Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Motivating small farmers, scientists...
 Irrigation engineers in a multidisciplinary...
 Farming systems research and extension...
 The sondeo: Rapid reconnaissance...
 Hierarchical agricultural...
 Hierarchy of constraints to system...
 On-farm technology development
 Summary of FSR/E participants,...
 Three irrigation system scenar...

Title: Farming systems approach to technology development and transfer
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081823/00001
 Material Information
Title: Farming systems approach to technology development and transfer
Physical Description: iv, 58 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: Spanish
Creator: Hildebrand, Peter E
Water Management Synthesis II Project
International Irrigation Center
Utah State University
Publisher: International Irrigation Center, Utah State University
Place of Publication: Logan, Utah
Publication Date: 1983
Subject: Agricultural systems -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Farms, Small -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Agriculture -- Technology transfer -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00081823
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 436169063

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
    Motivating small farmers, scientists and technicians to accept change
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
    Irrigation engineers in a multidisciplinary team
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
    Farming systems research and extension methods outlined
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
    The sondeo: Rapid reconnaissance by a multidisciplinary team
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
    Hierarchical agricultural systems
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
    Hierarchy of constraints to system productivity
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
    On-farm technology development
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
    Summary of FSR/E participants, activities, products and time frame
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
    Three irrigation system scenarios
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
Full Text




Peter E. Hildebrand

Prepared for the

Water Management Synthesis II Project
International Irrigation Center
Utah State University
September, 1983


Preface................................ ................. i-iii
Motivating Small Farmers, Scientists and Technicians to
Accept Change
(Requisites of Multidisciplinary Teamwork) .....,............. 1
The Problem............ ........ ......................... 1
Multidisciplinary Teams................................ 6

Irrigation Engineers in a Multidisciplinary Team ............ 9
The Problem......... ........******........ *** 9
The Solution ..................... ... .................... 11

Farming Systems Research and Extension Methods Outlined ...... 13

The Sondeo: Rapid Reconnaissance by a Multidisciplinary
Team............ ........................................ 17
The Sondeo Procedure..................................... 19
Coordinating a Sondeo.................................... 24

Hierarchical Agricultural Systems.................. .......... 26

Hierarchy of Constraints to System Productivity............... 31

On-Farm Technology Development............................... 36
Modified Stability Analysis of Farmer Managed Trials..... 37
A Farmer-Managed, On-Farm Trial in Malawi................ 38
Enterprise Records and Check Treatments in Trials........ 49
Directed Surveys.............. ........ ......... ...... 50
Annual Review and Evaluation............................ 51

Summary of FSR/E Participants, Activities, Products
and Time Frame.......... ....................... ....... 53

Three Irrigation System Scenarios............................. 60
Improving an Existing System............................ 61
Developing Irrigation in a Rainfed Agricultural Area...... 62
Developing a System in a Virgin Area................. 66


The term 'Farming Systems Research' was applied in the

1970's to a procedure evolving in different parts of the

world in an attempt to bring modern or improved technology

to the millions of small farmers who were not being reached

by established research and extension procedures. Some of

these efforts were in Nigeria, Kenya, IRRI in the

Philippines, ICTA in Guatemala and CATIE in Costa Rica.

However, in none of these centers was the term Farming

Systems being used. Rather, it began to be applied to the

evolving process by others who saw the work in action.

In some ways the use of the term 'System' is a

misnomer. Also it is applied to two related, but quite

different procedures. Led mainly by agricultural

economists, one procedure studies small farmers in depth and

examines the macro as well as the micro environment in which

they function. The main tool is a survey instrument, the

main product is information, and the main clientele are

policy makers and infrastructure managers. The objective of

this approach is to provide information on small farm

systems in order to improve policies which affect them and

the infrastructure and services which they need to improve

their productivity and welfare. This approach is not

discussed here.

The second procedure to which the term 'Farming

Systems' was applied is concerned with the development and

transfer of technology for small farmers. This procedure

Page 2

utilizes a thorough understanding of the agro-climatic,

socio-economic and political climates of these farmers in

order to help in the development of technologies that fit

within the constraints of specific groups of farmers.

Though an understanding of the 'system' in which production

takes place on these farms is essential for the development

of technology appropriate for that 'system', technology is

developed for individual components within the system. If

maize is a secondary crop utilized only for livestock feed,

this must be understood before technology to increase its

yield is developed and attempts to transfer it are

undertaken. Farmers are not apt to work harder or invest

more scarce capital to increase the yield of a crop that has

little value for them.

The term 'technology development' should also be

explained. In the context used here, technology is defined

as any of the practices or products that are used by the

farmer to produce the products of his farm. The kind of

seed, the time of planting, the use or non-use of fertilizer

and the time of its application, planting densities and

arrangements, use of irrigation water and use of crop and or

animal byproducts would all be considered as technology.

The modification of any of these practices, then, would be

considered as changes in technology. It follows that the

procedure used to develop recommended changes in any of

these practices could be called technology development.

This is the way the term is used here.

One of the most distinctive characteristics of the

Page 3
'Farming Systems Approach' is the use of multidisciplinary

teams to do the work. These teams are composed of social,

biological and physical scientists as the need and

availability arise. For this reason, this section begins

with a discussion of the nature of multidisciplinary

teamwork. Farming Systems Research and Extension methods

are then discussed, and finally, the utilization of these

procedures in the development of three different kinds of

irrigation systems are presented.

Page 1




The reason for the resistance, on the part of small

farmers, to accepting change is not one of motivation, but

rather one of not having available technology which is

appropriate from these farmer's own points of view. Because

of the location specificity of the agro-socioeconomic

conditions of small farmers, and because they are not subject

to the homogenizing influence of tractors and capital, it is a

much greater challenge to develop technology which they will

be motivated to accept than it is to develop technology for

commercial farmers. The most efficient way is by means of

strong multidisciplinary team who live and work in each area

and who orient the technology development work undertaken for

the small farmers in their zone. This implies a drastic

change in the traditional role of many scientists now working

on technology development and probably will meet with no small

amount of resistance on their part. It may well be necessary

to motivate scientists and technicians--as well as farmers--to

accept change.


The title of this paper suggests that small farmers do'

not accept change at rates which are considered adequate.

*Excerpted from: Hildebrand, P.E. 1980. Motivating small
farmers, scientists and technicians to accept change.
Agricultural Administration 8 (1980-1981) 375-383.

Page 2

"Adequate" could be defined in any of several ways but it is

not necessary to define it for our purposes. That these

farmers are not changing their technology as rapidly as

larger, commercial farmers is evident and will not be

discussed, either. Rather, presented is an interpretation of

the reason small farmers in developing countries do not accept

changes in their current technology at rates which scientists,

extensionists, politicians, academicians, bureaucrats or

others deem adequate. Secondly, changes are proposed which

can significantly modify this rate of acceptance. Admittedly,

however, some of the suggested changes may well meet with the

same resistance small farmers exhibit when presented with new

ideas that would drastically modify their way of thinking and


First, it is necessary to define some terms which must be

used, but which are vague or carry several connotations. The

term small farmer will mean all farmers, regardless of the

size of their holdings, who are not primarily commercial

farmers, and most of whom, in developing countries, still use

predominantly traditional technology. Since we are concerned

here with technology, this is a much more utilitarian

definition than one limited to size. "Appropriate", as used

in "appropriate technology", is necessary and desirable to

use, but it is not used in the accepted or more commonly

understood context. Appropriate technology will mean that

technology (or change) which (1) can be put into practice

immediately and under farmer's present agro-socioeconomic

conditions and (2) is acceptable to target farmers. The first

Page 3
criterion is a necessary, although insufficient condition to

be 'appropriate'; the second reflects the difference between a

third person's interpretation of farmers' agrocioeconomic

conditions and the farmers' own interpretation of the same

things. In other words, it reflects the farmers' thinking and

not macro- nor imposed micro-considerations as interpreted by

outsiders. Agro-socioeconomic conditions are all those

agro-climatic, economic, social, cultural or infrastructural

factors or constraints which condition whether a farmer needs,

desires, or can adopt any given change.

This discussion commences from the premise originally

proposed by Schultz which is widely, although not universally,

accepted: small farmers are efficient in the utilization and

allocation of available resources among known technologies if

they have been farming under stable conditions for some time.

