Front Cover
 Front Matter
 Table of Contents
 Letter to the editor
 The "fertiliser bush" game: A participatory...
 Rapid food security assessment:...
 RRA has a role to play in developed...
 Distribution list

Title: RRA notes
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00089570/00005
 Material Information
Title: RRA notes
Series Title: RRA notes.
Alternate Title: Rapid rural appraisal notes
Proceedings of RRA Review Workshop, Sussex
Proceedings of the Local Level Adaptive Planning Workshop, London
Participatory methods for learning and analysis
Physical Description: v. : ill. ; 30 cm.
Language: English
Creator: International Institute for Environment and Development -- Sustainable Agriculture Programme
Publisher: IIED, Sustainable Agriculture Programme
Place of Publication: London
Publication Date: May 1989
Frequency: irregular
completely irregular
Subject: Sustainable agriculture -- Periodicals -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Sustainable agriculture -- Methodology -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
Dates or Sequential Designation: No. 1-
General Note: Title from cover.
General Note: Some issues have individual titles.
General Note: Latest issue consulted: No. 19, published in 1994.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00089570
Volume ID: VID00005
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 24385692
lccn - sn 92015492
 Related Items
Succeeded by: PLA notes

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Front Matter
        Page 1
    Table of Contents
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
    Letter to the editor
        Page 5
    The "fertiliser bush" game: A participatory means of communication
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
    Rapid food security assessment: A pilot exercise in Sudan
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
    RRA has a role to play in developed countries
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
    Distribution list
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
Full Text


RRA Notes

Number 5

MAY 1989



This is the fifth of a series of informal notes on Rapid Rural
Appraisal (RRA). The aim is to share experiences and methods
among practitioners of RRA throughout the world.

We plan to publish brief informal pieces on any topic related to
RRA. We would like to hear news of meetings, workshops and
projects, both past and planned. In particular we are seeking
short accounts of experiences with RRA techniques in the field -
failures as well as successes. Please also send titles of
articles, papers and reports for listing under the new
publications section.

We will publish fairly regularly, depending on the availability
of material. As far as possible each issue will be put together
by a different editor and we would like to hear from volunteers
for this task.

The notes are being produced under the Sustainable Agriculture
Programme of IIED, which is financed by USAID and SIDA.

Robert Chambers
Jennifer McCracken
Jules Pretty

Material for inclusion in the notes should be sent to:

Jennifer McCracken
International Institute for Environment and Development
3 Endsleigh Street

Telephone: 01-388-2117
Telex: 261681 EASCAN G
Telefax: 01-388-2826



RRA Notes 1: June 1988

RRA Methods Workshop in Thailand
Notes of an RRA Meeting held in Sussex
Pairwise Ranking in Ethiopia
Direct Matrix Ranking in Kenya and West Bengal
Recent Publications
Peasant Lore

Jules Pretty
Robert Chambers
Gordon Conway
Robert Chambers
Jennifer McCracken

RRA Notes 2: October 1988

Using RRA to Formulate a Village Resources
Management Plan, Mbusanyi, Kenya
Learning About Wealth: An example from Zimbabwe
Investigating Poverty: An example from Tanzania

Charity Kabutha
and Richard Ford
Ian Scoones
Sheila Smith
and John Sender

RRA Notes 3: December 1988

Ranking of Browse Species by Cattlekeepers
in Nigeria
Direct Matrix Ranking in Papua New Guinea
Sustainability Analysis
Oral Histories and Local Calendars
Portraits and Stories
Bibliographic Notes

Wolfgang Bayer

Robin Mearns
Iain Craig
Robin Mearns
Jules Pretty

RRA Notes 4: February 1989

Wealth Ranking in a Caste Area of India
Popular Theatre through Video in Costa Rica
Participatory RRA in Gujarat
Successful Networking!
Distribution List

Ruth Grosvenor-Alsop
Keith Anderson
Jennifer McCracken



Letter to the Editor

The "Fertiliser Bush" Game:
A Participatory Means of Communication

Rapid Appraisal for Fuelwood Planning in Nepal

Rapid Food Security Assessment:
A pilot exercise in Sudan

RRA Has a Role to Play in Developed Countries

Barbara Grandin

Kristin Cashman

John Soussan &
Els Gevers

Simon Maxwell

Peter Ampt &
Raymond Ison


This fifth issue of RRA Notes includes for the first time a short
comment on a previous article. The correspondent suggests an
alternative way in which the ranking of browse species (in RRA
Notes 3) could have been conducted, to give the pastoralists more
say in deciding the final ranked categories. We would welcome
more comments on previous articles, or indeed letters with more
general comments, criticisms etc.

The four articles in this issue illustrate a very wide range of
applications of the RRA approach:

(1) Introducing the idea of alley farming to communities in

The article describes how a participatory drama, "The
Fertiliser Bush", got around some of the initial
communication barriers and became a springboard for
discussions on the alley farming technology.

(2) Planning fuelwood initiatives in Nepal

The authors describe the whole sequence of an exploratory
RRA, which covered many other issues in addition to the
fuelwood focus, and which combined technical measurements
with more qualitative investigative techniques.

(3) Assessing food security in Sudan

This RRA used an apt ranking technique for looking at food
security dividing a plate of sorghum grain into different
portions, each representing a particular group within the

(4) Involving farmers in agricultural research in Australia

This article describes one of the few examples of where RRA
has been applied in a developed country, and illustrates
well how the RRA techniques are equally applicable to such

As a final note, if any names and addresses were misspelt in the
distribution list (sent with RRA Notes 4) or in the subsequent
up-date lists, or if you know of anyone else who should be on the
list, please let us know.

Jennifer McCracken


Barbara Grandin writes from Nairobi, commenting on the recent
article on ranking by Wolfgang Bayer (RRA Notes No 3)

"...I particularly enjoyed reading the recent paper "Ranking of
Browse Species by Cattlekeepers in Nigeria" by Dr Wolfgang Bayer
in RRA Notes No 3. The technique he uses is similar to that
which I have developed for ranking households in a community
according to some characteristic (usually wealth, but other
factors, such as livestock management skill, are equally amenable
to ranking). An application and expansion of this technique was
reported in Ian Scoones' paper "Learning about Wealth: An Example
from Zimbabwe" in RRA Notes No 2.

In response to Dr. Bayer's suggestion (p 9) "...it might have
been easier and quicker for both the Fulani and us to have
grouped the cards into, say, 3 categories...", I would like to
suggest to Dr Bayer and your readers that each pastoralist be
allowed to decide on the number of categories rather than the
scientist a priori deciding on the number. I believe that in any
ranking exercise, the interviewee should be allowed to decide the
number of categories s/he feels is appropriate. In this way,
s/he will feel most at ease as s/he is not forced to make what
may appear to him/her to be arbitrary or unnatural distinctions.
The groups of cards at the end of the exercise will then
represent what the interviewee feels are logical or natural
groupings according to the chosen characteristic (in this case,
importance to cattle). Given this, further information on these
groupings can be obtained, for example by asking if there is
anything else besides importance to cattle that these species
have in common.

