_at the Ur:vers fFloridfa
GENDER ISSUES IN FARMING SYSTEMS
RESEARCH AND EXTENSION
VIABILITY AND METHOD THE POSSIBILITIES FOR FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH IN
ape.r prepared -or the Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems
Research / Extension, 26th Feb 1st Marc' 1986, Gainesvi!le, Florida,
-a.rming Systems Research and Extension (FSR/E) involves three ma..ij o
sets. of d s mion makers; (i) Pianners and oc .:- Makers, i, resear-cher s
and Research Insti tutes, and i i i Programme Benef i ar-is. Recent
experience of work ing with a team of biophys i cal scientists in :'or.t-
Bihar, India, on a programme claiming an FSR/E approach, has made
apparent the problematic nature of the linkages between the first and
second, and the second and third groups. These have implications for both
planning and effective implementation of FSR/E. (Figure 1)
This section outlines how this paper uses these linkages as a vehicle
to examine two areas of importance that come from observing the state of,
a programme that was planned with little consideration of the
institutional research environment and, initially, researched with little
consideration of the production environment.
Section 2 discusses the background to the research programme from
which the ideas and information examined are drawn.
In relation to the first linkage, section 3 of this paper considers
the viability of FSR/E in the institutional setting of North Bihar.
Planners cannot separate their proposals from the bureaucratic
ci-cumrstances in which they are to be carried out. Failures cannot be
blamed upon "implementation problems" (Biggs 1984) if, at the very
outset, the institutional situation of the researchers is such that plans
stand no chance o4 effective application. The position of the Bihari
research group is discussed with reference to the bureaucracy of
agricultural research in India, the mandate of the institution and the
personal available. Alternative suggestions for feasible implementation
of FSR/E in North Bihar are put forward.
In section 4 a five stage research model is used to outline, through
use of primary data, how and where a social science input is important
and can help to bridge the communication gap observed between the
tecrnnical researchers- .and the c.a : am ng co mmrunr ty:'. F'i gcume 3)
-he question of gencer" in FSP/E :s treat ea v*.r-: much as pa.rt oa te
researr strategy, not .as an entity ;n tse- he case is not made -or
the inc lusio o f g nde- an .al is in tecnnor; og :ca' 5-sec -a:. out e ,-"
under : i ng assume ti on is tha..t sexual di eren t iat n :s an i; mporta.:
component for a programme of this Kind. All primary data revered to has
been disaggregated by sex and age.
The Eastern states of India have approximately 40% of the country's
land suitable for growing rice. North Bihar, with.rice yields averaging ,
only 840kg/ha, compared to the State average of 903kg/ha which in
itself is an extremely low figure
respects. The culture is extremely hierachical and male oriented and one
in which the majority of women have little control over their lives. The
incidence of poverty, however measured, is high; agricultural yields are
low and stagnat:ng (Table 2); very little modern technology is available
that ;s suital e for the majority of the rained conditions found in the
area (Ghilcyal 4194 ; coruption is rife at all evuels; political
conditions are volatile; both u-ar.b and rural areas are violent; and the
mode of proauct;on is such that it has often been described as
semi-feucal (Prasad 1985). SR/E, with its emphasis on developing
technologies appropriate to not only the physical, but also the current
social and economic environments of the producers, would seem to offer
one way of overcoming at least some of the problems.
Information referred to in this paper is drawn from working with a
group of biophysical scientists from an agricultural research institute
in the Bihar State capital of Patna. The study took place in a single
village located one hours drive north of the Ganges and Patna. The
biophysical scientists have identified the chaurs (large dished
depressonrs in the terrain, subject to flooding and aterl ogg ing dur-ing
the wet season and receding water levels throughout the remainder of te-
'ear. Appendix 1 : S:te Description: as p ysical envi ronment in
a-.rticuilar need of better yield ng rice technogi es.(See Appencix 2
:Out' 1 e of Techn-ical Research
3. The Institutional Environment.
In India agricultural research is organized through 21 agricultural
uiuer.sites 35 Indian Council of Agricultural Research CICAR)
Institutes and National Bureaus, and more than 50 All India Coordinated
In Bihar the institution funded by an agency for this research is a
field station of the State Agricultural University. As autonomous State
level institutions the universities are responsible for teaching,
research and extension education.
