organic fertilization
Restore stone/brick barriers


sense of impotence on the water issue, as well as
their realization of the significant (perhaps
prohibitive) costs of any sustained and effective
actions to locate or capture additional water for
agriculture.


There were several proposals for organic soil
fertilization, and a general rejection of mineral
fertilizers due to their high cost, the risk of losing the
investment they represent in the case of crop
failure, and a farmers' lore about it weakening the
soil. Following in frequency were suggestions for
barriers to guard against erosion and help capture
and retain water, efforts that farmers felt would
entail high labor costs. Finally, there were proposals
to select and test seed of local maize for drought
tolerance and early maturity.


Farmers and others working in the NGOs had very
specific interests and higher expectations than
independent farmers. They were particularly
interested in the capture and efficient use of water
through systems such as small-scale irrigation,
greenhouses, and nurseries for forest and fruit
plants. Another interesting idea was that of actually
improving local maize varieties for tolerance to
drought and to low nitrogen and iron soils. With
CACTUS and its women's group, the focus was on
garden vegetable production through small-scale
drip irrigation systems and technical support to
systematize the production of oyster mushrooms.



Input from scientists

A 1999 brainstorming event in which scientists from
participated helped broaden the menu of options
and identify fragile vs potentially more productive
environments (Table 5). This group gave greatest
importance to organic fertilization, crop
diversification, forage crops, and summer pasturing.
Interest or preference was evidenced among other
ways by the number of researchers at the
discussion table for a given topic.











Composting or fertilization were seen as options for
intensifying production. The participants pointed out
the need to evaluate potential mineral and organic
sources of nutrients. Potential areas of intensification
identified included riverain areas and terraced lands
with medium depth topsoils. Regarding farmers'
reluctance to use mineral fertilizers, it was suggested
that ways be sought to reduce risks of crop failure,
increase the efficiency of use, evaluate doses and
mixtures, and analyze profitability prior to introducing
the option. Emphasis was also placed on use of
organic fertilizers, possible sources being a range of
manures, human excrement, plant biomass, and
household residues. Composting and
vermicomposting were mentioned as potentially
useful. Regarding some of these suggestions, it was
mentioned that goat manure is becoming scarce and
expensive, use of biomass in composts would
compete with its use as forage, and use of human
excrement goes against local culture. Training was
suggested as a way to deal with these constraints.




Table 5. Pooled suggestions and priorities of scientists
from various Mexican and other research and
extension organizations* regarding technology options
for addressing the main constraints to agriculture in
the Mixteca region, Mexico, January, 1999.

Topic Number of proposals Preference

Fertilization and composting 6 10
Cropping system diversification 8 8
Forages and summer pasturing 10 8
Live fences and cover crops 6 3
Irrigation 5 1
Maize germplasm 4 0
Reduced tillage + mulching 4 0
Cropping system intensification 3 0
Social processes 3 0

* Included participants from USDA-Agroforestry; the Mexican non-
government organizations Alternativas, A.C., and Centro de Apoyo
Comunitario Trabajando Unidos, A.C. (CACTUS); the Mexican National
Institute of Forestry, Agriculture, and Livestock Research (INIFAP), and
the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT).


More diversified cropping was cited as a way to diversify
and increase income, strengthen food security, buffer
risks of crop losses, and enhance system sustainability.
Among the approaches considered were intercrops,
annual and seasonal rotations, and the introduction of
new food and forage crops. Examples include maize-
medicago, forage legumes, renewal of a more
diversified maize-based intercrop (including maize-
amaranth-bean-groundnut), and orchards. Regarding
forages and summer pastures, there is a need to
evaluate pastoral areas and do a resource balance to
identify opportunities for intensification through
cultivation of trees and grasses and to set aside areas
to provide firewood, biomass, etc. Implementing many
of these ideas sustainably would require prior,
communal agreements and training and education for
farmers and other inhabitants. Other technologies
discussed included biomass banks, improved
productivity in summer pastures, reforestation with
multi-purpose trees, protection of natural vegetative
regeneration, and more efficient use of available
forages.


Proposals for intensification of riverain and terraced
lands included increased fertilization, irrigation, use of
improved germplasm, and cropping diversification.
There were also proposals for environmental restoration
and enhancing agrosystem sustainability (barriers,
diversification, rotations, cover crops, mulching,
agroforestry systems, etc.). Finally, there was the
recognition of the need for a systems approach that took
into account socioeconomic and cultural factors.



Tours and farmer exchanges

Farmer tours and exchanges provided an opportunity for
project participants to see firsthand the application of
some of the technical options previously only discussed.
Most of the sites visited were chosen in part for their
similarity to the Mixteca project locations information
generously provided by CIMMYT's geographic
information systems and modeling laboratory (Fig. 7).











An extensive visit was made to the arid central
Mexican states of Guanajuato, Michoacan, Quer6taro,
and Zacatecas. The practices Mixteca farmers found
most interesting were the use of mulches, drip
irrigation, soil conservation techniques, reduced tillage,
selection among local varieties, animal-drawn planters,
integrated pest management, and dry latrines.


Some farmers had a chance to interact with members
of the "Farmer Experimentation Group" (Grupo de
Experimentaci6n Campesina; GEC), comprising
farmers and scientists who discuss participatory
approaches and share technologies for organic and
sustainable agriculture. Other farmer organizations
visited included 1) the Uni6n Tzansekan Tinemi in
Chilapa, Guerrero State; 2) Maderas del Pueblo del
Sureste, A.C., in Zanatepec, Oaxaca; and 3)
Desarrollo Comunitario de Los Tuxtlas in San Andr6s
Tuxtla, Veracruz. Through exchanges with farmers in
these organizations, the Mixteca farmers learned
about green manure cover crops (GMCC), live fences,
soil conservation measures, herbal medicine,
household and botanical insects, organic fertilizers,
family orchards and, more recently, alternative feeds
for sheep and the processing of farm products.


Training workshops


The training workshops helped fill gaps in farmers'
information on key topics and establish the importance
of the technical proposals (Table 6). There were
workshops on preparing organic fertilizers


Scientists and farmers coincided regarding the
primacy of water and soil as concerns but, whereas
the scientists proposed forest regeneration through
community-level changes in the management of goat
herds, farmers were not interested in this topic (Table
7). The scientists also proposed little regarding
nutrition, health, or agricultural machinery. Farmers
said nothing at all about nutrition or health. The group
GEC made moderate contributions with regard to soil
and pest management. Their most significant input
was fostering the communication and analytical skills
of farmers and generally encouraging them to open up
to new ideas, all of which helped improve the process
of local management.



Choosing options for experimentation

In March 1999 interested farmer experimenters
reviewed a list of 32 technical proposals, aided by a
printed guide describing possible advantages and


Table 6. Training workshops for farmers in the Mixteca region, Mexico, 1999-2000.

Workshop topic (Date) Technological themes Ecological themes

Organic fertilizers (April, 1999) Preparing, applying organic fertilizer Soil microfauna, macro and micronutrients,
composts (soil, leaf).

Seed selection in local maize varieties Selection procedures. Selection criteria.
(November, 1999)

Management of insect pests (April 2000) Pest management; control measures; Pests vs beneficial insects; Life cycles
experimental strategies; botanical of pests.
insecticides.

Soil management (May 2000) Management activities; live fences; Soil components; cause-effect relationships;
level curve; intercrops and rotations; macro vs micro nutrients; soil life forms;
GMCC; foliar fertilizers; mineral fertilizers, erosion.

Irrigation (November 2000) Drip irrigation; aspersion; irrigated crops. Infiltration; water retention capacity;
evaporation.











disadvantages of each (Table 8). Participants for
Lunatitlan decided to focus on fewer options, to
increase the likelihood of success in their efforts.


In this first attempt to select technology options for
experimentation, the most attractive options appeared
to be the introduction of new crop varieties, legume
green manures or cover crops, organic insecticides,
and trees for use as green manures and forage
(Fig. 8)The use of mulches and hydrogel proved less
interesting to farmers. Regarding desirable qualities for
new crop varieties, farmers cited early maturity,
adaptability to the region's peculiar (and difficult)
rainfall distribution pattern, and tolerance to drought
and low soil fertility. In the case of maize, varieties
should have large, white grains and produce abundant
foliage for forage.


Regarding mulches, cover crops, and green manure/
forage trees, farmers said that they would probably
serve chiefly as forage. Farmers from two of the
villages expressed interest in irrigation systems, and it
was agreed that they should visit other places where
different systems were being used to study their
feasibility for the Mixteca. Finally, farmers expressed
interest in obtaining a small combine for wheat, given
that some had left off sowing the crop because of the
difficulties of harvesting it.


Farmers from the three villages next gathered in a
workshop to prioritize the technical options in which
they had previously expressed interest, applying a
range of criteria and scoring the options on a 1-4 scale


Table 7. Contributions (number of proposals) to technical options from different sources in the Mixteca Project.

Technology Farmers Scientists Farmer tour Workshops GEC*

Water management 6 12 17 13 2
Soil conservation/use 5 22 18 15 16
Pest management 3 5 9 6 6
Nutrition and health 0 0 6 12 5
Alternative crops 6 5 13 4 3
Goat herd management 0 10 8 1 4
Agricultural machinery 2 3 3 1 1
Reforestation 2 3 3 1 2
Maize germplasm 2 4 1 2 3
Social process 0 3 0 0 0
Methodology 0 3 0 0 0
Total 26 70 78 55 42

* Grupo de Experimentacion Campesina.


Table 8. Number of farmers from three villages interested in specific technological options for addressing
water and soil conservation and management concerns in the Mixteca region of Mexico, 1999.

Zapoquila Nochixtlan Lunatitlan Total number
(n =10) (n = 8)* (n =9)* of proposals

Maize varieties 6 3 7 16
Cover crops 1 4 4 9
Organic insecticides 2 3 5
Composting 3 3
Trees (green manure, forage) 1 3 4
Live barriers 1 1 2
Hydrogel -1 1
Live fences 1 1
Groundnut 2 2
Red wheat 1 1
Experiments proposed 15 15 14 44











(Table 8). The event was facilitated partly by members
of three NGOs (GIRA, CESE, and PAIR) that work
with farmers in Michocan state, Mexico, and
representatives ofAlternativas also participated.


The options of green manures and green manure/
forage trees caused a bit of controversy. Farmers
doubted whether they would actually be able to fulfill
both aims, given the likely intensity of their use as
forage, and feared the competition for scarce moisture
and nutrients between legumes and the main crop.


Notwithstanding, by the end farmers had developed a
list of 70 possible experiments, and 10 other farmers
expressed a desire to learn breeding techniques for
improving their local varieties (Fig. 9). The most
attractive options were use of organic insecticides, a
liquid compost known as supermagro for foliar
application, the introduction of new maize varieties,
and improvement of local maize varieties. Options
such as composting, supermagro, and organic
insecticides caused considerable excitement,
especially since the workshop featured practical
demonstrations on organic fertilizers and organic
insecticides. In the case of new maize varieties,
interest was in part based on the assurance of
obtaining seed. The lesser interest in trees, live


fences, and green manure cover crops was due in part
to the above-mentioned questions regarding their
efficacy and the fact that any benefits would not be
evident in the near term.