In my experience, different interviewees will have different
numbers of groups (depending on factors such as knowledge,
interest, etc.). This presents little difficulty in terms of
calculating average ranks, particularly if one has a pocket
calculator. The score for any card is its group number divided
by the total number of groups. For example, a card which is the
second of three groups is given a score of 66 (2 3), a card
which is in the first of five groups is given a score of 20 (1 +
5), while cards in the bottom group always have scores of 100.
The lowest average scores are thus the top-ranked cards, while
the highest scores are the bottom-ranked. Thus with no extra
effort during data collection and only a little extra effort in
calculating scores, a picture which is closer to the
pastoralists' own views can be obtained."

The "Fertiliser Bush" Game:
A Participatory Means of Communication

The Problem "Alley Farming"

This paper describes some of the problems I encountered, and the
strategy I used to resolve them, while supervising an on-farm-
research (OFR) project in south western Nigeria during 1985 and
1986 for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
(IITA). This involved living in villages comprising the research
site and working closely with community members.

I was hired by IITA to live and work in some of the Yomba
villages comprising IITA's on-farm-research sites. My job
involved "testing" alley farming under field conditions with
limited resource farm families. As a change agent I was
constantly faced with dilemmas related to managing and
facilitating the change process that alley farming involved.
This job was made even more difficult since my "clientele" were
resource poor and illiterate.

Three factors discourage farmers adopting, much less
experimenting, with alley farming technologies. One is the need
to satisfy certain essential subsistence requirements. The
second is the reluctance of small farmers to adopt conservation
farming techniques because the benefits accrue well beyond the
limited planning horizons within which they are accustomed to
operate. Third, in Nigeria, there are important differences
between men and women in the terms under which they gain access
to resources. Men inherit their land, while women usually farm
on land allocated to them by their husbands or other male

Being a woman I was keenly aware of how these factors usually
make conventional extension channels impractical, especially
since the vast majority of change agents in Africa are men.
Clearly, there was a need for mechanisms to help change agents
and their constituencies respond to change brought about by the
introduction of alley farming and to adapt effectively.

Now I do not know how many of you are familiar with the alley
farming technology. I would like to ask you for the moment to
just pretend you know nothing about the technique and just look
at the words "alley farming".

Let us see..."alley farming", well "farming" tells me it must
have something to do with agriculture, but there is no word in
the three major languages spoken in Nigeria that is even remotely
similar to the word "alley".

This was unfortunate, indeed, a great deal of time and money was
spent on designing a poster illustrating and explaining the alley
farming system. And although the poster was translated into a
number of African languages, there were no indigenous equivalents

to the English phrase "alley farming". When I came across a
number of technicians in the field, speaking their local dialect
to promote alley farming, I was disappointed and shocked to hear
them repeatedly fail to translate the phrase "alley farming".
Even if it could be sufficiently translated, what does an avenue
of sorts have to do with farming and what do trees have to do
with crop production?

An additional weakness of the poster as a mechanism to aid in the
transfer of the alley farming technology was its continuous use
of the word "trees" and its use of scientific measurements to
convey the precise distance between the alleys and the shrubs
within each row. These explanations were so technical and
alienating that they were useless to the farmers in the area.

Finding a Logical Solution

I tried to encourage farmers' active participation, but came up
against more, equally troublesome, constraints. There are a
number of reasons why people will not accept something that is
deemed beneficial in the eyes of others. Perhaps the most
important is that many African farmers share the conventional
belief that trees have no place on the farm field. The farmers
in my area reported spending more time and money clearing the
land (i.e. cutting and burning brush), than any other stage of
production. So when an outsider like myself happens on the scene
and says "you all should plant trees on your farms because it
will bring you benefit," a number of things happen.

One, when I explained to the men and women that if they plant
trees, they can farm on the same piece of land continuously,
their initial reaction was "You've got to be crazy! Why do you
think we pulled all the trees out for, so some white whimsy
looking woman could come and tell us we made a mistake?"

Two, as I mentioned before, in Nigeria men control most land
resources. Men own and allocate land to women to farm on.
Traditionally, trees left standing on a farm offer direct
economic benefit and are considered men's domain. Although women
are actively engaged in farming, they are reluctant to plant,
fearing the repatriation of the farmplots. In addition 98% of
the extension agents in Africa are men, therefore it is generally
men who are engaged in outreach programs in alley farming. Other
studies, as well as my own work, indicate that husbands often do
not pass on to their wives complete and accurate information
concerning an innovation.

A third problem was getting farmers to sit and listen to the
detailed explanations of planting an alley farm, as well as the
new management strategy necessary to reap the benefits of the

The Participatory Approach

There were other constraints inhibiting adoption, as well, but by
far the biggest one, at least initially, came with using the word
"tree". What I came up with, in partnership with a few villagers
and primary school teachers, was a play or drama, titled "The
Fertiliser Bush", or "Igbo Ajile" in the local Yoruba dialect.

The skit deliberately played down the fact that alley farming
involved planting trees on farms. The phrase fertilizerr bush"
made the alley farming system immediately appealing, conveying
the primary attribute of the system in one short phrase.
Therefore, if villagers could not be present for an explanation,
or just overheard others talking about it, they would have a
general idea of the primary attribute of the innovation.

The village theatre, composed of 5 community members, was based
upon the long established and respected method of relaying
important historical information known as "oral tradition". All
the roles in the play were acted out by community members. The
lively drama and catchy tunes informed whole communities about
the powers of the fertilizer bush invoking a sense of project
ownership. The script, though never the same twice, highlighted
the salient features and critical processes necessary to make
alley farming a success. The drama was presented to whole
villages. The broad based appeal of the group allowed the
community to judge the worth of alley cropping whether
participating or not.

The play was presented within the framework of a family squabble,
where the husband tries to pass his worthless farm off to his
wife and shift to better land. She is annoyed at the prospects,
but feels pressured to take it despite its low worth, lest she be
left with nothing. A friendly peer appears on the scene, with
her child hoisted on her back, offering advice on alley farming
based on her experience. Their curiosity is aroused. All
questions posed by the couple are answered in a gentle, casual
way. All objections are handled with an eye to involving all
able bodied family members to assist in the experience.


Throughout the play the problem of poor production is constantly
related to soil quality. The costs of applying commercial
fertilizer are weighed against the cost of abandoning the farmlot
and beginning anew somewhere else, where the long term is no more
promising that the present circumstances. The play proposes
using alley farming as a superior choice.

Taming the Tree

The bearer of alley farming method was deliberately cast as a
woman and her child to encourage women to participate. In
addition, traditionally, trees have always been a man's domain in
Nigeria. Women were dissuaded, even scared off, from planting
trees on their farms, less they forfeit their rights of tenancy.

