OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL
U.S. AID TITLE XII
KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY
MANHATTAN, KANSAS 66506 U.S.A.
FSR BACKGROUND PAPERS
THE FARMING SYSTEMS APPROACH TO RESEARCH
by David W. Norman
FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH AND THE LAND-GRANT
SYSTEM: TRANSFERRING ASSUMPTIONS OVERSEAS
by Cornelia Butler Flora
Paper No. 3 October, 1982
FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH PAPER SERIES
Kansas State University's Farming Systems Research (FSR) Paper Series is
supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development Title XII
Strengthening Grant. The goal of the Strengthening Grant is to increase the
University's capacity for, and focus its commitment to, implementing Title XII
agricultural and nutritional development assistance programs in less-developed
countries. This series is maintained by the FSR Program Associates-a multi-
disciplinary team of professors who are focusing their activities around
applied research on farming from a systems perspective.
Those faculty involved in the FSR Group (past and present) include
Ulysses Acasio (Grain Science and Industry), Charles Bussing and Duane Nellis
(Geography), James Converse, Cornelia Butler Flora, Barry Michie, and
Martin Ottenheimer (Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work), J. Arthur Hobbs
and L. Van Withee (Agronomy), Berl Koch and John Wheat (Animal Sciences and
Industry), George Larson (Agricultural Engineering), David Norman (Economics
and Agricultural Economics), Meredith Smith (Foods and Nutrition), and
Dwight 'iebe (Adult and Occupational Education).
The purpose of the FSR Paper Series is to provide an avenue for dissem-
inating information on FSR to those interested. Publications to be included
fall into the following categories: updated bibliographies from KSU's FSR data
base; proceedings from KSU's annual Farming Systems Symposium; selected papers
presented in KSU's FSR Seminar Series; selected papers prepared by KSU's
Copies of these papers may be obtained by writing: Strengthening Grant
Coordinator, Internaticnal Agricultural Programs, Waters Hall, Kansas State
University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506 (913-532-5715). There will be a charge
for selected papers and multiple copies to help defray cost of printing.
Vernon C. Larson
Wendy J. Sheppard
International Agricultural Programs
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THE FARMING SYSTEMS APPROACH TO RESEARCH
by David W. Norman*
(a) Introduction, objectives, and layout (section 2)
(b) Farming system determinants (section 3)
(c) Defining the farming systems approach to research (FSAR) (section 4)
(d) Attributes of the FSAR (section 5)
(e) Methodological problems of the FSAR (section 6)
(f) Functions (section 7)
(g) Components including funding (section 8)
(h) Boundaries (section 9)
2. Introduction, objectives, and layout
2.1 The farming systems approach to research is a product of the 1970s.
It developed due to frustration over partial or complete failure of
other approaches in developing technology relevant for farming
families located in relatively unfavorable environments.
2.2 There is considerable confusion over how a farming system is
defined and what the farming systems approach to research (FSAR) is.
It is important to have a consensus on what these are in order to
address the central objectives of this paper. At the moment, the
term FSAR is used too loosely.
2.3 The FSAR is still evolving and, therefore, conventional wisdom for
solving methodological and implementation problems has still not
developed. However, some general guidelines are emerging, but these
are likely to be modified in the light of further experience.
2.4 After defining what a farming system is and describing what constitutes
the FSAR and "ts attributes, the foundation is laid for a consideration
of the various other topics assigned to this paper: methodological
problems, functions, components and funding, and boundaries. These
topics, however, are not mutually exclusive, therefore, there is some
overlap in the discussion.
3. Farmino system -ecerminants
3.1 In developing countries, there is considerable overlap between the
unit of production and the unit of consumption. Thus, the means of
livelihood and household are intimately linked and cannot be
separated (Figure 1).
3.2 A farming system adopted by a given farming household results from its
members, with their managerial know-how, allocating the three factors
of production, i.e., land, labor, and capital, to which they have
access, to three processes (crops, livestock, and off-farm enterprises)
in a manner which, within the knowledge they possess, will maximize the
attainment of the goals) for which they are striving.
*Prepared for the Farming Systems Research Symposium "Farming Systems in the
Field," Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, November 21-23, 1982.
3.3 The farming system is determined by the environment in which the
farming family operates. The "total" environment in which it operates
can be divided into the technical (natural) and human elements.
3.4 The technical element reflects what the potential farming system can
be and, therefore, provides the necessary condition for its presence.
The technical element can be divided into:
(a) Physical factors-water, soil, solar radiation, temperatures, etc.
(b) Biological factors-crop and animal physiology, disease, insect
Technical scientists have been able to modify the technical element
to some extent.
3.5 The human element has often been neglected in traditional research
approaches to development of improved technologies, which accounts
for their often being rejected or, at best, being differentially
adopted, thereby resulting in an inequitable distribution of benefits.
The human element, providing the sufficient condition for the presence
of a farming system, determines what the actual farming system will
be-being a subset of the potential defined by the technical element.
3.6 The human element can be divided into two components or groups of
factors. The exogenous factors-the social milieu in which the
fearing household operates-are largely out of the control of the
individual farming household, but will influence what its members are
able to do. They can be divided into three broad groups:
(a) Community structures, norms, and beliefs.
(b) External institutions or support systems. This is often provided
by government, both on the input (extension, inout distribution)
and product (direct and indirect intervention) sides.
(c) Miscellaneous influences-location, population density, etc.
On the other hand, endogenous factors-land, labor, and capital,
along with management-which are under the control of the individual
farming household, can be used by them to derive a farming system
consistent with their goals) subject to the boundary conditions laid
down by the technical element and exogenous factors. The endogenous
factors can, under certain circumstances, be complemented and
supplemented in quantitative and qualitative terms through the
influence of exogenous factors-such as capital through a credit
program, management via extension, etc.
4. Defining the farming systems approach to research (FSAR)
4.1 The primary aim of the FSAR is to increase the overall productivity
of the farming system-therefore, hopefully the welfare of
individual farming families--in the context of the entire range of
private and societal goals-given the constraints and potertials
imposed by the determinants of the existing farming systems.
4.2 Increased productivity is achieved through two types of developmental
(a) Farming systems research (FSR)-involving the development and
dissemination of relevant improved practices (technologies).
(b) Farming systems perspective (FSP)-involving influencing the
development of relevant policies and support systems (external
4.3 Both developmental strategies have a "micro to macro" or "bottom-up"
.orientation compared with the more "top-down" or "macro to. micro"
orientation of research work that starts at the experiment station'
or in the upper echelons of planning ministries.