The prioritization workshop was a group exercise
involving participants from all three communities, but
the actual choice of experiments occurred individually
and separately within each village (Table 9). Thus, the
program of experiments eventually conducted reflects
only indirectly the group's pooled interests, which were
likely affected by influential farmers, scientists, and
NGO representatives attending the workshop.


For the participating organizations, the technologies of
greatest interest were those that complemented their
existing offerings, some of which had already been
tested previously in the three main villages.
UPCHMAC had a well-defined vision on water issues,
comprising the following key practices: construction of
earth-and-rubble dams; capture of water from springs
and marshes; clearing of silt and sediments from
existing dams; exploring the construction and use of
concrete reservoirs and similar storage technologies;
recycling of bath and wash water; and the efficient
transport and use of irrigation water. Their soil
conservation recommendations emphasized testing of


Table 9. Summary of the priorities and number of experiments proposed by farmers during a workshop to
address water and soil conservation and management concerns in the Mixteca region of Mexico, 1999.

Zapoquila (n= 7) Nochixtlan (n = 8) Lunatitlan (n = 11)
Priority Number Priority Number Priority Number
Technology rating* of proposal rating of proposals rating of proposals

Organic insecticides 20.5 4 18.0 8 20.0 2
Forage trees 21.0 0 19.0 1 0
Improving local varieties 22.0 0 16.0 2
Composting 17.5 4 19.0 8 8
Green manure trees 16.0 0 19.0 8 0
New maize varieties 15.5 4 15.0 1 23.0 5
Supermagro" 4 8 1
Live fences 19.0 1 -8 0
Live barriers 15.0 1 10.0 0 0
Cover crops 18.0 1 9.0 0 13.0 0
Hydrogel -0 9.0 0 0
Mulches 17.0 0 0 0
Total # of experiments -19 42 18

* The proposals were scored on a 1-4 scale; ** A liquid compost for foliar application.











green manures and cover crops. Finally, they
recommended careful documentation of experiences
with the above, as a source of feedback for promoters.
CEDICAM envisioned its linkages with the Mixteca
Project more in terms of testing complementary
technologies, the results of which would feed into its
own promotional activities.


Despite the opposition of Alternativas and UPCHMAC
to introducing improved varieties of maize, farmers
judged it prudent to test a series of genotypes of
maize, wheat, oats, and triticalle, well as drip irrigation
and greenhouses. There also arose the idea of
establishing fruit tree nurseries as agroforestry
systems and to strengthen erosion control ridges.


CACTUS in particular linked with the women amaranth
producers of Ayuquililla in support of their experiments
with drip irrigation for garden vegetables and, later,
legumes for grain production and weed control, and
the introduction of sweet potato and yucca.


Evolution in farmer attitudes. During this stage,
some of the farmers who had begun participating
during the earlier stages dropped out or decided to
participate simply as observers. Causes cited by other
farmers included the absence of monetary
remuneration or gifts or clear, quick solutions to
farmers' concerns. Added to this were disputes relating
to land tenure and politics.


Partly to avoid conflicts stemming from the above or
from partners failing to follow through on commitments,
it was agreed that farmers should conduct their
experiment individually, rather than in groups. Only in
Lunatitlan did farmers decide to organize in groups for
certain experiments.


Project scientists fostered and supported the
prioritization and selection of options for
experimentation. Among other things they developed
and distributed to all participants information sheets


summarizing advantages, disadvantages, and
requirements (labor, materials, other) of the various
options. They adopted a passive role at actual
decision-making points in the process, leaving this to
farmers individually and at the community level. As a
recommendation for future exercises of this type, the
team of scientists need to meet beforehand to agree
upon how they will facilitate discussions, the aims
they seek, and the criteria they will suggest.



Farmer Experimentation in
the Project


Farmer experimentation in the Mixteca Project was
just that. Farmers themselves designed the
experiments, provided most materials and labor, with
limited support from the project in certain areas
(equipment, seed, technical guidance), and evaluated
their results.


Key suggestions from project scientists regarded
uniform management and use of checks. These were
afforded in prior discussions with farmers of
experimental principles, with the following basics:


* Experiments are conducted to address and
(hopefully) solve a problem.
* Experiments should be located where access is
easy and other farmers can see them.
* The experimental plot should be relatively small, so
as to reduce risks, and on land that is uniform in
soil and other properties, or similar to plots where
replicate or check experiments are conducted.
* Desirable characteristics for an experiment are that
it be 1) easy for most farmers to conduct; 2)
comprehensible to farmers; 3) conducted using
typical management practices; 4) provide results
that improve food security, incomes (via enhanced
productivity and/or reduced costs), and/or the
environment.












Mixteca, Elevation and Sites








MurvcIFpcw endi
A l "aM.,. Wun20 9 e E nW

*"' 6W I o-.d

i. -.r ,,17 Do, IS' 0


L. 20WXJ Z100
.-: w ... r2 22 ._00-
5- .d a y;., r ld-lo00


FGUERR ainO n px 2i ,




i1D 0 IG 233' 41 Itkwm
.... PQ4 --a-h




Figure 1. The Mexican Mixteca: altitude ranges and project work sites.





130
120 ---- -- Lunatitlan Nochixtlian A Zapoquila
110 -
100 -
90 -
80 -
70 -
60 -
50 -
40 -
30 -
2 0 - - - -- - - -
o10 -- --, -


JA J2 J3 J4 JS J6 JA J2 J3 J4 JS J6 Al A2 A3 A4 A5 A6 S1 S2 S3 S4 S5 S6 01 02 03 04 05 06
5-day periods

Figure 2. Rainfall patterns in three project sites, the Mexican Mixteca, June-October 1999.












MAY JUN JUL AUG SEPT OCT NOV DEC
P R/S 1st 2st T H C


P = plowing; R/S = forming rows/sowing; 1st weeding; 2nd weeding; T = thinning; H = harvest; C = chopping residue

From left to right:
1) Sowing (15 June is mean date).
2) Intenseplant growth, up to around 40 daysaftersowing.
3) Appearance of flag leaf(i.e.,onsetof reproductivestage).
4) Maleflowering, around 65-75 daysaftersowing.


Figure 3. Typical cropping calendar for the Mexican Mixteca.






Farmer
proposals
and vision.


N\


Adapted
technologies
and experience.


Figure 4. General scheme of farmer-researcher interactions.














A S 0 N D


E F M A M J J A S O N D


IA CA RO PTR Farmer tour Local variety


selection

First cycle of farmer experimentation


E F M A M J


J A S 0 N D


E F M A M


--Insect pests T- ----
Iecond cycle of farmer Drip irrigation
Insect pests Second cycle offarmer Drip irrigation


Soil


experimentation Irrigation


IA Institutional agreements
CA Community agreements
D Participatory diagnostics
RO Researcher options


PTR Prior technology review
P&S Prioritization and selection workshop
OA Agreements with other organizations


Figure 5. General scheme of project activities, the Mexican Mixteca, 1998-99.


Wood and
firewood


Labor
required


Burning


High
investment


Abandonment of conservation works


Figure 6. Hypothetical cause-effect diagram of agricultural productivity constraints in the Mexican Mixteca.


1998


Manure P&S


2000












Figure 7. Other locations in Mexico with environments similar to those of Nochixtlan
village, the Mexican Mixteca.






rI .. ^ ,-.


sr Slmlrarlty
5 Htrd- UplrrLn Cimale M0i40


7


7-


Figure 8. Relative interest of farmers in a range of
technology options, the Mexican Mixteca, April 1999.


Organic Compost
insecticides
11%


Green manure
cover crops
20%


Live barriers 5%
Hydrogel 2%

-- Live fence
2%


Maize varieties
37%


Figure 10. Technologies that farmers tested, the
Mexican Mixteca, 1999-2000.


Figure 9. Technologies of interest identified in
a priority setting workshop with farmers, the
Mexican Mixteca, April 1999.


Organic insecticides


Green manure cover
crops
1%


New maize varieties
22%


Compost
24%


STrees 3%
Live barriers 1%
Live fence 1%


Liquid compost 17%


Improving local varieties
13%





Figure 11. Effects of applying the liquid compost
"supermagro" on maize, four farmers, the Mexican
Mixteca, 1999.


3,000


Cornelio Atanasio Tomas Manuel


* Grain, check I-r :,i, 1/2 liter Grain, 1 liter











* To be able to judge the effectiveness of an
experiment and obtain useful results, farmers
should record observations and measurements,
and these should be compared with something else
(i.e., a check).
* Experimental plots should be managed in exactly
the same way as the "check" plots, with only one
factor (i.e. the experimental one) being variable.
* Finally, results should be shared with peers in the
village and the region. Three approaches were
suggested 1) conducting experiments where they
would be in view of other farmers; 2) organizing
farmer visits to the experiments of other farmers;
and 3) organizing periodic, project-wide events
where farmers present their results to peers and
discuss their experiences.


After the first cycle of experiments, participants
gathered once more to discuss the outcomes and
principles of experimentation, in view of their
experiences. A key conclusion was that "...a poorly
conducted experiment does not help... on the
contrary, it causes distrust of the work" and of
experimentation in general.


The most challenging aspect to deal with was that of
measuring variables, given that farmers had
previously judged technologies chiefly on visual
observation. To date few have become involved in
yield assessments carried out by scientists in the
project. Another point of contention is the size of
experiments, because some farmers have viewed
large experiments as a source of financial support.


Participating farmer experimenters


Most of the first cycle of experiments were begun
between June and August, 1999 (although testing of
CIMMYT maize varieties began in March that year).
The second cycle of experiments was established
mainly in the rainy season of 2000, although testing of
drip irrigation began in March orApril. In January 2001,
drip irrigation experiments were expanded.


The progress reports that follow refer mainly to
activities in Lunatitlan, Nochixtan, and Zapoquila,
whose continuous participation allowed analysis during
the entire project.


Their was a steady attrition of farmer experimenters
throughout the project (Table 10), starting from 49 in
the exploratory stages and 44 in the diagnostic
workshop. As mentioned, farmers observed that this
was due chiefly to the lack of gifts or direct monetary
remuneration and the extra work involved. Disputes in
at least two communities limited the addition of new
participants.


Collaboration with the NGOs began in 2000; their
contributions will thus be mentioned separately. There
were 22 women from the group in Ayuquililla, 8
promoters in both CEDICAM and UPCHMAC. In 2001,
a group of 8 women from Nochixtlan began
participating. Members of the NGOs have had similar
experiences with desertion, but were eventually able to
form work groups that included open and progressive
farmers willing to make a commitment and contribute
their own resources.


Table 10. Number of farmers involved in the Mixteca Project.

Diagnostic Priority Experiments, Experiments,
Organization workshops setting phase I phase II

Lunatitlan 12 12 9 10 8
Nochixtlan 17 12 8 8 7
Zapoquila 20 20 7 7 6
Ayuquililla 22
CEDICAM 8
UPCHMAC 8
Totals 49 44 24 25 59











Each farmer-experimenter established from one to
four experiments in the first cycle (Table 11). In the
second cycle, 81% of the farmer-experimenters
maintained the same number of experiments. A few
participants conducted more than four, a fact that
could be judged a success for the project, but made
them hard to follow-up and monitor. Finally, it is
interesting to note that, although the number of
farmer-experimenters dropped 16% from one year to
the next, the number of experiments increased 32%.
This resulted from four participants who ran between 5
and 11 experiments each.