The very idea of planting a tree on a farm was contrary to any
planned farming activity for the people in the OFR area, men as
well as women. Consequently, the decision to refer to cassia and
leucaena as the fertilizer bush was a deliberate attempt to
dampen any objection and calm any initial fears of its use. The
attribute fertilizer made planting trees immediately appealing,
while conveying the fundamental benefit of the system. When the
first unhappy, now curious farmer displays his knowledge that
cassia is actually a tree, the alley farming friend is able to
focus attention on the management aspect of farming and reinforce
the attractive attribute of fertilizer. The pertinent exchange
runs as follows:

Farmer: Look here, cassia is a tree, like the one growing over
there. What about the roots, won't they disturb my crop?

Alley farming friend: Good question. But you are the farmer and
it is your farm, so if you want trees, well, then let it grow to
a tree. Otherwise igbo ajile is maintained as a bush,
periodically cut back. When you continue to prune your leucaena
and cassia you force the roots of igbo ajile to go down, down,
down, deep into the ground. These deep roots bring moisture and
nutrients to the upper layers of the soil.

When a weak protest is made about the amount of work involved in
managing an alley farm, the friend explains how the whole family
benefits and how each able bodied person should be involved. The
whole family was usually involved in the planting to safeguard
against anybody mistakenly weeding leucaena and cassia seedlings.
Some of the inter-household processes of farming are brought to
light in the play's opening song:

Please, people, come out and hear what we have to say
because the Ministry of Agriculture, University of Ibadan,
and IITA are here with the igbo ajile.

We are talking to everybody, both male and female, calling
all of you people to come out and hear what we have to say.
What are you doing shifting your farm from one place to
another and spending all your hard earned money clearing the
land and making new heaps?

If men plant the igbo ajile, with nurturing and care they
will succeed and they will be praising God.

If women plant the igbo ajile, they will have more security
on their farms, no need to be nagging after the men in the
village for new farmland once their old one has lost its
fertility, and they will be praising God.

Yes, even children come close. If you plant igbo ajile you
will spend less time fetching firewood, weeding, and making
new heaps. Praise be to God!

The alley farming woman, eager to demonstrate her knowledge,
starts to explain the spacing in terms of centimetres within rows
and meters between row. The squabbling couple now turn their
ridicule towards her, teasing her mercilessly for adopting the
foolish terminology of the white people. After joining them in a
good laugh, she proceeds providing the couple with some practical
training using a more traditional yardstick, "let's see...25
centimetres is about the size of your foot, and 4 to 5 metres
between these rows is about equal to 4 to 5 strides".

After a detailed and thorough explanation, the once curious now
excited husband and wife are anxious to obtain the seeds to
plant the fertilizer bush to solve their production problems.
"Now wait a minute", the alley farmer warns. "The fertilizer
bush is not magic. You should know by now that nothing in life
is free and easy". Again, she explains by using her own
situation analogously. "The fertilizer bush is like this small
child on my back. During the first year both need care and
attention, even a little nurturing wouldn't hurt". At this point
she removes the child from her back and places her next to her
husband's drum. "Now ask her to play this drum". The child taps
it, but loses her balance and the drum tips over.

She continues with her analogy. "I don't see much return from
the fertilizer bush, but I continue my vigil because I know in
time it becomes like this school child. If I am as good a farmer
as I am a parent, I will begin to see a number of benefits". She
grabs a child from the audience and asks him to play the drum.
As most village boys do, he plays quite well. "After the first
year the fertilizer bush is like this child and I begin to see
some returns to my labour. I can send him to fetch some water or
firewood and he can help me on the farm and he is even attending

"This is all fine and good but my love and attention doesn't stop
here because I know in time it will become a partnership, like
husband and wife". At this point she is standing beside her
husband and her child. With her hands on her hips and a
suspicious looking smile, she says, "At this point, you see, the
fertilizer bush and the farmer is like husband and wife. I take
care of him and he sure takes care of me". After this line the
while troupe breaks into song, dancing off, singing the wonders
of the fertilizer bush.


Kang, B.T., Wilson, G.F. and Lawson, T.L. 1984. Alley Cropping:
A Stable Alternative to Shifting Cultivation. International
Institute of Tropical Agriculture: Ibadan, Nigeria

Richards, P. 1985. Indigenous Agricultural Revolutions.
London: Hutchinson and Co. Ltd.

Kristin Cashman
Iowa State University

Rapid Appraisal for Fuelwood Planning in Nepal

Collecting information for planning complex problems such as
fuelwood in rural areas is difficult. These problems are highly
variable, express themselves indirectly and are locality-
specific. Their investigation requires sensitivity to local
situations across a variety of fields. Fuelwood problems are
about far more than just energy: land use and tenure, forestry,
environmental stress and farming systems must all be looked at if
these problems are to be understood and effective solutions
developed. And yet people involved directly in planning never
have the luxury of time to assess the situation, and should be
reluctant to commit large quantities of resources which could be
used to finance direct activities.

The Dhanusha District Sustainable Fuelwood Strategy and Action
Plan is a project financed by the EEC and executed by the
Forestry Department, Government of Nepal. The ETC Foundation was
commissioned to evaluate the situation and prepare an action plan
to enact sustainable solutions to the District's problems.
Substantial prior experience of fuelwood planning has taught us
the following:

1. Fuelwood problems and intervention opportunities are
specific to people and places, and are a function of access
to land resources.

2. Fuelwood problems express themselves indirectly; as a series
of responses to resource stress.

3. Fuelwood stress is basically an issue of poverty, and is
closely related to wider environmental stress.

4. Successful fuelwood interventions will frequently be
indirect and small-scale. Packages of appropriate
initiatives which are tailored to local opportunities and
incorporate local knowledge and priorities must be

These initial assumptions formed the basis of a rapid appraisal
of Dhanusha District in southern Nepal. The appraisal aimed to
identify the form fuelwood problems take and local initiatives
and resource opportunities on which sustainable interventions
could be built. An initial appraisal of the district showed that
three types of locality needed to be assessed. These were rural
areas in the Terai Plain, the main urban area and the designated
forest area in the Siwalik Hills.

A reconnaissance survey was carried out to obtain general
knowledge about the district's physical and social
characteristics, which also included general observation of the
landscape and assessment of the existing woody and other biomass

Twenty villages, representing all parts of Dhanusha District,
were visited during the reconnaissance survey. The field team
prepared detailed notes on each village, while impressions were
fresh, and discussed them with forestry officials, local people
and district-level development actors.

