Farming systems newsletter

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Farming systems newsletter
Caption title:
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center -- Eastern Africa Economics Programme
Place of Publication:
Nairobi Kenya
The Centre
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:
Physical Description:
v. : ill., forms ; 30 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural systems -- Periodicals -- Africa, Eastern ( lcsh )
serial ( sobekcm )
periodical ( marcgt )
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General Note:
Description based on: No. 26 (July-Sept. 1986); title from cover.
Statement of Responsibility:
CIMMYT Eastern Africa Economics Programme, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT).

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Full Text

July September 1986

July September 1986

P 0 Box 25171, Nairobi, Kenya, Telephone 592054/592206

No. 26

Two asterisks indicate the actor or actors with major responsibilities in each
particular activity. Several asterisks in a row indicate there must be
cooperation between actors to do that activity effectively. Is the balance right
here? Let us have your comments on the responsibilities as allocated to the
actors for the sequence of OFR activities. Should these be changed?

Adding Community Level Variables to FSR: A Research Priority

This is the title of a recent paper by Barbara Grandin, an ILCA anthropologist,
given at an IIMI-Rockfeller Foundation Workshop on 'Social Science Perspectives
on Managing Agricultural Technology'. It adds a further dimension to the
queries raised by Behnke & Kerven on household definitions in FSR (FSN No. 22
July-September 1985) making the case for adding a supra-household perspective
to FSR. The paper highlights the community control of resources in rural
societies, access to pasture, water, firewood and of course land can all be
cited. It points out that even where resources are individually controlled,
community level interventions can play an important role, if there is under-
standing and sensitivity about community organisation and factions. The
potential importance of this type of intervention in a range of situations
causes Grandin to urge FSR to move one level up the systems hierachy and
embrace community variables. She summarises her paper:'FSR currently focuses
its efforts within farm boundaries, thus limiting technology generation to
inputs under the complete control of the producers. The initial'focus on the
farm-family has matured to include a sub-household focus with particular
emphasis on the sexual division of labour and product. The focus remains
within the farm.

The applicability of FSR is currently limited by its lack of attention to
community-level issues, particularly as they affect communal resource control
and organization for community based development. The IARCs which have been
in the forefront of developing FSR, particularly those working in Africa,
have an urgent responsibility to conduct the strategic research necessary to
develop and test methods which will assist national programmes to incorporate
community level variables and hence expand their scope for technology
generation and dissemination.'

Practitioners would probably agree that while the 'social and cultural or
community circumstances' are seen in FSR as an influence on farmers' decisions,
it treats them essentially passively. We have to agree that, as with other
circumstances of markets, extension services, and policies, community
circumstances can be understood, and changed, for the benefit of farmers.
Indeed CIMMYT itself is moving a step up the systems hierachy in the development
of a new programme thrust termed 'Farmer based Policy Research' still however,
with the farmer client square in the centre of the picture. Grandin's paper
is another very useful advocacy for widening the role to be played by social
anthropologists and rural sociologist in FSR and related research approaches.



By Alistair J Sutherland *


Farmers are the primary client group for FSR research
activities. The majority of this client group is comprised
of resource poor farmers who are severely handicapped in
terms of taking their problems to research scientists.
Anthropological and sociological studies have shown that
rural communities have influential members, sometimes called
"brokers", who tend to monopolise relations with
representatives of the "outside world", such as development
project officials and indeed farming systems teams. The
influence of such brokers is often beneficial to the
community, especially when they can mobilise local support
and lobby outside the community for assistance for local
projects (such as self help schools, clinics, dams etc.)
However, brokers also have their own interests to serve when
dealing with outsiders-, and when it comes to agricultural
development their requirements and interests are likely to
differ from the interests of the community at large. Unless
the FSR team members take definite precautions, there is a
high probability that most of their dealings with farmers
will be directed through local brokers. The danger is that
they may end up serving the interests of a small group of
farmers, perhaps at the expense of the larger intended target
group. For this reason it is important that careful
attention is paid when selecting which farmers to communicate
with during FSR activities. Farmers who are selected become,
in effect, "spokesmen/women" for a particular target group.

* The author is senior rural sociologist with the Adaptive
Research Planning Team (ARPT), Zambia's farming systems
programme which is incorporated into the Research Branch of
the Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture and
Water Development. A shorter version of this paper was
presented at the ARPT annual review as a basis for a
discussion on farmer selection. The author wishes to
acknowledge the stimulus from other ARPT staff during
discussion and also written comments from individuals
including Richard Edwards, Stuart Kean and Mike Collinson.
The ideas presented are the author's and do not necessarily
represent those of ARPT.


