FARMER PARTICIPATION IN A NEW FSR PROGRAM IN BURKINA FASO, WEST AFRICA
Sibiri Jean Baptiste Taonda'
Agronomist, National Farming Systems (RSP) Program Leader, INERA/Burkina Faso
2 Rural Sociologist, RSP/INERA, Winrock International, University of
Wisconsin, River Falls
3 Agronomist, RSP/INERA, Purdue University
4 Economist, RSP/INERA, Technical Assistance Chief-of-Party, Winrock
/A f5e /?/
Farmer participation in diagnostic processes is a cornerstone of FSR. It informs
researchers of potential research themes and of the relevancy of innovations
according to the assessments of end-users. Farmer participation increases the
probability that innovations will be adopted.
Farmer participation also increases farmer investment in the research process.
With a greater stake in the outcomes of research, farmers are more interested in
collaborating with other research partners.
Farmer participation in the research process serves another important objective.
In our experience, farmer input requires an effective communication network for
identifying, transmitting, evaluating, and improving knowledge of agricultural
systems. The farmer is the starting and ending point in this network which
includes also, in the Burkina setting, field technicians, enumerators,
supervisors, and researchers. Genuine farmer participation presupposes a
structure linking communication between the research station and the farm.
In this paper we discuss some of the methods which the RSP (Recherche sur les
Systemes de Production) program in the central zone of Burkina Faso is using to
involve farmers in the evaluation of on-farm agronomic trials and, more
comprehensively, in diagnosing the agricultural milieu. This effort is still
experimental. The methods were tried last year for the first time. The basic
objective of the RSP program is to generate agricultural development through
research responsive to the conditions and constraints facing farmers. Methods
which identify relevant farm-level data to incorporate into research agendas are
fundamental to this process. Last year's efforts along these lines will be
improved and tried again this year.
The RSP program has taken actions to promote farmer input into agricultural
research even as it builds a valid date base. The significance of the results
of last season's agronomic trials, as discussed later in this paper, needs to be
better established. Trials conducted again this year are more appropriately
designed and will help further to build the scientific credibility of the
While this occurs, credibility with farmers is also promoted. Their opinions of
research are solicited and research results are shared with them. The farmer
opinion survey and other measures for involving farmers in the research process
will help RSP to define meaningful research agendas at the same time that they
increase the role of farm families in rural development.
In this paper we present first a brief summary of the research setting in Burkina
Faso. Following that we discuss last year's agronomic tests and how test results
were interpreted and portrayed to team members and farmers. There follows a
presentation of the "Farmer Opinion Survey" and the ways it helped the program
to get closer to the needs and interests of farm families. Finally we look at
the consequences of these activities on planning and implementing the 1991
Burkina Faso is located at the southern extreme of the Sahel. Agricultural
production in much of Burkina is exposed to the climatic stresses of the Sahelian
region. Farmers face fluctuating rainfall, irregular growing seasons, and low
soil fertility. Related hardships, the results of labor shortages and
competition with herders over agricultural land, together have shaped the diverse
strategies which are realized in existing farming systems.
To respond to the realities of agricultural production, the Burkina agricultural
research institute, IN.E.R.A. (Institute National d'Etudes et de Recherches
Agricoles), initiated a farming systems research program (RSP) in 1985. The
program covers about two-thirds of Burkina at the present time.
The ARTS project (Agricultural Research and Training Support), a USAID-funded
activity (Project No. 686-0270), provides support to RSP in the areas of research
management and training. The objective of the project is to assist the RSP
program in developing a capacity to conduct farming systems research in the
central and western zones of Burkina. A technical assistance team consisting of
an agronomist, a rural sociologist, and an agricultural economist are
implementing the project. The team arrived in July, 1990, shortly after RSP had
installed agronomic trials in the central zone. In the western zone, RSP devoted
1990 to fundamental, reconnaissance-type data collection.
3. AGRONOMIC TESTS
On-farm agronomic trials in 1990 were conducted in three villages to address
several key constraints to crop production in the central plateau. Data were
collected from varietal trials on white sorghum, millet, maize, cowpea, and
groundnut at different levels of fertilization and under various soil management
techniques. Maize tests were simple observation plots of breeders' varieties.
A cowpea-sorghum association trial was conducted but proved to be problematical
and was not analyzed. Data were analyzed using MSTAT-C and presented in 3D
graphic form using ENERGRAPHICS.
