FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH
PETER E. HILDEBRAND
International Training Division
University of Florida
Gainesville, Fl 32611-0480
The objective qf the training manual is to provide an overview of the
principles, rationale, and methodologies currently used in FSR/E. The manual
is based on a more detailed four-volume set of FSR/E training materials
developed by the Farming Systems Support Project (FSSP/University of
Florida/USAID). The four-volume set is available in English and is currently
being translated into French.
This manual, containing extracted portions of the FSSP volumes, as well
as other sources, was translated to Portuguese through a grant from the Ford
Foundation Office in Nairobi, Kenya. The materials are intended for use by
researchers or extension workers engaged in the process of technology
development and dissemination who need an introduction to the use of the FSR/E
approach. The materials included in this manual can be used either in a
training context lead by a trainer or facilitator, or it can serves as a
"stand alone" tool to be read as an introduction to FSR/E.
A. What is Farming Systems Research and Extension?
Farming Systems Research and Extension, or FSR/E, is an approach which
enables agricultural research and extension to deal more effectively with the
problems of farmers: It is particularly effective in addressing the problems
of specific groups of farmers with defined characteristics, such as low
resource farmers. This approach was developed in the 1970's in response to
the observation that groups of small-scale farm families were not benefiting
from mainstream agricultural research. Although a number of terms and
concepts have been used over the last 15 years to describe this approach (e.g.
FSR, FSR&D, FSR/E, FSIP, FSAR, OFP/FSP, etc.), FSRE is used in this training
manual because it explicitly addresses the need to link researchers and
extension workers with farmers in the process of developing appropriate
A definition of FSRE has been provided by Shaner et al:
"...an approach to agricultural research and development that views
the whole farm as a system and focuses on 1) the interdependencies between
the components under control of members of the household, and 2) how these
components interact with the physical, biological, and socio-economic
setting not under the household's control. Farming systems are defined by
their physical, biological, and socio-economic setting and by the farm
families' goals and other attributes, access to resources, choice of
production activities and management practices (1982:13)."
It must be emphasized that FSR/E is an approach to and not a substitute
for conventional agricultural research and extension. It embodies conceptual
ana methodological tools to make existing R/E systems more efficient, not to
replace them. FSR/E improves efficiency and effectiveness because researchers
and extensionists do not work with isolated crop and livestock enterprises.
Instead, work is conducted by interdisciplinary teams and the farm is viewed
as a holistic system with interconnected subsystems. FSR/E encourages the
research team to consider carefully the potential impact of a new technology
on the whole farming system because a positive benefit to one subsystem may
have a negative impact of linked subsystems, and ultimately on the whole
farming system. The systems perspective minimizes the possibility of long
term problems caused by producing and implementing technologies which provide
narrow, short-term solutions yet cause other more difficult problems in the
future. FSR/E is especially well-suited for working with low-resource
agriculturalists because it operates within existing agricultural systems,
works with farmers as cooperators, builds upon existing opportunities in
designing solutions to problems, tests potential solutions against existing
constraints and risks, and considers farmer adoption of technology as criteria
B. Origins of the FSR/E Approach and Its Relationship to Conventional
Agricultural Research and Development
Research can be defined as the careful and diligent search for and
interpretation of new knowledge through hypothesis testing. Agricultural
research is the application of this search to the practical problems of
producing, processing, storing, and delivery of food, fiber, and other
products to consumers. Before the 20th century, growth in agricultural
production occurred almost entirely from increases in area cultivated. During
this century, agriculture has been changing from "a resource-based sector to a
science-based industry" (Ruttan, 1982). Growth in agricultural production is
"increasingly based on new mechanical, chemical, and biological technologies,"
and dependent upon industry and technology- producing institutions to package
this technology in "new and more productive inputs (seeds, fertilizers,
herbicides, insecticides, machines, and equipmentt)" (Ruttan, 1982).
Agricultural research and extension has been responsible for much of this
change to a technology-based agricultural system.
Agricultural research and extension, in its infancy, was characterized by
generalists, often farmers themselves, who did research on crops or livestock,
and who communicated their results directly to their neighbors. Early
agricultural colleges promoted a generalist approach. As agricultural
universities developed and agricultural research institutes were created, a
separation occurred between research on a given topic and communication of the
results. Research and Extension became separate functions. In some places,
research was done entirely in institutes, and teaching was relegated to
universities. Extension was part of separate development-oriented entities,
later the locus for applied research, separate from the "pure" research of the
Within various research institutions, researchers concentrated their
efforts through departments based on disciplinary divisions and developed
specific commodity or crop research thrusts. The goal was raising production,
and the solution was sought mainly in varietal manipulation. At the same
time, extension narrowed its focus to communication and lost its earlier
experimental role. In many places, like the United States, extension divided
along gender lines; men were assumed to be producers, with county agents
(mostly men), assigned to serve their needs, while women were assumed to be
the homemakers, and home economists were to assist them.
The creation of the International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs),
beginning with IRRI in 1960 and CIMMYT in 1966, followed some of these same
premises and trends. Established to give greater impetus to research on key
world crops, the IARCs provided good research conditions in tropical regions
so researchers could achieve "breakthroughs" in crop production for the
developing countries. The justification was the perceived food crisis and the
need to create self-sufficiency in developing countries with large populations
Subsequent breakthroughs, via high yielding varietal tech-packs, became
known as the "Green Revolution," and led to greatly increased food production,
primarily wheat and rice. Results with other food crops were less
spectacular. Nonetheless, the success of the Green Revolution caused
universities to become even more specialized in the training of new scientists
to meet the demands for greater commodity production. Further specialization
increased the disciplinary division among agricultural researchers, and lead
to research problem identification and prioritization driven by
discipline-based needs (publication in referred journals), rather than farming
priorities. Researchers, no longer drawn largely from the farming community,
had little first-hand experience to use in making research decisions. Farmer
input existed only in the form of powerful lobbies of wealthy farmers whose
farms matched conditions on experiment stations.
This specialized, discipline-based, commodity-driven style dominates what
is called conventional agricultural research and extension. The research
agenda is derived from previously published research experience and is
conducted largely within the laboratory and the experimental station where
non-experimental variables can be better controlled. For some farmers, this
research provides food productivity advances relative to labor and land. The
current abundance of food in developed countries can be attributed, to a large
extent, to these miracle technologies. However, the farmers who can, do use
these technologies, are only those who control of have access to the required
land, capital, labor and input resources needed for the technologies to
produce "food production miracles".
Between 1968 and 1978, researchers from systems ecology, social science,
and agricultural economics simultaneously began to evaluate the new
technologies and take a second look at the results of the Green Revolution.
They concluded that many low-resource farmers (then called "small farmers"),
had not benefited from the new technology. Rather than blaming farmers for
their non-adoption, some field scientists from the IARCs and national programs
began to question the appropriateness of the technology itself. They found
that the new technology could not stand alone, but depended upon various
inputs and infrastructural conditions, both of which are still
disproportionately available to resource-rich farmers (Chambers and Jiggins,
1985). Without inputs and infrastructure, and under low-resource farmer
conditions, the technology performed the same or poorer than the farmer's own
This recognition lead to explorations of methods to produce technology
more appropriate to the needs of low-resource farmers. Depending upon the
researchers' backgrounds, the institutions sources for whom they worked, their
ecological environments, and the farming systems they worked within, they put
together different methods for generating technology more appropriate to
low-resource conditions. Isolation of these independent efforts meant that
there were many new brands of research being developed, each with its own
leader and following. Actually, these approaches were similar responses to the
Beginning in 1976, researchers started to come together to exchange ideas.
Because of personal vested interests and spontaneously differing terminology,
less commonality surfaced than disagreement on definitions. Acronyms
flourished and changed as rapidly as conferences were held. Information
exchange was very informal, with photocopy machines replacing journals as the
medium of communication. Much of the oral and written debates was never
published. What was beginning to be called "Farming Systems" or "Farming
Systems Research" (FSR), lived a life of its own, becoming more and more
separated from the research and extension establishments.
In 1980, FSR efforts began to converge. More exchanges took place among
FSR proponents and similarities and differences became clearer. FSR field
workers began to publish in legitimate journals or high status publications.
Kansas State University's annual FSR symposium, started in 1981, became an
international forum for the presentation of theoretical and practical FSR
results. National researchers from developing countries started to use FSR
from their own perspectives, and funds were generated to enable them to attend
international conferences. CIMMYT's Economics Program pioneered FSR work in
East Africa and Latin America. CIMMYT training documents, produced in both
the regional and headquarters offices, began to define the FSR approach as
more nationals were trained to conduct their own on-farm research. Both
CIMMYT and IRRI expanded the communication about FSR by creating networks
among practitioners and promoting networking activities.
USAID's Farming Systems Support Project (FSSP/University of Florida),
created in 1982, increased the networking among the FSR community. It created
a newsletter, network paper series, and annotated bibliographies in three
languages to stimulate exchange across regional barriers and give field
practitioners access to the wealth of formal and fugitive FSR/E literature.