Selecting farmers as spokesmen occurs at a number o
different stages during the FSR sequence of activities:-

1. During the zoning of farming systems, a limited number o
farmers may be interviewed in addition to extension staff an.
local leaders. Such farmers are used as "key informants"
usually being drawn from areas adjacent to agricultural camp
they are expected have an overview sufficient to provide
general picture of the farming system in the local camp are
and possibly in adjacent areas too.

2. During informal surveys, farmers interviewed are th,
principal spokesmen for target groups identified during t.s
zoning of farming systems. As such they are expected t(
represent a cross-section of the target group under
investigation, each presenting their own specific farming
practices and views of agriculture related problems. ir
total., their views provide the main foundation for a listing
and prioritisation of research problems and priorities.

3. During- formal survey work farmers selected for interview
are spokesmen in relation to a set of issues identified by
previous spokesmen. As such they have less control over the
identification and prioritisation of problems, and are
expected instead to assist in quantifying the scale of
problems and further pinpointing the causes.

4. During the prescreening of technological improvements
farmers are rarely involved as spokesmen, largely because
their opinion is rarely sought by FSR teams. While the full
value of seeking the farmers opinion at this stage has not
been effectively put to the test, there are good reasons for
arguing that this would be beneficial. Discussion at the
community level prior to trial implementation permits 'armers
and the community to be actively involved in trial assessment
and to react to ideas being tested in the tr-ais,. I
farmers' reactions area effectively gauged ard ne'essar-
adjustments made, this will help them to id-enti c itn rhe
trials and the problems these address.

5. During the running of on-farm trials selected "Fermer
cooperators"" become spokesmen with the potential role of
evaluating the relevance and future of the technology uncer
test. They may al-so be involved in helping the agronomist tc
test hypotheses relating to biological relationships in
problem identification trials. The spokesman role of .he
farmer cooperator offers the greatest influence on the
agronomists and social scientists in -elation to refinement
of research problems and the reassessment. o(- rsear
priorities both on-farm and on-stat ion.

6. During field days and field visits farmer cooperators
selected for visits also have a considerable potential
influence as spokesmen communicating with a small number of
influential decision makers in agricultural research and

7. Finally, when a new technology is ready for release,
local farmers who decide to try out the new technology on a
full scale become spokesmen with a new role of encouraging
others in their target group to adopt the technology. If
extension demonstration plots are used then again farmer
selection becomes a crucial activity.


When farmers are being selected for the above activities, a
number of biases are likely to influence the selection
process, and also subsequent communication with those
selected. These biases are both conscious and unconscious.
Some, especially the conscious ones, may have a positive
effect on the success of the programme. What is important is
that FSR teams are aware of the potential biases involved at
different stages in the sequence and take appropriate action.
Biases which are undesirable should be minimised, while those
which are useful should be harnessed in a way that increases
the relevance of on-farm research activities. Taking action
requires identification of the main sources of bias. Sources
of bias can be classified into three basic kinds: bias
arising from the local area under study through the use of
middlemen; bias arising from the FSR team's internal
characteristics, and biases arising from logistical
constraints within the programme.

Three main types of bias from middlemen are:

a) bias from extension staff (field staff and specialists)
who tend to favour more progressive farmers, cash
croppers/credit receivers, and friends,

b) bias from local leaders and "brokers", who may favour
their own family, interest group, or ethnic group,

c) bias from heads of households/household groupings, who may
present their individual interests as identical with
subordinate households/family members.

Biases arising from the FSR team's internal characteristics

d) bias towards male farmers as spokesmen (especially when
the team is all male),

e) bias towards articulate farmers (especially when team
members -don't speak the local language or want information

f) bias towards "volunteer" farmers (especially when quick
and easy cooperation is a high priority,

g) bias towards more wealthy farmers (especially when team
or its guide values farmer hospitality),

h) bias towards more progressive and innovative farmers
(especially if major changes in technology are being
considered, or if team shares a model of new technology
trickling down from the more to the less progressive),

i) bias towards farmers speaking the same language
(especially when interpreters are mistrusted or team's
language skills are limited),

j) bias arising from team's methods and criteria for
defining what constitutes a household/farmer (especially when
this has been given little thought or left up to middlemen),

k) bias arising from the desire to maintain the same farmers
over several seasons who may have become a unique group due
to team's interventions (especially in areas where
cooperation is a problem or longitudinal case study data is
being collected).

Biases arising from logistical factors and constraints

1) bias towards farming communities nearby roads and
administrative centres (especially when roads are poor,
time is scarce due to size of programme, support staff are
seconded from existing institutions, and transport
resources are few),

m) seasonal bias (especially in single season cropping
systems when surveys and selections are carried out during
the dry season),

n) bias to "home centred farmers" (those normally at home),

o) bias to farmers who normally attend public meetings called
by extension staff/local leaders (especially when this is
the common practice during informal surveys and selection of
farmer cooperators),

The next step is to suggest ways of dealing with these biases
in the context of the occasions for farmer selection within
the sequence listed above. The suggestions below arise

largely from experiences in Zambia, but it is anticipated
that they will be applicable elsewhere in Africa.