The Research institute in Patna has a mandate restricting research to
a certain number and type of crop. There is no position salaried for an
economist or extensionist within the institute. Although the Regional
Director of the Institute can apply to his immediate superior for
perm ss:onr to research crc!s outside the mandate, it was apparent that
before the social sc tist .joined the team alternative crops had not
been identified as subjects for research and hence no pressure had been
exerted for change. When enquiries were made about the possibilities of
introducing wider disciplinary analysis and skills, it transpired that
-the Agricultural University could supply an agricultural economist to the
Institute, but only on a part time and advisory level. Extension advice
and assistance would also only be available on a similar arrangement. An
added problem is that the Research Institute is spatially distant from
the Agricultural University and is not an attractive place for people to
visit or work in. Research therefore continues along very technical
dic i nary ines, w.th no consi derat ion being given to the economics ,-a
t e tec h n:2:c, e st bei g :nvestigate d and no ackno: I edgement of arny,
-. so.:rs. i:_ 1 i ty ifor- interacti on i th, or dissem:;iat ion of i r orrm tio: to,
v tiivtor s. There are three womenn on the staff of the organisation.
Unfortunateiy'the cultural norms, expectations and h story o *ferma-e
-.vo' emen t in work, that involves facing rather uncomfortable physical.
and soc ia conditions, are such that these women are not participating -
This FSR/E programme, demanding genuine interdisciplinary, c-oss
sexual and poverty focused research, represents a radical departure from
the traditional approach to research in India, which is one that could de
called both linear and disc:l inary and that is reflected, as such, in
institutional and bureaucratic structures. The ICAR coordinated
Lab-to-Land programme, directed at technology dissemination to small and
marginal cultivators and being directly linked to the Ministry of Rural
Reconstruction, is one that presumes an interdisciplinary approach.
However, observation of the Patna Institute's part of this programme
indicates that similar problems are occurring in this as in the FSR/E
o.:oject. The *est.orn of whether or not it is feasible for a single
institut'on working under these conditions to carry out effective FSR/E
work, should be considered by the planners of programmes. From the
oreceoing brief discussion it apparently is not likely in Bihar, where
on l one institution has b.en- fu-nded to carry out WorK that s not viable
i terms of either their mandate or manpower, that an effective FSR/E
orogramme can be implemented .
Under these conditions there appear to be three solutions to the
problem. The first is to bring in from ou-tside the area a specially
assembled team, who already have FSR/E experience, to work with the
institution concerned; the second is to find local groups/ institutions
who are willing to work together, have the local knowledge needed, and
- 5 -
!- hav e c:aoabie and committed manpower; and the th rd i to put together
a c)o'c:t of oc. -=:ersonn e J.unde r an :x terna coordinator. This. ,u'
:r iv- partial or *u .1 time secondment --om t:e r ;iar-ent I st uti-.o-.
Tne f.rst senar-io is re.. ect?1 a unr teab-.a It i wo d e ex tr e' -
expensive to imp ement, external personer would be very ur iike' to have
enough local knowledge at the outset, and it would not strengthen locai
capabilities. The second could be considered for North Bihar as two
insti tutions local to Patna appear to be able to offer useu i npuuts to
the programme. One has the social science manpower capable of providing
social and economic analysis, and the other has experience in training
and extension. This suggestion is problematic for three reasons. The
first is the likelihood of resources being wasted in an inter team debate
on models and processes of development. The second concerns the
hierachical nature of the institutions and the constraints that this
imposes on the adoption of new ideas or approaches. The third problem is
the laci of female researchers available in both numbers and positions
.wnaere they would be able- to influence the programme. Women are active as
:ooducer-, -eprocucers and consumers in the agricultural system in Siha-.
Because of social norms male researchers have little access to these
females, which means that wJithout :. -xed sex team information on .
large group of possible beneficiaries is not going to be available.