4.4 Given the right institutional setting and linkages, both FSR and
FSP are possible. However, because FSR programs have usually
been located in agricultural research institutes-primarily crop
oriented-often with poor linkages to planning or policy-making
.agencies, the FSP has usually not been operative. Thus, the support
systems have been considered parameters (implying a submissive
approach to them on the part of the FSR team) rather than variables
amenable to manipulation (implying an interventionist approach on the
part of the FSR team). An interventionist approach permits a wider
range of possible improved technologies to be considered in the
4.5 The term FSR has often been used very loosely. There are programs
called FSR that are not FSR, and there are programs not called FSR that
are indeed FSR. The following characterizes FSR:
(a) The farm, as a whole, is viewed in a comprehensive manner.
(b) The choice of priorities for research reflects the initial
study of the whole farm.
(c) Research on a farn sub-system is legitimateFSR, provided the
connections with other sub-systems are recognized and taken
(d) Evaluation of research results explicitly takes into account
linkages between sub-systems.
Using the above characterization, as long as the concept of the whole
farm and its environment are preserved, not all factors determining
the farming system need to be considered as variables-some may be
treated as parameters. Therefore, FSR may be called FSR "in the
small" (low ratio of variables to parameters) or FSR "in the large"
(high ratio of variables to parameters). Incorporation of FSP into
FSR increases the ratio of variables to parameters. However,
methodological and implementation issues become more complex as the
ratio of variables to parameters increases. In addition to the
methodological issue, the scope of the FSR program will be partially
determined by the mandate of the institution in which- it is located,
the effectiveness of linkages with other institutions and agencies,
resources available, i.e., time, skill, finances, etc.
4.6 As well as FSR programs being differentiated on the basis of the ratio
of variables to parameters, they can also be classified as follows:
(a) "Upstream" types of FSR programs have a developmental orientation
and usually do not provide results for immediate adoption by
farming families. Perhaps more aptly called resource management
research, "upstream" FSR programs involve using a systems approach
to provide prototype solutions on experiment stations to major
constraints to crop or agricultural improvement, e.g., watershed
management, intercropping, etc. Along with results from commodity
research programs--reductionist research-they contribute to the
body of knowledge (Figure 2) and are available for feeding into
the "downstream" FSR programs.
(b) "Downstream" types of FSR programs, which are the main concern of
this paper, have an applied orientation and aim at developing and
introducing strategies that will improve the productivity of
farming systems for target groups of farming families now and in
the short-run. This requires selectively drawing upon available
information, i.e., body of knowledge in Figure 2, in the process
of designing practices or recommendations for a particular farming
system on the basis of an analysis of the constraints of that
system. Therefore, recommendations are produced which are suited
to a specific local situation. This involves working directly
with farmers, i.e., on-farm research, and, as a result, reducing
to a minimum work on the experiment station.
4.7 There are four stages in applied or "downstream" FSR (Figure 2):
(a) The descriptive or diagnostic stage in which the actual farming
system is examined in the context of the "total" environment-to
identify constraints farmers face and to ascertain the potential
flexibility in the farming system in terms of timing, slack
resources, etc. An effort is also made to understand goals and
motivation of farmers that may affect their efforts to improve
the farming system.
(b) The design stage in which a range of strategies is identified
that is thought to be relevant in dealing with the constraints
delineated in the descriptive or diagnostic stage. Heavy
reliance at this stage is placed on obtaining information from
the "body of knowledge."
(c) The testing stage in which a few promising strategies arising
from the design stage are examined and evaluated under farm
conditions to ascertain their suitability for producing
desirable and acceptable changes in the existing farming system.
This stage consists of two parts: initial trials at the farm
level with joint researcher and farmer participation (researcher
managed), then farmer's testing with total control by farmers
themselves (farmer managed).
(d) The extension stage in which the strategies that were identified
and screened during the design and testing stages are implemented.
In practice, there are no clear boundaries between the various stages.
Design activities, for.example, may begin before the descriptive and
diagnostic stages end and may continue into the testing stage, as
promising alternatives emerge during the trials at the farm level
-where farmers and researchers interact directly. Similarly, testing
by farmers may mark the beginning of extension activities.
5. Attributes of the FSAR
5.1 The objectives of the farmer (farming family) are directly incorporated
into the research process. The farmer is the central unit in the
research process, being directly involved in the description, testing
and extension stages. Involvement of farmers gives them a "voice"
in the research process and ensures the use of evaluation criteria
relevant to them. For the farming family, evaluation criteria for
the adoption of improved practices can be divided into the following
groups, although it should be emphasized they are not mutually
(a) Necessary conditions determine whether the farmer would be able
to adopt the improved practices. Such conditions would include
technical feasibility, social acceptability, and compatibility
with external institutions-that is support systems.
(b) Sufficient conditions determine whether the farmer would
be willing to adopt the improved practices. Obviously the
necessary conditions will be influential in determining this
willingness. Sufficient conditions will include compatibility
of the improved practices with the goal(s)-self-sufficiency,
profit maximization, etc.-of the farming family and of the
farming system they currently practice.
5.2 Efforts are made to incorporate community and societal needs into
the FSR process by trying to ensure a convergence between private
(usually short-run) and societal (usually longer run) interests.
Examples of possible conflicts would be where satisfying short-run
needs of individual farming families would result in long-run
societal costs in terms of degradation of the natural resource base,
increased inequalities in welfare distribution, etc. It is necessary
to develop improved strategies that will avoid such conflicts.
5.3 The FSR approach, by including farmers, taps the pool of knowledge in
the society and enables research and hence developmental strategies
to build upon the good points of the present farming systems, while
at the same time minimizing the time spent in "rediscovering the
wheel"-for example, the value of intercropping.
5.4 FSR recognizes the locational specificity of the technical and human
(exogenous and endogenous factors) elements. This requires
disaggregating farming families into homogenous subgroups (recom-
mendation domains) and developing strategies appropriate to each.
Farming families in a particular subgroup will tend to have similar
farming activities and to include similar social customs, similar
access to support systems, comparable marketing opportunities, and
similar present technology and resource endowment.
