pril 9, 1975
Ralph W. Cummings, Jr.
THE PUEBLA PROJECT*
The Puebla Project is a rural development program which deserves de-
tailed study for several reasons. The project is aimed specifically at
small farmers. It has managed to achieve the goals originally specified.
It has had a direct influence in stimulating the establishment of similar
projects in other states in Mexico and in several other Latin American
countries as well as having had an indirect influence in the implementation
of programs in Asia and Africa. It has a well-documented history over an
eight-year period. As a result, it should cause students and practitioners
to reassess what is really meant by rural development and what is needed
to bring it about.
This paper has two interrelated purposes. The first is to explain
the Puebla Project as a rural development project. Some observers argue
that because the Puebla Project focused on agricultural production and did
not initially include specific activities in such other areas as health,
* This paper is prepared for a meeting on Social Science Research in Rural
Development to be held at The Rockefeller Foundation, April 29-30, 1975.
The paper borrows heavily from five trips which the author has made to
Mexico since September 1972 as well as several recent excellent accounts
of the Puebla Project including: (1) The Plan Puebla Staff, The Puebla
Project: Seven Years of Experience (1967-1973): Analysis of a program
to increase crop production in rainfed areas of small, subsistence farmers.
Mexico, CIMMYT, 1975 (this report contains a bibliography of 22 theses
and 22 articles and reports written on the Puebla Project); (2) Leobardo
Jimenez S. and Reggie J. Laird- "Mexico: The Puebla Project A program
to increase crop production by small, subsistence farmers in rainfed
areas," appearing in Strategies for Agricultural Education in Developing
Countries, The Rockefeller Foundation Working Papers, December 1974; (3)
Heliodoro Diaz-Cisneros, "An Institutional Analysis of a Rural Development
Project: A Case of the Puebla Project in Mexico," a thesis submitted in
partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Phi-
losophy at the University of Wisconsin, 1974. Sterling Wortman, Reggie J.
Laird, G. Edward Schuh, Donald Winkelmann, Edgardo Moscardi, and Herman
Felstehausen read an earlier draft and made perceptive comments. However,
the views expressed in the paper are the author's alone and should not be
blamed on the others cited above.
education, and off-farm employment, it should be considered as an agricul-
tural development project rather than a rural development project in the
Rural development is an especially difficult concept to define. What
people want from life varies in specifics from area to area and from per-
son to person. However, generally every person, at the minimum, needs
acceptable levels of food, health, shelter, and clothing. No less impor-
tant than these, he also needs less easily defined factors that in sum
contribute to his self-respect, identity, satisfaction, and spiritual well-
being. His notion of "acceptable levels" of wants and needs will, over
time, very likely alter with the rising expectations that accompany develop-
ment. By and large, however, it may be argued that attainment of these
goals as they evolve is contingent directly or indirectly on the growth
and distribution of family income, which becomes a significant objective.
Rural development includes achievement of this broader range of objectives
by a wide group of rural people on a sustained basis.
Some activity or activities must be initiated to increase income. In
rural areas, the most obvious income-generating mechanism is agriculture.
In some cases, agricultural change can result in a limited range of benefits
for a limited number of people. However, a project whose initial concep-
tion, at least as related to inputs, would appear to place it in the agri-
cultural development category, can produce a spread of benefits, indirect
as well as direct, such that the ultimate results are much the same as, if
not greater than, those achieved by projects which begin explicitly as
* Arthur T. Mosher, "Projects of Integrated Rural Development," A/D/C re-
print, The Agricultural Development Council, New York, N.Y., December
recognized rural development projects. There too often is a tendency to
attempt to force inclusion of such activities as public health and primary
education from the beginning when a simpler focus initially, followed
several years afterward by the addition of other activities, might be more
appropriate. The Puebla Project is a good example of an "agricultural
development" project which really is a "rural development" project.
The second purpose is to describe the contribution which social scien-
tists made to the implementation of the project. The institutional con-
straints were probably at least as important as the technical constraints
in preventing the majority of the campesinos from using services in the
area. The team members with social science training had the particular
task of identifying these institutional constraints and attempting to work
out methods of overcoming them. This input, appearing in several places
throughout the project, undoubtedly made a significant contribution to the
success of the project.
The paper will be divided into six sections: first, the origin of
the Puebla Project and its objectives; second, its various activities as
they evolved; third, training; fourth, what was accomplished; fifth, impli-
cations which might be applied to other areas of the world; finally, some
Origin and Objectives
By 1967, scientists at the International Center for the Improvement of
Maize and Wheat (CIMMYT) were struck by the fact improved maize varieties and
agronomic production practices which had been developed on the research
stations were not being utilized widely by farmers in Mexico. In particular,
small farmers did not seem to be picking up the new technology readily.
The question was, why? The scientists decided to determine if, with avail-
able varieties, yields in the region could be raised substantially; if so,
whether with the available varieties new practices would be more profitable
to use; and, if so, to what extent farmers would change and what factors
would influence their decisions. Later after the Puebla Project had met
with some success, two more objectives were added:*
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 chosen is in the state of Puebla, about two hours drive
from Mexico City. In the area approximately 43,000 families on roughly
116,000 hectares of cropland (about 2-1/2 ha per family), about three-quarters
in maize, farmed land under rainfed conditions. Average maize yields were
only 1.3 tons per hectare and static. There was a good system of roads for
access to the area. Agricultural service agencies, including credit, fer-
tilizer supply, crop insurance, and price support, were already existing
although not widely serving the small farmers. A land reform program had
been carried out previously.