FSSP added the "E" to the FSR acronym calling explicitly for the need to link
researchers and extension workers with farmers in the process of developing
appropriate agricultural technology. FSSP collected and organized
methodological tools to formulate training materials for systematic teaching
of the FSR/E approach to new practitioners. Especially important was the
exchange of views between anglophone and francophone practitioners, either
through multi-lingual facilitators, simultaneous translation at workshops and
conferences, or the growing insistence on translations of key documents.
Fresco's (1984) analysis of the two traditions was a landmark piece which
began an important process of understanding and reconciliation between these
historically separate perspectives.
By the end of 1984, methodological consensus was emerging among FSR/E
practitioners. Debates shifted from terminology and definitions to thoughtful
discussions of content, results, implementation problems, evaluation criteria,
farmer participation, monitoring adoption, and institutionalization.
Practitioners viewed FSR/E as an approach for agricultural research and
extension, differing from, yet complementing, the conventional strategy that
enhanced work with farmers ignored by the technification of agricultural
research. A profusion of FSR/E acronyms still exists, but practitioners today
are more tolerant of differences and are actively learning from the
experiences of others.
When viewed from an historical perspective, FSR/E is both old and new. It
is old because many of its individual concepts, principles, and methods have
been used for over a generation in a variety of locations. Yet it is new
because of the way these components are combined to provide a systematic
approach to agricultural problem-solving. This historical view also shows
that the conventional agricultural research and extension strategy, which is
commodity, component, and discipline-driven, has not produced results that
have greatly benefited low-resource farmers. The conventional strategy
assumes the availability of a suitable resource base in terms of land,
climate, and infrastructure; in essence, it is directed to non-marginal lands
(Plucknett et al., 1986), and takes commodity choice for production as
predeterminea.-It is clear that, without a FSR/E approach, low-resource
farmers farming marginal lands under low input, risk-averse systems, to
produce a wide variety of substistance crops, can be easily overlooked and
ignored by the conventional research and extension systems.
FSR/E can contribute in three ways to the successful re-orientation of
conventional agricultural research and extension (R/E) programs towards the
problems of low-resource farmers. First, FSR/E helps determine research
priorities among low-resource farmers which can help allocate scarce research
funds to problems of greatest importance. Second, it enhances appropriate
technology development through on-farm testing which increases the potential
for success in extending innovative technologies to farmers. Third, it helps
overcome existing biases of gender, age, ethnicity, and class by working
toward holism in its diagnosis, design, experimentation, and dissemination
stages (Fresco and Poats, 1986).
C. KEY ATTRIBUTES OF FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH AND EXTENSION
The major attributes and basic assumptions embodied in the FSR/E approach
are the following (mostly taken form Merrill-Sands, 1985):
1) FSR/E is farmer oriented FSR/E targets low-resource farm families as
the clients for agricultural research and technology development. It involves
an emphasis on farmers' priorities and tapping the "body of knowledge"
possessed by farmers.
2) FSR/E is holistic FSR/E views the farm in a holistic manner and
focuses on interactions between components. A comprehensive view is taken of
both human and natural environments of the farm. Research focuses on
production subsystems, but the connection with other subsystems are
recognized, and evaluation of research results explicitly takes into account
linkages between subsystems (Baker and Norman, 1986).
3) FSR/E is dynamic and problem-solving approach FSR/E first identifies
technical, biological, and socio-economic constraints at the farm level and
then proposes technologies or practices which are feasible for targeted
farming households to alleviate constraints. Adjustments are made in
technology design as understanding and communication with small farmers
4) FSR/E is interdisciplinary Collaboration among agricultural
scientists of various disciplines and social scientists is needed to
understand the conditions and constraints under which farmers operate and to
develop or introduce improved technologies suitable to those conditions.
5) FSR/E complements commodity and disciplinary agricultural research; it
does not replace it FSR/E draws upon the body of knowledge of technologies
and management strategies generated by basic and commodity research programs
and adapts them to specific environments and socio-economic circumstances.
FSR/E also provides a feedback mechanism for shaping priorities for basic and
commodity research programs.
6) FSR/E recognizes the location specificity of technical and human
factors Farmers are often grouped on the basis of ecological and technical
differences to facilitate technology transfer (Lightfoot, 1980). These
groupings are often called recommendation domains. Once grouped, the
constraint most limiting to each group becomes the focus of research.
7) FSR/E tests technologies in on-farm trials On-farm experimentation
allows for farmers and researchers to collaborate, provides a deeper
understanding of the farming system among researchers, and allows for the
evaluation of the technologies under the environmental and management
conditions it will be used.
8) FSR/E provides feedback from farmers FSR/E provides feedback from
farmers regarding their goals, needs, priorities, constraints, and criteria
for evaluating technologies. This feedback is directed to station-based
agricultural researchers as well as to national and regional policy makers.
D. Stages of Farming Systems Research and Extension
Most practitioners agree that the FSR/E approach progressively associates
farms and farmers within appropriate domains and has four distinct stages in
1) The descriptive or diagnostic stage During this stage, the farming
systems are examined in the context of the total environment. Researchers
determine the constraints farmers face and ascertain the potential flexibility
in the farming system in terms of timing, available resources, etc. An effort
is also made to understand the goals and motivations of farmers that may
affect or influence efforts to improve the farming system. During diagnosis,
various methods of informal, formal, quantitative, and qualitative data
collection are used.
2) The design or planning stage During this stage, a range of
alternative intervention strategies (solutions to problems), are identified
which may be appropriate in dealing with the constraints delineated in the
descriptive or diagnostic stage (Gilbert, Norman, and Winch, 1980). At this
stage, heavy reliance is placed on obtaining information from the "body of
knowledge" of past research. This information is derived from experiment
station based research, researcher and implemented type on-farm trials, and
the knowledge of farmers. This stage involves ex ante evaluation of a
technology or practice with regard to technical-feasi1Bility, economic
viability, and social acceptability for a targeted area. It also involves the
planning of further "non-experimental" complementary research which may
accompany on-farm trials or enhance the understanding of the farming system.
3) The testing stage During this stage, a few potential recommendations
derived from the design stage are examined under actual farm conditions. This
is done to evaluate the suitability and acceptability of the improved
practices in the existing farming system. This stage usually consists of two
steps: 1) researcher-managed, but farmer-implemented tests, and 2) testing
totally under the control of the farmers themselves. Complementary,
non-experimental research is also conducted during this stage.
4) The recommendation and dissemination (extension) stage During this
stage, successfully tested technologies or practices are made available to
other farmers with similar circumstances.
In practice, there are no clear boundaries between the various stages.
The research process is recognized as being dynamic, with linkages in both
directions. Research staff will be designing some technologies and testing
others, while new problems will need to be diagnosed as our understanding of
the farming system becomes more fine-tuned. Each stage has a clearly defined
set of methodologies that practitioners now routinely use under field
conditions. These will be discussed in subsequent sections of this manual.
E. Schematic View of the Farming Systems Research and Extension Process
The iterative, dynamic nature of the FSR/E process is depicted in the
schematic diagram in Figure (This is figure 111:1.4 from FSSP Units).
In the diagram, the design or pl-anning stage of the FSR/E process is the
central "integrating" point that links together the four "loops" comprising
on-farm research, on-station research, extension, and decision-making at the
policy level. The process begins at the farm household level where the
farming system is described and farm-level problems are identified using
diagnostic tools and methods. Results are analyzed at the planning and design
stage. At this point, the FSR/E team ranks problems and identifies potential
solutions. For some problems, there may not be any existing technological
solutions and it is necessary to conduct research on-station or in
laboratories in order to generate new alternatives for testing on-farm.
Diagnosis can also identify farmer-derived solutions to certain problems which
can then be extended to other farmers operating under similar conditions.
Results from monitoring by extension workers of both adoption and non-adoption
of technology by farmers can feed into subsequent planning and design stages.
Finally, for many farm problems or constraints, the solution is not
technological, but rather involves changes or improvements in agricultural
policies. A lack of necessary credit, untimely availability of inputs such as
seeds and fertilizers, or the absence of a suitable marketing infrastructure
for farm products can be as constraining to farm-level production as any
disease or insect, yet the alternative solutions require policy changes and
A key lesson from the diagram is that the FSR/E process does not end with
one round of on-farm research. Each new cycle of experimentation generates a
better understanding of the farming system and promotes better collaboration
with the farmer community. Because the needs of farm households can change
from one season to the next, and the circumstances farmers face also change,
the process must be continuous. Analysis of the results from one season of
experimentation serves as the diagnostic data for determining new constraints
not recognized earlier or as the framework for re-prioritization of known
From the diagram, it is also clear that FSR/E does not stand alone nor
operate strictly within the on-farm research sphere. It is not a substitute
for station research, but rather a complement that can serve to orient
disciplinary, thematic, or commodity research to focus on those problems of
most critical need from the point of view of farmers. The FSR/E process can
provide a needed farm-level linkage for decision-makers operating at the
policy level. Finally, FSR/E can provide a crucial linkage between research
and extension by involving extension workers early in the development of
technology and by providing a mechanism for extension workers to influence the
planning and design of research that will take into consideration factors to
facilitate the dissimination and adoption of technology.
