TOWARD A NEW PARADIGM FOR FARMING SYSTEMS
WORKING PAPERS SET
FOR THE 12TH ANNUAL FARMING SYSTEMS SYMPOSIUM
THE ASSOCIATION FOR FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH/EXTENSION
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
TOWARD A NEW PARADIGM FOR FARMING SYSTEMS
WORKING PAPER SET
FOR THE 12TH ANNUAL FARMING SYSTEMS
Sponsored by the Association for Farming Systems Research/Extension
Michigan State University
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements Statement about AFSR/E vi
Symposium Keynote Address
Challenges of Farming Systems Research and Extension-Julio Berdegue, vii xxiv
RIMISP, Santiago, Chile
Invited Paper Presentations
Regional Roots and Impact of FSRIE Asia-Terd Charoenwatana, Khon 1 11
Kaen University, Thailand
**Regional Roots and Impact of FSRIE Africa-James Olukosi,
Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria
FSR in LAC: Past Experience and Challenges for the Future-Edgardo 12 27
Moscardi, IICA, Colombia
Evaluation and Impact of Global Synthesis and Networking- Cornelia 28 34
Butler Flora, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University,
Strategic Initiatives in Roles for FSR/E: On Farm Methods
**Methodsfor Analysis by Farmers: The Professional Challenge- Robert
Chambers, Administrative Staff College of India, India
**Target Groups -Jacqueline Ashby, CIAT, Colombia
**On Farm Experimentation for Sustainability -Reginald Noble,
University of Malawi, Malawi
Strategic Initiatives in Roles for FSR/E: Institutional Linkages --
**Linkages and Impact: Station Research -Deborah Merrill-Sands,
**Linkages and Impact: Public and Private Extension -Timothy Finan,
University of Arizona, Arizona USA
Integrating Household Food Security into Farming Systems Research 35 65
Extension -Timothy Frankenberger, University of Arizona,
**I ability of Farming Systems Research to Deal with Agricultural Policy -
Doyle Baker, IITA, Cameroon
From Research to Innovation: Getting the Most From Interaction with NGO 66 86
in FSR/E -John Farrington, Anthony J. Bebbington, Overseas Development
Institute, Regent's College, United Kingdom
Information Exchange and Networking: Regional Initiatives
**Fqrming Systems Networking in Latin America -Eduardo Zaffaroni,
Universidade Federal De Pelotas, Brazil
**Farming Systems Networking in Asia -Nimal Ranaweera, Department of
agriculture, Sri Lanka
**Farming Systems Networking in East and Central Africa -Paul Maina,
arming Systems Kenya, Kenya
**Farming Systems Networking in West Africa -James Olukosi,
Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria
**Frming Systems Networking in Southern Africa-Ted Stillwell, Ministry of
**Fprming Systems Research Exchanges in Europe; Process,
Program and Questions -Didier Pillot, GRET, France
**Farming Systems Networking in North America -Richard Harwood,
Michigan State University, Michigan USA
Submi ted Papers
Diagnosis and Farmer Participation
farmers Participatory On-Farm Research Methodology: A Sustainable 87 110
Model-D.M. Maurya, Narendra Deva University of Agriculture
and Technology, India
Participatory Research Methods for Agroforestry Technology Development 111 125
in Western Kenya-*James Ndufa, E. Ohlsson, and K.D. Shepherd, *Kenya
Forestry Research Institute, Kenya
Diagnostic Approach in Farmers Participatory Trials on Rice Based 126 153
Farming System -*Satish Prasad and Krusdhari Tirkey, *Birsa Agricultural
Farmer Participatory Approaches to Integrate Indigenous Knowledge Systems 154 174
and Research Station Technologies Toward Sustained Food Production and
Resource Conservation in India -B. Rajasekaran, Iowa State University,
Resource-poor Farmers: Finding Them and Diagnosing Their Problems and 175 191
Opportunities -Helle Munk Ravnborg, IFPRI, Denmark
Farmer Participatory Approach in Identifying Gender Issues in Agriculture 192 212
and Forestry Related Activities in Jhapa, Nepal -*Dibya Timsina and Baby
Poudel, *ECARDS, Nepal
Rwanda Women's Role in Integrated Aquaculture Systems for Resource 213 227
Sustainability -*Revathi Balakrishnan and Pelagie Nyirahabimana,
*Oregon State University, Oregon USA
Extent and Method of Vegetables Seed Storage and Women's Participation in 228 258
Rural Bangladesh -*Wajed Shah, Salima Jahan Nuri, A.B.M. Abul Khair,
and Ashraful Islam, *Regional Station, BARI, Bangladesh
Women Farmers: How to Involve Them in Agricultural Research (An 259 275
Experience of Pakhribas Agricultural Centre) -*Rabindra Shrestha and
Meenu Shrestha, *Pakribas Agricultural Centre, Nepal
Gender Differences in Livestock Production Management in the Chitwan 276 302
District of Nepal -*Pradeep Tulachan and Asha Batsa, *ARD, Nepal
Gender Analysis for Multi-purpose Tree Species in Rice-Based Farming 303 317
System in Chitwan, Nepal -*Dibya Timsina, J. Timsina, N.N.
Joshi, F. Thapa, and D.P. Ghimire, *ECARDS, Nepal
Late Jute Seeding Provides Seed, Vegetable, and Fuel for Sustainable 318 331
Agriculture -*S.M. Asaduzzaman and M.A. Hussain, *BARI, Bangladesh
Intercropping Cassava (Manihot esculenta) with Protein-Rich Annuals and 332 351
Estimates of Nutritive Returns -*Humphrey Ezumah, C.F.N. Poubom, M.A.
Messia, and C. Ateh, *IITA, Nigeria
Testing Modified Stability Analysis with Biophysical Process Models-*Peter 352 369
Hildebrand, W.T. Bowen, and T.C. Kelly, *University of Florida,
On Farm Evaluation of Fodder Tree Species: A Methodolical and 370 388
Management Study in Nepal -*Madhav Karki and Michael Gold,
*Institute of Forestry, Nepal
he Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial: Bridging the GAP 389 401
Between Station Research, the Producer, and the Consumer -*Joshua
Posner, L. Cunningham, J. Doll, J. Hall, D. Mueller, T. Mulder, R. Saxby,
ad A. Wood,*University of Wisconsin Wisconsin USA
Systems Perspectives in Sustainable Development
Evolving Crop-Livestock Farming Systems in the Humid Zone of West 402- 419
Africa: Potential and Research Needs -M.A. Jabbar, International Livestock
centre for Africa, Nigeria
Farming Systems Research in Bangladesh: Its Progress and Future Strategies- 420 434
*Pradip Kar, S.N.H. Arangzeb, and R.N. Mallick, *Bangladesh Agricultural
Research Council, Bangladesh
Mining for Insect Pest Management Nuggets from Farming Systems Research 435 442
n Tropical Asian Rice Agroecosystems -James Litsinger, IRRI, Philippines
inkages and Impact: Station Research
Adoption, Diffusion, and Economic Impacts of Modern Mangrove Rice 443 466
varietiess in West Africa: Further Results from Guinea and Sierra Leone -
Akinwumi Adesina and Moses M. Zinnah, *WARDA, Ivory Coast
A Study on the Status of Farming Systems and On-Station Research Linkages 467 481
in Bangladesh-*Md Sadrul Amin and R.N. Mallick, *Bangladesh
agricultural Research Council., Bangladesh
The Selective Approaches to Effective Linkage Between Agricultural 482 491
Research and Extension in Korea-Min Ho Choi, Seoul National University,
institutional Linkages That Enhance the Value of On-Farm Research 492 505
or Smallholder Farmers: The Zimbabwe Experience-Enos M. Shumba,
Ministry of Lands, Zimbabwe
Linkages and Impact: Public and Private Extension
FSR and NGO: Partner for Sustainable Development for Resource-Poor 506 518
Farmer-*Subash Dasgupta and R.N. Mallick, *Bangladesh Agricultural
research Council, Bangladesh
Linkage with NGO: Experience of Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute 519 538
with Proshika Muk-*Shamsul Haq and Mafizul Islam, *Bangladesh
Livestock Research Institute, Bangladesh
Linking FSR, Extension and Other Development Organizations at the Local 539 547
Level: Some Approaches Used in Botswana -*Geoffrey Heinrich and E.
Modiakgotla,*Department of Agricultural Research, Botswana
Integrating FSR into National Extension System: A Case of Bangladesh 548 561
*Indrajit Roy and M.A. Hamid Miah, *Bangladesh Agricultural Research
Linkages and Impact: Policy
Sustainability in Perspective: Strengths and Limitations of FSRIE in 562 584
Contributing to a Sustainable Agriculture -Larry Harrington, CIMMYT,
Constraints and Policy Measures for Effective Enterprise Combination in 585 594
Bangladesh -Quazi Mesbahul Alam, Bangladesh Agricultural Research
Farming Systems and Markets Combining Analytical Frameworks for the 595 609
Development of Commodity Subsectors: The Case of Maize in Southern
Mali -*Duncan Boughton and Bino Teme, *DRSPR, Mali
Index of Authors 610 611
Person will be the presenter and is affiliated with the starred institution
** Copies will be distributed separately
Special thanks to all who assisted in planning, implementing, and conducting the 12th Annual Farming
Systems Symposium, some of whom filled dual and triple roles:
Co-Chair and Program Planning
Dr. George H. Axinn
Dr. John S. Caldwell
AFSR/E Officers and Board Members
The Symposium.Host Michigan State University and especially the
Institute ofInternational Agriculture
All AFSR/E Symposium Graduate Student Volunteers
AFSR/E Office Staff
Sue Gibbons AFSR/E Symposium Assistant
Noel Harshman Symposium Secretary
Janine Morell Symposium Secretary
Weijun Zhao Logistics Assistant
Mark Van Wormer Registration Coordinator
Reviewers, Facilitators, Moderators, and the Evaluation Team
MSU Farming Systems Associates
Foundations Supporting the 1992 Symposium -
W. K. Kellogg Foundation
Ford Foundation/New Delhi
Ford Foundation/New York
All who participated in the 12th Annual Farming Systems Symposium
The Association for Farming Systems Research/Extension (AFSR/E) is in its third year. Annually, scholars
and practitioners from around the world participate in its annual symposium. In the 12th Annual Farming
Systems Symposium, 1992, AFSR/E took major steps toward the gradual evolution of a new paradigm in the
organized relationship between farming people, agricultural research systems, and agricultural extension.
The purpose of the organization is to promote international development and dissemination of methods and
the results of participatory on-farm systems research and extension. AFSR/E members, numbering almost
400, come from the international community of farming systems practitioners and scholars.
AFSR/E's roots were in the 1970s with the work and research in farming systems which had been done in
Africa, Latin America, and Asia. In 1989, at the 9th Annual International Farming Systems Symposium at the
University of Arkansas, AFSR/E became a formalized organization.
CHALLENGES OF FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH AND EXTENSION
Julio A. BerdeguB
Casilla 244 34
XII Annual Symposium of the
Association for Farming Systems Research & Extension
Michigan State University, East Lansing
September 12-18, 1992
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This paper focuses of the question of the present and future
challenges of Farming Systems Research and Extension (FSRE) and the
role that can be played by an organization such as the Association
for Farming Systems Research and Extension (AFSRE) in helping meet
The basic premise of this paper is that, in a rapidly changing
world economy, the development potential for small-scale agricul-
ture in Third World nations is becoming narrower each day, and
that, as a consequence, FSRE must become more sharply focused in
terms of the target populations with which we work and, at the same
time, much more integrated with other agricultural development
The role of FSRE, of course, has always been to promote
agrLcultural change. We have known since the beginning even if
we have not always acted consequently that the evolution of
agriculture follows the influences and dynamics of the national and
international economies and the corresponding social and political
At least in Latin America, agricultural research and extension
have in the past been asked to support the national goal of
promoting food self-sufficiency, as a prerequisite or necessary
condition for urban and industrial development. The role of
agriculture was to substitute food imports, within the framework of
pro ected and heavily subsidized economies.
This framework is rapidly fading out; what were originally
structural adjustment measures in face of the major economic crisis
of the 1980's, have become permanent tenets, at least for the
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Competitivity, productivity, profitability... these are
fundamental qualities in countries that are at a very fast pace
embracing the paradigms of the free market and of the international
integration of the economies, with the parallel downsizing of the
role of the public sector and of the institutions that up to now
have had an indisputable and almost exclusive role in promoting
agricultural development and the modernization of the sector of
small-scale, resource-poor farming.
Agricultural researchers, extensionists and development agents
are now being asked to justify their work in terms of their
contribution to this process of modernization of agriculture. Even
when the public sector is willing to allocate resources to fighting
rural poverty, it is made clear that this constitutes a separate
effort from those aimed at agricultural development, with different
tools and approaches focused on different populations.
The performance criteria that today call the attention of
policy-makers in our own countries and abroad, are much harder to
meet than those of the first 20 years of FSRE. Modest increments in
productivity are no longer good enough to justify the investment of
scarce resources. We are being asked to reconvert agriculture, to
introduce for-export crops, to generate foreign exchange, to
produce high-quality goods that can penetrate and preserve new
international markets, to achieve levels of productivity and
economic efficiency that permit the survival of the farming systems
in the absence of subsidies, tariffs or protection from imports.
FSRE came into existence to help small-scale farmers in the
more marginal areas participate in the processes that had been
implemented during the Green Revolution with resource-rich
producers in the best agricultural regions.
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Two decades have gone by and aside from the debate about the
actual contribution of FSRE the goals have now become more
elu ive, more complex, more difficult to achieve. Achieving the
pro activity of commercial agriculture is today simply not enough,
bec use even those systems are facing serious problems.
It is in this sense that we say that the development potential
of small-scale farming is narrower. FSRE will have a role to play
only if it can prove that is an effective tool in promoting not the
gradual and slow improvement of small-scale farming systems, but
the rapid modernization of at least some sectors of peasant
Are there reasons to believe that FSRE can play this role?
And, if so, what are the steps that need to be taken in order to
meet this challenge? How can an organization such as the AFSRE aid
in the successful implementation of those measures?
HE IMPACT POTENTIAL OF FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH & EXTENSION
The basic principle on which FSRE is built is that the process of
technology generation and adaptation should consider and be
responsive to the characteristics of the targeted farming systems,
the farmers' objectives, and the conditions under which specific
populations must practice agriculture. This principle and its
derivations are perhaps the most significant contributions of the
From there, it follows that:
A systems approach is necessary since any given agricultural
enterprise is the final product of the complex and dynamic
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interplay of numerous components and processes that take place
both within and outside the farm.
The farmers' circumstances are location-specific, and so
should be the research and extension process.
A diagnostic phase is required in the overall process of
technology generation and transfer, in order to understand the
set of conditions that will eventually determine the adoption
rates and the final impact of the whole effort.
On-farm adaptation and testing of technology would enhance the
probability of success of any given innovation.
Farmer participation is indispensable if the improved tech-
nologies are to be responsive to the farmers' priorities and
FSRE is a logical and coherent proposition, and one wonders
why its success has been limited. Tripp (1991) explores two basic
reasons: the institutional context and the quality of on-farm
research. I would like to discuss briefly the first of these two
The basic principle of FSRE mentioned above has led to many
interesting and positive methodological approaches. However, it has
also induced most FSRE projects to work within the framework
imposed by the constraints faced by the farmers, without ques-
tioning if such framework allows for any development potential at
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FSRE has been an approach used mainly in working with
resource-poor farmers, living in marginal areas. As a result, most
projects have faced one or more of the following conditions:
* Unfavorable soils, climate an topography.
* Lack of credit.
* Underdeveloped or non-existent markets, both of inputs and of
* Weak or incipient farmers' organizations.
* Economic policies that discriminate against agriculture as a
whole and against poor farmers in particular.
* Lack of interest of the national agricultural institutions
that feel that their scarce resources would obtain a better
return if invested in more favorable areas.
* An attitude of many farmers that through many generations of
experience have learned that, under these conditions, innova-
tion is a highly risky business.
FSRE has frequently attempted to untie this Gordian knot
emp oying only two tools: the generation or adaptation of improved
technologies, and the transfer of the innovations.
Even in those infrequent cases in which research and extension
work hand in hand to solve the puzzle, it is very likely that the
pro lem will still not yield because some other factor is missing.
Generating an improved technology and informing the farmers about
it, only creates a potential for change. To materialize this
potential, the farmers usually require credit to purchase inputs,
markets that generate a stable demand for the additional produce,
transportation and roads to take the inputs to the farm and to
products to the marketplace, timely information to adjust to the
changing environments, and, in general, a whole setup of support
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services and infrastructures on which the success of agriculture
A recent study (Low et al., 1991) reviewed the end result of
53 research initiatives in Southern Africa, and concluded that 39
failed at least partly due to institutional and resource-avail-
This whole question of impact potential (from the point of
view of the researcher or extensionist) or of development potential
(from the point of view of the farmer), will become more important
each day, as each of our countries struggles to keep its head out
of the water in the phenomenal rearrangement of the world economy
that its taking place right before our eyes.
It is not sufficient any more to talk about adoption rate. We
will be asked: Can FSRE lead to the rapid modernization of small-
scale, resource-poor agriculture?
There are two parts to the answer to this question. First of
all, we should be more willing to say that many farmers in the more
marginal areas of the world cannot make this transition in the
short and even the medium term. We should acknowledge that FSRE is
not a powerful enough tool in many instances, and that the Green
Revolution failed in those cases not because of its conceptual or
methodological approach, but because the necessary conditions for
agricultural development are simply not in place.
Of course, there is still a role for agricultural research and
extension in those cases. Many societies are willing to invest in
the alleviation of extreme rural poverty, and even marginal
improvements in agricultural production and productivity can make
a contribution towards that very worthwhile role. However, it
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sho ld be clear that "development" is not at hand in those cases,
reg rdless of the conceptual or methodological approach.
FSRE has an advantage under this conditions, if only because
its practitioners have shown that they are willing to actually work
in these very marginal areas. We have accumulated a very vast
exp rience in the past twenty years, we understand the farmers'
logic better than others, we know how to elicit their participa-
tio we have developed tools and methods, we have built formal and
inf rmal networks of agricultural and social scientists through
whi h information and experiences from one place flow more or less
effectively to other areas of the world. These are very valuable
res urces for a most difficult task.
Then, there are many situations, involving hundreds of
thousands of farming families in dozens of countries, where there
is clear potential for impact. In those instances, we can answer:
Yes, FSRE can help in bringing about a more rapid modernization of
peasant, resource-poor agriculture!
However, even here the "institutional context" needs to be
reconsidered. Basically, our proposal is that we cannot take the
in titutional factors as parameters that are external to our
projects, but that we need to internalize them. For that, we need
to think more in terms of agricultural development efforts, that
include but go beyond technology research and extension.
In my opinion, there is no reason why the basic methodology of
FSE could not be complemented with such tools as revolving credit
furds, marketing support, in depth training of local resource-
pe sons, development of micro-irrigation projects, strengthening of
the local organizations of farmers and of their leadership.
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There are, of course, at least two consequences to this idea:
First of all, each individual project would be more complex and
more expensive, and thus fewer farmers could be reached for the
same amount of money and other resources. This is a question of
breadth versus depth, and it is one which is likely to trouble
policy-makers who want to see as many families benefit as possible.