The objective of the varietal trials was to evaluate the performance of shorter
cycle varieties in the low management systems of limited-resource farmers given
the erratic rainfall of recent years (Table 1). Fertility treatment levels were
tested to evaluate the effects of organic compost and different rates of NPK on
crop growth. Land preparation techniques were applied to test simple ridging and
tied-ridging versus non-ridging for soil moisture conservation.
Table 1: Description of research sites
SITE ZONE AVERAGE RAINFALL RAINFALL
RAINFALL 1990 SEASON AFTER
Donsin Sudano-sahelian 650-750 mm 534 mm 425 mm
Kamsi Soudanian 700-800 mm 562 mm 418 mm
Thiougou Sudano-guinean 800-1050 mm 577 mm 379 mm
The 1990 trials were similar to other trials conducted throughout the 1980s by
various national and international farming systems-type research organizations
operating in Burkina. The repetition of research themes over a ten-year period
suggests that feedback from the field may have been insufficient for a thorough
evaluation of the tested technologies.
Trial Results. There was much that was rewarding about the 1990 agronomic
campaign. Field technicians received on-the-job training in trial
implementation, trial maintenance, and in harvesting techniques and procedures.
Their uses of technical fiches required careful monitoring of the trials and
improved their powers of observation. The trials required contact. and
collaboration with farmers and helped to establish the credibility of RSP.
Farmers, in their turn, offered time, land, and labor for the trials.
Importantly, RSP researchers along with the technical assistance team grew to
know and respect each other and to exchange ideas and experiences.
At the agronomic level, trial results were compromised by weaknesses in design.
Each site was considered a replication; treatments were not replicated several
times within a site to account for within site variability. There was no
randomization of varieties in the varietal trials; the extreme variability within
sites of slope, soil fertility, soil structure, etc., along with the treatments,
all accounted for varietal performance. There was no site characterization of
soils, rainfall was not monitored at specific trial sites, and "local" varieties
may have varied from one trial to another. In three of the four trials discussed
here there was a highly significant difference associated with the variability
of data between sites (repetitions); the varietal performance observed thus may
have been due to site differences rather than solely to treatment effects.
Trial results were similar in all three central plateau village sites. In
general, as the result of late and poorly distributed rainfall, local varieties
out-performed improved varieties in grain yield.
This being the case, a comparison between the results of the agronomic trials and
farmers' perceptions of them is revealing. If differences in performance can not
be attributed exclusively to the effects of tested variables, when analyzed
quantitatively, for the reasons noted above, they were nonetheless perceived by
farmers to be of interest. Drought resistance or quality of forage in improved
varieties, for example, was appreciated by farmers in spite of the relatively
lower grain yields of those same varieties. As we discuss below, it is the
process of involving farmers in the diagnosis of the 1990 campaign which has
proven to be of value to RSP at this young stage in its development and not the
results of the trials per se.
This discussion will focus on agronomic tests conducted in one village, Thiougou,
to illustrate RSP methodology. Thiougou is the southern-most research site in
the central zone. In 1990, Thiougou experienced heavy early rains followed by
drought, a pattern common in recent years (Fig. 1). Farmers held-off planting
until late June when they were more confident of regular rainfall. In 1990, RSP
trials, which farmers installed under the supervision of RSP technicians, were
planted in July so that they would not compete with the labor requirements of
The sorghum varietal trials evaluated the effects of organic compost and NPK on
crop growth. Grain yield of local varieties was greater than both improved
varieties at both fertility treatment levels (Fig. 2). ICSV 1049 is a short-
statured variety with a compact panicle which the farmers did not like; they felt
the panicles would not dry down properly for storage. S 29 is an improved local
variety which resembles the local in growth habit but has a very short growth
cycle and is drought resistant. Farmer interest in the two improved varieties
centered on their forage characteristics (Fig. 3). The vegetative portions of
the cereal and legume crops are the main feed sources for livestock during the
long dry season. Farmers expressed preferences for ICSV 1049, which has a short
yet very thick stalk, and S 29, which is tall. Animals were able to consume
completely the entire plant compared to the woody local variety. It was assumed
by the farmer that the improved varieties were sweeter in taste and therefore
made a better feed source.
The millet varietal trials were conducted with different soil preparation
techniques: flat surface, simple ridging, and tied-ridging. Ridging treatments
had demonstrated yield increases due to an improved soil moisture retention
capability on-station and on-farm when associated with applications of 100 kg of
NPK. Yield results have been erratic, however, and depend on favorable climatic
conditions to be cost-effective. There were no grain or forage yield benefits
due to either ridging treatment in 1990 (Fig. 4, Fig. 5). Local varieties
responded better than both improved varieties at each treatment level. Farmers
observed that ridging reduced the lodging of mature millet plants and conserved
moisture (in the case of tied-ridges).