5.5 The whole Farm perspective of FSR compels the adoption of an integrative
function which increases the potential for exploiting complementary and
supplementary relationships between resources and enterprises, and
the derivation of solutions compatible with the needs and capacities
of farming families. The farming systems farmers practiced
traditionally recognized such relationships-for example crops and
livestock, staggered planting dates, etc.' To ensure that the
integrative and beneficial relationships are adequately considered
and exploited requires a multidisciplinary team-both technical
and social scientists-working together at all four stages of the
5.6 The process of FSR is recognized as being dynamic and iterative
with linkages in both directions between farmers, research workers,
and funding agencies, rather than simply the presence of forward
linkages characteristic of the "top-down" approach. The iterative
characteristic can improve the efficiency of the research process
through providing-a means to fine-tune improved technologies to a
5.7 Finally, FSR complements, and does not compete with, other research
approaches. The complementarity is illustrated through FSR
contributing in two ways:
(a) Fine-tuning through adaptive testing at the farm level those
technologies developed on experiment stations through "upstream"
FSR and the more conventional reductionist approach (both
contribute to the "body of knowledge"). Successful testing
gives rise to successful dissemination (all other things being
equal), resulting in improvement of farming families' welfare.
(b) Failure under adaptive testing at the farm level results in
closer specification of requirements for improved technology
development that can be fed back to experiment station based
research programs outside the FSR program itself. Hopefully,
this will contribute to the development of improved technologies
that will improve the welfare of farming families in the future.
6. Methodological problems of the FSAR
6.1 Due to the fact that the methodology for undertaking "downstream" FSR
is still going through a period of evolution, a large variety of
methodological issues require resolution. Not surprisingly perhaps,
there are often considerable differences in opinion as to how severe
they are and how they should be dealt with. Some of the most frequently
mentioned methodological issues follow.
6.2 How holistic should FSR be? As mentioned earlier, the methodological
problems increase as the FSR program becomes more holistic, i.e., the
ratio of variables to parameters becomes higher. Also stressed
earlier was the fact that the present state of the arts of undertaking
FSR means that most current work is on the crop process and is largely
confined to development of improved technologies. Practical problems
also restricting the scope of "downstream" FSR are the mandates of
institutions in which they are located, i.e., usually technical crop
research institutes, poor or weak linkages with other research
institutions, and policy-making and farmer contact agencies. Related to
the question of how holistic "downstream" FSR should be is the issue
of whether the policy-institutional environments should be treated
as parameters or variables. Increasingly in FSP, it is being suggested
that these might be treated as variables subject to manipulation, as
suggested earlier. This micro-macro link is important in maintaining
the viability of "downstream" FSR in the long-run through the added
dimension it gives to creating conditions conducive to improving the
productivity of farming systems and therefore hopefully the welfare
of famning families.
6.3 What needs or constraints are to receive focus in the research process?
Should they be those articulated by farming families, i.e., felt needs,
those scientifically ascertained by research workers, or those
reflecting the needs of society? As discussed earlier, criteria used
in developing improved strategies should reflect the felt needs of
farming families, providing they are not incompatible with the needs of
society, e.g., there is not a decline in soil fertility, nutritional
levels, increasingly inequitable income distribution, etc.).
Strategies developed need to ensure convergence between short-run
private interests and those of the society in the long-run. Although
there is, in principle, agreement with the above, there is often
disagreement as to how societal interests can be incorporated
practically into "downstream" FSR. The problem of doing this relates
to the methodological complexity of their incorporation and the time
that would be required in deriving societal impact evaluations.
6.4 The needs or constraints that are identified may be technical, economic
or socio-cultural in nature. What approach should be used in dealing
with them? The two approaches generally used are:
(a) Accepting the constraint and developing strategies that exploit
the flexibility that exists in the current farming system while
at the same time not further exacerbating the constraint.
Socio-cultural constraints should not generally be broken.
(b) Developing strategies that will overcome the constraint. The
decision as to which approach to use usually depends on the
constraint severity, flexibility that exists in the current
farming system, availability of potential improved strategies
ei:ner to break the constraint or to exploit the flexibility,
compatibility with societal goals, etc.
6.5 Is it necessary for "downstream" FSR to be expensive? It is viewed
by some to be expensive because of its locational specificity and,
therefore, the need to focus on limited numbers of farmers. The
expensive nature is emphasized because of the opportunity costs of
neglecting other farmers. Thus, the quest for minimizing costs
in the research process is a major issue. Considerable controversy
exists concerning the degree to which costs can and should be reduced,
and the ways in which they should be reduced. In general three
approaches are being used to try to minimize costs:
(a) Seeking ways to reduce time and resources required for moving
through the four research stages-methods used should be based
on the degree of understanding that is necessary. Can this be
done with base data analysis plus an informal exploratory
(sondeo) survey and a one-shot formal survey? Or is a detailed
twice weekly formal survey required for-a period of one year?
Can modelling techniques help improve understanding-or does
this come at too high a cost? In the testing stage, should
farmers be selected that are the better farmers, most cooperative
farmers, or simply representative farmers? Representative
farmers may not, for example, be so cooperative, thereby reducing
the efficiency and effectiveness of dialogue and the timely
conclusion of the testing stage. Considerable controversy still
exists concerning the way in which these and other questions
should be resolved in the interests of minimizing costs and time.
(b) Finding ways to maximize the return from the location specific
nature of "downstream" FSR by determining the transferability of
the results to other similar "total" environments. Introducing
some flexibility into the improved practices increases the
potential of transferability, but this may come at some cost in
terms of the potential level of return. Is this,or is this not,
desirable? Controversy exists with respect to this.
(c) Seeking best of readily available solutions-that is "better, but
not necessarily best" or "non-perfectabilitarian." How much
fine-tuning should there be, thereby extending the testing stage?
6.6 In terms of developing improved practices (technologies), should
emphasis be placed on single trait innovations,which may preclude the
exploitation of possible complementary or synergistic effects between
the various components in packages of improved practices? In theory
the former would be desirable, but in practice the latter are much
more common. A possible compromise is to design and develop packages
of improved practices that permit, in an explicit manner, a stepwise
approach to the adoption of the various components of the package.
*7. Function ns
7.1 The location and linkages of the FSAR program will determine whether:
(a) FSR, or helping to generate relevant improved technology, is the
(b) FSP, or helping to develop relevant agricultural policies/support
systems, is the primary focus.
(c) If linkages are good between research and planning/implementation
institutions, some mix between the two may be possible, i.e., FSR
plus FSP = FSAR.
At the moment, the major thrust is on developing relevant
improved technologies for the crop sub-system. This is, in part,
because most FSR-type programs are located in agricultural research
institutes whose mandates revolve around crops.
7.2 FSAR-type programs help generate and communicate information in the
(a) Through providing a means for farmers to communicate their needs
to researchers (FSR) and planning/implementation agencies (FSP)
-which has often been lacking in the more conventional "top-down"
(b) Through bringing about linkages between farmers, extension
personnel, and researchers (FSR), and farmers, extension personnel,
and planning/implementation institutions (FSP).