Second, it would rest almost necessarily of the ability to
develop strong and efficient inter-institutional arrangements,
since no one single organization is likely to have the required
competence and technical expertise in all of the components of a
given projects. If one considers the tack-record of FSRE in
promoting effective linkages between researchers, extensionists and
farmers, it can be seen that the above is easier said than done.
I would like to refer briefly to the Chilean experience to
illustrate that this is a feasible option (Berdegud, 1990). In the
early 1980's, Chile's extension service was privatized. Today,
small firms, made up of one or two agronomists and a few agricul-
tural technicians, compete with each other to be assigned the funds
to provide technology transfer services to a group of peasant
farmers. Several dozen NGO's and even local or regional farmers'
organizations such as cooperatives, operate as "private technology
transfer consultant firms." The role of the national agency
(INDAP, Agricultural Development Institute) is to define, supervise
and evaluate the work of these private firms, developing the
guiding concepts, methodologies and procedures, and, of course, to
provide the system's financial resources.
In 1992, an effort to strengthen this system has been started,
developing new technology transfer modalities. One of these is
called the "co-financed technology transfer program", and it
operates around microregional and integrated agricultural develop-
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men projects, each of which is planned for a period of three to
five years, to work with between 100 and 300 peasant families.
In this system, INDAP provides the funds (up to a maximum of
80% of the total cost of the project) for the technology transfer
component, while the cooperating private agency funds other
agricultural development tools, such as farmers' training programs,
revolving credit funds, marketing infrastructure and services, and
Making use of a World Bank loan, INDAP has made available
close to one million US dollars to fund these co-financed projects
that will be started during the 1992-93 agricultural year. The
local and regional NGO's and farmers' organizations must come up
witi an additional US$ 200.000. Although the process is still not
finished, it is expected that at least 50 projects will be
pre ented to this first national competition, that will benefit at
least 1,000 peasant families.
This new program is based on the assumption that more complex
pro rams will be successful only if effective decentralization
tak s place, if each effort is contained to a manageable size, and
if the key actors have a clear stake in the success of their
project. The main role of the national agency is to define clear
rules of the game, and then let the local actors operate as freely
as possible to the best of their ability.
In this way, it is expected that each project will contribute
to putting in place the necessary "institutional factors" that are
required for technology adoption and agricultural development to
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THE QUALITY OF FSRE
As Tripp (1991) makes clear, institutional issues explain only in
part "why, in spite of so much investment and interest, have the
tangible results been so modest" (p. 247). The quality of on-farm
research', Tripp argues, is responsible for many of the shortcom-
ings of FSRE projects.
Many authors have analyzed this issue in general or with
respect to specific stages of the FSRE methodology. Questions have
been raised about how target areas and populations are selected and
defined; about how diagnostic studies can often lead to misleading
and/or incomplete conclusions; about how the design or planning
stage is very often confused with the diagnostic studies and about
how little time is spent on propositive analysis of the field data;
about the insufficient consideration of macro-economic and policy
determinants; about the tendency to tackle an excessive number of
problems and objectives simultaneously, leading to poorly focused
projects, in particular during the on-farm research stage; about
the operational weakness of the feedback loops which are supposed
to be a key component of the FSRE approach.
There is no need, it would seem, to document once more these
very well know problems. Instead, it is important to highlight one
general argument: the methodology of FSRE has shown a tendency to
become more and more ill-defined. For many of us, it is not clear
anymore what is an acceptable methodological protocol for conduct-
This author distinguishes between FSR as a perspective on
research, and on-farm research as the type of work done
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This, of course, is a product of one positive development:
morn people, with different backgrounds and interests, now base
their work on the overall idea of FSRE, as compared with the
situation in the 1970's or early 1980's. As a result, the FSRE
"movement" is today less monolithic than what is was in its
beginning. At the same time, as more experience is accumulated, it
is natural and legitimate that different people raise new theoreti-
cal, methodological and operational issues. This ability and
willingness to criticize and question the old notions is the basic
engine that moves science and knowledge.
However, all disciplines need to be able to sort the useful
from the non useful, the sound from the unsound, the true improve-
men s from the background noise. Its is not clear to me how this is
done in the FSRE movement, with its unrivaled disposition to
welcome all aboard. No new idea should be censored to begin with,
but all proposals should somehow be tested rigorously, and above
all, new developments need to be integrated effectively into the
nucleus of current thought; otherwise, the new developments become
simple appendixes that are not internalized by the overall
conceptual and methodological framework of FSRE.
This situation affects not only the questions of concepts and
methods to address old objectives of income, risk, productivity and
so n. It is also present in the new or emerging issues of gender
and, more recently, of sustainability. These concepts reflect
societal objectives that are here to stay and that need to be
integrated into agricultural research and extension, just as they
must be dealt with in all areas of contemporary life, from indus-
trial development to aesthetics.
However, it is indispensable that these new issues be
integrated effectively and not only in words. More important, it is
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necessary that they permeate FSRE in an efficient and synergistic
manner. This has not been easy with gender issues and, if anything,
it will be even more difficult with respect to the sustainability
The old question of the quality of FSRE can reach critical
dimensions if judged against the more complex guideline of a
farming system that not only needs to become more productive and
profitable, but also more equitable both within and between
To mention only one issue as an example, the question of
sustainability inevitably raises the dimension of time, in a large
scale. I wonder if most FSRE teams are adequately equipped,
conceptually, methodologically and financially, to deal with this
THE ROLE OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR FARMING
SYSTEMS RESEARCH AND EXTENSION
Because of the problems analyzed above, and also because of other
considerations that will be reviewed later, the Association for
Farming Systems Research and Extension has reached a turning point.
As always, the worst possible attitude would be not to turn.
If we agree that in order to continue its development as an
useful approach for the promotion of agricultural change, FSRE must
be able to tackle the old and new problems with fresh concepts and
more powerful methods, the most important question of the Associa-
tion is how can it aid more effectively to promote this renewal.
There are four ideas that I think would be useful in charting
a new course:
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First of all, the Association for Farming Systems Research and
Extension must come out strongly and convincingly as a forum for
change and renewal.
If FSRE is to survive as a dynamic and creative force, it must
ada t to the new conditions that characterize our economies, and to
the resulting new demands and objectives that need to be met by our
The AFSRE's primary goal must be to promote and support this
process of change and renewal. This can be done through different
First of all, the membership must explicitly consider this
issue and define a position on it. The efforts of the Board,
symposia, journal and newsletter, must reflect the position of the
members of the Association. Up to now, it is likely that an
important proportion of the membership sees the Association mainly
as a provider of services: an organizer of symposia, publisher of
a journal, or even the provider of the occasion to meet and stay in
touch with friends.
I wonder how many of us think of the Association as an active
leadership forum in the development of new ideas. The members have
to establish if they expect the AFSRE to play such a role.
Second, through the definition of the agenda of the symposia,
the Association can influence the topics that will be debated and
the ideas that will emerge in the future. Considering that the
re ional networks and associations are now conducting their own
meetings, it is necessary to define a specific profile for the
international symposia, that is complementary and not competitive
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or reiterative with the regional events. In my opinion the
international symposia should be devoted to more global issues.
Third, the Journal of the AFSRE can also be seen as a vehicle
for the promotion of an in depth debate about FSRE and its future
contributions. The job done until now has been, in my opinion,
extraordinary, in particular if one considers the almost total lack
of resources that has constrained this effort from day one.
However, it is always possible to improve, and in particular it
would be ideal if a strong and highly qualified Editorial Board
could be formed to support the work of the Editor.
If the AFSRE wants to make a credible effort to establish
itself as a leadership forum for change, it would also need to
confront its own internal renewal.
Second, the Association for Farming Systems Research and
Extension must strive to become an open forum, capable of inte-
grating the different "schools" or currents of thoughts that apply
the systems concept to the problems of agricultural development.
Farming Systems Research and Extension is not really a
movement on its own, but actually only a specific version of a
wider current of thought within the field of agricultural devel-
opment. Moreover, within FSRE one could well speak of one sub-
sector, which grew out of US-supported, US University-based
projects, which developed the symposia and other initiatives that
eventually gave form to the AFSRE.
The topics that are debated, the articles that are published,
even the people that attend our meetings, follow much too closely
the evolution of the efforts, possibilities and needs of the
original nucleus that formed the AFSRE.
DRAFT DO NOT QUOTE
One option is to formalize this more particular nature of the
AFSRE, making clear its US-affiliation and dependency. From there,
it would be even possible to establish collaborative relationships
with other groups, and it would also make it feasible to reduce the
fi ancial burden of publishing a journal for world-wide distribut-
io or organizing meetings for people from all over the world. Not
that this US-based association would need to be closed to foreign
citizens. But those of us from other countries that wanted to
participate, would need to be able to meet the costs of doing so.
The francophone and other european schools have never been
adequately represented in the AFSRE or its predecessors. Today, out
of he FSRE sector, African, Asian and Latin American organizations
are emerging, with distinctive characteristics of their own, and
with the legitimate need to manage their own affairs with greater
independence. In Latin America, for example, there are at least
five major farming systems networks, and the systems concept has
become integrated in a number of national and regional institutions
th t are simply not part of the AFSRE, and that perhaps have not
even learned of its existence. In Asia and Africa there are also
regional networks that publish their own journals, promote their
own research priorities and hold their own regular meetings.
The AFSRE should play a role in promoting initiatives to
formally link these regional players, both within and without the
FSRE matrix. This will not bear fruit if our attitude is one of
inviting others to join us; rather, we must say that we are willing
to think together with others about new forms of association.
The probable meeting of a future symposium in Europe.would be
an excellent opportunity to formalize these new links. However,
that event should perhaps be seen as the end result of a process
that needs to be started much earlier and that would require the
DRAFT DO NOT QUOTE
active participation of the Board of the AFSRE and/or of some ad
Third, the Association for Farming Systems Research must
become a truly international body.
This is a necessary consequence of the second proposition. To
begin with, the AFSRE should consider becoming an international
body, that can integrate in a decision-making capacity at least the
regional groups that recognize a common origin in the FSRE
This means that the authorities of the Association, of its
journals and newsletters, of the organizing committees of its
symposia, should include people from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin
America and North America, in credible numbers and in truly
decision-making capacities. It also means that the international
symposia should sometimes be held in areas other than the US, and
that its frequency should be restudied to accommodate the regional
An international AFSRE would need to be organized of the basis
of a federation of regional initiatives, since it is not likely
that the former would agree to disband in order to become part of
an international AFSRE.
Fourth, the Association for Farming Systems Research and
Extension must be able to obtain adequate resources.
Farming systems research and extension tells us that, in
designing a new or improved system, one must consider the con-
straints imposed by the socioeconomic environment. This principle
applies perfectly well to the issue that we are now debating.
DRAF DO NOT QUOTE
To play a stronger role in the promotion of new ideas, to join
with other people in this effort, and to become an international
forum, the AFSRE must obtain a minimum level of funding, to
implement a specific plan organized around the goals and objectives
fi ally defined by the membership. It is not likely that without
this support the AFSRE can support an even modestly ambitious plan
fo change and renewal, and without this plan, the whole question
of the contribution of the Association will need to be debated in
a very serious and concrete manner.
Be degud, J. A. 1990. NGOs and farmers' organizations in research
and extension in Chile. Network Paper 19. Overseas Development
Institute-Agricultural Administration (Research and Extension)
Low, A.R.C., S.R. Waddington and E.M. Shumba. 1991. On-farm
re search in Southern Africa: The prospects for achieving greater
impact. Page 257-272 in R. Tripp, ed., Planned Change in Farming
Systems: Progress in on-farm research. West Sussex, England: John
Wiley & Sons.
Tripp, R. 1991. The limitations of on-farm research. Pages 247-256
in R. Tripp, ed., Planned Change in Farming Systems: Progress in
on-farm research. West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons.
I I E Pap:1
REGIONAL ROOTS AND IMPACT OF FSR/E IN ASIA*
Academic institutions are traditionally set up and organized for
specialization to advance the frontiers of knowledge. They are primarily
discipline-oreinted and their professional staff are highly specialized. Training
programs and granted degrees are also discipline-oreinted. Thus, information and
research results generated by traditional research methods are not relavent to
the farm environment and consequently not readily accepted by the farmers,
particularly those with limited resources. The farming systems research (FSR) or
farming systems research and extension (FSRE) approach was developed as an
alternative generating technologies suitable to small farm environments.
Essentially, FSR refers to research that focuses on the farm household and views
the entire farm and its larger environment in a holistic manner. It requires an
involvement of a interdisciplinary team of natural and social scientists.
The FSR approach was adopted and widely used by Asian researchers. The scope
of research programs and disciplines involved have been broadened. Research is
carried out in the farmers' fields as well as in the experimental farms.
Technologies are tested under the farm environment with farmers' participation.
Today agricultural research approaches in Asia has changed considerably. This
paper attempts to review the impacts of this approach in terms of concepts,
research methodologies, and institutions.
2. EVOLUTION AND IMPACTS
After World War II, remarkable progress in crop intensification took place in
Taiwan. Taiwanese farmers can grow as many as five crops per year from the same
field, using intercropping, relay cropping and sequential cropping methods. These
cropping systems have been developed for irrigated areas in the subtropical
climate that cannot be wholly transferred to the humid tropics. Intensive farming
systems research in tropical Asia started almost three decades ago when IRRI
initiated the rice-based cropping systems programs in 1964. Early studies at IRRI
showed that intensive multiple cropping can significantly increase food
production and income of the farmers. In 1975, IRRI formulated the Asian Cropping
Systems Network (ACSN) to launch the collaborative programs with several Asian
nations in developing and testing cropping patterns suitable to local
Considerable multiple cropping research has been practiced on the Indian
subcontinent. Research programs there emphasized more in identifying cropping
systems suitable for rainfed areas typical of the subcontinent. With the Ford
Foundation support, Chiangmai and Khon Kaen Universities started their cropping
* paper presented at the 12th Annual Farming Systems Symposium held at Michigan
State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA, during September 13-18, 1992.
** Associate Professor, Faculty of Agriculture, and Director of Research and
Development Institute, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand.
(3) The Farming Systems Research Institute (FSRI) of Department of
Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Thailand.
In 1976, the Rice Division of the Department of Agriculture (DOA), MOAC,
launched a joint project with Kasetsart University (KU) on rice-based cropping
systems. The project received financial supports from the International
Development Research Centre (IDRC), and closely linked with the cropping systems
program of IRRI through the Asian Cropping Systems Network. Under this project,
a variety of rice-based cropping systems as well as component technologies were
evaluated on farm in few research sites in the Northeast and Central Regions
(Chandrapanya and Banta, 1979).
The Department of Agriculture is one of the departments of the Ministry of
Agriculture whose mandate is to conduct research in agriculture. The primary
units of the department are the commodity institutes such as the rice research
institute. FSRI was established in 1982 as the result of the DOA reorganization.
The role of the FSRI is to conduct on-farm interdisciplinary research,
integrating specific discipline-based recommendations into a whole farm system,
and feeding back problems identified onfarm to appropriate commodity research
institutes or disciplinary research sections. The FSRI also has a unique research
role of its own, particularly in examining specific cropping patterns and
integrated farming. At present, the FSRI has several research units located in
different parts of the country, and the activities, though still concentrate on
cropping systems, have been expanded to include crop-animal integration as well.
(4) The Farming Systems Research Project of Prince of Songkhla University,
Prince of Songkhla University (PSU) is one of major university in the southern
part of Thailand. With the support from the French government, The Faculty of
Natural Resources of PSU started an FSR project in 1982 using the Francophone
approach. Lately, FSR activities at Prince of Sonhkla University have greatly
declined as the French supports were terminated. However, the system approach is
continued to use in research and development of various fields of studies.
(5) The Farming Systems Research Activities of The Asian Institute of
Technology (AIT), Thailand.
The Asian Institute of Technology is an autonomous, non-profit, international
and co-educational post graduate technological institution located near Bangkok,
providing education in engineering, science and allied fields. There are nine
Academic Divisions such as Agricultural and Food Engineering. An
interdisciplinary program in Agricultural Systems began in 1986 to add a new
dimension to traditional fields of study by applying the system approach to
research and development. The primary focus is on integrated farming systems
involving crops, livstock and fish. AIT now offers Master of Science in
(6) Farming Systems Research at International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
IRRI is one of the pioneer in using a system approach in agricultural research
and development and has been a leader in developing concepts and methodologies
of FSR (Gomez 1991, Hoque 1984). Starting in the late 1960s, IRRI scientists
started a multiple cropping research program to increase the productivity of
rice-based cropping systems. The IRRI rice-based cropping systems was accepted
widely by its cooperators in Asia. IRRI's farming systems research has now become
integrated in its major ecosystems-based programs. The implementation of this
research is increasingly in close partnership with national research programs
through research consortium for upland rice, rainfed lowland rice, and deepwater
and tidal wetland rice ecosystems. In 1975, IRRI organized and formulated the
Asian Cropping Systems Network (ACSN). The Asian Cropping Systems Network
provides opportunities for IRRI and national programs to jointly develop rice-
based cropping systems in major rice environments of Asia.
(7) The Farming Systems and Soil Resources Institute(FSSRI) of the University
of the Philippines at Los Banos (UPLB).
UPLB is the leading agricultural university in the Philipines. The majority
of the country's research activities in agriculture, forestry, and rural
development are done at UPLB. The Collage of Agriculture has the University's
largest faculty group and under its supervision are disciplinary departments and
research centers and institutes. The FSSRI is one of the institute responsible
for conducting short-term training and research in farming systems. Much of its
research is designed to intensify land use in areas primarily grown to single
commodities such as rice, sugarcane, and coconut (Gomez 1991).
(8) The Farming Systems Research in Indonesia.
The history of FSR in Indonesia goes back to 1970 when on-station multiple
cropping experiments of IRRI were started at Bogor (Manwan 1989). More testing
locations were included in the following year with the funding from the USAID.
Systematic on- farm interdisciplinary work was started in 1973 at Indramayu in
West Java and Central Lampung. In 1975, International Development Research Center
(IDRC) provided additional support for crop-livestock research. In 1976, the
Ministry of Transmigration, with the World Bank loan, requested that research be
extended to the transmigration sites with their financial support. These requests
were followed by USAID-funded projects in West, Central, and East Java, and the
World Bank funded in Nusa Tenggara Timur and Nusa Tenggara Barat, South Sumatera
and South Kalimantan. By 1978 there were 25 operational sites in four major
islands. In 1980, The CentralResearch Institute of Agriculture (CRIA) became the
Central Research Institute for Food Crops (CRIFC).
2.2 Coordination Among the FSR Units
(1) Thailand FSR Network
In Thailand, FSR has been conducted for over 20 years. The organizations
actively involving in FSR are the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC)
i.e. FSRI and universities with faculty of agriculture (Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen,
Kasetsart, and Prince of Songkhla universities). Currently, the approach has been
well established and greatly expanded in the national agricultural research and
extension systems. There are also several other organizations doing on-farm
research using some, if not all, of the FSR methodologies, most of which are
associated with foreign funded projects.