The cowpea varietal trials were designed to evaluate the response to different
levels of NPK. There were significant grain yield responses to each NPK
treatment level (Fig. 6). The farmers' practice of intercropping cowpea with
Rainfall Distribution in 1990
Program RSP Central Zone
Day 11 -20
Po -,I May June J u y August Sep t. Oc t.
Fig. 1. MO' 1s
Sorghum Grain Yield
Variety X Fertilization
0 Fer.t. 5T Copost/h 100k00g NPK/ha
0 Fert. 5T Cmvost/ho TOOkg NPK/ho
Fit. 2. Level of Fert, I ,zoaton
Millet Grain Yield
Variety X Ridging Methods
Sorghum Forage Yield
Variety X Fertilization
Level of Fertl I lzoton
Millet Forage Yield
Variety X Ridging Methods
Level of Ridgng
Level of Ridging
Cowpea Grain Yield
Variety X Fertilization
4 KVX 396-4
../ v .14-
0 Fert. 50kg NPK/ha 100kg NPK/ha
Level of Fer'. zat on
Groundnut Grain Yield
Variety X Fertilization
Cowpea Forage Yield
Variety X Fertilization
Level of Frt I Izoton
Groundnut Forage Yield
Variety X Fertilization
Level of Fer-t' z oton
Level of Fertilization
cereals complicates application of NPK under real conditions; an economic
analysis would demonstrate whether or not it would be cost-effective to do so.
The upright growth habit of improved cowpea varieties make harvesting easier and,
because of their determinant nature, all the pods mature at one time. They must
be harvested immediately to avoid spoilage. Local varieties have a spreading
growth habit and pods mature over a three to four week period. This allows for
occasional harvesting as time and labor permit. There were no differences in
forage production between cowpeas treated with the lower and higher rates of NPK,
yet the lower rate resulted in a significant forage yield increase over the
control (Fig. 7). The main problem with improved varieties, as identified by
farmers, was handling and storing the great quantity of seed coming from the
short, intense harvest.
Groundnut seed yield increases were achieved with increasing levels of NPK
(Fig. 8). There were no seed yield differences between local and improved
varieties at each treatment level. Improved varieties out-yielded local
varieties in forage production at 100 kg NPK, which was important to farmers
(Fig. 9). The vegetative portion of the groundnut plant is second to cereal crop
residues as the most important source of forage for animal feed.
Some farmers commented that NPK increased weed growth. Competition by weeds with
groundnuts may occur, requiring more frequent weeding of groundnut fields.
Customary practice is to weed once at six weeks. The question of whether NPK is
cost-effective in legumes should be studied further. Commodity researchers at
INERA recommend 100 kg/ha NPK be applied to improved varieties of both cowpea and
4. FARMER OPINION SURVEY
The farmer opinion survey was conducted after the 1990 harvest to solicit the
observations of participating farmers on the agronomic tests. While quantitative
analysis of the trials yielded an aggregate picture of performance, the opinion
survey furnished a range of qualitative responses.
Through the survey, important information was also obtained on cropping patterns
and varietal characteristics. An inventory of varieties grown on-farm was
prepared. This information will be passed along to breeders in the hope that it
will be incorporated into their breeding programs. Information exchange between
farmers and researchers, and especially commodity researchers, is a key objective
of the overall INERA program. It is recognized within INERA that few, if any,
on-the-shelf technologies exist which have the potential to meet farmers' needs
and interests. The opinion survey provided information on local varieties of
sorghum, millet, maize, cowpea, and groundnuts, the characteristics of each,
whether they are sown in pure culture or in association, and farmers' reasons for
the cropping patterns they employ.
The survey served a training function, also. At the start of the 1990 campaign,
the RSP program's approach was essentially top-down, fixed on instructing a
sample of volunteer farmers in how to follow a research protocol -- a kind of
researcher-managed, farmer-labored approach. Through the opinion survey, RSP
staff learned to identify farmers' views and knowledge of agriculture and to
incorporate them into the research program.
Sixty-two production units participated in the opinion survey. Each unit,
consisting of one or more men and one or more women plus children, was
interviewed one time at their compound. The head of the unit, a male, responded
to the enumerator's questions. Women's assessments were sought on the
processing qualities of improved varieties. An open-ended question format was
used to facilitate unbiased responses.
