The Rockefeller F'oundation
111 WEST 50th STREET, NEW YORK, N.Y. 10020
AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES CABLE: ROCKFOUND, NEW YORK
TELEPHONE: COLUMBUS 5-8100
January 29, 1974
To: Interested Persons
From: Ralph W. Cummings, Jr.
Attached are my notes on Plan Puebla based on the
review held in Mexico during October 6-9, 1973; papers prepared
by observers; materials prepared by the project staff; and
comments by those who saw earlier drafts of my notes. I
would welcome any reactions, pro or con.
The Plan Puebla staff is preparing a six-year re-
view, to be ready for distribution hopefully by the fall of
1974, which will go into considerably more detail than these
REVIEW OF PLAN PUEBLA
On October 6-9, 1973, The Rockefeller Foundation sponsored a
review of Plan Puebla by a small group composed of New York and field RF
staff, previous and present Plan Puebla staff, and knowledgeable and in-
terested outside persons representing a blend of crop scientists, social
scientists, and program specialists. The purposes of the review were:
1. to enable members of the Conquest of Hunger Committee in the RF to
have a thorough understanding of what the project has accomplished
in order to have a common ground for later discussions; and
2. to attempt to identify those principles or practices utilized in Plan
Puebla, in particular key issues in the application of agricultural
science and technology to small farmer environments, which would have
transferability to similar situations elsewhere.
Two general papers describing the broader outlines of the project
were distributed to participants before the meeting. Ten of the planned
15 chapters of a comprehensive review of the project by Plan Puebla staff
were distributed in preliminary draft form to participants at the meeting.
One full morning was spent viewing the project area including visits to
farmers' fields, experimental plots, and a participating village. Five
sessions, two of which lasted six hours, were devoted to discussing the
project in as much depth as possible.
Within the constraints of information assembled, time available,
and physical endurance, the first purpose of the review seems to have been
achieved reasonably well. Plan Puebla was initiated as an experiment in
1967 with limited, but important, goals. The project followed a planned
approach, based initially on what was already known with built-in mechan-
isms for learning and subsequent readjustment. A methodology for promoting
a substantial increase in maize production (the first objective in the
original project statement) was developed. Average maize yields for the
whole project area are estimated to have increased by about 30 percent
by 1972. Welfare in the areas measured by increase in income and such
other evidence as increases in number of families who have access to
electricity and potable wtXer, The benefit/cost ratio for the project was
It appears likely that the Mexican government will take over
the financing of Plan Puebla after RF support has terminated at the end
In large part, based on the example of the project, maize pro-
motion programs have spread to other states of Mexico and to other coun-
tries in Latin America. Plan Puebla has trained leaders and staff of
these programs (the second objective in the original project statement)
and has assisted them in initiating and operating their programs.
On the other hand, it is also important to note what Plan Puebla
was not. Only about 15 percent of the farmers representing 25 percent
of the maize area of Puebla were enrolled as "farmers on credit lists"
after six years of activity. The research program was unable to identify
maize varieties which were more successful than the best local varieties
already in use in the area, some of which had become adapted to high
fertility levels as a result of years of irrigation with sewage effluent.
Plan Puebla did not attempt to deal with technologies other than maize
production (except for later work with beans and the maize-bean associa-
tion). Public health and education programs were carried on by the usual
agencies. The project was evolved largely outside the usual government
processes. It was directed by scientists, not by responsible agencies of
the state government. Roads generally were good, fertilizer distributors
and banks already existed (although they served a limited number of
campesinos), the large town of Puebla was nearby, and land reform had been
carried out previously.
Plan Puebla was initially conceived as an experiment to achieve
specified objectives. By any measure, it has served its purpose as such.
The second purpose of the review was more ambitious. Technology
for maize production in this area did not automatically flow to the farmers
as it did for wheat in northern Mexico or in India. This situation is
representative of a large part of the low income world. Noting that many
specific lessons were learned, the more general implications of Plan Puebla
for similar situations elsewhere include the following:
1. Feasibility studies should be carried out at the very first stage to
identify the major activity components in the region, the available
technology, the agro-climatic conditions, and the socioeconomic
structure of the people.
2. Based on these studies, clearly defined goals should be established
against which progress can be measured:
a. The goals should be as simple in focus as feasible.
b. A time phasing for activities and progress should be worked
3. Budget considerations should include:
a. A budget that is adequate both in amount and ease of admin-
b. If using external resources, the program should be funded
at a level which the government eventually can assume.
4. Staffing considerations should include:
a. A capable, highly motivated, well-trained staff covering
agronomic research, technical assistance to the farmers,
and socioeconomic evaluation organized into a single team
(there should be no escape from team responsibility for
achieving the goals of the project).
b. Incentives to make the work professionally and personally
rewarding to the staff.
c. Strong leadership.
d. Continuity of operation assured far enough in advance so
that a reasonable time is provided for achieving the
5. All possible efforts should be made to bring in and coordinate all
the activities impinging directly on crop production, including the
a. Production research which is related to the national research
program (rather than an autonomous effort) and which includes
on-farm research on a wide range of soil, fertilizer, and
climatic conditions within the project area and development
of management techniques which can promise the farmer sub-
stantially higher yields and profits than he is currently
b. Effective communication of agronomic information to farmers,
agricultural leaders, agricultural institutions, and govern-
ment officials the technical assistance agents must have an
adequate knowledge of technology and have confidence and be
expert themselves in the practices they are recommending.
c. Adequate production credit at reasonable rates of interest with
d. Easily accessible and adequate amounts of agronomic inputs when
e. Accessible markets with stable crop prices.
f. Favorable relationships between input costs and crop values.