To exchange information and stimulate coordination among different
organizations conducting FSR in Thailand, the national FSR Coordinating Committee
was formed. The main task of this Committee is to organize a national FSR
meeting. Up to 1991, 5 national cropping systems meetings and 8 national farming
systems meetings had been held. Through continued efforts of various
organizations, FSR concepts has currently been expanded into commodity research
and extension. The DOA had set a policy to use FSR approach for commodity on-farm
research. The DOAE had also revised its extension program planning process in
which some of the FSR concepts and methodologies were incorporated in the
extension program planning and implementation. Apparently, the FSR concepts and
methodologies are gradually being integrated into the national research and
(2) The Asian Cropping Systems Network (ACSN)
In 1975, IRRI organized a workshop to determine the status of rice-based
cropping systems in the region and to explore possibilities for future
collaboration (Hoque 1984). The workshop has resulted in the formation of the
Asian Cropping Systems Network. The ACSN consists of the IRRI Cropping Systems
Program and national programs of most of Asian countries including Bamgladesh,
Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, South Korea, Sri
Lanka and Thailand.
The main objectives are (a) to develop cropping systems technology for the
major rice-growing areas of Asia; (b) to enable IRRI to extend relevant
technology and research methodology into national programs; (c) to establish and
develop strong national cropping systems programs; (d) to provide a series of
data points on the Asian agroclimatic grid, for determining the cropping systems
potential in major rice areas, for utilization by the policymakers and
development planners for agricultural development in the region; (e) to provide
a mechanism for joint program planning and review between the national programs
and IRRI; and (f) to help organize international and regional meetings,
workshops, conferences, and symposiums on cropping systems research and
development. The ACSN has provided a vital framework for international
cooperative research, a mechanism for exchange of research information and
feedback from farmers.
(3) The Asian Farming Systems Association (AFSA)
During the Seventh Annual Symposium, at the University of Arkansas in 1988,
Asian participants expressed a desire to organize their own symposium. After two
years of work, the International Organization Committee was able to hold the
First Asian Farming Systems Symposium for Asian region. The symposium, titled
"Sustainable Farming Systems in 21st Century Asia," was held at the Asian
Institute of Technology in Bangkok, Thailand from 19 to 22 November, 1990.
The 224 participants represented government agencies, universities, and non-
governmental organizations from Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia,
Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and
Vietnam, as well as regional and international research institutes. One hundred
thirteen papers and twenty-six posters were presented during the four-day
program. Presentations followed three distinct themes: (1) appraisal of
approaches to FSRE for addressing future needs; (2) assessment of the impact of
FSRE on the environment, households, and institutions; and (3) future directions
for FSRE in Asia.
The Symposium has resulted in the formation of the Asian Farming Systems
Association (AFSA). The Association also publishes the Journal of the Asian
Farming Systems Association. The second symposium will be held during 2-5
November 1992, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, entitled "Sustainable Agriculture: Meeting
the Challenge Today".
(4) The Southeast Asian Universities Agroecosystem Network (SUAN)
SUAN is a loose and informal association of university-based research groups
in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. The development of SUAN has been a
long process and represents the outcome of more than a decade of hard work by
dozens of individuals in a large number of institutions. It is a long and
thoughtful process that started in the 1970's. It has also involved several
important steps. The process of networking started with individual research
groups working independently on rural resource problems, becoming familiar with
each other's work, developing mutual respect and trust, and recognizing the
potential advantages and mutual benefits of exchanging information and experience
with other research groups with common interests and concerns. This led to the
formal establishment of SUAN in June 1982.
The core groups that formed SUAN consisted of the following institutions.
1. The Multiple Cropping Centre [MCC] at Chiangmai University,
2. The Farming Systems Research Project [FSR] at Khon Kaen University,
Khon Kaen, Thailand.
3. The Institute of Ecology [IOE] et Padjadjaran University, Bandung,
4. The Institute of Environmental Science and Management [IESAM] at the
University of the Philippines at Los Banos, Philippines.
5. The Cordillera Studies Center [CSC] at the University of the
Philippines College Baguio, Baguio City, Philippines.
SUANs' activities include the sharing and exchange of information through the
conduct of regional symposia, seminars, workshops, publications, and training;
collaborative interdisciplinary research in which the scientific expertise and
capabilities of SUAN member institutions are focused on critical rural resource
problems facing the region. SUAN also promotes interdisciplinary research,
testing and adopting new frameworks and approaches e.g., human ecology,
agroecosystem analysis, rapid rural appraisal, farming systems research and
various combinations of these that have been applied to various situations in
Although several diverse concepts and methods have been adopted, the common
elements of rural resource research are as follows: (1) employs a systems
approach, (2) incorporates both social and biological components in analysis, (3)
employs an interdisciplinary team approach and (4) formulates the results of
scientific research into resource development and management policies. In 1988,
SUAN embarked on the new phase by establishing a Secretariat in the region and
a Governing Board. The Regional Secretariat is based permanently at Khon Kaen
University while the chairmanship rotates among senior scientists at member
institutes every 18 months.
2.3 Impacts on Research Procedures
As mentioned above, the FSR approach is widely used by the Asian scientists.
Farming systems research has evolved many variations and expressions. Changes
have occurred in all stages of FSR procedures; site descriptions and diagnosis,
design, testing, and dissemination. The most important effects are observed by
Zandstra (1991) as follows:
(1) Description and diagnosis
The stage of site description and diagnosis in FSRE has improved greatly over
the years. It has evolved from a formal survey approach into a more interactive
process that involves farmers and other key informants in the community
(Collinson 1979, Rhoades 1985). During the 1980s, further refinements of
agroecosystem analysis (AA) and rapid rural appraisal (RRA) placed greater
emphasis on the linkages between systems at the field, farm, village, and region
levels (Conway 1986). The agroecosystem analysis, consisting of three basic
steps; system definition, pattern analysis, and research design and
implementation, provides the overview of the target areas, availability of
resources, constraints and opportunity for improvement.
The planning of research strategies and the design of technology remain weak.
For crops and most livestock, the important production constraints are relatively
well established, and diagnostic capabilities have improved much. The
opportunities available to remove those constraints should be defined in the
context of the prevailing environmental, market, and policy conditions.
The use of "key questions" in agroecosystem analysis (Conway 1986) or decision
trees and problem ranking (Lightfoot et al. 1988) have helped identify areas for
which solutions need to be sought. Procedures for technology design and ex ante
evaluation still do not sufficiently reflect concerns for sustainability and
stability of production systems. The problems are partly due to difficult
measurements associated with the complexity of sustainability. Simulation models
can be of help in the design of new farming systems. The combination of
simulation models with GIS should allow better estimation of the performance of
Farmer participation is also important in the design and ex ante evaluation
of technology (Fujisaka 1989). With farmer participation, research become clearly
focused on farmers' constraints and opportunities. They can review the solutions
against their own farm environments and its interactions with technology. They
can best asset and identify suitable technologies for their own farms.
The process of technology testing also changed greatly from the experimental
farms to on-farm trial with farmer participation. The testing stage of FSR
normally falls into three categories: researcher-managed and -implemented;
researcher-managed, farmer-implemented; and farmer-managed and-implemented. On-
farm testing with farmer participation is important in identifying technologies
suitable to local environments where the technologies will be used. Thus, if the
trial is implemented by researchers, farmers should be invited to take part.
Ideally, all trials should be designed by both researchers and farmers.
2.4 Impacts on Training Programs
The FSR approach has been institutionalized in different forms ranging from
individual courses i.e. farming systems research to the whole degree programs
such as Master's degree in Agricultural Systems (Gomez 1991). Several
postgraduate degree programs focusing on farming systems have been instituted in
the region. Some of examples are as follows:
(1) Master of Science in Agricultural Systems at the Asian Institute of
Technology. The program requires 30 units of course work plus thesis. The
required courses are a systems approach to agricultural development, crop
production systems, livestock production systems, aquaculture systems and farm
economics. Three of the 30 units are for electives. Course work can be completed
in one year.
(2) Master of Science in Agricultural Systems at Chiang Mai University. the
program nomally takes two years to finish and consists of four core courses on
agricultural systems; three courses on either production or development; minimum
of three elective courses; and special topics in agricultural systems. The degree
program has two options of specialization; production and development.
(3) Diploma in Farming Systems Research at Khon kaen University. Designed as
a one-year program with a minimum of 21 credit units of course work. This program
will be later developed into Master of science in agricultural systems.
(4) Diploma in Agriculture, major in Farming Systems at the University of the
Philippines at Los Banos. This is a 12-month program requiring 34 units of course
work, 16 of which are in a major area. There are now nine major areas, farming
systems, which will be implemented in school year 1991-19, becomes the tenth.
The master's programs focus primarily on the concepts and tools of
interdisciplinary systems approach for the analysis of agricultural systems for
the purpose of the design, implementation and evaluation of research and
development programs. The emphasis of the diploma courses in on tools, techniques
and procedures used by the FSRE approach.
3. FUTURE DIRECTIONS FOR ASIAN FSRE
All Asian countries are now facing the critical issues of population pressure
and environmental degradation that lead to the problems of endangering
agricultural productivity, farm incomes and food prices. The issues of
sustainability becomes very important and new sustainable farming systems are
needs. The AFSS recommended continued and strengthened support for FSRE. More
attention should be paid to the efficiency and impact of FSRE. Guidelines for
future directions of FSRE as recommended by the AFSS can be quoted here as
Broadening scope : FSRE will continue to offer a useful paradigm for research
on technology generation. Yet the scope of FSRE may be broadened to integrate
more farm enterprises, and to work more readily at the family, village,
agroecosystem, or watershed level, under some conditions, FSRE practitions may
need to pay more attention to nontechnical factors that affect technology
generation and adoption, such as institutional constraints or agricultural
Affecting policy : FSRE procedures should be among those best suited for
generating technologies appropriate for resource-poor farmers in complex, diverse
environments. However, research focusing on resource conservation can generate
recommendations that endanger the economic interests of low-income farmers.
Researchers must be careful to weigh the likely distribution of benefits arising
from resource-conserving innovations.
Incorporating external factors: FSRE practitioners have typically given
inadequate attention to transaction costs, common property resources, pricing
policies, and other external factors that can cause private and social costs or
benefits to diverge. Policies to address land degradation, agroecosystem
diversity, and links between agriculture and global pollution will have
increasing impact on farming systems. FSRE practitioners should be prepared to
deal with such external factors.
Setting priorities: It may prove impossible for FSRE programs to expand in all
directions at the same time. Just as researchers must set priorities among
technical research themes, so must they set priorities among directions for
expansion. This will require careful matching between specific FSRE approaches
and institutional restrictions, environmental conditions, etc.
Involving farmers: The role of farmers in FSRE should be expanded.
Sustainalbe practices practices often have their roots in farmers' experiments
and the recommendations of innovative farmers. Farmers can also be used to train
other farmers and to collect and report data when appropriate.
Working for sustainability: Researchers and research managers must understand
and examine agroecosystem diversity, links between agricultural enterprises, and
the vulnerability of agricultural systems to global pollution and climate change.
FSRE offers methods for assessing changes in farmers' circumstances over time,
and should be especially useful in recommending strategies for sustainability.
Integrating systems: As sustainability becomes a higher priority for FSRE, the
notion of "biological restructuring" of farm enterprises increases in importance.
Restructuring emphasizes nutrient and energy cycling, and requires integration
of new enterprises. An integrated system maximizes the recycling of waste and
by-products between different enterprises within the farm.
Building models: Conceptual and mathematical models must be developed and
improved. Formal modeling can be complex and expensive, however. Researchers
should take care not to become overly reliant on formal models, and modelers
should be aware of the need for substantial farmer input in model construction.
Assessing impact: There has been relatively little documented impact of FSRE
at the farm level. Greater impact is expected over the next ten years, and this
must be clearly and convincingly monitoring and evaluation are well developed,
few FSRE practioners are familiar with them. Far more attention must be paid to
assessing the impact of FSRE activities.
Emphasizing gender: FSRE practitioners should understand and emphasize the
role of women, especially in ecological restoration and in income generation when
food or cash is scarce. This improved understanding must be brought to bear on
research design and evaluation. Research managers must target women as
beneficiaries of FSRE activities, and must work to increase female participation
as FSRE professionals.
Strengthening research links: Links between FSRE researchers and disciplinary
and commodity scientists must be strengthened. All scientists working on
agricultural technology generation should be encouraged to work from a systems
perspective. The challenge is to convince disciplinary scientists of the value
of FSRE tools and concepts.
Working with extension: Farming systems research must link more directly with
extension services. This will require the development of simplified, streamlined
procedures -- a minimalist approach. Farmers themselves should be called on to
perform more extension functions through farmer-to-farmer training activities.
Teaming up with NGOs: When research resources are limited, nongovernment
organizations (NGOs) can be of immense help in directing technology generation
activities towards small farmers. Moreover, NGO participation can foster
creativity in the development of FSRE procedures. Governmental FSRE programs
should strengthen their links with NGOs.
Improving training: The new directions suggested for Asian FSRE will require
FSRE professionals to develop new skills. Universities and agricultural education
systems must be prepared to meet this challenge.
Association for Asian Farming Systems Research and Extension Practitioners, 1991.
Asian Farming Systems Association, Manila, Philippines.
Collinson,M.P.,1979. Understanding small farmers. Paper given at a conference on
rapid rural appraisal, 4-7 December 1979, IDS. University of Sussex,
Conway, G.R., 1986. Agroecosystem analysis for research and development. Winrock
Fujisaka, S., 1989. A method for farmer-participatory research and technology
transfer: upland soil conservation in the Philippines. Expl. Agric. 25:423-
Gomez, A.A., 1991. Farming systems:Impact on research and training institutions.
J. Asian Farm. Syst. Assoc. 1(1991): 21-28.
Hoque,M.Z., 1984. Cropping systems in Asia: on-farm research and management.
International Rice Research Institute, Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines.
Manwan,Ibrahim, 1989. Farming systems research in Indonesia: its evolution and
future outlook. InS. Sukmana, P. Amir, and D.M. Mulyadi, eds. Developments in
procedures for farming systems research. Proceeding of an international
workshop, Bogor, Indonesia, March 13-17, 1989. Agency for Agricultural
Research and Development. Jakarta, Indonesia.
Rhoades, R.E., 1985. Informal survey methods for farming systems research. Human
Zandstra, H.G.,1991. Approach in farming systems research and extension: problems
and improvements. J. Asian Farm. Syst. Assoc. 1(1991):101-111.
Khon Kaen University
Khon Kaen 40002
Tel. (043) 241146
Fax. (043) 243097
FSR in LAC: Past Experience and Challenges for the
EDGARDO R. MOSCARDI2
This paper intends to bring to the surface the main questions around FSR
pr blems and opportunities in LAC, given the dynamic of the economic development
an the past and future role of agriculture and agricultural research in the region.
First part of the paper develops briefly the LAC agricultural development in
perspective, pointing out the new role for agriculture as an engine for economic
growth, and the importance of technological progress as a source to increase
Second part, deals with the role of FSR under past and new circumstances,
in solving the private sector, donor agencies, international centers, and the new
demands for agricultural research and extension.
Third and final part, presents the challenges for the future healthy survival of
FSR in LAC. Training is emphasized as a strategical consideration requiring a more
fo mal and systematic approach in support to FSR.
1 Paper presented at the AFSR/E Symposium, Michigan State
University. September 13-18, 1992. East Lansing.
2IICA's Representative in Colombia, Ciudad Universitaria,
Carrera 30-Calle 45, Apartado Aereo 14592, Bogota, Colombia.
FAX 2-696039, Telephone 2-697100/1442868.
II LAC AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT IN PERSPECTIVE
Abrupt changes have been observed in the LAC region since the 50's in terms
of growth, urbanization and modernization, along with a marked trend to diminish the
reliance of economic activity of the primary sector spurred by important developments
in industry and services. The strategy of import substitution and cheap food policies
of the 60's, supplemented by export promotion in the 70's were based on a model
of industrialization largely at the expense of the agricultural sector.
Agriculture went from contributing 21% to GNP and 54% to employment in the
50's, to the current levels of 10% and 25% respectively in rough numbers.
The failure of the import substitution and self-sufficiency model became evident
in the 80's, to the point that the decade has been labeled the "lost decade" Lost, due
to structural problems related to the high debt situation LAC has been the region
hardest hit by the international debt crisis -, permanent fiscal deficits, hyperinflation,
unemployment, and the outburst of parallel and informal economies, that finally led
to decapitalization and recession of the region. By 1989, per capite income was 12%
lower than in 1980, and investment decreased in the same period from 24% to 16%
of the GNP. Besides, together with this loss in acquisitive power, there was a
worsening of the terms of trade. The value of agricultural production grew at an
annual rate of 2% for the period 1979-86, at the time that imports decreased at an
annual 5.3% for the same period. The LAC region has been at net food importer for
the last 15 years, and a loss in nutrient intake was registered, as compared with the
But the 1980-90 decade has not been lost in terms of lessons for agriculture.
In spite of the model of the 70's based on discrimination, in almost every country this
sector outperformed the rest of the economy. Besides, agriculture expanded its
link ges with other sectors and services, and agroindustry has been the main
co ponent of the observed growth in manufactures. Taken as a whole, the
agr cultural complex has been, not only efficient, but also the most dynamic of the
ec nomies in LAC. The development of those backward and forward linkages, along
wit the efficiency and dynamism of this complex, make it a unique one for the
reactivation of the economic engine, and constitute the basis for pointing at
agriculture as the most plausible source of economic development for the coming
years in the LAC region (Pirfeiro, 1989).
The beginning of the decade of the 90's has seen many countries in LAC
seriously engaged in reforming inefficient policies of the past. Progress has been
mde in "getting prices right", in liberalization policies shaping more open economies,
and in trade integration with the emergence of several new mega-markets, e.g. the
Free Trade Agreement (FTA) involving Mexico, USA and Canada, the MERCOSUR
in solving countries of the southern cone, among others.
Under these new set of policies, the issue of competitiveness for agriculture has
ccme into the arena. The role of technological progress has been emphasized as an
egine of overall economic growth, and as the one fairly reliable key to underpinning
the future productivity gains that will be needed on the supply side of the world food
e uation (Petit and Anderson, 1991). Within this context for technological progress
n w opportunities for FSR are at hand, in particular for the LAC region, since now
ith the face out of subsidy and discrimination policies and more open economies in
t e region, agriculture will have to rely on technology almost as a unique source to
improve its competitivity. Having said this, a word about the relation between
agricultural technology and rural poverty is appropriate. Even for LAC, despite of high
urbanization rates, poverty tends to be more serious in rural areas, and it has
increased quite dramatically in the last ten years. Under these circumstances, it has
been common to think in technology as a tool to shift the distribution of income in
favor of the rural poor, but technology is only one of three factors that determines
incomes, the other two being resources under control and price received for the
outputs (Schuch, 1988). Technical change in food grains has been an important
instrument for alleviating poverty in many countries, particularly in Asia. For the case
of the LAC region, with increasing incomes and more open economies, it is likely to
occur a weakening of the link between augments in food grain productivity and
reduction in poverty through lower prices for food staples. This is because in an open
economy increases in agricultural productivity are less likely to be translated into lower
prices for consumers (Byerlee, 1991). These are facts within market open economies
that FSR will need to internalize in order to remain as a relevant enterprise.