It is the third proposal, that of assembling a research team oy
seconding personal from the disciplinary segregated local institutes to
work together as an interdisciplinary group, that would seem to presents
the most realistic solution to the problems found in trying to implement
a FSR/E programme in Bihar. This strategy would offer a way of avoiding
loyalties of both a personal and institutional nature and would give
researchers of both sexes the opportunity to think outside of their
normal constraints. It also means that the team could be physically
located in the area in which they are working, avoiding a number of
hazards that are present when one group plays nost.
what is therefore recommended is a three part research effort
Involving a local agricultural research institute a group of local,
so.:aa scientists, and an external coordinator. The team headauar tears
wou d be located in the research area itself, with full use ceing -.ae o-
facilities of the various institutions involved such as the ag icu' tura.
research station during the on station component involved in plant
breeding. It is recognized that the three alternatives put forward
reflect a social science bias, and one that comes from a person who is
not as familiar with the mechanics of the Indian research system as the
scientists located in Patna. Discussion with local institutions of costs,.
benefits and possible alternatives is-therefore very valuable.
This brief discussion has centred on the experiences of working with
one group to illustrate the importance of considering the institutional
environment when planning FSR/E. Planning an FSR/E programme in any
situation outside of Bihar will mean considering a different set of
Institutional conditions and reviewing alternative possible solutions.
4. The Need for Interdisciplinary Work
Inherent in FSR/E is the need for an interdiscipl inary tear. One o-
the first problems in Eihar was to establish the definition of the term
'interdisciplinary', to differentiate it from 'multidisciplinary', and to
reach agreement on the implicit indication of interaction between the
disciplines. The second was to show why it is important to include social
scientists in a team of this type. To illustrate this a five stage
research model is used as the framework for discussion as it builds upon
a problem solving approach to research which is familiar to all
biophysical scientists. The sequence suggested is one of, i Diagnosis, ii
Design, iii Experimentation /Testing /Assessment, iv Adaptation /Testing
/Assessment, and, v Recommendation /Dissemination /Assessment. (See
he five a= .aes present a n 'ideal resear : r e o;: e e. c s : ra-y
-esear=h p.ogrammes in rEhar the social scie nce component was not
S! -ated un after varietal trials nad been put out, represent ing a.
r:me iate departure from this 'idea.' It rare to fin e an e esearcn
orogramme that does not have an established background of ideas, pol; .:!?
anc experiments. The recognition of this does not deny the usefui:-,ess
a mode1 a.s a reference Doint. Particularly in the case in question, ,.,-ere
.SR/,E waas a new concept, it can give an overview o0 research str-aeci-y .r-
a framework to refer to. The stages include an element of flexi!l ity
that means throughout the programme directions and priorities can be
changed according to new findings. What is being proposed here is niot a
set of procedures. It is a research framework through which a team shou-,
develop their own modus operandi.
Par-ticipation in the programme in North Bihar has been in the early
stages of this sequence. Trials have only been out on a farmer's field
for two years. It is encouraging to note that the iterative nature of the
programme is being demonstrated as discussions are now commencing about
tre nature of tne original; assumptions and the way that research is being
carried out. thoughg, in terms of the five stages, this means even after
two yea-s the i:, c e team is still at the diagnosis and design stages, it
does marK a fundamental change in the approach to research. Diagnosis,
through self evaluation of the research teams efforts, is, it is hopec.
going to remain a part of the programme as it moves into the other
stages. The fi.e stage sequence is used to outline where social science
information is, ana has been, useful to a team involved in FSR/E, using
the experiences and information coming out of the contact with technical
researchers and villagers in North Bihar.
A social science input is useful on two counts. Firstly in
sensiti action, of both villagers and the research team.
Second y, social science experience and method can be drawn upon to he p
in tarqet'r* :a: priority areas where action is also :kely to be
effec ive, and 'b) the bene iciary group or recommendation domain.
in the village of Belkunda, the site chosen for this research,
initial contact with villagers often involved answering more questions
than were asked. This proved invaluable as a means of establishing a
basis of understanding and rapport with participants. From information
that was elicited during this period agricultural labour emerged as a
major issue. Many of the villagers appeared completely dependent on
agricultural produce or agricultural labour as a means of livelihood
(Table 3). There also appeared to be 'lumpy' agricultural employment
opportunities, labour constraints at peak times and task differentiation
by caste and sex. In order to draw a sample a survey of agricultural
labour involvement of all households was carried out. Apart frbm
agricultural labour being an apparently important issue for technology-
development, it was also felt to be a reasonable proxy for the relative
resource wealth or households (Table 4).