Chances for success, including longer-term continuity of program, are
strengthened if these activities are built into the ongoing governmental
process from the beginning, i.e., if political support is achieved.
6. Certain functions such as some aspects of training can be centralized
while others such as field experiments and demonstrations must be carried
out close to the farmer, preferably on farms of participants. Dividing
the area into zones may be helpful to establish areas of responsibility
for technicians. The criteria for selecting zone size should include
nature of soils, other climatic factors, social and political organization
of the population, degree of mobility of the team, and amount of financial
resources available. However the division of responsibilities is carried
out, the researcher must not be insulated from the farmer, i.e., should
not be separated from seeing the field results of his work.
7. Continuing in-house evaluation is extremely important to provide feed-
back so that project activities are responsive to changes within the
project in pursuit of the designated goals (or so that goals can be
adjusted if needed).
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SELECTED NOTES FROM PLAN PUEBLA REVIEW
By 1967, CIMMYT scientists were struck by the fact that maize
varieties and agronomic production practices, which had been developed on
the research stations, were not being utilized widely by farmers outside
the experimental fences. In particular, small farmers did not seem to be
picking up the new technology readily. The question was, why? The scien-
tists decided to determine if with available technology/yields in the
region could be raised substantially and, if so, whether new practices would
be more profitable to use, and, if so, to what extent farmers would change
and what factors would influence their decisions. Therefore Plan Puebla
was set up with the following objectives:
a. to develop an efficient methodology for promoting a rapid
increase in maize production;
b. to train national leaders for maize promotion programs and
to assist them in initiating and operating their programs.
The project area was chosen to be in the state of Puebla, about
90 minutes' drive from Mexico City. Approximately 47,000 families on roughly
120,000 hectares of cropland (about 2 1/2 hectares per family), about three-
quarters in maize, farmed land under rainfed conditions. Average maize
yields were 1.3 tons per hectare. There was a good system of roads for
access to and movement within the area. Agricultural service agencies,
including credit, fertilizer supply, crop insurance, and price support,
were already in the area. A successful land reform program had been carried
The project was initiated as a learning process (not a demonstration
project). It tested a planned approach, based initially on what was known,
with built-in mechanisms for planning and subsequent adjustments. CIMMYT
maintained overall control and coordination, but at the same time it tried
to involve the appropriate Mexican institutions as collaborators. The primary
components of Plan Puebla were:
a. local production research emphasizing maize production practices
(including soils and fertilizers) and maize breeding;
b. effective communication of agronomic information to farmers,
agricultural leaders, agricultural institutions, and government
c. adequate production credit at reasonable rates of interest with
reasonable procedures of providing credit;
d. easily accessible and adequate agronomic inputs when needed;
e. favorable relationships between input costs and crop values;
f. crop insurance;
g. accessible markets with stable maize prices; and
2. TECHNOLOGY EVOLUTION OF RESEARCH
At the end of the first year of field tests it was found that
none of the improved maize varieties or hybrids performed appreciably
better than the local varieties. Project research has not been able to
produce a better variety since then. Lack of success of the breeding
work may have been due to several factors, one of the hypotheses being
the limited range of adaptability of the germplasm was not adequate for
the area characterized by a multitude of micro-climates.
Therefore project research has focused on deriving recommenda-
tions for varieties of maize already in use, taking into account variability
in soil morphology, planning dates, elevation above sea level, and moisture
availability. In 1967, the first year, 27 trials were located over the
project area (ecological knowledge by which to insure optimal location of
the trials was not then developed). Based on these results, the project
came out with new recommendations that increased the rate of nitrogen
(from 80 to 130 kg/hs.) and increased the plant population (from 40,000
to 50,000 plants/ha.).
Beginning in 1968, planting date, time of nitrogen application,
and plant population were additional variables studied in the experiments.
A soil morphologist spent ten days interpreting soil differences. High
plant density was found to be very important to obtaining high yields
under good conditions (but may result in lower yields if weather is not
good). Recommendations were changed for a few areas where soil conditions
were limiting. Recommendations were also made for different planting
dates, as the length of the growing season was found to have a very im-
portant influence on yield. Drought and hail (lesser) were found to be
the major sources of risk. Late frost can be a factor. In all, 16 recom-
mended combinations for the total area eventually resulted.
The project has made significant contributions toward methodology
for deriving recommendations in rainfed agriculture. On the agronomic
side, a key innovation has been adequate prior research in determining
the package of practices that is recommended to the farmer. Numerous field
experiments have been carried out because of the wide variability in soil
and climate. A significant aspect of this work has been to get away from
a procedure, still commonly used in much of the world, of studying one
production variable at a time.