Along with policy reforms, there are two other strategic considerations to
assure the key roles for agriculture in development, they are: institutional building or
enhancement, and the management of natural resources. LAC has been quite rich in
developing national as well as regional institutions serving the agricultural sector
(Moscardi, 1992). However, looking at the quality of governance of some of those
institutions gives one no great cause for comfort (Petit and Anderson, 1991). Ruttan
has recently emphasized the importance of developing "incentive compatible
institutions", between the private and social objectives, pointing out that in absence
of such institutions, more efficient than the actual ones, the transaction costs implicit
in the ad-hoc approaches will be probably quite high (Ruttan, 1991). The third area
of concern is natural resource management. More open economies and trade
integration along with that new role for agriculture as an engine for economic growth,
will lead to a greater specialization and higher intensification in the agricultural
production process for the LAC region. Consequently there will be an additional and
dangerous pressure over the natural resource base. Agricultural research in general
and FSR in particular, have been often in the past too dominated by short-sighted
methods. Technical progress can be an important element in sustaining the resource
base, both directly through developmentof "environmental-friendly" technologies, and
indirectly through reducing the pressure to move to more marginal lands (Byerlee,
III ROLE OF FSR: PAST AND PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES
To analyze the FSR movement from a historical perspective seems to be the
logic frame for an interpretation of its impact and future role in agricultural research
for the LAC region. Certainly, the underlying circumstances and problems motivating
the beginning of FSR, almost twenty years ago, were quite different to those
developing countries are facing now and particularly the LAC region.
Basic concern in the late sixties was that few farmers in developing countries
were following the recommendations of researchers and extension workers. Based
on a series of CIMMYT sponsored country studies examining factors influencing the
ad ption of new maize and wheat technologies (essentially improved varieties and
hi her rates of fertilizer), it was concluded that:
The most persuasive explanation of why some farmers do not adopt new
va ieties and fertilizers while others do, is that the expected increase in yield for some
farmers is small or nil, while for others it is significant, due to differences (sometimes
subtle) in soils, climate, water availability or other biological factors (Perrin and
Those studies and other developed for different crops and regions, gave support
to the idea that recommended technologies, were often not appropriate for
re resentative farmers. This, in turn implied that more attention be given to the
research systems which develop technologies (Winkelmann and Moscardi, 1979).
One basic lesson from these studies was clear for FSR practitioners: "income and risk
were prominent farmer concerns, and these variables strongly influenced by the
natural and socioeconomic conditions of particular farming systems were farmers
made choices about alternative technologies".
At the bottom of this discussion there is a difference in perspective as a natural
consequence of scientific specialization. Farmers perceive the value of economic
information including that pertaining to new superior crop varieties and associated
inputs more readily than crop scientists perceive the value of economic information
relevant to their own work (Schultz, 1980). Perspectives and methods developed by
FSR, have contributed to agricultural research by conveying economic and other
information and analysis to those crop and other scientists engaged in forging
improved technologies. Regardless changes in the perceived problems and
circumstances that certainly have taken place in the last two decades, the task of
conveying relevant on-farm information to agricultural scientists is seen as a
permanent and fundamental activity for FSR.
The beginning of FSR was inevitably stained by the schultzian "poor but -
efficient hypothesis" Hence, most increases in productivity had to come about
through introduction of new high pay-off inputs into traditional agricultural systems,
leaving little room to improve economic efficiency in farmers' resource use. Speeding
up the adoption of Green Revolution type of technologies, was by those days one
basic concern for a many FSR practioners. As a consequence, emphasis was on
research problems requiring results intended for near o intermediate term application,
e.g. varieties, fertilizers and pest control technologies.
Anotherimportant observation for developing countries is that during the sixties
and the seventies, few entities agri-business complex, NGOs, farmer's
organizations were engaged in any on-farm work, sort of mediating between an
agricultural research highly concentrated on problems emphasized by professional
disciplines, and the reality of representative farmers (Winkelmann and Moscardi,
At least for LAC, perceived problems and circumstances related to agricultural
research and extension have changed significatively in the last twenty years. Firstly,
ma y low and middle income countries have experienced an important transformation
of 'heir agricultural sector through technical change. In these countries, the required
technological progress for the future, at least for grains, is likely to be that of the
po t-green revolution type, much more knowledge and skill intensive than in the past.
M reover, in those countries, incomes have now reached a level when food grains will
te d to decline both, as a share of farmer' income and as a share of
co sumers'expenditures. Consequently, a natural process of diversification has
st rted with consumers demanding higher value food products such as fruits and
vegetables, and meat and milk (Byerlee, 1991).
This transformation in the economies of the countries, along with the
de elopment of a more commercial agriculture, domestic as well as export oriented,
is likely to bring important changes at the farming system level with less products,
and perhaps more monoculture, on the one side and more intensification on the other.
Needless to say how all this will affect the sustainability of agricultural production.
These are again some of the consequences of the model for economic development
being implemented in LAC, with deep implications for agricultural research in general
and FSR in particular.
Secondly and closely related with the first are the problems associated with
environment and natural resources degradation, plus those derived from the need of
equity in terms of social groups, gender, farm size and generations, posing a great
challenge for the development of "environmental gender etc friendly"
technologies. A certain degree of complexity and the need for a longer term research
will be unavoidably to develop that type of technologies.
Thirdly, it has been noticeable the participation of the private sector in
experimentation and adaptive research, fulfilling some times the role of integrating
entities and contributing to make research systems more effective in forging improved
new technologies. Some of the traditional INIAS (Semi-autonomous national
agricultural research institutes), the main institutional innovation of the sixties in LAC,
are becoming nearly private entities, e.g. the INIA of Uruguay. Several agricultural
research foundations have been created and operate under the guidance of directing
boards with participation of farmers and other social actors; a number of joint
ventures to generate and transfer agricultural technologies have been developed
between the traditional INIAS and the private sector, utilizing appropriate incentives
to encourage researchers of those public institutions to play an integrative role;
farmer's organizations have developed their own schemes for agricultural
experimentation and applied research. Finally, the agri-business complex has expanded
encouraged by intellectual property rights laws for agriculture operating now in several
countries of the region. Despite all these, private sector efforts still remain small in
comparison to their potential contribution.
Last twenty years have seen the LAC region building up a research system
which is mature enough both, to develop closer partnership with the international
center of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and
other research institutions in developed countries, and to establish networks for
cooperative research and information sharing among different countries. There are
four actors in this system that have had good interactions in the different regions of
LAC, they are: the INIAS of the countries and their partner institutions, a set of
regional programs and networks for reciprocal cooperation in the exchange of
experience and joint research, two regional research and education Centers, the
Centro Agron6mico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensefanza (CATIE) and the Caribbean
Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), and the three CGIAR
international centers located in LAC (CIMMYT, CIAT and CIP). The idea is that a
system like this can effect a better division of labor in agricultural research,
introducing a more efficient utilization of resources and comparative advantages of
each institutional actor (IICA, 1991).
This system has provided excellent grounds for a proliferation of on-farm and
FSR methodologies in the region. The CGIAR centers located in LAC pursued a range
of SR approaches that produced a rich variety of research methods and results but
als contributed to growing uncertainty regarding the place of FSR within the INIAS
(Tr pp, 1991). The Farming System Support Project at the University of Florida,
sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was
another source of FSR methods and training that had influence in Central America and
C TIE. Several attempts have been made for institutionalization of FSR in INIAS of
th region, noticeable in Guatemala, Panama and Ecuador (Merrill- Sands, et al, 1989).
It could be said without any doubt, that so far most agricultural research
institutes in LAC have developed some form of on-farm or FSR capabilities or program.
M st interesting, some former trainees of OFR/FSR courses and seminars are by now
exercising responsibilities as research managers in research programs and
Following the idea that the contributions of FSR can be classified as
perspectives and methods, are the former perhaps where an impact can be seen
judging from the fact that agricultural research priorities are now less planned from
the top down, while more effort is being made to understand local farming conditions
ard problems as a base for planning research (Tripp, 1991). Regarding methods,
procedures for the various stages of FSR have been adopted in bits and pieces by
s veral research programs in LAC. It is probably the stage of diagnosis, with the
several methods developed for gathering information and interviewing farmers, the
one with the largest number of followers. Assessment, in particular through the
application of partial budgets for economic analysis of trials data, has gained too a
nr mber of adept. Planning and experimentation are the stages where either, methods
ere developed later or face the inertia of that experimental tradition of having nice
trials, with little farmers participation. These two stages are precisely the ones to be
revised in light of the implications, for agricultural research and FSR, of the model for
economic development being implemented in LAC.
In brief, despite the fact that FSR could have been poorly implemented in many
regions and projects in LAC, both in terms of incomplete application of the FSR stages
and relative failure in meeting high research standards, there are still many examples
of high quality work that have resulted in delivering "really improved" technologies to
Question now is how to keep the effort going on and adapt FSR to contribute
to the new challenges for agricultural research and extension.
Three sets of problems are behind a certain loss in institutional strength
observed lastly in the FSR movement. Firstly, there are the problems associated with
the organization and management of this type of research in national programs and
due to this the perception, and consequently the criticism, that FSR instead of
improving the efficiency of the research process, has became and end in itself (Tripp,
1991). Secondly, the withdrawal of support from international centers and external
donors has created not only uncertainty for future funding of FSR projects, but also
a limitation in the opportunities for training in this field. Thirdly, most public
agricultural research programs in LAC have expanded very quickly in the past. The
number of commodities with some degree of research coverage have increased
rapidly, and the research staff grew over time, despite an often high turnover, at
faster rates than funding in real terms. As a consequence, average spending per
researcher has tended to decline, in particular for operational expenses. In turn, FSR
work requiring increased field presence and an assignment of staff to particular
farming systems and areas within a country, have suffered more this lack of funding
for operational expenses.
IV CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE OF FSR IN LAC
In light of those new circumstances facing agricultural research and technology
tra sfer, FSR will have to develop and/or enhance backward and forward type of links.
Ba kward linkages with applied and strategic research, to ensure the incorporation of
a longer term vision in FSR. Forward linkages with technology transfer and technical
assistance, to bring the perspectives and methods of FSR for the solution of some of
th6 problems associated with the second generation of inputs and management
practices of modern agriculture. Links between FSR and other actors in the research
pr cess have been traditionally quite weak. The new demands for agricultural
research and extension create further needs to develop incentives, institutional as well
as pecuniary, to strength such links.
FSR teams have been often dominated by social scientists, under the paradigm
that planned agricultural change needed to be organized around a clear understanding
of farmer's conditions and priorities. The expansion of the research agenda with the
in corporation of new dimensions, such as the one around sustainable agriculture, of
particular importance in the LAC region given the new role assigned to the sector, will
demand from FSR teams a much more multi and interdisciplinary work than in the
pst, in order to develop the new methods required to forge "environmental-friendly"
In many areas of LAC, a new and more complex second generation of inputs
a d management practices are playing an increasing role in productivity growth.
I vestments in better information and skills of farmers, to improve economic efficiency
i using this wider away of inputs are needed to maintain the momentum in post
green revolution agriculture (Byerlee, 1987). It has been argued that in a dynamic
agriculture which is being the case in LAC with the tendency to more open
economies and free trade--, farmers are continually in a state of disequilibrium and
that there are high returns to better information and skills to improve farmer's
economic efficiency (Schultz, 1975).
A second set of challenging issues confronting FSR, is related with the effective
institutional arrangements and the more efficient resource use. Two ISNAR large
studies, one dealing with Organization and Management of On-Farm Client-Oriented
Research, and the other with Research and Technology Transfer Linkages, have
produced many enlighting principles and lessons in these fields but so far at least, we
have seen little or no influence of those findings for better organization and
management of FSR. It is beyond the scope of this paper to explore the issue further,
but the lack of more formal and systematic channels to reach appropriate managers
is likely to be behind such a poor influence of such studies.
And this points out the third field of challenge for FSR, as it is training. We
refer here to in-service training as well as graduate training. With the withdrawal of
support from international centers and external donors, opportunities for training have
been reduced. Some alternative approaches have been developed although. Within
the policy of "devolution of responsibilities" from CGIAR Centers to national
programs, CIMMYT and INTA of Argentina, with financial support from the
Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) and the International fund for Agricultural
Development (IFAD), have developed and agreement by which INTA has taken primary
responsibilities to offer annual six months OFR training courses around wheat
production. CIMMYT supports with training materials and expertise for the first two
years. Another interesting training initiative is being developed in Colombia, where
a private rice producers association (FEDEARROZ) and a regional local University
(University of Tolima), have developed a joint program to offer a degree in rice
production specialist. CIAT is also collaborating with this program, which has OFR
components but is oriented mainly to train technical assistants for rice farming
systems in the use of the more complex second generation of inputs. Rice yields in
Colombia have declined consistently for the last five years.
Short courses and seminars for FSR are often organized by national programs
wit the support of networks and regional and international organizations, but they
are insufficient and with little or no continuity so as to meet the type of needs for
trai ing in this field.
Regarding graduate training, despite those MS programs offering degrees in
Fa ning Systems and Rural Extension in many countries Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil
anc Argentina including the USA, relative little use is made of the large body of
kn wledge and experience developed around FSR.
A more systematic approach is needed for both, short term training in the
perspectives and methods of FSR, and graduate training where through research a
substantial contribution could be made to those FSR practitioners and managers facing
the new challenges of agriculture.
Byerlee, D. 1987. Maintaining the Momentum in Post-Green Revolution Agriculture:
A Micro-Level Perspective from Asia. Michigan State University International
Development, Paper No. 10, 1987.
Byerlee, D. 1991. Responses, in International Agricultural Research: The next 25
years. On the occasion of CIMMYT's 25th Anniversary, 1966-1991. Mexico,
IICA, 1991. Regional Overview of Food Security in Latin America and the Caribbean
with Focus on Agricultural Research, Technology Transfer and Application.
Paper prepared for the World Food Council/United Nations Development
Program interregional Consultation on Meeting the Food Production Challenges
of the 1990's and Beyond San Jose, January, 1991.
Merrill-Sands, D. et al. 1991. Integrating on-farm research into National Agricultural
Research Systems. Lessons for Research Policy, Organization and
Management. Pages 287-316. In R. Tripp, ed., Planned Change in Farming
Systems: Progress in On-Farm Research. John Wiley & Sons.
Moscardi, E. 1992. Perspectivas para la Investigaci6n agricola en LAC: Politicas,
organizaci6n y Gerenciamiento en la Nueva Era. Paper presented at the seminar
"El papel de la Investigaci6n Agricola en el Desarrollo Agropecuario de LAC,
Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, Washington D.C., Febrero 10-11, 1992.
Perrin, R. and D.L. Winkelmann. 1976. Impediments to technical progress on Small
Versus Large Farms. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 58:888-94.
Petit, M. and J. R. Anderson. 1992. Agricultural Development in the Third World:
Recent Past and Future Directions, in International Agricultural Research: The
next 25 years. On the Occasion of CIMMYT's 25th Anniversary, 1966-1991.
Mexico, D.F., CIMMYT.
Pifieiro, M. 1989. Hacia un nuevo papel del sector agropecuario en las estrategias de
Desarrollo Econ6mico: Ideas generals y propuestas de acci6n. Paper presented
at the Seminario sobre Modernizaci6n y Desarrollo Agropecuario en America
Latina, Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, Washington, D.C., Abril de 1989.
Rut an, V.W. 1991. Challenges to Agricultural Research in the 21st Century. Pages
in P.G. Pardey, J. Roseboom and J. R. Anderson, eds., Agricultural Research
SCHUH, E. 1988. Sustainability, Marginal Areas and Agricultural Research. Paper
presented for the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome,
September 22, 1988.
SCHULTZ, T.W. 1975. The value and the Ability to Deal with Disequilibria. Journal
of Economic Literature 13 (1973): 827-846.
SCHULTZ, T.W. 1980. Economics at CIMMYT: An outsider's view. Agricultural
Economics, Paper No. 80:16, University of Chicago, April 23, 1980.
TRIPP, R. 1991. The limitations of on-farm Research. Pages 247-256 in R. Tripp,
ed., Planned Change in Farming Systems: Progress in On-Farm Research. John
Wiley & Sons.
Winkelmann D.L., and E.R. Moscardi. 1987. Aiming Agricultural Research at the
Needs of Farmers. Pages 231-240, in M. Elgueta G. and E. Venezian L.,
Economia y Organizaci6n de la Investigaci6n Agropecuaria, INIA-IICA, Chile,
Evaluation and Impact of the Global Synthesis and Networking
Cornelia Butler Flora
Dept. of Sociology
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0137
703 231 6878 (phone)
703 231 3860 (fax)
Farming systems research and extension has been discredited almost as fast as it was
proclaimed the potential savior of small holder agriculture. Yet the basic principles of the
approach, including farmer participation, interdisciplinary analysis, and testing of technology on
farmers' fields under their conditions, are becoming institutionalized in many national research
and extension systems. Just as many projects were "sold" under the farming systems rubric,
even when there was little knowledge of what the approach entailed or how to implement it, now
many farming systems projects and programs are being implemented with titles that obscure their
basia approach to agricultural development. More importantly, national research and extension
systems in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are attempting to make that approach a cornerstone
in their own efforts of agricultural development. In the U.S., a farming systems approach has
been ignored by mainstream research and extension, but increasingly used by non-governmental
agricultural research and extension entities and by the LISA/SARE faction of federally funded
research entities. Much has been written about the beginning of Farming Systems Research
and Extension. Although the origins and the emphases were different based on the setting in
which the approach evolved, the approach was marked by a broad approach to identify potentials
and limitations, emphasis on the system rather than a single commodity, and concern for the
limited resource farmer. In Asia, where land is a limiting factor, agronomist led the cropping
systems approach, seeking to use the biological potential of the farm to increase total
pr activity on a given land area. A new sensitivity was created for the ecological context of
agri cultural production (Harwood 1979). In Africa, climatic uncertainties, particularly under
conditions of low moisture, led to increasing appreciation of complex strategies of risk reduction
based on farmer knowledge (Norman, 1971; 1977). Once again, researchers found that a
commodity approach was totally inadequate in designing technology which would actually be
used to increase peasant productivity. In Latin America, where peasants were more market
oriented than in Africa, and where land was not the constraint it was in Asia, a growing
appreciation of peasant strategies to avoid market risk forced a radical rethinking of the
development of agricultural technology and its extension (Hildebrand 1976).
The FSR/E approach in each context challenged traditional linear, single variable thinking
reg-ding agricultural productivity. Familiar causal chains were broken, as multiple measures
of success had to be taken into account. While it seems common sense and even conservative
today, the concept of what could be raised on a field in an entire agricultural cycle, not just a
single commodity in a single cropping period, was a revolutionary one at the time. We knew
how to lay out random block designs to see which variety produced more under controlled
conditions. But we were challenged to use our traditional concept of science, based on the
logical positivism of the controlled experiment, to compare apples and oranges, corn and beans,
millet and squash. And our disciplinary boundaries were also challenged. The farm
management agricultural economist now had to be brought in not only to determine the costs of
production related to the output for a single crop on a single field, but for a variety of crops on
a single field, and later, a diversity of crops on an entire farm. Interdisciplinary cooperation
was required for the research design, as well as for the farmer recommendation.