Participation and experiments were better planned
and designed during the second cycle. Farmer-
experimenters used checks more often, either
simultaneous (side by side) or temporal (comparing
different years). Less well understood were the
concepts of keeping experiments small to limit risks
and cost, or growing trials and checks in uniform
environments.



Experiments by topic

The range of technologies tested also increased year
by year. In 1999, experiments were conducted on 8
technologies; in 2000 the number reached 14 (Fig. 10;
Table 12). This was due in part to the inclusion of new
options about which farmer-experimenters initially
lacked information. Farmer interest in each particular


Table 11. Number of experiments conducted per
farmer-experimenter in the Mixteca Project.

Farmer experimenters
Experiments 1999 2000

1 12 9
2 8 3
3 2 1
4 3 4
5 2
6 1
11 1

Farmers 25 21
Experiments 46 61


option was spurred in a different way. For example,
training workshops led farmers to test soil
conservation practices (borders, ditches, and contour
ridges, selection of local varieties, organic
insecticides, and irrigation (experimentation for the
latter three of which was expanded in 2001). Direct
observation of potentially relevant technologies during
study tours fired interest in drip irrigation, vegetable
gardening, the animal drawn sowing implement,
wheat, and triticale. Legumes received promotion as
an option when farmers observed project researchers'
trial/demonstration plots. The women farmer-
experimenters focused particularly on crops and
practices that contributed to family food security,
including drip irrigation on small vegetable gardens,
mushroom cultivation, edible legumes, sweet potato,
jicama, and tomato.


Several technologies were discarded after initial
testing, among them highland maize varieties,
composting, and organic fertilizers for foliar
application. In the case of composts, poor
management by some farmer-experimenters resulted
in inadequate decomposition, and the failure of the
rains in the month following their application reduced
or nullified any beneficial effects they might have had
on the crop. The liquid compost "supermagro" raised
expectations; but its use was limited by the difficulties
of making and applying it. The latter was due in part to
the unwillingness of some farmer-experimenters to
share aspersion sprayers provided by the project. In
the second year, funds were allotted for discretionary
use by farmers experimenters, and some purchased
sprayers. The testing of maize varieties also
diminished with time. Grain and forage yields from the
improved varieties and hybrids tested were less than
those of the local varieties, especially at sites above
1,900 masl. At sites below 1,850 masl, farmers tested
varieties derived from local maize genotypes and
supplied by INIFAP. Some performed at least as well
as the local maize in drought tolerance, grain weight,
and quality for use in local dishes, so farmers
continued testing them.











With the entrance of new communities and NGOs in
the project, interest in drip irrigation and green legume
cover crops or green manures increased. The
UPCHMAC group helped in structuring and
implementing experiments, particularly those involving
drip irrigation, white clover, and greenhouses.
Members of CEDICAM also tested drip irrigation and
small greenhouses, and the potential of maize and
wheat varieties.



Technical achievements

Two cycles of experimentation has given a rough idea
of the performance and likely adoption of some of the
technologies tested. Unlike on-station experiments or
scientifically controlled research, in farmer
experiments the trained scientist must adapt to actual
field conditions and observe results and trends
through the lense of farmers' objectives. Thus, results
lack statistical validity, but exhibit lots of common
sense and reflect a participatory process of learning in
action, both for farmers and participating scientists.


This report is based on qualitative observation,
together with farmers, of plots, and comparison and
discussion among farmers themselves. The latter was
complicated by the fact that, even when testing the
same technology, two farmers likely varied their
treatments or used different checks, and this
circumstance was more evident as farmers gained
greater control over the experiments and the process.
Another source of information were discussions and
visits with farmer-experimenters. Yield estimates
directly in the field, where farmer-experimenters had
supposedly followed standard practices and used a
check or some other method of validation,
complemented the information gathered in
conversations. One novel source of information were
direct exchanges of experiences between farmer
experimenters themselves, on their own initiative. The
following section presents technical advances under
the project, briefly describing the technology tested, its
source, materials or inputs used for the experiments,
results of assessments taken to complement farmers'
observations, and a reflection on the knowledge
gained and questions requiring clarification.


Table 12. Experiments conducted in each cycle of the Mixteca Project.

1999 2000
Topic Communities Communities Organizations

Compost 12 6
Foliar fertilizer 5 2 1
Improved maize varieties 22 15 1
Organic insecticides 1 6 1
Live fences 1 2
Green manure covers 3 7 5
Selection of local varieties 6
Drip irrigation 4 2
Soil and water conservation* 5
Live barriers 1 1
Alternative cropping systems 1 maize-amaranth Maize-amaranth, Jicama, sweet
tomato potato, yuca
Forages 2 1
Equipment** 1 planter

Mushrooms 1
Wheat and triticale -2 1
Totals 46 60 16

* Includes borders, ditches, and contour ridges.
*Interest in the equipment was not counted toward the total, if no experiment was performed. The intent was to identify areas for follow-up.











Soil conservation and improvement
measures

Low soil fertility is a chief constraint to agriculture in
low-income countries, and it is continually reduced by
erosion and the low use or lack of use of organic or
chemical fertilizers. Among the options promoted and
tested as part of the project during 1999-2000 were
various soil conservation measures (borders, ridges,
and ditches), fabrication of organic fertilizers
(composts, organic fertilizers for foliar application),
and use of chemical fertilizers. Testing of the above
required farmers to change their work and social
routines. For example, conservation measures must
be done prior to the cropping season, with an
investment in labor during a period when there are
normally no activities. Composts and foliar fertilizers
must be prepared in February and April, and there are
cultural biases against foliar fertilizers whose
ingredients include manure or urine.


Compost. Compost is used widely in organic
agriculture, representing a useful way to recycle
organic residues from many sources. Farmer-
experimenters in the Mixteca Project received training
on the topic from three NGOs based in Michoacan
State. Initial suggestions involved a mixture
comprising three parts manure and four parts crop
residues (stalks, leaves, husks, etc.), with a small
added dose of simple calcium superphosphate. The
management proposed involved constant checking of
humidity and temperature, with weekly mixing to
promote uniform decomposition, for around three
months. Experts from the NGOs suggested two
applications of 1/2 kilogram per plant once at
sowing and again no later than the first weeding
(about 30 days after sowing).


Farmer-experimenters themselves prepared their
composts in diverse manners, ranging from following
the recommendations to simply piling organic residues
into a hole. Diverse as well were the materials used:
1) farm residues, like maize dry matter and cobs and
wheat, bean, and amaranth straw; 2) tree residues,


including dry and green leaves; 3) goat, donkey, horse,
and pig manures; 4) other materials, such as guano, ant
nests, ash, simple superphosphate, and ammonium
sulphate. Of note is that, even under conditions of such
low biomass production, it is possible to find enough
organic material to prepare composts; in the case of
high-value materials (maize forage), using leftovers from
feeding cattle.


Compost preparation lasted from 1.5 to 3 months, with 1
to 5 stirring to air and moisten the mixture. Several of
the ingredients were highly lignified (for example, maize
stalks) and, in some cases, had not decomposed
completely prior to its use. This was the result of short
preparation periods, poor handling (too little stirring or
moistening), and use of large pieces andmaterials that
resist decomposition (maize cobs, stalks). The poorly
decomposed compost posed a risk of N draw-down from
the soil around the crop, as it continued decomposition;
but yellowing (evidence of N deficiency) in the
composted crop beyond levels in the non-composted
check was observed in only one field.


Laboratory analyses showed that the composts can
provide from 0.87 to 2.43% N, from 1,222 to 9,421 ppm
P, and from 5,467 to 14,886 ppm K. They also show that
the composts contain more P, Zn, Fe, CU, and S than the
goat manure commonly used, and that they also provide
more Na and Mn, in some cases. (N, P, Zn, and Fe are
the nutrients in which most soils in the project area are
most deficient.)


Composts were applied at around 30 days after sowing
maize (farmers did not begin preparing their composts
soon enough to apply at sowing). This coincides with the
date they normally apply goat manure, just before the
first weeding. The typical dose was from 0.75 to 1.5
kilograms per plant (from 10 to 12 tons per hectare, at a
62% moisture content). This may seem like a lot, but
farmers considered it appropriate, since composting
allowed them essentially to "stretch" the amounts goat
manure normally available at no extra cash cost. Several
farmers applied the compost in the lowest fertility areas











of their fields, so in the first cycle of testing there was
no statistical difference either for grain (P = 0.45) or
dry matter (P = 0.73) yields. The overall mean is
biased in favor of applying compost by the case of
one farmer who had excellent results (Table 13) but
also affected by farmers choosing to apply the
compost to infertile patches in their fields. Positive
results were due mainly to the use of large amounts
(1.5 to 2.0 kilograms per plant) of compost applied
and its more advanced state of decomposition. In the
first season, 12 farmer-experimenters prepared and
applied composts, 7 of whom said they obtained good
results, including plant color, stalk thickness, and
grain yield. The farmers who did not have positive
results saw no difference except for one case, where
the composted plants showed clear yellowing due to
inadequate prior decomposition of the compost.


In the second season of experiments, farmers felt
more confident about applying from 1.5 to 2.0
kilograms of compost per plant, combining this
treatment in with those of new varieties or canavalia,
and in comparison with chemical fertilizer or guano
(Table 14). Grain production was slightly higher in
checks in four of the five experiments, and there were
contradictory results in another. Nonetheless, all six
farmers who tested composting felt that it gave them
good results, above all in the second plot of Tomas



Table 13. Grain and dry matter production in
composting experiments with maize, the Mixteca
Project, 1999.

Grain (kg/ha) Dry matter (kg/ha)

Name Compost Check Compost Check

Mario 3,849 2,170
Atanasio 364 189 609 560
Celestino 545 772 999 1,607
Juan 3,324 3,469 7,379 6,571
Alejandrino 215 226 2,063 1,886
Average 1,659.4 1,365 2,763 2,656
S.D. 1,585.65 1,273.33 2,717.94 2,313.75
C.V. 95.56 93.28 98.37 87.11


where the practice had been applied for the second
year in a row and plants appeared more vigorous.
Compost was systematically used by farmers on areas
in their plots that were considerably less fertile than
the check plots, and the composted plots eventually
caught up with the test plots in fertility.


Farmer-experimenters sometimes found no
advantages from composting because 1) as in the
previous year, the compost had not adequately
decomposed; 2) a month-long (+ 17 July to 23 August)
drought that delayed the application of the compost; 3)
the major benefits from organic fertilizers begin to
appear from the second to the fourth year of use;
and 4) the compost had been applied in less fertile
sections of the field, compared with the check plots.


These experiences suggest that the compost must be
prepared near water, so it can be kept moist, must
contain a fair combination of soft and harder materials,
must be stirred regularly and completely, must be
applied at sowing, and must be prepared starting at
least 3.5 months before sowing. These practices avoid
problems from N draw-down due to poorly
decomposed compost and the risk of compost's
benefits being lost due to the mid-season drought.


Table 14. Results of composting in maize,
the Mixteca Project, 2000.