This implies that small farmers will--and do--accept change

when the available resource base changes or new and

appropriate technology becomes known. Otherwise, they could

not be efficiently adjusted to the alternatives they now

have. But it is important to understand that this efficient

adjustment is in terms of the farmers' own understanding and

interpretation of his situation and it is not necessarily

efficient according to the perceptions of well meaning, but

incompletely informed, third persons. Since it is not third

persons, in a free society, who make choice of technology and

resource allocation decisions, it is evident that farmers'

actions need not reflect third person solutions, unless they

Page 4

are based on a near perfect, conception of the farmers'


A second characteristic of small farmers, gradually being

recognized, is the high degree of location specificity of

their agro-socioeconomic conditions. In commercial

agriculture, the tractor and a strong capital base are

effective homogenizers of what is otherwise a complex milieu.

To persons who are trained or accustomed to being able to

produce widely acceptable, tractor based technologies, this

characteristic represents a strong barrier which hinders their

effectivity in producing usable and acceptable results for

small farmers. But it is also a characteristic that must be

considered explicitly in any technology developing system if

it is to produce technologies which small farmers will be

motivated to accept.

If small farmers are not changing their production

methods because they are not being offered appropriate

technology when so many people are working to produce it fr

them, what is the problem? If it is agreed that small farmers

are efficient in the allocation of their resources to known

and appropriate traditional technologies, it means they have

been motivated in the past to accept change. Hence the

problem is not one of motivation, as such. Rather, it is one

of offering 'changes' which are not appropriate as perceived

by the farmers themselves. It makes no difference to a farmer

how a third person views any specific technology. If he,

himself, does not feel it to be appropriate, he is not going

to be motivated to accept it.

Page 5

In turn, the problem stems from (a) having most top level

technology 'generators', who are agriculturally trained and

'product' oriented, working on experiment stations or in other

highly controlled conditions where they consider only a

limited number of variables; (b) most of the 'transfer

mechanism' generators, who are trained in the social scenes

and are 'cause', but not product oriented, struggling with the

vast quantity of variables which condition acceptance or

rejection of technology at the farm level and (c) 'goal'

oriented agricultural economists in the middle, complaining

that the agricultural scientists do not consider enough of the

variables in their work, but ignoring the pleas of the social

scientists that including just the quantifiable variables is

not sufficient, either. This picture is complicated further

because agronomists work primarily with soils and plants,

which they are convinced are the most important components of

agricultural production; sociologists and anthropologists work

with farmers, whom for them are obviously the most important

component, and economists work with desks and computers

studying means of achieving specified and frequently

unrealistic goals. It is little wonder that the unfortunate

extension or 'change' agent has little to offer small farmers

even though he may be supported by an elaborate experiment

station and an extension network manned by high level

technicians. It is even less amazing that small farmers are

not motivated to accept many changes that come out of such a


Page 6


Technicians, extensionists and researchers must have.two

things in common that are critical to the development of an

efficient and functioning multidisciplinary team. They must

be well trained in their own fields, but they must also have a

working understanding of, and not be afraid to make

contributions in, one or more other fields. This is a

necessary characteristic of persons working on

multidisciplinary teams. But alone, it is not sufficient. It

is also required that the team members not feel the need to

defend themselves and their field from the intrusion of


Another feature of a successful multidisciplinary team is

that all members view the final product as a joint effort in

which all participate and for which all are equally

responsible. That means each of them must be satisfied with

the product, given the goals of the team, and willing and able

to defend it.

Returning to the generation of improved technology for

small, traditional farmers, the team members must all be

product-oriented (not just the agronomists). ('Product', as

used here, refers. primarily to the technology produced and not

the commodity itself.) Also, all the team members must be

willing to consider a wide range of variables and constraints

and not leave these worries only to the anthropologists or

sociologists. Thirdly, all members must be willing to spend

some desk time considering alternatives and their consequences

on the clients' goals and not leave this part of the task just

Page 7

to the economists. The agronomists should be capable and

willing to criticize the economic or social aspects of the

work, and the social scientists, the agronomic aspects. In

turn, these criticisms should be used to improve the product

so that all can be satisfied with the final result.

Failures of multidisciplinary efforts have frequently

resulted because the teams were organized more as committees

that met occasionally to 'coordinate' efforts, but in which

the crop work was left to the agronomists, the survey to the

anthropologists and the desks to the economists. In these

cases there is not a single identified product but rather

several products or reports purported to be concerned about

the same problem. Perhaps the most critical characteristic

required to achieve the success of a multidisciplinary team

is identification with a single product viz a technological

change in which all participate. The product can be complex

and involve a number of facets but it should result from the

joint effort of the whole team and not contain strictly

identifiable parts attributable to individual team members.

Biological scientists and technicians are frequently

concerned about too much influence by socio-economic groups in

work at the farm level. This is manifest in a certain

resistance to identify too closely with the farmers (even

with those on whose land they conduct trials). It also

surfaces with respect to the evaluation of technology. The

agronomist is much more comfortable if it is he who makes the

final evaluation of a technology. The technician, then,

decides if a technology is 'good'. If the farmer evaluates

SPage 8

this 'good' technology and does not accept it, then the

technician considers it a problem for the extension service,

or of poor infrastructure, of low prices, or a lack of

initiative on the part of the farmer himself, but it is not a

problem for the agronomist, who has produced what he considers

to be a 'good' product. In this situation, evaluation by the

farmer is equated with influence by socioeconomists, who would

tend to take into consideration more variables, including the

present weaknesses in infrastructure, the price level, the

farmers' capabilities, etc., in the development of a

technology. They would do this so that the product of the

team's efforts could be used immediately without the need to

await development of other facets of the sector.

A final necessary component for creating successful

multidisciplinary teams is long run stability of the

government and/or its policies, so that management and staff

of national institutes who are expected to develop technology

for small, traditional farmers, and for which

multidisciplinary teams are required, have time to work out

the details so that they can function effectively.


Schultz, T.W., Transforming Traditional Agriculture, Yale
University Press, New Haven and London, 1964.

Page 9




The addition of irrigation engineers to the kind of

multidisciplinary team discussed in the previous section,

complicates the situation even further. If the agronomists

are 'product' oriented; the social scientists, 'cause'

oriented; and the economists, 'goal' oriented; the irrigation

engineers are usually 'design' oriented. These engineers are

apt to think that the delivery of sufficient water and the

removal of excess water are the most important components of

agricultural production. Irrigation engineers are more often

trained to be concerned with entire irrigation systems than

with the individual farm subsystems. And if they think of the

farm level, they are apt to think of the movement of water to

and from farms rather than the specific use and misuse of that

water by the farmers involved. And if they do think of the

individual farmers in the system, they are apt to make

assumptions that the farmers will be 'trained' to participate

in the system as the engineers would design that


The following excerpts from a FAO publication* are ample


"Better water management practices can be achieved

only if improvement projects at the farm or village

*FAO. January 1981. Information paper on the international
support programme for farm water management. W/P1235. p. 3.

Page 10

level are fully supported by the farming community...

To achieve the farmers'understanding and support it

will be essential that (1) the farmers participate in

all phases of planning and implementation, (2) they

be trained to recognize the problems and deficiencies

of their irrigation and drainage systems, technically

as well as institutionally and economically, and to

see their potential for increased production and

income, ,(3) they organize themselves in water users

associations to plan and administer equitable

distribution of water, to. operate and maintain

collective elements of the distribution systems,

and to integrate irrigation operations at the scheme

level with those at the farm level, (4) the improved

technology be of low cost, adapted to the local


After creating completely unrealistic conditions for

farmers in irrigation systems, the statement says, "the

technology should be adapted to local conditions". That the

statement assumes completely unrealistic conditions is

corraborated by the following continuation of the FAO


"Obviously, the training of farmers and village

operators of irrigation water should be a major and

integral component of the field programme. Such

training should not be limited to technical issues only,

but should include analyses of institutional and

socio-economic conditions as related to the problems and

Page 11

solutions. Unfortunately, there are few who are able

to undertake the farmers' training. Farm water

managementis not usually practiced by engineers

in irrigation departments, and neither is

it by the staff of Agricultural Extension


In other words, it is assumed that farmers can be trained

to levels that not even the engineers themselves are trained

to. Then it is assumed that when it is done, this will

represent the 'local conditions'.