The discussion above has provided an overview of the FSRE approach, its
relationship to conventional agricultural research and extension, the key
features of FSR/E that as a group distinguish it from other approaches to
agricultural development, the basic stages of FSR/E activities and the overall
process of conduction FSR/E. This provides the background to proceed through
the remaining sections of this manual. Chapter II focuses attention upon the
application of systems theory to the description and understanding of
low-resource farmers and their production activities. These basic "systems
concepts" are essential for the effective application of the FSR/E approach.
Chapters e, 4, and 5 present the methods associated with each of the four
stages of FSR/E. Both design (or planning), and experimentation are included
in Chapter 4. The concluding chapter of this manual discusses the issues and
problems of organizing and managing the FSR/E process. FSR/E requires
different types of institutional resources to be efficient and effective; it
requires new ways of managing people across disciplines and commodities; it
calls for new relationships between farmers and the R/E system; and it
produces information and results that challenge existing communications
UNDERSTANDING LOW-RESOURCE FARMS AS SYSTEMS
A. What is a system?
One of the important distinguishing elements of the FSR/E process is the
"generalized use of a systems perspective to understand the interactions and
linkages among complex physical, biological, and socio-economic circumstances
of farmers in order to. facilitate the creation of new agricultural technology"
(DeWalt, 1985). This systems perspective provides the FSR/E team with the
view of the farm as a holistic system with interconnected subsystems. From
this perspective, individual farm enterprises, or subsystems, such as maize
fields, vegetable gardens, or small livestock are viewed as connected
activities among which farmers must allocate their resources for production
(land, labor, inputs, capital, equipment, management, etc.). Once farms are
viewed as a system of interconnected subsystems, it must be recognized that a
change in any subsystems will impact on the rest of the system. In FSR/E, it
is essential to anticipate as much as possible the potential system impacts of
introducing change within a farming system. On-farm research tests new
technology within the reality of the farm system so that researchers can
determine both the potential positive outcomes of changes and the possible
negative effects on other parts of the system.
B. Modeling Low-Resource Farming Systems
A model is a means of describing and summarizing a system and its known
parts. It helps researchers understand what they are studying and where there
are gaps in their knowledge. It is a useful tool to employ when initiating
diagnosis of a particular farming system or for screening alternative
technological solutions to forsee possible outcomes on-farm. Models represent
a first step in describing a farming system and are by no means exhaustive.
In FSR/E, models to describe a farming system not only portray the farm
production activities, but they also present human behavior in order to
develop an understanding of how farmers manage their farms. Structural
models, as used in this section, focus on the levels of interaction and
integration among the various crop, livestock, and off-farm enterprises of
farm families. Such models are important for orienting and guiding the work
of an interdisciplinary team. Understanding the whole context within which
new technologies are to be promoted will help a team evaluate the potential of
the proposed technology. For example, a model may show that crops are not
only produced for food and sale, but are also produced for construction
materials, ritual purposes, animal feed, animal bedding, and mulch. In
assisting the farm family to increase its production of grain for food and
sale, the team must ensure that other critical uses of grain are not
The following examples of low-resource farming systems in Asia, Africa,
and Central America demonstrate how structural models are constructed and
their utility to FSR/E teams.
C. Examples of Low-Resource Farming Systems
Three kinds of farming systems are common in Asia: Swidden, or slash
and burn, agriculture; humid upland production; and finally, lowland rice
agriculture. These different systems reflect the modifications that have
occurred in Asia as population pressures increase on the one hand, and as
infrastructure improves, on the other hand.
a. Asian Swidden System
Figure is a model of swidden agriculture which is found in isolated areas
with low population pressures and very little market or infrastructural
contact. Occasionally, something is sold off the farm. Often this is an
animal that can walk to the market. Occasionally something is purchased from
the market. Sometimes it is also an animal that can walk to the farm. The
household will occasionally sell labor to the market and a few items must be
purchased from the market. Most farm household labor is utilized in crop,
rather than livestock activities. Interaction between crops and livestock is
minimal in the swidden system. Small quantities of the crops are fed to the
livestock and only incidental manure is used on the crops. The flow of
products from the crops to the household is more important than from the
animals to the household. The animals as well as crops provide ritual
benefits as well as food. The crops also provide construction material for
the household. The amount of product that comes from long-term fallow or the
forest is one of the most important relationships on a swidden farm. The
three most important products from the forest or long-term fallow are
fertility for the crops, and construction material and fuel for the household.
b. Asian Humid Uplands Systems.
The humid uplands represent a much more highly developed area with a much
greater population pressure than is found in swidden agricultural areas. Most
of the relationships are stronger, and the farm as a unit requires much more
support from infrastructure. Sales of both plants and animals are important,
and inputs for crops are also purchased from the market although this is not a
highly developed activity in many upland areas. Labor use is important for
the animals as well as for the crops. The cropping systems are more organized
than in swidden agriculture. Along with a more organized system, the
interrelationships between crops and animals become much stronger in the humid
upland systems. Forest or long-term fallow becomes much less important
because of its increasing scarcity in these systems, and its main product is
to provide fuel for the household. On-farm fallow and field borders become
relatively important in comparison by providing feed for some of the livestock.
c. Asian Lowland Rice System
Lowland rice systems represent a very highly developed area with high
population pressures and a very great dependence upon infrastructure and
markets. In particular, it is important to note that a high dependence of the
crops on the market is developed in these systems; and even more important,
fuel must be purchased from the market as it is no longer available from the
farm system itself. This in turn creates a dependence of the household upon
selling products from the farm to the markets., Because of population
pressures, higher valued crops tend to be raised. These crops require higher
labor inputs. This may require purchasing labor from off the farm for peak
periods. In these systems, there is a high level of integration of crops and
animals. Animals mostly are confined. Little or no long-term fallow or
forest is available. The importance of field borders is diminished because of
the intense pressure on the land. This, in turn, partially explains the
dependence of the crops on the market for purchased sources of fertility to
augment the fertility from the livestock.
A number of important characteristics and relationships were shown in this
sequence of the three different systems found in Asia. For example, the
nature of the farm system, while complex in all cases, is conditioned very
heavily by the infrastructural support available to that farm. If a farm has
access to market by canoe only, very little dependence of the farm on the
market will be evident. The lower population pressures in isolated areas
usually allow the farmers to obtain many of their needs from the forest or
from long-term fallow. Fertility can also be obtained from this same source
and does not need to come from the market. The resources available to farms
in such areas are largely fixed in quantity and are from the farm itself. Few
variable resources, such as fertilizers or capital for other inputs are
available. In high population pressure areas, on the other hand, pressures on
the land, the necessity to purchase fuel from the market, and the close
proximity to infrastructure, result in a farm system which has much more
dependency upon the market and other infrastructural support.
2. The Gambia-Africa Savanna
The Gambia-Africa savanna region (Figure ), is characterized by rainfall
of 1,000 to 1,4000 mm per year, 90 percent oT-which falls from mid-June to
mid-October. The environment is either hot and humid or hot and dry,
depending on the season. Daily maximum temperatures arg 30 C or higher
throughout the year. Minimum temperatures range from 15 C in January to 22 C
during the rainy season.
A classification of land-use capacity showed that 46 percent of the soils
were considered unsuitable for cropping or were marginal, yet 10 percent of
these soils were under cultivation. Normally 20 percent of the lands suitable
for cropping will be cropped each year, with the remainder in fallow
(Dunsmore, 1975). By 1972, the proportion under cultivation had risen to 30
percent, indicating that cropping is encroaching on grazing and forest lands
(long-term fallow). Approximately 60 percent of the cultivated land is
planted to groundnuts and the remainder to subsistence crops (sorghum, millet,
cassava, rice, and maize). Food production is deficient due to high emphasis
on cash cropping.
Land tenure in the rural areas is determined by traditional laws involving
communal rights. The village chief and village council allocate land-use
rights to heads of compounds (family groups). Leases for growing irrigated
rice or lowland rice are usually arranged through the district authority as
these are "national lands."
Nearly all compounds maintain three to ten sheep, three to four goats, up
to ten chickens, and a few guinea fowl. These species are tended by women and
they derive income from sales. The fowl scavenge about, while sheep and goats
are tethered. The sheep and goats are housed at night to prevent loss and to
collect manure for'fertilizing garden crops. Cattle ownership is common, but
there does appear to be some unevenness in terms of distribution, whereas
ownership of sheep and goats is much more equitable. Where numbers are large,
40 or more, the cattle are herded by a hired herder (hence the solid arrow
from market to animal component), who is paid from the proceeds of the sale of
milk or sometimes in cash. Those owning only a few cattle practice "joint
herding" in order to minimize labor needs.
The main source of animal feed is grazing of permanent woodlands,
rangeland, and fallow. Due to farm fragmentation (especially the distance
between the rice lands and the compounds), lack of transport equipment, and
demands for labor to harvest the groundnut crop, there is little use made of
crop residues for animal feeding during the dry season. Much of the crop
residue is trampled or wasted my marauding cattle owned locally or by pastoral
herds coming in from the north. For a period of seven to eight months, the
nutritive value of cattle feed is low; hence the cattle suffer severe weight
losses. The cultivation of groundnuts on the uplands and the rise in rice
production in the lowlands have caused serious conflicts between farmers and
The contribution of livestock may range from low to high, depending upon
measures employed. Some milk is consumed at home; on occasion, animals are
the major means of generating capital and serve as insurance. Animals have an
income distribution role within the household, as the returns form poultry or
small ruminants go to the women. In the Muslim religion, animals have a
ritual role, especially for the celebration of Tabaski. The use of draft
power is expanding rather rapidly, thus a significant proportion of farms are
dependent on oxen to extend their agricultural production. Animal manures
also make some direct contribution to agricultural production.