7.3 FSAR-type "programs provide a "practical component" in the on-the-job
training of research, extension, and planning personnel. In fact,
much of the SKIll obtained to date in FSAR-type activities has been
derived from longevity in the field rather than through formal
training programs. Although formal degree training is not available
in this general area, short courses in the interdisciplinary
characteristics of FSAR-type activities are being developed at a
number of international (CIMMYT, IRRI), regional (CATIE), and
national (ICTA) institutes.
7.4 In these various functions, FSAR-type activities perform a facilitating
or integrating role rather than initiating role. Therefore, these
types of activities should not come right at the beginning of the
development process unless funding agencies are willing to accept a
long gestation period in terms of achieving results. For example,
FSR programs are likely to have low immediate returns if the "body
of knowledge" (Figure 2) is poorly developed. FSR activities are not
a substitute for experiment station based commodity research. Such
national research programs can benefit from linkages with CRSPs and
IARCs (provided understandable inhibitions are overcome)-which can
provide expertise in deficient areas and provide critical masses of
staff and- resources for looking at complex problems ("upstream" or
8.1 Because of the locational specificity of FSAR-type activities, the
future-particularly of "downstream" or applied activities-must lie
within national programs.
8.2 Problems within national programs that make introduction of FSR
activities difficult include:
(a) Staff constraints:
-relative immobility of staff within national settings sometimes
discourages changes and encourages maintenance of the status quo,
therefore resulting in opposition to "new" FSR programs.
-interdisciplinary FSR activities require the interaction of both
technical and social science disciplines-the latter are usually
lacking in technical agricultural research institutes in Africa.
(b) Organizational/operational constraints:
-national research programs used to be organized along discipline
lines which have more recently given way to programs organized
along commodity lines.
-however, FSR programs involve crossing both discipline and
(c) Research resource constraints:
-financial and manpower constraints are both common in national
(d) Locational specificity of applied ("downstream") FSR programs
constraint. This constraint and the fact that FSR programs work
with limited numbers of farming families (hopefully representative
of much larger numbers) add to the perception of some, of the
expensive nature of such research. In arriving at such conclusions,
sunk costs involved in developing experiment stations, and low
returns from other past research endeavors, are likely to be
heavily discounted or even ignored. Because of the complementarity
"of "downstream" FSR activities.and other research approaches, there
appears to be little value in comparing the benefit-cost ratios of
different research approaches. However, a challenge does exist in
finding ways to minimize the cost of "downstream" FSR activities,
a topic that was discussed earlier (see section 6.5).
8.3 Implications for instituting the components of an FSR program in a
national setting are, therefore, as follows:
(a) Be minimally disruptive in instituting an FSR activity within
national programs. It is not necessary, for example, to call it
FSR if this is politically unpalatable, while, in order to
encourage intrainstitutional linkages and cooperation, it is
probably not always desirable-initially at least-to have a
separate unit for FSR. Improved possibilities for
support and commitment are likely to arise if it is grafted onto
an existing administrative unit, e.g., agronomy.
(b) Staff and funding limitations usually require initial "pump
-support from donor agencies. This will.mainly have to come from
public rather than private sources. Funds and personnel from
the latter source are not likely to be forthcoming for
institutionalizing an FSR-type program where the gestation
period is likely to be lengthy in terms of getting results.
-support through developing links with relevant lARCs that are
developing expertise in "downstream" FSR.
-recourse to advice and help from a central core group of expertise
on FSR activities (such as AID is considering providing funds for
at present) and Title XII Strengthening Grants in the U.S.
universities which are focusing on FSAR-type activities.
(c) Although strong arguments can be made for locating FSR teams
within current institutions, attention needs to be paid to
developing interinstitutional linkages, thus improving the
possibilities for effective FSR activities. Chances for such
effectiveness can be increased through, for example:
-obtaining some manpower and financial commitments on the part
of extension and planning/implementation agencies. The
involvement of the former in the research program can
potentially help mend the rift that often exists between research
and extension, while the latter provides the opportunity for the
inclusion of an FSP and the possible source of agri-
cultural economists, often lacking in technical research
-arranging linkages, perhaps essentially of an informal nature,
with institutions/organizations with expertise in "downstream"
FSR. Since "downstream" FSR is still evolving, there are many
methodological issues that still remain to be satisfactorily
(d) If an FSP is to receive priority in FSAR-type programs-a
priority that is currently rare-then the logical institutional
location of such a program is within a development project,
extension program, or planning unit.
9.1 As has been emphasized earlier, the major activities of "downstream"
FSR programs in the future must be within national programs,
although linkages with external agencies and expertise will be
important in improving the effectiveness of national programs,
particularly in solving methodological problems, transferring results
across national boundaries in areas with similar "total" (technical
and human) environments, etc.
9.2 Experiment station based research programs are, currently, usually
organized along commodity lines and have a national focus.
9.3 Two possible ways exist for organizing "downstream" FSR-type
(a) "FSR in the small" emphasizing a couple of products throughout
(b) "FSR in the large" where all products (processes) are considered
as in a regionally focused program. (Such a program could still
be "FSR in the small" where only the major products are focused
Approach (b) is currently being emphasized in preference to approach (a),
with regions being either defined ecologically (more relevant for an
FSR program), or administratively (more important where an FSP emphasis
is expected), or some compromise between the two.
9.4 In setting up boundaries for FSAR-type programs, it is
essential that effective linkages are maintained between:
(a). The various regionally focused FSAR programs.
(b) The regionally focused FSAR programs and the experiment
station based research programs, extension, implementing and
This can be facilitated through meetings, visits of staff to other
FSAR-type activities are not a panacea. They complement and help
integrate and improve the pay-off of other activities through providing
a "bottom-up" approach. The decision whether to introduce FSAR activities
is not an either-or decision, but rather one that can help improve the
performance of other on-going activities.
' Schematic Representation of Some Farming System Determinants
and Beliefs I -- nput
"'. Mechanlcal ,
S (Farm) --- -Savings *-<
essess Oli-farm Livestock -- )
Broken lines represent results of alarming system I _ __
- --- Income
Schematic Framework for Farming Systems Research
Farming System Research Stages
1. Description or
diagnosis of present
2. Design of improved
3. Testing of
4. Extension of improve
Current Farming System
Trials + Knowledge
aExperiment Staesting -- ------. Bodyof I
d Modified no
ed Modified ...." --
r I I
FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH AND THE LAND-GRANT SYSTEM:
TRANSFERRING ASSUMPTIONS OVERSEAS
by Cornelia Butler Flora
American agriculture owes much of its development and strength to the
land-grant system. This system, based on the Jeffersonian ideal of participatory
democracy, allows for members of the farm households who produce the bulk of our
food and fiber to. relate directly to researchers and extension agents to make
their needs known. Farmers' expressed needs then become the basis for developing
technology and getting it out to the farm, in order to increase productivity and
raise the level of living of farm families.