Name Treatments Grain Dry matter
(kg/ha) (kg/ha)

Zacarias Check 2,854 3,745
Zacarias Compost 1,223 2,828
Zacarias Chemical fertilizer 3,378 5,028

Tomas V3+guano 1,404 2,243
Tomas V3+compost 1,496 4,071

Tomas 2 Check 515 4,853
Tomas 2 Compost 671 3,892

Nacho Local variety + Canavalia 779 2,745
Nacho Local variety + Canavalia 1,097 4,784
+ compost

Juan Check 2,372 5,091
Juan Compost 3,314 8,459











Supermagro and foliar fertilizers. Supermagro is a
liquid fertilizer for foliar application prepared from
fresh manure diluted in water and enriched with bone
meal, blood, fish scraps (the latter two contributing
minerals), and unrefined sugar and milk to stimulate
fermentation. This mix is fermented anaerobically
for about 1.5 monthsAnalysis showed little N in
supermagro, but that it contained micronutrients
generally lacking in local soils. Other organic, liquid
fertilizers suggested by farmer-experimenters include
fermented, human urine and an infusion prepared
from manure.


Supermagro was an idea of the Michoacan NGOs in
1999; the suggestion for urine- and manure-based
liquid fertilizers emerged from discussions with a
regional organization with which the project
collaborated in 2000. All three were initially rejected,
partly due to farmers' lack of familiarity with foliar
fertilizers and partly due to a lack of sprayers.
Farmers found supermagro hard to prepare and
some of the ingredients hard to obtain. The thought
of using human urine caused distaste. Thus, in 1999
only five farmer-experimenters applied supermagro,
and only two in 2000. There were three cases of
farmers planning to apply urine- and manure-based
liquid fertilizers, but no applications were actually
made.


In 1999, Supermagro was applied to maize around
55 days after sowing, after the second weeding. One
liter of supermagro was dissolved in nine liters of
water, and this mixture was applied from once a week
for three weeks. In 2000, farmers made from four to
six applications per crop cycle starting around 30
days after sowing, often in tandem with composting.


Of the five farmers who applied supermagro in 1999,
four observed positive effects, including improved
plant vigor and color, better grain filling, and heavier
ears (Fig. 11). During harvest, the benefits of applying
supermagro were confirmed: there was a statistically
significant difference from the check for grain yield (P


= 0.057) but not for dry matter (P = 0.527) in 2000, both
farmer-experimenters observed a positive effect, but
there was no measurable increase in yield.


Farmer-experimenters found that a liter or more
supermagro to nine liters of water gave the best results
and that it was important to make weekly applications
starting at early stages of crop development. The
farmers who did not experiment with supermagro
expressed reservations about the benefits reported, and
were generally disinclined to try foliar application
fertilizers, suggesting the need for much further study
and promotion.


Chemical fertilizer. Chemical fertilizer in combination
with organic fertilizer can improve productivity, but is
generally rejected by the organizations with which the
project collaborated, farmers often lack the cash to
purchase it, and the risk of losing their investment when
drought kills the crop provides an added disincentive. At
the time of the project, only 3% or fewer of the farmers
were applying ammonium sulphate or urea alone or
together with 18-46-00 in amounts anywhere from 50 to
100 kilograms of commercial product per hectare on the
least fertile areas of the field. There have been only two
experiments involving soil applications of chemical
fertilizer and one involving urea applied to the leaves.
This is partly because farmers already know that use of
fertilizer produces nearly immediate results, which was
the case for the two experiments where fertilizer was
applied to the soil.


Soil conservation. Conserving soils is one aspect of
soil and fertility management to improve productivity.
With help from CEDICAM, the project promoted the
construction of ditches and borders, but achievements
were few: of the 21 farmer-experimenters, only 2 built
borders as a result of the project promoting this
practice, and 1 farmer built a ditch-border and 2 others
made contour ridges in 2000. This response is similar to
that in four of the project villages where SEMARNAP
and Alternativas have promoted the construction of
borders and ditches through 2,500 peso (US$270/ha)











subsidies. Achieving the aims of these efforts will require
close linking of all stakeholders and tying soil
conservation to projects or activities that bring tangible
economic benefits to farmers.


There seems at least to be a widespread recognition of
the problem. The most acceptable options for farmers
appear to be composting, conservation works, and use
of chemical fertilizers. However, acceptance is limited,
so further development testing, and promotion are
required. Chemical fertilizers are costly, seen as a risky
investment where drought occurs, and suffer from a folk
impression of weakening the soil. Organic fertilizers are
nearer to farmers' daily experience, since they already
apply manure. Constraints to the use of organic
fertilizers include the low availability of biomass, the
work needed to prepare them, and, sometimes, cultural
beliefs. The work of farmer-experimenters can serve
other farmers in the medium and long terms, if the
current trend of emphasizing improved yields continues.



Water conservation and use

Farmers see water as the key productivity constraint in
their systems. After an initial feeling of helplessness,
organizations and villages are exploring diverse options.
The Mixteca Project promoted discussion and diverse
options for capturing, storing, and using water.


Agronomic management of moisture. The most
attractive options here were contour ridging, drought
tolerant varieties, water capture (springs, bogs, and
dams), drip and aspersion irrigation, and use of a
plumbers pump. Options that provided promising
results in tests on farm include subsoiling, irrigation
(Table 15), and mulch applications, on observation plots.


In Antanasio's experiment, subsoiling showed promise
for improving water infiltration and yields. Juan also
improved yields significantly through use of aspersion
and garden sprinkler irrigation. In a 1999 mulching
(maize residues) experiment, results for two sites in
Lunatitlan were statistically equal (P = 0.09) for grain


yield, but numerical analysis showed important
differences (Table 16). The best treatment was the
combination of 3 tons per hectare of residues plus
fertilizer. This could be due to the use of fertilizer, given
that the second-best option was fertilizer alone, and
the worst mulch alone.


The point of this trial was to see if crop residues used
as a mulch could help conserve water and thereby
improve yields. In Nochixtlan the analysis of variance
showed a statistical difference among treatments (P =
0.03), where the test of means showed the best
treatment to be the check, but different only from the
treatment involving 3 tons of residue plus compost
(Table 17). All other treatments were statistically equal
to the best and worst.


Table 15. Results of farmer experiments involving
water management in the maize crop, the Mixteca
Project, 2000.

Name Treatment Yield (kg/ha)

Atanasio Check 767
Atanasio Subsoiling 2,318
Juan Border, no irrigation 1,029
Juan Border, with irrigation 2,489


Table 16. Grain yield in farmer-run water
management experiments, Lunatitlan, Mexico, 1999.

Treatment Description Grain yield (kg/ha)

3R75N 3 t/ha residue + 75 units N 1,142
OR75N O residue + 75 units N 654
ORcomp 0 residue + compost 499
Check Check 482
3RON 3 t/ha residue + 0 units N 476
3rcomp 3 t/ha residue + compost 345



Table 17. Grain yield in farmer-run water
management experiments, Nochixtlan, Mexico, 1999.

Treatment Description Grain yield (kg/ha)

Check Check 2,185 A
3R75N 3 t/ha residue + 75 units N 1,387 AB
3RON 3 t/ha residue + 0 units N 1,262 AB
Or75n 0 residue + 75 units N 1,1245 AB
Orcomp 0 residue + compost 1,213 AB
3rcomp 3 t/ha residue + compost 837 B











It is interesting to note that treatment "3rcomp" (3 tons of
residue plus compost) gave the lowest yields at both
sites. This may be a result of incomplete decomposition
of the compost, resulting in a net draw-down on system
N, or poor plant establishment in the maize residues.


Experiments in 2000 involving residue, compost, and
chemical fertilizers were lost to drought. However, it was
observed that compost aided plant germination and
emergence, possibly because of its high moisture
content. An important factor was its placement at the
bottom of furrows. In the words of Antanasio: "Because it
was placed in the furrow, it didn't hamper weeding."


Other options tested included contour ridging, in four
plots. Farmers felt that irrigation was improved
throughout these plots (more uniform; no puddles or dry
areas) and easier. In other cases, aspersion and garden
sprinkler irrigation were successfully adapted for use
with maize and triticale on sloping plots.


Water capture works. Water capture and storage are
activities that Mixteca farmers, villages, and
organizations should surely pursue. Such projects
(including building reservoirs, dams, and tapping springs
and marshes) generally require subsidies, investment,
and long-term support for successful establishment.
Although interest is high, the financial and labor
investments required have limited efforts to capture and
store water.


The organization that has most emphasized the capture
and use of water for irrigation, as well as cash cropping,
is UPCHMAC. Leveraging their own resources and help
from other institutions, they have established modest
efforts (stone, cement, and reinforced concrete
reservoirs; simple wells) to capture and store water from
springs and other sources for use in small fields of
maize, vegetables, alfalfa, and orchards. Most recently,
they have built a landfill dam at a cost of around 70,000
pesos (about US$7,500), water from which is being used
for irrigating maize, vegetable gardens, fields of prickly
pear cactus, and a greenhouse for tomato production.


The leaders of organizations and villages have great
expectations about rolling soil and water conservation
and productive reforestation efforts into designs for
more profitable farming systems. Ideas include the use
of irrigation and manure for growing vegetables, fruits,
or some other commercial crop, as well as live fences,
live barriers, water basin reforestation, and more diversified
cropping (for example, annuals and fruit trees).



Productivity enhancing options

Initially, technology options in this area centered on soil
management, conservation, and improvement. After a
year and a half, farmers began to show interest in
options that could either contribute to the household
economy or diversify their food supply. Thus, they
began to explore and adapt options such as irrigation
systems, triticale, mushroom cultivation, and grain
legumes (which in other contexts might be green
manures or cover crops).


Drip irrigation in vegetable gardens. This has been
the most widely accepted irrigation system. Farmers
first observed drip irrigation during the field tour in
Michoacan. They subsequently began to explore the
possibilities for adapting the system using local
materials. Finally, an regional expert from INIFAP
provided training on drip and aspersion irrigation
systems. To date the project has established micro-
irrigation systems for diverse garden vegetables at
more than 20 sites. Initially the idea was discussed with
three farmer-experimenters, only one of whom
eventually decided to set up a system in 2000. Later,
three farmers from Zapoquila became interested and
began using the system. Finally, after farmers toured
project experiments in the villages, others became
interested.


Project participants have worked with two types of drip
irrigation systems (Table 18). One known as the
"bucket" system, because the reservoir is a 20 liter
bucket from which some 30 m2 of garden can be
watered, was acquired from the Kellogg Foundation.











The other system was drawn from INIFAP work in
Michoacan, from the University of Yucatan, and from a
training workshop. This uses PVC containers or
barrels of 100-450 liters, or is connected directly to the
municipal water system or drawn from springs. It can
cover a crop area from 10 to 144 m2.


Table 18. Irrigation systems established in the
Mixteca Project, Mexico, 2000-2001.

Year Bucket Small Intermediate Total

Winter 2000 1 4 1 6
Winter 2001 3 11 3 17



The materials used were a combination of special drip
irrigation and ordinary plumbing supplies. One
problem encountered was the plugging of drip holes.
To overcome this, farmers adopted use of a filter
(either commercial, or simply a piece of cloth) at the
entrance of the drip tubes. Farmers are using
phosphoric acid to help purge the system of organic
residues; the compound also serves as a soil nutrient.