Why do engineers make these assumptions? Because it is

necessary if their designs are to function as designed. Why

are they designed this way? Because they mostly work only

with other engineers and occasionally economists and do not

take into consideration at all the realistic conditions of the

people who are the real clients of the system: the farmers,

themselves. Bureaucrats, who buy the 'efficiencies' of the

designed systems, are not the ultimate clients or users. The

systems will not be 'efficient' if the farmers are unable, for

whatever reasons, to operate and use them as assumed. And in

most cases, the assumptions made about the farmer/users is far

from realistic.


The solution to the dilemma faced by the irrigation

engineers is to join forces with the kind of multidisciplinary

teams previously described. Both the irrigation systems,

themselves, and the technology required to produce the crops

Page 12

would be improved and frustations with 'inefficiently' managed

and used systems would diminish. The cost to the engineer

involves two characteristics of successful multidisciplinary

team members: 1) they must have a working understanding of,

and not be afraid to make contributions in, one or more other

fields; and 2) they must not feel the need to defend

themselves and their field from the intrusion of others. This

'cost', shared by all the members of the team, will improve

the efficiency of 'product' development, whether that

'product' is system design or a crop production technology.

Following sections discuss methods which can be used by a

multidisciplinary team for the purpose of technology


Page 13


The term 'farming systems' was applied in the 1970's to

several different activities being developed around the world.

These activities had a common thread and general purpose, but

the methods used to pursue the goals differed greatly. The

threads that bound them all together and which are basic to

the farming systems approach are these:

-A concern with small-scale family farmers who generally

reap a disproportionately small share of the benefits of

organized research, extension and other developmental


-Recognition that thorough understanding of the farmers'

situation gained firsthand is critical to increasing their

productivity and to forming a basis for improving their


-The use of scientists and technicians from more than one

discipline as a means of understanding the farm as an entire

system rather than the isolation of components within the


The name Farming Systems Research and Extension (FSR/E), as

now used, is considered to be applied, farmer oriented,

agro-biological research, supported by the socio-economic

sciences in a team effort which includes extension

responsibilities. The principal product is technology. The

*Excerpted from Hildebrand, P.E. and Waugh, R.K. "Farming
Systems Research and Development". Farming Systems Support
Project (FSSP) Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring 1983.
University of Florida, Gainesville.

Page 14

primary clients are farmers.

Although FSR/E is flexible to fit the agricultural and

institutional conditions found in different country and

cultural settings, it will usually involve a sequence of steps

similar to the following:

1. Initial characterization and analysis of existing

farming systems through close consultation

with farmers.

a. Tentative partitioning into homogeneous farming

systems or recommendation domains.

b. First estimation of problems and constraints.

2. Planning and design of first phase work.

a. Biological research.

b. Continuing agro-socioeconomic characterization

3. Selection, generation and evaluation of technologies

a. Commodity and discipline research on experiment

stations and in laboratories.

b. Researcher managed on-farm trials with farmer


-Exploratory trials.

-Site-specific trials.

-Regional agronomic trials.

-Agro-socioeconomic trials.

c. Farmer Managed Trials.

-Individual evaluation of acceptability by

the farmers.

-Refined partitioning of recommendation domains

Page 15

by researchers.

-Initiation of technology transfer activities.

4. Information accumulation and analysis.

a. Agro-technical data from on-farm trials.

b. Economic records on farm enterprises from


c. Other agro-socio-cultural-economic and political

information through directed surveys of

area residents.

5. Frequently programmed reevaluation of research

information to do the following:

a. Refine partitioning of recommendation domains.

b. Make recommendations of acceptable technology for

dissemination into specified recommendation


c. Feedback into the sequential process.

d. Serve as a basis for planning future work.

6. Extension of acceptable results throughout

appropriate recommendation domain(s).

In many ways this sequence parallels what farmers have

always done. The farmer manages a complex set of biological

processes which transforms the resources at his or her

disposal into useful products, either for home consumption or

for sale or trade. The choice of crop and livestock

enterprises and the methods and timing of cultivation,

husbandry and harvesting are determined not only by physical

and biological constraints, but also by economic and

sociopolitical factors which make up the larger milieu within

Page 16

which the farmer operates.

Within this complex milieu, through a process of trial

and error and a number of seasons or generations, farmers move

toward appropriate technologies and allocation of resources

which makes best use of those at their disposal--given the

objectives of each individual farm family. While the choices

available to each farmer are different, those with similar

sets of resources and constraints tend to make similar choices

as to crops, livestock and management practices. Those who

have responded in similar ways can be grouped together into

homogeneous farming systems (recommendation domains).

FSR/E brings scientific method and additional expertise

to bear on this process of problem identification and

technology generation. Teams of scientists from different

disciplines, working with farmers, can speed up the process

and make it more efficient in responding to a rapidly changing


Page 17



The Sondeo is a modified survey technique developed by

the Guatemalan Institute of Agricultural Science and

Technology, ICTA, as a response to budget restrictions, time

requirements and the other methodology utilized, to augment

information in a region where agricultural technology

generation and promotion is being initiated. In order to

provide preliminary orientation to the team who will be

working in the area designing technology, the Sondeo, or

reconnaissance survey, is conducted by members of the team who

are going to work in the area and other specialists who may be

brought in to provide a broader range of expertise.

Disciplines represented could include engineers, agronomists,

anthropologists or sociologists, economists, animal

scientists, etc. An optimum size is about ten people, of whom

half would be from the social or economic sciences and half

from the physical or biological sciences.

The purpose of the Sondeo is to provide the information

required to orient the work of the technology generating

team. The cropping or farming systems are described, the

agro-socioeconomic situation of the farmers is determined and

the restrictions they face are defined so that any proposed

modifications of their present technology are appropriate to

their conditions.

If ICTA is to work in an area that is not previously defined,

*Excerpted from Hildebrand, P.E. "Combining Disciplines in
Rapid Appraisal: The Sondeo Approach". Agricultural
Administration 8 (1981) 423-432.

Page 18

If ICTA is to work in an area that is not previously

defined, such as by the bounds of a land settlement or an

irrigation project, one of the objectives of the Sondeo is to

delimit the area. This is done by first selecting the

predominant cropping or farming system used by potential

target farmers in the area and later determining the area in

which this system is important. The reason that an

homogeneous traditional or present cropping or farming system

is used is that it is this system that ICTA will be modifying

with new or improved technology. Hence, having a well

defined, homogeneous system with which to work simplifies the

procedure of generating and promoting technology. The premise

on which the selection of an homogeneous cropping or farming

systems is based is that all the farmers who presently use it

have made similar adjustments to a set of restrictions which

they all face and since they made the same adjustments, they

must all be facing the same set of agro-socioeconomic


As well as delimiting the area of this homogeneous

system, the tasks of the Sondeo team are to discover what

agro-socioeconomic conditions all the farmers who use the

system have in common and then to identify which are the most

important in determining the present system and therefore

would be the most important to consider in any modifications

to be made by the team in the future. Finally, the end

product of the Sondeo is to orient the first year's work in

Page 19

technology development. It also serves to locate future

collaborators for the farm trials and for the enterprise

record projects.

Because the farm trials are conducted under farm

conditions, during the first year they provide an additional

learning process into the conditions that affect the farmers

and are invaluable in acquainting the technicians with the

realities of farming in the area. The enterprise

records--which are also initiated in the first year--provide

quantifiable technical and cost information on the technology

being used by the farmers. At the end of the first year's

work, then, the technicians have not only been farming under

the conditions of the farmers in the area, but they also have

the information from the enterprise record project. For this

reason, it is not necessary to obtain quantifiable information

in the Sondeo, which is not a benchmark study. Quantifiable

information for impact evaluation in the area is available

from enterprise records which increase in value each year.


The primary purpose of the sondeo, then, is to acquaint

the technicians with the area in which they are going to work.