Out of the 20 villages covered in the reconnaissance survey, 5
villages were chosen for in-depth inquiry: Tadiya, Ramdaiya,
Sabaila, Goth Koilpur and Thadi. The main criteria for selecting
these sites were:

1. Their distance from the forest area in the north.

2. Their accessibility to the district's transport network.

3. The magnitude of their fuelwood problem.

Four major techniques were employed for the collection of data:

a) Detailed observation of landscape, housing pattern, trees
and vegetation cover, cropping and livestock patterns, etc.
A series of sketch maps and check lists were prepared to
represent this information.

b) Group discussions with local people regarding fuelwood
problems, biomass resource management practices and
attitudes towards forestry and other intervention options.

c) Discussions with selected individual members of the
community on general socio-economic issues, the availability
of local resource opportunities and responses to fuelwood
problems at the household level, in which both men and women
were included.

d) In-depth structured interviews with 30 households in each
village involving both men and women. These households were
chosen from 6 major tenural classes: landless; below 1
bigha; 1 to 2.5 bigha; 2.5 to 4 bigha; over 4 bigha;

Land tenure patterns, livestock ownership, fuel use patterns and
details of the numbers and the types of trees grown were issues
covered in the interviews. These in-depth interviews were
designed to identify the resource base and the intervention
possibilities across the various tenural classes.

Urban Area Study Methodology

In the urban area, a number of households, large and small
fuelwood-using industries and urban fuelwood dealers were visited
by the team members, and informal discussions were held in order
to collect information on the pattern of fuel demand, the
existing supply situation and the price of fuel in urban areas.

In order to understand the fuel use pattern and the possibilities
of fuel saving/switching at the household level, the urban
population was broadly divided into low, middle and upper income
households and 13 households were interviewed from each category,
thus totalling 39 households.

In both rural and urban areas local people were hired for the in-
depth structural interviews and for the translation and the
tabulation of all the data collected.

Methodology for the Forest Area in the Siwalik Hills

During the field work a forest exit survey was executed with the
help of 6 local people from Ramdaiya. The amount of fuelwood,
fodder and timber which was brought out of the forest, was
counted for one week, day and night. This occurred at the three
main exit points at Chisapani, Tulsi Pato, and Bisrampur.
Typical weights for different types of load were calculated and
the data was used to assess the quantity of woody biomass being
extracted from the forest area.

The broad quantity of woody biomass in the forest area was also
assessed. Data collection on the woody biomass supply from
different strata of the Siwaliks was done as follows:

In each stratum riverinee stream banks: Siwalik Hills southern
part, Siwalik Hills northern part) one plot was taken to measure
trees and in each plot two sub-plots for measures of undergrowth.

Each plot: 100 m wide and 1000 m long (100,000 m2). All
trees measured > 5 cm dbh (diameter breast

Total: 4 plots

Each sub-plot: 2 m wide and 5 m long (10 m ). All undergrowth
was cut and weighed; fresh to dry weight is
discounted by 30%.

Total: 8 sub-plots.

The Nolume figures were transferred into weight figures using 600
kg/m which was transferred into tonnes/ha. Tree yield was based
on a 100 year rotation. The quality of the forest cover in
different areas was also assessed by observation, as were signs
of environmental stress, selective extraction of tree species and
areas which appeared to offer potential for intervention.

The duration of the fieldwork was approximately 2 months, during
which time links were also established with local officials and
selected community groups in order to establish an institutional
structure for the implementation of the fuelwood strategy. The
goal was to establish "user groups" among target communities such
as the landless, small farmers or women. These user groups were
to be the executing agency for a series of small, local

initiatives which they would develop in partnership with staff
from district-level institutions such as the forestry department
and the agriculture extension service. The goal was to give
these target groups control over the choice of intervention to
address their fuelwood problems and control over the resources
(both land and financial) needed to execute the interventions.

The adoption of a rapid appraisal technique permitted us to
identify the sections of the community facing fuelwood stress,
their responses to this stress and the local resource
opportunities for interventions to build a sustainable fuelwood
future. For this, rigorous quantification of supply and demand
is not necessary and pre-determination of technical choice is an
irrelevance. The basis of sustainable development, harnessing
local knowledge and building on local initiatives, requires a
flexible, participatory approach to planning. For this a rapid
appraisal approach is ideal.

John Soussan, ETC, UK
Els Gevers, ETC, The Netherlands

Rapid Food Security Assessment: a pilot exercise in Sudan


These notes report on an application of RRA techniques to the
question of understanding the causes, dimensions and
characteristics of food insecurity: a procedure I have dubbed
"Rapid Food Security Assessment" (RFSA). The "pilot" in the
title betrays the fact that this was a first attempt on an
experimental scale just nine communities across the whole of
Sudan in only two working weeks. The eventual intention is to
structure RFSAs in the mode of a "sondeo": multiple case studies
in a single area, carried out over the course of a week by a
multi-disciplinary team and resulting in a written report before
leaving the field area. The pilot gave us enough information to
confirm that this is a feasible and worthwhile objective.

We need to know more about food insecurity so that we can assess
the impact of existing policies on food insecure groups and plan
better policies to help them. The starting point is a model of
food security that goes beyond the simple question of access to
food ("enough food for an active, healthy life",
(World Bank, 1986)) and locates food security in the context of
secure and sustainable livelihoods for poor people. A recent
definition runs as follows:

"A country and people can be said to be food secure when
their food system operates efficiently in such a way as to
remove the fear that there will not be enough to eat. In
particular, food security will be achieved when the poor and
vulnerable, particularly women, children and those living in
marginal areas, have secure access to the food they want.
Food security will be achieved when equitable growth ensures
that these groups have sustainable livelihoods..." (Maxwell,

Starting with Secondary Sources

Our task in Sudan was to support food security planning by
putting together a picture of food insecurity for the country as
a whole. To fit the model, this meant combining specific data on
malnutrition with more general data on poverty and access to

This note is a spin-off from a World Bank mission in
November 1988 of food security issues in the Sudan. The
mission report is expected to be published in 1989, under
the title "Toward an action plan for food security:
stimulating growth and designing interventions". Thanks are
due to the Bank and in particular to Jack van Holst
Pellekaan for allowing publication of this account of part
of our work. Responsibility is mine.

resources. The secondary sources were of some help, but left
surprising gaps. Thus:

* we knew that levels of malnutrition were high across the
country and not just in marginal areas; but we knew very
little about the socio-economic characteristics of
malnourished or undernourished individuals.

we knew that income distribution was poor and getting worse,
but we had very little information about the social
relations underlying poverty, especially in rural areas
where there was said to be a land frontier.

we knew from the experience of the drought in 1984/85 that
many people in Sudan were vulnerable to a sudden collapse of
livelihood and food security; but. it was not clear how
vulnerability was distributed through the population, nor
how vulnerable groups could be identified.

We hypothesised that poverty, vulnerability and malnutrition were
three interlocking phenomena and that the most severe problems of
food insecurity (what the World Bank calls "chronic" food
insecurity) would be concentrated where the three overlapped. A
large number of people would be poor and vulnerable but not
currently malnourished: these would be subject to possibly
frequent episodes of food insecurity (what the World Bank calls
"transitory" food insecurity). By manipulating the data on
nutrition and poverty, we were able to estimate that 2m people
(13% of the population) were probably in the category of
chronically food insecure (that is poor, vulnerable and
malnourished) and that another 7m (37%) might be transitorily
food insecure (poor, vulnerable but not currently malnourished).
But could we find out more?