The project was initiated as a learning process (not a demonstration
project). It tested a planned approach, based initially on what was known,
* In addition the project staff itself added an internal challenge to them-
selves, i.e., to double the yields of maize within a five-year period.
This was not a formal objective of the project although its achievement,
of course, would have been welcomed.
with built-in mechanisms for learning 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 professional team consisted of ten to eleven professionals with
university degrees. The composition of the team changed somewhat through-
out the project. For example, a corn breeder was involved during the early
period, while a technical assistance agent was not added till the second
year. However, basically the team has consisted of a coordinator, four
specialists in agronomic research (including a maize varietal improvement
specialist), an evaluation specialist, and five technical assistance agents.
A staff of approximately twenty-five local farmers, selected and trained
for specific jobs, has complemented the professional staff. Several staff
members of CIMMYT and the Graduate College at Chapingo provided technical
assistance to the professional project staff. The project staff were paid
salaries competitive with other civil service positions. There were strong
professional incentives in the form of satisfaction of seeing the results of
the work in the project area and its spread to other states in Mexico and
other countries in Latin America.
The total cost of the project for the first seven years was $925,045, of
which $559,851 was provided by The Rockefeller Foundation, $332,737 by
CIMMYT, and $32,457 by the Graduate College and various institutions in
Puebla. 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.
The cost of the project, the staffing requirements, and the method of
operation were designed in such a way that it would be practical for the
government to assume full responsibility for the project as well as extend
it to other areas if it were successful.
The Project Components
The basic components of the Puebla Project can be divided into five
main activity areas, some with subactivities:
a. Production research: local production research emphasizing maize
production practices (including soils, planting density, fertilizers, and
sowing date) and variety testing.
b. Technical assistance: communication of agronomic information to
farmers, agricultural leaders, agricultural institutions, and government
c. Coordination of all activities (including the above) impinging
directly on maize production:
(1) Production credit.
(2) Agronomic inputs.
(3) Relationships between input costs and crop values.
(5) Crop insurance.
d. Institutional development
e. Socioeconomic evaluation
We will review activities in each of these main areas.
The project area on which maize is grown is located between 2,150 and
2,700 meters above sea level in a valley bordered by three statuesque volcanoes.
The soils are variable in quality. The climate is temperate with frosts
occurring mostly during the winter months (but occurring in all months ex-
cept July). Frequent hailstorms occur in late summer and early fall. Aver-
age rainfall varies from 777 to 863 millimeters, 94 percent of which falls
between April and October which is the maize growing season.
The initial task of the project staff was to/discover technology
suitable to help farmers increase their yields under these/physical/condi-
tions. They first reviewed the information available, both from previous
research efforts as well as by interviewing farmers, to establish research
priorities. They then initiated field tests of a number of varieties with
different levels of management with respect to fertilizer use and timing,
plant population, and weed control to establish the recommended levels of
production inputs. At the same time they initiated a breeding program to
attempt to develop varieties better suited to the environmental conditions
than those then available.
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
certain unique local varieties which had been selected by farmers in an
area irrigated with sewage waters from Puebla.
Thereafter, project research has focused on deriving recommendations
for varieties of maize already in use, taking into account variability in
soil morphology, planting 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 kg/ha to 130 kg/ha) and increased the plant population (from 40,000
plants/ha to 50,000 plants/ha).
Beginning in 1968, planting date, timing 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 loweryields if weather is not favorable).
Recommendations were changed for a few areas where soil conditions were
limiting. Recommendations were also made for different planting dates
because the length of the growing season was found to have a very impor-
tant influence on yield. Drought and hail were found to be the major
sources of risk. Late frost could also be a factor. In all, recommended
packages of production practices were developed for 16 producing conditions
in the area. Experimental results indicated that project recommendations
could increase yields by an average of 1.75 tons/ha on some areas and an
average of over 1 ton/ha over the whole area, compared to the traditional
practices, and by an average of over 0.5 ton/ha above yields achieved with
the previous recommendations.
The advisors in research were sensitive to social science considera-
tions in deriving the recommendations. Each of the 16 recommendations
was made at two levels, one to reflect limited capital and the other to
reflect unlimited capital.* Care was taken in making these recommendations
* The limited capital recommendations were selected intuitively rather than
based on rigorous experimental criteria. On the average, they called for
lower levels of nitrogen and phosphorus and lower plant populations than
previously recommended by the National Agricultural Research Institute
(INIA). However, the limited capital recommendations were adjusted spe-
cifically to the conditions of each of the 16 producing systems. In prac-
tice, the limited capital recommendations corresponded closely to the
factor combinations that maximized the rate of return on fertilizer.
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to ensure that the farmers had a good chance of making.gt least as much in-
come with the new recommendations as with previous practices in an unfavor-
Recent research has concentrated more attention on combinations of corn
and beans which is an important cropping system in the project area. When
beans are associated with maize, maize yields drop. However, because the
bean price is five times (currently) that of maize, the farmer growing beans
with his maize can end up with increased income. Fertilization with chicken
manure increases yields of maize and beans (especially); it also increases
protein content of maize and beans. The maize stalks and bean vines provide
useful forage for animal feed. Maize and beans have complementary amino
acid balances. Thus, the combination significantly increases both the
calories and protein available from an acre compared to previous practices.
Furthermore, because the combination must be harvested by hand, it also in-
It is not possible to overemphasize the contribution that this strong
research component, which is absent in most projects, made to the success
of the Puebla Project.
Recognizing that identification of superior technology applicable to
specific environmental conditions is only part of the job, the next and con-
current task of the project staff was to develop a mechanism to reach as
many of the farmers as possible in order that they would adopt the recom-
mended technologies to increase on farm yields and incomes.