That'model, so successful in the United States, has been built on a number
of conditions peculiar to the United States that we do not make explicit. These
conditions, which we take for granted, are both necessary and sufficient for our
system of research and extension to function well.
Agricultural development has often by-passed the small, marginal farmer.
Even major technological breakthroughs in productivity, such as the "miracle"
varieties of wheat and rice, tended to accrue benefits to large farmers
(Pearse, 1980). Food imports are increasing in many middle-income countries,
sapping them of much needed foreign exchange, while in low-income countries,
food imports have not decreased and food aid remains a substantial portion of
their food imports (World Bank, 1981: 102-103).. Can the problems of small farm
agriculture, which produces the roots, tubers, and grains (wage foods) that are
the basic diet of most people in the world, be met by transferring U.S.
institutional arrangements (even more that U.S. technology) to developing
When we begin to try to work with national governments to improve overseas
agriculture through research and extension-particularly research and extension
aimed at the disadvantaged small, marginal farmer-we have to go back and look at
the conditions of agricultural development in the United States. We must better
understand what went on in the United States in order to know what we need to do
to help in developing a system of research and extension relating directly to
Conditions Contributing to U.S. Success
In the United States, the mandate for research and determination of who
would control that research came through a political process. The laws setting
up the land-grant system and structuring the Department of Agriculture came, in
part, from the pressure of the farmers themselves, who understood the need for
improving farming processes in order to better their own lives (Rothstein, 1978).
The system was not imposed by colonial powers nor modeled after that already in
existence in a more developed country. An organized and vocal constituency for
research and extension developed-the first condition contributing to the
successful development of U.S. agriculturally-oriented institutions.
*Professor of Sociology and Program Associate, International Agriculture,
Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506. This paper is adapted from
one presented at the 18th Annual Conference of the Association of U.S.
University Directors of International Agricultural Programs, Lincoln, Nebraska,
June 8-10, 1982.
Further, that farmer constituency was organized both in separate pressure
groups (such as the Grange. and the Farm Bureau) and in political parties (the
Democrats in the South and the Republicans in the Midwest). Often, white, male
famers were elected to the legislature and to Congress in order to articulate
their needs directly to the fund providers as the land-grant system was
This process is very different from that experienced by the "target"
farmers in development projects in Third World countries. There, the small
farmers are often marginal to the political. process. Such farmers control few
funds and have little organization at a national level-their political clout
is negligible as a result. The mandate for the program and the funds for the
research and extension aimed at small farmers often come from outside donors
concerned about macro problems of food production. While such outsiders from
either international agencies or from the national capital city try to understand
the farmers, their understanding is often incomplete because of the top-down
nature of the programs.
Active political participation to influence policy in one's own immediate
self-interest on an issue by issue basis is not always possible among Third
World small farmers. Indeed, such issue mobilization, when it occurs, is often
blocked directly by governments-such movements then are either radicalized or
repressed, and often both. (The history of the National Peasant Users'
Association in Co!ombia is an example (Bagley and Botero, 1978).) Lack of
economic power translates into lack of political power. Upsetting the status
quo by demanding participation in program formulation-which influences resource
distribution-is translated often by those in power as revolutionary and
A second condition that we implicitly assume is the unity of goals between
researchers and farmers. In the United States, we knew clearly what the goals
and objectives of the farming household were. One of the reasons was that we
were they. Researchers and extension agents-the employees of the. land-grant
system--came from farming backgrounds; their parents were farmers and often they
themselves continued to farm (Busch, Lacy and Sachs, 1980). Goals and objectives
never needed to be much discussed because they were implicit in the frame of
reference and upbringing of the researchers, the extension agents, and the users
of research-all of whom shared the same social background and the same
experience in practical agriculture. Almost all of the Firsc extension agents
were farmers themselves, and even today, some land-grant faculty are part-time
Contrast this now to developing countries. Third World small farmers often
are not able to send their sons and daughters to grade school, much less to
college or graduate school to learn agricultural technology. Young men or women
from marginal, two-hectare farms are very unlikely to attend the university, and
certainly when they do few of them will wish to return to the rural areas.
(A parallel in our country can be drawn in looking at the dearth of black
agricultural scientists. Few black youth who escaped the backbreaking work of
chopping cotton had much desire to pursue agriculture when they had a chance to
choose a different career.) Instead, those who get into the formal agricultural
research and extension system tend to be people of urban backgrounds, often from
upper class or elite origins. These people, if they have been on a farm at all
in Latin America, have been on their family finca or hacienda, where they had
a chance to ride horses and enjoy a pastoral weekend of relaxation. But, they
were never engaged in the hard, physical labor of agricultural production.
Through training in leading U.S. universities, Third World researchers' goals
tend to develop as scientists, not as farmers. Their reference group will
more likely by First World professional journals rather than marginal farmers.
Differences in experience in practical agriculture means that the kind of
research developed will not necessarily be that which corresponds to the needs
of the everyday farmers, particularly those marginal farmers who produce most
of the wage foods-the subsistence crops most of the poor population eat in
the Third World.
A third phenomenon in the United States that does not exist in many
developing contexts is valuing the combination of mental and manual labor.
This value stemmed from the conditions of production favoring freeholder
agriculture. One of the reasons the farming lifestyle has been valued in the
United States is that the farmer controls the means of production-no one
tells the farmer what to do, as one would an employee (Kelly, 1979). That is
to say, the farmer .ons the land, or at least has title to it, even if still
paying off family debts. The farm family provides the work and the farm family
reaps the profits from that work, or shares the losses if there is a bad crop
year. Thus, in the U.S., we see nothing intrinsically wrong with people getting
their hands dirty and sweating in the fields because it is understood that the
same people who do the dirty manual work also make decisions about planting,
harvesting, purchasing inputs, and marketing. They also get to keep any profits
How different this is from many developing countries of the world. Land is
much less equally divided. (See, for example, Barraclough, 1973, for Latin
America; despite land reform, distribution remains much the same--the large farms
have simply become more capital intensive (Barskyand Cosse, 1981:52-56).) A few
landowners have a lot of land that is often farmed by sharecroppers. Furthermore,
even in places in Africa where land is more evenly divided, the people who make
the final decisions about production often are in urban areas, not in the rural
areas doing the manual work (Clarke, 1980; Bernstein, 1977). The mistaken
idea that getting your hands dirty and sweating is inappropriate for gentlemen
and ladies was introduced by colonial masters who, because of their greater
relative wealth, were able to hire the local population to do the manual work-it
was inappropriate for those in command. Education became a tool for getting away
from manual work, not for doing it better.