More recent research has concentrated attention on combinations
of corn and beans. When beans are associated with corn, corn yields drop
but because the bean price is three times that of corn, the farmer ends up
with increased income. Chicken manure increases yields of corn and beans
(especially); it also increases protein content of corn and beans. Forage
from corn stalks and bean vines is high. Corn and beans have complementary
amino acid balances. Thus the combination significantly increases both the
calories and protein available from an acre of ground compared to previous
practices. Furthermore, because the combination must be harvested by hand,
it also increases employment.
The objective of the communications program was to reach as many
farmers as soon as possible in order to increase their yields.
First, the staff studied the recognized communications systems
already existing including both the formal system operating through the
power structure and the informal systems operating through friends and
neighbors. Since so many farmers work with maize, it seemed like a proper
starting point to explain the project in the villages. Direct information
was given to everyone, including women and children, who attended the meet-
ings. Several things were accomplished in this process; first, the farmers
felt involved; second, the staff were able to identify what the people
wanted and what problems were most important to the community; and third,
the community leaders were identified. The next step was the establishment
of groups. From this base technical assistance was extended to other com-
munities by use of demonstrations.
The staff felt that they had to use face-to-face communication
at the beginning in order to establish rapport with the campesinos who are
generally suspicious and especially mistrustful of government. The problem
of mistrust had to be endured and overcome since Plan Puebla had no alterna-
tive in the sense that eventually government must take over the program.
They began using films, radio, and printed materials only by 1969. Con-
tinuity of staff personnel in this early period was especially important in
establishing trust and rapport.
4. FARMER ORGANIZATION
Agrarian reforms of the 1920's were accompanied by political/organiza-
tional changes at the village level. However, many promises have been un-
filled; many previous efforts at organization led to frustration. The vil-
lagers became very competitive.
Leobardo Jimenez took his first task of getting participation which
was to be voluntary. He informed the farmers that credit, inputs, and tech-
nology were available to those who participated in the program at their own
choice. The need for credit was the impetus for organization. The rate of
loan repayments had been very low and banks were reluctant to lend. It
was virtually impossible for an individual to get credit alone. The project
began with only 103 farmers in 1968. CIMMYT guaranteed the loans in 1968
provided by the private fertilizer dealer. The number of farmers increased
to 2,561 the next year; the credit was provided by the official credit banks
and the fertilizer distributor. Groups were begun in 1969 because the number
of farmers had become too large for individual contact with technical assis-
A combination of responsibility and social pressure are the key
elements in making the group an effective element of change. In the case
of solidarity groups, only one member has to have a clear land title to
qualify for loans from the Agricultural Bank. The group also generally
takes responsibility for repayment by individual members. It works out solu-
tions if individual members cannot/will not repay. In some cases they may
take over payments until the member can assume his load. In other cases,
individuals are excluded. Some members of communities are restricted from
groups because they are not considered to be responsible; a man's word is
very important in Mexico. The groups serve to reduce transactions costs
of borrowing. Finally, the groups, made up of many men rather than one
individual, can exert pressures on the institutions to obtain rightful
access to services. They have received strong political support from the
President who appreciates the need for organization to achieve desired goals.
For various reasons including the lack of managerial expertise
among the rural leaders which has contributed to a history of corruption,
cooperatives do not extend in any strength to the rural areas of Mexico.
However, it is felt that a few groups are prepared for a more formal and
sophisticated.type of organization now.
As the project gained momentum its staff has come to learn that
the farmers are better prepared to follow than the staff is to lead.
5. FAVORABLE CHANGE IN AGRICULTURAL INSTITUTIONS
The participation of agricultural service institutions to supply
production inputs including chemical fertilizers, to provide credit, and to
ensure a reliable market for outputs is essential to the success of any
rural development program. In the case of Puebla, the necessary institu-
tions did already exist but were not fulfilling the needs of the small farmers.
Initially they resisted becoming directly involved in the project. The
strategy therefore was to involve them gradually, using favorable program
experience and pressures from the farmer groups to achieve change.
Fertilizer policy was changed in 1971. Previously, individual
distributors purchased fertilizer from the producer for sale, at whatever
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price they could get to whomever they favored, in the villages. Now fer-
tilizer is distributed in the town of Puebla and at two other points
directly to farmers at a single official price. Usually the fertilizer
is purchased by the groups who then arrange for transport to the villages.
Four main credit agencies operate in the area with differences
in interest rates charged, requirements to qualify for loans, and other pro-
cedures. These practices differ from 9 percent yearly interest with no
individual security (but a government endorsement guaranteeing the overall
operation and a requirement that farmers receive technical assistance from
Plan Puebla) from the private dealer to 10.5 percent interest plus 1 percent
service charge (the total actually comes to almost 13 percent because of
administrative procedures) with group guarantees (which can be supported by
land title of a single member) and a requirement to purchase crop insurance
(required by all official agencies) from the Agricultural Bank. There is
also a bank dealing primarily with the ejidarios, taking into account the
special conditions under which they operate, and a third official bank,
which is gradually withdrawing because of other interests.