The estimated 43,000 farm operators had an average of 5.9 members per
family. Average farm size was 2.7 cultivated hectares (90 percent of farms
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with less than 5 hectares), consisting of 3.8 separate parcels. Almost
all farmers (over 99 percent) owned their own land or were ejiditarios,
farmers who have free possession of their land for life.
The 157 villages of the area are connected by roads which are passable
during most of the year.
Almost four-fifths of the farmers could read or
write, although most only at minimal levels (average school attendance
was 2.24 years). Electricity reached 63 percent of farmers, 14 percent had
potable water, 61 percent had a radio, and 13 percent had a television
set.* In 1967 almost all of the farmers knew about chemical fertilizers
and approximately two-thirds were using fertilizers, although often at
low levels. Over half of the farmers knew of hybrid maize but less than
one percent were using it in 1967.
The agrarian reforms of the 1920's had been accompanied by political
and organizational changes at the village level. However, many promises
were unfilled and many previous private efforts had resulted in frustration.
The villagers had become very competitive among themselves.
they were generally suspicious of outsiders and especially mistrustful of
government and organizations associated with it. After several decades of
experience, the campesinos had come to the conclusion that they were better
off without government services. Often inputs and cash supplied did not
arrive on time. Because the inputs and credit were late, the cash credit
was often expended for nonproductive purposes and therefore the campesinos
had difficulty in repaying it. The inputs received often were not suited
to the ecological conditions in which they were to be used. Corruption
* The last two figures are from 1970 data.
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among field agents distributing the inputs and credit made their use even
The problem of mistrust had to be endured and overcome since the Puebla
Project had no alternative in the sense that eventually the government had
to take over the program. For this reason, the staff felt that they had
to use face-to-face communication at the beginning in order to establish
rapport with the campesinos. They began using films, radio, and printed
materials only by 1969. Continuity of staff personnel in this early period
was especially important in establishing trust.
First, through repeated visits to the villages the staff studied the
recognized communications systems already in existence, including both the
formal system operating through the power structure and the informal sys-
tems operating through friends and neighbors. Direct information was given
to everyone, including women and children, who attended the meetings held
in various villages. 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. It became obvious that
participation had to be on a voluntary basis to have lasting effect.
From this process, the key role of credit as a motivating force was
identified. The rate of loan repayments had been very low and banks were
reluctant to lend. It was virtually impossible for an individual alone
to get credit and, at the low level of resources owned by the campesinos,
without credit the campesinos were unable to finance the improvements
needed to raise yields. Therefore, the project leaders made known to the
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farmers that credit, fertilizer, seeds, and assistance were available to
those who participated in the program at their own choice.
Based on their investigations, the project staff realized that the
campesinos would not voluntarily use the services provided by the govern-
ment agencies. Furthermore, the public banks were not prepared in 1968 to
participate in the program. Therefore, an alternative was sought to permit
those campesinos who were willing to use the new technology, but who did
not have the resources necessary to purchase the required inputs, to get
credit. An arrangement was finally worked out with a private fertilizer
dealer. In 1968, the first year, 103 farmers volunteered to participate
in the project. Eighty-five of them required credit; the remainder had
adequate financial resources but wanted technical assistance. In that
first year, yields of the participants averaged 4.0 tons/ha compared to
2.1 tons/ha for the entire project area.*
In 1969 three major changes were made. First, the project area was
divided into four (and eventually into five) zones. A technical assistance
agent was assigned to each zone (actually only four of the five zones had
technical assistance agents in the first year). Each technical assistance
agent had one or two nonprofessional assistants, local trained farmers, who
assisted in the work with the farmers. Second, in 1969 the number of par-
ticipants rose to 2,561 and the official credit banks joined the fertilizer
distributor in offering credit to the farmers. Third, because the number
of farmers had become too large for individual technical assistance agents,
the participating farmers were organized into groups.
* No comparison of the yields attained by "participants" and "nonparticipants"
prior to the start of the project is available.
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Although the need for some form of organization which would permit the
technical assistance agents to work with larger numbers of farmers was
recognized from the beginning, the specific form or forms it would take was
not clear. The planners decided to let the eventual organization evolve
out of the experience of the campesinos as the needs for cooperative action
became obvious to them. The initial participants recognized the weaknesses
of individual action. At an early stage, they spontaneously suggested that
cooperation would have advantages in arranging transport for fertilizer.
They organized in groups for this purpose. As recognition grew that group
action was useful for other purposes also, the actions of the groups ex-
panded to meet these broader needs.
The makeup and specific rules of operation of the groups differ some-
what depending on with which of the credit institutions they are associated.
However, the basic principles are similar. A combination of responsibility
and social pressure is the key element 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 of credit by
individual members. It works out solutions if individual members can not
or will not repay. In some cases a group will take over payments until
the member can assume his load. In other cases, individuals are excluded
from future participation. Some members of communities are restricted
from groups initially because they are not considered to be responsible.
The groups serve to reduce transaction 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 of Mexico who appre-
ciates 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, coopera-
tives 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, the staff has come to learn that the
farmers are better prepared to follow than the staff sometimes is to lead.
Coordination of Activities for Favorable Change in Agricultural Institutions
The participation of agricultural service institutions to supply produc-
tion inputs including chemical fertilizers, to provide credit, and to en-
sure a reliable market for outputs is essential to the success of any rural
development program. In the case of Puebla, the necessary institutions did
already exist, but were not fulfilling the needs of the small farmers. Ini-
tially they resisted becoming directly involved in the project. The third
component of the strategy, therefore, was to involve them gradually, using
favorable program experience and pressures from the farmer groups to achieve
Four main credit agencies operate in the area with differences in in-
terest rates charged, requirements to qualify for loans, and other procedures.