A first draft questionnaire was developed at headquarters by RSP researchers.
Field technicians and their supervisors were informed of the objectives of the
survey and asked to modify the questionnaire. A second draft questionnaire was
prepared. Technicians were called into headquarters to be trained in its
application. The objective of each question was discussed, in french, in a group
setting. Afterward, each technician presented his version of how to pose the
question in Moor6 (the language of the Mossi, the predominant ethnic group in the
central plateau). The questionnaire was given different renditions by the
technicians. The need to improve their communication skills was evident. Each
question was discussed until the wording could be standardized.
The training lasted two days at headquarters and was followed by two more days
of practical tests in the field. Researchers, supervisors, and technicians
together conducted the field tests to verify the protocol followed and language
employed by technicians.
During the week which followed, technicians conducted another four to five tests.
Questionnaires were then returned to headquarters with comments. A final
revision was made. Researchers and supervisors returned to the field to explain
the changes to the technicians before the survey was implemented. The survey was
conducted during the first two weeks of December, 1990, after all tests-parcels
had been harvested. The total number of respondents is noted in Table 2.
Table 2: Number of Respondents at Village-Sites by Type of Test
Village Variety x Sorghum- Variety x TOTAL
Fertilization Cowpea Soil Management
Kamsi 15 05 00 20
Thiougou 18 05 08 31
Donsin 07 02 02 11
TOTAL 40 12 10 62
Data collected in the survey were processed using "LISA" (Logiciel Int6grB des
Syst&mes Agraires), a data base management and statistical program. A training
session was conducted in January 1991 in the application of LISA. For most of
the Burkinab& participants, this training was their first exposure to micro-
computers. The opinion survey was thus the first opportunity for several RSP
staff to apply their new skills. A data processing group was formed, consisting
of researchers, a senior technician (supervisor), and a data processor, to record
and tabulate survey results. The raw data were collated and given initial
interpretations by FSR sociologists, then distributed to other FSR researchers
for their interpretations. Some of the results (e.g., the inventory of local
varieties) were additionally presented to the farmers in a village meeting for
The results of the survey were classed according to factors of acceptability and
factors of production. Factors of acceptability described farmers' responses to
trials: positive and negative comments by type of trial, interest in
participating again next year in conducting trials, and opinions on the
processing qualities of tested, improved varieties of sorghum, millet, maize,
cowpea, and groundnuts.
Production factors described current farmer production practices and included an
inventory of local varieties (varieties sown by local farmers) and their
characteristics, a list of secondary characteristics (that is, aside from
earliness and yield) sought by farmers in choosing varieties, a description of
cropping patterns and the reasons for them, and a list of the sources of seed
stocks by crop. This information had not been collected previously by RSP.
Survey results are summarized below for all three village sites so that the
complete range of responses may be presented.
Factors of Acceptability. Seventy-five percent of the comments on the tests were
positive, generally citing the earliness and productivity of improved varieties
and the positive effect of fertilizer treatments on production (local and
improved varieties). Negative responses predominated in two trials: one in
which the harvest of early sorghum was delayed and birds attacked the grain; and
a second in which cowpea plants, when sown in association in the same pocket with
sorghum, greatly reduced sorghum yields.
While most comments focused on the relative grain yields of different varieties,
it was apparent that farmers were paying attention to other characteristics as
well. The forage qualities of improved sorghums were appreciated, as were the
drought-resistent qualities of improved sorghums and groundnuts. On the other
hand, some farmers noted that improved sorghums appeared vulnerable to
infestation and did not withstand drought well.
Opinions on the processing qualities of improved varieties were varied and
interesting. Some of the more drought-resistent varieties of sorghum, for
example, such as IRAT 204 and ICSV 1049, were not appreciated for their taste and
storability, respectively. The two improved varieties of millet were well-viewed
for flour and t6 (a porridge and food staple of the Mossi). All the maize
varieties, whether eaten grilled or as t6, were preferred to local varieties.
All the dishes prepared from improved groundnut varieties were well-liked. Only
the 7/180-4-5 dual purpose (food/forage) variety of cowpea was judged not to have
a good taste; opinion was mixed on the cooking qualities of other cowpea
Slightly more than one-half of the farmers expressed unqualified interest in
participating again in next year's trials. Twenty-seven percent qualified their
interest by expressing concern about the demands of trials on their time and
resources. Some of these problems are attributable to research design: farmers
were essentially laborers in researcher-managed trials. In other cases, labor-
intensive technologies such as tied-ridging were cited as too demanding of labor
to be considered for adoption.