The survey, consisting of a very simple questionnaire, also gathered
simple information relating to ownership of livestock and ranked sources
of household income according to importance. Results were as follows;
1. 12.8% of households were net hirers in of agricultural labour
2. 35.9% of households were net users of family labour
3. 30.8% of households were net hirers out of agricultural labour
4. 9.0% of households used no labour in cultivation but owned
land or livestock
5. 11.5% of households had no connection with agriculture at all.
As this FSR/E programme has an explicit commitment to working with the
resource poor cultivator, it was decided that the beneficiaries of the
FSR/E programme would be in categories 2 & 3. Group 5 households did not
need to be involved in the programme. Groups 1 & 4 were both involved in
further social science investigation out they were considered outside oc
t; b io-ph.sical team members immediate area of interest. The ratoona: e
for social and economic analysis continuing with Group 1, was that
changes in techno;og: for this group could well affect their use of n-rec
labour; and with Group 4, that (a) as landowners they were important :n
understanding tenurial systems and terms which affected producers conrt-c
over their products; and (b) as livestock owners they were part of the
agricultural system as suppliers of manure, suppliers of animal power and
consumers of fodder crops.
Apart from carrying out basic survey work that could have helped in
the initial identification of beneficiaries, information is available now
relating to task differentiation within the system. This is an important
factor in targeting and focusing the research work, particularly as some
male members of the research team had stated that women were never
involved in agricultural work. There was also no recognition of the time
women spent in agriculturally related or supportive roles. Data collected
demonstrates that activities were deliniated according to caste, economic
class, and sex (Tab!e 5).
In terms of sensitisation much time was spent with the villagers
explaining why we were there. There was a marked resentment against the
research team when the first forays were made into the village, which to
a great extent was due to incomprehension of their activities and
unfulfilled promises. Villagers have, since explanations were
forthcoming, subsequently been most helpful. As a female researcher it
was possible to gain access to all village women.
One spin off of the interaction was the selection of particularly
cooperative respondents as Key Informants for the technical research
team. Another could have been the initiation of a discussion about rice
as a technological research priority. If the objective of the programme
was to increase monetary. income (which at the beginirrg of the social
science involvement the technical research team identified as an
objective), then rice would not hae emerged as a primary -ssue even i-
richer households no rice is ever sold. However it is the major staple ir
the diets of the villagers and, in an area where caloric deficiences are
recorded for a large proportion of the population, it must receive due
attention but as a possible means to improving consumption levels rather
than as a means of generating cash income. Yields of rice are very low in
this area, and there is no modern technology available, but it is
possible that the constraints may not be those of low yielding varieties
alone. Labour has emerged as one of the major problems during planting,
weeding and harvesting (Table 6).
The social scientist can help in two ways during this design phase.
One relates to constraints and the other to consequences. The former is
considered at two levels, (a) that of the producers (resource
access/control, time, markets, culture, expectations etc), and (b) that
of the research team (institutional, political, bureaucratic, resources).
An example of an area identified because of the social science
concern with labour helps to illustrate how and why team interaction is
valuable for this process. During exploratory investigations in Belkunda
it was discovered that women in lower income houses spent on average four
hours per day collecting fodder (Tab'e 7). It was noted that no form of
tree fodder was used. The possible results of introducing tree fodder
crops are twofold: (i) it could cut down the time involved in fodder
collection, thereby decreasing work burdens or releasing collectors for
alternative work, or (ii) it could increase the potential for livestock
production and products. In the design discussions such ideas can be
talked about. If this research area is technically feasible then it could
be included in the experimental design. If it is not, according to team
*lembe-s th spprc Dr iate knorw edge,/ t then ime or money wou d rot be
n vested in tn eessar:. reseda c .