Field Work in Nine Communities

We started with a checklist (see Appendix) and set out to
investigate food insecurity in communities across the country.
We were constrained by time, access and language, but were able
to cover nine communities: three of these were in illegal
settlements of mostly displaced people around Khartoum; two more
were in the poorest parts of the towns of Nyala and Gedaref; the
remaining four were in villages, one in Kassala Province and
three in different parts of Darfur. The biggest omissions were
the camps of displaced Southerners along the border between North
and South Sudan; and nomadic groups in Northern Darfur, Northern
Kordofan and Red Sea Hills.

The RFSAs were carried out by a mixed team of Sudanese and
outsiders. The outsiders were members of a World Bank food
security team (and included one eminent Sudanese); in Khartoum,
the insiders were staff of the Ministries of Agriculture and
Health and the Economic and Social Research Council; elsewhere
they were staff of the Ministry of Agriculture or of projects
working in each area. The size of the team varied from 2 to a

dozen and the time spent in each community from three hours to
about six.

In each case, our procedure was roughly as follows:

1. Preliminary meeting of the team to explain the purpose of
the study, review the questionnaire and discuss background

2. Make contact with the sheikh or other local leader, explain
the purpose of the visit, conduct a preliminary interview on
the history and current situation of the community and
discuss food issues. This often turned into a group
interview. One important outcome was a social
stratification of the community to provide the basis for
step 3.

3. With the sheikh's assistance, identify representative
households in the community, for example, a landless family,
small and middle sized farmers, a female-headed household
etc... Interview these families in their own homes, using
the checklist as the basis for an unstructured conversation.
Some of these case study interviews also turned into group
interviews: there were about fifty of them altogether across
the nine communities studied.

4. Visit the shops or market, if any, to collect data on food
prices and have further conversations. Again, these visits
often resulted in group interviews or discussions, sometimes
with twenty or thirty people.

5. Walk around the village to observe conditions and chat to

6. Regroup out of the village for a detailed review of findings
and a discussion of possible interventions.

7. Write up a brief report of the visit, the same evening if
possible, using a laptop computer.

Mostly, we just talked to our respondents, singly or in groups,
but we also tried some tricks of the trade, with generally
satisfactory results. For example:

* To help put together a picture of social stratification, we
used a plate of sorghum or small stones to represent the
village. We could then ask the sheikh (or the group) to
estimate what proportion of the village was landless, or
female-headed or from Northern Darfur or whatever, by
dividing the grain into piles. This was particularly
successful in a group situation and could develop into quite
a sophisticated analysis by taking grains or stones away as
the village was progressively stratified: first the landless
are taken out, then the farmers below 5 feddans, then those
from 5-15 feddans and so on. We were able to cross-check

the results by repeating the exercise with different groups.
On several occasions, the exercise was carried out by
drawing a large circle in the sand and taking slices off it.

* Getting income and expenditure to add up is notoriously
difficult in informal interviews of this kind. On several
occasions, we used small stones or grains of sorghum to
represent daily or weekly income and then subtracted
progressively the main items of expenditure listed by the
household. This gave us a graphic demonstration that
reported expenditure exceeded income and provided the basis
for further questioning.

* Group interviews were held in almost every community. We
did not try wealth ranking, but we did try to characterise
rich and poor people, for example by holding up two shoes,
one representing a rich person and one a poor person, and
asking people what was the difference between them. It took
quite a bit of probing to move beyond stock responses like
"it is the will of allah" and establish the importance of
e.g. cash to hire labour; and on one occasion, the group
became restless because "these people are trying to make
trouble between us".

* We were interested in the balance between food crops and
cash crops, millet and groundnuts particularly, and
developed comparative ranking lists of crops e.g. in South
Darfur, millet is regarded as less work and more drought
tolerant, but has a more variable price, is more susceptible
to pests and has greater weed problems than groundnuts.

* Cross-check "surveys": on many occasions in group
interviews, we broke off general discussion, which was often
inevitably dominated by a few individuals, to ask each
person individually for a piece of information e.g. whether
they owned land, their main occupation, whether they worked
yesterday, the wage rate for a particular job, meals eaten
yesterday etc...

The Results

RFSA made an important contribution to our work in bringing the
statistics to life and in making it possible for our report to be
written, so to speak, from the bottom up, starting with the food
security situation of the people we met and moving from there to
policy. It also gave us useful insights into food insecurity
among the poorest people in Sudan (see Maxwell, 1989, for full

* Confirmation that urban poverty and food insecurity are far
more prevalent than might be expected in Sub-Saharan Africa,
mainly because of large scale migration to Khartoum by
refugees from the civil war in the South.

* The discovery of sharp income inequalities even in villages
with good rainfall and a land frontier, mainly because
poorer households cannot afford to cultivate their own land
throughout the rainy season and have to seek a cash income
by labouring for richer households. We recommended new
forms of consumption credit or asset distribution that would
allow poorer households to develop their own farms.

* The striking vulnerability of the poorest people, especially
to illness or natural disasters and the absence of assets,
savings or other buffers in times of need. This led us to
recommendations about a programme to provide assets for the
poor, along the lines of the Indian IRDP or the Grameen Bank
in Bangladesh.

* The operation of a scissors effect between wage income and
food prices, analogous to that between livestock prices and
cereal prices. In good years, the amount of employment in
agriculture and the average wage both rise; at the same
time, the price of cereal staples falls. In bad years, wage
income falls and food prices rise, sometimes by up to four
times. This led us to recommendations about income support
through public works; and grain price stabilisation through
village grain banks and improvements to government sorghum

* The very high proportion of functionally female-headed
households among food insecure groups, up to 50% in some
villages, coupled to a high degree of social and economic
isolation for women. We developed proposals for easier
transmission of remittances and for targeted interventions
aimed at women.


None of these insights is particularly startling but they are not
generally common currency in the literature on food insecurity in
the Sudan. RFSA gave us some confidence that the literature had
missed important phenomena. We can confirm our findings with
wider-scale and better structured RFSA and we have also
identified topics that require more rigorous and longer-term


Maxwell, S. 1988. "National Food Security Planning: First
thoughts from Sudan". Paper presented to Sudan Food Security
Workshop, 4-5 October 1988, IDS, Sussex, mimeo

Maxwell, S. 1989. "Food insecurity in North Sudan" Discussion
Paper, IDS, Sussex, (forthcoming).

World Bank. 1986. Poverty and Hunger: issues and options for
food security. Washington

Simon Maxwell
Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, UK

APPENDIX Food Insecurity Case Studies

Information Checklist

Introductory Note:

The purpose of this checklist is to help you gather the
information you need to write up short case studies of
individuals or families thought to be food insecure. It is not a
questionnaire. This means it is not necessary to present the
questions in the order asked, nor use the exact phrasing in the
checklist. However, you should try to cover all the points
listed in the checklist and present your report in the order of
the questions.

The questions on the checklist fall into four main sections:

a. Information on the community
b. Background information on the family
c. Current sources of livelihood; and
d. Food issues.