Under the current land tenure system, the opportunities for increased
integration of crops and livestock are limited. More extensive use could be
made of crop residues, e.g., through preservation of better-quality groundnut
hay. The long-term fallow land could be made more useful by better grazing
management. However, local farmers are reluctant to invest labor or capital,
as they have no assurance that herders from Senegal will not infringe on their
lands. Planting of forages for livestock during the rainy season competes for
labor needed for grounnuts and food crops. Until there are significant
changes in the factors exogenous to the farms, e.g., control of "foreign
herds," higher and more equitable meat prices, and major policy decisions on
land use for cultivation versus grazing, there will be little opportunity for
It is quite obvious from the foregoing examples that small-farm systems
are highly variable; they are complex and require rather high levels of
managerial skill to operate effectively. These systems are best understood or
appreciated as "whole units" by technicians and planners for application of
technology. Through an appreciation of the interdependence of cropping and
livestock production, technologists canbetter understand the small farmer's
rejection of recommended technology because of the risk of creating an
unacceptable imbalance in the system. For example, substituting an improved
variety of maize for a native variety may decrease maize stover yield so that
feed supplies for animals become inadequate, especially unacceptable where the
farmer depends upon animals for agricultural traction. It is also abundantly
clear from the examples given that there is a need for technology more readily
applicable to small-farm systems.
Attention should also be drawn to two additional important functions of
animals not protrayed in the diagrams: 1) they are potentially very valuable
during times of food/cash shortage; and 2) they can act as a buffer against
contingencies such as illness, accident, famine, seasonal food shortage, or
the need to help relations in trouble.
3. Central America
Now we will examine the difference between a generalized farm system
typical of the Central American highlands and a specific farm in the area.
a. Generalized System
The general farm has many of the same characteristics as the humid upland
system in Asia. There is more dependency on crops for income and less on
animals than in the humid uplands of Asia. There is also some differences in
the crops raised and in the particular livestock that are present. These
differences can be attributed to culture, the general region of the world, and
to soils and climate.
b. A Specific Farm Example
Now we will compare a specific farm case in the Central American highlands
with the general model. This farm has stronger tendencies to sell livestock
products and purchase inputs for the livestock from the market than the
generalized model. This farm also has its own forest and grassland areas
rather that access to off-farm forest or long-term fallow areas. A complete
list of crops on this farm includes those in the generalized model but, in
addition, includes medicinal herbs, other garden vegetables and fruits. On
this farm, 10 percent of the maize is sold directly, 19 percent of the maize
is used as food in the household, 70 percent is fed to the livestock and 1
percent is used for seed. The maize stover is used as bedding and feed for
the livestock, and approximately 50 percent of the maize stover is returned to
the crop in the form of compost. The maize cobs are used as fuel in the
household. Wheat is on of the primary cash crops. Sixty percent of the wheat
is sold directly to the market, 20 percent is used in the household for food,
and 20 percent is saved for seed. As is the case of maize, wheat straw is
used for feed and bedding for the livestock and approximately half the straw
is returned to crop as compost. Animals on this farm include cattle, swine,
chickens, bees and dogs. More than half the chickens that are raised are sold
directly to the market and 42 percent of the chickens are consumed in the
household. Feathers, a byproduct of the chickens, are utilized in the
household for making feather flowers which are then sold in the market. This
use consumes 20 percent of the feathers. The other 80 percent is used in
compost and returned to the cropland along with chicken manure. Two percent
of the milk produced by the cattle is sold, 10 percent is consumed in the
household and 88 percent is used as raw material for making cheese. Twenty
percent of the cheese is consumed in the household and 80 percent of the
cheese is sold as a cash crop. Ninety-five percent of they whey produced
while making cheese is fed back to the animals, 3 percent of the whey is
consumed in the household and 2 percent is sold as a cash crop. Besides
managing the crop and livestock enterprise, the men produce furniture and the
women produce sweaters and some clothing. Of the medicines required by the
family, 75 percent is purchased and 25 percent comes from the farm itself.
Products transformed in the household and sold, are cheese, whey, feather
flowers, furniture, sweaters and some household labor.
D. Disaggregating the Farm Household
(This section draws heavily upon the Conceptural Framework constructed by
Feldstein et al, 1987.)
The proceeding examples of structural models of selected farming systems
in Asia, Africa, and Central America focusde primarily on delineating the many
components of crop and livestock production and the various linkages both
within and between each group of enterprises. Little attention was paid to
the box in the models titled "household". It is very common in agricultural
projects to take "the household" as the unit of analysis and male heads of
households as the principal decision makers and sources of information. The
roles of other household members are frequently ignored. This can be
detrimental to the effective diagnosis of farming problem and the design and
testing of alternative technologies. Adult women, the elderly, and children
bring specific skills, resources, and priorities to farm production. To
ignore these is to ignore half or more of the system in which decisions about
farming are made.
In most societies, household relations profoundly affect farmer
decision-making. The dynamics within and between household are based on
differences of gender, age, seniority, class or ethnicity, and developmental
stages in the life cycle. Household relations are embedded in farming systems
and, like crop and livestock subsystems, will have an effect on and be
affected by changes in these systems. In every society, women and men do
different things, have access to different resources and benefits, and have
different responsibilities. For example, women and men may be responsible for
different crops, for different fields of the same crop, or for different
production activities for the same crop in the same field. In many areas,
these roles are in flux. It is important to observe and record these
gender-related differences in behavior and use these data as part of the
analysis leading to the design and testing of improved technologies.
The major point is to understand that a household is not an
undifferentiated grouping of people with a common production and consumption
function, i.e. with shared and equal access to resources for and benefits from
production. Patterns of decision-making vary from one place to another. Some
households may fit the standard model of a single decision maker or benevolent
dictator. In some, consultation takes place between particular members or all
members. In some, consultation takes place between particular members or all
members. In others, households are hardly units in any sense of the word.
Men, women, and children may operate in completely separate spheres of
decision-making affecting production, income, and expenditures. In short, the
form of the household and patterns of decision-making cannot be assumed.
Households are complex, not homogeneous. Even where the household is a useful
unit of analysis, the pattern of activities, resources, and incentives of its
members are important informaiton for the FSR/E process and must be determined
by investigation. Households do not remain static over time; they change in
response to stages'in the life cycle, population movements, and shifts in
assets, holdings, residences or cultural traditions. For instance, households
with young children may give priority to adequate food crops and the demands
for women's labor; households with older children at home and more labor upon
which to draw may take on more labor demanding activities. Temporary or
permanent migration may leave a high proportion of female headed households
with less available labor and more limited access to resources for production.
This variation in type may be as important as ecological differences for
determining production constraints and designating appropriate research or
Structural models can be used to construct an initial diagnosis of
important intra-household activities and interactions. Figure 2.4:1 provides
a schematic model of a household in West Africa in which men and women are
responsible for different crops and activities of the farming system. This
model provides a very different picture of the farming system. This model
provides a very different picture of farming system and the way in which
responsibilities are divided among household members from those presented in
E. Constructing an Agricultural Calender
One of the problems in describing a farming system using structural models
is that the result is similar to a photograph, a snapshot of the system at a
particular time. Lacking the time dimension, activities appear to take place
in unison. Structural models fail to provide an understanding of how
activities change over the year as the farming system passes through different
production seasons. Understanding the flow of activities is important for the
FSR/E process, especially when assessing the potential impact of introducing
new technology that could alter the timing of activities or the allocation and
distribution of household labor.
One useful tool for describing and analysing the pattern and flow of
household activity over the year is the agricultural calender. In an
agricultural calender, household activities are "mapped" or laid out for each
month of the year. Included in the calender are both crop and livestock
activities as well as other activities that contribute to the welfare of the
household, such as cooking, gathering water and fuelwood, house maintenance,
processing food, and childcare. In the calender, who does what task is
designated by gender, age or other factors. In some cases, whole areas of
activity will be segregated by gender (men cattle; women crops ). In
others, sequenced tasks related to the same enterprise may be assigned by
gender (men land preparation; women weeding).
The resulting calender of activities creates an activities map with which
to screen the identification of problems, the selection of research
priorities, the designation of collaborating farmers, and the design of
on-farm trials. The seasonal calendar reveals period of labor shortage and
identifies the competing tasks. Activities analysis indicated who does what,
whose labor will be affected by proposed changes, what are the competing
demands, and who needs to be taught new methods. Figure provides an
example of an agricultural calendar constructed for the Central Province of
Zambia in southern Africa.
In summary, smAll scale, limited resource family farms are highly complex
systems with a large number of different enterprises. They have a high degree
of interrelationship among the individual enterprises. The dependency of
these systems on infrastructural support increases as population pressures
force higher and higher market participation.