These practices range 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 the Puebla
Project staff) of the private fertilizer dealer to 10.5 percent interest
plus 1 percent service charge (the total actually comes to almost 13 percent
- 14 -
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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) of the official Agricul-
tural Bank. One official bank deals primarily with the ejidarios, taking
into account the special conditions under which they operate. A third
official bank is gradually withdrawing because of other interests.
The amount of agricultural credit distributed to the campesinos in
the project area 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 exist.
Fertilizer policy was changed in 1971. Previously, individual dis-
tributors purchased fertilizer from the producer for sale, at whatever
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 (unsubsidized) official price. Usually the fer-
tilizer is purchased by the groups who then arrange for transport to the
- 16 -
There has been a significant change in the type of fertilizer used
in the project area during the past few years. Initially 10-8-4 (which
identifies percentages of nitrogen, phosphate, and potash in a mixture)
was distributed. However, the project staff discovered through their ex-
periments that there was no production response to potash in four of the
five zones and that in one zone, there was response only to nitrogen. As
a result of communicating this information to the farmer groups who applied
pressure on the fertilizer distributor, ammonium sulfate (20.5 percent N)
and superphosphate (20 percent P205) are now the primary fertilizers used
in the area.
Floor prices are enforced by the government price control agency
(Conosupo) which purchases maize for announced prices at 14 warehouses
over the area. No quality discount is given up to 14 percent moisture.
This agency has greatly simplified procedures but the farmers still think
the dealings are too complicated.*
Crop insurance, which is obligatory to all who receive official credit,
has been a consistent problem. Insurance can be denied if the campesinos
do not carry out recommended practices. Furthermore, the campesinos have
felt that they already insure themselves by planting in different parcels
and at different times. The criterion for payment of claims has been the
source of repeated dissatisfaction. As a result of the pressure from the
* Until 1973 the floor price was above world prices. However, in practice
the bulk of the maize was sold by the farmers at below-Conosupo prices.
Conosupo often would not purchase small lots, would discount for quality,
and sometimes, when storage space was not available, would not make pur-
chases at all. It is reported that this situation has improved, in part
because of the existence of the groups but more importantly because the
world price is above the floor price.
- 17 -
groups, new procedures for reimbursement have been worked out whereby the
farmers stand a better chance of receiving compensation when damage is
limited to one or two parcels. The premiums paid by organized farmers
using the project recommendations will be reduced by half in future years.
The Puebla Project staff played important catalytic roles in bringing
the campesinos and the service organizations into closer contact and better
understanding. They persuaded the campesinos, who had had little previous
experience with banks, to follow the rules of the banks. They persuaded
the banks, who were not set up to deal efficiently with many small units,
to simplify their procedures and to pay their field people better. They
urged upon the fertilizer company the importance of supplying materials on
The project had very fortunate leadership in that it has had three
excellent coordinators. These coordinators have provided both intellectual
as well as administrative leadership. Coordination has been provided through
weekly meetings, often held at night, of the entire technical staff to dis-
cuss 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.
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Improvement in institutional performance was an essential component of
the project which was discovered within the project experience. The leader-
ship of the project came from persons who were aware of the institutional
elements through previous experience in rural areas of Mexico and who had
struggled with organizational issues long before they undertook the Puebla
effort. As a result the technicians consciously and deliberately helped
the campesinos to organize. Furthermore, the organized groups, along with
their advisors, recognized that their task was not just to grow more maize
but also to overhaul the banking system and improve services. The campesinos
themselves insisted on some of the institutional changes. The groups were
able to apply pressures to change the credit system because they represented
a certain collective discipline which does not exist without organization.
The technical assistance agents were not trained in this area and at one
time in the project, displayed their initial lack of organizational competence
by actually suspending critical parts of the program only to reestablish
the activities later. The first campesinos to organize were those who had
ejido experience. Without this model, the project might not have gotten
its ideas together quickly enough or successful enough for the groups to
succeed. Together the campesinos and the technical assistance agents learned
as they went along "by doing." Still, the communicators are only beginning
to make headway in promoting more advanced campesino organizations that can
* This component, not recognized explicitly in the original project plan
but in fact implicit as the project progressed, is included at the sugges-
tion of Herman Felstehausen. The discussion has benefited from correspon-
dence with Felstehausen and the thesis, cited previously, of Heliodoro Diaz.
- 19 -
attack greater problems. The institutional development component is very
important in distinguishing the Puebla Project from numerous other projects
which have been tried throughout the world.
It was agreed to establish an evaluation unit within the project.
The team began by checking Mexican government data; it was decided
these data were not sufficiently accurate so the staff collected its own.
They began by using aerial photos; next identified 100 hectare segments
and the parcels within each; and then took a 12 percent 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 comprehensive list of questions was included. A second
survey was carried out in 1971. One limitation of the first two surveys was
that they included only those who farmed land; landless laborers were not
included. A third survey covering a wider coverage of questions and people
may be carried out in the summer of 1975.
The surveys have played a useful role in measuring changes (which are
reported in the next section) during the first four years of the project.
However, the surveys carried out by evaluation unit did not play the feed-
back role which was originally envisaged. Two reasons probably accounted
most for this.