A. The Community

(NB: These questions can often be answered by community
leaders at the beginning of the visit)

1. History of settlement
2. Size and composition of population (ethnic, family
structure, occupations)
3. Social/political leadership
4. Government and voluntary agency programmes
5. Community problems and needs.

B. Background Information

1. Location
2. Name of respondent
3. Family composition (adults, including children over fifteen;
children; other dependents)
4. Length of time in present location
5. Place of origin, date of leaving, reason for leaving
6. Occupation in place of origin
7. Future plans to stay or move

C. Current Livelihood

1. Resources available to the family (land, land improvements -
including trees), labour, animals, machinery, equipment,
household goods, cash, gifts/zakat
2. Security of tenure
3. Description of housing (materials, size, cooking facilities)

4. Activities undertaken (amount and description, including
seasonality, location and who in the family does what):
agriculture, herding, employment, self-employment, trading
5. Estimate of income earned, per period, by person
6. Level of risk and coping strategies in times of hardship;
illness, theft, physical security, natural disasters;
changes to normal pattern of activity
7. Access to services (health, education, transport)

D. Food Issues

1. Level of nutrition of family members
2. Composition of diet, by family member and time of year
3. Sources of food: production, purchase, exchange, free
4. Problems of availability of food in the market (especially
bread, sugar, sorghum)
5. Ownership/validity of ration card
6. Prices paid for food in most recent purchase, especially
sugar, bread, sorghum, beans etc...
7. Source and price of water; quantity consumed; storage
8. Source and price of fuel for cooking
9. Views on food security issues.


1. Introduction

Innovations in agricultural research and development
characterized by FSR, FSR&D, FSR&E, farmer first and last models
and the utilisation of RRA/agroecosystems analysis have been
almost totally confined to developing countries. Despite a long
established tradition of agricultural research in Australia there
have been few recent innovations in research methodology other
than the development of quantitative or simulation modelling (see
Remenyi, 1985) and more recently an increased focus on expert
systems. The international debate surrounding the conceptual
validity of the "transfer of technology" model of research and
development is only beginning to be heard in this country. The
debate is being fostered by farmers (e.g. Martin, Baldwin and
Hutchings, 1989) and others concerned with the widening gap
between research and extension and the failure of "technology
adoption" (Anderson, 1983; Johnston et al, 1983). Here we report
on the first RRA conducted in Australia. We are aware that RRA
has been utilised in Minnesota (Vernon Cardwell pers. comm.) and
that there is increasing interest in these research approaches in
the U.S. (Anon. 1989).

A two-phased RRA which could now be described as an initial
exploratory and subsequent topical RRA (Conway, McCracken and
Pretty, 1987) was conducted in the Forbes Shire of central
western New South Wales during 1988. The basis for the RRA
location and organisational context was the 1986 acquisition by
the School of Crop Sciences of a leased research site 15km east
of Forbes. The Central West Research Unit (CWRU) was established
on the site with the intention that it be a research base for the
University in the wheat/sheep belt of N.S.W. It was envisaged
that a research program would be established at the unit but that
increasingly, much of the research would be carried out with the
collaboration of farmers on their proprieties. RRA was seen to
have the potential to identify problems for research, as a means
for encouraging collaboration with farmers and as a problem
identification method that warranted evaluation in a developed
country context.

2. Aims

The aims of the exploratory RRA were to:

forge closer links between researchers and farmers by
involving both in the problem identification process;

invite and encourage farmers' interest and involvement in
research so that their knowledge and expertise could be

achieve shared understanding and insights by participation
in an interdisciplinary group learning process;

obtain information from which patterns of production and
likely directions for future production could be identified;

identify and define the major problems as perceived by
farmers and researchers and to determine possibilities for
future agronomic research in the area;

Further aims were identified for the topical RRA:

to analyse selected problems identified and translate them
into relevant and feasible research or development projects;

to involve academic staff of the School of Crop Sciences who
were likely to be involved in the on-farm research
programme. The aim was to ensure a united approach within
the School and to improve the communication and
collaboration between staff and the producers;

S to disseminate the information generated to research
organizations and the relevant Rural Industry Councils.

3. Methods

i) Information was collected on the Forbes Shire from published
sources and key individuals in the area.

ii) Two teams of researchers were assembled:

A ten member team including representatives from agronomy,
horticulture, soil science, animal husbandry, agricultural
economics, social anthropology, social work and human
ecology for an exploratory RRA undertaken in February and

An eight member team with expertise in the fields of crop
and pasture agronomy, animal husbandry, biometry and farming
systems research for a topical RRA in October/November.

Participation was by invitation (i.e. all team members were
willing to participate with no financial inducement, other
than covering costs during the RRA, even though many had
never heard of RRA).

iii) Both teams attended team building workshops or were
otherwise informed prior to undertaking the RRA to to
acquaint them with the information collected on the area and
the methodology used. Particular attention was paid to the
conduct of the semi-structured interview.

iv) The teams carried out 60 initial interviews of producers on
their properties within a 30 km radius of Forbes on Feb.
15-19 and Oct 30, 1988.

v) Producers were chosen with the assistance of a number of key
informants to include a wide range of properties,
enterprises, and management strategies.

vi) Interviewers worked in pairs, which were changed each day.
They began with open ended questions aimed at determining
the farmers' perception of their situation, and then focused
in on areas of widespread concern. The observations that
researchers made whilst on farms were also of great
importance to the study.

vii) Each day the teams would meet to share their experiences and
to focus on areas of concern which emerged during the course
of the interviews.

viii)At the end of the February RRA the team collaborated to
document the issues of importance. An initial report was
then prepared for presentation to the head of the School of
Crop Sciences. Other copies were circulated for further
comment to the members of the RRA team, some of the
participating farmers and other interested people in the
Forbes Shire.

ix) Following the initial interviews, the October/November team
collaborated to decide on the particular agronomic problems
to be pursued at more depth, and the appropriate approach
for the repeat interviews.

x) Thirteen farmers were revisited for a repeat interview.
This enabled the team to focus in more detail on the
problems identified during the initial interviews and
collect more specific, relevant information for further
analysis. Farmers for repeat interviews were chosen for
some or all of the following reasons:

they viewed the problems identified by the February RRA as
being important in their initial interview

they were recognized by other farmers as being leading

they had expressed interest in participating in on-farm
research in collaboration with researchers.

xi) Following the interviews, the team discussed the information
received and organized it into principal problems and their
ramifications. Factors causing or contributing to the
problems were discussed and promising areas of research were
tentatively formulated, either to further define the
problems or to test possible improvements.

xii) The team again discussed the findings of the interviews in
the light of the feedback from the meeting. Their comments
on the process and content of the RRA were elicited.

xiv) Finally, a further report was prepared after the topical RRA
for circulation to the participating farmers, team members,
the School of Crop Sciences, NSW Agriculture and Fisheries

personnel, Rural Industry Research Councils (RIRC) and other
interested parties.