Because quantifiable information is not needed, the Sondeo can

be conducted rapidly and no lengthy analyses of data are

required following the survey in order to interpret the

findings. No questionnaires are used so farmers are

interviewed in an informal manner which does not alienate

them. At the same time, the use of a multidisciplinary team

Page 20
serves to provide information from many different points of

view simultaneously. Depending on the size, complexity and

accessibility of the area, the Sondeo should be completed in

from 6 to 10 days at.a minimum of cost. Areas of from 40 to

150 km2 have been studied in this period of time. The

following is a description of the methodology for a six-day


Day 1

The first day is a general reconnaissance of the area by

the whole team as a unit. The team must make a preliminary

determination of the most important cropping or farming system

that will serve as the key system, become acquainted in

general terms with the area and begin to search out the limits

to the homogeneous system. Following each discussion with a

farmer, the group meets out of sight of the farmer to discuss

each one's interpretation of the interview. In this way, the

team members begin to become acquainted with how each other

thinks. Interviews with farmers (or other people in the area)

should be very general and wide ranging because the team is

exploring and searching for an unknown number of unknown

elements. (This does not imply, of course, that the

interviews lack orientation.) The contribution or point of

view of each discipline is critical throughout the Sondeo

because the team does not know beforehand what type of

problems or restrictions may be encountered. The more

disciplines that are brought to bear on the situation, the

greater is the probability of encountering the factors which

Page 21

are, in fact, the most critical to the farmers of the area. It

has been established that these restrictions can be

agro-climatic, economic or socio-cultural. Hence, all

disciplines make equal contributions to the Sondeo.

Day 2

The interviewing and general reconnaissance of the first

day serve to guide the work of the second day. Teams are made

up of pairs: one agronomist, engineer or animal scientist and

one social scientist or economist. The five teams scatter

throughout the area and meet again either after the first half

day (for small areas or areas with good access roads) or day

(for larger areas or where access is difficult and requires more

time for travel). Each member of each team discusses what was

learned during the interviews and tentative hypotheses are

formed to help explain the situation in the area. Any

information concerning the limits of the area are also discussed

to help in its delimitation. The tentative hypotheses or doubts

raised during the discussion serve as guides to the following

interview sessions. During the team discussions, each of the

members learns how interpretations from other points of view can

be important in understanding the problems of the farmers of the


Following discussion, the team pairs are changed to

maximize interdisciplinary interaction and minimize interviewer

bias and they return to the field guided by the previous

discussion. Once again, following the half day's or day's

interviews, the group meets to discuss the findings.

The importance of these discussions following a series of

Page 22

interviews cannot be over-stressed. Together, the group begins

to understand the relationships encountered in the region,

delimits the zone and starts to define the type of research that

is going to be necessary to help improve the technology of the

farmers. Other problems--such as marketing--are also discussed

and, if solutions are required, relevant entities can be

notified. It is important to understand the effect that these

other limitations will have, if not corrected, on the type of

technology to be developed so that they can be taken into

account in the generation process.

During the second day there should be a notable convergence

of opinion and a narrowing of interview topics. In this way,

more depth can be acquired in following days on the topics of

increasing interest.

Day 3

This is a repeat of day 2 and always includes a change in

the makeup of the teams after each discussion. At least a

minimum of four interview-discussion cycles is necessary to

complete this part of the Sondeo. If the area is not too

complex, these cycles should be adequate. Of course, if the

area is so large that a full day is required for interviewing

between each discussion session, then four full days are

required for this part of the Sondeo.

Day 4

Before the teams return to the field for more interviews on

the fourth day, each member is assigned a portion or section of

Page 23

the report that is to be written. Then knowing for the first

time for what topic each will be responsible, the teams,

regrouped in the fifth combination, return to the field for more

interviewing. For, smaller areas, this also is a half day. In

the other half day, and following another discussion session,

the group begins to write the report of the Sondeo. All members

should be working at the same location so they can circulate

freely and discuss points with each other. For example, an

agronomist who was assigned the section on maize technology may

have been discussing a key point with an anthropologist and

needs to refresh his memory about what a particular farmer said

in a brief discussion with him. In this manner the interaction

among the disciplines continues.

Day 5

As the technicians are writing the report, they invariably

encounter points for which neither they nor others in the group

have answers. The only remedy is to return to the field on the

morning of the fifth day to fill in the gaps found the day

before. A half day can be devoted to this activity, together

with finishing the writing of the main body of the report.

In the afternoon of this day, each team member reads his

written report to the group for discussion, editing and

approval. The report should be read from the beginning just as

it will be when finished. As a group, the te-am should approve

and/or modify what is presented.

Day 6

Page 24

The report is read once again and, following the reading of

each section, conclusions are drawn and recorded. When this is

finished, the conclusions are read once again for approval and

specific recommendations are then made and recorded both for the

team who will be working in the area and for any other agencies

that should be involved in the general development process of

the zone.

The product of the sixth day is a single report generator

and authored by the entire multidisciplinary team and should be

supported by all of the members. Furthermore, after

participating for all six days with each other, each member

should be able to defend all the. points of view discussed, the

conclusions drawn and the recommendations made.


The disciplinary speciality of each member of the Sondeo

team is not critical so long as there are several disciplines

represented, and, if the Sondeo is in agriculture, a significant

number of them are agriculturalists. At least some of these

should also be from among those who will be working in the area

in the future. The discipline of the Coordinator of the Sondeo

is probably not critical, either, if he is a person with a broad

capability, an understanding of agriculture (if it is an

agricultural Sondeo) and experience in surveying and survey

technique. However, the Coordinator must have a high degree of

multidisciplinary tolerance and be able to interact with all

the other disciplines represented on the team.

The Coordinator, in a sense, is an orchestra director who

Page 25

must assure that everyone contributes to the tune but that, in

the final product, all are in harmony. He must control the

group and maintain discipline. He arbitrates differences,

creates enthusiasm, extracts hypotheses and thoughts from each

participant and ultimately will be the one who coalesces the

product into the final form. It is perhaps not essential that

he has prior experience in a Sondeo, but it would certainly

improve his efficiency if he had.

Page 26


If the hierarchical ecological systems conceptual framework

is applied to an agricultural production process, a set of

hierarchically related agricultural systems emerge (Fig. 1). As

in the case of the ecological systems framework, agricultural

systems exhibit not only vertical hierarchical system

interaction, but also horizontal system interaction. Each

hierarchical level is a functioning set of subsystems with the

outputs of some subsystems acting as inputs to others. While it

is possible to describe a global level agricultural system, from

the point of view of agricultural research and development, the

geographical region is probably the largest unit of interest.

A regional agricultural system includes all the farms in

the geographic region; the marketing, credit and information

centers; and the infrastructure that ties these regional

subsystems together. A region can be analyzed as a system with

materials, energy, money and information flowing into and out of

the region and between subsystems within the region. From an

agricultural research point of view the farms within the region

are the most important subsystems and form the next lower

hierarchical level under the region.


*Excerpted from: Hart, R.D. 1979. An ecological systems
conceptual framework for agricultural research and extension.
Iowa State University-CATE-IICA Seminar on Agricultural Systems
Research, Turrialba, Costa Rica.

/ A Parm Svstefmf

I -Socio-Economi

Ag roecosystem
-- : -----



A Croo Agroecosystem

S~oil : IInsec
ss- Crop organ-
1 <:: /v *

Figure 1.


An Animal Agroecosystem

soil I
Sub- -ro sys- Pasture Animal
tem bsvem Subsvsem

Hierarchical relationship between agricultural systems.

Page 28

A farm is also a system made up of subsystems. A farm

system can be viewed conceptually as a set of spatially

definable areas in which either crops, animals or both are

produced, and a homestead area where the farm house is located.

The crop or animal production areas form units, analogous to the

ecosystem unit in ecology, and can be defined as agroecosystems.

The farm house area in which the farm family is fed and clothed

and the economic transactions and management decisions that

occur on a farm can be combined to form a socio-economic

subsystem of the farm system. The socio-economic subsystem and

the agroecosystems interact to form a farm system. If

agricultural research is a primary concern, the agroecosystems

of a farm system are the most logical next-lower hierarchical

level to be analyzed in more detail.

An agroecosystem is also a system made up of subsystems.

As in the case of natural ecosystems, it is composed of a biotic

community of plants, animals and micro-organisms and the

physical environment in which the community functions. Energy

flows between trophic levels and materials are cycled. An

agroecosystem differs from a natural ecosystem in that at least

one plant or animal population is of agricultural value and that

man plays an important management role. Soil, crops, weeds,

insects and micro-organisms can be defined as subsystems of

crop-dominated agroecosystems. In a domesticated

animal-dominated agroecosystem, soils, pasture, weeds, insects,

micro-organisms, and domesticated animals make up the subsystems

that functions as a unit in the agroecosystem. Agronomic

research has been done on all of these subsystems, but crop

Page 29

systems and animal systems have received the most attention.