Factors of Production. The inventory of local varieties was diverse. Some of
the varieties have come from other agro-ecological regions of Burkina. Many
varieties were described as drought-resistent and early-maturing. There was a
wide range of growth cycles available from early to late. Farmers indicated
that, in addition to yield and earliness, they also look for storability,
performance in association, taste, multiple plant usage (animal feed) of cereals
and grain legumes, and marketability of grain legumes.
Fewer than one-fourth of interviewed farmers sow more than one variety of a given
crop. Generally, these are reported to be early and longer cycle varieties.
Otherwise, lack of seed, land, and labor were cited as reasons for sowing a
single variety only in any given field. Land and labor are limiting factors
because some producers allocate available resources to varieties in which they
have the most confidence. Lack of sufficient seed may be a major constraint as
more than 90% of surveyed farmers use cereal seed which comes exclusively from
their own stock.
Associations of two or more crops are common. Millet is sown with sorghum and/or
cowpea, and sorghum is sown with cowpea or maize. Farmers indicated that crop
association economizes on labor and reduces the risk of food insecurity from crop
failure. Evidently, farmers recognize that multiple crops make more efficient
use of soil moisture and nutrients, space and sunlight.
About one-half of the respondents purchase grain legume seed in the market.
5. THE OUTCOMES OF FARMER PARTICIPATION IN RESEARCH
The graphics presented in this paper represent average responses of crops to
treatments across sites. They were an excellent means of portraying the results
of the agronomic campaign to researchers, and especially to supervisors and
technicians. Farmers also showed interest in the graphs during tests of the
opinion survey. These visual representations of trial results were more
effective than statistical presentations in communicating to non-scientists
differences in varietal performance. Moreover, involving technicians and farmers
in data analysis, an activity ordinarily reserved for researchers, helped to
demonstrate RSP's commitment to the full participation of all members of the
research team. The payback from this approach is evident in the 1991 campaign:
farmers and technicians alike are offering unsolicited opinions on this year's
agronomic tests and socio-economic studies.
The results of the opinion survey served to complement the graphs insofar-as they
evidenced the range rather than the average of responses. This provided
researchers with important information on the characteristics of improved
varieties. For example, discussions and survey results revealed that despite
relatively lower grain yields in improved varieties, farmers still appreciated
them for their secondary characteristics (such as palatability/forage). This
information, along with the characteristics of the many "local" varieties sown
by farmers, is valuable to breeding programs. Additionally, farmers remarked
that organic compost seemed to have a greater effect on vegetative growth than
NPK, especially for improved varieties. Given the low cation exchange capacity
of the soils and the erratic rainfall, organic compost has a more beneficial
effect on plant growth. This observation is also supported by agronomic data
Farmers found tied-ridging to be demanding of labor, mainly because it must be
done at the first weeding when labor constraints are greatest. Tied-ridging is
a classic example of a technology developed on-station which, given the necessary
inputs (which most farmers do not have), can result in significant yield
increases. Earlier economic analyses of tied-ridging showed the technology to
be profitable. Tests for many years in farmers' fields in Burkina Faso, however,
has evidenced little or no adoption. New economic analyses are called for to
see if conditions have changed or if the earlier models contained specification
Tied-ridging is a short-term solution to the long-term problems of erosion and
soil moisture management. Grass and/or rock dikes, following the contour of the
land against the slope for a terracing effect, is a better long-term solution.
They can be constructed during the dry season when labor availability is less of
Some farmers interviewed at the end of the 1990 growing season indicated that
they were going to plant cowpea in pure stands rather than in association during
the 1991 growing season to improve forage and seed yields, following the RSP
demonstration. All farmers that requested seed stocks of the dual purpose
(feed/forage) varieties tested in 1990 were given seed in 1991. None of these
farmers applied NPK to their fields but most planted the improved varieties in
pure stands. Potentially higher seed yields will underscore another problem with
cowpea -- storage. RSP is planning a study of traditional seed storage systems
for the end of the 1991 growing season in an effort to identify potential
interventions to alleviate the storage problem.
One of the valuable outcomes of the opinion survey was the inventory of local
varieties. In addition to soliciting this technical information, RSP provided
farmers with a public opportunity to review the inventories. This took place at
village meetings at the start of the 1991 season. The discussion was animated,
with farmers clarifying the precise characteristics of each variety. With
researchers taking notes, the role of farmer-as-teacher was apparent.