The amount of credit distributed has increased from 1,330,598
pesos in 1968 to over 12,500,000 pesos in 1972. The rate of loan repayment
has also increased significantly: in 1972 the private dealer (with 15.8
percent of credit) reported 98.5%; the Agricultural Bank (with 39.3 percent)
94%; the Ejido Bank (with 40.9 percent) 90%; and the Banco Agropecuario del
Sur (with a declining 4.1 percent of credit) only 50% repayment.
Problems still remain, however. The private dealer, who is limited
to interest rates lower than the subsidized official banks, is not making
enough profit to give him incentive to expand. Generally, loan processing
is often lengthy. Personnel turnover is high. Also legal and communications
(for example, the farmers do not understand the crop insurance) problems
Crop insurance is obligatory to all who receive official credit.
The campesinos feel they are getting little from the crop insurance so
they don't like to pay the costs. Campesinos credit can be rejected if they
do not use adequate plant populations and other reasons. They feel that
they insure themselves by planting in different parcels and at different
times. In part the problem is one of communication but also the program
appears to function so that in general it is the bank that is being insured
rather than the farmers. The crop insurance people are very reluctant to
change. They see Plan Puebla as an enemy.
The government corn purchasing agency purchases for announced
prices at 14 warehouses over the area. No quality discount is given up to
14 percent moisture. They have greatly simplified procedures but the farmers
still think the dealings are too complicated.
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The four essential components of a regional production program
a. agronomic research;
b. technical assistance to the farmers;
c. socioeconomic evaluations; and
d. coordination of all activities impinging directly on
In addition, the following four characteristics are important:
a. highly trained, dedicated personnel;
b. strong leadership for direction and coordination;
c. incentives for staff (financial and professional); and
d. minimum budget limitations and red tape inhibiting program.
The professional team has consisted of approximately ten people.
The composition of the team changed somewhat throughout the project. For
example, a corn breeder was an important part during the early period, while
a technical assistance agent was not added till the second year. However,
basically the team had included a coordinator, a specialist in agronomic
research, a maize production specialist, an evaluation specialist, and
five technical assistance agents.
The project area was divided into five zones, a technical assis-
tance agent for each zone dictated by the resources available to the project
and the need to operate at a level of contact with farmers by which to trans-
fer the technology. Each technical assistance agent had one or two non-
professional assistants, local trained farmers, who assisted in the work
with the farmers.
The project has had very fortunate leadership in that it has had
three excellent coordinators, one of whom, previously the evaluation
specialist, served for only an interim period. These coordinators have
provided both intellectual as well as administrative leadership. Coordina-
tion has been provided through weekly meetings, often held at night, of the
entire technical staff to discuss problems as they arise. Staff were chosen,
in part, on their ability to work together. The relatively small number of
staff, who were both well trained and highly motivated, undoubtedly has
facilitated the coordination of activities, including the ability to change
programs based on the feedback provided by the evaluation unit.
The staff were paid at levels roughly comparable to other civil
service positions. There were strong professional incentives in the form
of satisfaction of seeing the results of the work and its spread to other
states in Mexico and other countries in Latin America.
The total cost of the project for the six years has been approxi-
mately $900,000, of which approximately $650,000 has been provided by The
Rockefeller Foundation and another large portion by CIMMYT. The project
staff has felt that this level of financing was generally adequate to permit
the level of activity which was desirable. Administrative procedures were
decided internally and "red tape" was minimized. It is felt that the project
cost has been at a level which the government can absorb; this will be tested
at the end of 1973 and early 1974 when government provisions for transfer
are carried out.
The training component of the project was built on the premises
that all disciplines must contribute cooperatively to achievement of common
goals, that capacities for judgment and professional competence are the key
ingredients needed to insure transferability of experience from one project
to another, and that a pilot level focus is the best way of learning the "nuts
and bolts" of what makes a project succeed or fail.
The basic course lasts 6 to 9 months. Three areas of training -
agronomic research (emphasizing research for generating packages of crop
production practices), coordination and technical assistance, and evaluation -
were emphasized. The staff prepared a training manual for each of the
three areas of specialization (retaining elements of all three areas in each
Plan Puebla is now also participating in a training program in
which course work and degrees are granted from Chapingo with thesis research
work in Puebla.
Seventy persons have been trained thus far from Mexico and five
other Latin American countries.
8. EVALUATION METHODOLOGY
It was agreed to have evaluation unit within the project.
The team began by checking Mexican government data; it was decided
this was not sufficiently accurate, so the staff collected its own. They began
by using aerial photos; next identified parcels; and then took a 12 percent
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sample of owners in each segment (25 segments in all). They interviewed
each person selected from a random sample of 10 within each segment. 251
questionnaires were taken in 1967-68. A second survey was carried out in
1971. It should be emphasized in interpreting the following tables that
the sample included only those who farm land; landless laborers are not
included. A third survey is planned for July 1974 to measure results of
project at end of its "experimental" stage. This survey will have a wider
One interesting aspect of the evaluation was that, because farmers
objected to having their harvest checked directly, an indirect method of
measuring yields was devised. First, the girth and length of the ears on
the stalk were measured. A prediction equation was then developed by re-
lating these measurements with actual harvest data through the use of a
regression equation. This method has saved time and seems to be reasonably
9. EVALUATION RESULTS
The "official" definition of a participant in the Plan Puebla
program is a farmer who is in a credit list. Based on this definition the
following table shows the growth in direct Plan Puebla coverage during the
first six years.