A fourth condition implicit in the development of the U.S. farm economy was
that of the complete farm family-a husband and a wife sharing management, labor,
and land ownership (once women gained property rights). The U.S. farm family is
often a decision-making and management unit, with the wife keeping the farm
records and discussing purchasing and marketing decisions with the husband.
Further, the unit of production was highly intertwined with the unit of repro-
duction. It was difficult to separate the accounting units of the home and
enterprise, although all decisions involved allocations between them. (See
Weber, 1947:275-280, on the implications of that lack of separation for becoming
part of a modern economy.) Division of labor by sex existed on U.S. farms
causing the man to be defined as the farmer and the woman as homemaker. But,
labor has been important as well and, although rural-urban migration in the
United States has reduced the number of young people on farms, the couple
remains on the land.
What a contrast this complete farm family is to small Third World farms.
Women are often active in all aspects of food production, both by custom and by
necessity, as temporary migration by males to participate as wage laborers in
construction, extractive industries and cash crops for export. This results in
the feminization of farming in many areas (Deere and Leon de Leal, 1980). In
the Third World, division of labor by sex has also been traditional. Even when
women were the agriculturalists, men provided complementary labor, such as
clearing the fields or plowing. Temporary male migration upsets the traditional
A fifth condition that has aided the-development of U.S. agriculture has been
the ability of the larger economy to absorb the non-competitive farmers in other
employment sectors. Thus, our research and extension efforts have been able to
focus on the more successful large,, family farms. This "solUtion" for marginal
farmers is unacceptable in much of the Third World because other opportunities
to generate family income are not available. Further, because of price and other
incentive structures, food production in the Third World is generally carried out
by these marginal farmers, while the modern farmers are large and engaged in
A sixth condition that exists in the United States, but not in Third
World countries, is the close cooperation between private and public sectors
in adapting and distributing technological innovation. The relatively high
purchasing power of L.S. farmers has led to the development of a strong
private sector in rural areas that forms the link between experiment station
and farmer. Private enterprise has had a long history of cooperation with
public. researchers in variety development, for example, focusing on adaptive
breeding, releasing and maintaining breeder seed varieties, and producing
high-quality plant seed and distributing it to farmers (Grcssman, 1982).
This division of labor between private and public sectors has led the private
sector to be that most closely responding to (and attempting to form)
farmers' needs. The international' Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
researchers have pointed out how, in developed countries, the agribusiness
sector integrates research results into effective technologies. "Develooing.
countries rar-ly have these mediating entities, and the bureaucracies and
incentive systems of public institutions do not encourage researchers to
play this integrative role" (CIMMYT, 1981, p. 10).
The Contributions of Farming Systems Research
In our agricultural development work overseas, we must continually become
more aware of the conditions we assume exist and compare them to the conditions
that actually do exist. One tool that has evolved in the past decade to heip
in this-a tool that takes us back to some of the early research and extension
in the U.S. land-grant system-is Farming Systems Research and Development (FSR&-).
What is FSR&D, and how can it help us counteract the biases arising from
assuming that the conditions in our own cultural setting exist all over? FSR&D
is aimed at increasing the agricultural welfare of the farm family by unrdr-
standing the whole farm in a comprehensive manner. The integrated demands of
the unit of production/reproduction for alternative sources and uses of land,
labor, capital, management, and equipment in the production system are related.
The totality of crops and animals, and their by-products, for both subsistence use
and for market, as well as temporary off-farm employment, are included. FSR&D
involves formal, interdisciplinary problem identification in participation with
the farm family, taking into account the needs of society as a whole. In
collaboration with farm families, appropriate technology is determined (usually
from available technology) and evaluated on their fields under their constraints.
FSR&O implies a two-way flow of knowledge between farm families and researchers.
(See Shaner, et al, 1932, for an extensive development of this definition.)
Thus, farming systems research is, in essence, an attempt to use social
and production sciences together to approximate the conditions of research and
extension that exist in our country because of the relative economic equality in
our society and the relative equality and similarities in background of farmer,
researcher, and extension agent in the U.S.-conditions that cannot be assumed to
exist in the Third World. FSRD provides a proxy for political mobilization and
pressure, a method of articulating the various goals of the participants (development
agency, farm family, nation state), a combination of mental and manual work in
carrying out the experiments, an awareness of labor and management availability
by sex and age, and an unwillingness to define a farmer who is disadvantaged in
relation to land or capital as "inefficient."
*Farming systems research tries to identify the logic of the farming practices
the farmer actually uses. In the U.S. setting, the logic of why a farmer does
something is rather clear to the researchers because the researchers themselves
have used those practices, and perhaps grown up with them over time. The
researcher in the United States intuits the problem and is able to bring about a
solution. FSRiD provides explicit problem identification for cooperative problem
Farming systems research treats motivations and deals explicitly with
goals-factors that we can assume are equivalent between researcher, extension
agent, and farmer in our society, but which may differ radically in developing
The activities farming systems research looks at are broad-perhaps broader
than they currently are on farms in the Uniced Staces. They Inc!ude crop
production and lives ockproduction-these of course are similar-as well as the
processing, storage, and marketing of crop and livestock products. Off-farm and
non-agricultural activities must be considered as well, particularly as they
impact on agricultural activities. There is a trend in U.S. agriculture toward
part-time farming-another set of factors impacting on goals, production, and
profit for the farm family.
As we have shifted to monoculture in U.S. agriculture, more and more
processing and storage has taken place off the farm. This is true despite the
move toward building on-farm storage capacity that began in the '50s. Combines
do some grain processing, but on Third World small farms, processing is much
less mechanized and much more likely to be carried out on-farm.
FSRgD determines constraints present in the society and tries to work within
them. If that cannot be accomplished (and generally farmers have been found to
be relatively efficient given the inputs available), FSR&D can only be successful
if it coincides with the institutionalization of provision of new inputs or
marketing structures. Ready availability of recommended inputs that is assumed
in the United States is not taken for granted in an FSR&D project. Because the
United States is a primary manufacturer of fertilizer, herbicides, machinery,
and petroleum, it does not have the import problems that create blockages for
inputs in developing countries. Problems of tariffs, exchange rates, and
procurement of hard currency'here are not the obstacles to getting technology
that they are in the Third World. (Interestingly, there seems to be no research
on risk in farm decision-making when uncertain supply of a factor of production
is also a decision variable (Anderscn, et al, 1982:425). Risk avoidance has
looked at the risk involved in natural phenomena-flooding, drought, etc., but
not at fertilizer or improved seed that is not available when needed,)
Similarly, the United States does not have a dual economy separating rural
and urban areas. Because of relatively high purchasing power in U.S. rural areas
distribution systems are in place and functioning, whereas in developing countries
the state often has to assume that role. The problems Third World farmers have
in acquiring input resources in a timely fashion eventually forces FSRSD to look
at institutions as well as contained production systems.