Work in Asia, led by agronomists, tended to first focus on the ecological constraints and
the need to develop technology congruent with the environment, which could be achieved by
designed by designing technology able to take advantage of the environmental potential. There
was relatively little concern for the farmer, the farm family, and their preferences or felt
constraints. Scientists working in Asia were mainly working in market-oriented cropping
systems, and it was assumed that each farmer shared the researchers' goal of increasing
productivity and profitability. Many of the countries in which they worked had agricultural
policies and marketing systems that seemed to guarantee the costs of inputs and the price paid
for the product to the farmer. The researchers and the national governments shared the goals
of increasing agricultural productivity, and government policies and institutions to help supply
inputs and guarantee relatively stable markets were in place. In Latin America and Africa,
where much of the early work was done by agricultural economist, there was a greater
appreciation of the human factor. Both Norman and Hildebrand went through the profoundly
humbling and enlightening experience of rereading Theodore Schultz' discussions of the rational
peasant and realizing that new technology that clearly increased production on experimental
stations -- and with large farmers -- was not adopted by limited resource farmers for good
reason. Lack of adoption was not because the farmers were traditional or stupid. It was
because the technology did not fit their circumstances, as determined by their total survival
strategy. This realization reinforced the Asian-based discovery that commodity improvement
was not sufficient and that mixed cropping and intercropping had to be considered, challenging
conventional experimental design. It also changed the relationship between the researcher and
extension agent and the farmer. Not only was linear problem formulation challenged by the
need to put a particular agricultural enterprise into the larger system when designing research,
but the hierarchical order of agricultural research and extension was challenged. The farmer was
equally able to assess the farm situation and in fact had unique knowledge about it that required
partnership in both problem formulation and research design in order to insure the development
of a technology which farmers would actually adopt and which would improve their well-being.
These two profound changes, relating to both the physical and socio-economic environment,
were extremely difficult for the international research community to grasp and internalize. And
it took even longer for the profound implications of these basic assumptions about how
agricultural science worked to make real changes in the conduct of agricultural research and
Seriously addressing the concerns of small farmers revealed a series of farming systems
far different from those for technology had traditionally been generated. Not only were at least
part of the farms involved in producing a substantial portion of their output for domestic use,
but harsh climatic conditions and unreliable rainfall meant that the "appropriate" technology was
not necessarily on the shelf for the agricultural economists to fit into their linear programs. As
a result, farming systems research focused not only on what farmers (and later farm households)
should do to maximize their goals, which were gradually expanded from narrow economic and
agronomic indicators, but what production scientists should undertake in the way of research
(Conway 1987). Not only should farms be redesigned to take advantage of existing technology,
but the generation of technology should be altered to take into account the situation of limited
resource farms and farming households.
The Mosaic Fallacy
A wide variety of methodologies and approaches have emerged in the nearly 20 years
since this approach was initiated in various regional programs around the world. That is not
surprising, given the context-based nature of the farming systems approach. Farming systems
at its best recognizes that a major problem in conventional approaches to agricultural
development is the mosaic fallacy, which assumes that the whole is equal to the sum of its parts.
In fact, a system is not an additive model, because of the interaction effects as different parts
of the system interact with each other and as one systems interacts with another. Indeed, often
the interaction effects are more powerful that the individual effects, especially in complex
systems. Thus the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, a definite challenge to the order
of conventional scientific inquiry.
Traditional experimental design and statistical models do not deal with interactions,
although multivariate statistical analyses do. But for many scientists trained in traditional
disciplinary programs, these statistical techniques seem suspect and are not part of their
disciplinary tool kit (an exception are geneticists). Conventional farm management
approaches in the United States, prominent in cooperative extension during the 1930s and 1940s,
had some of the characteristics of FSR/E. Agronomists and farm management agricultural
eco omist worked together with the farm family to develop farming systems that were
ecologically sound, economically profitable, and congruent with the goals and values of the farm
family. It was not an approach that generated new technology, but a method for extensionists
to diffuse existing technology. There were few links to researchers and technological knowledge
was conceptualized as primarily located in the extension agents. Yet it was clear that farmers
were partners in the implementation of technology, and their successful innovations were shared
in field days as demonstrations. For the rather homogeneous group of farmers in the United
States which became more homogeneous as the great exodus from agriculture occurred in the
1950s and 1960s -- this approach was initially successful. However, it was abandoned in the
1960s for more commodity-related approaches, responding to the increasing dependence on
Limits to farm management in technology generation and diffusion
There are limits individualized approaches. If it depends upon professionals, it is
extremely expensive to implement at any scale. It seemed more efficient to have recommended
tech ologies eventually refined as "best management practices" or improved varieties or
fertilizer recommendations -- which could be made on a wide basis. This was very efficient in
tears of cost of delivery. The problem arose when the technology thus recommended was not
adopted -- despite a number of institutional supports, such as credit, crop insurance, market
channels, etc. Some of the early success of FSR/E was to show that such global
recommendations were inefficient and indeed wasteful. Indeed, technology depended on the
context to be effective.
The challenge for FSR/E is to determine precisely what it is about the environment that
is ci cial for a technology to be 1) effective (often based on agro-ecological variables) and 2)
ado ted (often based on socio-economic variables). FSR/E recognizes the importance of context
by establishing recommendation domains (also called.....) We are still evolving methods for
determining what are the appropriate criteria, which will vary from setting to setting. Clearly
soil moisture availability, slope, and temperature all provide limits as to what is physically
possible. But access to the factors of production, including land (land tenure), labor (family and
hired), and capital, which vary by the characteristics of the farmer (gender, ethnicity, social
class) can be equally limiting. Our constant challenge is to determine quickly and
parsimoniously the key differentiating characteristics in each situation that will allow the
development of the best technology most likely to be adopted to meet the needs of the farm
family and the nation-state.
Need to generalize
The definition of the recommendation domain, which is part of the initial diagnosis, is
key to the success of FSR/E, if it is to be measured in technology adoption which leads to
improvement in levels of living or environmental quality. We need some insurance that a
technical (or policy) solution is not completely situation specific. Some interdisciplinary
approaches assumed that each discipline could pick one variable that would group farms or farm
families. Others simply broke down the national recommendations into regions and watersheds,
ignoring socio-economic variables. When sociologists were involved in determining
recommendation domains by classifying area farms and farmers, they often instituted long and
complex surveys to be sure that everything possible was known about the farmer which could
then be analyzed to see what differences among farmers actually existed. There is an
embarrassing heritage of bad survey research in FSR/E. There are a string of unanalyzed data
which was expensive to collect. It often asked the wrong questions of the wrong people, based
on the wrong assumptions. While survey research can have its place in FSR/E, particularly in
gathering base-line data for future evaluations, the imposition of survey research often followed
the same context-free assumptions of commodity-based technology development and extension:
a method that was perfectly suitable for a small but dominant portion of the world's population
was therefore suitable for all of the world's population. There are many implicit assumptions
of survey research which do not hold cross culturally. These include:
1. It is possible to get a meaningful sampling frame
2. It is possible to use normal indicators to stratify samples
3. The same question placed in the same position in the questionnaire has the same
meaning for all respondents
4. Interviewers have equal access to all relevant individuals to be included in the sample
5. A single household member can answer questions for the entire household
6. People will answer questions based on their own experience, rather on what they think
the researcher wants.
Much of the difficulty of developing good interdisciplinary research to solve the problems
of small-scale agriculturalists came from disciplines which have research protocols which
distinguish "good" science. Thus methodological appropriateness was defined in terms of what
could be published in disciplinary professional journals, rather than what makes sense in terms
of the setting and the problem to be solved. One of the important contributions to methodology
of the Farming Systems Symposium and the FSR/E has been to provide a peer-reviewed outlet
for interdisciplinary applied research that evaluates methodological appropriateness and rigor
from a problem-based perspective. This makes a more difficult task for the reviewers, but helps
legitimize the non-disciplinary approach AND provide a form of academic currency to
interdisciplinary, applied research and extension.
FSR/E practitioners are increasingly using a wide variety of methodologies in diagnosis
in order to determine both the technology to be developed and for whom it is most appropriate.
These include careful use of key informants (who are chosen to get a wide range of gender and
ethnic insights), focus groups, gaming, simulation, and careful interdisciplinary observation.
A major recognition of FSR/E in recent years is the iterative nature of diagnosis.
Conventional wisdom among practitioners now holds that the best diagnosis occurs when
wor ing with the farmer or farm family in actual on-farm trials. This may be in part because
agricultural researchers feel more comfortable with on-farm trials than with surveys and focus
groups. If done in traditional linear ways, moving to quickly to on-farm trials can led to the
same mistakes as traditional commodity research and extension programs. But if it is done with
the clear understanding of the iterative nature of diagnosis, that the experiment is in place as
mu h to begin a bonding experience with the farm family and to learn from them through
working together, then linear thinking is broken and real mutual learning can occur. The danger
is that by moving immediately to on-farm trials, the researcher is again asserting his or her
status as "expert" and thus limits the contextual elements which may be critical in good diagnosis
and technology design. But the danger is waiting is to once again reify research-exclusive
metodologies and deny the farmer proper participation in the continuing diagnosis, design, and
We have learned that good FSR/E involves eternal diagnosis. It breaks into linear
thin ing, which assumes problem identification leads to problem solution. The researcher must
mo e from logical order to chaotic iteration. This is often troubling for field researchers, who
feel insecure in their knowledge as it is.
Part of experimentation is to begin to use the field to explore the whole farm reality and
determine where technological innovation is possible. To do this, we have to review our rules
Rules of evidence: how do we know?
There are, sociologists tell us, different ways of knowing. Some are discipline specific,
some are culture specific. Some are specific to different groups within a given culture. For
most scientists, particularly those in controlling sciences -- those sciences which seek to
dominant nature first and only tangentially to understand it, the experimental design, with careful
control of all but the experimental variables is the only sure way of knowing. This way of
knowing focuses on what Kloppenburg (1991) refers to as "mobile immutables" relationships
among natural phenomena that occur the same way in all places at all times. The basic laws of
physics and chemistry give us such mobile immutables. Much of biotechnology, particularly that
based on molecular biology, gives the same impression of consistent causal relationships under
controllable situations. Yet the very nature of agriculture is environmentally determined. While
many of the major technological developments in agriculture have sought to overcome nature
and standardize the environment, by provision of a steady supply of moisture through irrigation,
of n trients through fertilizers, soil tilth through mechanical cultivation, and temperature and
ligh, through greenhouses and animal confinement facilities, the reality of context and its
variability still looms large on the agricultural horizon. Limited resource farmers, in particular,
must learn to work with the environment, not dominate it.
Perhaps the most widely adopted aspect of FSR/E is on-farm research. Some involves
whole farm analysis, most does not.
On-Farm Research: The Success Story
Perhaps we agree most on on-farm research because the trials give us the most easily
mea durable outcomes. (Although there are still problems in fitting appropriate costs and market
data given complex systems that make it difficult to discount land and labor costs, as well as
pin-,oint the difference in price depending on when the product is sold.) On farm research
forces us to move, at least slightly, to context awareness and to concern with the farmer as an
actor in the experimental process, if only to get her or him to agree to set aside land for trials.
On-farm research, as has been reported on extensively, involves a wide degree of farmer or farm
family participation. While the farming system catechism teaches us to move from researcher
designed and managed trials to farmer designed and managed trials, we tend to stay in the safe
range, distrusting farmers' rules of evidence -- and commitment to a true experimental design.
Farmer participation: the most difficult to implement
The most exciting part of FSR/E for social scientists is farmer participation, yet it has
been the most difficult to implement. There are enormous problems of status and ways of
knowing. It is difficult to learn the language different farmers use to determine results.
Further, it was difficult to know who should participate in what aspects of research design and
technology development. For limited resource farmers, unlike more traditional agri-business
firms, the relevant unit is not the CEO (viewed as the male farmer) but the household. Further,
because the CEO analogy does not hold, it is necessary to look within the household (Feldstein
and Poats 1989).
Evaluation: what is the impact and how do we know?
FSR/E has not done well in the many evaluations conducted which have attempted to link
approach to concrete, measurable improvements in peasant well-being or regional improvement.
The major exception was Plan Puebla in Mexico, which early on developed a measure of maize
productivity that they were able to use for years to show the value of the project to the various
federal and international bureaucracies funding the project.
Causality is difficult to attribute in such cases. We present what is occurring in the
country at the same time that the project is being implemented. Often the co-variation does not
mean causality. Other factors might make a Ministry of Agriculture open to a Farming Systems
approach in general and allow the farming systems project to become institutionalized. This,
in turn would help dissemination of results through the extension system as well as influence
policy in response to farming systems research. Thus, the part of each project description
labeled "impact" must be taken with the caveat that this may not necessarily be attributable to
the project, but is occurring at the same time.
Social causality is difficult to show and to document. Perhaps the most documentable
impact has been that we can show specific cases where experiment station researchers have
changed their research agenda in response to farming systems diagnosis or on-farm trial results.
Although changing a research agenda to be more in tune with the needs of limited resource farm
families is more important, it is not as spectacular as doubling maize output or eliminating an
The layers of users of technology makes evaluation particularly difficult. Farmers and
farm households are only one of many users. Often the utility of a new technology must be sold
first to the extension agent, the banker or farm credit policy maker, or the local retailer before
the farmer can even make the choice of using it. Thus FSR/E needs to expand its consideration
of systems to consider those which contain the farm, socially, politically, environmentally, and
economically, in order to gauge to whom the technology must be oriented (particularly the
necessity to meet multiple needs of different system levels and decision makers).
Systems thus become more complex. There is an increasing awareness of permeable
boundaries and messy connections among FSR/E practitioners. It makes the FSR/E "formula"
more difficult, although it helps insure the success of the individual FSR/E projects in which
such expertise is lodged.
Farming systems research seems to be one of the few applied sciences that is willing to
confess its failures in the hopes of correcting them. Because the process is a dialectical one,
constantly undergoing feedback and adjustments, no project or program is set in concrete. It
is perhaps that openness to admit and to document what did not work as well as what did work
that has contributed to the denigration of farming systems research in some circles.
We looked at projects funded by a variety of sources, including international research
centers, major foundations and a number of governments. It became clear that the longer the
trajectory of funding, the more adaptations the farming systems project make.
Despite the recognition of the increasing complexity within the farming systems and in
the links among systems, there has been a great deal of real progress in both expanding the goals
and in reaching them. Researchers and extensionists around the world are using the FSR/E
approach in a variety of administrative, agroecological and social conditions to attempt to
increase the agricultural welfare of limited resources of farm families.
Conway, G.R. 1987. Helping poor farmers: A review of foundation activities in farming
systems and agroecosystem research and development. Report prepared for the Mid-
Decade Review of the Ford Foundation Programs on Agriculture and Natural Resource
Management. New York: Ford Foundation.
Fel stein, H. S. and S. V. Poats (eds) 1989. Working Together, Gender Analysis in Agriculture.
West Hartford CT: Kumarian Press.
Harwood, R. 1979. Small Farm Development. Boulder: Westview Press.
Hil brand, P. 1976. Generating Technology for Traditional Farmers: A Multidisciplinary
Methodology. Guatemala City, Guatemala: ICTA.
Kloppenburg, J. 1991. Social theory and de/reconstruction of agricultural science: for an
alternative agriculture. Rural Sociology 56:519-48.
Norman, D. 1971. Initiating Change in traditional agriculture. Agricultural Economics Journal
for Agriculture 13, no. 1 (June):31-52.
Norman, D. 1977. Economic rationality of traditional Hausa dryland farmers in the north of
Nigeria. In Stevens, R.D., ed., Tradition and Dynamics in Small-Farm Agriculture.
Ames: Iowa State University Press.
Tripp, R. 1991. The Farming Systems Research Movement and On-Farm Research. In R.
Tripp, ed., Planned Change ion Farming Systems: Progress in On-Farm Research. New
York: John Wiley and Sons.
Integrating Household Food Security into
Farming Systems Research-Extension
Timothy R. Frankenberger
Philip E. Coyle
Office of Arid Lands Studies
University of Arizona
The Famine Mitigation Activity Support Project
U.S. Agency for International Development
Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance
The Office of International Cooperation and Development
U.S. Department of Agriculture
A Paper Presented at the 12th Annual Farming Systems Symposium, Michigan State University,
East Lansing, Michigan, September 13-18, 1992.
The importance of household food security (HFS) to agricultural development efforts
has been drastically accentuated by the current severe drought now plaguing Southern Africa.
The fact that nearly 18,000,000 people are food insecure and at risk of severe malnutrition
(Gr en 1992) justifies the priority households give to securing sufficient food supplies as a major
pro auction goal. The recurrent risks associated with fluctuating rainfall and unstable markets
has led many farmers to diversify their food procurement strategies in order to secure a wide
food base and sufficient supplies (Velarde 1991). Farmers' pursuit of these diverse strategies to
meet their food needs has significant implications for the types of interventions promoted
through farming systems research-extension (FSRE).
This paper addresses a number of the key issues related to household food security that
have a direct bearing on the work carried out by farming systems practitioners. It begins by
summarizing a number of conceptual issues associated with HFS that need to be taken into
account in agricultural research. This is followed by a brief discussion of the client group to
which most FSRE activities are aimed, and how their participation in the research process is key
to the promotion of HFS. This paper then concludes with a number of suggestions of how HFS
considerations can be incorporated into the FSRE process.
II. Conceptual Issues
A. Household Food Security and Livelihood Security
Food security is defined by the World Bank (1986) as "access by all people at all times to
enough food for an active and healthy life." Operationalizing the concept at the national level is
not the same as at the household level. At the national level, food security entails adequate
food supplies through local production and food imports. However, adequate availability of
fooi at the national level does not necessarily translate into even distribution across the country,
nor equal access among all households.
In the past 15 years, much conceptual progress has been made in our understanding of
the processes that lead to food insecure situations for households (Frankenberger 1992). We
have moved away from simplistic notions of food supply being the only cause of household food
insecurity to assessing vulnerability of particular groups in terms of their access to food. Thus,
food availability.at the national and regional level and stable access are both keys to household
food security (see Figure 1). Access to food is determined by food entitlements which may
include viable means for procuring food (either produced or purchased), human and physical
capital, assets and stores, access to common property resources, and a variety of social contracts
at the household, community, and state level (Maxwell et al. 1992). The risk of entitlement
failure determines the level of vulnerability of a household to food insecurity (Ibid 1992). The
greater the share of resources devoted to food acquisition, the higher the vulnerability of the
household to food insecurity.
However, household food security is but one dimension of livelihood security.
Livelihood is defined by Chambers (1989) as adequate stocks and flows of food and cash to
meet basic needs. Poor people balance competing needs for asset preservation, income
generation, and present and future food supplies in complex ways (Maxwell et al. 1992). People
l;iguri 1. Conceptual lirinac woik lor I iouscill, l I'~ul Sccurily
i Jnviroi Inen ill
Su'" al Natr illNtil
may go hungry up to a point to meet another objective. For example, DeWaal (1989) found
duri g the 1984-85 famine in Darfur, Sudan that people chose to go hungry to preserve their
asses and future livelihoods. People will put up with a considerable degree of hunger to
preserve seed for planting, cultivate their own fields, or avoid selling animals (Maxwell et al.
1992). Similarly, Corbett (1988) found that in the sequential ordering of behavioral responses
emp oyed in periods of stress in a number of African and Asian countries, preservation of assets
take priority over meeting immediate food needs until the point of destitution (Corbett 1988
cite in Maxwell et al. 1992). Given the importance of livelihood security to farmers in risk-
pro e areas, risk avoidance and entitlement protection must be built into selection criteria for
B. Production/Consumption Linkages
To promote HFS in ongoing FSRE efforts, it is important to understand the complex
linkages that exist between production and food consumption. Changes in farm management
and production technology have not always improved the food consumption status of producers
(Fr nkenberger 1990). Agricultural development projects are not nutritionally neutral. Some of
the important linkages are summarized below.