Estimates of Plan Puebla Participation
1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973
Number of cooperators 103 2561 4833 5240 6202 7194
Percent of Total 0.2 5.4 10.3 11.2 13.2 15.3
Hectares in Plan 76 5838 12,601 14,438 17,533 20,604
Percent of Total 0.1 7.3 15.8 18.0 21.9 25.8
It is recognized that this is a very restrictive definition of
participation. However, it is difficult to discuss participation quanti-
tatively for several reasons including that farmers initially usually only
partially adopt recommended production practices, they will adopt some parts
of recommendations more readily than others, and they tend to use new tech-
nologies initially on only a portion of their lands. In order to get a
clearer picture of the adoption process, adopter/non-adopters were divided
into the following categories for three practices:
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Levels of Adoption
The upper limits for the "low" levels of adoption correspond approximately
to what the better farmers were using in 1967. The lower limits of the
"high" levels of adoption correspond to the lowest rates of the inputs that
are recommended presently in the area. The following table illustrates
the individuality by the farmers.
Level of Adoption
of Three Practices
High all 3
High for 2; intermediate for 1
High for 2; low for 1
High for 1; intermediate for 2
High for 1; intermediate for 1;
low for 1
Farms in Credit List
This analysis also reveals a significant growth of farmers during
the project period moving from "low" to "high" levels of adoption in each
Levels of Adoption of Each Recommendation
% of farmers in area
r r __
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Average amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and plants used in maize
plantings increased by 129, 93, and 10 percent respectively from 1967
to 1972. There appear to be several possible reasons for the small apparent
change in plant densities including the uncertainties of availability of
fertilizer (which is needed to support high densities) at planting time, the
belief that corn will withstand drought (which is a major concern of farmers)
better if stands are less, and the farmers' desire to increase production of
large ears which they feel is best achieved with relatively low plant densities.
The above table would suggest that the changes in plant densities might be
greater than the averages suggest.
The main purpose of the project was to increase maize yields.
Maize yields in Puebla (over whole area) are estimated to have risen as
Average Maize Yields in Puebla
Year General Average kg/ha
1967 was a poor rainfall year. 1968 and 1972 are considered
roughly comparable weather years. Two different methods were used to
"de-weatherize the production data to estimate the influence of new
practices in increasing yields during the period. One method gave a
yield increase of 24.2 percent; the other gave an increase of 41.9 percent
between 1968 and 1972. The Plan Puebla staff feel that a 30 percent yield
increase between 1968 and 1972 is a reasonable compromise.
The following data indicate how these production gains were trans-
lated into increased income for the farm families of Puebla.
Changes in Income and Welfare
Average Total (cash & imputed) Net Income of Farm Families
(sample from total people of area who farm land; dollars
adjusted for inflation)
Total family income US$ 667. US$ 825.
% from crops 30.4 35.5
% from animals 28.4 30.0
% from off-farm activities 40.7 27.7
% from other activities 0.5 6.8
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The income from crop production is mostly from maize (61.5 percent
in 1970). In terms of dollars, net income from crop production was estimated
to have increased by 44.7 percent over this three-year period (it should be
noted that 1967 was a poor year for maize production while 1970 was below
These data indicate a surprisingly high percentage (at least it
was surprising to many of the reviewers who did not know the area well) of
income from animal production. Part of the reason for this apparent result
is that a large part (66.5 percent) of the gross change in animal income
comes from milk and somehow four large dairy producers (who represented
81 percent of gross income from milk) got into the sample. Still animals
are significant. They are used primarily for savings and income rather than
for consumption. Animals eat corn stalks, bean vines,Lg ass (pigs and chickens
may eat grain) so cost of maintaining animals is not high. The rural banking
system for savings is not very well developed. Squirreling money at home
loses value to inflation. It would appear that income from animals could be
increased much more with new technical assistance. Beef, milk, and swine seem
to pose best opportunities. Marketing poses a big problem for eggs (although
it is not obvious why egg marketing is any more difficult than milk marketing).
Our visit did not indicate that the income from off-farm activities
in the rural area around Puebla would have been expected to decline. The
apparent reason for this in the reported data is that survey figures account
only for those who farm land in area. People who work in brick factories, etc.
(which seems to be increasing considerably) may be non-land owners, therefore
the growth in this activity probably is not picked up by the survey. One
other reason that the percentage off-farm income for farm families may be
falling is that on-farm income opportunities may be even more attractive with
new agricultural techniques.
The average wage is $24 or US$2/day times 250 days or US$500/year.
The farm family income is US$825/year which is US$325 above US$500; the family
apparently contributes US$325 above that opportunity cost of principal breadwinner.