The irrigated cropping systems were established in mid-
January and February. The vegetables sown included
squash, cucumber, Chinese coriander, radish, spinach,
tomatoes, green beans, carrots, broccoli, onions, beets,
chard, and cabbage. The most productive species were
radish and coriander Beets, chard, spinach, carrots,
onions, and broccoli also did well. Despite their
attractiveness as crops, tomatoes and squash were
infested by white fly and viruses and thus did not grow
well. Of 21 plots observed in 2001, the water supply in 7
ran out because of poor rains the previous crop season,
and animals ravaged 4 other gardens; but output was
good in 10 (Table 19).


In the opinion of both men and women farmers, the drip
was easy to install and use, water consumption is
reduced and it was often possible to recycle water from
washing clothes and dishes. The systems used from
21.38 to 31.68 liters/m2/week, spread across from 1 to 7
applications per week, depending on the availability of
water (Table 20). For each square meter, there were
nine drip holes, with three hoses (actually, plastic strips)
having three drip holes each per 85-100 cm crop bed.


Table 19. Production of vegetables using drip irrigation, the Mixteca Project, Mexico, 2001.

Local price Gross earning
(Mexican /m2
Crop Days to harvest Yield/m2 Unit pesos) (Mexican pesos)

Chard 45 7 Bunch 3 21
Beets 80 10 Bunch 7 70
Zucchini squash 40-60 5-8 kg 7 35-56
Pumpkin 35 8 kg 12 96
Coriander 35 16 Bunch 2 32
Chile ancho -Looks promising ?
Green bean 45 4.5 kg 8 36
Cucumber 7 kg
Radish 30 5-9 Bunch 2.5-4 12.5-36


Table 20. Estimated water use rates in drip irrigation for growing vegetable gardens, the Mixteca Project,
Mexico, 2001.

mL/minute L/hr I/wk Applications
Farmer Soil type /drip hole /m2 /m2 /wk

Juan Clay 3.67 1.982 31.68 1
Timoteo Sandy clay 4.4 2.376 21.38 2
Ayuquililla Sandy 4.57 2.468 30.43 7
Teopan Clayey sand 4.95 2.673 28.066 3.5











The material investment was roughly 10 pesos (just
over US$1) per m2 (Table 21). Irrigation strip hoses
must be replaced each year, although this can be
extended somewhat, if care is taken to ensure that the
water is clean by the time it reaches drip holes. The
remaining components can be used at least three
years before replacement. This means that drip
irrigation is highly profitable, even if farmers grow only
radishes, the vegetable that fetches the lowest market
price. Vegetable gardens are an innovation that
greatly enhances household food security and the
quality of diets. Two groups of farmers have acquired
additional materials to scale up drip irrigation cropping
and four farmers are already marketing the small
amounts they produce.


Greenhouses. Several farmers saw greenhouses on
a project-sponsored visit to the Autonomous University
of Chapingo, an agricultural research and teaching
institution in the state of Mexico. They were
particularly impressed by the development and
production of tomato and the controlled management
used (hydroponia). They judged this to be a viable
way to use limited space and water intensively.
However, the cost was deemed high. Despite this, the
more entrepreneurial farmer organizations took up the
idea, building small modules with the most
economical, local materials. The first design used 3/8"
re-steel bars covered with polyduct and bent to form
arches over which plastic sheeting was laid. Another


alternative involved the use of 5 x 15 m PTR (a type of
metal tube) available in hardware stores in nearby
cities. In both cases, the intent was to avoid the
elevated costs of commercially-marketed greenhouse
structures. With the help of UPCHMAC and
CEDICAM, farmers in the project are growing tomato
and capsicum peppers in two greenhouses of 5.0-5.5
m x 24 m, built using PTR. Each encloses three or
four soil beds 0.85-1.0 m wide. The total cost of the
greenhouse and establishing a single crop was 10,000
Mexican pesos (slightly over US$1,000). This is about
one-third the cost of a commercially-available
greenhouse of similar size (Table 22).


The first of these two greenhouses was built with the
help of a local metal worker. A CEDICAM farmer-
promoter built the second completely, thus acquiring a
mastery of greenhouse construction. Both UPCHMAC
and CEDICAM consider greenhouses an important
way for farmers to make money, and plan to promote
this technology in their respective areas of influence.


In the first season when farmers were learning to grow
tomato, they learned that it was necessary to weld the
greenhouse infrastructure solidly, for it to be able to
support the weight of the tomato plants when grown
as single stems. They also found it necessary to try
and raise the height of the greenhouses, which are
currently 1.7 m high at the sides and 2.7 m high in the
center, and to improve ventilation and carefully plan


Table 21. Materials and costs for establishing a drip irrigation system on 140 m2, the Mixteca Project, Mexico, 2001.

Cost per unit Total cost
Material Unit (Mexican pesos) # of units (Mexican pesos)

450 1 reservoir Piece $585.00 1 $585.00
Filter Piece $120.00 1 $120.00
Clamp 1/2" Piece $5.00 4 $20.00
Adapters 1/2" Piece $10.00 1 $10.00
Nipple 3/4" Piece $8.00 2 $16.00
Adapter 3/4" Piece $6.00 1 $6.00
Hose 1/2 Meter $2.00 35 $70.00
Spigot 1/2 Piece $30.00 1 $30.00
Step down from 3/4 to 1/2" Piece $8.00 1 $8.00
Hose 3/4" Meter $4.00 10 $40.00
Plastic strip hose w/drip holes Meter $1.40 360 $504.00
Total cost $1,409.00











winter management practices. Farmers need to learn
to manage the crop at high population densities and
using single stems, as well as drip irrigation itself.
Being new practices, farmers do not feel entirely
comfortable with them. Among other things, to prevent
damaging attacks of white fly that occur when farmers
open the sides of the greenhouse to cool it, there
plans to cover the sides with mesh. Farmers will also
use organic pesticides and repellents, because they
plan to market the tomatoes as organically grown.


The yields of farmer-experimenterAnatolio Lagunas of
UPCHMAC were low and could be improved with better
management of the plant, as well as diseases and
pests. Produce from the greenhouses has been
marketed in neighboring communities, where there is
demand for the European type tomatoes that generally
go for a high price in local markets and a preference for
the organic, "local" varieties. The general demand for
fresh produce is driving farmers to channel resources
into additional greenhouses and consider year-round
relay cropping of diverse vegetables.


Table 22. Materials and costs for establishing a greenhouse with drip irrigation, the Mixteca Project, Mexico, 2001.
Unit cost Total
Number of pieces required # of pieces Unit (Mexican pesos) (Mexican pesos)
9 arcs (6 m each) of PTR* 1" 9 Piece 65 585.00
18 square tubing posts 2 mx 1 1/4" 6 Piece 82.44 494.67
7 bars 1/2" de 5.5 m crossing side by side 3.5 Piece 54 189.00
2 frontal square tube PTR 1" 2 Piece 65 130.00
9 suspenders bars 1/2" de 0.85 m 0.5 Piece 54 27.00
2 long lateral square PTR lx 24 m 8 Piece 65 520.00
1 top long square PTR 1"x24m 4 Piece 65 260.00
2 front door with PTR 1" de 1.7 m 0.6 Piece 65 39.00
Support for plastic cover (poly-grap) 81.2 Meter 10 821
Polyethylene UV1 6.2 / 720 above of 26 m 65 Meter 28 1820
Spring poly-grap total 5 Piece 24.38 121.90
2 welding material 2 kg 2 kg 21 42.00
3 hacksaws 3 Piece 12 36.00
6 cement 6 Bag 76 456.00
9 support cable of 28 m 5 kg 0.00
Welding and construction labor 5 Day of labor 266 1330.00
Welder's assistant 4 Day of labor 133 532.00
Construction worker's assistant 2 Day of labor 133 266.00
Structure, subtotal $ 7,660.57


Drip irrigation system:
1 reservoir 450 litros 1 Piece 900 900.00
Black polyduct of 3/4" 100 Meter 2.5 250.00
Filter 1 Piece 120 120.00
Control valve 1 Piece 45 45.00
Nipple of 3/4 1 Piece 15 15.00
Clamp 2 Piece 3 6.00
Drill bit 1 Piece 12 12.00
Strip hose 216 Meter 1.4 302.40
Plastic tubing 20 Meter 2 40.00
Labor 2 Day of labor 70 140.00
Drip irrigation, subtotal $1,830.40
Forming soil beds, planting
Preparing raised beds of 22.0 m x 0.85 m 5 Day of labor 70 350.00
Goat manure 20 wheelbarrows full x 4 beds 5 Wheelbarrow 0.00
Tray of 220 tomato plants, Orion hybrid 1 Tray 53 53.00
Tray of 200 tomato plants, Rio Fuego variety 2 Tray 17 34.00
Tray of 200 pepper plants, Miahuateco variety 1 Tray 20 20.00
Planting (labor) 2 Day of labor 70 140.00
Sowing, subtotal $247.00
GRAND TOTAL $9,737.97


* A type of metal tube) available in hardware stores in nearby cities.











The tomato crop was matured early (only two
months from planting to first cutting) due to high
temperatures in the greenhouse, use of irrigation
(even when one farmer preferred to use a garden
sprinkler), use of around 40 kg/m2 manure and raised
beds 40 cm high made of a mixture of manure and
silt extracted from a dam.


FarmerAnatolio Lagunas' suggestions for improving
yields include establishing 5-6 plants/m2, and
working with two stems per plant to ensure high
quality fruit. He also suggested intercropping strong-
smelling or insect-repelling plants, use of insect traps
and a fine-mesh on the sides of the greenhouse. He
is convinced that organic methods produce a tomato
that is softer, juicier, longer-lasting, and more
desirable for consumers. With the information
obtained, we expect yields of 6 to 7 kg/m2, given that
only half the production was measured before the
project ended (Table 23).


Oyster mushrooms. Crop production throughout
the Mixteca may be negligible in dry years. Farmers
who are relatively well-off have animals and can use
the residues as fodder, but poorer farmers have no
such option. Production of oyster mushrooms
(Pleurotus ostreatus) is one alternative for using crop
residues and other farm by-products to obtain an
excellent food, generate employment, and make
some money. Being saprophytes, mushrooms
decompose materials that are rich in lignin and
cellulose, substances that cannot be used by other
plants or animals. The excellent nutritional quality of
oyster mushrooms has led to their being called


"vegetarian steak" or "the meat of the poor," and they
are used frequently in vegetarian diets. Their protein
content is 19 to 25% above that of vegetables, by dry
weight, including the essential amino acids lysine and
tryptophan. They are low in carbohydrates and high in
fatty acids oleicc, linoleic) important for human
nutrition (Guzman et al. 1992).


The members of the Women Amaranth Farmers
Group of Santiago Ayuquililla learned about oyster
mushroom production from an expert hired by
CACTUS to teach them the production process. The
Mixteca Project provided "venture capital" and
technical follow-up.


The Ayuquililla group started with 22 kg of mycelium
distributed in 113 substrate bundles (primarily straw).
In 3.5 months they obtained 110 kg of commercial
quality mushrooms that they sold to an intermediary in
the community for 25 pesos (around US$2.50)/kg.
This just covered production costs, and the group is
trying to improve productivity and thus turn a profit
(Table 24).