First, formalized social science surveys, especially if they cover a
statistically designed sample and include a broad range of variables needed
to give a comprehensive evaluation of change, tend to be both expensive and
time-consuming. Often the results are not_available quickly enough to in-
fluence operations. Second, surveys which are designed to evaluate change
- 20 -
often do not contain the information identifying obstacles limiting farmer
use of new technology which would assist in developing means to overcome
such obstacles. To provide such information requires_.skil.lin design, an
understanding of the general problem, and quick analysis. However, the
surveys have been useful in evaluating change over longer periods of time
as a measure of project progress.
Special studies of less sophisticated design which were more quickly
compiled were carried out in 1968 and 1973 to determine the level of per-
formance of the service organizations and to identify the components of the
fertilizer distribution network. These studies, especially the first, did
have some role in making the project staff more aware of limiting factors.
Finally, because the staff anticipated that the farmers would object to the
staff harvesting ears in the field, the evaluation staff derived an indirect
method of measuring maize yields. This was very useful in measuring the
year-to-year results of recommendations under the prevailing conditions.
It should be reemphasized that while the survey studies made a relatively
limited contribution to the project implementation, evaluation and feedback
was built into the project on a continuing basis. The staff utilized direct
personal observation and frequent contact with farmers and service institu-
tion personnel to derive their data. The weekly informal staff meetings
(especially active during the early stages of the project) provided an effec-
tive forum to display and reflect on the observations and make the indicated
A training component of the project,was built on the premise that all
disciplines must contribute cooperatively to achievement of common goals,
that capacities for judgment and professional competence are the key in-
gredients 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 -
production research (emphasizing research for generating packages of crop
production practices), coordination and technical assistance, and evaluation -
were emphasized. The project staff prepared a training manual for each of
the three areas of specialization (retaining some elements of all three
areas in each manual).
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.
Sixty-six persons were trained during 1967-73 from Mexico (41) and
four other Latin American countries, i.e., Colombia (16), Peru (5), Ecuador (2),
and Honduras (2). Twenty-two of these trainees also carried out academic
programs at the Graduate College at Chapingo. The trainees are presently
participating in the operation of ten regional production programs in
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
- 22 -
Estimates of Plan Puebla Participation
1968 1969 1970 1971
Number of Cooperators 103 2,561 4,833 5,240
Percent of Total* 0.2 5.9 11.1 12.1
Hectares in Plan 76 5,838 12,601 14,438
Percent of Total** 0.1 7.3 15.8 18.0
It must be recognized that this is a very restrictive definition of
participation. Not all farmers on the credit lists are necessarily apply-
ing the recommended technology and many other farmers, some of whom do not
require credit, undoubtedly are following the project recommendations.
Farmers are cautious and experiment themselves. They usually only partially
adopt recommended production practices, they will adopt some parts of recom-
mendations more readily than others, and they tend to use new technologies
initially on only a portion of their lands. In order to get a clearer picture
of the adoption process, farmers in the area were divided into the following
categories for three practices.
Levels of Adoption
mately to what
limits for the "low" levels of adoption correspond approxi-
the better farmers were using in 1967. The lower limits of
* Based on a total of 43,300 farmers.
** Based on a total of 80,000 ha of maize.
- 23 -
the "high" levels of adoption correspond to the lowest rates of the inputs
that are recommended presently in the area.
Analysis reveals a significant movement of farmers during the project
period from "low" to "high" levels of adoption in each category.
Levels of Adoption of Each Recommendation
% of all farmers in area
1967 1968 1970 1972
High 7 -- 33 45
Int 11 -- 14 14
Low 82 -- 53 41
High 24 -- 38 44
Int 8 -- 9 9
Low 69 -- 52 47,
High -- 14 25 39
Int -- 35 31 34
Low -- 51 44 27
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 relatively
small apparent change in plant densities including uncertainties of avail-
ability 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 at lower stands, and the farmers' desire to increase
* It should be noted that not all of this increase in fertilizer use was due
to the project. Between 1967 and 1971, the actual maize/fertilizer price
ratios for nitrogen and phosphates declined by 20 percent, thereby in
itself giving a greater economic incentive to use more chemical fertilizer.
- 24 -
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 following data tend to confirm the observation that the farmers
themselves experimented with recommendations, often adopting them in stages
rather than as a complete package.
Level of Adoption N=200 N=200
of Three Practices All Farmers Farms in Credit List
High all 3 10 20
High for 2; intermediate for 1 11 28
High for 2; low for 1 19 27
High for 1; intermediate for 2 3 6
High for 1; intermediate for 1;
low for 1 15 8
Total 58 89
One important implication of these data is that it is very difficult
to analyze participation quantitatively, at least in any simple manner.
Since the only measurable definition of participation was not meaningful,
comparisons of performance between "participants" and "nonparticipants"
generally were not carried out.
The main purpose of the project was to increase maize yields. Maize
yields in Puebla (over whole area) are estimated to have risen as follows:
- 25 -
Average Maize Yields in Puebla
Year General Average kg/ha
1967 was a poor rainfall year. 1968 and 1972 were considered roughly
comparable weather years. (1968 was actually considered to be slightly
better.) Two different methods were used to "deweatherize" the production
data to estimate the influence of new practices in increasing yields during
the 1968 to 1972 period.* One method indicated a yield increase of 24.2
The first method was to utilize the average yields of 8 to 12 experi-
mental plots using practices approximating those of the farmers of the area
(50 kg/ha of N, 25 kg/ha of P205, and 30,000 plants/ha) in each of the years
from 1968 to 1972. The second was to utilize the average yields of the upper
third of the farmers in the credit lists each year who were assumed to be
using the recommended practices accurately and reasonably constantly over the
years. In both cases, the average yield of all farmers was then deweatherized
to give an estimate of the increase attributable to the new technology. Each
method has deficiencies. In the first, the number of experiments was not
large enough to adequately sample the area nor were they distributed over the
project area in a way to give proper weight to the 16 producing systems.