1. Crop diversity As small farm households become integrated into a market
economy, the production of non-food cash crops often replaces traditional
subsistence crops. This shift from subsistence to cash cropping may result in
decreased crop diversity and a concomitant increased dependency on outside
food sources. As a result, food consumption and nutritional status may be
adversely affected. Some other consequences of a shift to cash cropping include:
1) less land available for food crop production; 2) a breakdown of traditional
food-sharing networks; and 3) the elimination of important minor crops and wild
plants that provide essential nutrients during the pre-harvest period when staple
foods are often in short supply (DeWalt 1983; Dewey 1981; Fleuret and Fleuret
1980; Frankenberger 1985; Longhurst 1983; Messer 1989).
2. Income Household income is a major determinant of family food consumption.
Factors such as the control and form of income, and the regularity of its receipt
may be equally or more important than total income in understanding the
nutritional effects of agricultural development initiatives. When women control
household income, they are more likely to spend it on food and health care.
Continual or periodic forms of income are more often spent on food than lump-
sum income. In-kind (food) income is more likely used for family consumption
than cash income. Increasing income is often associated with the increased
consumption of purchased foods, especially foods of animal origin. Diets
dependent on purchased foods, however, don't necessarily meet nutritional needs
more adequately than diets that rely on agricultural products and wild foods
(Dewey 1981; Fleuret and Fleuret 1980; Frankenberger 1985; Hernandez et al.
1974; Kennedy and Cogill 1987; Longhurst 1983; Pinstrup-Andersen 1981; von
Braun and Kennedy 1986; Saenz de Tejada 1989).
3. Seasonality of production In most areas of the world there is a seasonal
dimension to agricultural production, food availability, and malnutrition. Many
farm families must cope with a cyclical period of deprivation referred to as the
"hungry season." This occurs in the weeks preceding harvest when food stocks
are low and food prices are high. Such periods of stress have a negative impact
on children's nutritional status and growth. Adults may lose as much as 7 percent
of their body weight during the hungry season. This tends to coincide with the
agricultural cycle's peak labor period when a farmer's energy expenditure is at its
highest. Food shortages before harvest also coincide with peaks in infection rates
for diarrhea, malaria, and other debilitating diseases (Frankenberger 1985;
Longhurst 1983; Maxwell 1984; Pinstrup-Andersen 1981).
4. Role of women in production Women's participation in agricultural production
has an effect on family consumption and nutritional status that is closely tied to
the income earned and labor demanded by this activity. Most income earned by
women from agricultural activities is used for food purchases. Children of
working women are less likely to be malnourished than children of non-working
women. However, activities that increase the labor demands on women's time
may lead to changes in cooking habits, the preparation of less nutritious and/or
fewer meals; the cultivation of less labor-intensive and less nutritious food crops,
and less time devoted to breastfeeding and child care (Fleuret and Fleuret 1980;
Frankenberger 1985; Kumar 1977; Longhurst 1983; Maxwell 1984; Tripp 1982;
von braun and Kennedy 1986).
5. Crop labor requirements The introduction of new cash crops may require more
human energy than previously grown crops, and the added energy requirements
may be greater than the value of the output. These increased energy demands
could also have deleterious effects on intra-household food distribution if some
members of the household require a higher food intake to meet labor demands
(Fleuret and Fleuret 1980; Frankenberger 1985).
6. Food preferences Improved crop varieties should have acceptable characteristics
for successful adoption by farm families. They should satisfy local tastes in terms
of flavor and texture, otherwise they are unlikely to be adopted for subsistence
and may only be produced for commercial purposes. New varieties should also
have acceptable cooking qualities. Varieties that take longer to cook may require
more fuel, water, and labor than indigenous varieties. In addition, time- and
resource-efficient preparation methods should be introduced concomitantly to
better ensure the use of new crop varieties to meet consumption needs (Fleuret
and Fleuret 1980; Frankenberger 1985; Tripp 1982).
7. Market prices Market prices and market access can have a significant impact
on the consumption patterns of small-farm households. For example, in most
developing countries, high consumer prices coincide with food shortages in small-
farm households. In addition, government price and trade policies may adversely
affect domestic producer prices which, in turn, serve to keep the purchasing
power of farmers low. Finally, market inefficiency and periodic market instability
can place in a vulnerable position households that are dependent on purchased
food to meet their food needs (Fleuret and Fleuret 1980; Frankenberger 1985;
Longhurst 1988; Malambo 1987).
By understanding these linkages, farming systems researchers will be more cognizant of
the expected effects which newly introduced production alternatives could have on
consumption (Frankenberger 1985). However, not all linkage will be important in every context.
To determine which linkages are important, it is essential to understand the coping strategies
farmers pursue to maintain HFS.
C. Coping Strategies
Households do not respond arbitrarily to variability in food supply. People who live in
conditions that put their main source of income at recurrent risk will develop self-insurance
cop g strategies to minimize risks to their HFS and livelihoods (Longhurst 1986; Corbett 1988).
Exa ples of such strategies are dispersed grazing, changes in cropping and planting practices,
migration to towns in search of urban employment, increased petty commodity production,
coll action of wild foods, use of inter-household transfers and loans, use of credit from merchants
and money lenders, migration to other areas for employment, rationing of current food
consumption, sale of possessions (e.g., jewelry), sale of firewood and charcoal, consumption of
food distributed through relief programs, sale of productive assets, breakup of the household,
and distress migration (Corbett 1988 cited in Frankenberger and Goldstein 1991). In general,
cop g strategies are pursued by households to ensure future income-generating capacity (i.e.,
livelihood) rather than simply maintaining current levels of food consumption (Corbett 1988;
DeWaal 1988; Haddad et al. 1991). These strategies will vary by region, community, social class,
ethnic group, household gender, age, and season (Chambers 1989; Thomas et al. 1989). The
typ s of strategies employed by households will also vary depending upon the severity and
dur tion of the potentially disruptive conditions (Thomas et al. 1989).
In analyzing varieties of coping strategies, it is important to distinguish two types of
assets that farmers have at their disposal. Assets that represent stores of value for liquidation
(liquid assets) are acquired during non-crisis years as a form of savings and self-insurance; these
may include small livestock or personal possessions such as jewelry (Corbett 1988;
Fra kenberger and Goldstein 1991). A second set of assets are those that play a key role in
generating income (productive assets). These are less liquid as stores of value and are much
mo e costly to farm household in their disposal. Households will first dispose of assets held as
stores of value before disposing of productive assets (Corbett 1988). A household's access to
assets is often a good determinant of its vulnerability (Chambers 1989; Swift 1989a).
Swift has also identified claims as another type of asset used by households to assure
their food security. Claims refer to the ability of households to activate community support
mechanisms. Claims also may encompass government support mechanisms or the international
donor community (Borton and Shoham 1991).
Most initial responses to actual or potential food shortages are extension of practices
conducted in some measure during normal years to adapt to rainfall variability (Longhurst 1986;
W tts 1988). Traditional methods of handling risk can be divided into routine risk-minimizing
practices and loss management mechanisms (Walker and Jodha 1986). Risk-minimizing
practices are adjustments to production and resource use before and during a production
season. These involve such practices as diversification of resources and enterprises, and
adjustments within cropping systems. Crop-centered diversification can include choice of crop
wih varying maturation periods, different sensitivities to environmental fluctuations, and flexible
en use products (Ibid 1986). Farmers also will reduce production risks by exploiting vertical,
horizontal, and temporal dimensions of the natural resource base. Vertical adjustments involve
planting at different elevations in a topographical sequence. Spacial risk-adjustments include
planting in different micro-environments or intercropping. Temporal risk adjustments involve
staggering planting times (Ibid 1986). Adjustments also may include extension of farming to
marginal areas or overuse of a particular plot; practices that can have a destructive effect on the
Loss management mechanisms include farmers' responses to lower-than-expected crop
production caused by natural hazards (Ibid 1986). Reductions in crop production can be
compensated for through non-farm income, the sale of assets, the management of stocks and
reserves, seasonal migration, and reciprocal obligations among households. Overexploitation of
certain resources (forest reserves, for example) for market sale also may be part of this loss
In communities marked by landholding and income inequalities, household responses
occur differently along the lines of wealth and access to resources (Longhurst 1986; Tobert
1985). Identical climatic conditions can affect households of varied economic levels to different
degrees. Seasonal shortages for some families produce famine conditions for others. Poorer
households, including many women-headed households, having smaller holdings and a weaker
resource base, are more vulnerable to stress than are wealthier households, and begin to suffer
earlier when food shortages hit (Frankenberger and Goldstein 1990). The poor resort to early
sales of livestock, pledge farms, incur debt, sell labor, and borrow grain at higher interest rates
(Watts 1988). In essence, crop failures and other shocks reveal rather than cause the fragile
nature of HFS among vulnerable rural families. At the same time, prosperous households buy
livestock at deflated prices in conditions of oversupply, sell or lend grain to needy farmers,
purchase wage labor at depressed rates, and purchase land (Watts 1988). Thus, during a food
crisis, a cycle of accumulation and decapitalization can occur simultaneously within a single
community, depending on the depth of the current crisis.
Patterns of coping strategies can be diagramed to show the sequence of responses farm
households typically employ when faced with a food crisis (Figure 2, Watts 1988). These
sequences of response are most frequently divided in the literature into three distinct stages
(Corbett 1988). In the earliest stages of a food crisis (stage one), households employ the types
of risk-minimizing and loss-management strategies discussed above. These typically involve a
low commitment of domestic resources, enabling speedy recovery once the crisis has eased. As
the crisis persists, households are increasingly forced into greater commitment of resources just
to meet subsistence needs (stage two). There may be a gradual disposal of key productive
assets, making it harder to return to a pre-crisis state. At this stage, a household's vulnerability
to food insecurity is extremely high. Stage three strategies are signs of failure to cope with the
food crisis and usually involve destitution and distress migration (Corbett 1988).
Recent studies have found that the range of coping strategies pursued by farm families in
drought-prone areas may be changing over time (Downing 1988; Thomas et al. 1989). Three
major trends appear to be developing. First, risk minimizing agricultural strategies appear to be
narrowing in some locations (e.g., in Kenya) as repeated sale and reacquisition have depleted
domestic and productive asset levels (Frankenberger and Goldstein 1991). In these areas,
agricultural coping strategies are being replaced by strategies that diversify income sources
through off-farm employment and non-agricultural production (Mead 1988; Swinton 1988).
Some of these non-farm strategies include practices that are known to be environmentally
Migrating for AID
Sale of Domestic Assets
Borrowing Grain or Cash from Merchant
Dry Season Farming (Migration)
Migrating for Wage Work
Sell Labor Power
Using Stored Foods
Borrow Grain from Kin
!Use of Famine Foods
Time of Occurence
A Model of Responses to Food Shortage
(Adapted from Watts, 1988
damaging, but that provide a last resort in crisis conditions. Second, strategies that relied on
social support and reciprocity for overcoming food deficits are eroding due to the integration of
individual households into the cash economy (Thomas et al. 1989). Third, a shift has been
observed in the responsibility for coping with drought from the individual household and local
community toward the national government through drought and famine relief programs
(Frankenberger 1990). This trend is due in large part to the reduction in response flexibility of
small farm households (Frankenberger and Goldstein 1991).
D. Household Food Security and Environmental Degradation
Although coping strategies may be seen in the short term as functional adaptations to
uncertain conditions and hence beneficial, some commonly practiced strategies may have dire
consequences for the natural environment in the long run (Frankenberger and Goldstein 1991).
Particularly for poorer farmers with limited resource endowments, the process of maintaining
household viability may be exacted at the expense of the natural surroundings. Poor people
often occupy ecologically vulnerable areas such as marginal drylands, tropical forests and hilly
areas (Davis et al. 1991). As drought conditions worsen and conditions of food insecurity
persist, the range of options available to resource-poor farmers becomes more limited and
inflexible. In such situations, questions of long-term environmental sustainability become
secondary. Day-to-day survival demands the use of any food procurement strategy available.
The exploitation of common property resources (CPRs) is particularly important for
resource-poor farmers for meeting household food security needs. Wild leaves, roots, grains,
bushmeat, and forest products provide additional food sources, buffer seasonal shortages, and
provide alternative sources of income (Davis et al. 1991). These resources are relied upon
heavily during times of stress (Jodha 1986). Therefore, the degradation of CPRs and loss
through the encroachment of privatized agriculture has disproportionately affected the food
security of the poor (Davis et al. 1991).
Women are often more vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation than men
because they are often more involved in the collection of common property resources (Davis et
al. 1991). Since women often make a greater contribution to household food security than men,
a decline in women's access to resources may have a significant impact on the nutritional status
of the household.
Coping strategies that may promote environmental degradation include cutting trees to
make charcoal, over-harvesting of wild foods, over-grazing of grasslands, and increased planting
in marginal areas., All of these strategies may degrade soil conditions and augment problems of
soil erosion (Norman 1991). Farmers often realize the damage their actions have on the
environment upon which their livelihood depends. However, as drought conditions worsen and
food insecurity persists, the range of options becomes limited to such desperation strategies.
Thus, vulnerability to food insecurity usually means vulnerability to environmental
degradation. However, development activities attempting to pursue both household food
security and environmental objectives must consider the short- and long-term trade-offs
associated with these dual objectives. Long-term sustainable, natural resource management
initiatives will not be successful if they ignore the short-term food security needs of the local
population. Likewise, sustainability will be compromised if long-term environmental concerns
are sacrificed for immediate food needs. For development goals to be achieved, a balance must
be struck between these two objectives.
E. Indicators of Household Food Security
As stated earlier, food availability and stable access are both critical to HFS. For this
reason, any particular monitoring system used for assessing HFS must incorporate both food
supply/production data and access/entitlement data as part of its indicator set. Vulnerability to
food insecurity is location-specific, therefore, indicators are needed that measure supply and
food entitlement changes at the local level.
A number of different indicators can be used for delineating HFS. These can be divided
int6 process indicators that reflect both food supply and food access, and outcome indicators
which serve as proxies for food consumption (Frankenberger 1992) (see Matrix 1). Indicators
thai reflect food supply include inputs and measures of agricultural production
(agrometeorological data), access to natural resources, institutional development and market
infrastructure (prices), and exposure to regional conflict and its consequences. Indicators that
reject food access are the various means or strategies used by households to meet their HFS
ne ds. These strategies will vary by region, community, social class, ethnic group, household,
ge der, and season. Thus, their use as indicators is location-specific (see below). Outcome
in icators can be grouped into direct and indirect indicators. Direct indicators of food
consumption include those that are closest to actual food consumption rather than marketing
channel information or medical status (e.g., household consumption surveys). Indirect indicators
are generally used when direct indicators are either unavailable or too costly (in terms of time
an money) to collect (e.g., storage estimates, nutritional status assessments).
As indicators that reflect food access, the generalized patterns of coping strategies find
pr ctical application as tools for local food security monitoring (Frankenberger and Goldstein
19 1). Building upon the work of the World Food Program (WFP), there are three types of
indicators that can be monitored for changing coping responses, thus suggesting worsening
conditions and heightened food insecurity. Leading indicators (WFP refers to these as early
indicators) are changes in conditions and responses prior to the onset of decreased food access.
Examples of such indicators are: 1) crop failures (due to inadequate rainfall, poor access to
seed and other inputs, pest damage, etc.; 2) sudden deterioration of rangeland conditions or
conditions of livestock (e.g., unusual migration movements, unusual number of animal deaths,
large numbers of young female animals being offered for sale); 3) significant deterioration in
local economic conditions (e.g., increases in the price of grain, unseasonal disappearance of
essential food stuffs, increases in unemployment among laborers and artisans, unusual low levels
of household foodstocks; and 4) significant accumulation of livestock by some households (due
to depressed prices caused by oversupply). Leading indicators can provide signs of an
impending problem and may call for a detailed situational analysis to determine the
ex ent of the problem, causes, and need for monitoring. These indicators are a combination of
process indicators dealing with both availability and access vulnerability (Frankenberger 1992).
Concurrent indicators (WFP calls these stress indicators) occur simultaneously with
de eased access to food. Examples of such indicators are: 1) larger than normal able-bodied
family members in search for food or work; 2) appearance in the market of unusual amounts of
pe sonnel and capital goods, such as jewelry, farm implements, livestock (draft animals); 3)
HOUSEHOLD FOOD SECURITY INDICATORS
Indicator Availability Sources of Information Measurement Level of Limitation
and Collection Method Aggregation
Food Supply Indicators
(includes grazing resources)
Data (crops and
Food Balance Sheets
Information on Pest Damage
crop cutting on sample
not readily monitoring stations
available soil assessments
moderately field assessments
available government reports
change from average
departure from average
% change from past years
FAO Crop Specific Soil
Water Balance Model
requirements (opening stocks,
production, imports, domestic per
capital requirements, exports and
seasonal kg/capita for crops
% of change from last year
value of crop prices, livestock
monthly value for previous year
# of incidents
influx of refugees
timing of rains
may be false
access to remote
on other crops
sales and price
collection of data
in conflict zone
HOUSEHOLD FOOD SECURITY INDICATORS
Indicator Availability Sources of Information Measurement
Food Access (Effective
Demand or Entitlement)
land use practices
dietary change (both
change of food source
access to loans/credit
sale of production
changes in crop mix
changes in time of planting
changes in livestock mix
early movement to
# animal deaths
reduction in # of meals
decreased dietary diversity
shifts from preferred to lower
increased dependence on
# of HH dependent on reserves
grain price increases
changes in petty marketing
changes in wage rates
increase # of HH seeking off-farm
increase # of people seeking
assistance from relatives
# of people seeking credit
increase sale of livestock/season
decline of livestock prices
large # of people migrating for
appearance in market of unusual
amounts of personal and capital
goods (ewelry, farm implements,
sale of young female animals
# of whole families moving out
HOUSEHOLD FOOD SECURITY INDICATORS
Availability Sources of Information Measurement
and Collection Method
of food insecurity
price per unit of food or
caloric per unit of food
# of months of self provisioning
from household production and
receipt of in-kind as perceived
by the household
# of meals per day
# and types of ingredients in meals
# of times per day a nutrient-poor
gruel was served as main meal
# of months food stores will last as
perceived by the HH
size of farm, expected yield and age
and sex composition of household
Amount of food produced/food
food available from main crop
compared to HH requirements
on monthly basis
may distort data
limited level of
difficult to obtain
due to cultural
assumes all farm
land used for
only useful in
most food is
grown by the
unusual increases in land sales or mortgages; 4) increases in the amount of people seeking
credit; 5) increased dependence on wild foods; 6) reduction in the number of meals; and 7)
increased reliance on interhousehold exchanges. Concurrent indicators can be assessed while
carrying out a situational analysis using rapid rural appraisals. These indicators are primarily
acess/entitlement related. Once the nature and extent of the problems have been confirmed,
interventions can be introduced that focus on the causes or mitigate the effects.
Trailing indicators (WFP calls these late outcome indicators) occur after food access has
declined. They reflect the extent to which the well being of particular households and
communities have been affected. In addition to signs of malnutrition and high rates of
morbidity and mortality, trailing indicators include increased land degradation, land sales,
consumption of seed stocks and permanent outmigration. All of these indicators are signs that
the household has failed to cope with the food crisis (Frankenberger and Goldstein 1991).