The constraints they encountered were cultural (the
need to maintain high levels of hygiene in the growing
environment), managing the flow of people who came
to observe and learn from the group's experience and
thus introduced contaminants into the environment,
the use of straw contaminated with fungi, the lack of a
proper place to grow the mushrooms (they were using
an old building), and the lack of money to scale up
production. It also appears that the period of darkness
was not long enough for proper development of the
mushrooms.


Table 23. Data from the greenhouse tomato crop of Anatolio Lagunas of Teopan, Coixtlahuaca, Oaxaca, Mexico, 2001.

Variety Plants/m2 3 cuttings* (kg) Area (m2) -- Production, 3rd cutting -

Bola 9 93.5 24.5 3.816 kg/m2 0.424 kg/plant
Saladet 6 22.5 7.0 3.214 kg/m2 0.536 kg/plant
Bola 6 105.1 31.5 3.337 kg/m2 0.556 kg/plant

* Three additional cuttings are expected that represent half the total harvest.











From this experience, the group has produced a
written guide and a home video which, together with
several recipes, have become popular in several
villages. CACTUS is helping to promote and scale up
mushroom production and set up regional marketing
channels.



Testing new crops and varieties

Most farmers use seed of local varieties. Only in the
valley of Nochixtlan are improved varieties of maize,
wheat, and barley used. Most local varieties are highly
tolerant to drought and adapted to the region's rainfall
patterns and crop management practices. Farmer
organizations are opposed to the introduction of
improved varieties, for fear of contamination from
transgenics3 and because of the need to purchase
external inputs to grow the improved materials.


However, working from the premise that improved
varieties could raise productivity without further
investment than that of purchasing the initial seed,
farmers agreed to experiment with new varieties and
crops. In the words of Enrique L6pez of CEDICAM:
"We'd like to identify seed options for the rough terrain
and depleted zones...we don't want to get rid of our
local varieties, because they are our safety net, but
we'd like to look at other options...as long as they are
not hybrids or, worse, transgenics."


Over 1999-2000 farmers tested CIMMYT highland
varieties and subtropical maize from both CIMMYT
and INIFAP's Central Valleys of Oaxaca research
station. All CIMMYT varieties were open pollinated.
During August-November 2000 farmers also tried
commercial wheat varieties, CIMMYT triticales, and
barley and oats. Finally, over this two-year period
farmers observed the performance of legumes known
for their qualities as green manure cover crops.


Table 24. Materials, costs of production, and profits from growing oyster mushrooms in Ayuquililla, 2000.

Unit cost Total cost
Material Units # of units (Mexican pesos) (Mexican pesos)

Maize straw Bunch 50 5 250
Mycelium kg 22 20 440
Bags kg 3 50 150
Face masks Piece 46 1.84 84.64
Chlorine Liters 10 6 60
Alcohol Liters 1 20 20
Detergent kg 1 6 6
Lye kg 11 1 11
Firewood Bundle 15 15 225
Subtotal MATERIAL 1,246.64
Chopping straw Day of labor 4 50 200
Disinfecting straw Day of labor 4 50 200
Planting Day of labor 2 50 100
Daily supervision Hour 90 6.25 562.5
Total LABOR 1,062.50
Partial listing of equipment used
Nylon cloth Piece 1 200 33
Casks Piece 3 100 50
Burlap sacks Piece 44 2 15
Bricks Piece 113 1 19
Scisssors Piece 2 50 17
Mosquito mesh Meter 4 12.5 8
Subtotal EQUIPMENT 141.83
Grand Total COSTS 2,450.97
Production/Income 110 kg 25 2,750.00


3 CIMMYT does not field test transgenic in Mexico.












Introducing new maize varieties. Maize-bean
intercropping faces serious, complex constraints in
the region, and yields are low, ranging from 0.213 to
3.4 t/ha in good rainy years (Table 25). As described
in the beginning of this report, certain soils are
extremely difficult (white and shallow soils), while in
the clayey and porous soils farmers achieve better
yields, especially if they are able to apply at least one
irrigation. Yields of maize and bean experiments in


2000 were very low or non-existent due to the
drought. (In the beans, the highest yield observed
was 0.380 t/ha.)


The plots with the highest potential have clayey,
porous soils and are located in riverain areas. But
these areas comprise only 5% of the region's arable
land. An important yield component was the number
of ears with grain (Table 26).


Table 25. Production potential of diverse plots in La Mixteca, Mexico.

Maize grain (kg/ha) Beans (kg/ha)
Name Soil type Location 1999 2000 2000

Zacarias* Clay Valley No data 3,584 0
Felipe Red clay Intermediate 2,167 No data No data
Juanramirez Clayey Intermediate 2,540 No data No data
Juan_P Porous clayey Intermediate 2,164 3,562 125
Average 2,290 3,573 63
TomasB Porous River bank 2,504 1,236 224
Bernardino Porous River bank 3,447 1,537 222
Arcadio Porous River bank 2,545 No data No data
Willevaldo Lama River bank 2,795 1,742 372
Promedio 2,823 1,505 273
Ivan Light brown Intermediate No data 1,263 51
Mario Reddish brown Intermediate 2,994 2,149 244
Atanasio* Gravelly Intermediate 1,452 2,394 131
Manuel* Red Intermediate 1,763 2,884 0
Average 2,070 2,173 107
Onesimo_A Shallow soils Hilltop No data 1,516 0
Odilon Shallow soils Hilltop 471 0 0
Onesimo B Shallow soils Hilltop 360 No data No data
Urbino S Shallow soils Hilltop 610 0 0
Carmelo Shallow soils Arenosa Intermediate 444 948.5 32
Jaime Gravellyshallow soils Hilltop No data 981 51
Average 471 689 17
At_monja White Hilltop 498 1,168 84
Celestino White Hilltop 430 0 0
Salomon White Hilltop 939 No data No data
Zacarias White Hilltop 213 0 0
Felipe White No data 121 0
Average 520 322 21
Average 1574 1,394 85
Lowestvalue 213 0 0
Highest value 3,447 3,584 372

* Farmers with access to at least one irrigation.

Table 26. Averages for several yield components in farmers' fields, 1999.

Soil type Plots Percent of ears Grain yield (kg/ha) Residue(kg/ha) 100-grain weight

shallow soils 4 38 471 1,958 22
White 4 39 520 1,506 29
Porous 5 71 2,526 3,476 36
Porous intermediate 5 70 2,108 3,365 33
Clayey 1 72 2,378 4,591 32











Testing maize varieties. In 1999 farmers test six
open pollinated varieties (OPVs) from INIFAP3 and five
highland OPVs from CIMMYT. In 2000, another 10
highland varieties (recommended range of adaptation:
2,000-2,400 masl) and 10 subtropical varieties
(recommended range of adaptation: 1,500-1,900
masl) from CIMMYT were tested, and the most
promising INIFAP materials were replanted.


The new varieties showed good plant vigor from
emergence until about one month after sowing. The
light green coloring of the introduced plants differed
from the purplish-green color of the local varieties at
early development stages. About 20 days after
sowing, all varieties began yellowing, with longitudinal
white streaks along the leaf. The introduced varieties
were intensely affected by Fe, N, and S deficiencies.
By flowering, the local varieties showed superior vigor
- manifest in better color and height. Farmers
observed that the new varieties were shorter, earlier-
maturing, and more sensitive to soil nutrient
deficiencies (Table 27).


Some of the varieties tested in subtropical zones
produced more grain than the local varieties, but less
fodder (Table 28), and the difference in grain yield was
not statistically significant (P = 0.355). Fully 83% of the
farmers found the new varieties satisfactory, and felt
their performance would improve once they became
acclimated to the region. Attractive characteristics
mentioned by the farmers included their early maturity,


Table 27. Average and relative grain yield (n=6) in a
trial of INIFAP varieties, Mixteca Oaxaqueiia,
December 1999.

Variety Average (kg/ha) Ratio: yield of CV
introduced
variety/ local variety

2 VC 39 1,911 1.32 28.25169
5 VC 134 1,894 1.30 37.00245
6 VC 145 1,723 1.19 29.78623
4 VC 118 1,697 1.17 30.77547
3 VC 40 1,684 1.16 28.94365
Criollo 1,451 1.00 27.15986
1 V 233 1,128 0.78 21.49805


superior grain size and weight, fully filled ears, good
flavor, and good quality for making doughs and atole, a
sweetened drink made from corn. Traits that farmers
judged to be poor included the thin stalks, low
production of fodder, the yellow color of grain of VC 40,
the opaque appearance and poor grain fill of VC 145,
and the difficulty of shelling VC 134.


In 2000 neither local nor promising INIFAP varieties
produced any grain on several experimental plots in
Lunatitlan, due to the drought and late planting from a
45-day dry spell between late June and early August.
In the shallowest soils in the plot where some grain
was produced, the varieties VC 118 and VC 134
outyielded the local varieties (Table 29). Varieties VC
134 and VC 39 showed their superior potential for
providing higher and stable yields in the region.


Table 28. Residue production in a variety trial (n=4),
Mixteca, 1999.
Average Ratio of SD CV
(kg/ha) check

Local check 3,460 1.00 1260.19 36.42
VC 145 2,558 0.74 418.43 16.36
VC134 2,112 0.61 709.97 33.62
VC 118 1,938 0.56 836.25 43.15
VC 39 1,865 0.54 284.42 15.25
VC 40 1,762 0.51 404.65 22.97
V 233 1,584 0.46 865.09 54.62


Table 29. Performance of INIFAP maize varieties
targeted for areas from 1,500 to 1,900 masl, the
Mixteca, 2000.


Soil type
Shallow soils
Shallow soils
Shallow soils
Shallow soils
Lama Porous
Lama Porous
Lama Porous
Lama Porous
Lama Porous
Lama Porous 2
Lama Porous 2
Lama Porous 2
Lama Porous 2
Lama Porous 2
Brown
Brown


INIFAP maize variety
VC134
VC 118
Local
VC 39
VC 145
VC 39
VC134
Local
VC118
VC 134
Local 2
VC 39
Local
VC 118
VC 118
VC 134


Grain yield (kg/ha)
1,409
1,310
1,135
446
1,269
944
525
356
178
640
589
576
474
473
1,704
1,324


3 The project extends its gratitude to Dr. Flavio Arag6n of INIFAPs' Central Valleys of Oaxaca research station, for graciously
providing seed.











At one site farmers tested 10 subtropical genotypes
from CIMMYT (Table 30) and INIFAP varieties in a
porous soil (Poroso 2) of intermediate fertility (Table
31). They were generally shorter than the local and
INFAP materials. Variety VC 134 and SC CIM 2
yielded slightly more grain than local varieties.
Farmers concluded that the CIMMYT variety was
short but produced large ears. The new varieties had
poor fodder yields.


The improved highland varieties were inferior to the
local varieties in height, vigor, and productivity. They
were also more susceptible to drought and soil
nutrient deficiencies. Farmers who visited the
CIMMYT experiment stations at El Batan, Mexico
State, and Tlaltizapan, Morelos State, concluded that
the poor performance of the varieties or hybrids was
due to their selection in more fertile environments
with adequate moisture. Nonetheless, the farmers
decided to test the genotypes both years4, and were
particularly interested in the materials developed by


Table 30. CIMMYT maize varieties tested in the
Mixteca, 2000.

