UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Summer A 1986
EVALUATION OF MULTIPLE-CROPPING
PROGRAM IN EL SALVADOR,
10 years after
Presented to Dr. P. E. Hildebrand
December 19th, 1986.
In 1975, the Extension Service in El Salvador started a program for small farmers in
Multiple-Cropping Systems (MCS). The goals of this program was to increase basic grains and
vegetables production, as well as, small farmers income. The MCS in El Salvador was
conceived to be a new source of rural employment for the rural labor force in irrigated areas
(Hildebrand, 1975). The MCS required an intensive use of the land and labor force all over the
The multiple-Cropping Program was evaluated by Walker (6) in 1977, with the information
and data generated from more than 200 demonstration lots. The approach used for the diff-
usion of the MCS was the demonstration lots. The program was implemented during the years
1975 and 1976. The Multiple-Cropping program was delivery as a package to the farmers. The
farmers received all the information about the MCS together with the inputs. In the adoption
study Walkers reports that "ten percent probably represents a realistic prior estimate of the
adoption rate" (6).
CENTA, Centro Nacional de Tecnologia Agropecuaria, the research and Extension
institution in El Salvador has not made any other effort in the same direction of MCS after
1977. This paper tries to describe the impact in today's small farmers technology, if any, from
the multiple-Cropping program implemented ten years ago.
The objectives of this study are threefold:
1) To detect areas and farmers actually using
2) Describe the adoption-adaption process of the MCS by small farmers to their
current needs, and
3) Get information about the institutional factor for the success or failure in the
adoption by the farmers of this technology.
Multiple Cropping System in El Salvador
The most typical characteristic to recognize this system is the double row of corn. the
rows are planted 30cms apart and 1.5 meters between the centers of the twin rows. Another
characteristic of the MCS is its division in phases. Each phase represents several alternatives
so the farmer can choose among them (Hildebrand, 1975).
The basic system consists of radishes and bush beans planted in between the space of
the twin corn rows, 5 and 3 days before the corn. Radish harvest is done 30 days after
planting when it is beginning to compete for sunlight with the beans. Beans reach a mature
stage before being shaded by the corn leaves.
Cucumber is planted between the twin rows of corn and before the corn is double and
after applying fertilizer and soil insecticides. Also bed formation and weeding is done before.
Corn is harvested or double after cucumber germination. Corn leaves are stripped off to make
available the full sunlight for the cucumbers. Cucumbers are tied with twine to a tripod
formed with the corn stalks, thus reducing the cost of production.
Before the last cucumber harvest, cabbage (broccoli or cauliflower) is transplanted on the
outside edges of the bed and after the last cucumber harvest the corn stalks and cucumber
plants are cut. Three to four weeks after the transplant of the cabbage, corn is planted again
in double rows in the place where beans had been before. Three to four after tasseling of the
corn and shortly after the harvest of cabbage, pole beans can be planted at the edges of the
corn to use the stalks as soon as they are double (Hildebrand,et.al. 1975).
The MCS developed in El Salvador has seven crops during the whole year and it demands
This study could not use a similar framework like that utilized by Walker in his
evaluation study. In this case there was no way to take a sample from the universe of
demonstration lot holders who participated in phases of the Multiple-Cropping program in 1975
The approach in this study was to look for some of those farmers who were among the
demonstration lot holders estimated to have adopted Multiple cropping practices. But the
adoption rate mention by Walker in 1977, may have decreased with the time and less farmers
might be using this system presently. With information from the Extension Service, areas more
likely to have farmers currently using MCS were selected.
The two areas selected to be visited were Zapotitan Irrigation District and the valley of
San Lorenzo in the province of Ahuachapan. The reasons to select these two areas were:
1) Demonstration lots were conducted in these valleys,
2) Both have irrigations systems,
3) Farmers growth basic grains (corn, beans, rice, etc); and vegetables,
4) The political violence has not had a devastation effect in this areas and
5) Farmers have not been force to flee the areas.
These criteria increase the chances to find those farmer that -could be using MC
techniques and also were accessible for the transportation means available.
Demonstration lot holders names were not found in the Extension Service offices, as well
as, records or information from the Multiple-Cropping program were not longer available in
CENTA. This situation made almost impossible to know who were and where were located
those participant farmers. That is why the places to look for the MCS were the area where
the research was done or others with very similar environmental conditions.