4.1. Zoning.

- preselect extension workers for interview who have at least
five years experience in the area under study

- select local leaders who have lived in an area for ten
years or more, and concentrate on older leaders with
traditional authority in the area (such as local chiefs and
their advisors/retainers)

- select local villagers without office who were born in an
area and are 45 or more years of age. Ensure older women are
interviewed, even in preference to men as the other
informants are likely to be men. Traditional doctors are
likely to be good informants as they are intelligent and tend
to travel widely.

- conduct interviews in the local language with the aid of an
interpreter if necessary. This will help avoid selecting
more literate and travelled members of the local community.

- if a range of ethnic groups occupy the area being zoned,
ensure informants are representative of the different groups.

4.2. Informal Survey.

- a frequent unconscious bias arises from the timing of the
survey. Seasonal variations can give rise to finding
different people at home at different times of the year. For
example in shifting cultivation systems combined with
permanent villages nearby semi-permanent sites will give a
bias to those doing more semi-permanent cultivation,
especially if the village is visited during peak periods of
activity in the shifting system. Moreover, the time of -day
is likely to influence who will be at home, especially
whether men or women will be at home. Avoiding such biases
requires a prior understanding of seasonal movements between
permanent villages and distant lands and also a prior
understanding of the daily routine for both sexes at
different times of the year.

- avoid reliance on extension staff for the selection of
survey areas, villages, and individual farmers within
villages. This implies having good maps and secondary data
and using field skills to obtain the cooperation of the local
extension worker as a provider of information and
introductions, rather than as a broker and navigator.

- The same general principles apply to using other local
leaders, but with the recognition that it may be "politic" to
interview and visit the field of the leader as a means to
ensuring smoother cooperation and greater control of
subsequent selection.

- When selecting heads of household for interview, it is
important to be aware of the local kinship and residential
organisation. For example, interviewing only the family head
in situations where residential groupings are based on
extended families should be avoided. In such situations it
is better to interview all adults in the residential
grouping, rather than singling out one and then moving onto
another residential group to-do the same and so on. If the
usual informal approach to villages is used it is important
also to remember that household heads most likely to come
forward for interview are those most senior in age and rank
and also those most used to dealing with outsiders (often the
more educated).

- While not essential to seek out farmers in the most remote
areas, it is important to make the extra effort to interview
farmers staying further from the roads and service centres,
and establish in what ways their priorities differ, if any,
from farmers staying close by. It is also useful to estimate
the proportion of the farmers in the target group living more
than a given distance from a main road/service centre.
Aerial photographs can be used for this. If very substantial
differences appear then it may be necessary to establish on-
farm trials in a more remote area.

- During informal surveys male farmers usually serve as the
main spokesmen, even though they are not always the main
providers of labour and decision takers (usually both labour
and decision making result from informal/private dialogue
between male and female within the household). This tendency
arises from two related factors. Firstly, most FSR teams are
male dominated, and secondly adult males are the ones who
deal with outsiders in most rural areas. Selecting women for
interview requires a conscious effort from the FSR team to
seek women out and to ensure that wives attending contribute
to the discussion. This is not always easy. Women being
busy people, will often stand up and leave an interview, or
cut it short, especially if they regard the questions as
irrelevant, while men are more likely to continue to answer
politely. For this reason it is particularly important to
get women involved in the interview as quickly as possible,
as well as to anticipate the kinds of questions they are most
likely to find relevant.

- The most articulate farmers are likely to come forward
during an informal survey and select themselves. Moreover,
being articulate they are likely to provide more information
and have more influence on the teams assessment of priorities

and problems. While such farmers are valuable sources of
information, it should always be kept clearly in mind that
their opinion on a particular issue is in fact no more
important than any other farmers. Indeed silence on an issue
under discussion may indicate that it is a non issue for the
farmer (even though it may be an issue for a previously
interviewed articulate farmer and/or FSR team member).

- Farmers who volunteer themselves for interview may often
have other motives than to be helpful. Often individuals who
are marginal in a community may try and enhance their status
by being seen talking to apparently influential outsiders.
Or they may believe the team is not simply seeking
information but providing resources such as credit or inputs.

- In rural communities, more wealthy farmers may also be the
more articulate ones who volunteer information. Such farmers
are more likely to speak a similar language to research
scientists (use similar agronomic terms), to ask for
technical advice, and more inclined to provide refreshments
for a group of weary interviewers, and so hold their
attention for longer.

