Title: Farming systems research and extension (FSRE) : : some characteristics and contrasts with traditional research and extension
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00080691/00001
 Material Information
Title: Farming systems research and extension (FSRE) : : some characteristics and contrasts with traditional research and extension
Physical Description: 4 leaves ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Hildebrand, Peter E.
Publisher: University of Florida,
Publication Date: 1980
Subject: Agricultural extension work.
Agricultural systems -- Research.
General Note: Caption title.
General Note: "Aug. 11, 1980"--Leaf 4.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00080691
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 163575632

Full Text



Peter E. Hildebrand 1/

FSR/E is an action oriented program for the rapid design, evaluation and

implementation of relevant and realistic solutions to farm problems. This

approach utilizes field teams who provide the principle thrust, and backup

support from the main campus or headquarters unit. LThe FSR/E field team under-

takes the identification of problems and constraints of target farmers through

a rapid and-ins-ightful survey technique designed specifically for this purpose.

Farmers are incorporated in the search for and testing of solutions and the

majority of the work is carried out on farms rather than on experiment sta-

tionsI Support activities in a university environment would be provided both

by full time FSR/E core on the campus and by FSR/E faculty members partici-

pating part-time from various departments. Because the work is carried out

on farms, research and extension activities are combined rather than separated

forces; communication problems are reduced and the lag from problem identi-

fication to technology adoption is minimized. Hence,jcost efficiency mea-

sured in terms of technology adopted by farmers, is high.

A farming system is the result of how each farmer produces, uses, mar-

kets or consumes crop and livestock products. It is the phenomenon that re-

sults from each farmer's unique interpretation of the natural and socio-

economic environment in which he attempts to augment his family's utility, as

influenced by the resources available to him and those agronomic, economic,

environmental, cultural and social factors which to some degree affect

his decisions.

1/ Visiting Professor, Food and Resource Economics Department, University
of Florida.

To a certain extent each farm is a unique system. Yet similar farms can

be grouped into homogeneous farming systems for special purposes. A group of

farms which forms a homogeneous farming system provides the basis of the FSR/E

approach. In the field, an integrated, multidisciplinary team working as a

unit strives to identify, group and understand specific farming systems and

to use this understanding to develop and promote improved and more appropriate

agricultural technology for the farmers in one or more of these selected

homogeneous groups. The methodology requires investment in transportation

rather than in fixed plant and incorporates direct farmer financing of a

portion of the costs of technology development and promotion by supplying

land, some labor and other inputs.

For maximum efficiency, the approach requires multidisciplinary partici-

pation among the field team scientists. Because the problems of farmers (par-

ticularly small farmers) are many and varied and stem from a multitude of

sources, the greater the number of disciplines involved, the higher the probabil-

ity of discovering the real constraints and the more rapid the development of

appropriate and acceptable solutions. By the nature of the methodology, field

team members are involved in both research and extension activities. Because the

research conducted by the field team is more of the type considered "applied"

rather than "basic" it is probably appropriate to evaluate their work more in

the extension rather than the research format. This does not mean, however,

that the field team should not, itself, undertake more basic research when the

necessity arises and it is appropriate to do so.

The activities of the FSR/E field team require backup support from each

of the disciplines represented plus other disciplines whose participation is

not required full time. This support can take the form of faculty or graduate

student research, but would be oriented specifically toward the solution of

one or more of the problems encountered by the field team.

The traditional research and extension procedure typically involves a

simple passoff of technology from experiment station researcher to extension

specialist to extension agent, then by way of meetings or demonstrations to

farmers and has not been highly beneficial to small farmers who are usually

on the tail end of the chain. Furthermore, experiment station results are

mostly based on optimum conditions which are difficult for small farmers to

duplicate. Because small farmers cannot achieve similarity to the experiment

station conditions, the results of recommended practices seldom achieve pre-

dicted potential. Hence, adoption is low and the new practices are modified

to make them more acceptable to small farm conditions. This circle, with at

best, weak feedback, is frequently repeated only sufficiently to discourage

researcher, extension worker and small farmer alike without arriving at wide-

spread adoption.

The advantage of the FSR/E approach is that it begins at the farmers'

level and, working with farmers, calling upon the general body of scientific

knowledge and utilizing supportive basic research where necessary, builds

innovations that fit in immediately with farmers' conditions. Researcher,

extensionist and farmer all work together so communication problems are

minimized. The time from problem identification to improved practices to

adoption is reduced so results are more immediately productive. This achieves

not only cost efficiency, but also enthusiasm for the FSR/E approach.

The FSR/E approach does not require that the field team attack all the

problems of target farmers simultaneously. That is, there is no need to

modify the entire system to qualify as a farming systems undertaking. But it

does require that the entire system be taken into account when considering

modifications of any part of it. In the Guatemalan Institute of Agricultural


Science and Technology (ICTA) where the FSR/E approach has been practiced

for several years, the efforts have been mainly directed to the basic grains

of corn, beans, rice, wheat and sorghum. All the grains involved in any

particular farming system may not be included in technology modification

plans. But the effect of any modifications on the other grains and products

is considered.

From this point of view, a farm may fall into more than one homogeneous

farming system group depending upon the enterprise being modified. The corn

on some of the larger farms in the Guatemalan Highlands is produced by hand

in exactly the same way as on small farms, but the wheat on many large farms

is completely mechanized. Hence, when considering corn technology, it may be

that large and small farms alike fall into the same homogeneous farming sys-

tem group while for wheat they fall into different groups.

In summary, FSR/E is in many ways a return to identification with farm

and farmers. Research and extension efforts are merged and together with

farmers, problems are identified, alternative solutions are selected and

tested, and results are evaluated.

Aug. 11, 1980

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