An understanding of farmer coping strategies can be essential in guiding the design and
implementation of interventions to increase HFS. As Figure 3 illustrates, the types of coping
str tegies employed by households not only indicate household vulnerability to food shortage,
bu also correspond to different types of government and donor responses. Household coping
strategies that do not involve divestment normally indicate moderate vulnerability, and
government/donor response is more appropriately oriented toward longer-term development
efforts. Such responses can be targeted to enhance the long-term sustainability of HFS,
especially in those areas where vulnerability is likely to increase. In regions where divestment is
beginning to occur, household vulnerability becomes high and mitigation should be considered
the appropriate response. Mitigative interventions are those that: 1) abate the impacts of the
current emergency while reducing vulnerability to future emergencies; 2) target the conservation
of productive assets at the household level; and 3) reinforce and build upon existing patterns of
coping (Hutchinson 1991). In areas where productive asset sales and permanent outmigration
have begun to occur, the population is extremely vulnerable to famine. Such indices would call
for immediate relief action on the part of the government and donors. Thus, an appropriately
de signed HFS monitoring system could be flexible enough to serve all three purposes. Presently
most Early Warning Systems operating in Africa are only used for food aid planning (i.e., the
re ief function).
Given their usefulness in identifying vulnerable households, it is important to also
re ognize the limitations of these food access indicators. First, socioeconomic variables mean
different things in different contexts (Borton and York 1987). Researchers and development
pr ctitioners should understand the locational specificity of socioeconomic variables so that they
are not misinterpreted. Second, the raw data used as indicators can be misleading. Hesse
(1?87) demonstrated that regional livestock market data from Mali could easily be
misunderstood because individuals were buying and selling the same stock repeatedly in the
same day. Thus, the quality of the data needs to be properly validated before being
incorporated into a monitoring system. Third, without a baseline for determining what is
"normal" behavior for a given population, it is difficult to make valid interpretations of trends
displayed by indicators (Borton and York 1987). Fourth, given the locational specificity of
socioeconomic indicators, it is difficult to make comparisons across regions, or to aggregate the
data. This remains one of the critical areas of research to be addressed. Because of these
limitations, numerous challenges lay ahead for those HFS monitoring systems that incorporate
socioeconomic data (Haddad et al. 1991).
Crop & Livestock Adjustments
Famine food use
Grain loan from kin
Labor sales (migration)
Small animal sales
S \from merchants
'F EProductive asset sales
Adaptation Divestment Z
Diet change, borrowing, Liquid 'Productive
seasonal labor migration assets assets
Responses to household food shortages (after Watts, 1983)
The types of coping strategies employed by households indicate
household vulnerability to food shortage, and correspond to
different types of government and donor responses
Office of Arid Lands Studies, The University of Arizona, 1991.
To minimize inaccuracies derived from the use of socioeconomic indicators, multiple
indicators should be used whenever possible. The convergence of evidence will instill confidence
in :hose agencies responsible for addressing food security problems. In addition, attempts
should be made to pre-test indicators to determine whether local factors may distort an
indicator's validity and reliability (Haddad et al. 1991). Efforts also should be made to limit
fo d access indicators to a manageable number.
To date, few information systems are presently in place that adequately incorporate both
supply/production data and access/entitlement data in the same indicator set. Early warning
systems in most countries have had a food supply orientation focusing on production data and
nutritional status primarily because these data are easiest to obtain and are well suited to
aggregate analysis (Buchanan-Smith et al. 1991). Few governments or donors are willing to
commit the time or resources necessary to obtain information on socioeconomic indicators that
ar sensitive to the vulnerability of different groups. Decentralized HFS monitoring systems
would be the best means of obtaining such information. Centralized HFS monitoring systems
are likely to experience more difficulties in adequately assessing the HFS status of local
populations (Frankenberger 1992).
The information needs of different user groups will influence the selection of HFS
indicators and data collection methods to be used. National governments and donors require
quantitative information in a centralized system to help make informed planning and policy
de visions regarding the sharing of limited resources across regions. Local governments, farming
systems research teams, NGOS, and local communities require qualitative location-specific
information in a decentralized system to design appropriate interventions. A balance must be
struck between the need for data for centralized decisions on the allocation of resources and a
need for information appropriate for decentralized HFS monitoring and interventions.
HFS information systems can be designed to take both of these concerns into account.
Using a staged process, vulnerability to food insecurity can be mapped for a country or region to
assist national governments and donors in making decisions regarding the allocation of resources
across regions. This information can then be used to determine where more location-specific
HFS information is necessary to collect by farming systems teams. This information could then
be used for targeting development initiatives and for setting up decentralized HFS monitoring
F. Vulnerability Mapping
Pioneering efforts in vulnerability/risk mapping have been carried out in Bangladesh and
S dan under WFP support (Borton and Shoham 1991). The USAID-funded Famine Early
Warning Systems Project also has contributed significantly to this conceptual development
(Downing 1990). Vulnerability maps are maps which identify the areas and sectors of the
population that are most vulnerable to food insecurity. These maps highlight the regions that
need to be monitored more closely, and identify factors to take into consideration in designing
interventions for vulnerable areas (Borton and Shoham 1991). An earlier version of
lnerability mapping used in the 1970s was "functional classification" of under-nourished
p pulations as a basis for food and nutrition planning (Joy 1973).
Vulnerability to food insecurity is an aggregate measure for a given population of the
risk of exposure to different types of shocks (e.g., drought) or disaster events (primarily supply
indicators) and the ability to cope with these events (primarily access/entitlement indicators)
(see Matrix 2). Mapping vulnerability involves assessing the baseline vulnerability (the
contextual factors encompassing food insecurity events over the previous years), current
vulnerability (the shocks overlying the baseline), and future vulnerability (trends associated with
long-term food security risks (Frankenberger 1992).
A number of different approaches have been used in mapping food-related vulnerability
(Frankenberger 1992). These include: 1) disaggregating existing data on socioeconomic groups;
2) surveys that collect information directly relevant to vulnerability; 3) using existing data on key
indicators of vulnerability; and 4) conducting rapid rural appraisals (Borton and Shoham 1991).
Combining approaches may be necessary due to quality differences in the data. Geographic
information systems are now being used for combining different data sets (Hutchinson et al.
The types of information that can be used as indicators of vulnerability to food insecurity
will vary considerably between countries and regions within a country. Some indicators may be
more important than others in determining vulnerability, so subjective weighting of indicators is
often necessary (Borton and Shoham 1991). If weighting must be done, it is important to rely
on individuals who have local knowledge and experience in the areas to assign these weights.
Vulnerability maps drawn up for arid/or semi-arid regions should take into account the
location of ecologically favorable areas that serve as refuge points during drought conditions
(Susanna Davies, Personal Communication). The over-utilization of the resources in such areas
by multiple users during times of stress can increase the vulnerability of the local population.
Monitoring posts or sentinel sites (Mason et al. 1984) could be established in these areas of
convergence to assess the regional impact of droughts.
Vulnerability maps have great potential for national governments and donors in assisting
with decisions regarding the allocation of resources across regions. The development of such
maps could ideally be a first step in identifying districts or subregions where more locational-
specific HFS information is necessary to collect for designing appropriate interventions.
Decentralized HFS monitoring systems could then be developed in these designated areas.
G. A Systematic Approach to Identifying Food Insecure Households
In countries where national early warning systems already exist (e.g., crop forecasting,
food balance sheets, nutrition surveillance), information supplied by these systems can help
develop vulnerability maps for various regions. These vulnerability maps should be based upon
both supply-type indicators and access/entitlement indicators as much as possible to avoid
designating an area as vulnerable which may not be. Farming systems teams would not
necessarily be responsible for creating these maps, but would use them to help target future
activities. These maps would be fine-tuned as more information becomes available from the
farming systems teams and other sources.
The vulnerability maps can then be used for designating areas where more location-
specific HFS information can be gathered (Frankenberger 1992). If such information does not
already exist, farming systems teams can conduct RRAs to understand the local socioeconomic
context and identify HFS constraints and key indicators to be used in decentralized food security
Risk of an Event
Crop Production and Livestock Risks
price fluctuations (assets, food,
cash crops, livestock)
S access to employment
Crop Production and Livestock Risks
price fluctuations (assets, food,
cash crops, livestock)
access to employment
Future Vulnerability (trends)
I ninA Dvnr'r.,.rn
Ability to Cope
I--------- -- - -
Access to Resources
access to land
access to labor
resources (for wild
foods and other
access to land
access to labor
foods and other
other income sources
other income sources
access to social
access to social
The information gathered by the farming systems teams could feed directly into the
development of a district or sub-regional contingency plan, consisting of the HFS monitoring
system and a set of pre-determined responses that would be implemented if and when food
security conditions change. These responses would be designed in non-crisis years, and would
encompass development-type interventions that enhance the long-term sustainability of HFS,
mitigation-type interventions that enable households to retain their productive assets and
existing entitlements, and relief-type responses if immediate food aid distribution is warranted.
Responsibilities for these various actions will be negotiated and assigned to government
agencies, donors, and local NGOs prior to the onset of the food crisis to improve response
timing (Frankenberger 1992). Whenever possible, participation of local communities in
information gathering and response should be encouraged.
H. Integrating HFS Considerations into Ongoing FSRE Projects and Programs
FSRE development projects and programs should be designed in such a way to take into
account periodic shocks that may negatively impact the food security situation of households.
To prevent households from selling off their assets and diminishing their ability to take
advantage of project/program inputs, project designs should incorporate: 1) a monitoring system
with indicators that can detect changes in entitlement and food supply; and 2) contingency plans
that protect the asset base of the project beneficiaries during periods of stress through income
transfers such as food-for-work/cash-for-work. FSRE teams would not be responsible for
implementing these programs, but could help in designing such interventions for the area in
which they are working. Through local community participation, these contingency plans can be
designed to focus on improvements in infrastructure and/or natural resource management that
will enhance the long-term food security of the local area.
To effectively integrate HFS concerns into farming systems research and extension
activities, it is important to first understand the nature of the client group, and then to elicit
their participation in problem identification and technology development. The next section will
address these issues.
III. The Clientele of FSRE and Their Participation
The major clientele of FSRE are low-resource farmers. Their small-scale rainfed
farming systems tend to be more internally complex in comparison to industrial or green
revolution systems, and are often more dynamic in exploiting unpredictable conditions
(Chambers 1991). As Chambers (1991) points out, poor people in these areas seek to multiply
their enterprises to raise their income and reduce risk. This diversity is the key component in
the sustainability of their HFS and livelihoods. Thus, many low-resource farming systems are
moving in the opposite direction to that of industrial or green revolution agriculture. Instead of
becoming more simple and uniform, they are becoming more complex and diverse (Chambers
1991). Rather than intensifying external inputs, intensification is more internal.
Because of this complexity and diversity, many on-station researchers do not understand
these systems well. Approaches for developing widely applicable technologies for relatively
simple systems in uniform environments no longer are appropriate (Merrill-Sands et al. 1991).
New approaches are needed for identifying multiple products that can be tailored to the
identified needs of diverse clientele and production systems. In addition, the dynamic nature of
thIse systems requires that diagnostic updates are regularly carried out to insure that farmer
problems and needs are taken into account.
Farming systems research has done a good job in eliciting farmer participation in the
identification of the various strategies pursued to meet food security needs. However, low-
resource farmer participation beyond the diagnostic phase has been limited. Such participation
is critical in the search for sustainable HFS interventions that are locally acceptable. This has
much to do with the fact that transfer of technology approaches are still the dominant paradigm
in tnost agricultural research systems (Chambers et al. 1989). Many have argued that farming
systems research or on-farm client-oriented research (OFCOR) activities have enabled formal R
and D systems to extend to the farm. That is, on-station researcher-managed experiments are
now conducted on farmers' fields. Participatory approaches in technology generation are limited
be cause technology generation is still considered the domain of the biological scientists
To enhance the active involvement of farmers in the technology development process,
participatory methodological innovations were derived under a number of labels such as farmer
participatory research (Farmington and Martin 1987) and farmer first (Chambers et al. 1989).
Farmer-first models called for methodological reversals in agricultural research (Rhoades 1989;
B ker 1991). This involves a shift away from a technology supply orientation and a hypothesis
deduction model to an emphasis on indigenous farmer knowledge, innovative behavior and
farmer experimentation. Many advocates of this model feel that farmer knowledge,
inentiveness, and experimentation have long been undervalued, and that farmers and scientists
should be partners in the research and extension process (Rhoades 1989). Research should be
based on the problem analysis and priorities of farmers, with farmers being the central
experimenters (Chambers et al. 1989).
According to the farmer-first approach, farmers participate in the technology
development process in three ways. First, farmers are involved in the diagnostic phase. The
role of the researcher is to elicit, encourage, facilitate, and promote the analysis by farmers
(Chambers et al. 1989). Second, farmers are provided a range of choices of possible solutions to
identified problems which they pick and choose to suit their conditions and enhance their
adaptability (Ibid 1989). This translates into early involvement of farmers in the technology
design process, especially in screening alternative solutions. Third, farmers must be encouraged
to actively participate in experiments for site-specific testing of technologies and adaptation.
This may entail improving the farmers' own capacity to carry out on-farm trials and
e erimentation (Ibid 1989).
Although farmer-first approaches have provided excellent suggestions for ways to
i prove farmer participation in research aimed at improving HFS, caution must be exercised in
a opting all of its recommendations in a wholesale manner (Baker 1991). First, farmer
articulated demands nearly always relate to short-term priorities. An exclusive focus on these
p iorities can lead to an under-investment in sustainable HFS options. Second, there are inter-
and intra-differences in household priorities corresponding to gender roles, wealth, and village
location. Whose priorities and interests should be taken into account (Baker 1991). Third,
quantitative measures are often needed to convince policy-makers and extension services of the
value of technology options. Thus, some experimental rigor may be necessary. Fourth, farmer-
first reversals in the technology design process will be met with much resistance in national
agricultural research systems that primarily use a transfer of technology model. Such differences
in objectives and methods could reduce institutional acceptance and researcher collaboration
with on-farm research teams. Compromises may have to be sought to gain acceptance of such
new participatory approaches.
IV. Incorporating HFS into the Farming Systems Research-Extension Process
The previous sections have discussed a number of HFS issues that should be considered
in the implementation of FSRE programs and projects. This section outlines a number of ways
to incorporate these issues into ongoing research and development activities.
To improve the targeting of food-insecure households within a research area, FSRE
teams can work with other government agencies, donors, and NGOs to derive vulnerability
maps. The development of vulnerability maps could be the first step in identifying districts or
sub-regions where more location-specific HFS information is necessary to collect and where to
target interventions. Early warning systems already exist in most southern African countries, so
information supplied by these systems can help map vulnerability for various regions. For
example, in Zambia the Central Statistics Office in collaboration with FAO and UNICEF is
setting up a drought impact monitoring system for the country. In Malawi, national household
food security surveys have been regularly carried out by the Food Nutrition and Monitoring
Unit (Ministry of Agriculture) through UNICEF support. Existing data from these systems can
be used to formulate maps to cut down on costs.
Once the vulnerability maps have been developed, areas can be targeted where more
location-specific HFS information can be gathered. Two diagnostic tools that have been used
extensively because of their timeliness and cost-effectiveness are rapid rural appraisals (RRA)
and participatory rural appraisals (PRA). Although these techniques are related, they are not
the same and should not be considered interchangeable.
1. Rapid Rural Appraisals
RRAs have been employed in food security monitoring as a way to provide a systematic
overview of the diet and strategies for acquiring food in the target area while using a minimum
amount of survey time and resources (Frankenberger 1990). They can be effectively used in
carrying out pre-harvest surveys, and food systems inquiries in the initial stages of setting up an
information system (Davies et al. 1991). Such surveys have helped identify the critical regional
food resources that need to be sustained and managed (Valarde 1991). These surveys can also
help identify food-insecure groups in detail in order to plan food security interventions (Maxwell
RRAs rely on multi-disciplinary teams to carry out surveys and often use a topical
outline derived from secondary sources and past surveys to help guide the interviews. Data
collected may include information on food preferences, food marketing and purchases, meals
and food preparation, food storage and depletion of food stocks, free food distribution, wild
foods, seasonality of food supply, food prices, health related food issues such as weaning
practices, specialty foods for child-bearing women, prevalent health problems, women's
involvement in agriculture and other production activities, and consumption constraints facing
ho seholds (Frankenberger 1990). Information generated from RRAs provides insights into
inter-regional differences in consumption patterns rather than intra-village differences.
Despite the multiple advantages derived from RRAs, it is important to recognize the
limitations of such approaches. Researchers cannot be certain that households interviewed in
the survey are representative of most households in the region. Time constraints usually do not
allow for systematic sampling procedures to be followed. Thus, RRA techniques should be
viewed as complementary to other research methodologies such as formal surveys and indepth
anthropological studies. RRAs can even be combined with the formal interview process to
correct biases. For example, random sampling procedures could be introduced halfway through
fieid visits once hypotheses have been identified that need to be tested (Molnar 1991).
Given time constraints, RRAs may also have trouble targeting the least visible food-
in secure target groups such as landless, rural poor, women, and isolated ethnic groups. To
compensate for this, RRA teams can focus on degraded resource areas and smaller marginal
farms while interviewing households (Molnar 1991).
The major intention of RRAs, from our perspective, is to allow researchers to
understand the diversity of farming systems and corresponding constraints that are distributed
wi hin a given target area. Once this diversity and complexity are understood, specific villages
cai be selected which are representative of a wider array of villages so that further diagnoses
ca be carried out. It is at this point that participatory rural appraisals should be conducted.
2. Participatory Rural Appraisal
PRAs also involve multidisciplinary teams that gather HFS information in a systematic,
ye semi-structured way; however, they tend to focus on the village rather than the region, and
community participation is considerably more active (WRI 1989). PRA is intended to help
communities mobilize their human and natural resources to define problems, consider successes,
ev luate local capacities, prioritize opportunities, prepare a systematic and site-specific plan of
action, and a means for facilitating community self-help initiatives (Ibid 1989). It brings
together the development needs as defined by the community with the resources and technical
skills offered by the Government, donor agencies, and NGOs.
A number of techniques are used in PRA to elicit farmer involvement in identifying HFS
problems and deriving possible solutions. One method involved open-ended group discussions
used to enable farmers to analyze problems, identify research opportunities, and prioritize
interventions. Such discussions are different from many of the group discussions carried out in
RRAs because not only do they generate information, they allow farmers to synthesize
information and draw conclusions (Ashby 1991). Thus, the group's own understanding of the
HFS problems is advanced as well as the researchers.
Diagrams have also been used effectively to stimulate questions and responses, allowing
the farmers' knowledge to be made more explicit (Conway 1989). Diagrams can simplify
complex information, making it easier to communicate and analyze. Five different diagrams
derived from agroecosystem analysis are often used. Maps are used to identify different parts of
the farm or village and its relation to basic resources and land forms. Transects tend to be
drawn by researchers who walk from the highest point to the lowest point in the immediate
environment accompanied by the local people. Consulting people in each zone, transects can
help identify major HFS problems and opportunities in the agroecosystem and where they are
located (Ibid 1989). Calendars are used to indicate seasonal features and changes and are
useful for allowing farmers to identify critical times in the crop production cycle with regard to
changes in climate, cropping patterns, labor access, food procurement strategies, diet, and prices
(Ibid 1989). The ARPT teams in Zambia have developed a number of such calendars for their
respective research areas (Velarde 1991). Flow diagrams are used to present events in a cycle
of production, marketing, and consumption. Venn distgrams can be used to understand the
institutional relationships within a village. Such information could be critical to understanding
the informal social mechanisms (e.g., claims) that buffer households from periodic shocks.