- More progressive and innovative farmers are often more
articulate and wealthy. They are likely to be more
interesting to the i-nterviewer and more likely to engage in
dialogue and ask questions as well as provide answers. The
team should not forget that most farmers in the target group
may be relatively conservative and reluctant to take risks.
While innovative farmers may be very useful as cooperators
during trials, they should not be over-represented during

- Language biases are important. When expatriates are
involved there is great scope for misinterpretation of
questions and answers, and this may lead to selection of more
farmers with a knowledge of english and a more extended
dialogue with these farmers. This is common when there is a
lack of faith in interpreters being used. When nationals are
involved, the bias towards english speaking farmers is
probably less likely to take place, but may still occur if
the interviewer has a preference for discussing agronomic
issues in the technical language of his or her training.
Also, when nationals are working in areas where a minor
language is spoken, there may still be a bias towards
selection of farmers who speak the main language in the
province. Such biases can be avoided by ensuring that there
are a sufficient number of people on the interview team who
speak the local language well, and also that those who don't
are prepared to make an effort to learn and record relevant
local terms relating to local practices, and local ideas
relating to causal relationships between variables under
investigation. In short, the bias away from the local
language generates a bias away from trying to access

indigenous technical knowledge; a great fund of valuable
information is missed.

4.3. Formal S-u r v Y.

Because a formal survey is a more structured activity, there
is more scope for controlling bias. Most bias enters during
the sampling stage. Only in the most exceptional case
would it be possible to attempt a random sample from a target
population. Lists of farmers are rarely complete, often they
don't exist and those that do exist have biases. For example
in Zambia village registers do not indicate adults as
household heads and are often both incomplete and out of
date. Extension workers have farmer registers which are
usLially incomplete. The registers are usually biased towards
-armers staying closer to the camp, to male farmers, and to
farmers growing cash crops and receiving credit. For these
reasons a multi-stage sampling procedure is usually the best
bet. In the Zambian context, the first step is to sample
from a list of wards (the political unit immediately below
the constituency) which make up a recommendation domain.
These can be randomly sampled, but it may make more sense to
purposely select one or two wards which represent the most
typical features of the domain and also take in a fair
measure of the internal variation within it. Data on these
characteristics should be avai-lable in the zoning report
(e.g. CIMMYT, 1979). This will avoid the possibility of
accidentally choosing the one or two of the least typical
wards and will also allow selection to be considered in
relation to transport and other logistics. The next step
is to obtain a list of villages in the selected wards (from
District Council village listings) and use a similar
procedure to select from these. This will involve a visit
to the ward and interview of key informants to obtain an
overview of the size of the villages on the list, any missing
ones, and the degree of variation between villages. At this
stage care should be taken to establish whether or not
registered villages are in fact discrete residential units,
or whether they are scattered units with overlapping
boundaries. If fields are to be visited as part of the
survey, a further point to establish is the distance from
house to fields and the general relationship between dwelling
places and fields. In areas where shifting cultivation is
practised this exercise should ensure distant fields are
included to avoid a bias to semi-permanent plots close to
settlement. In semi-permanent systems if neighboring
households also have neighboring fields this makes the
logistics of field visits during survey much more feasible.
Generally speaking, a good understanding of local residence
and land use patterns will allow more flexibility to be built
into farmer selection at a later date with less risk of bias.

Using the estimated size of the villages to be selected ir

relat ion to the target number of interviews, the next stage
of selection of farmers for .interview can proceed. If
villages are purposely selected for representativeness, the
risk of geographical bias is greatly reduced, and logistics
made easier. Purposely selecting villages involves noting the
main characteristics of each village on the list (size,
location, main crops, soil type, and other important
productive specialisations), and then choosing a small number
with representative characteristics, appropriate size and
convenient location.

Having selected villages, the next stage is to obtain a
complete listing of households in each. Starting with the
farmer register, going on to the village headman's register,
and then interviewing the headman (or his -representative), a
full list of farm households in the village can be made.
The next step is to decide whether 'to interview all
households in the village or. a proportion of these. The
advantage of interviewing all households is that the smaller
marginal households (particularly female headed) are more
likely to be included, and that linkages between households
in the village will be brought out during the survey. The
disadvantage is that a narrower geographical area is covered,
but as villages have been purposely selected to avoid
uncontrolled geographical bias, the benefits of covering
household linkages outweigh the small geographical bias.