Chapter III. Diagnosis of Farmer Problems
A. GATHERING INFORMATION FOR FSR/E: CHOOSING METHODS THAT WORK
1. METHODS FOR COLLECTING DATA
The diagnostic phase in FSR/E provides researchers with the
information required for identifying farmer problems and determining
appropriate solutions. A variety of data sources and methods for
collecting data are available. FSR/E practitioners must select those
methods and sources which provide the most accurate information at the
least possible cost. Several important sources and methods are summarized
in Table V.1. Methods are not mutually exclusive, for example, one may
use observation during formal and informal surveys. These are described
Examining Secondary Data
Secondary data are existing data that have been collected and
summarized from unpublished or published sources. One example of the use
of secondary data in early diagnosis and hypothesis building is to compare
topographical and land ownership maps. In the Department of Cauca,
Colombia, one sees that the large farms are in the flat land and the small
farms on the steep lands. A hypothesis could be made that the wealthier
farmers farm the flat lands. The hypothesis could be tested by looking at
income data from the population census by municipio or vereda
From examination of aerial surveys, we see that maize is grown on the
flat land and the steep land. From the records of extension agents, we
find both kinds of farmers have problems of downy mildew. From the income
and land information data, we can conclude that the two tentative
groupings of farmers, flat-land farmers and steep-land farmers, have
different resources to bring to bear on the problem of downy mildew.
Future data collection would seek to examine and verify these
findings. The next stages of data collection can build on these data and
increase the effectiveness of primary data collection and subsequent field
Key Informant Interviews
Key informant interviews are an important data collection choice early
in the FSR/E process that can make future data collection more efficient.
Key informant interviews are discussions with individuals who represent an
institution or type of individual within an area.
Key informants can be crucial in helping to group farmers and identify
constraints, as well as describing nutritional trends and past
agricultural production efforts in the area. Key informants can also
assist in explaining what farmers are likely to know and not know, local
weights and measures, and which questions are likely to be sensitive.
As early in
the first of
the first year
may not be
needed or may
for logistic or
During crop cycle
Numbers of Initially Small, focusing Very small- Very small Can be large,
variables very large on as the each experi- but sample
but narrowing variables ment contains size is small
as the survey determined one to four
proceeds. to be important variables.
Sample A real unit Non-randcm. Randon (simple, Representative May be random Purposive
or specific Provides Stratified but probably or purposive
groups overview of cluster, etc.) not truly
farming sample. random.
Advantages Non-interactive Low cost; Relatively long Precise Allows follow Can observe
Requires rapid (3-4 months) information up and careful process
little travel. (2-3 weeks); uses random about the observations on
gives good sample, so can effects of issues that are
qualitative test hypotheses. technological not appropriate for
information, Multiple visit alternatives, single visit
good for survey take surveys, but do not
farming nuch longer. (yet) merit
Cost Low Low Mediumvigh Low/High Low/Medium Mediu/High
Informal surveys are field studies in which researchers conduct
informal farmer interviews and visit farms to develop an understanding of
the farming system or systems. Informal surveys tend to be low cost and
much information can be collected in a short period of time. The surveys
are especially useful for learning about farmers' values, opinions,
objectives and knowledge and for understanding the reasons underlying
often complex management strategies. The principal weaknesses of these
surveys are that the sample of farmers interviewed may not be
representative of the group researchers wish to characterize, and that
statistical procedures cannot be used to test results. Informal surveys
are discussed in greater detail in I:VII.
Formal surveys are surveys undertaken using formal sampling
procedures, pre-tested and standardized questionnaires, and other means
that permit statistical analysis of data. Sample size is usually much
greater than sample size for informal surveys. Enumerators, rather than
researchers, frequently conduct the farmer interviews during a formal
survey. Turnaround time may vary substantially. It may be as brief as a
few months when a formal survey involves administering a two page
questionnaire to a small sample of farmers in a single visit. It may be
up to several years when farmers are interviewed twice weekly over a
period of an entire year. In many FSR/E programs, informal surveys are
used to help researchers focus their formal survey on a relatively small
number of variables.
Observational data are important throughout the FSR/E process.
Observations through such means as aerial photography/video imagery and
windshield surveys can help determine target areas and sample villages.
During diagnostic surveys, observational data provide complementary
information to data collected in interviews and can be used for generating
initial hypotheses. Observational data may include field-size
estimations, planting hill distances, crop associations and production
practices. Observations can also help verify whether norms and behavior
are consistent. For example, farmers may tell you that women do not
engage in agriculture because the norms in society say that women should
not. Systematic observation reveals that women take part in weeding,
harvesting, processing the harvest and in family decision making.
Observation can also be used to validate the data gained from surveys as
well as those gained from experiments. For example, taking soil samples
or identifying plant diseases are observations that should be made to
validate farmers' concerns with low fertility or yield loss. Observation
can also be a very rigorous, formal process providing useful quantitative
data on such things as labor and time allocation for various agricultural
tasks. In addition, observation can be used to suggest key subjects to be
included in future surveys.
Experiments are used to find out if the proposed intervention is
indeed effective, according to predetermined criteria of success. In this
case it can be combined with case studies where some farm families or
villages implement interventions and others do not. In the experiments,
there is careful monitoring of the expected results, particularly
increases in productivity and income, as well as attempts to monitor
unintended consequences, such as the creation of labor bottle necks or a
decline of income from other farm enterprises. Setting up a controlled
experiment is a research design decision. Observations, informal surveys
and formal surveys should all be used in monitoring and evaluating the
Case studies involve following a particular set of farm family
activities over time. Researchers examine the history of the family's
activities, observe, and record what occurs over an extended period of
time. Detailed case studies can provide information not easily obtained
by other methods. For example, information on household organization and
production is often difficult to obtain through standard methods. Time
allocation of agricultural tasks, labor allocation, gender of activities
and other information often become apparent through observation. The
availability of resources, how resources are used, and the streams of
income can also be observed through case studies. Similarly, case studies
can be useful to provide information about crop/livestock interactions.
2. CHOICE OF METHOD
There is usually more than one way to obtain a particular piece of
information. Researchers must ask themselves what is the most appropriate
method for obtaining the information given their needs and circumstances.
Three aspects must be considered when deciding which method is most
a. Available Resources
It would not be wise to conduct a lengthy, complex formal survey if
computer facilities and/or trained staff are not available to assist in
data tabulation and analysis, nor if answers are needed in a short period
b. Reasons Why the Information is Being Collected
If the researchers want to demonstrate to maize breeders that a
significant percentage of farmers are experiencing problems in storing
their maize, a formal survey may provide more convincing information than
an informal survey.
c. Nature of the Information
Qualitative information, information concerning farmers' opinions,
attitudes, and values is usually best explored in informal surveys.
Quantitative information, information concerning measureable quantities
and characteristics, is often best examined in formal surveys.
3. DEPTH VS. REPRESENTATIVENESS
The basic question here is, "Should we collect a lot of information
from a few farmers or a small amount of information from many farmers?"
Both representativeness and depth are necessary at various stages of the
FSR/E process. Rapid rural appraisal may be very helpful in establishing
an initial program of intervention, particularly if the technology is
available and has been shown to work on the experiment station. A formal
sample survey 6an then be used in order to find out what proportion of the
farmers could use this technology and how to characterize these farmers.
4. SEQUENCING OF METHODS
The decision of which data gathering tool to use at which stage of the
diagnosis will vary according to the data gathering goal. When collecting
livestock information, it may be appropriate to initially gather data from
regional research centers or local livestock organizations. This is not
necessarily the only or best way to gather data. Multiple data gathering
strategies can be applied in a parallel fashion.
B. INFORMAL SURVEYS FOR DATA GATHERING IN FSR/E
1. What Is An Informal Survey?
2. How to Implement the Informal Survey?
3. What Are Some Advantages and Limitations of the Informal Survey?
4. Methods and Procedures
After completing this unit participants will be able to:
1. Explain the role of the informal survey in both diagnosing farming
systems and identifying research priorities.
2. Design and informal survey for both the start-up and subsequent phases
3. Organize and carry out the actual field work which an informal survey
1. If carefully conducted, informal surveys can be as, or more, useful in
FSR/E programs than other more costly and time-consuming research
methods. They are frequently sufficient for planning on-farm trials.
2. Informal surveys are carefully designed and systematically conducted
exercises which focus on developing preliminary research questions of
high importance to local farmers. They are not haphazardly or hastily
planned or conducted.
3. Researchers may or may not use written guidelines and take written
notes in informal interviews depending on the circumstances.
4. Involvement of the local farming community in the informal survey
improve accuracy and usefulness of information.
Informal survey: a field study conducted by FSR/E professionals in which
informal farmer interviews, direct observation, and existing
information are used to develop an understanding of farming systems
and to plan experimentation and other interventions.
Interview guidelines: a list of fairly detailed topics which researchers
use to conduct an informal survey.
Key informant: a knowledgeable, well-informed local individual who can
provide a broad range of relatively accurate information on a
community or subject area like agriculture; not always a leader.