Through the use of RRA and PRA techniques, FSRE researchers have begun to
appreciate the complexity of the coping strategies and livelihood systems which farmers pursue.
This has led many researchers to expand the enterprise coverage from a predominantly crop
focus to a broader crop-livestock off-farm mix. Linkages between systems at the field, farm,
village, region, and wider political economy have been identified (Zandstra 1991). Diagnostic
techniques have also improved our understanding of the local classification systems for plants,
soils, types of land, crops, and wild plants, facilitating better researcher-farmer communication
on HFS issues. Anthropologists and sociologists have played a vital role in fostering this
improved interaction with farmers.
However, it is the excessive concern of social scientists with diagnosis that has
contributed to the limited participation of farmers in other phases of the research process. As
Ashby rightly points out (1989), diagnostic research has become a hothouse of methodology
development spawning sondeo teams, informal surveys, rapid appraisals, key informant surveys,
etc. The farmer has become an object of investigation just as plants, soils, insects, and viruses
are objects of study to be measured. Asking farmers questions has become an industry (Ashby
in Chambers et al. 1989). Thus, to involve farmers in other phases of the research process
which is critical to HFS improvements, we must first involve the social scientists.
A major assumption that many researchers make is that farmers will adopt the
technologies that are generated by the research system once they have been tested and meet
certain production criteria. However, farmers often take these recommendations and adapt
them to suit their own resources and purposes (Ashby 1991). This is why it makes sense to
involve farmers early on in the testing phase so that technology aimed at improving HFS can be
adapted to their circumstances. This could speed up the technology development process and
reduce unnecessary costs for technologies that are inappropriate.
Collaborative farmer participation in technology design and testing is more likely to
occur when researchers are willing to allow farmers to contribute to the conceptualization of an
experimental program. For example, farmers can be brought in at early stages to help
researchers select varieties for on-farm testing (Ashby 1991). Such an approach was used in
Uttar Pradesh, India for screening improved rainfed rice varieties (Maurya et al. 1988). Such a
menu approach was also used in Rwanda, where farmers were invited into the experiment
station to participate in the seasonal selection of potatoes (Haugerud and Collinson 1990).
During this selection process, researchers found that they had ignored many important features
of interest to farmers. HFS criteria should be incorporated into this screening process.
When choosing participants for early screening of technologies, care must be taken to
include those members of the household with the most expertise for the given crop or livestock
species. This is especially true for interventions that directly impact HFS. For example, since
women are primarily involved with bean production in Rwanda, they were asked to take part in
evaluating hundreds of advanced breeding lines in the national bean research program (Ashby
One of the major obstacles to involving farmers more effectively in the design and early
testing phases is that researchers are afraid that farmers will lose confidence in the research
system if appropriate recommendations cannot be given. Ashby (1991) points out that farmers
need to be given more responsibility for technology design, testing and adaptation, especially if
research budgets are severely limited. In addition, farmers and private traders can be more
in olved with seed multiplication in order to increase the menu of options made available to
farmers. This will help cut down on the cost borne by the research station in multiplying seed.
C. On-farm Experimentation
The extent of farmer experimentation has often been under-perceived by most
re searchers. Much more could be done to strengthen farmers' informal R and D systems. First,
social scientists could be more actively involved in identifying the various topics upon which
fa mers are presently conducting their own experiments. Revelation of these experiments will
he p researchers understand which topics and HFS problems farmers are most interested in and
prv ide avenues for potential alternatives to solve these problems.
Second, researchers and extensionists can help improve farmers own capacity to carry
out experiments. Non-formal education and training could be provided to farmers to enable
them to understand and implement controlled comparisons, replications, and random
assignments (Ashby 1991; Bunch 1989). Such approaches have been successfully adopted in
Cdlombia, Guatemala, and the Gambia (Ashby 1991). In all these cases, results have shown that
farmers with primary schooling can master the major principles of experimentation.
The goals of such participatory approaches is to encourage a process where people
develop their own agriculture and solve the HFS problems in a self-sustaining way (Bunch 1989).
We must get away from the idea of providing packages to farmers, and allow them to choose
from a menu of options that fit more appropriately with the diversity of strategies they are
pursuing to meet their food needs. Highly structured on-farm trials limit farmers' ability to
ex eriment with and manipulate the new genetic material (Sumberg and Okole in Chambers et
al. 1989). It also precludes adjustments in other production practices or exploitation of
production niches which could make the new variety more interesting (Ibid 1989).
It is apparent that much intellectual progress has been made in our understanding of the
processes that lead to food-insecure situations for households. We have moved away from
simplistic notions of food supply being the only cause of household food insecurity to assessing
vulnerability of particular groups in terms of their access to food. For this reason, information
should be collected on factors that play a role in limiting food availability and the options that
households have for food access. The procurement strategies and social mechanisms used by
households to obtain stable access to food are diverse and complex. FSRE diagnostic studies
should attempt to understand this diversity by documenting the production-consumption linkages
and household coping strategies that characterize an area. With such information, HFS
indicators can be identified that are location-specific and can be monitored in ongoing
To aid in targeting FSRE activities aimed at HFS problems, vulnerability maps can be
drawn up for a country or region to identify the areas and sectors of the population that are
most vulnerable to food insecurity. The development of such maps would be the first step in
identifying districts or subregions where more location-specific HFS information is necessary to
collect for designing appropriate interventions.
Once a food-insecure area has been designated, diagnostic tools such as RRAs and
PRAs can be used to understand the local socioeconomic context and identify HFS constraints
and key indicators to be used in decentralized food security monitoring systems. Contingency
plans would be drawn up to link information to response. Responses would encompass
development-type interventions that enhance the long-term sustainability of HFS, mitigation-
type interventions that enable households to retain their productive assets, and relief-type
responses if immediate food and distribution is warranted. The FSRE teams would not be
responsible for all of these responses, but would coordinate such activities with other
government agencies, donors, and local NGOs.
To ensure that HFS interventions are appropriate, FSRE teams should encourage
farmers to participate in all phases of the research process. Farmers participation in diagnosis,
design, and experimentation will enable them to deal with their HFS problems in a self-
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From research to innovation: getting the most
from interaction with NGOs in FSR/E
Anthony J Bebbington
Overseas Development Institute
London NW1 4NS
Paper presented at the International Farming Systems Research/Extension
Symposium, Michigan State University, 14-18 September 1992.
This paper takes up arguments made elsewhere that public sector research institutes in many
developing countries need to break out of a prevailing narrow view of research which,
whether on-station or on-farm, follows the conventional cycle of diagnosis, screening, testing,
wider verification and dissemination. Greater benefits to users, and high job satisfaction
among researchers, it has been argued, will result if more attention is paid to inter-institutional
linkage strategies in which researchers are given the mandate and skills to identify
technologies suitable for local conditions from a wide range of sources and test them
collaboratively with local organizations, reserving only the more intractable issues for
specialised testing in a conventional research mode.
Drawing on a large body of new empirical material from Africa, Asia and S. America, this
paper examines the strengths and weaknesses of both NGOs and public sector research and
extension services in developing technologies for low-income farmers (and, in the case of
NGOs, for women and the landless) in difficult areas, and the scope for closer interaction
Providing that NGOs and the State share a common view on the future of the rural poor, and
on strategies to realise that future, each side can strengthen the other through a series of
functional complementarities, each of which is important in its own right. It is concluded,
however, that for public sector research organizations, the most significant advantages to be
gained from close interaction with NGOs lie in broader shifts of three kinds:
first, enhanced client-orientation, and an awareness that users' needs can best be
served by "problem" or "issue"-oriented approaches to technology development and
second, a recognition that a multiplicity of agencies and individuals innovate and that
a valid and increasingly necessary role for researchers is to stimulate and facilitate
such innovation, possibly at the expense of reducing some on-farm or on-station
third, a series of changes to institutional mandates, management procedures and
reward systems to facilitate the introduction and consolidation of wider perspectives
of this kind.
This paper draws preliminary findings from a study1 across Africa, Asia and Latin America
of the potential for closer links between NGOs and government agricultural research and
extension services in the development and dissemination of agriculture-related2 technologies
and management practices. Whilst at a practical level concerned with the functions that the
r spective organizations might jointly or separately undertake, the study also sought to locate
potential actions in the wider political and economic context in order to prevent attempts to
eneralise "success stories" into inappropriate contexts. The central methodology of the study
was to generate a substantial number (over 70) of case studies prepared in collaboration with
te NGO or government practitioners who had been involved in them. These were
supplemented by country or area-based overviews of wider NGO-state relations.
his paper starts by locating the study among others' perceptions of GO-NGO collaboration.
Then reviews the characteristics of the NGOs whose experience was documented in the ODI
study, briefly reviews examples of their success and failure in agricultural technology
development. Finally, it relates these to the strengths and weaknesses of government research
and extension services and examines in what ways GOs and NGOs can help to strengthen
each others' effectiveness where necessary, with donor assistance in enhancing livelihoods
f r the rural poor.
Over recent years a number of authors have argued that agricultural and rural development
strategies would benefit from increased collaboration between government and non-
overnmental development organizations, hereafter called GOs and NGOs respectively.
(arroll, forthcoming; de Janvry et al., 1989; Farrington and Biggs, 1990; Jordan, 1989;
orten, 1987). Donors, in particular, have begun to call for more NGO involvement in
programmes that have traditionally been implemented through the public sector (World Bank,
991a, b; Farnworth, 1991; IDB, 1991).
these advocates of closer NGO-GO collaboration have, however, under-emphasised:
the wide range of interaction that currently exists not all of it collaborative: much
involves pressure by one side on the other;
the limitations facing efforts to work together;
the preconditions for successful collaboration; in particular, the prior informal contacts
necessary to build up mutual trust;
the limitations as well as the successes of NGO action;
SConducted from the ODI Agricultural Research and Extension Network and published in 4 volumes by
Routledge (Farrington et al., 1993; Farrington and Lewis (eds.), 1993; Wellard and Copestake (eds.),
1993; Bebbington et al. (eds.), 1993).
2 Agriculture is defined broadly to include annual and perennial crops, livestock and farm-related trees.
the extent to which certain functions will remain more cost-effectively performed by
the public sector than by NGOs. Analysis of how GOs might work with NGOs must
be accompanied by continuing attention to ways of improving public sector
management, an area in which structural adjustment reforms have not had the success
expected (Nunberg, 1988; Ribe et al., 1990).
It is also important to note that these calls for collaboration come from different points across
the ideological spectrum, including NGO activists (eg. Clark (1991) and Jordan (1989)),
radical economists (de Janvry et al. 1989), and multilateral institutions. This may be cause
for celebration; but it is also cause for circumspection. It suggests that different actors are
seeking differing outcomes of such collaboration, and have divergent views on how much
responsibility the state ought to continue to assume, and which subsidies to which social
groups ought to survive.
This study sought to address the "blind spots" of these statements, and to make the divergence
between their views more explicit. In particular it drew attention to the tension between those
casting NGOs in predominantly "service delivery" roles and those (including many of the
more reflective NGOs themselves) who see NGOs' most valuable contribution in influencing
the wider policies or strategies of development, in developing approaches towards livelihood
enhancement for the poor which GOs might emulate in helping to identify clients' needs and
generating "demand pull" on government services to meet them, and in the design and
monitoring of projects, rather than merely in their implementation. One difficulty seems to
be that even where these multiple roles of NGOs are recognized, in reality it appears much
easier to draw them into project implementation than into advisory or design work a recent
breakdown of World Bank projects involving NGOs suggests 57% of cases fell into the
former category, and 32% in the latter (World Bank 1989).
II Features of the NGOs studied
Our concern is mainly with the stronger of the South-based NGOs that provide services either
directly to the rural poor or to grassroots membership organizations, although examples are
also drawn from some North-based NGOs, and from some of their offices located in the
South which operate with varying degrees of autonomy. The path chosen through various
criteria for selection of case study NGOs is given in Figure 1. Most of the NGOs considered
pursue livelihood enhancement in a participatory fashion and in the context of wider value-
driven objectives including group formation and conscientisation. However, a wide range of
NGO philosophies and approaches exists, including those which are somewhat "top-down"
(e.g. Bharatiya Agro-Industries Foundation see Satish and Farrington, 1990) and those which
have become narrowly tied to government contracts for service delivery (see Aguirre and
(A) DIVERSITY OF NGO TYPES
SERVICE TO GRASSROOTS/
GRASSROOTS / COMMUNITY
ENLIGHTENED 4 -.-
PARTICIPATORY - --
NGOs Diversity in the Crowd
The origins of NGOs vary widely, and are likely to have a strong bearing on the type and
extent of potential NGO-GO collaboration. Some were formed in opposition to governments
which discriminated against the rural poor3, others as a reaction to government support for,
or indifference to, prevailing patterns of corruption, patronage or authoritarianism.
Many NGOs were formed by left-leaning professionals formerly employed in universities or
in the public sector. Their intellectual calibre has generally been high, but they were often
socially and ethnically distinct from the rural poor. In the early stages of their formation,
almost all NGOs were characterized by small size, institutional flexibility, horizontal structure
and short lines of communication. Many have found these characteristics conducive to a
quick response to clients' needs and to changing circumstances and a work ethic conducive
to generating sustainable processes and impacts, and so have sought to retain them well
beyond the initial establishment period. But the smallness and the political origins and
orientation of NGOs are also their "Achilles' heel" since:
(i) NGO projects rarely address wider scale structural factors that underlie rural poverty;
(ii) NGOs have limited capacities for agricultural technology development and
dissemination4, and limited awareness of how to create effective demand-pull on
government research services;
(iii) the activities of different NGOs remain uncoordinated, and information exchange is
poor especially among small NGOs where transaction costs are high.
These strengths and weaknesses of NGOs, and their implications for NGO-GO relations, are
discussed in more detail below, and illustrated by examples from Africa, Asia and Latin
III Successes and failures of NGO technology development
Public sector agricultural technology development is conventionally analysed by 'stage', i.e.
from basic agricultural technology development through strategic, applied and adaptive, with
some consideration of agricultural technology development-dissemination linkages.
Application of this approach to NGOs would not be particularly illuminating, since practically
all NGO agricultural technology development is problem or 'issue'-based and NGOs tend to
draw on several stages simultaneously in an "action-oriented" mode.
Here we prefer to consider five main areas in which NGOs have been innovative and
3 This opposition has covered a range of forms. For instance, Ghandian NGOs in India lie at the less
confrontational end of the spectrum, in contrast with, say, those NGOs in the Philippines that have
campaigned for land reform.
4 But note that the Mennonite Central Committee has conducted several pieces of long-term research
during its 17 years of experimental work in Bangladesh (Buckland and Graham, 1990).
1. Diagnostic and farming systems agricultural technology development methods
Conventional public sector approaches to agricultural technology development have difficulty
in coping with the wide range of agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions characteristic
cf the complex, diverse and risk-prone areas in which many of the rural poor live (Chambers
et al. (eds.), 1989; Richards, 1985). In such areas, agricultural technology development must
not merely be on-farm and farmer-managed, but participatory in order to draw on local
knowledge and to meet farmers' needs, opportunities, constraints and aspirations. The
approaches introduced in GOs have frequently been expensive and time consuming, and often
not participatory (Biggs, 1989). Some NGOs, on the other hand, have been innovative in
Developing more parsimonious approaches.
In Kenya, the Diagnosis and Design methodology practised and diffused by ICRAF
grew out of the development of methods by CARE and Mazingira in the early 1980s
to elicit rapid farmer assessment of tree species (Buck, forthcoming).
In Chile, NGOs were responsible for the elaboration of farming systems perspectives,
and their subsequent teaching to other institutions (Aguirre and Namdar-Irani, 1992;
In India, Myrada has been instrumental in developing participatory rapid appraisal
methods and training for both other NGOs and government staff in their
implementation (Fernandez, 1991).
NGOs have also introduced systems approaches to agricultural technology development which
go beyond conventional FSR. First, several have used food systems perspectives. For
In Chile, AGRARIA is experimenting with means of commercialising small farmer
grain, which a government department is now considering scaling up (Aguirre and
S In Bangladesh, the Mennonite Central Committee conducted the varietal, processing
and market agricultural technology development on which around 1000 ha of soya
production by farmers is now based (Buckland and Graham, 1990).
In the Gambia, production of sesame introduced by Catholic Relief Services reached
8000 ha owing in part to their simultaneous introduction of oil extraction technology
I other cases, NGOs have successfully expanded systems perspectives beyond the farm
Boundary. For instance, in Bangladesh, Friends in Village Development have conducted much
cf the R&D into the rearing and management of the 350,000 improved ducks now kept on
open access areas of water in the Sylhet area (Nahas, 1991). Female household members are
t e focus of this and numerous other NGO projects, but are rarely a priority for government
agricultural development programmes.
NGOs have also been instrumental in introducing a social organisational and management
dimension into the testing and subsequent adoption of certain technologies, which government
services typically find difficult to introduce. For instance:
In India, Action for World Solidarity and a consortium of GROs in Andhra Pradesh
devised a strategy for integrated pest management of caterpillar (Amsacta sp.) on
castor together with government research institutes, and then helped to organise
farmers to take certain action simultaneously in order to achieve maximum impact
(Satish et al., 1991).
In the Gambia and Ethiopia, NGOs have helped farmers to organise local informal
seed production in ways designed to avoid undesirable cross-pollination (Henderson
and Singh, 1990).
In Bangladesh, NGOs have helped to organise landless labourers to acquire and
operate 'lumpy' irrigation technology (Mustafa et al., 1991), and have organised
groups (mainly of women) to interact both among themselves and with government
services in chicken rearing (Khan et al., 1991).
2. Innovations in technologies and management practices
While funding constraints make long-term agricultural technology development difficult for
NGOs, several have done work which has had far-reaching implications. For instance:
In India, the Bharatiya Agro-Industries Foundation pioneered research into frozen
semen technology in India, and, through its 500 field programmes in six states, has
been responsible for producing around 10% of the country's cross-bred dairy herd.
Similarly, the Southern Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Centre (Philippines) has
identified integrated methods of managing hillslopes using Sloping Agricultural Land
Technologies (Watson, 1991).
Most NGO research efforts are, however, at the adaptive end of the spectrum. For instance:
In India, PRADAN has scaled down technologies developed by government institutes
for mushroom and raw silk production, and for leather processing and, in the case of
the latter, has devised integrated schemes of credit and marketing (Vasimalai, 1991).
Under the Farmer Innovation and Technology Testing programme in the Gambia, 8
NGOs collaborated with the Department of Agricultural Research in 1989 for on-farm
testing and feedback on a number of new crop varieties (Gilbert, 1990).
In East Africa, NGOs have been testing new crop varieties in Zambia (Copestake,
1990) and in Zimbabwe (Ndiweni et al., 1991), and have been adapting tree
management practices in Zimbabwe (Ndiweni et al., 1991) and Kenya (Mung'ala and