The s.c.l sci-e p-r i E- '.e ., .5 ,-. -.c-a_. e1 S C
o"pendix. 3. However the programme, as it stands, in Patna is ore tn.at
currently involves little On Farm Research (OFR). There are varietal ar.
mixed cropping trials out but this year they have been conducted rather
as disciplinary separate enterprises and without interaction with
resource poor cultivators.
Research has included both these on-farm trials and on-station
experimentation. In OFR the primary function of the social science input
has been in the selection of key informants on the basis of relative
resource endowment and cooperation. In relation to the team work in the
field attempts have been made to discuss techniques of field research
acceptable to informants and to initiate some intra-team dialogue
relating to results and activities. Knowledge of anthropological metncc
is valuable in FS /E design. iJays of obtaining the most accurate
-iformation with Tminirmal respondant interference are particularly useful-
S::ec if: da- .: has been cc ected on "ime Allocation, Labour Use,
Income a.nd Intra Household Decision Making in relation to a numbe c-~
areas. More generalised information regarding household membership and
relations within households, food preferences, education, land types, and
crops grown is building up a background of the-production, reproduction
and consumption environment.
In their concern with 'people' and contexts', social scientists can
assist in keeping research action ir 1 ine with research objectives, and
help to ensure that villagers' values are assigned to variables. In the
research situation in Bihar no member of the biophysical team had
questioned the resource position of the farmer on whose land they had
trials. When the fact that he was the largest landowner in the village
was Queried the team responded in a way that indicated this was an asset
to their work.
Di.cuss=ion of this stage 1 ustrates clearly one o4 the :roob emrs
trying to supe-im ose an FSR/E on an establisned: research situation. -"e
-i or.hiys a l s i s i t: i sts in this case, have made certain assumpti ons
relating to stages 1 & 2. The first was that low yielding varieties were
the only problem that was the responsibility of the team, and second'r ,
research design and methodology was of the traditional format. During th:-
past year, information thrown up by social science investigation has
meant that one or two members of the research team are beginning to
question both their problem identification and their methodology.
Adaptation, Testing and Assessment
The programme in Bihar has not reached this stage. In terms of
general benefits the social science input is seen as useful to an FSR."/E
team in the type of information gathered and in the knowledge of
specialised field techniques.
At this stage it is hoped that the social scientists, although no
ong-3 e n -..o : e.? -c-n&' data s-- ec.tion or observation of team dcyramr,;
w.ou!' continue to oiay a role in field level work, alongside the
extension workers and, probably to a lesser extent, the biophysical tea..
members. They could use their experience of method to both help keep the
programme on target and maintain relations with cultivators to ensure
they are participants not passive recipients of information. Patterns of
adoption would be observed, explanations sought for non adoption and
appropriate action suggested. Interaction with biophysical scientists
would both help in the understanding of technical constraints, problems
and solutions and ensure that any new or changing aspects in the system
could be dealt with.
Where possible existing extension networks should be utilised at this
sta' ge. ULnfortujnatel in ihar the extension serve ice is very weak. No* one
farme r i r ter',ewed had e>er spoken to an extension wo or-.. In .a r eor
submitted to t're 'orld Bank by the ihar M inistr. of Agritcl ture (Ocrtobe
i8 i'- t was stated th.a: 57-' of farmers had no know!e cge of ext ensoon
worserS. In the same report they estimated that 33% of extension worKers
were not doing their job at all and a further 22% doing it 'half
The informal information networks are undeniably effective in this
area. A recent innovation in cash cropping illustrates this. In the last
few years tomatoes have been increasingly grown as a cash crop, uti is;ln
land previously left fallow or used for sugar cane and melons. Farmers
report that since the bridge across the Ganges gave easier access to the
markets in Patna the knowledge that this was an extremely profitable crop
has spread by word of mouth. However, assuming that information will
naturally 'trickle through' can lead to the research team avoiding the
responsibility of ensuring that possible beneficiaries are receiving the
results of the research.
At this stage of dissemination data available on who does what, when
and who is involved in making decisions regarding activitiesi'expend!ture
should ensure that information is passed on to, and discussed with, the
appropriate people. For example in our earlier cited case involving
fodder crops, in stratification groups 2 & 3 women were found to spend a
large part of the day collecting animal feed. In 64 %. of the cases in
households where Janera (fodder crop) was grown as a field crop both men
and women discussed and decided on how much of this crop should be grown.