Overall positive producer response to testing innovations was an encouraging sign
for RSP. When volunteers were again sought for the 1991 campaign, fully three
times as many producers volunteered as RSP believed it could accommodate (with
limited human, material, and financial resources). We believe that the rate of
volunteerism is one important indicator of RSP impact at the village level.
The agronomic research program in 1990 focused on preconceived solutions to on-
farm problems. In 1991, the emphasis has been placed on collecting agronomic and
socio-economic data on local production systems and comparing them to the
management systems recommended for increasing the probability of better
performance from improved varieties. Local and improved varieties are being
tested under both farmer and researcher management. This will allow researchers
to evaluate and characterize the numerous farmer-managed systems according to the
performances of local and improved varieties. Farmer opinions of the recommended
management systems will be obtained as well. An output of this research program
will be a continuum of management systems used by farmers. These will include
intermediate systems which may exhibit increased yields of both local and
improved varieties at less than recommended input levels.
The information of varietal characteristics will be passed to breeders. Breeders
and RSP researchers need to start a nursery of local varieties to evaluate as a
source of germ plasm. Additional research into the sources of these varieties
is also desirable. Some of them are certainly "improved" local strains while
others come from elsewhere in Burkina Faso. RSP hopes to interest commodity
researchers in on-farm performance of varieties, improved and other, in order to
encourage them to breed for on-farm conditions of limited-resource farmers.
Crop associations are widespread in Burkina and well-liked by farmers. Improved
cowpea-cereal associations should be a RSP research priority for the central
The question of access to seed as a source of producer options and production
strategies was raised by the 1990 research efforts. RSP hopes to do a
seed/storage survey to understand better how producers are managing seed stocks.
A census of seed stocks on the farm, well into the dry season (February-March),
would reveal how successfully producers cope with the long period (over eight
months) between harvests and plan cropping patterns for the coming season.
Finally, the results of the opinion survey suggest that a closer look be taken
at potential policy issues. While producers generally responded favorably to the
trials, many of them expressed doubt about their ability to implement those
tested technologies which increased their need for labor, fertilizer, and cash.
RSP needs to verify the extent to which limited human and cash resources
constrain adoption of innovations. Caution, too, should be exercised in
verifying that the requirements of innovative actions are available locally.
That minority of producers who indicated that they possessed sufficient labor and
fertilizer to adopt tried technologies should also be studied further to identify
why they are not, in fact, using more productive cultural practices and/or better
technologies at this time.
The agronomic results of the 1990 growing season portrayed the average responses
of crops to treatments of fertility and soil management practices. The farmer
opinion survey served as a valuable tool for involving farmers more in the
research process by soliciting their individual perceptions of tested varieties
and management practices. As these results become available, breeders will need
to be informed of them.
Improved varieties which are developed under research station conditions and
which receive all the necessary inputs to assure maximum performance are not well
adapted to farmers' limited resource management systems. They are susceptible
to the harsh conditions under which local varieties are grown. The factors which
are important to the farmer concerning any given crop should always be
identified. This information should then be incorporated into breeding programs.
This is one of the feedback functions of an FSR system.
RSP and rural development programs will depend upon INERA to develop such
improved varieties to test under farmer conditions. This process should take
into consideration local varieties of the major food crops in Burkina Faso and
other Sahelian countries as sources of germ plasm in crop breeding programs.
They have been selected by farmers under the harshest of growing conditions and
represent a genetic base with tremendous potential. Yet the commodity research
programs of INERA do not have seed multiplication programs. If INERA cannot
provide seed for distribution, other sources will need to be developed.
Aggregating household level research results provides the means to develop
village level recommendations to improve agricultural productivity. Such
recommendations must be feasible in terms of the resource capabilities of
farmers. Assessments of innovations applied at the village level will allow RSP
to develop recommendations at yet more inclusive levels -- for example, the sub-
zone (or agro-ecological zone). Feedback from tests at this level is also
important for breeding programs to establish criteria for developing varieties
adapted to agro-climatic conditions.
Experience with many on-farm research programs has indicated that policy-induced
constraints limit potential gains associated with technological change. Local
policy constraints often result from a lack of appropriate technical information
among decision makers. RSP is initiating research which uses farm-level data to
identify policy constraints related to the introduction of interventions and to
communicate this information to decision-makers in INERA and the Ministry of
RSP research activities in 1990 revealed a range of farmer interests in
agricultural production. By using the tools of dialogue, meetings, graphic
presentations, and opinion surveys, RSP will continue to identify the real
concerns of farmers and assign them a major role in the research process.