A crop system is an arrangement of crop populations that

processes energy (solar radiation) and material inputs (soil

nutrients, water) to produce outputs (crop yield). The crop

population can be arranged both spatially (planting distances)

and chrolonogically (date of planting). When more than one

crop species is combined in space and time, the resulting

assemblage can be exceedingly complex. The individual crop

species are subsystems of the crop system and make up the next

hierachical level under the crop system. The individual crops

can also be subdivided into hierarchically lower subsystems as

physiological processes. In agronomy considerable attention has

been given to this hierarchical level with the recent emphasis on

the study of crop architecture and crop genetic systems as part

of crop breeding programs.

A domesticated animal system is an arrangement of animal

populations that processes energy and material inputs (pasture,

feed supplements, etc.) to produce outputs (meat or animal

products). An animal system is on the same hierarchical level

as a crop system. Animal populations made up of individual

animals composed of interrelated physiological systems form the

next-lower hierarchical level.

In applying the agricultural systems conceptual framework

to a specific case, it is not always necessary or practical to

use the entire hierarchy. Emphasis can be placed at one level,

as for example in the case of a cropping systems project. In

principal, however, it will always be necessary to study at

least three levels: the unit of interest, and the next higher

Page 30

and next lower levels. The next higher system must be studied

in order to measure the inputs into the system, and the next

lower level must be studied in order to understand how the

system functions. In the case of a cropping systems project,

activities will need to be applied to the agroecosystems, crop

system, and crop level. A farming system project must study

regions, farm systems and agroecosystems.

The first step in either a region, farm, agroecosystem,

crop or animal system study is the construction of a

qualitative model of the unit under consideration. In the

context of this framework, model building involves identifying

the inputs and outputs of the system of interest, the subsystems

of the system, and the circuitry connecting these subsystems.

The next step is to begin to quantify the relationships

hypothesized in the qualitative model, and to construct a

quantitative model of the system. The precision required

depends upon how the model will be used.

The qualitative models that would be developed by a

multi-disciplinary team if the hierarchical agricultural systems

model were used, would vary with the ecological and

socio-economic conditions of a specific region, farm,

agroecosystem, or crop or animal system. However, these systems

have general inherent characteristics that make it possible to

outline general qualitative models for each level of the


Page 31


Hart highlights the different levels of systems and

subsystems which form the environment within which farms

operate. Each of these levels within the hierarchy is composed

of its own set of resources and conditions, and therefore, of

potential constraints to the productivity or efficiency of that

particular system or subsystem. A constraint upon the

productivity of any level of the systems hierarchy, efficiently

constrains the productivity of the entire hierarchy. If farmers

in a country are capable, for whatever reason, of producing only

so much of a product, that will be.the limit to availability of

that product within the country economic system. In the absence

of imports, production constrains the amount of that product

that can be processed in other levels of the in-country systems

hierarchy or otherwise be made available as inputs or for

consumption. Likewise, if processing is limited because the

only plant is antiquated ,and no others can be built because of

other intervening governmental policies, then no matter how much

of the product is produced by the farm level system, processing

becomes the constraint to the productivity of the entire


A common point of entry for agricultural development

technicians into the systems hierarchy of a country is at the

crop level, Fig. 1. Low productivity of one or more crops, that

is, lack of self-sufficiency, is seen as a problem by policy

makers. One or more projects are initiated in attempts to

increase the productivity, or overall production, of the

Page 32


Page 33

particular crop or crops. The problem is, that policy makers,

just like professional scientists and technicians, are all

influenced by disciplinary and experiential bias. This means

that the individual policy maker or the individual technical

consultant will influence the selection of the level within the

hierarchy which will become the focus of the project for

increasing the productivity or production of the crop or crops

in question. The more narrow the training or experience of the

individual, the more restrictive will be the focus of attention.

A soil scientist will look for soil constraints. He may be

concerned with general fertility problems, or more narrowly with

micro or macroelements or pH. And, if he is looking for

constraints in any of these particular areas, he is surely to

find them. Any factor is constraining at some point, and when

viewed in isolation, can easily be considered to be the

constraining factor to the system. For a person with narrow

training or experience, this is an honest assessment and should

not be discounted out-of-hand. But the probability that an

individual assessment of a person with narrow training and

experience will discover the one or the few most limiting

constraints small. A plant breeder, will most assuredly be

convinced that germplasm is the most limiting constraint and a

farm management economist will be sure that the problem is

allocation of resources on individual farms. An irrigation

engineer will view the inefficient use of water, if there is an

irrigation system, or the lack of an irrigation system if there

is not one, as the major constraint. A marketing economist will

see product marketing and, perhaps input marketing as the

Page 34

problem. An industrial engineer will see product processing as

the bottleneck, and a banker will see credit as the need. At

the same time, each of these individuals, when his own solution

is not effective, will readily see that the subsystem which

falls in someone else's area of responsibility is not

functioning as it should to 'allow' his 'solution' to be


A multidisciplinary team with varied experiences will

inevitably have a higher probability of discovering which

subsystems in the hierarchy and which constraints within the

subsystem are the most limiting to the productivity of the

entire hierarchical system. This does not guarantee, of course,

that any particular team is assured that it will find the most

critical constraints to an entire hierarchical system. But the

use of such a team definitely will"increase the probability that

these constraints will be found.

It is, of course, exceedingly difficult, if not impossible,

to plan or implement the kind of project that would be required

to search for constraints at all levels within the systems

hierarchy of a country and then to create solutions that would

remove them as constraints. But also, this is not required.

What is important, is that before undertaking a project at any

level in the hierarchy, an understanding of the other levels of

the hierarchy is gained so that the constraints to the system

from the other levels is appreciated. Then, if the lack of a

market (either marketing mechanism or effective demand) for a

perishable product exists, and this is known, there will be much

less temptation on the part of the project design effort, to

Page 35

blindly search for ways to increase the production of that

product. Or if credit is simply not available to target

farmers, there will be less temptation to develop a technology

that requires a source of credit in order to be acceptable to

or usable by the clients.

Developing the means for removing a constraint which is not

one of the constraints limiting the system, provides employment

for the technicians involved in the process, but does not

alleviate the problem nor increase the productivity of the

system. If the productivity of the system is not increased as a

result of the technicians' activities, in the long run, there

will not be a means of paying for the services of those

technicians nor the policy makers who authorize the projects.

In the long run, it would, therefore, be beneficial to all

concerned, to do a better job in searching for and alleviating

the key or most limiting constraints to the system, at whatever

level in the hierarchy they are found.

Page 36


The product of the Sondeo can be used for two purposes.

First, it provides the basis for developing new or improved

technology for the farmers in the area where the Sondeo was

conducted. Second, it can provide the basis for improved

estimates of farmer response to such infrastructural changes as

the installation of an irrigation system or to alternative

policy changes. This section deals with the first of these, the

development of technology to improve the productivity of the

farms in the area involved.

Following the Sondeo, the multidisciplinary team designs

alternative solutions to the problems encountered in the area.

These alternatives are then tested on experiment stations if

they exist in the area and on farms. The purpose and strength of

on-farm testing is to assess the effect of clientele management

and their resource quantities and qualities on the technology.

This provides an opportunity, when appropriate analytical

procedures are used, to partition the clientele into more

homogeneous groups for purposes of making recommendations. In

FSR/E, these homogeneous groups are called Recommendation

Domains. The topic of this section is the researcher's use of

data from a number of farms to understand the response of

different materials or technologies under both and poor farmer


*Excerpted from: Hildebrand, P.E. "Modified stability analysis
of farmer-managed, on-farm trials". University of Florida
Journal Series No. 4577

Page 37


Eberhart and Russell (1966) utilized mean varietal yields

at each location in a multi-location trial to define stability

parameters to be used to describe the performance of a variety

over a series of environments. Expanding on this concept by

including farmer management as one of the sources of variation

in results, farmer managed tests can be analyzed without

expanding data processing requirements beyond the capabilities

of institutions in developing countries. The explicit

incorporation of different environments, while not negating year

to year variation, should reduce concern with that variation so

that needed recommendations can be delivered to the farmers in

as short time as possible. By including a wide range of farm

environments, the risk of extrapolation is minimized.