Therefore any information regarding new technologies or practices should=
be passed on to both men and women. Although purdah restrictions are not
strictly enforced for women of lower caste .groups (who tend to constitute
group 2 & 3), there is still a real shyness and reticence by women to
f"C- 1- -
~.sa". -" .' c -*..,r. e mTe- -in s".' h *ca' ses women vyj.-. ." "'.." wor,.rs S-OU o ..'i:; r .- '-, a Ce
5. in Summation
Essentially this oaper has attempted to make use of recent fielc
experience as a member of, what at the beginning of the paper wa.-s te-mec.
the second group of decision makers ie Researchers and Research
Institutions. From this vantage point it was observed that the poor
quality of the linkages between this group and (a) the programme
planners, and, (b) the intended beneficiaries of the programme led, to
problems in the implementation of FSR/E. Two issues emerging from this
have been discussed in the context of the organisation of research in
Bihar. The first concerned some of the surrounding institutional
conditions and the second was related to social science interaction W:.;
a technical team.
In the fi st p.?t Vo the aper 't was suggested that planners and
Policy makers must pay attention to the institutional environment in the
context of whicn a prog-ramme :5 prpoosed. In the case of Northi'Bih.. t:he
strencths and constraints of different group within the geographic,
area should be t ons;Cered, as it did not seem to be possible for one
istitu tion to provide the necessary interdisciplinary manpower.
Therefore, because of this and certain other features of institutional
life, it was suggested that an interdisciplinary research team could be
assembled from a number of local institutes under an external
coordinator. Emphasis is placed on using.local manpower-both as an
exercise in developing local capability and as a means to exploiting an
existing resource of indigenous knowledge.
Secondly, the social science input into a team was examined with
reference to a five stage framework. The key issues with'which the social
scientist is concerned in this FSR/E programme"are, (i) Time and Labour
alloc~ation, (i i Decis ion Mak I nga and (i ii Inccme and Incentives. These
;al: ave implications for both research orientation and extensi on. -Time
ar:c L_.coujr .a locat ion surveys -sho who ~does- what and w.ren. Deci s'on
:.akirng !in or-matio; n identr 'es .s -smakes a.-: := consu:-lte about r -ezourc. -
use. Income data helps identify. beneficiaries and assses where increases
in income can have maximum r impact. The collection of intra and inter
household in ormat on forms a vi:al part of investigators: as it pr-o ide
the locus for these three focWa points, giving an understanding of the
values (and hence incentives) in terms of which the cultivator
The data used from the village study in Bihar indicates that sexual
differentiation within the production system exists. There is also an
apparent inverse relationship between the economic status of the
household and the intra household status of women (as measured by the!-
participation in decision making. Table 8). Whether such concerns should
be of primary interest in an FSR/E programme is debatable. Given the
resource position of a large proportion of the households in the village
st.dise Bihar it is perhaps more important as a research objective to
attempt to supply adequate -ut-tional intake for whole families.
Decisions made a.out the creative priority a topics is dependent on -a
number of factors including tne resources available to the research
group. Strategies should-c-ertainly be employed which ensure that
increasing real income does not mean the withdrawal of lower income
household women from their relatively strong positions with regard to
command and control of resources and their own lives. There should also
be a consideration of ways to enhance the status of women in the choice
of technological alternatives. Concern with sexual differentiation within
FSR/E is important but should not assume proportions that will cause it
to obscure other issues.
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1 map Incia, Binar, location of cnaur area
2 3 groups of decision makers
3 matrix 5 stages FSR/E input by social scientist
1 changes in rice production in Bihar in comp to other states
2 agricultural yield over time
3 ranked household income sources
4 correlate househoic strata and income
5 tasks divided according to sex (sex sequential and sex
labour employed over nine months by activity (i) hired
7 time spent on fodder collection by household women of
1 Site description
2 Outline of technical research -
3 Five Stage Research Sequence Definition of stage activities.