Once the listing of names has taken place, the team can
choose whether or not to start the interviews on the same day
or arrange a time in the future when they can return. If
time is limiting it may be most economical for the team
social scientist to make the final selection of households
and set up times for interview prior to the arrival of other-
team members (preferably one or two days before hand).
However, it is better for all team members to be involved.
This is not only because they will be more likely to identify
with the approach, but because the social scientist's
criteria for final selection may omit some previously
undiscussed yet important variables required by the natural
scientist. If the natural scientist is unable to assist
directly, the social scientist should make a point of
discussing in advance the kinds of criteria (e.g. soils,
cropping history, history of site, livestock situation)
regarded as important. To allow for absentee householders it
is advisable to overselect by 10-15%. If more than this
number are absent on the day then neighboring households
falling within the target group parameters can usually be
easily selected to make up the total.

4.4. Prescreening technical options.
The CIMMYT approach does not include farmers as an important
part of- the group which sifts through problems and related
technical solutions before coming up with an on-farm research

programme. However, there is considerable scope for
involving farmers at this stage. If the formal survey is
carried out at a small number of villages, the same villages
can be used to organise discussions about research
possibilities. Selecting farmers for such discussions
requires a sensitivity to local patterns of public discussion.
For example, if men generally discuss matters of public
concern as a group apart from women, separate meetings may be
required to get discussion and feedback from both sexes. For
example, the Chewa of Eastern Province have a traditional
male forum (the mphala), which can be used to obtain male
opinion. However, if public meetings are generally associated
with a lot of ceremony and oratory, it may be advisable to
hold small informal meetings with three or four farmers
rather than try and discuss details in a group of twenty or
more adults. If the T and V system is operating it may be
possible to use T and V groups as an easily accessible forum
for discussion.

4.5. On-farm Trials

Selection of farmers for on-farm trials can follow the same
pattern as selection for surveys and prescreening
discussions. By focusing on a small number -of local areas
selection can proceed on the basis of an understanding of a
community built up during survey work. Rather than call a
large meeting and ask for volunteers, a more purposive
approach gives a greater degree of control over the farmer
selection process. By purposely selecting farmers over a
narrow geographical area the logistics of trial management
and monitoring can be made much easier and the potential for
dialogue with farmers increased. A trial assistant along
with FSR team members will be able to comfortably visit all
farmers in the area on foot and also benefit from
observations of fields and conversations with other farmers
along the way. When selecting farmers in this way it is
important to establish how the location of their fields
relates to the location of their residence. This requires a
brief survey of the village area prior to the final farmer

Farmer selection can be made more purposive by matching types
of farmer with particular types of trial. If the trial is
researcher managed and implemented, aiming at problem
identification, the most appropriate farmer is a larger and
more literate farmer. The agronomist will probably find it
easier to explain the purposes of the trial to such a farmer
and because the farmer has more land and resources, he is
more likely to be willing to sacrifice a larger part of his
field and provide the necessary resources to ensure
timeliness of operations. .At the same time, when such a
trial is spread across a broader range of farmers it may
generate more information overall (even if CVs are higher).

For levels type trials the same type of farmer is also likely
to be better due to the fact that timeliness and appreciation of
the trial objectives are important. However, it is important
to include a large proportion of the smaller/suboptimal
management farmers in this type of trial and if necessary
modify the trial design to fit the farmer's production
system, rather than vice versa.

For verification trials, it is essential that representative
farmers are used, and the trial design enables easy
assessment by farmers. For this type of trial a community
approach to selection providing many farmers with adjacent
fields will enable easy comparison by farmers as well as
trial assistants and researchers.

More insights into using a community approach to selecting
farmers for trials can be gained from examination of a case
study from Lusaka Province in Zambia.

4.6. Case Study of Farmer Selection in TRD2 Lusaka
Province Chipapa Target Crea.

Farming systems research in Zambia is institutionalized
through the Adaptive Research Planning Team (ARPT), a section
within the Research Branch of the Department of Agriculture
(Kean and Chibasa, 1983). Each province has a team comprised
of a farming systems agronomist, economist, and research
extension liaison officer, while sociologists provide an
input on a regional basis. On farm research is conducted
with the help of a "trials assistant" seconded from the
Extension Branch.

Lusaka Province team started work in 1980, and Chipapa was
the first target area selected within Traditional
Recommendation Domain 2 (TRD2). TRD2 is a domain
characterized by ox cultivation of maize, subsidiary food
crops, and limited cash cropping. Sharing of oxen was
identified as a common cause of late planting of long season
hybrid maize, resulting in ver poor yields. On-farm research
had focused mainly on addressing this problem with the
introduction of short season hybrids and late planted-
alternative crops (eg. beans, soybeans, sunflower, and short
duration sorghum).