4. Results

Team members offered several ways of interpreting the large
amount of data and the varied experiences resulting from the
interviews. One approach was to describe the farming systems
based on agricultural landuse: eg irrigated vs. dryland; crop
and pasture types; soil types etc. An important distinction
between grazierss" and "farmers" which affected agricultural
lands became apparent.

A second approach was to describe the farming systems based on
the management structure. A model of the family structures which
were involved in farming in the Forbes Shire and some
generalisations concerning the advantages and disadvantages of
each structure were put forward by the social anthropologist and
other team members.

A third approach was to share and collate insights of team
members. Those aspects of particular relevance were:

i) Even taking into account the desire to obtain a sample of
respondents which represented the full range of producers,
the team was struck by the diversity in people, properties,
enterprises and practices.

ii) A dynamism and acceptance of change was exhibited by
producers. Whilst many would not consider major changes to
their farming operations, they had nonetheless evolved a
system flexible enough to undergo internal change.

iii) There were three broad management strategies evident in the
district. Possibly the most successful and most common
strategy was to make gradual and conservative adjustments to
production rather than dramatic changes or to remain static.

iv) Producers viewed themselves as either graziers or farmers,
and true integration was rare. This distinction was
determined largely by social factors and had marked effects
on their management strategies.

v) The management structure of the property had a marked effect
on its performance. The important determining factors were
the possibility of conflict between and within generations
and the level of demand for capital from the family group
governed by factors completely separate from the technical
demands of the property.

During the interviews producers spoke of a number of specific
technological, including agronomic, problems. In addition, the
team members, both individually and in groups, suggested what
seemed to them to be important problems and opportunities for

Problems Identified by Producers

The six problem areas listed below were the most frequent
identified by producers; many other problems were identified by
just one or two producers. The problems included:

i) The Residual Effects of Herbicides.

There was widespread concern about the long and short-term
effects of the use of various herbicides in the cropping
phase (approx 33% of those interviewed). Of particular
concern was the residual effect of herbicides on the pasture
phase following cropping. It was suspected by many
producers (about 20%) that the herbicides retarded the
establishment of clovers and/or virtually eliminated native
grasses in some areas. In addition, about 20% of producers
expressed a more general concern for the potential long term
damage to the environment caused by herbicides and other

The same producers saw herbicides as an essential factor at
present in ensuring profitable crops. However, they would
use alternative strategies if they were available.

ii) The Application of Nitrogen Fertilizers.

The determination of the correct rates and the optimal
timing of N fertilizers on crops was of concern to at least
20% of the producers interviewed. A large number of
strategies for the use of N fertilizers were encountered,
including soil testing, use of paddock records, standard
rates every year, only applying when cash available or
intuitively based on many factors.

The lack of consensus in nitrogen use strategies indicated
to the team that the optimum approach was not evident. Many
producers expressed interest in participating in trials to
determine the optimum timing and rate of N fertilization and
the effect of legume crops on fertilizer requirements.

iii) Soil Problems.

The most frequently mentioned soil problems were crusting
(15%) and compaction (16%). There was interest in the use
of gypsum to ameliorate these problems, although some
doubted the economy of its use. Many producers were
interested in the likely effects on the soil of the use of
legume crops in the rotation. Of particular interest to
some was the optimal method for handling the stubble.

Erosion problems were mentioned by 7% of producers, as were
problems associated with the considerable variability
between soils even in the one paddock. There was a general
perception that soil degradation was not occurring provided

that an adequate rotation was being maintained. However,
many producers pointed out that others were "flogging" the
soil and then selling the property in a degraded state.

iv) Wheat Varieties and Diseases.

There was a perception by a number of producers that there
were deficiencies in many of the recommended wheat varieties
(also oats to a more limited extent). The most common
criticisms were:

the poor germination of the dwarf and semi-dwarf
the poor quality of the stubble produced, as indicated
by the poor performance of stock on new varieties in
comparison to the old;
the lower protein content of the grain of new varieties

v) Pasture Varieties and Establishment.

There was widespread concern about pasture management and
establishment (about 30%). Some producers were interested
in new legume varieties (14%) and in investigating
establishment methods to improve their pastures. The loss
of native grasses was noted by about 5%, and the need for
suitable replacement grasses, particularly perennials was

iv) The Establishment of Trees.

About 10% of producers felt that their area had been
overcleared and that a tree planting programme was required.
A smaller number had undertaken some form of tree planting
with variable success.

Problems Identified by the Team

The following problems and related research opportunities became
apparent to members of the team, although they were not
necessarily perceived as problems by the producers:

i) The Late Summer/Autumn Feed Gap.

At the time of the first interviews (mid February) most
producers were hand-feeding their stock. In fact it is a
routine practice in most years to overcome a lack of feed in
late summer and autumn. The producers did not perceive this
as a problem, possibly because it seemed to be accepted as a
"fact of life" in the district. Members of the interviewing
team felt, however, that there were many possible avenues
which could lead to greater feed availability at that time
of year. This was investigated in greater depth in the
topical RRA when the links between agronomic problems became
more apparent (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Links between agronomic problems identified during the
conduct of a topical rapid rural appraisal.

Falling WhNet
Protein Content

powr N

continued use of burning
ad clean cultivtion
contributes to

Increased Incidencae
of Soil Borne

rkcluxance to
chan practice

long fellow production
contributes of fodder
to crop

reliance on
herbicide s

It was evident to team members that at least some of these
problems were not new, and that information which would
enable them to be alleviated was already available. This
indicated that there was a communication gap between
researchers and producers and added weight to the argument
that the traditional research-extension-producer model for
the transfer of technology had not been successful in
achieving adequate awareness or adoption of new technology
or alternatively the technology was inappropriate to

ii) Tillage Practices and Moisture Conservation.

A widespread practice in the area is to establish a long
fallow in late spring and to rework it after rain. The
rationale given for this was the conservation of moisture.
However, problems with soil crusting, poor infiltration and
compaction were identified by farmers. In addition, the
silting of dams and the prevalence of dust storms points to
some degree of soil erosion, possibly due to overworking the
soil. It was by no means obvious that cultivating would
necessarily conserve moisture.