In developing countries, the maintenance, development, and procurement of
farm resources involve, for example, the gathering of manure and the making of
tools, as well as the gathering of fuel and water that take up endless hours.
Fuel and water are a crucial part of the farming system. They are essential to
maintain the family to reproduce the labor necessary to continue the farm work
(Hanger and Moris, 1973). This mix of reproductive and productive work, in
terms of the maintenance, development, and procurement of farm resources, and
the degree to which women perform most of them, is crucial if we are to
understand fully the constraints under which marginal producers operate
(Abdulla and Zeidenstein, 1981).
The farming system is composed of a variety of subsystems: social,
biological, technical, and managerial. All of these must be understood as tney
interact with each other. Because-of the lack of technology, the relation between
the pa-ts is often very sensitive. In comparing overseas agriculture to U.S.
agriculture, we findthat, in the United States, technology has overcome many of
the biological differences that cause different constraints to be important.
Irrigation, of course, is a major technological innovation that has overcome a
large number of constraints in many parts of the world. Irrigation tends to be
in the hands of large-scale landowners (Pearse, 1980:107). In work such as that
at the International Crops Research Institute for the-Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT),
the complex social nature of putting into practice irrigation systems that take
into account the needs and input of small farmers is being attempted (Matlon, 1980'
FSR and Farm Management Research
When we talk about farming systems research, many people who have long
experience in the land-grant universities shrug their shoulders and say, "That's
new? Isn't that what we've always been doing in farm management research?"
Certainly farm management, as it evolved,was a multidisciplinary attempt to look
at the entire range of factors involved in running a farm enterprise. Gilbert,
Norman, and Winch discuss briefly the relation of farming systems research and
farm management research:
Despite important similarities between FSR and the early
forms of farm management research, differences are apparent
in the treatment of motivations and the flexibility of
recommendations emerging from the analysis of.existing
farming systems. Farm management research assumed that
successful farmers had to be thrifty, hard-working, profit
maximizers. They would prosper, expand, and should be
emulated. As late as 1947, farm management was being
defined as "the act of judiciously and skillfully managing
a farm" (Boss and Pond, 1947). Further, much of farm
management literature tended to be prescriptive in nature,
indicating what farmers should do to be successful rather
than trying to understand the logic of the fanning practices
that the mass of farmers were using (Gilbert, et al, 1980:
Thus, where prescription might work in the United States because assumptions
about goals could be taken for granted, this cannot be the case in developing
countries, particularly among marginal farmers. We cannot assume that people
want to expand, to get larger to maximize profit. Further, we must realize that
one farmer expanding pushes another off the land, where even fewer chances of
generating income can be found. Families on Third World, small, marginal farms
seek to minimize risk. Often people will want to use any surplus generated for
off-farm investments, instead of reinvesting them in the farm, which has been
the assumption of profit use in the United States. In the Third World, surplus
generated is used rationally for ceremonial consumption which serves to further
unite the community--to ward off the possibilities of divisions that would
weaken everyone as the whole was weakened. Surplus may be invested to send
children to school. These children ultimately work off the farm, where chances
of higher return to the investment are available. Farming systems research
attempts to integrate differing goals into research programs aimed at marginal,
Current farm management in the United States has as its goal the greatest
continuing profit (3uller, 1976:1). This assumption for small farms in
developing countries cannot be taken for granted. Other goals may be motivating
the farm family, and these goals must be recognized and caken into account wnen
technology is recommended, research is done, and results are assessed.
In farm management, as currently practiced in the United States, the
assumption is that profitability is the goal. Profitability has the advantage
of giving us something easy to measure. Weber called it formal rationality
necessary for a modern economy (Weber, 1947:184-186). But, many Third World
marginal farms are not part of the modern economy. Profitability can be measured
by reducing inputs and outputs to dollars and cents, which can be easily
subtracted from one another. This single summary measure makes for easy compar-
isons between farms. In developing countries, because we cannot assume that the
highest continuous profitability is the goal, we have to devise other measures
of success. We can no longer reduce all inputs and outputs neatly and carefully
to economic terms.
In the United States, early Farm Management Research (FMR) assumed that a
better cropping mix and more judicious use of resources would improve the farm
family's welfare-and maintain soil productivity-through higher sustainable incomes.
It took a long-term view, and included costs that could be externalized, such as
land erosion and water quality and sustained quantity. FMR allowed for an
approximation of experimental conditions by examining existing practices to see
what was the most profitable; it then helped farmers to apply the results of thi
quasi-experimental research through good record-keeping and problem analysis
(McDermott, 1982, personal communication).
In Thira World FSR, the researcher works with the farm family to decide
upon appropriate innovations that can be introduced to increase farm family
welfare, yet not contradict long-range societal goals. Generally, this involves
increasing profits, but reducing risk is even more crucial for the small Third
World farmer. Maintaining a fragile ecosystem, which may be antithetical to
small farm profitability, must also be taken into account.
In early FMR in the United Stares, it was demonstrated that the diversified
family farm-was better able than the monocultural farm to withstand the
inevitable dips and rises in the price structure. Yet, because of the
constraints of introducing more efficient machinery to reduce labor costs and
troubles, and because research was commodity oriented and not system oriented,
agriculture steadily became.more oriented to monoculture-and more susceptible
to market trends (Flora and Rodefeld, 1978). For the small, Third World family
farm, the purchase of large, efficient equipment is impossible, even if the
fuel and other inputs would continue to be available to run it. Further, the
marginal Third World farmers do not have the ability to withstand several years
of bad prices if a single crop is depended on. The family farm diversifies its
sources of income, even if such a tactic may be inefficient in receiving the
highest return on any single crop. (Research carried on by Instituto Colombiano
Agropecuario (iCA) in Rio Negro, Antioquia, shows the superiority of a cropping
system using beans, corn, and potatoes over maximizing the yield of any one of
Farm management, like FSR, starts with problem identificatcn. Identifying
the problem- is the only way to go about solving it. However, methods of problem
identification learned and shared, for example, by midwestern farmers, extension
agents, and researchers, may be very different from both the logic and the
perceived problems of farmers in developing countries. Farm management research,
as farming systems research, stresses that data are necessray in order to make
the proper decisions. Those data involve what people actually do and the
implications of these actions related to their perceived goals.