After four seasons of trials in Chipapa it was decided to
review the farmer selection procedure. One factor which
prompted this decision was a transport problem. The trials
assistant's motor bike had broken down the previous season
with the result that trial sites more than walking distance
from the agricultural camp had been neglected. As there was
no certainty of a motor bike for the coming season it was
decided to move the sites to within walking distance of the

trial assistant's house. Further factors were a change of
staff. The new trials assistant was inexperienced, and did
not have established relationships with the previous trial
farmers. The new agronomist felt that farmers used in the
previous season represented a biased group of farmers, and in
addition was interested to understand how resources were
shared around the community and felt a clustered community
perspective would facilitate this. He decided to involve the
rural sociologist in the farmer selection process in order to
bring about more farmer participation and feedback in the
experimental programme. The rural sociologist was keen to be
involved as he had seen the need for a more systematic
approach to farmer selection in order to introduce more of a
community perspective in Chipapa target area, but had been
unable to persuade the previous agronomists that this was
necessary. Their reaction to suggestions had been that the
value of having more representative and accessible farmers
would probably not compensate for the loss of good relations
with existing farmer cooperators. A change of staff
therefore provided the main opportunity for reviewing the

4.61. Previous approaches to farmer selection in Chipapa

The original approach had been to hold meetings called by the
local extension staff at which ARPT trial activities had been
described and volunteers requested. In the first two
seasons, three sub target areas had been selected, one around
the Chipapa agricultural camp, one about 10 km north at
Shantumbu, and the third further south at Chiyokoma. In 1984
it was decided to reduce the size of the area by
concentrating on three villages closer to Chipapa camp, the
objective being to have three clusters of trials. Again,
selection was on the basis of volunteers/village
representatives selected at meetings. While reducing the
distances to travel between sites, particularly for ARPT
officers stationed at Mount Makulu, this did not
significantly reduce the dependence on a motorbike for the
trial assistant as the clusters were still relatively
scattered across the area.

4.62. Bringing a community perspective to bear on Chipapa
farmer selection.

In order to bring both the trials assistant and the ARPT
officers closer to the farmers it was decided to select
farmers within walking distance of the trials assistant's
house (up to 45 minutes). This would enable both of them to
get to know a smaller group of local farmers more intimately,
reduce the time taken traveling between sites, and remove the
trials assistant's dependence on a motorbike. Because much
of the travelling could be on foot, the opportunities Tor
informal contact with local people could increase, as would

the opportunities for observations of agronomic and
managment variables in farmers' fields through the season.

The actual selection process took place within certain
critical parameters likely to be common to any on-farm trial
programme: -

. Nature yhe on- lar Em tEials-L The on-farm experimental
programme for the season was to include three main trials,
with a possibility of two more subsidiary trials. The main
trials were; maize varieties (verification under farmer
management), late planted alternative crops (verification
farmer management), and maize/sunflower/cowpea intercrop
(exploratory farmer managed). Subsidiary trials were a
sorghum variety trial and testing of a new pumpkin variety.

While under pressure to reduce the scale of the trial
programme and the number of sites involved, the agronomist
was concerned to replace researcher managed split plot
designs with a more simple style of trial which left most
management decisions up to the farmer. To give credible
statistical results, this implied having more replications,
and in turn more farmers. In fact the number of trial
farmers required increased over the previous season, from
three to six farmers per trial to a minimum of 24 (this
figure assumed each trial would have a minimum of 9
sites/replications and 12 of the 24 farmers would have 2
sites, each for a different trial, while the other 12 would
have one trial giving a-total of 36 sites).

2., Soils _too9ErahY and climatic variables. The agronomist
was concerned to spread the trials over the range of major
soil types and topography predominantly used by farmers in
the domain. This involved selecting sites on both hilly and
flat areas and on both lighter gravelly soils and heavier
clay soils. Rainfall was thought to vary considerably
locally but a minimum distance between clusters of sites was
not established in advance of the selection. It was felt
that major differences would be related to management rather
than climate.

... T.a!Et g. aoup R Ecb.ractiei.l..s. It was known that a large
proportion of the target group did not own oxen and depended
on access to these by other means. Moreover, it was also
suspected that female headed households const tuted a
significant proportion of the population. In addition, not
all farmers grew the crops planned in the trials every year
(particularly sorghum and the late planted alternative

4.63. Stages of farmer selection.

i.::. i .i. lD ..- A list of 15 villages within the
Chipapa agricultural camp area was compiled. Of these 15,

five villages within easy walking distance of the camp area
were identified for more detailed data collection and a
sketch map made of their location. The trials assistant did
this by interviewing camp staff and local people as the farm
register was not complete. For each of the five villages a
preliminary list of households was compiled and for each
household, data on resource base and crops grown was
recorded based on information volunteered by village members.
The walking distance (in minutes) to each household was also
recorded. At this stage of collecting information, it became
clear that a sufficient number of farmers could be selected
from three out of the five villages. The three villages
chosen included two closest to the camp which had the biggest
range of soil types and topography and the most sorghum
growers. These two villages also represented one of the
main arable producing areas of the camp, a bias which matched
the nature of the on-farm trials towards crops rather than
non-arable enterprises. The third village, the largest in
the cluster, straddled the road leading to the agricultural
camp which ARPT officers used to enter the target area. This
selection permitted easy logistics for visiting both farmers
and sites.