1. WHAT IS AN INFORMAL SURVEY?
The objectives of informal surveys (also called sondeos, rapid
reconnaissance surveys, or exploratory surveys) are twofold. One of the
objectives is to develop a rapid understanding of farmers' circumstances,
practices, and problems. Another objective is to plan experiments or
other interventions to solve these identified problems. Informal surveys
have four distinguishing characteristics:
a) Direct Researcher-Farmer Interaction
Informal surveys involve direct, informal interaction between
researchers and farmers. Interviews are conducted by researchers
themselves, not by enumerators, as in formal surveys. Existing
information and direct observation are also important sources of
information in an informal survey.
b) Unstructured Interviews
Interviews in an informal survey are conversational. They are
essentially unstructured and semi-directed, with emphasis on dialogue and
probing for information. Questionnaires are never used. Some researchers
use topic guidelines to ensure they cover all relevant topics on a given
subject. Some researchers also take written notes during the interviews.
c) Dynamic Data Collection Process
In an informal survey, the data collection process is dynamic, that
is, researchers evaluate the data collected and reformulate data needs on
a daily basis. Initial interviews often cover the broad characteristics
of the farming system. Subsequently, researchers focus on priority
problems, potential solutions, and the interactions of these with other
aspects of the system.
d) Interdisciplinary Teamwork
An interdisciplinary team conducts the informal survey. Each
discipline contributes its own perspective to the team's analysis of
farmers' problems and proposed solutions. For example, whereas the
agricultural scientist will understand which cropping practices must be
changed in order to increase yields, the social scientist can evaluate the
economic feasibility and social acceptability of the proposed changes.
2. HOW TO IMPLEMENT THE INFORMAL SURVEY
Informal surveys are generally conducted over a period of one week to
two months during the growing season. Aspects which the FSR/E team should
address prior to, during and after the informal survey is conducted are
presented below (taken from Frankenberger and Lichte, 1985; Hildebrand and
Ruano, 1982; Poey and Ruano, 1984):
a. Determining What are the Objectives of the Study
This should be done in collaboration with all participating
organizations and institutions involved or directly affected by the
research. This step helps ensure that all groups involved understand the
goals of the research and that information which is given high priority is
collected by the team. Some of the possible organizations and
institutions whose input might be sought in deriving objectives include:
Collaborating institutions (universities, consulting firms, etc.) donor
missions; host-country research organizations, and regional development
b. Composition of the Survey Team
The make-up of the FSR/E survey team will vary from one project to
another, depending upon the resources available and context of the
research. Useful considerations for devising such teams are as follows:
i. The size of the team will vary depending on the focus of the project
(e.g. geographical area or number of different crop/livestock
enterprises) and complexity of the environmental/socio-economic
setting. A good number is 6 to 7 members because it is about all that
can comfortably fit into a landrover or land cruiser.
ii. The team should consist of an equal distribution of social scientists
and physical/biological scientists. A good mix of disciplines would
include agricultural economists, anthropologists, crop specialists,
and animal scientists. Local scientists and extension personnel
should be used as much as possible. In addition, the team should
include female researchers to insure that female farmers are
interviewed, especially in situations where male researchers are not
allowed to interview the females of the household.
c. Review of Secondary Data
An FSR/E team begins planning an informal survey by examining existing
information concerning the area. This review process should take place at
least one week prior to going to the field.
d. Key Informant Interviews
Good background information about the area to be surveyed can be
obtained from knowledgeable personnel such as local government officials,
project personnel, donor officials, and other resource persons in the
area. These contacts will likely allow the researchers to tap into a
network of knowledgeable persons and materials which can provide useful
information on the area.
e. Obtain Maps and Letters of Introduction from the Appropriate Officials
Maps of the area to be surveyed can usually be obtained from
geological survey offices in the capital city. Sometimes updated maps may
be obtained from projects working in the area to be studied. It may also
be useful to have letters of introduction from ministry officials to
facilitate collaboration with regional officials and to ensure access to
the study area.
f. Contact Experiment Station Personnel Prior to Conducting the Survey
to Elicit Their Support and Data Needs
If the team is working closely with a research station, contacts
should be made with the administrators, department heads and other
important personnel to clarify objectives and elicit information needs.
This interaction will help delineate the mandate of the research and
g. Interviewing Guidelines
Some researchers feel that topical lists are important for guiding
interviews. These lists assist researchers in addressing topics, and
aspects of a topic which they may otherwise omit. Others feel that
topical lists tend to be used like questionnaires and may restrict the
interview to subjects selected by the researchers themselves. In cases
where they are used, important considerations for constructing such a
topical outline are the following:
i. Consult other topical guides to insure the major topical areas are
considered (e.g. previous sondeos, outlines developed by CIMMYT, etc.)
(see Collinson 1981a, Frankenberger and Lichte 1985).
ii. Use secondary data sources to devise the topical list. Topics may be
derived from sources such as: 1) written reports; 2) interviews with
resource persons; 3) information needs of research personnel; 4)
previous knowledge of team members, and 5) prior research experience.
iii. Consensus should be reached among team members on every topic included
in the outline.
iv. The development of a topical outline can be crucial team building
exercise. This process allows each participant to contribute to the
list, emphasizing topics of relevance to his/her own particular
discipline. Survey priorities are established before going to the
field and the team begins to function as a single unit or entity.
v. The topical outline should be tested prior to going to the field.
This procedure allows the team to determine the appropriate manner in
which to ask some questions and helps them refine their interviewing
techniques. Appropriate interviewing procedures, which put the farmer
at ease and which are conducive to collecting accurate information,
are critical to the success of an informal survey. Among the topics
which a team should discuss before going to the field are:
1. how to introduce oneself to the farmer,
2. the advantages and disadvantages of group interviews versus
3. how to handle translation,
4. how to avoid asking biased questions
5. how much time to spend with each farmer, and
6. how to handle sensitive topics
Researchers may want to combine a structural format and an
unstructured format in informal interviews. Topical lists could be used
by some of the team members while others interviewed farmers without such
lists. Such a combination would provide comparative information across
villages as well as indepth information on some topics (see Lynham, et.
h. Target Area Selection
Often the choice of target area is made in advance of researcher
participation. If there is some flexibility in the choice of the area,
the decision should be made in conjunction with the collaborating
institutions (e.g. research organization, development organization, USAID
Mission, etc.). Important points to consider when choosing a target area
i. Consider what can be reasonably ccovered in the time allotted.
Coverage will be influenced by such factors as environmental
uniformity, technological development, socio-economic conditions,
infrastructural development, and access during the rainy season. The
team should plan to spend more time in regions where the agricultural
systems are more diverse/variable than in regions where they are more
ii. Draw up a schedule, specifying the number of days to be spent in each
area as well as for travel time, review, and write-up. This schedule
should be flexible.
iii. When the team arrives in the region to be surveyed, they should first
contact local officials to establish collaborative links and to elicit
their help (e.g. regional administrators, project personnel, extension
officers, etc). These officials can help select potential villages to
be surveyed. The information needs of regional administrators can
also be elicited.
i. Village Selection
Factors that should be taken into account when selecting villages to
be surveyed might include: 1) location in relation to base of operation;
2) size; 3) access to roads; 4) institutional complexity (i.e.,
infrastructural development); and 5) ethnic distribution. Contacting
villages prior to the survey may or may not be necessary and advantageous.
The research tdam should use its best judgement on this matter.
j. Interviewing Procedures
Recognizing that interviewing procedures may vary depending upon the
socio-cultural context, a useful set of procedures to follow are outlined
i. Upon arrival in the village/town, the team should first meet with the
village leaders and explain to them and other villagers present the
purpose of the study. In this meeting, the team can explain who they
represent, what the results will be used for and why so many questions
will be asked. General inquiries can be directed to the group about
village infrastructure, land tenure arrangements, sources of credit,
marketing, typical labor arrangements and project interventions.
ii. After the initial inquires with the assembled villagers, the team
should split up into groups of two to conduct interviews with farmers.
In general, team members will seek to interview a range of farmers
across the area which they are surveying. Often, it is most practical
to use informal, random procedures such as deciding to visit the
fourth farmer to the right along a selected path. The group may also
want to deliberately interview some farmers with particular
characteristics, such as farmers growing a particular crop or a farmer
practicing a particular technique. However, sometimes the team may
not have a choice in the selection of farmers because the village
leaders are making the choices. In such situations, the team should
respect the village leaders' decisions and conduct abrieviated
interviews with these farmers. After this, the team can conduct
interviews with other farmers they consider more appropriate. Team
members should also conduct interviews with local persons other than
farmers who interact frequently with farmers (e.g. traders, teachers,
crop processors, extension agents, etc.).
iii. Attempts should be made to interview the farm family, not just the
male farmer. If it is possible, both the husband and wife should be
present for the interview. Women of the household may be responsible
for a considerable amount of the labor performed in the fields.
iv. Interviews should be conducted on the farm household's fields away
from the village. This enables the team members to see the fields
they are inquiring about and to obtain answers and opinions specific
to the farm family being interviewed rather than the group consensus.