CIMMYT highland maize, targeted for 1,900-2,400 masl

1 BA 8987
2 BA8887
3 BA 8687
4 ACROSS 98902/903+N
5 BA98902/903-N
6 CMT959837
7 (BTVCM.BA92 16 x P87C5F111) x BTVCM.BA92 12
8 (BTVCH.BA92 1 x BA90 5) x P87C5 F111
9 (P87C5 F117 x BTVCM.BA92 34) x P87C5 F176)
10 (BTRL.TLA91A 2-6 x BTCVM.BA92 34) x BTVCM.BA92 23

CIMMYT varieties, semiarid adaptation, targeted for 1,500-1,900 masl

1 S99SIWQ
2 ACROSS 8567
3 POB.68c1HC179-3-1-2-2-B-2-B-B-B XCML 176
4 CML176XCML186
5 CML176XCML175
6 POB.-42 c9 x POB.-44 c10
7 ACROSS MEXICO 97501
8 ACROSS MEXICO 97502
9 CML 78xCML321
10 CML 78x CML 373


the CIMMYT maize physiology group using their
techniques for drought and low N tolerance breeding,
but they were not available. Farmers Jesus Le6n and
Anatolio Lagunas commented: "They put on way too
much chemical (fertilizer); their maize is used to
this...there (in La Mixteca) only a few farmers use
three or four bags per hectare of sulphate and there's
no irrigation". Performance of the new varieties during
the second cycle of experimentation was similar (low
stature, yellowing, poor grain and fodder production)
to that in the first, except for variety #6 (Table 32),
which outperformed the local variety.


Table 31. Performance of SC CIM and INIFAP varieties
targeted for areas from 1,500 to 1,900 masl, the
Mixteca, 2000.

Soil type Variety Grain yield (kg/ha) Residue (kg/ha)

Porous 2 VC134 640 1,765
Porous 2 SC CIM 2 640 863
Porous 2 Local 2 589 3,843
Porous 2 SC CIM 7 583 2,784
Porous 2 VC 39 576 1,647
Porous 2 SC CIM 9 571 2,020
Porous 2 SC CIM 8 526 2,020
Porous 2 Local 474 5,490
Porous 2 SC CIM 4 474 1,373
Porous 2 VC 118 473 1,804
Porous 2 SC CIM 3 456 1,235
Porous 2 SCCIM1 400 1,510
Porous 2 SC CIM 5 342 2,196
Porous 2 SC CIM 6 321 2,020
Porous 2 SC CIM 10 225 1,490


Table 32. Performance of CIMMYT highland maize
varieties in a plot of good soil quality and with
supplemental irrigation at the Rancho Ramirez,
Zapoquila, Oaxaca, Mexico, 2000.

Local Plant Grain yield Residue
variety height (cm) (kg/ha) (kg/ha)

6 141 1,423 2,233
Local 165 1,127 5,245
2 120 949 2,009
8 140 948 2,624
5 134 872 2,304
3 108 750 1,991
9 133 723 2,869
4 132 717 1,494
1 118 598 1,992
10 117 554 2,241
7 124 127 1,913


4 The decision to test maize varieties was a strategy to obtain or maintain support from CIMMYT, farmers said.











Based on these results, farmers are obtaining seed of
INIFAP varieties. There is little or no interest in
CIMMYT materials, given their poor performance, but
a few farmers have established plots for testing and
observing in 2001 some CIMMYT materials suggested
by a breeder from the center. Together with this,
farmers are beginning improvement of local maize
varieties that performed well in trials. Finally, the
earliness of some of the improved materials tested -
one matured 15 days sooner than the local varieties -
makes them attractive for use when planting is
delayed by late onset of rains and to improve the
efficiency of irrigation.


Triticale. In a September 2000 visit to CIMMYT,
Zapoquila farmers saw plots of wheat, oats, barley,
and triticale. Young (25 years old) farmer Zacarias
Muioz requested samples of seed. Project technical
staff followed up and brought seed to the Mixteca for
sowing in November, 2000. Muioz sowed samples on
two-meter beds and in double furrows every 100 cm,
applying both irrigation by furrows and aspersion
irrigation. The triticale had a good color (it showed no


evidence of nutrient deficiencies, it grew more
vigorously and taller in furrows, and like oats suffered
no ill effects from frost. It matured in 4.5 months,
compared with the 6 months required for the local
wheat. Muioz and neighbor Juan Ramirez
commented: "This 'wheat' has grain heads twice as
big as those of the local wheat; production will be
twice as much..., they're all good".


The results obtained by Muioz and Ramirez (Table
33) show the potential of triticale for the region. Yields
ranged from 0.39 to 2.1 t/ha, with the highest
productivity from sowing in furrows. Genotypes 2, 7,
and 8 were the highest yielding, but farmers preferred
genotypes 5 and 9. Farmers are testing the adaptation
of these varieties to the conditions of season spring-
summer 2001. When project researchers suggested
that triticale was a good source of fodder, Muioz said:
"Oats and barley are for fodder, triticale is for tortillas,
or maybe we can use it to make flour for bread and
cookies. Ramirez said: "My mother prepared tortillas
using this 'wheat' and a bit of maize dough, and
they're very tasty and ...nice and soft!"


Table 33. Data on triticale trials in Zapoquila, Oaxaca, Mexico, November 2000 March 2001.

Entry Plants/ha Grain yield (kg/ha)

Sown on melgas
EMS M 83.6039/FAHAD.5 461,207 385
CAGUAN_4/FAHAD_5 512,821 924
150.83/3*FAHAD_5 416,667 854
RHINO 1RS.1DL 3384/2*VICUNA_4 566,667 1075
4411.6/MUSMON_1//FAHAD_8_2 703,704 905
FAHAD 82**2/VICUNA 4
ALPACA_1/3//ZEBRA 31/CIVET//URON_5 588,235 1028
CIN/PI//PATO/3/BGU4/DRIRA/5DLF/3/DLF/M2A/SNP//BGL/4/TESMO_1/6/FAHAD_1 1,042,945 979
Sown in furrows
EMS M 83.6039/FAHAD.5 491,071 902
CAGUAN_4/FAHAD_5 500,000 1464
150.83/3*FAHAD_5 491,071 1513
RHINO 1RS.1DL 3384/2*VICUNA_4 589,286 1094
4411.6/MUSMON_1//FAHAD_8_2 812,500 1108
FAHAD_82**2/VICUNA_4 535,714 696
ALPACA_1/3//ZEBRA 31/CIVET//URON_5 1,812,500 2119
CIN/PI//PATO/3/BGU4/DRIRA/5DLF/3/DLF/M2A/SNP//BGL/4/TESMO 1/6/FAHAD 1 1,517,857 2079











Wheat. Farmers of CEDICAM tested four
commercial varieties of wheat Ray6n, Pastor,
Romuga, and Culiacan during August-December
2000. Although they were unable to estimate exact
yields, farmers are sure that Ray6n and Pastor had
the best grain yields. The experiences of farmers
with triticale and wheat led to the design of small
threshers especially targeted to farmers with small
plots in rough terrain. The difficulties of threshing for
many farmers in the Mixteca has caused the
disappearance of wheat cropping. Now, with the
assistance of a specialist who is designing a
thresher, the number of farmers testing wheat
varieties has increased.


Barley and oats. As part of the visit to CIMMYT and
the experience of CEDICAM, the project obtained
seed of barley and oats for use as forage crops.
During August-December 2000, a few plots were
sown, giving the results shown in Table 34. Oats
showed signs of N and Fe deficiencies, when grown
in white soils of limestone origin. Green matter
production at flowering was good, especially for the
Chihuahua variety. More than anything, however, this


variety was very early-maturing; therein lies its
primary utility for farmers. The oats variety Opalo was
late-maturing and thus of little interest. In spring-
summer 2001, farmers are growing Chihuahua oats,
the barley variety Esmeralda, and commercial triticale,
to determine if these crops can tolerate the season's
erratic rainfall pattern.


Legumes. Legumes have been widely promoted in
work to develop and disseminate more sustainable
cropping systems. They are able to fix atmospheric
nitrogen in the soil. They provide a vegetative cover
that helps protect the soil from erosion and conserves
moisture. Finally, certain legumes provide edible grain
or constitute a potentially abundant source of fodder


In contrast to the humid tropics, where several
legumes have shown potential, in the Mixteca farmers
were testing species to see if any could grow well
enough to be included in production systems there. In
spring-summer 1999, a legume observation plot was
established. Of the species tested, lablab, canavalia,
and pigeon pea grew well at altitudes from 1,500 to
1,850 masl (Table 35).


Table 34. Agronomic characteristics and fodder production of barley and oats, Zapoquila, Oaxaca, Mexico, 2001.

Crop Time to first cut Plants/m2 Plant height Forrage (kg/ha)Juan R. Zacarias M.

Barley Esmeralda 2 months 200 72 1,538
Oats Opalo More than de 3 months 120 70 1,932
Oats Chihuahua 2.5 months 108 75-86 3,102 2,400


Table 35. Legumes tested in the warm areas (from 1,500 to 1,850 masl) of the Mixteca Region, Mexico, 1999.

Species (common name) and source Biomass Seed production Overall performance

Cajanus cajan (pigeon pea), Chiapas 2* 3 3
Cajanus cajan (pigeon pea), INIFAP-VC 2 3 3
Cajanus cajan (pigeon pea), ICRAF 3 3 2
Canavalia ensiformis (Canavalia), Chiapas 3 2 2
Dolicoslablab(lablab), INIFAP-VC 2 3 3
Dolicoslablab lablabb), INIFAP Sinaloa 3 3 3
Vigna unguiculata (Cachito), Chiapas 2 3 3
Vigna unguiculata (Friol Chicharo), Acatlan 3 3 3
Crotalaria sp (Chepil), INIFAP-VC 1 3 2
* 1, 2, 3 = low, moderate, and high, respectively.











Pigeon pea was particularly attractive to farmers as a
live barrier or monoculture, especially in shallow soils
where maize was non-productive. It performed well in
these settings and survived from one rainy season to
the next. The only criticisms of the genotype obtained
from the International Center for Research in
Agroforestry (ICRAF) was that it was very late maturing
and infested by rabbits, reducing the grain harvested.


Another group of farmers expressed interest in
canavalia as an intercrop with maize to suppress weeds
or as a green manure, but other farmers saw its lack of
edible grain as a serious disadvantage.


Lablab interested farmers because of its good biomass
production and, in the case of the genotype obtained
from INIFAP-Central Valleys, its early maturity. The
black lablab from INIFAP was well adapted to the
shallow shallow soils soils. A brown lablab from
Chiapas yielded well in soils of intermediate fertility, and
could be intercropped with maize (particularly the early-
maturing lablab genotype that produces few runners).


Farmers sampled cooked lablab beans at a
presentation event in Huajuapan de Le6n, Oaxaca, in
April 2001, and noted its somewhat distinctive odor,
which differs from that of local beans.