2. Household Selection. For the three villages selected, an
effort was made to visit each household and interview the
household head to verify the information recorded in the
preliminary listing of households. In the process of doing
this it was discovered that a considerable number of
households had been left out of the list, particularly female
headed households and those of newcomers to the area. The
reason for this was that the definition of what constituted a
household had not been agreed in advance. Lack of clarity
was compounded by the nature of the settlement pattern in the
area. Households, defined subsequently as one or more adult
persons with a seper.ate plot, grain store, and sleeping
quarters tended to cluster in small groups around family
heads. Often the family head had been recorded as the
household head.

Through the process of visiting households, the initial total
of 48 households in the two largest villages was increased to
68, and with the knowledge that this number would be
increased further if other parts of the villages were
visited. However, it was decided to stop at this point as
time was limited and a sufficient number of potential trial
farmers had been identified.

While visiting households, household heads were asked if they
would be willing to participate in the trial programme. .All
readily agreed, with the exception of a cluster of female
headed households who expressed reservations due to the fact
that their oxen had died, and they didn't know how they would
be ploughing. After assurances that they would be expected
to plant the trials only when they were ready, they agreed

and all did host trials. At this stage an attempt was made
to note which trial might be suitable for which particular
household, although no definite arrangements were made.
Farmers were told that the trials assistant would contact
them if he required their help with trials.

This process of identifying households was accomplished in a
short period of time, a morning (5 hours). In the first part
of the morning, 16 potential households were identified from
one village, grouped into four clusters on the basis of
proximity of fields and dwellings. Most of these 16 were
interviewed in person and agreed to cooperate in trials. The
remainder were mentioned as possible cooperators by close
relatives, and an arrangement made for the trials assistant
to follow these up at a later date. In the second part of
the morning, three more clusters totalling 18 households were
identified. These three clusters were based solely on
proximity of fields, as experience of the previous clusters
had shown that sometimes proximity of dwellings and fields
did not coincide (also time did not permit visiting each
household individually). Some households in each cluster
were visited and fields inspected in conjunction with a
representative of the household. Sketch maps of the
household's field and adjacent fields were made on the spot.
The trial assistant was left with the task of making follow
up visits to households not visited but identified as
potential cooperators on the basis of field proximity, and of
making sketch maps of fields of the 16 households in the
first village. No major problems were subsequently
experienced by the trials assistant in obtaining the
agreement of farmers not visited to cooperate.

At the end of the preliminary exercise, 34 potential
cooperators were -identified. and 31 of these subsequently
agreed to host trials. In addition, it was possible to
recruit nine more potential farmers at the time that
guidelines for planting the trials were being discussed with
selected farmers, giving a preliminary total of 40 farmers.
Overselection of the provisional total of 24 was done on the
anticipation that a proportion of these would drop out, and
that perhaps less than half would be willing to host more
than one trial.

During the selection an effort was made to keep within the
parameters relating to access to draught power, gender, and
cropping history as indicated by Table 1. 40% of households
selected were headed by females, exceeding the target of one
in three by 6.6%.. Approximately half of the households
selected were ox owners, matching the target. With regard to
reported cropping histories and plans, the proportion growing
maize only was over-represented in relation to trial needs
while the proportion growing sorghum was under-represented.
A significant proportion were growing sunflower and other
cash crops so that selection for the intercropping and

alternative late planted crops trials would be feasible.

Tabli 1 C harCactarstic of farCm@Cn salcted

Type of HH. Draught Power Main Crops Other Cash
Reported Crop

FHH 16 Ox Owner 16 Mze only 15 SF Only 5

MHH 24 No Oxen 16 Mze & Sg 4 SF &/or
other 8
N.I. 0 N.I. 8 Staple + 14
Csh crp None 17

N.I. 9 N.I. 10

Tot. 40 40 40 40

3. MastchinQg f ime to_ tria__s Matching farmers to trials
was achieved through negotiation with farmers, rather than by
giving them a direct choice. Most of the farmers selected
would have preferred to have the mixed maize variety trial.
However many of these were persuaded to accept other trials.
In four cases farmers agreed to one trial in addition to the
mixed maize trial, and in two other cases they agreed to host
both the intercropping and alternative late planted crops
trial. Finding enough farmers for the sorghum trial was more
difficult, reflecting the importance of the trial from the
farmers' point of view. However, as the trial was regarded
as important for strengthening links with sorghum commodity
researchers, an effort was made to select extra farmers. The
matching of farmers to trials prior to planting was as
follows; mixed maize trial 15, sorghum trial 11, intercrop
trial 10, and late alt. crop trial 10 (giving a total of 46
trial sites and 40 +armers).