The target population in these two areas was define as those farmers who were involved
in some practice of multiple-cropping, but the traditional maize-beans or maize-sorghum
This study was started the first week of May and the fields trips were done during the
third and fourth weeks of May/1986. In each area Extension agents were contacted in order to
prepare a list of possible farmers to interview. These farmers were among those reported to
be growing basic grains and vegetables in "asocio". Therefore dealing with a sample
population which does not include only demonstration lot holders, the probability to find those
farmers who adopted MCS was very low. Also contacts with local farmers in bath areas were
very helpful to increase the number of farmers to be visited.
As result of this effort a sample of 7 farmers were interviewed. Some of the multiple
cropping practices found being used by the sample farmers hardly can be related to those
suggested in the program ten years ago. In this study attention was also given to the
components of the program, keeping in mind that the farmers could have adopted from the
package components that fit in their production systems.
In Walker Evaluation study (6), the adoption criteria was the changes in cropping
pattern. Planting the double rows of maize and planting the recommended cropping sequence in
1977 jointly represents sufficient conditions for adoption. In this case the same criteria is
Description of the Two Areas Visited
Zapotitan valley is located in the central region of El Salvador in the province of La
Libertad. At 35 Kms from San Salvador it is considered as one of the most fertile and
prosperous agricultural areas of the country. Products such as corn, rice, fresh vegetables,
fruits, and others like sugar cane, and tobacco are the most important commodities grown in
this valley. Most of these products supply the metropolitan area of San Salvador, the capital
The next table presents some figures of the use of the land of the Zapotitan Irrigation
District, located within the Valley.
Table 1. Land use in dry and rainy seasons for the year 1979/80 (in Has).
Crop Dry Season Rainy Season total Crop
Nov 79- April 80 May-Oct 79 Has %
Basic Grains 1215.13 2093.14 3308.27 62.00
Corn 574.32 942.49 1516.81
Beans 552.70 77.38 630.08
Rice 88.11 1073.27 1164.38
Vegetables 657.83 21.69 869.52 16.00
Tomato 188.69 89.69 277.52
Cucumber 158.77 64.59 223.36
Cabbage 27.49 6.26 33.75
Others 283.88 51.41 335.29
Fruits 32.20 32.20 64.64 1.21
Tobacco 231.01 167.46 398.47 7.47
Sugar Cane 61.66 610.68 672.34 12.61
Other Crops 2.50 17.65 20.45 0.38
Total 2200.33 3133.12 5333.45
Source: CENTA, MAG.
The most important crops for the cropping year 1979/80 in Zapotitan were without
surprise, the basic grains; with 62.0% of the land planted. Vegetables were second with 16.0%
of the land planted. These important crops were those included in the basic multiple-cropping
system. Looking at the figures of the pattern of planting these crops we find that 97.62% of
the grains and vegetables are planted in monocrop pattern. Only .37% of land was reported to
be planted in "asocio".
Table 2. Pattern of Planted. (Has)
Planting Pattern 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Total %
Basic Grains 2440 520 1620 165 4745 84.57
Vegetables 90 85 610 5 790 14.08
Basic Grains 40 1 20 0 61 1.09
Vegetables 1 4 10 0 15 0.27
Total 2571 620 2260 170 5611 100.00
source: CENTA, MAG.
It is obvious that farmers with potential to be using multiple cropping systems could be
found among those planting in asocio, grains and vegetables. Only 1.36% of the area was
reported to be under some kind of multiple cropping pattern.
The different plantings correspond to different seasons within a year. Six farmers were
interviewed from this area.
This small town with about 4000 inhabitants is located in a fertile valley in the western
province of Ahuachapan, close to border with Guatemala. The valley is irrigated by channels
that brings water from San Lorenzo river. Land distribution is unequal; and most farmers do
not own the land; so they usually rent land to plant their crops.
The closest Extension agency and the one that assists this area is located in Atiquizaya,
about 8Kms. In this area two farmers were involved with demonstration plots during 1975 and
1976. The farmers still work in the land, but one does not own land now and the other has
switch to the milk business. One of those farmers could be found and explained his
experience working with multiple cropping technology he learned from the program ten tears
ago. the results of the interview are presented later in the report.
Now let's start describing different characteristics of those farmers interviewed, they will
be identify by a number in the tables. The first six correspond to the area of Zapotitan, and
the last one correspond to farmer of San Lorenzo.