At the highest-altitude sites (1,900-2,200 masl), the
most promising species were lablab in spring-summer,
and pea, common vetch, white clover, and lupine,
either as relays for spring-summer maize or as
monocultures (Table 36). White clover and lablab
appeared to produce the most biomass; seed
production was deemed good in the cases of white
clover, common vetch, and lablab. Because this
information is drawn from only a single season of
observations, more testing is needed to reach reliable
conclusions.


During the 2000 rainy season, several plots of legumes
were evaluated (Table 32). Farmer Tomas Bautista of
Nochixtlan tested a range of legumes, from diverse
bean varieties to lablab-maize associations. Regarding
the beans, some of which he had brought from as far


Table 36. Legumes tested in cooler zones (from 1,850 to 2,200 masl) of the Mixteca Region, Mexico, 1999.

Species (common name) and source Biomass Grain yield Overall performance
Dolicos lablab lablabb) INIFAP Sinaloa 3* 2 3
Lupinus sp. (lupine) ECOSUR-Chiapas 2 1 1
Lupinus sp. (lupine) GIRA Michoacan 2 1 2
Vicia sativa (Veza comun) CIMMYT 2 2 2
Vicia sp (Veza de invierno) GIRA 2 ? 1
Melilothus albus (white clover) CEDICAM Oaxaca 3 3 3
Phaseolus coccineus Regional 1 1 1
* 1, 2, 3 = low, moderate, and high, respectively.

Table 37. Agronomic characteristics of some legumes tested by farmers in LA Mixteca, Oaxaca, Mexico, 2000.

Species Height Cover Flowering Bears fruit Dries kg/ha*
(days after sowing) (days after sowing) (days after sowing)
Local common bean 45.3 40 85 92 132 639
Bean floor de mayo 20 15 43 48 75 444
Bean floor dejunio 21.3 18.3 48 65 90 373
Bean DOR Chiapas 25.4 22 57 55 85 797
Black bean Zacatecas 29.3 26.3 50 67 92 540
Brown lablab 54.5 14.67 110 115 160 744 **
Black lablab 42.9 14.2 68 75 120
Vigna Cachito 32 60 70 125
Pigeon pea Chiapas 89.6 32.6 113 126
Pigeon pea ICRAF 98 25 160 175
Canavalia 67 65 80 100
* Data of Tomas Bautista of S. J. Nochixtlan, Oaxaca. ** Data of Sra. Joaquina Palacios from clay soils in Ayuquililla, Oaxaca.











away as Guanajuato and Zacatecas states, only the
variety DOR slightly outyielded the local variety (Table
37), but the introduced varieties were earlier-maturing,
offering farmers additional options for intercrops and
rotations. In such cases, farmers will need to adjust
sowing dates to take best advantage of rainfall patterns
and, especially, to avoid the mid-season drought.


The pigeon pea grew slowly in the first year, mainly
because precipitation was sparse during crop
establishment. In the second year plants developed
most fully and had good grain yields. This crop was
planted in shallow soils (lajilla) and under conditions of
scarce moisture. It was sowed in July 1999 in a contour
ridge to help limit erosion and take advantage of the
free space there. It survived the drought that year, as
well as frequent grazing by goats, and sprouted again
with the early rains the following year. The early-
maturing varieties bore fruit in July and August; the
ICRAF variety in November. The first year the early-
maturing varieties were harvested in October and
November, and the ICRAF genotype in January.


In the second year all pigeon pea genotypes were
productive and vigorous despite a prolonged mid-
season drought, while the lack of water wilted the
maize and bean plants. Maize grain yield was zero,
whereas the pigeon pea produced between 97 and 178
gm per linear meter (Table 38).


This shows that pigeon pea could be sown to make
productive use of borders and ridges whose only prior
purpose was erosion control. Data showed that only 10
linear meters of pigeon pea would produce 1-2 kg of
grain, or farmers could also obtain fresh peas for use in
soups or as side dishes.


In 2000 lablab also demonstrated its outstanding
productive potential (Tables 35-39). Upon observing its
performance in several plots, farmers concluded that it
could be intercropped productively with maize.
In a sandy, porous field monocropped black lablab
produced an estimated 0.268 t/ha of grain; a plot of


brown lablab yielded around 1.0 t/ha (Tables 35, 37).
Lablab outyielded common bean, producing nearly 0.4
t/ha in the case of brown lablab and 0.32 t/ha for black
lablab (Tables 39, 40), when intercropped with maize
and beans, and did not appear to affect the
performance of either of the other crops.


Other potentially productive intercrops included
maize-Vigna (Vigna spp; cowpea; a system practiced
by a few farmers in the area) and maize-amaranth.
The first was sown by farmer Luciano Soriano in
Lunatitlan, with a cowpea yield of 0.378 t/ha, as
opposed to 0.18 t/ha for common bean, without
notably affecting maize production (around 1.1 t/ha).
Maize-amaranth was tested by farmer Tomas Bautista
of San Juan Nochixtlan. With the transplanting of his
amaranth shoots delayed and no free land available,
he decided to establish the amaranth among the 30-
day-old maize seedlings, with good results for both
crops. The same system was employed successfully
by Juan Ramirez of Zapoquila.


Table 38. Characteristics of pigeon pea in shallow,
low-fertility soils (lajilla), Lunatitlan, Oaxaca,
Mexico, 2000.


Variety


Gandul Chiapas
GandulOaxaca
Gandul ICRAF


Plantas /
linear m
1.91
2.13
2.54


Plant
height
76cm
70cm
140cm


Canopy
diameter
93 cm
47.5 cm
86cm


Number ofgrains
/10 linear m
970gr
1460 gr
1780gr


Table 39. Performance of a maize-lablab-common bean
intercrop (kg/ha), Nochixtlan, Oaxaca, Mexico, 2000.

Maize Beans Brown lablab
Maize- bean 515 310 -
Maize- brown lablab- bean 570 330 389
Monocropped lablab 1,167


Table 40. Performance of a maize-lablab-common bean
intercrop (kg/ha), Ayuquililla, Oaxaca, Mexico, 2000.

Maize Beans Blacklablab Brownlablab
Maize- beans 1,615 50 0 0
Maize- lablab- beans 1,786 52 302 49











Human Resource Development


The poverty that Mixteca villages suffer -just as
countless other communities in the Mexican states of
Chiapas, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Puebla, Veracruz, and
Oaxaca itself is due not only to a lack of money or
favorable production conditions, but stems from
inhabitants' lack of confidence in themselves, their
neighbors, their institutions, and their own knowledge;
an outgrowth in part of a general social inertia. Project
efforts were initially aimed at overcoming farmers'
feelings of helplessness, in the face of difficulties such
as a lack of water resources, and finally reached a
point where farmer-experimenters were able to give
clear presentations, supported by posters and a range
of other support materials, regarding their experiences
and results, in annual conferences involving peers,
researchers from the project and elsewhere, and
representatives of diverse institutions. The idea of
peasant farmers giving a conference may cause
amusement or surprise, or, as some Henri Hocd6
might have said, "farmers' new role might frighten
researchers".


Our aim was to encourage farmers to seek solutions
to problems and queries, and I firmly believe we have
achieved this. Today, after nearly three years of work
to break the inertia of clientage, mistrust, and
impotence, a group of more than 40 men and women
farmers from the region believe they are
experimenters. More than just a belief, they have
proof in their fields of thought, conscious design,


analysis, and evaluation the hallmarks of productive
research. Of course they employ their own criteria;
but their native common sense, honed by years of
battling for survival under extremely challenging
conditions, often made up for any methodological
shortcomings. We have awakened something in
these farmers. Where before we had "cooperative
peasants," now we have colleagues with whom we
have sought and, in many cases, found answers.
Through the attendant discussions, reflections, and
effort, farmer experimentation to test agricultural
technology has set in motion a process of self-
motivation.


One of the groups from the project is now forming an
association that will give it a legal presence and the
power to marshall resources for pursuing other goals.
Mixteca farmers may lack money, but they are not
entirely bereft of resources natural and human -
and are now in a position to leverage these in benefit
of their household well-being.


Bringing together these farmers to exchange data
and experiences was perhaps a crowning
achievement of the project. It is hard to imagine what
it means for peasant farmers to stand before a group
of 50 fellow farmers and 10 or more researchers and
say "I did this...I saw that... I learned these things...I
now know this... So, shall we talk of human
resource development?











Conclusions


Any conclusions to this work would have to cover
the process and the technology. Regarding the
latter, the most promising were green legume cover
crops, above all grain legumes such as lablab and
pigeon pea; oyster mushroom production; drip
irrigation; greenhouse cropping; selection among
local maize varieties, and triticale production. There
is scant hope regarding the introduction of improved
varieties of maize, given their poor performance
thus far in the region's difficult environments.


Recognizing moisture as the number-one constraint,
farmers have a strong interest in continuing to seek,
test, and implement technologies to capture water
(contour ridges, ditches, reservoirs, dams, and
tapping of springs and marshes) and use it
efficiently (drip irrigation, aspersion and micro-
aspersion, and use of mulches, among other
techniques). There is also the aim of combining soil
and water conservation practices in systems that
also provide farmers with additional income. As a
complement to the above, there are plans to
preserve and restore works from previous efforts
aimed at soil and water conservation. Finally, all of
this must be rolled into a promotional effort that
overcomes the lack of interest in natural resource
conservation and, rather, casts it as the platform for
future, sustained development.


Regarding process, the project accomplished the
self-motivated identification, adaptation, and testing
of new technologies, making farmers the authors of


their own agricultural development. There was also
significant progress in the approach, which was
based on farmer participation and intensive
interaction among farmers and researchers to
accomplish the above. Farmers clearly understand
the key productivity constraints they face (except,
perhaps, the effects of goat herding) and have at
their disposal a menu of potential and some proven
technical options. In addition, there are a greater
number of progressive farmers and effective
leaders in the communities, as well as a critical
mass of farmer-experimenters with an enhanced
capability of discussion and analysis. Participating
farmers now comprehend the utility of experiments
as a tool for testing and adapting new technologies
to local conditions, as well as for disseminating and
promoting relevant practices. They have also
learned how to use their results in presentations,
promoting organization, and generating and
obtaining support for development projects.


Skills that could benefit from additional
reinforcement and would help to consolidate a
group of farmers that could serve as an engine of
regional development include 1) planning and
organizing experiments; 2) quantitative evaluation
of experimental or promotional results; 3)
communication and diffusion of results; 4)
organization and seeking support for projects.


We regret that a change in donor priorities led to
the cessation of funding for this project.











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0











Acknowledgments


I would like to thank agronomist Jacob Borgonio
Mociios, whose valuable assistance in the
fieldwork throughout the project villages was
crucial to the advances described herein. Larry
Harrington, Director, the Natural Resources Group
(NRG), CIMMYT, and Bernard Triomphe, from the
Centre de Cooperation Internationale en
Recherche Agronomique pour le Developpement
(CIRAD) and currently working as an NRG
agronomist, provided technical and logistical
guidance. CIMMYT science writer Mike Listman
translated the original text and helped re-organize
and clarify the English version, which CIMMYT
designer Wenceslao Almazan then placed in an
attractive and readable layout. Finally, we thank
the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the Ford
Foundation for their generous support of the
Mixteca Project.




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