In addition, farm families are more likely to believe that the
researchers are committed to helping them if the team members make the
effort to come to their fields. As a consequence, the farm families'
responses are more likely to be truthful.
v. Team members should not work with the same partner every day
(Hildebrand and Ruano, 1982). Rotating teams members every day gives
each researcher an opportunity to work with and learn from the other
team members. This facilitates the exchange of ideas and helps
establish better communication among team members. Ideally, one
social scientist and one physical/biological scientist will be matched
up in each'pair.
vi. After interviews are completed for a selected village, the team
members should get together to formulate hypotheses about the farming
systems which characterize that region. It is important to remember
that at least as much time is needed to review and evaluate the
content of the interviews as to conduct them. This procedure helps
summarize the important attributes and constraints of the farming
systems and provides a basis for comparison when survey work is
started in other villages. These reviews will help revise topical
outlines for further interviews. This process can be a crucial team
vii. Once the survey is completed, hypotheses should be formulated
regarding the major constraints facing farmers in the area. In
addition, the team members should also derive a series of
recommendations to help alleviate the identified constraints. Team
consensus should be reached on all constraints and recommendations
proposed. This activity gives the team members an opportunity to
combine their various disciplinary expertise in formulating possible
solutions. In some cases, the team may be called upon to prioritize
these recommendations. However, this last step may be handled by the
k. Written Reports
The results of the informal survey should be written up in a time
effective manner. Important points to consider in writing up the report
i. The format to be followed for organizing the report should be devised
by the team leaders.
ii. To facilitate the write-up, the team leaders should assign each member
a portion of the report to be written. Flexibility in these
assignments is very important.
iii. The report should cover the following topics
1. Description of the survey area (e.g. social aspects, agronomic,
annual production, resources available, household consumption,
2. Farming systems models (structural and process)
3. Identification of recommendation domains
4. List of constraints and recommendations
The above discussion provides a general discussion of survey
procedures. In the next section, a specific survey procedure is
C. THE SONDEO PROCEDURE: A type of informal survey
The sondeo'is a rapid survey technique developed by the Guatemalan
Institute of Agricultural Science an Technology (ICTA) as a response to
budget restrictions, time requirements, and other methodology used
(on-farm research), to augment information in a region where
agricultural technology generation and promotion is being initiated.
The primary purpose of the Sondeo is to acquaint the technicians
with the area in which they are going to work. Because quantifiable
information is not needed, the Sondeo can be conducted rapidly and no
lengthy analyses of data are required following the survey in order to
interpret the findings. No questionnaires are used; so farmers are
interviewed in an informal manner that does not alienate them. At the
same time, the use of a multidisciplinary team serves to provide
information from many different points of view simultaneously.
Depending on the size, complexity, and accessibility of the area, the
Sondeo should be completed in from 6 to 10 days at a minimum of cost.
Areas of from 40 to 50 km2 have been studied in this period of time.
The following is a description of the methodology for a six-day
The first day is spent in a general reconnaissance of the area by
the whole team as a unit. The team must make a preliminary
determination of the most important cropping or farming system that
will serve as the key system, become acquainted in general terms with
the area, and begin to search out the limits to the homogeneous system.
Following each discussion with a farmer, the group meets out of sight
of the farmer to discuss each one's interpretation of the interview.
In this way, each team member begins to become acquainted with how the
others think. Interviews with farmers (or other people in the area)
should be very general and wide-ranging because the team is exploring
and searching for an unknown number of unknown elements. (This does
not imply, of course, that the interviews lack orientation). The
contribution or point of view of each discipline is critical throughout
the Sondeo, because the team does not know beforehand what type of
problems or restrictions may be encountered. The more disciplines that
are brought to bear on the situation, the greater is the probability of
encountering the factors that are, in fact, the most critical to the
farmers of the area. It has been established that these restrictions
can be agro-climatic, economic or socio-cultural. Hence, disciplines
make equal contributions to the Sondeo.
The interviewing and general reconnaissance of the first day serve to
guide the work of the second day. Teams are made up of pairs: one
agronomist or animal scientist from the Technology Testing Team and one
person from socioeconomics who work together in the interviews. The five
teams scatter throughout the area and meet again either after the first
half-day (for small areas or areas with good access roads) or day (for
larger areas or where access is difficult and more time is required for
travel). Each member of each team discusses what was learned during the
interviews, and tentative hypotheses are formed to help explain the
situation in the area. Any information concerning the limits of the area
is also discussed to help in its delimitation. The tentative hypotheses
or doubts raised during the discussion serve as guides to the following
interview sessions. During the team discussions, each of the members
learns how interpretations from other points of view can be important in
understanding the problems of the farmers of the region.
Following the discussion, the team pairs are changed to maximize
interdisciplinary interaction and minimize interviewer bias, and they
return to the field guided by the previous discussion. Once again,
following the half-day's or day's interviews, the group meets to discuss
The importance of these discussions following a series of interviews
cannot be overstressed. Together, the group begins to understand the
relationships encountered in the region, delimits the zone, and starts to
define the type of research that is going to be necessary to help improve
the technology of the farmers. Other problems such as marketing are
also discussed and, if solutions are required, relevant entities can be
notified. It is important to understand the effect that these other
limitations will have, if not corrected, on the type of technology to be
developed, so that they can be taken into account in the generation
During the second day there should be a notable convergence of opinion
and a corresponding narrowing of interview topics. In this way, more depth
can be acquired in following days on the topics of increasing interest.
This is a repeat of the second day and includes a change in the makeup
of the teams after each discussion. A minimum of four
interviews/discussion cycles is necessary to complete this part of the
Sondeo. If the area is not too complex, these cycles should be adequate.
Of course, if the area is so large that a full day of interviewing is
required between each discussion session, then four full days ae required
for this part of the Sondeo.
Before the teams return to the field for more interviews on the fourth
day, each member is assigned a portion or section of the report that is to
be written. Then, knowing for the first time for what topic each will be
responsible, the teams, regrouped in the fifth combination, return to the
field for more interviewing. For smaller areas, this also is a half-day.
In the other half-day, and following another discussion session, the group
begins to write the report of the Sondeo. All members should be working
at the same location so that they can circulate freely and discuss points
with each other. For example, an agronomist who was assigned the section
on maize technology may have been discussing a key point with an
anthropologist and need to refresh his memory about what a particular
farmer said. In this manner the interaction among the disciplines
As the technicians are writing the report, they invariably encounter
points for which neither they nor others in the group have answers. The
only remedy is to return to the field on the morning of the fifth day to
fill in the gaps found the day before. A half-day can be devoted to this
activity, together with finishing the writing of the main body of the
In the afternoon of this day, each team member reads his section of
the report to the group for discussion, editing and approval. The
sections should be read in the order in which they will appear in the
report. As a group, the team should approve and/or modify what is
The report is read once again and, following the reading of each
section, conclusions are drawn and recorded. When this is finished, the
conclusions are read once again for approval, and specific recommendations
are then made and recorded, both for the team who will be working in the
area and for any other agencies that should be involved in the general
development process of the zone.
The product of the sixth day is a single report generated and authored
by the entire multidisciplinary team that should be supported by all of
the members. Furthermore, after participating in a team effort for six
days, each member should be able to defend all the points of view
discussed, the conclusions drawn, and the recommendations made.
To a certain extent, the report of the Sondeo is of secondary value
because it has been written by the same team that will be working in the
area. Most of its value lies in the fact that they have written it. By
forcing the team members into a situation where many different points of
view have to be taken into consideration and coalesced, the horizons of
all will have been greatly amplified. Further, the report can serve as
orientation for nonparticipants, such as the Regional Director or the
Technical Director, in discussing the merits of various courses of action.
However, it is also obvious that the report will appear to be one written
by ten different persons in a hurry, which is exactly what it is! It is
not a benchmark study with quantifiable data that can be used in the
future for project evaluation; rather, it is a working document to orient
the research program and it served one basic function in just being
The disciplinary specialty of each member of the Sondeo team is not
critical so long as there are several disciplines represented, and, if the
Sondeo is in agriculture, a significant number of them are
agriculturalists, at least some of whom who will be working in the area in
the future. The discipline of coordinators of Sondeos is probably not
critical, either, if they are persons with a broad capability, an
understanding df agriculture (if it is an agricultural Sondeo), and
experience in surveying and survey technique. However, the coordinators
must have a high degree of multidisciplinary tolerance and be able to
interact with all the other disciplines represented on the team.
The coordinators, in a sense, are orchestra directors who must assure
that everyone contributes to the tune and that, in the final product, all
are in harmony. They must control the group and maintain discipline.
They arbitrate differences, create enthusiasm, extract hypotheses and
thoughts from each participant, and ultimately will be the ones who
coalesce the product into the final form. It is perhaps not essential
that they have prior experience in a Sondeo, but it would certainly
improve their efficiency if they had.
Chinchilla, Maria E. Condiciones agro-socioeconomicas de una zona
maicera-horticola de Guatemala. Trabajo presentado en la XXV Reunion
Anual del PCCMCA, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 19-23 de Marzo, 1979.
Hildebrand, P. Motivating small farmers to accept change. Paper prepared
for presentation at the Conference on Integrated Crop and Animal
Production to Optimize Resource Utilization on Small Farms in
Developing Countries. The Rockefeller Foundation Conference Center,
Bellagio, Italy, 18-23 October, 1978, ICTA, Guatemala.