The size of land planted for those farmers interviewed is presented in the next table. the
first six farmers are those from Zapotitan and last from San Lorenzo. Five of them plant 3.5
mzs. or less under different pattern of tenancy. Thee average land size without including
farmers number one 2.08 mz per farmer and including farmer number one is 3.14 mzs. This
shows that the multiple cropping pattern in found within small farmers. The total land of
farmers interview sum to 22 mzs. out of which 68% was owned and the rest 32% was rented
under different kind of arrangements.
Table 3. Land Cultivated and Pattern of Tenancy
(in Mzs = .7 Has)
Farmer Own Rented Total
1 5.0 4.5 9.5
2 2.25 1.0 3.25
3 3.0 0.0 3.00
4 2.0 0.0 2.00
5 0.0 1.5 1.50
6 2.0 0.0 2.00
7 .75 0.0 0.75
Total 15.0 7.0 22.00
The pattern of land use is describe in Table 4. It is expressed in term of area per
farmer. Also shows area for monocrops and crops planted in asocio under some multi-cropping
system. Different farmers have different combinations of crops; among those found were
tomatoes with cucumbers, corn cucumbers, corn cucumbers tomatoes, and one with those
crops describe in the basic multi-cropping manual.
Table 4. Pattern of Land Use. (in Mzs)
Farmer Monocrop Multicrop
1 9.00 0.50
2 2.25 1.00
3 2.00 1.00
4 1.00 1.50
5 0.50 1.00
6 1.00 1.00
7 0.63 0.12
Total 16.3 86.12
percent 72.20% 27.80%
It is worthwhile noting that in any case double rows of corn were not found among
Adoption of multiple cropping technology was related to the family size and its labor
supply. Table 5 presents figures about the farmers' family size and the numbers of family
members directly involved in farming in those areas reported. Farmers did not considered
those members who help in a indirect way in the production labor, although they play a roll
in the whole system of production.
Table 5. Family Size Own Labor Supply.
Farmer Family size Females Males Labor Supply
1 5 4 1 1
2 11 8 3 3
3 6 2 4 3
4 7 3 4 2
5 5 1 4 3
6 4 3 1 1
7 5 4 1 1
The farmer 1 with largest size of land does not have the largest family. But from i was
able to see he is the farmer with more resources and wealth; He hires most of his labor
needed during the year. The farmer with largest family has also more daughters and his labor
supply come from his sons; and he does not consider that his daughters provides much in help
in farming work.
Credit was always and important constraint for the farmers interviewed. All of them are
considered subsistence farmers by the Rural Development Bank, but the farmer 1. Only four
farmers reported to be working with credit from the Rural Development Bank Two others
had obtained credit from a local known friend. The six smaller farmers reported problems with
the credit being provided on time. All farmers agree that the lack credit was a limitation in
the adoption of multiple cropping practices.
Table 6. Source of Credit
Source Number of Farmers
Rural Dev. Bank 4
Other sources 2
All farmers found that some risk was involved in the new technology presented that
make more farmers reluctant to adopt this kind of more intensive pattern of farming. The
next table lists those factor mentioned by the farmers.
Table 7. Risk Factors Associated with Multi-Cropping Systems.
Factor Number of Farmers
Increase demand of labor 7
Lack of technical assistance 5
Dependency on proper water supply 6
Cost increases 5
Lack of credit 5
Poor information provided 6
Pest problems arise 4
CENTA did not pursue to long in the Multi cropping system program after 1976. The
most mentioned reasons for technicians that were involved in the program, as well as those
actually working in the Extension Service are that with program was pretended to make
farmers to switch to a different pattern of cropping, including planting distance in corn, non
traditional crop mixtures, and usage of chemicals, all at the same time; and also with
considerations about the actual system of production ongoing in the areas where the program
was implemented. Lack of funding was an important reason mention for who were involved in
the program; and besides the excess optimistic results that were expected at the beginning of
CENTA, since then has been trying to develop a new approach based on a Farming
System approximation, and trying to capitalized the lack of success in the adoption of MCS
technology. Now more attention is given to the system of productions before trying to present
any new technology to farmers. This experience with multiple cropping in El Salvador,
although it did not accomplish its goals, has been use as learning activity for those working
in the search for answers to the small farmers' problems.
The multiple-cropping system developed in El Salvador in the valley of Zapotitan
promised a good alternative for small farmers, thought to have enough labor and access to
land with irrigation or that the natural soil moisture could allow them to plant during the
entire year. Ten years after that the program was conducted by the Extension Service; only a
few number of farmers apply some of the aspects that were intended to communicate. Some of
those just make use of some of the ideas that they think fit better into their system of
production; and usually at very small scale. These farmers interviewed were considered in their
respective communities to be innovative farmers and also the least risk averse farmers among
1. Beets, W. 1982. "Multiple Cropping and Tropical Farming
Systems." Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.