(They were not designed for this purpose.) In the second, closer supervision
may have led to higher levels of usage of the new technology in the first
year, 1968. Also, the upper third of farmers in credit lists does not provide
a representative sample of the producing conditions in the Puebla area. The
two methods gave similar weather factors for 1969 through 1971 but differed
considerably for 1972. A rough averaging of the two methods gives an annual
yield increase of 7.5 percent.
CIMMYT also made calculations by comparing the average production of the
last two years, 1972 and 1973, with the average of the first two years, 1967
and 1968. They concluded that average yields rose from 1.7 tons/ha to 2.5
tons/ha, an increase of 47 percent over 7 years or 6.7 percent per year.
percent; the other 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 translated
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; U.S. dollars adjusted for inflation)
Total family income US$ 666.80 US$ 825.52
% from crops 30.4 35.5
($ 202.57) ($ 293.06)
% from animals 28.4 30.0
($ 189.37) ($ 247.66)
% from off-farm activities 40.7 27.7
($ 271.53) ($ 228.67)
% from other activities 0.5 6.8
($ 3.33) ($ 56.13)
* The data on changes in income and welfare should be used with caution for
three reasons. First, the samples for 1967 and 1970 are not strictly com-
parable. It is felt that the direction of change, although not necessarily
the absolute amounts, is a reasonably accurate indicator. Second, the
breadth and depth of the project progress has not been fully reflected in
the data collected. The survey data do not pick up income by nonfarmers.
This is especially important because towns like Puebla generate a lot of
economic activity which must contribute significantly to the welfare of
the rural people, especially those who do not farm land. Furthermore, the
data as presented thus far do not give a complete picture regarding com-
parative benefits of participants compared to nonparticipants. 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 the situa-
tion, a third survey is planned for the summer of 1975 which hopefully will
give a more comprehensive and more accurate picture of change in the project
area and provide answers to many questions. Third, obviously, not all the
income gains in the project area can be attributed directly to the Puebla
Project. Maize yields nationally have been rising at between one to two
percent per year. Per capital income in Mexico has been rising at about
three percent per year although these gains have not generally been extend-
ing to the dryland, small farmer areas.
The income from crop production is mostly from maize (61.5 percent in
1970). Net income from crop production was estimated to have increased
by 44.7 percent (from $202.71 to $293.06) over this three-year period (it
should be noted that 1967 was a poor year for maize production while 1970
was below average).
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. 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 signifi-
cant. They are used primarily for savings and income rather than for con-
sumption. Animals eat corn stalks, bean vines, and grass (pigs and chickens
will eat grain) so the 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).
Limited inquiries do not indicate that the income from off-farm activities
in the rural area around Puebla would have been expected to decline; quite the
contrary. The apparent reason for this result in the reported data is that
survey figures account only for those who farm land. People who work in
brick factories, etc. (which seems to be increasing considerably) may be non-
land owners. Therefore, the growth in incomes from this activity probably
- 28 -
was not picked up by the survey. One other reason that the percentage
off-farm income for farm families appears to be falling is that on-farm
income opportunities may be even more attractive with new agricultural
techniques. The campesino prefers to farm his own land rather than work
in the city or in brickyards if his income from farming is reasonably
close to what he can earn elsewhere.
Distribution of Annual Family Income*
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 appears
to have been accompanied by a desirable distribution of income. More
information is needed before a positive conclusion can be made on this.
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 popu-
lation, the average number of days worked off-farm per worker decreased.)
There is no reliable information on changes in on-farm employment. The
labor "requirements" for the traditional and recommended maize production
practices are estimated as follows:
* Family income in 1970 was adjusted to 1967 prices.
- 29 -
Labor Requirement for the Production of Maize
traditional planting planting using recom.
1 hectare for one crop season (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
It would be interesting to know on what the increased disposable income
is being spent. This information has not been collected comprehensively as
yet. There is, however, some information on changes in food consumption.
Beef or pork
Consumption of Several Foods by One
Every 1-3 days Every 4-7 days
1967 1970 1967 1970
0.8 0.8 3.2 11.3
8.4 9.6 43.0 43.9
29.1 27.6 7.6 7.9
.4 1.7 5.6 14.6
29.1 59.4 25.9 32.6
33.5 38.5 35.4 30.5
11.6 30.5 32.7 37.2
14.4 34.3 31.5 38.5
16.8 30.6 44.2 46.9
Member of Family
prices as well as
time period is short, these data would suggest that diet
fruit, and vegetables) has improved. Changes in relative
higher incomes probably had some influence on this pattern.
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
There are also some encouraging signs of improvement in basic rural
facilities. These nonagricultural changes, of course, cannot be attributed
to the Puebla Project.
Percentage of Families Who Have Access to:
Electricity 63 77
Potable water 14 21
Plumbing 6 6
No data were collected in the first two surveys which measure degree
of change in such other areas as education or health. An anecdotal bit of
information is revealing however: one campesino reported that the increased
maize yields and incomes gave the townspeople enough money to improve the
road from their village. This permitted easier exit of village products and,
as a result, a brick industry was begun which now employs half of the labor
force in the village. One of the early uses of the bricks was to build a
school for the village to which the state supplied a teacher. This apparently
was not an isolated incident.
The Puebla Project staff did attempt to evaluate changes in attitudes of
the farmers. Forty-four percent of the sample of all farmers in the area
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 the Puebla Project. This, in turn, had a favorable influence on their atti-
tudes 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
- 31 -
and improve their production practices increased from 53 percent in 1967
to 73 percent in 1970.