Distribution of Annual Family Incomes
Ranges in Income (US$) % of families in range
$400 or less 55.8 .43.5 -
401 600 12.3 20.1 +
601 1000 16.3 18.0 +
1001 2000 10.0 11.3 +
2000+ 5.6 7.1 +
These data suggest that the increases in farm family income have been accom-
panied by some desirable income distribution effect. However more information
is needed before a positive statement can be made.
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Information on employment changes is meager. It appears that
the total number of days of off-farm work for farm families remained nearly
constant during the three-year period (however, due to increases in popula-
tion, the average number of days worked per worker decreased). There is
no reliable information on changes in on-farm employment. The labor "re-
quirements" for the traditional and recommended maize production practices
were calculated as follows:
Labor Requirement for the Production of Maize
1 hectare for one crop season tradition planting planting using recom.
man/days tech man/days
land preparation 9.1 9.1
planting 4.3 7.7 +
cultivations 8.6 10.2 +
harvest 18.6 25.7 +
Total 40.6 52.7
This table would suggest that the on-farm employment requirements may be
increasing as fast as the population.
It would be interesting to know for what the changes in disposable
income are being spent. This information has not been collected compre-
hensively as yet. There is some information on changes in food consumption.
Consumption of Several Foods by One Member of Family
Every 1-3 days Every 4-7 days Never
1967 '70 '67 '70 '67 '70
Fish 0.8 0.8 3.2 11.3 13.9 4.2
Beef or pork 8.4 9.6 43.0 43.9 3.2 2.9
Milk 29.1 27.6 7.6 7.9 38.2 43.1
Chicken .4 1.7 5.6 14.6 17.5 12.5
Eggs 29.1 59.4 25.9 32.6 9.2 2.5
Wheatbread 33.5 38.5 35.4 30.5 8.4 13.8
Fruit 11.6 30.5 32.7 37.2 9.0 5.0
Vegetables 14.4 34.3 31.5 38.5 12.0 9.2
Rice 16.8 30.6 44.2 46.9 4.4 5.0
Although the time period is short, this would suggest that diet (especially
eggs, fruit, and.vegetables) has improved.
Furthermore, improvements in farm homes between 1967 and 1970
were reported by the following percentages of farmers: 5.1 percent of the
sample of farm families changed the floor (from earth to concrete, brick,
or mosaic), 13.4 percent added another room, 6.7 percent painted the walls,
and 4.2 percent repaired the roof.
- 13 -
There are also some encouraging signs of improvement in basic
Number of Families Who Have Access to:
Electricity 63 77
Potable water 14 21
Plumbing 6 6
These changes, of course, cannot be attributed directly to
Other measures of welfare are not so well reported by the sur-
veys. What else we do know about people in the area is as follows:
Percentage of Farm Families Who Have Access in Village to Schools
Through 6th grade 67%
Only 12 percent of the farm families had health facilities in
their own village and only 29 percent used health facilities in their own
or adjoining villages. The incidence of sickness, especially respiratory
and gastro-intestinal illness, is high:
Days of Work Lost Due to Health Reasons by Heads of Families
1 5 days 11%
6 30 10
30 90 12
Children in schools have better access to vaccinations than do their parents.
In Mexico every medical student has to give one year of service to the
government. However the medical students are not getting to all the rural
areas. They must be supplemented by paramedics, etc. In Mexico, the medical
system is still seen primarily in terms of clinical care rather than preventive
The Plan Puebla staff also attempted to evaluate changes in atti-
tudes of the farmers. Forty-four percent of the sample stated that they
had increased their maize production between 1967 and 1970 and four-fifths
of these attributed their success either directly or indirectly to Plan
Puebla. This, in turn, had a favorable influence on their attitudes to
farming. In response to the question of what activity they would engage in
if they suddenly were to receive a greater amount of income than they were
currently getting, the number who said they would continue to farm and
improve their production practices increased from 53 percent in 1967 to
73 percent in 1970.
- 14 -
As a final test of the "success" of the project, benefit/cost
analysis was carried out by project staff using conservative assumptions
regarding who benefits, how much, for how long, and under what opportunity
costs of resources. Counting only the increase in income from maize pro-.
duction of participants in credit lists, the benefit/cost ration directly
attributable to the project (discounted at 14 percent interest rate) was
2.54. When some additional account was taken of non-participants in credit
lists who also benefited from the Plan, the benefit/cost ratio was raised
to 4.03. It is recognized that benefit/cost analysis is only a partial
measure of success. However, even acknowledging the limitations of this
analysis, this magnitude of return on investment from the project does
appear to be an impressive achievement.
In the short six years of its existence, Plan Puebla has achieved
the objectives set out for it. Average maize yields over the whole project
area have increased by around 30 percent and maize yields of participants
have increased at a much greater rate. Incomes have increased. Significant
contributions have been made in the methodology for devising recommendations
for agriculture under rainfed conditions. Groups have been effective means
of extending the expertise of a limited number of technical assistance agents
to a large number of farmers. The project has probably meant an increase
in maize production in the area of greater than 110,000 tons in the period
1968-73, the benefit/cost of the program has been large, and much additional
non-agricultural income has also probably been generated. The Mexican govern-
ment is taking over financing of the project. Similar projects have been
created in other states of Mexico and other countries of Latin America.