According to current farm management theory, the successful U.S. farmer
has specific and definable goals and objectives (Buller, 1976). Part of farm
management practice is to help people develop these goals and objectives, which
are primarily financial, generally within terms that are numerically operational,
often facilitated by computer.
Less successful U.S. farmers do not have goals and are more passive
(Bulier, 1976). They wait to see what will happen to them. That is a more
Fatalistic approach, but one which is more congruent to people who may not
control directly all the resources necessary to farm. For example, in the
developing countries, if you are a tenant farmer it is difficult to set goals
because you cannot control what will happen (Griffin, 1976). If, as in many
cases, you are a woman farmer-which is increasingly likely as male migration
to seek off-farm employment increases-your ability to control labor as well
as other resources is greatly diminished vis a vis males (Bourque and Warren,
1981). Setting goals and objectives is outside the farmer's purview
when the farm has to respond to resource scarcity. Farming is reactive
when access to inputs is limited. When access is even more limited because of
gender and differential power, often caused by a colonial history (Etienne
and Leacock, 1980), farming becomes even more reactive.
Farm management research in the United States has assumed that the farmer
is male, and the successful farmer "involves his wife as a meaningful helpmate
in his business and community affairs" (Buller, 1976:4). The assumption behind
farm management research is that farming is a family enterprise and is only
successful when this occurs. This same assumption is held in FSR. The.
difference is thatwe realizethat in theThird Worldthe farmer will sometimes be
female and, in certain situations (particularly when we are talking about
marginal farmers producing subsistence crops) the farmer is more likely
to be female than male. The realization of who does the farming
versus who is getting the agricultural information is crucial. This
disjuncture must be taken into account as we try to overcome our cultural
biases in approaching developing processes.
Farm management in the United States arose as farming became more
commercialized and capitalistic (Case and Williams, 1957:5). This commer-
cialization and capitalist nexis is very important to remember when we contrast
FSR&D in the Third World with farm management in the First. Farming systems
in the Third World (particularly those of small farmers) very often have a
subsistence basis rather than a commercialized basis. Many of the economic
structures into which the farms are placed are pre-capitalist rather than
Third World farms are linked to the capitalist market in three ways: the
sale of their products, the sale of their labor, and the inputs they purchase.
Linkage through the sale of crops is most common in the United States. Yet,
the majority of the crops very often are not sold, but are consumed on the
farm or bartered locally, particularly in parts of Africa and Latin America.
The more usual way in which the small farm in the Third World is linked
to the market economy-that is to say to the world system-is through the sale
of labor. The farm family becomes semi-proletarianized, with one part of the
3fmily maintaining the farm and production, and another part oa the -fmily
selling their labor in the market (Goodman and Redclift, 1982). The people who
sell their labor tend to be those who command the highest wages because cash
takes priority. These people tend to be males (Leon, 1982). This leaves women
in charge of production of subsistence crops-the wage foods-that are the
backbone of the economy and, yet, these crops are the least valued within that
society. Men will take jobs, generally through temporary migration
(Friedman, 1978; Laite, 1977) and will work in the harvest of cash crops,
particularly export crops (Homen- de Melo and Zockun, 1977). Export crops
include cotton, coffee, cacao, and sugar. The men may also be involved in the
construction booms that accompany petroleum development, particularly in
petroleum countries. For instance, in Equador and in Nigeria, people will
migrate to the urban centers to provide a low-wage, construction labor force.
Employment in extractive industries, particularly mining, can also be the first
major link with the monetary economy. In much of southern Africa, the movement
of males to work in the mines has left farms in the hands of females.
It is important to understand that in both farm management and farming
systems research the increased commercialization and increased penetration of
capitalism has made a sharp impact on the farm family, but the way that has
occurred is very different in the Third World when compared to the developed
world. Perhaps a good way of seeing this is through understanding where in the
United States farm management as a science first evolved.
In the United States, farm management research was first developed in the
Northeast and the Midwest (Case.and Williams, 1957), where independent farm
families controlled the land and provided the vast majority of their own labor.
It developed much more slowly in the south, where agriculture was dominated by
the sharecropper-tenancy type of organization that tied the farm family on the
land closely to the landowner for direction and financing. That separation of
the factors of production in the farming system reduced efficiency. Access to
land was divided from ownership. Management was split. Labor was separated
from the land and, as a result, production credit was difficult to obtain. When
the goal of profit maximization was addressed in the South, one had to ask,
"Profit maximization for whom?"
This is certainly the case in much of Latin America today. The conditions
for effective farr management research do not exist as we know them. However,
farming systems research, using many of the early principles of farm management
research (particularly those that closely linked agronomy with the diverse
goals of the farm family), can be useful. But, in order to bemost effective, we
have to set aside our assumptions about the conditions under which research and
extension take place.
First, the small farmer, particularly women farmers, will not have the
political organization and clout to influence the programs presumably designed
to help them. Second, agricultural researchers and extension workers will. not
have the same social, cultural, and economic, backgrounds as the small farmers.
In particular, they will not have the same gender-related experiences. They
will not know what it is to carry water, gather wood, cook meals, and nurse
babies while also planting, harvesting, and processing crops. That lack of
understanding may provide a large constraint to the development of appropriate
technology and the adoption of innovation to increase productivity by female
farmers. Third, manual work, particularly women's work, wiil be devalued by
those who work with zheir "heads." Respect and appreciation of the manual
aspects of productive and reproductive work have to be developed. Fourth,
temporary male migration, in order to increase family cash income, will leave
women in charge of farming. No longer can we assume, "the farmer, he...."
Fifth, men usually have more control than women over the factors of production
-the inputs to the farming system (land, labor, capital, technology, and
management) both on and off farm. We must understand these separations and
devise mechanisms to overcome the constraints they entail. Sixth, because of
farmer's economic marginality, the integrative function between research and
application performed by private enterprise in more lucrative settings will
have to be assumed by other mechanisms, probably with strong public sector
participation. Seventh, we must deal with marginal farmers, who are more
likely than large-sca!e farmers to be women, rather than simply deal with
the modern or potentially modern sector, which is male-dominated. Much of
domestic food production, as contrasted with export crop production, is done
by Third World women.
We must recognize and deal with the differential structural conditions of
research-extension-production-and the unique roles of women within it, if we
are to gain the objective of increasing the agricultural welfare of Third World
farm families--.and improve agricultural productivity and the general welfare
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