Perhaps just as importantly, based on the credibility established by
the agricultural progress of the Puebla Project, there is growing pressure
for the project staff to move into new areas such as animal production,
horticulture, education, and health services. Long-term loans are being
serviced through groups to drill deepwells for irrigation in order to grow
higher income crops: like alfalfa and vegetables. Another group has coopera-
tively purchased a tractor. The groups are providing a means by which the
campesinos can increasingly use their newly discovered cooperative power
to pressure institutions for constructive changes in services beneficial to
Benefit/cost analysis was carried out by project staff using alternative
assumptions regarding who benefits, how much, for how long, and under what
opportunity and costs of resources. Counting only the increase in income from
maize production of participants in credit lists, i.e., the direct benefits,
the benefit/cost ratio directly attributable to the project (discounted at
14 percent interest rate) was 2.54. When additional account was taken of
nonparticipants in credit lists who also benefited from the project, i.e.,
the indirect benefits, the benefit/cost ratio was raised to 4.03.* No
calculations were made to include the intangible benefits accruing to the
farmers. It is recognized that benefit/cost analysis is only a partial
* Alternative calculations also were made using several labor cost assump-
tions. It was concluded that the most reasonable assumption was existence
of seasonal unemployment, i.e., zero opportunity cost, except at harvest.
Based on this assumption, the "most plausible" benefit/cost ratio is
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.
Perhaps the ultimate test of the influence of the project is the ex-
tent to which it has been imitated in other areas. In March 1974, financial
support was assumed by the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture. The Mexican
states of Mexico and Tlaxcala, as well as the countries of Colombia, Peru,
and Honduras have adopted similar projects. The Puebla Project also has
had indirect influences on rural development projects in the Philippines
(Masagana 99) and in Nigeria (near Ibadan).
Implications for Other Projects
Technology for maize production in this area did not automatically
' ii flow to the farmers as it did with wheat in northern Mexico or in India.<-
This situation is representative of a large part of the low-income world.
The project was initiated as a learning process. Many specific lessons
were learned. The more general implications of Plan Puebla for similar
situations elsewhere include the following:
1. Feasibility studies including both statistically designed surveys as
well as in-depth interviews and personal observations 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 and to provide a baseline
survey against which progress can be measured.
- 33 -
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 out.
3. Budget considerations should include:
a. A budget that is adequate both in amount and ease of administration.
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, interdisciplinary, analyti-
cal staff covering production 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 objectives.
5. All possible efforts should be made to bring in and coordinate all the
activities impinging directly on crop production, specifically of small
farmers, including the following:
a. Production research which is related to the national research program
(rather than an autonomous effort) and which includes on-farm re-
search on a wide range of soil, fertilizer, and climatic conditions
within the project area and development of management techniques
which can promise the farmer substantially higher yields and profits
than he is currently obtaining.
b. Effective communication of agronomic information to farmers, agri-
cultural leaders, agricultural institutions, and government offi-
cials 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. Some process must be established to multiply the technical assistance
capability of a limited number of trained people to a large number of
participants. In the case of the Puebla Project, farmer groups served
very effectively in this objective and, in addition, served as a very
effective "grass roots" force in accelerating change in practices of
the institutions serving agriculture.
7. 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 organiza-
tion 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.
8. 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 ad-
justed if needed).
The Puebla Project was initiated as an experiment in 1967 with limited,
but important, goals. The project followed a planned approach based ini-
tially on what was already known with built-in mechanisms 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. The new practices did not represent radical changes from what
farmers were doing previously; the new recommendations utilized the same seeds
but with more nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer and higher plant populations.
Average maize yields for the whole project area were estimated to have in-
creased by about 30 percent by 1970. Welfare in the area, as measured by
- 36 -
increase in income and such other evidence as increases in number of families
who have access to electricity and potable water, appears to have been im-
proved. The benefit/cost ratio for the project was very high.
The Mexican Government took over the financing of Plan Puebla after
Rockefeller Foundation and CIMMYT support was terminated in March of 1974.
In large part, based on the example of the project, maize promotion pro-
grams have spread to other states of Mexico and to other countries in Latin
America. The Puebla Project 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.
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 the Puebla
Project is so good, why is the number of farmers in credit lists after six
years 16 percent of farmers and 26 percent of maize area so low?"
First, it must be reiterated that the participation figures cited above
refer to farmers who officially signed up for credit under the program. As
the data at the beginning of the section on "Accomplishments" suggest, the
influence of the Puebla Project recommendations was much more pervasive than
this restrictive definition of participation indicates. However, this
clarification notwithstanding, 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 any-
where from a single recommendation for the whole area to separate recom-
mendations 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 offered. The
project staff feel that 16 different recommendations, influenced mostly
by different planting dates but also by soil conditions, 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 increase. Or possibly it would be better to recommend two
levels, both conservative, depending on the capital available to the
- 38 -
b. Communication of recommendations. A second aspect of the problem is
that while the recommendations may be adequate, communication of the
recommendations may not be adequate. 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 closely 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 the benefit/cost ratio have been maintained? One pos-
sibility would be to subdivide the zones into subzones under which sub-
professionals (similar to paramedicals in health care) could carry out
closer farmer contact. To some degree, the 25 subprofessionals played
this role. Responsibilities could be allocated by concentrating the
team of specialists in agronomic research 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, a strong two-way relationship between applied
research and extension whether carried out by the same or separate
persons is very important. It is undesirable to insulate the various
functions. When there are a limited number of professionals, the ques-
tion 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 43,000 farm families; 100 agents is probably too many,
Aside from the number of technical assistance agents, another question
arises about the quality of their training. Project staff acknowledge
that this is an area of which weaknesses do exist. There was little
- 39 -
to go on in trying to prepare the men for their jobs and to provide
continuing assistance after they were actually on the job. The people
involved in technical assistance feel that they do not have the same
kind of backup as their colleagues in research work; the reason is that
the technology in research is very well worked out, whereas in the
case of technical assistance the basic methodology is not as well known.