Plan Puebla has the trained leaders and staff for these other projects.
But somehow as a pioneer project achieves success, the objectives
change during the course of the project and people expect even more than
the revised objectives. One question asked frequently is: "If Plan Puebla
is so good, why is the number of farmers in credit lists after six years -
15 percent of farmers and 25 percent of maize area so low?"
The following factors, identified by the project staff as being
most influential to the farmers in deciding whether they adopt or not,
appear to provide part of the answer to this question.
a. Adequacy of recommendations. Theoretically a project could have
anywhere from a single recommendation for the.whole area to separate
recommendations for each farmer's field. Under fully irrigated
agriculture, the former might be feasible. Farmers will make their
own adaptations to suit individual tastes anyway. However, in rainfed
agriculture, particularly when the area has a variety of soil conditions
and when planting dates vary, more than one recommendation must be
- 15 -
offered. The project staff feel that 16 different recommendations,
influenced mostly by different planting dates but also by soil condi-
tions, is optimal for the area.
The project started with only one recommendation the first year.
The staff do not think this hurt the credibility of the project. The
initial number of participants was small and they received individual
attention. The package did not incorporate new elements but only
suggested more appropriate combinations of traditional elements the
same seed, more fertilizer, and higher plant populations. Fertilizer
use had already been prevalent; 80 percent of the farmers reported
having used chemical fertilizer previous to the project although some-
times in relatively small dosages. The project recommendations were
based on careful field testing and the changes from traditional prac-
tices were introduced gradually in order to allow the farmers to adjust.
Perhaps the best rule would be that if one has to start with only one
recommendation, then it is probably better to start on the conservative
side, yet with enough change to show noticeable yield and income in-
crease. Or possibly it would be better to recommend two levels, both
conservative, depending on the capital available to the farmer.
A second aspect of the problem is that while the recommendations
may be adequate, communication of the recommendations may not be ade-
quate. The project area was divided into five zones, an extension man
for each, which was a compromise between the resources available and
the desire to operate as close to the farmer as possible to transfer
information and assist farmers in using the information. The unanswered
question is whether dissemination could have been faster if more and
smaller zones with more extension men were used, i.e., could benefit/
cost ratio have been maintained? One possibility would be to subdivide
the zones into subzones under which subprofessionals (similar to para-
medicals in health care) could carry out closer farmer contact. Respon-
sibilities could be allocated by concentrating the team of technical
specialists at a central location, the trained technical assistance
agents at the zone headquarters, and the subprofessionals moving through
the villages in personal contact with campesinos. However, the strong
two-way relationship between applied research and extension whether
carried out by the same or separate persons is very important. It is
considered undesirable to insulate the functions. When there are a
limited number of professionals, the question of how best to utilize
the trained manpower becomes a key decision. It is agreed that five
technical assistance agents is a minimum number to serve 47,000 farm
families; 100 agents is probably too many.
b. Agronomic risk. The assumption on which the project was organized was
that th farmer wants to increase maize yields as a means of increasing
incomeA wniE e higher incomes are undoubtedly desired by the campesinos,
the decision-making process is undoubtedly more complex than this simple,
although convenient, assumption suggests.
- 16 -
For historical and social reasons, the campesinos are highly in-
dividualistic and suspicious of others who do not belong to the same
extended family. The role of the wife in the decision-making is quite
significant in many subtle, although not adequately understood by out-
siders, ways. The campesinos have very limited financial resources
upon which to fall back on in case of failure. Many aspects of the
so-called "culture of poverty" probably characterize these people.
In particular, aversion to risk may be an important component of
the decision-making process of the farmers. Drought, disease, pests,
frost, non-availability of credit and production inputs, limited
access to markets, poor health, etc., are some of the sources of risk
which must be considered. Areas with very low rainfall provide limited
potential for increasing yields. At the upper levels of rainfall,
flooding becomes a major constraint. Between these extremes, under
rainfed conditions, the amount and distribution of rainfall is the
biggest source of agronomic risk. Limiting variability in yield may
be just as or even more important to farmers than achieving high levels
of yield; if so, then farmers will tend to be conservative in their
adoption of new practices until they are assured that their yields
will be relatively stable. The Plan Puebla staff, especially the
specialist in agronomic research, has been very active in estimating
agronomic risks and taking this into account in making recommendations.
c. Availability of credit and inputs. It was noted that, especially during
the early period of the project, services were inefficiently operated,
i.e., slow processing of credit, fertilizer available late or not at all,
etc. Furthermore, over the life of the project there did not appear to
be much innovation in.the delivery of inputs. For example, "minikits,"
which have been used successfully in several countries, have not been
tried in Puebla. Furthermore, the farmer is responsible for carrying
his fertilizer from the central town back to his village. It does not
take many bad experiences to convince a farmer that he is better off
by staying with his traditional methods whose success, although not large,
is mostly under his own control.
d. Crop insurance. This is a service which obviously was not understood
and possibly was not administered properly. It has a legitimate function
yet apparently was not popular with the farmers who saw it as an un-
e. Organizing the farmers into groups. Sheer numbers of participants rela-
tive to extension agents forced some sort of grouping arrangement. Groups
are a convenient means for a limited number of technical assistance
agents to spread themselves over a larger number of farmers. The project
staff also used these organizations as a means of promoting change in the
service institutions a group of farmers has much more influence than an
individual in getting changes in credit.