To understand the concept, consider farmer-managed trials

conducted over a large number of farms within one preliminary

recommendation domain and utilizing two types of materials. One

is an improved cultivar and the other, a local variety. No

other changes are made from the farmer's usual practices. The

only constant at each location (farm) is the cultivars. Each

farmer will subject them to different soil conditions, planting

dates, pest control, fertilizer, and management in general. A

farm for which the average yield of the two cultivars is high

for whatever reason is considered to be a "good" environment for

the crop as measured by the average yield. A farm for which

yields are low for whatever reason is considered to be a "poor"

environment. Environment, then, becomes a continuous,

Page 38

quantifiable variable whose range is the range of average

yields. Yield for each of the varieties can be related to

environment by simple linear regression:

(1) Yij a + be

where Y= yield of variety i, and

e- environmental jn.dex equal to the average yield

of all treatments at each location.

By fitting equation (1) independently for each variety,

then plotting the yield response to environment for each variety

on the same graph, it is possible to visually compare varieties.

Using the same procedure it is easy to generalize these equation

sets to any number and kind of treatments.


Fourteen farmers from two villages in the Phalombe Project

in southeastern Malawi participated in trials which were

conducted on their respective farms. A simple, non-replicated 2

X 2 factorial arrangement with two maize varieties and two

levels of fertilizer (O and 30 kg N/ha) was used (Hansen et

al.). Analysis of variance of the data, Table 1, showed

significant differences among farmers and between villages, but

no differences were detected for variety. Conclusions based on

this evidence indicated no advantage for the improved composite

in this area, but a distinct response to fertilizer.

In the present analysis, the data for each fertilizer level

and for each variety were fit to equation (1) by simple linear

regression. This can be accomplished easily, on simple,

Page 39

Table 1. Maize yield from farmer-managed, on-farm trials

Phalombe, Malawi, 1981/82

Treatments Farmers, first village Treatment
Mean for
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Village

.Metric tons/ha

Local Maize (LM)

Fert. Local (LM-F)

CCA Maize (CCA)

Fert. CCA (CCA-F)

Mean for Farmer






2.2 1.9 1.2

3.7 4.3 3.2

2.0 2.9 0.4

4.7 4.3 3.5

3.2 3.3 2.1

Farmers, second village

1 2 3 4 5 6

Local Maize (LM)

Fert. Local (LM-F)

CCA Maize

Fert. CCA (CCA-F)

Mean for Farmer






1.1 1.6 1.0

2.5 2.9 1.2

0.7 0.9 0.3

2.5 2.1 1.1

1.7 1.9 0.9

1.3 0.9

2.3 2.3

0.6 0.5

2.4 1.7

1.7 1.3
















1.6 0.6

1.9 0.8

1.1 0.3

0.8 0.4

1.4 0.5






Page 40

pre-programmed electronic calculators. The equations and the

data points can be displayed graphically for visual comparisons.

The results from the Phalombe Project are shown in Figures 1 and

2. In each case, the W value (the proportion of the variation

in yield accounted for by regression) indicates a very good fit

and the "t" and F values are highly significant, indicating

positive responses to environment for each variety with and

without fertilizer. It appears that the materials respond

differently to environment and that the local material is

superior in "poor" maize environments while the improved

material is superior in "good" environments.

This analysis provides information for partitioning the

farms into two recommendation domains and for making preliminary

conclusions for each. In the poorer environments (e<2), those

which normally do not produce more than 1.5 tons/ha of local

maize without fertilizer (the traditional technology), the local

material is superior whether or not the farmer fertilized at the

rate used in the trial. However, if local, unfertilized maize

usually yields more than 1.5 tons/ha on a particular field or

for a particular farmer, the better maize environments with e>2,

the new material is superior whether or not it is fertilized at

the rate used in the trial.

Having partitioned the farms into two recommendation

domains, Fig. 3, shows the graphed distribution of confidence

intervals of yields for the 9 poorer environment farms (e<2).

Here it is clearly evident that with fertilizer, local maize is

superior in yield, but the difference from composite is not so

marked as without fertilizer. The case of the good environment

YL= 0.34 +0.51e
t = 5.43**

YC= -0.87+ 1.03e
t = 6.52**



. -.

t3 I-

o o

ENVIRONMENTAL INDEX (e), metric tons
ENVIRONMENTAL INDEX (e), metric tons

Local (*)

5 YL=0.77 +0.98e Y= -0.23+1.46e
R-.85 R2=.89 mposite (o)
t =8.16** t = 9.74**
) 4 Local (~)

o3 o

E *
2- o

O 1 2 3 4
ENVIRONMENTAL INDEX (e), metric tons

Page 43

farms (e>2) in the second recommendation domain is different,

(Fig. 4). Here, with or without fertilizer, the improved

cultivar yields more than the local maize. The difference is

greater with fertilizer than without. Results for the better

environments, which indicate superiority for the composite

material, probably reflect the superior environment found on the

experiment station where the material was developed. The danger

of extrapolating from the better environments of the experiment

station to the poorer environments of the majority of the farms

is evident from the results of the analysis.

Although results from two or more years would be

preferable, use of the environmental index negates many of the

problems associated with only one year's data. It measures

response to good or poor environments regardless of the reasons

those environments are good or bad. Hence, if another year is

better or worse for maize, the data points for an individual

farm will shift to the right or left, but a "3" environment is

still a "3" environment if the same treatments are used. Only

if the usual environmental index range is much higher or lower

or the range of the index very narrow so that extrapolation is

extreme, should there be concern with the use of data from only

one year.

In the Phalombe case, the local variety, unfertilized,

could be compared with usual yields to determine how

representative the environmental range was for that year. It

is important to include low, as well as high yields in the data

set to reduce extrapolation. When the data set represents only

a particularly high yield situation (such as is frequently

o-- II'

iI I

70 ii local,
S70 no fert.,(L)
I locol
Z I fert.,(PF)
0 | ... --composite,
u no fert., (C)
St fert.,(CF)

8 Y=overoge yield

YIELD (Y), metric tons/ha


1 *


3 4-

YIELD (Y), metric tons/ha

- local,
no fert., (L)
- local,
fert., (LF)
-- composite,
no fert.,(C)
----- composite,
fert., (CF)

Y=average yield








Page 46

encountered on experiment stations) or when low yields are

eliminated from the data (which frequently occurs) extrapolation

to real farm conditions can be misleading. By including all the

data from farmer-managed trials, affected by all the farmers'

good and bad practices, the data set does not need the usual

yield adjustment from experimental to farm levels.

Research to evaluate technology conducted on farms and

under farmer management provides a unique means of assessing the

effect of farm differences which arise from social, cultural and

economic factors as well as from soils and climatic influences.

Traditional research procedures lead to the control or

minimization of such differences in order for effects of the

technological variables to be more emphatic. But this control

masks many of the factors which affect the productivity of

the technology being tested. Use of the average yield of all

treatments on each farm as an environmental index, which

reflects all the good and bad that will be found on the farms

when the technology is adopted, is an efficient and simple means

of assessing technology before it is incorporated in a massive

extension effort. This process can help partition the clientele

into recommendation domains, providing a more precise definition

of potential adopters. Recommendation domains make extension

efforts more effective and help guide researchers to provide

improved technology, better adapted to specific

agro-socioeconomic conditions.

Page 47


Eberhart, S.A. and W. A. Russell. 1966. Stability parameters
for comparing varieties. Crop Science 6:36-40.

Hansen, A., E. N. Mwango and B. S. C. Phiri. 1982. Farming
systems research in Phalombe Project, Malawi: Another approach
to small holder research and development. Center for Tropical
Agriculture. University of Florida. In cooperation with
Farming Systems Analysis Section, Department of Agricultural
Research, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Malawi.

Page 48

Fig. 1 Grain yield response for local maize (L) and CCA

composite (C) to environment, without fertilizer, Phalombe

Project, Malawi.

Fig. 2 Response of local maize (L) and CCA composite (C) to

environment, with fertilizer, Phalombe Project, Malawi.