4.64. Problems encountered and lessons learned

Overall the selection procedure as described above functioned
according to plan. It enabled a rapid selection of a
relatively large number of representative farmers in a
confined area over a short period of time. This allowed the
new trials assistant, during his first year of work, to cover
his area on foot and effectively monitor all trials planted.
The main problem experienced was the familiar one of farmers
who dropped out during implementation of the programme. 16
of the 40 farmers who had initially agreed, failed to plant
the trial. The main reason was that they were relying on
assistance from others in ploughing, and an arrangement made
to plough on a particular day fell through, upsetting the

arrangement made with the trials assistant who had agreed to
be present at the trial (not to direct it but record what the
farmer did). This was especially a problem when the
hired/borrowed oxen came ahead of the expected time. Another
reason was a prolonged wet spell which encouraged weed growth
to the point where ox owning farmers were using oxen for
weeding in order to save their crop, rather than assisting
other farmers with ploughing. This finding suggests that
using resource poor households as trial cooperators in ox-
cultivating systems may considerably reduce the researcher's
control over management of the trial. Also if the trial is
farmer managed, the farmer should not be asked to give a date
when he or she will plant; this is unrealistic. After giving
careful instructions, the trials assistant can request to be
informed immediately the trial has been planted. This will
not greatly inconvenience the resource poor farmer when a
community approach is used and the trial assistant stays

While the level of farmer "dropout" was a problem, and
probably higher than if selection had been based on
volunteers recruited at meetings, the community approach
proved resilient and also educative on the system. The
trials assistant managed, without difficulty, to select five
more farmers from adjacent fields and so the number of
farmers planting stood at 28, four above the original target
of 24. The team learned more about the relation between ox
owners and non-owners, and the way this can vary according
not just to social arrangements and economic opportunities,
but also seasonal variations in rainfall.

On reflection more time could have been spent collecting
background information, .particularly with regard to location
of fields in relation to dwelling, and the scattering of
fields. More detailed information on previous cropping
histories would also have been useful, for the intercropping
and the other trials too. More information on competing
activities engaged in by selected farmers, especially
charcoal burning and mushroom gathering, would have been
useful also. Further lessons from this approach to farmer
selection will be drawn from further analysis of trial
results, and farmer feedback this season.

A final point is that using a community approach like the one
described above was probably made easier because ARPT had
been operating in the area for a number of years, and so
local people mostly understood what was involved with hosting
on-farm trials. If a new target area was to be selected for
such an approach it would clearly be necessary to call one or
more meetings within the community in order to explain the
purpose of the on-farm research programme in advance.

i,, 7., r n S an:id mon str at i ons.

For this stage a different approach to farmer selection may
be required after the first year of on farm tests. After
test demonstrations have proved successful in the target
area, the clustering of farmers used in the previous stages
will need to be dropped in favour of an approach which covers
a wider geographical area. One or two farmers from each
cluster may be selected along with a good number from other
parts of recommendation domain. Farmers selected should be
located near to denser population areas and in the centres of
these. If the T and V system of extension is operating, the
contact farmers will obviously be involved. However, care
should be taken to ensure that these are representative of
the target group in relation to such factors as gender,
wealth, age, language, and local origin. One option is to.
persuade extension staff to use some of the former farmer
cooperators as trial farmers. Interestingly, in the Chipapa
area discussed above, the extension officer responsible for
demonstrations has selected some of the poorer ARPT farmer
cooperators for the coming seasons demonstrations.

5.0. Conclusion.

The above are some ideas and suggestions relating to
selecting farmers as spokesmen and spokeswomen, both as
informants and cooperators, during on farm research. These
are largely based on experience from farming systems
programmes in Zambia, but it is hoped that practitioners from
neighboring countries may find them useful. The author
welcomes comments and suggestions from other practitioners in
the region.


CIMMYT (1979), Zoning in Central Province: Demonstrations of
an interdiscip linary aEEroach to planning adaptive
agricultural research grogrammes Report No. 3, CIMMYT East
Africa Economics Programme, Nairobi.

Kean, S.A. and Chibasa, W. (1983), "Institutionalising Farming
Systems Research in Zambia" in Farming Systems Newsletter,
CIMMYT East Africa Economics Programme, Nairobi.