2. Chacon, A. and M. Barahona. 1975. "Granos Basicos en
Multicultivos". Agriculture en El Salvador. Ano 14, No. 2
MAG, San Salvador.
3. Hildebrand, P. et. al. 1975. "Manual para Multicultivos".
CENTA, MAG, El Salvador.
4. Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganaderia. 1982. "Perfil del
distrito Zapotitan". Vol. IV and VI. San Salvador.
5. Nuila, A. et. al. 1986. "Manual del Modelo de Generacion y
Transferencia de Tecnologia, dentro de la Regionalizacion
del MAG". CENTA, El Salvador.
6. Walker, T. and D. Quarles. 1977. "Adoption of Recommended
Multiple-Cropping Practices by Small Farmers in El
Salvador". San Salvador, El Salvador.
Appendix I: Farmer Case Histories
Raul Romeo Zagustume
This farmer is actually growing rice, maize, tomatoes and cucumbers. He has been
planting in Zapotitan for twelve years. He lives in Lourdes, about 3 kilometers from where
the farm is located. He did not participate in the multiple-cropping demonstration plots in
the year 75/76, but he had learned about the technique by watching the other farmer in the
area who worked with the extension service. He plants 9.5 manzanas, five of them with sugar
cane and the rest in the crops mentioned at the beginning. He says that growing vegetables
is more risky than planting grains or sugar cane. However, he says that if the prices and
yields are high, then the profits and revenues from vegetables are high enough to justify
taking the risks.
He thinks that farmers look for ways to reduce crop losses, so he would be willing to
try any new technology which could help him without increasing risk and costs of production.
He is planting tomatoes and maize; one part of the field is in tomatoes, the majority is
in maize. The tomatoes need to be staked. This requires heavy capital investment in wire,
bamboo stems, and hired labor in order to guarantee a high yield. Cucumbers were planted
thirty days after the tomatoes and staked to the same poles. In this way, he first harvest
the tomatoes and then he harvests the cucumbers after the tomato harvest. He says that he
learned this cropping technique from the example he saw in the Multiple Cropping
Reasons for not using Multiple Cropping:
Maize stalks are too weak to support tomatoes or cucumbers
He noticed more diseases in the tomatoes and cucumbers when
they were intercropped with maize
Maize receives a good price as "elote," and the stalks are
removed from the land to make room for other crops
He thinks that if the extension service didn't support
the program for a longer, this was because there was
something was wrong with the program
The Multiple Cropping system is labor intensive. His
current system is also labor intensive, but he thinks it
is more secure
The labor costs outweigh the gains from using the maize
stalks instead of the bamboo
His family is not involved in field work, and he would have
to hire additional labor
The risk of drastic weather conditions concerns him because
the timing is critical in the multiple cropping system
The system is too labor intensive that he would only be able
to try it in a small area, maybe one tarea
Min, as this farmer is known in his native town of San Lorenzo, is the only farmer
known to have been working with multiple cropping system for many years. His case is very
important because he adopted and adapted the multiple cropping techniques to the local
conditions in the surrounding valley.
Min used to work in his own land with less than 1 manzana. This year because of
financial problems in his family, he had to sell it. He bought land in another area, but the
land was cheaper and of poorer quality. He is considered in the town to be the most
innovative farmer, so others usually try to learn from him by asking questions or by
requesting his help.
His farm size was 12 tareas (3/4 manzanas). Two of them were planted using multiple
cropping techniques and the remaining land in tomatoes (4 tareas), cabbage (2), and green
pepper (2 tareas) during the dry season from December to April.
The model this farmer was using included the maize planted in twine rows and the space
between rows and plants were close to those suggested. Also, radishes and bush beans were
planted before planting corn, 8 and 4 days before respectively. After the beans and the
radishes were harvested, cucumbers were planted and allowed to grow over the tripod formed
with the maize stalks. Then, maize was planted where the bush beans had been before.
Cabbage was planted as recommended, but instead of planting pole beans, Min said he usually
plants tomatoes using a new tripod.
But when I asked him why other farmers didn't practice what he was doing, he explained
it to me as if he were the extension agent and I were the farmer. Among the reasons he
mentioned were the following:
the extension agents didn't visit the farmers enough
the program didn't last long enough
those farmers that would like to do it don't have access
farmers like to grow what they already know and with the
farming system they have used in the past.