- 17 -
However, the formation of groups in which membership is a pre-
requisite to getting credit and other services may serve as a means
of excluding as well as including participants. The Plan Puebla staff
do not think this is a big factor. Their studies indicate that the
major reason.that there are not more participants in the credit groups
is that the operating conditions of the credit institutions are not
sufficiently attractive to the majority of the farmers, i.e., they
apprehend a series of problems related to the policies that regulate
the authorization of institutional credit.
It is also possible that the groups can serve to give an unfair
advantage to the stronger farmers. Groups are probably composed of
relatively homogeneous memberships. The bigger groups of wealthier
farmers would tend to associate together and could probably have ad-
vantages in being serviced first at the banks, have privileged access
to fertilizer which often runs short at the crop season, etc. Actions
such as these or systematic exclusion of the less responsible members
of the community could contribute to faster disintegration of the
traditional society. No evidence was presented to indicate that these
are actual problems.
The alternative to groups is not obvious in the Puebla situation.
The total organization of the village in all its phases, including an
examination of what motivates different factions, must be examined
closely in determining how to influence total community participation.
f. Farm size. It must be admitted that many one-half hectare farmers
were just not willing to go into debt, to accept the risks necessary
in order to achieve the gains which Plan Puebla promised. Is it
realistic to expect to include even more than half of the very small
One general conclusion which did come of this discussion was the
feeling that much more attention has been paid to the technological aspects
of the program (work of very high quality) relative to socioeconomic research
on what motivates the people in the area, what limitations they face, etc.
Additional concern should be given to getting in those people who are.
not in the program. In this respect, some useful lessons might be learned
from the Comilla Project (in what was previously East Pakistan), one of the
few other successful rural development projects with a documented history,
which contrasts with Plan Puebla in several aspects including that its staff
was composed primarily of social scientists, it first asked what the people
wanted/needed and then implemented a wide range of programs to attempt to
improve these situations, and it worked within the regular governmental
Looking to the transferability of the experience, it was recognized
that chances of eventually institutionalizing such a program are greatly
enhanced if solutions are found within rather than outside the usual
- 18 -
governmental processes. It should be emphasized that Plan Puebla was an
experiment. Direction primarily by scientists, rather than by responsible
agencies of state government, is not an arrangement that should be replicated
in future projects which would propose to go beyond the experiment stage.
Programs should strive to eventually change the system rather than create
new institutions. There are many ways to do this. Plan Puebla changed in-
stitutions by being "successful." Knowledge on the decision-making of the
farmer and on the politics of institutions is crucial in making these
It was also recognized that the breadth and depth of the project
progress has not been fully reflected in the data taken from the first two
surveys. The group visited one village in which the increased yields from
the maize technology gave the people enough money to build a road out of
their village which in turn made brickmaking (which could now be transported
out) profitable. This in turn resulted in 50 percent of the employment in
the village coming from the brickmaking activity on top of increased incomes
from maize production, a new school, and many other "testimonials" of a better
life. The new technology can only be held indirectly responsible for these
changes. The survey data would not pick up much of the brickmaking income
if the brickmakers were not farmers. Furthermore, the data as presented thus
far do not give a complete picture regarding comparative benefits of par-
ticipants compared to non-participants. It was agreed that the available
survey data, while being useful for some purposes, still left many unanswered
questions in part because the questions were not asked when the surveys
were designed. In order to improve on this situation, a final survey will
be carried out starting in July 1974 which hopefully will give a more com-
prehensive and more accurate picture of change in the project area which
will provide answers to many questions.
Allan C. Barnes
Joseph E. Black
Ralph W. Cummings, Jr.
Alain de Janvry
Delbert T. Myren
John A. Pino
S Agricultural Economist, CIMMYT
Vice President, RF
Director of Social Sciences, RF
Director of INIA
- Agricultural Economist, RF
USAID, El Salvador (presently, Agricultural
S Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics,
Univ. of California at Berkeley (on leave
with the Ford Foundation in Chile)
S Second Coordinator of Plan Puebla
- Agricultural Economist in charge of
Evaluation, Plan Puebla
Present Coordinator of Plan Puebla
S First Coordinator of Plan Puebla, presently
Director of Post Graduate School at
- Field Leader of RF Agricultural Program,
S Agronomist, CIMMYT
S Assistant Director of Office of Research
and Institutional Grants, AID
- Agricultural Economics, Department of
Agriculture and Rural Development, IBRD
- Director of Agricultural Sciences, RF
- Agricultural Economist, CIAT
Agronomist, CIMMYT and Post Graduate School
Agricultural Economist, CIP
Robert K. Waugh
Edwin J. Wellhausen
- Representative of RF Education for
Development Program in Bahia
- Adjunct Director of ICTA, Guatemala
S Associate Director of Agricultural Sciences,
Agricultural Economist, CIMMYT
Vice President, RF