The new technical assistance people who came into the project learned
from the people who had been there before. They had relatively little
in the way of theory to guide them.
c. Agronomic risk. The assumption on which the project was organized was
that the farmer could increase maize yields as a low risk means of in-
creasing income and security. While higher incomes are undoubtedly de-
sired by the campesinos, the decision-making process is undoubtedly
more complex than this simple, although convenient, assumption suggests.
For historical and social reasons, the campesinos are highly individualis-
tic 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 outsiders), ways. The
campesinos have very limited financial resources upon which to fall
back on in the 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,
nonavailability of credit and production inputs, limited access to
markets, poor health, etc., are some of the sources of risk which must
be considered. 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 may tend to be conservative in
their adoption of new practices until they are assured that their yields
will be relatively stable.*
The Puebla Project staff feel that, while there are instances where farmers
will reduce their net incomes by changing from traditional to the new
technology, farmers generally assume less risk by using the project recom-
mendations. Their data show:
1) For average or better years, there is a high probability of an attrac-
tive net income from using either technology. The expected net income
is nearly twice as large with project recommendations as with the tra-
2) For less favorable years the value of net income will be equal to or
less than 0.5 tons/ha of maize in many cases. The probability of these
low incomes is much higher with the traditional than with the recom-
3) For the least favorable years net incomes less than zero can be ex-
pected. The probability of net losses is similar for the two tech-
SEdgardo Moscardi is carrying out research, "A Behavioral Model for Decision
under Risk among Small-holding Farmers," which should have very interesting
implications for future projects.
- 41 -
d. Availability of credit and inputs. 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. Over the life of the project,
some innovations in the delivery of inputs which were used in the other
projects were not tried in the Puebla Project. 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 which, although not very productive, are
mostly under his control. I have not seen any studies which indicate
whether the interest rates and fertilizer prices are at the most desirable
levels from the viewpoints of the farmers and the fertilizer dealer.
e. 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 unnecessary
f. Organizing the farmers into groups. Sheer numbers of participants relative
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 among 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.
- 42 -
However, some people have feared that the formation of groups in which
membership is a prerequisite to getting credit and other services could
serve as a means of excluding as well as including participants. The Plan
Puebla staff do not think this is a big negative 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
homogenous memberships. The bigger groups of wealthier farmers would
tend to associate together and could probably have advantages 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. How-
ever, 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.
g. Labor shortages. It was noted that the new recommendations require more
labor, 30 percent more, than traditional practices. The additional labor
- 43 -
requirement competes directly with the opportunities for employment
off-farm in such places as the town of Puebla. Although possibly limit-
ing the spread of new agricultural practices,* such a tight labor market
should work to the total economic advantage of rural laborers by bidding
h. Farm size. It must be admitted that many one-half hectare farmers were
just not willing to go into debt in order to accept the risks necessary
to achieve the gains which the Puebla Project promised. Is it realistic
to expect any credit program to include even more than half of the very
I stated at the beginning that this paper had two interrelated purposes.
The first was to explain the Puebla Project as a rural development project.
In intent, the Puebla Project was established neither as a rural development
project nor even an agricultural development project; it was initiated as a
learning process testing a planned approach, based initially on what was
known, with built-in mechanisms for evaluation and subsequent readjustment -
and this is the basis by which it should be evaluated. However, in fact,
it went beyond this. Through applied research and feedback, technical credi-
bility in agriculture was established. Project leadership and farmer par-
ticipation promoted the spread of the technology by inducing the relevant
institutions to become more responsive to farmer needs. Welfare was increased
* This hypothesis is being investigated by Manuel Villa-Issa in his study
"Labor as a Constraint to the Adoption of New Production Technology: The
Case of the Puebla Project."
throughout the area. Could a project which was initially designed as a
"rural development" project have accomplished as much of the rural de-
velopment objectives of improving the standard of living during the exis-
tence of the project and laying the groundwork for continued future im-
provements as did the Puebla Project with its seemingly narrowly defined
As to the second purpose of the paper, I think it is clear that social
scientists did play an important role, working jointly with technical
agricultural research and production specialists in the project in many
ways. Essentially three types of research approaches were used: 1) a
technocratic approach of introducing changes on a trial basis and evaluating
results, 2) socioeconomic surveys, and 3) continual informal observation
and interaction with the farmers and service agencies. Each of these ap-
proaches has its role and, when properly carried out, can contribute very
positively to project success. However, it is also obvious from this ex-
perience that there are still numerous questions to be answered and that
improvements must be made in social science research approaches in order
to provide the needed answers. For example, it would have been very
valuable to have introduced more rigor into the evaluations, especially
the feeding back of hypotheses to be tested in carrying out specific
activities. Methods for evaluating institutional change are particularly
In discussing the role of social science research in the Puebla Project,
or any rural development project, one must be relaxed regarding what is
considered social science research and one must do the best he can with
the resources which are available. The important consideration is that
social science research however defined and however carried out should
be viewed as a means to an end rather than the end in and of itself, i.e.,
the objective is to bring social science considerations into the decision-
making process of the project in order to increase the success of the project
in achieving desired goals. Social science research did make this contribu-
tion, effectively, in the Puebla Project.