Fig. 3 Distribution of confidence intervals for grain yield of

local and CCA composite maize, Phalombe Project, Malawi. Low

environments--9 farms where average yield (Y) less than 2 metric


Fig. 4 Distribution of confidence intervals for grain yield of

local and CCA composite maize, Phalombe Project, Malawi. High

environments--5farms where average yield (Y) greater than 2

metric tons/ha.

Table 1. Maize yield from farmer-managed, on-farm trials

Phalombe, Malawi, 1981/82.

Page 49


To augment the information from the specific technological

treatments in the on-farm trials, two additional sources of

information are required. Enterprise records kept by the

farmers provide information on their technology for use in

making comparisons with the results of the trials. Certain

check treatments, when included in the experimental design, also

provide information for comparison purposes.

Simple enterprise record forms can be used by farmers or someone

in their families with as little as three year's of school.* In

those cases where no one in the family can keep the records,

periodic visits by the technicians serve to aid the family in

recording the necessary data. Enterprises (crops) of importance

to the research and extension efforts are included in the record

project. Simple sheets for each participating field include the

date when anything was done in that field, what was done and by

whom, and materials used or product taken off. Details as to

brand names, content or price of inputs can be obtained by the

technicians on their periodic visits which should be no less

often than each two weeks. Yield samples can be taken or

farmers' estimates of yield can be used. Farmers involved in

this activity can be those who are participating in on-farm

trials or others in the area. When the information from the

* More detailed information on enterprise records is available
in: Hildebrand, P.E. 1979. The ICTA farm record product with
small farmers: Four years of experience. ICTA, Guatemala. also
summarized in: Shaner, W.W., P.F. Philipp and W.R. Schmehl.
1982. Farming systems research and development, guidelines for
developing countries. Westview Press. Boulder, Colo.

Page 50

records is summarized, it provides the key for making

comparisons with data taken from the trials.

Three kinds of check treatments are useful in on-farm

trials. One is a copy of the technology used by the farmer on

each farm where the trials are being conducted. The purpose of

this check is two fold. One is to measure any effect of the

experimental process on yield. This is done by comparing the

yield of this treatment with the yield obtained by the farmer on

the rest of his land in that crop. By measuring labor inputs on

the check plots and by having enterprise records from the same

farmer, information is available to calculate an adjustment

factor so that labor measures on other treatments can be

compared with real farm conditions.

A second kind of check treatment that is useful is a

standardized representation of the usual technology used by

target farmers in the area. For all the trials conducted in an

area, the average yield of this treatment should be very near to

the average of all the plots from the first check treatment

discussed. If this second check treatment is held constant year

after year, an invaluable measure of annual effect on yield is


A third check treatment should be the current

'recommendation'. This provides a measure of the improvement

to be expected over the current recommendation from the other

technological treatments.


At any time in the sequence of activities, specific

Page 51

questions can arise for which no answers are available. When

necessary, this can lead to the undertaking of a directed

survey. Directed surveys are meant to answer specific questions

and can be conducted very rapidly. When a rapid, but unexpected

insect outbreak occurs, for example, members of the team can

cover the area asking farmers if they also have the outbreak, if

so if it is a common occurence, and what they do about it.

These questions plus visual observation from only one day can

probably satisfy the team as to the importance of the problem.

Such unexpected occurences can happen because the Sondeo is not

designed to cover all possible topics. However, this is also

the reason why the Sondeo is an efficient procedure. In a

regular, formal survey, all possible topics need to be covered

because no one is sure which might be important. For that

reason, they are vey expensive to conduct and analyze. Much of

the information collected in the formal survey can have little

ultimate value. But a rapid reconnaissance survey or Sondeo

plus Directed Surveys are very efficient because they narrow

down the information collected only to that which is needed.


One of the most important tasks of the FSR/E team is a

periodic review of the work undertaken. This review should be

frank and in-depth and should cover methodology, procedures and

administrative problems as well as the technology being

designed. Methodologies that are ineffective should be modified

and technologies (or treatments) that do not show promise should

be discarded after the relevant information is fed back into the

Page 52

data bank of the research and extension institutions. Following

evaluation of the results, recommendations are made to: 1)

policy makers, 2) managers of infrastructure, and 3) the

research and extension technicians. Technologies which are

acceptable to the target farmers are recommended for massive

extension efforts.

Draft reports of all activities are prepared for the annual

evaluation, based on the information available at the time. New

information, not available in time to be included in the current

report can be incorporated in the final version of the report or

utilized for evaluation the following year. Many scientists are

not comfortable with such a rigid time schedule. But it is

necessary if information from the previous year's activities are

to be used to the maximum in planning the following year's

activities. Too often when this is not done, no logical or

efficient sequence is followed and the value of the research

product is greatly reduced.

Page 53



The following figures (la to ld) summarize the procedure

that is basic to the FSR/E approach to technology development.

The main participants in the process are policy makers,

infrastructure managers (including research and extension

managers), the research and extension technicians (including all

levels) and the farmers, Figure la. The formulation of the

preliminary project objectives is carried out normally by policy

makers and the managers of the infrastructure involved. In the

usual FSR/E project this will include research and extension

managers, but may also include managers of credit institutions,

product and input marketing institutions, processing plants,

irrigation systems, etc. Research and extension technicians,

who along with farmers will be the main actors, play a lesser

role at this stage of the process. The time frame for this

segment of the process is indefinite. It depends on sources of

funding as well as competing policy considerations and may take

several months or years in the initial stages.

The second phase of the procedure can be called the initial

characterization of the area selected. The primary activity is

the rapid reconnaissance survey, or Sondeo, Figure lb. Research

and extension technicians and farmers are the primary

participants in this activity, with equal emphasis given to the

bio-physical and the socio-economic sciences among the

technicians. The product of the Sondeo (the Sondeo report) is

transmitted to relevant policy makers and infrastructure

Page 54

managers. The former ar advised of the findings and

recommendations that come from the Sondeo, but do not usually

participate in refining project objectives. This activity is

carried out primarily by the managers of relevant infrastructure

and by the technicians who were involved in the Sondeo as well

as other technicians. Both the bio-physical and the

socio-economic scientists participate equally in this phase.

The third phase is the utilization of the product of the

Sondeo and the refined objectives. Policy makers and

infrastructure managers can use this information to determine

the effect on the situation of the target farmers of specific

policy or infrastructure availability and will be able to

evaluate appropriate changes. The research and extension

technicians, working with the farmers, use the information to

design alternative solutions to the problems encountered in the

Sondeo. Once again, the choice of alternatives is transmitted

to the policy makers and infrastructure managers for their

information. The technicians, then, are ready to locate

collaborators and along with them, to design the trials which

will be used to test the alternatives selected for evaluation.

The technicians, with the appropriate infrastructure managers,

allocate the resources to the various aspects of the research

and extension activities. The time span for these activities

can vary, but can be accomplished in as little as one or two

months after the refined objectives have been formulated. These

activities, as well as those which follow, are heavily oriented

toward the bio-physical sciences. However, the socio-economic

technicians must participate throughout this phase, as they do



Figure la. Participants, activities and products in the FSR/E approach to technology development

Approximrate Tinme Span
One monOtih

emphasis of

siI.P sical sclnces Bto-physlcal sciences
SocIo-economlc sciences
SFarmers Socio-economfc sciences

Figure Ib. Parttctpants, activltles and products in the FSR/E approach to technology development

Approximote Ttme Span
- One to two months

emphasis of

Bio-physical sciences
Socio-conomic sciences -

Figure Ic. Participants, activities and products in the FSR/E approach to technology development

<, Annual cycling

Bio-physical sciences

Soion-prennmir Se FS aro a o e o

irticlpants, actIvlties and products in the FSR/E approach to technology development

Page 59

in all phases, in order to bring their perspective into the

constant evaluation and characterization process. The third

phase is shown in Figure Ic.

The first three phases discussed are all preliminary to the

main activities of the research and extension technicians. The

fourth phase is actually an annual cycling of information

gathering, evaluation and redefinition, Figure Id. The main

actors are the technicians and the farmers. Following each

annual evaluation, results are transmitted to policy makers and

infrastructure managers so they will be current on results and

so they can act upon the recommendations when and if necessary.

New policies or new infrastructure can influence the kinds of

alternatives considered by the technicians and farmers.