Other issues included the appropriateness of soil test kits;
limited experience of producers with pasture establishment and
management; and soil variability at the paddock, farm and Shire

5. Conclusions

A number of conclusions/action strategies which arose from this
two-phased RRA are summarised:

i) The School of Crop Sciences will continue to develop its
collaborative on-farm research program due to the enthusiasm
from the producers and the prospects for improvements. The
School cold also play a role as the instigator of an
interdisciplinary and multi-institutional research program
involving NSW Agriculture and Fisheries. Expressions of
interest have already been received.

ii) The School of Crop Sciences is to make available an
annotated list of producers who have been involved and have
expressed an interest in being included in ongoing research
on particular aspects of the problems described. This will
enable other research and development organizations to
utilize these producers' knowledge and resources.

iii) The School will seek further funding to appoint a
coordinator/researcher with experience in farming systems
research methodologies, to organize an integrated program
with a number of component projects. This role could
possibly be undertaken by staff members of a Rural Industry
Research Council (RIRC). It would be essential, however,
that an on-site coordinator be appointed to maintain

continuity of contact with producers once projects were
under way. These duties may be performed by one full-time
or two part-time people.

iv) The information generated by this RRA has been made
available to the relevant RIRCs so that it might be taken
into account when determining their priorities for funding
projects and in their pro-active role in encouraging or
contracting out research according to their priorities. One
RIRC has commissioned a review of the conceptual basis of
Australian extension, drawing on national and international
developments. Three members of the RRA team are involved in
the conduct of this review.

v) The RRA methodology will be used in future to monitor and
evaluate the progress of the research and to provide ongoing
identification of further problems and opportunities as they

Whilst further evaluation of the RRA methodology is still in
progress, it is clear that it has advantages over other survey
methodologies (such as questionnaire surveys) or informal
contacts and tours by individuals or small disciplinary groups.
The following advantages of RRA were evident in this case:

i) It provides researcher participants with a far wider range
of contacts within the farming community and a firmer
understanding of the social, economic, political and
biological context in which research is undertaken. It is
an extremely rich learning experience.

ii) It has opened avenues for ongoing collaborative research
with producers.

iii)It has been successful not only in identifying, but also in
analysing and defining a wide range of problems.

iv) It has brought a number of producers together, thus
stimulating informal farmer to farmer interaction and

v) It has raised the profile of the School of Crop Sciences in
the Shire and communicated to farmers the nature of the
School's commitment in establishing the CWRU and its
existing research program.

In addition to these advantages, there have been a number of
activities instigated as a consequence of the RRA. These are
summarised below:

vi) The team members of the February RRA have been trained in
the use of the methodology and a number of them have
undertaken RRAs for other purposes, eg. in a study of the
poultry industry and in a soil conservation/sustainable
agriculture project.

vii) The use of information and insights gained during the RRA
has led to the instigation of a collaborative project to
study inheritance and inter-generational transfer in rural

viii)The generation of the notion that enthusiasm is a higher
order concept than the team's initial perception that
farmers could be labelled as "information rich" or
"information poor" is being further developed in a
collaborative paper and as the foundation of a review of the
conceptual basis of extension. The basis of this insight
was that people who were "enthusiastic" appeared more able
to manage their own realities and to accommodate change. A
key strategy was thus seen to be generating enthusiasm in
people for who they are and what they are doing, working on
the belief that all people are information rich and are
capable of making the best sense of their realities.

6. Limitations of the Study

The first Australian RRA has given rise to all of the above
activities and an original assumption, that many of the problems
that have been evident in developing countries are also evident
in developed countries, has been born out in the findings. Yet
there is still a long way to go before RRA is likely to be
implemented on a wider scale in this country. Research and
development remains strongly discipline and commodity bound with
little evidence of many people involved in the rural research
"industry" perceiving the need to make the "frame shift" from the
"transfer of technology" based approach to "farming systems
research" or "farmer first and last" approaches. Should these
approaches fail to be institutionalized in developed countries
then there are bound to be continuing reservations on the part of
donor agencies and agricultural ministries in developing
countries as indicated by Frankenberger et al (1989) for FSR/E.

In respect of our study the next step would appear to be to
encourage people in positions of power and influence within the
system to become personally involved in one or a number of future
RRAs. The selection of team members was certainly one of the
major limitations of this study, in that many of those involved
had an initial knowledge of, and interest in, FSR and RRA and so
their learning tended to be a reinforcement of views already held
rather than "revelations". However, a number of the team members
who were self-confessed "hard-nosed" reductionist scientists did
say that their eyes had been opened to the complexity of the
producers' decision-making environment. This had helped them to
see why new technologies were not always readily adopted. Thus
if senior administrators from research funding bodies and
research organizations in this country could be persuaded to be
involved, they may also undergo a similar learning process.

In addition, this two stage RRA did not actively involve farmers
as members of the team. They were included in the decision-

making to a small degree with the meeting held during the second
or "topical" RRA. It was debated initially whether to include
farmers on the team but it was decided not to invite them on the
strength of research done in this country showing closed
communication networks amongst groups of farmers (Anderson,
1984). An alternative strategy to this could have been to invite
producer participation with acknowledgement of the possible
problems and to see if they did in fact arise. Thus the RRA
could have become more of a unifying force in the district,
rather than accepting farmer networks as an immovable obstacle.

Another limitation of the study was that the interviews and
analysis were undertaken prior to our access to recent
developments in ranking methods (Pretty et al 1988),
sustainability analysis (Craig, 1988) and agricultural triage
(Craig and Sukapong, 1988). These tools may have enhanced both
our consolidation of the data collected and the themes and
hypotheses generated.

7. References

Anderson, A.M. (1984) Information Transmission in Australian
Agricultural Extension: Processes and Implications. PhD Thesis,
Macquarie University, Australia.

Anon (1989) 1988 FSR/E Symposium: Contributions of FSR/E Towards
Sustainable Agricultural Systems. FSRE Newsletter No.l. ppl-2.

Conway, G.R., McCracken, J.A. and Pretty J.N. (1987) Training
Notes for Agroecosystem Analysis and Rapid Rural Appraisal. IIED

Craig, I.A. (1988) "Sustainability Analysis" Agricultural
Development Tools Handbook No. H17, Northeast Rainfed
Agricultural Development (NERAD) Project

Craig, I.A. and Sukapong, C. (1988) "Agricultural Triage"
Agricultural Development Tools Handbook No. H15, Northeast
Rainfed Agricultural Development (NERAD) Project.

Frankenberger, T.R., Dewalt, B.R., McArthur, H.J., Hudgens, R.E.,
Mitawa, G., Rerkasem, K., Finan, T., Butler Flora C. and Young,
N. (1989) Identification of results of farming systems research
and extension activities: a synthesis. FSRE Newsletter No.l.

Johnston, B. and Girdlestone, J. eds (1983) Implications for
Future Research of Recent Developments and Trends in Agriculture.
Joint Report, BAE and CSIRO, Canberra, Australia.

Martin, R.J., Baldwin, R.R. and Hutchings, T.R. (1989) Farmer-
driven research and development. In. E.S. Delfosse ed. Weeds,
Invertebrate Pests and Diseases of Australian Sheep Pastures
CSIRO: Melbourne (in press).

Pretty, J.N., Craig, I.A. and Chouangcham P. (1988) "Preference
Ranking" Agricultural Development Tools Handbook No. H1,
Northeast Rainfed Agricultural Development (NERAD) Project

Remenyi, J.V. ed. (1985) Agricultural Systems Research for
Developing Countries. ACIAR Proceedings No.11. ACIAR

Peter Ampt and Raymond Ison
School of Crop Sciences
University of Sydney
Australia, 2006


UPDATE (May 1989)



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