Page 60


Most farming systems research and extension efforts have

taken place in rainfed agriculture. This has been reflected in

the previous discussions. Irrigated agriculture adds new

dimensions which must be taken into consideration if the FSR/E

approach is to be effective. The necessity of incorporating

the irrigation system, itself, and the constraints that it

imposes is the first and most obvious difference. Second, when

irrigation is created in an area where no agriculture is

presently being undertaken, there is no historical technological

base nor infrastructure upon which to base 'improved'

technological recommendations. Both of these conditions open

the way for the irrigation engineers and technicians involved in

a project to create technologies that optimize the efficient

operation of the entire system. Little consideration is given

to the human frailties involved in the operation of the system

and in the use of the water. There is always the temptation to

consider that the farmers will be 'trained' as quoted before, to

a level not even achieved by the same technicians who make the


Three different generalized situations, each presenting

different problems are discussed below. The first is when an

existing irrigation system is to be improved. Farmers are in

place and have been irrigating, but the system is not

functioning efficiently, or for other reasons, it is deemed

necessary to change the technology being used. This most

closely resembles the situation normally encountered by FSR/E

Page 61

teams. The second situation is when an irrigation project is

being developed in a rainfed agricultural area. Farmers are

there, but have not been irrigating. Farms are probably larger

than will be the case after the project 'is in place and the

crops and livestock as well as the technology is subject to

significant change. This is a much more difficult situation to

deal with. The third situation is where an irrigation project

is to be established where little or nothing exists at the

present time. In this situation, everything needs to be created

without an historic base to work from. This lends itself more

to an 'engineering' solution, but is also full of pitfalls

because it is too easy to forget about the human element.


For this case, most of what has been previously written in

this chapter applies. Farmers will have been using water from

the existing systems and will have developed or adapted

technologies appropriate to their conditions and those of the

irrigation system. A multidisciplinary team should be able to

determine what the farmers are doing, how they are doing it and

why they are doing it that way. This will provide the

information necessary for improving the system, itself, as well

as for improving the technology for using the system. If the

system is not functioning because of the personnel who operate

the system rather than the farmers (or in addition to the

farmers), this can also be determined through the Sondeo

procedure. Appropriate technologies can be developed as much

for the operation of the system as for the use of the water to

Page 62

irrigate crops on the farms. However, this requires that the

multidisciplinary team be composed of persons responsible for

both types of technology--farm technology and system technology.

Both need to be advanced together in order for the technology

development process to be efficient. In many ways this is just

the same as the development of maize and bean technology when

the two crops are grown in association. Technology for both

components needs to be advanced together to be efficient. High

population maize technology that will not support bean

production or vigorous bean plants that dominate maize will not

be acceptable to the farmers and their development in isolation

will not be efficient. The same is true of farm and system


The only real difference in the Figures la to Id in the

previous section is that the technicians would be

research/extension and systems technicians and the

infrastructure managers would include the irrigation systems

manager. The time frame would be similar as would be the

relative emphasis of the participants.


This is a considerably more complex situation than the

former. Farmers (or ranchers) will have traditional practices

in the area, but will not have knowledge about irrigation

technology. Their farms may well be larger than will be

possible after the irrigation system is completed and the crop

and livestock mix will probably be different. Extensive

grain/livestock systems are often converted into intensive

Page 63

vegetable systems, for instance. The farmers will have little

information on which to base decisions. In this case, it is

easier to obtain complete adoption of packages of technologies

than it is in the former case where farmers have been used to

irrigation. But it is also more of a challenge for the

technicians who design the system and the farm technology,

because they will be making decisions that usually take many

years for farmers to do on their own. And the consequences of

wrong decisions can be drastic.

In the previous figures, the time frame will be modified

and the farmers will not enter the picture as early. The nature

of the Sondeo will be significantly modified. Its use will be

to determine the attitudes of the farmers toward the proposed

changes and what their responses are likely to be. For example,

in the Zacapa area of Guatemala, the farmers were originally

stockman with dual purpose cattle. Their cheese was famous

throughout the country. After the irrigation system was

completed, and farm size drastically reduced, these farmers did

everything possible to maintain their herds. The vegetables and

melons are allowed to get very weedy as they near maturity so

that as soon as harvest is complete, there will be grazing

available for the livestock. this type of technology certainly

was not envisioned by those who designed the system and the farm


Farmers will have to enter actively into early stages of

the evaluation of farm technology. They will be able to provide

an insight into why some things will or will not work and will

be gaining valuable experience and training in the process. In

Page 64

early experiments, local farmers should not be hired just as

laborers. Rather they should be considered 'consultants' and

their opinions listened to and respected. The social scientists

on the team will be playing a particularly important role in

this stage of techn&ogy development. If farmers are consulted

and listened to at this stage of the development of the system,

they will be much more apt to adopt the results which are

forthcoming at a later stage.

The kinds of technicians which will be involved in this

situation and tbe relevant infrastructural institutions will

expand considerably over the previous case. Whether the

products to be produced are new, or will be available in much

larger quantities, marketing and processing infrastructure will

need to be included. New kinds of inputs will need to be made

available and credit sources will need to be modified or made

available. Representatives of each of these areas should be

included on the multidisciplinary teams and should work as

regular members of the teams. They will have the additional

responsibilities of serving as liaison between the team, itself,

and their own institutions whose managers must be kept

constantly informed of the developments being evaluated by the


After initiation of irrigation in the project area, the

team must continue to function. Indeed, their participation may

well be even more critical at this time than it was in the

initial design stages of the project. Trials, enterprise

records, directed surveys and periodic evaluation will all be

highly important at this stage of the development of the

Page 65

irrigation system. Once again, the role of the social

scientists will be critical as farmers learn to cope with the

new phenomena resulting from the commencement of the delivery of

water. The team should be on top of conflicts which are sure to

arise between the farmers, on the one hand, and the systems

operation personnel on the other. Modifications in delivery

schedules or even design probably will have to be made and

should receive the benefit of all the players involved in the

system. Marketing, processing, credit and other systems also

will have to be modified as the system begins to function and

their representatives should also receive the benefit of

participating in the multidisciplinary team. Management of all

the participating institutions should also maintain close

liaison with each other so that they are not making decisions in

a vacuum.

Because the team will be larger and more complex in this

case than in the case previously discussed, coordination of

efforts will need to be constantly in the minds of the various

members. Each member should insist on being currently updated

on what the others are doing and should participate in the

efforts of others whenever possible. Members who are liaison

with other institutions will need to be constantly updated in

order to be effective in this capacity. Even more difficult

will be to maintain coordination among the various institutions

whose actions will have an effect on the outcome of the

irrigation project.

Page 66


In arid zones of the developing world, this case.frequently

arises. Little or no agriculture exists and population is

sparse. Essentially, the area is virgin with respect to

agriculture. In many ways, this case is simpler than the

previous case. 'Engineering' considerations can take precedence

at least until the time comes to populate the project and begin

production. However, engineering solutions cannot be made in

the absence of the consideration of other factors. An example is

the design of farm size. Should farms be designed for only

human labor, or for horses, mules, oxen, walking tractors or

larger tractors? Will the organization of land tenure be as

individual holdings or collectives or cooperatives? Will any

machinery or draft animals be shared or will they be privately

owned? The answer to each of these questions will have a

profound effect on the type of technology which will be

appropriate for the farmers and for which the system will have

to be designed. Because the area is not yet populated,

participation of the potential users will not be possible in

making the decisions on these points. Yet the 'people factor'

should not be ignored. Even in this largely bio-physical phase

of project development, social scientists will have an important

role to play.

User training is particularly important for this type of

project and it will be easier to 'impose' certain technological

packages and practices because everything will be new to the

users. However, as users begin production, they will have to be

closely monitored. Even though 'tentative' technological


packages have been redesigned, a full farming systems team

should be in place as production begins in a project. This

should be intimately familiar with the system and the

redesigned technology, but if it is comprised only of those

participated in the original design, it may be difficult for

them to recognize the need for change even when it is fairly

e 67




All relevant institutions should likewise be involved from

the initiation of project design and should be represented on

the farming systems team after production begins. Marketing,

processing, input availability and credit bottlenecks can all

be expected to develop as production gets underway. In fact, it

would be good policy to maintain a mutidisciplinary research and

extension team comprised of personnel from all relevant agencies

in the project area permanently to respond to the changing

conditions that can be expected to arise over time.

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