Hildebrand, P. Summary of the Sondeo methodology used by ICTA, ICTA,
D. SETTING AN AGENDA FOR ON-FARM TRIALS
1. How to Identify Problems and Determine Research Opportunities
Familiarity with survey approaches (Unit I:VII)
Familiarity with grouping farmers (UnitI:IV)
Activities four and five, of Unit I:IV.
After completing this unit participants will be able to:
1. Identify problems which limit the productivity of farming systems.
2. Determine the probable causes of the problems.
3. Determine interactions among the problems and their probable causes.
4. Establish research priorities for on-farm trials in a systematic manner.
1. It is crucial to differentiate between problem and cause, as well as
interactions between an among them.
2. Selecting and ranking research opportunities must be done systematically
to be sure that scarce research resources are allocated in an optimal
Pre-screening: The process of choosing a few technological components for
experimentation which address critical farmer problems and which are
feasible and acceptable to farmers.
Problem: The result of a constraints) that prevents farmers from reaching
Research opportunities: Potential solutions for solving a problem through
Technological component: Practices or inputs into the production process,
such as varieties, planting patterns, fertilizer, animal health controls,
dry season feed supplementation, and draught animal training.
1. IDENTIFYING PROBLEMS AND DETERMINING RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES
Identifying farmers' problems and determining research opportunities for
solving these problems are major objectives of the diagnostic phase in FSR/E.
Selecting and ranking problems and research opportunities must be done in a
systematic manner to ensure that scarce research resources are allocated in an
optimal manner. However, before problems and solutions can be effectively
ranked, it is necessary to determine the importance of the various enterprises
that make up the farming system pursued by the farm families. The criteria
used for evaluating and prioritizing these enterprises must be derived from
the farmers themselves as well as the researchers.
Although this procedure may help determine which enterprises are more
important to farmers, researchers may not have a choice in selecting the
enterprises they will work on. The research station or organization may have
certain policy mandates that limit research activities to certain crops. For
instance, a national agricultural research institute may not be able to work
on livestock enterprises (e.g. CNRADA in Mauritania). Even though such
restrictions apply, researchers can still use such procedures to rank the
enterprises they are mandated to work on.
Once the enterprises are ranked in order of importance, the problems and
possible solutions associated with the enterprises can be selected and ranked
in a systematic manner. Several alternative procedures have been proposed for
this process. One viable procedure has been developed by McArthur, et. al.
(1985). This nine-step procedure can be summarized below (taken from Module
III, McArthur, et. al., 1985):
a. Sondeo Conduct an informal survey to collect information on the
farming systems in a target area;
b. Identification of Preliminary Recommendation Domains From the
informal survey, identify farmers with similar environmental,
cultural, and socio-economic characteristics;
c. Selection of Recommendation Domains for Work The selection of the
recommendation domain might be based on such factors as: 1) major
problem shared by representative group; 2) dominant group represents
major segment of total agricultural labor force; and 3) the domain is
within a high priority area for development.
d. Description of Dominant Farming Systems Describe the key elements
and primary linkages and relationships in the dominant farming systems
in the domain selected. Develop a model for this system.
e. Identification and Prioritization of Problems by Level of Importance -
Problems are a high priority if they affect all of society, and a low
priority if they affect only the local farmers. Farmers must be
involved in the identification of these problems. Prioritization of
farmers' problems on the basis of only the FSR/E teams' perceptions
may lead to incorrect problem identification. The problem are given a
f. Prioritization of Problems by Potential Solution Problems are given
a high priority ranking if solutions appear to depend on the
introduction of existing technology. Middle priority rankings are
given to problems whose solutions require some adaptation of existing
technology. Problems of low priority have solutions which involve the
generation and adaptation of new technology.
g. Prioritization of Problems by Necessity of Inter-institutional
Cooperation A problem is a high priority if it is of interest and
falls exclusively within the mandate of the research station. A
middle priority problem is with the mandate of the research station but
also requires input from other institutions. A problem is low
priority if it does not fall specifically within the mandate of the
research station and requires input and cooperation from several
h. Identification and Selection of Alternative Solution Strategies For
each problem that was ranked high by the previous criteria, define one
or more potential solution strategies. These potential solutions
should be technically possible, economically feasible, environmentally
sound, socially compatible, administratively manageabe, and
politically acceptable. Possible solution strategies may be derived
from the farmers themselves (see compensating strategies in
Frankenberger, et. al., 1985).
i. Prioritization of Potential Solutions in Terms of Farmer Adoptability
Solutions are given a high priority ranking if they build upon
existing management and cultural practices and require minimal input
and training. Middle priority solutions are those that build upon
existing management and cultural practices but require considerable
resources ind training. Low priority solutions require the
introduction of new technology packages that cannot be incrementally
Another procedure for selecting and ranking problems and possible
solutions has been proposed by Tripp (1986). The following five steps have
been adapted from a paper entitled, "Steps in Planning On-farm Experiments.":
1) For a particular farmer group or preliminary recommendation domain,
list the principal problems which farmers face.
2) Determine the probable causes of each problem and examine the
interaction among causes and problems.
3) Rank the problems in order of importance.
4) Identify possible solutions to the most important problems.
5) Screen possible solutions across selected criteria to establish
List Principal Problems
Team members list farmers' problems based on the information gathered from
secondary data, informal and formal surveys. Problems may include instances
of biological limiting factors or insufficiencies in resource use that
restrict the productivity of the farming system. These should be stated as
simple as possible. Examples of problem statements include:
"Maize yields are limited by low availability of nitrogen."
"Oxen are unable to work more than three hours per day due to feed
shortage at the time of land preparation."
At this point, it is better not to include possible causes of the problems
or solutions. Possible causes are best dealt with in a later step. It is
useful to distinguish between 1) problems that limit production and 2)
problems that reflect inefficient use of land, labor, or capital.
Determine Causes and Examine Interactions
Unless the causes of a problem are clearly understood, inappropriate
solutions may be tested and valuable research resources wasted. It is useful
to diagram causal chains of problems as shown by Tripp. For example the chain
in Figure IX.1 shows that rice yield loss due to disease is caused, in part,
by late planting of rice. This, in turn, is caused by lack of labor at
Lack of Rice Rice yield
labor at planted loss due to
planting late to disease
It should be ndted that farmer practices are rarely the root cause of
problems. Rather, farmer practices which appear to limit production are
generally farmers' solutions to other problems they face. For example,
farmers in northern Rwand plant sorghum at a density much higher than is
required to maximize production. The high plant density addresses two
important problems which farmers face by limiting weed growth and soil erosion.
Frequently, there are several causes contributing to a problem and a
single aspect may be contributing to several different problems. In an area
of Zambia, labor shortages at planting time were found to cause or contribute
to five different problems including a plant disease and low soil fertility.
Causal factors contributing to problems may include management practices,
natural conditions, and socio-economic circumstances.
A procedure for diagramming causes, problems, and their interactions in
order to understand them more fully is presented here. An example of a
diagram, based on the causal chain seen in Figure IX.1, is shown in Figure
IX.2. Late planting of rice contributes to the yield loss due to late season
drought as well as to disease. The disease problem is related to the drought
problem, since the disease thrives under dry conditions late in the rice
cycle. Lack of availability of herbicides also contributes to the disease
problem. For each recommendation domain, all problems and their causes should
be included in a single diagram to take into account their interactions.
Lack of Rice planted Rice yield
labor late loss due to
at planting disease
Rice yield loss
due to late
Next it is necessary to prioritize problems according to their importance.
Importance can be defined by a number of different criteria, such as: 1)
distribution of problem (e.g. number of farmers impacted); 2) importance of
crop enterprise (e.g. income, food supply, use of land/labor/capital); and 3)
seriousness of problem (e.g. severity and frequency). Team members rate each
problem on each criteria and then arrive at a summary rating for each problem.
Identify Possible Solutions
In this step, the team develops a list of possible solutions for each of
the problems identified as most important. The analysis of the causes of
problems becomes critical here because there are frequently several different
ways to address a single problem. In the case shown in Figure I:IX. 2,
fungicide use is a possible solution to the disease problem. But the late
planting of rice contributes to both the disease problem and the late drought
problem. Early scycle varieties could lessen the effects of both problems.
The chart also indicates that the impact of both problems could be lessened by
improving the efficiency of labor at planting time through new planting
methods or patterns.
Screen Possible Solutions Across Selected Criteria
Finally, possible solutions are screened across criteria selected by the
team as being critical for evaluating alternatives. These criteria might
1. Ease of investigation
a. Probability that the solutions will work under farmer
circumstances and practices.
b. Ease of carrying out experimental program (e.g. number of sites
required, number of visits by research staff to each site, number
of seasons anticipated before results will be available, etc.)
2. Ease of Adoption
a. Compatibility with farming system (i.e., do farmers have required
resources, land, labor, capital?)
b. Institutional support (e.g. extension, credit available, etc.)
c. Divisibility (i.e., can the technology be introduced in
3. Potential Benefits
a. Profitability (e.g. yield increase, availability of market, etc.)
b. Stability (i.e., what is the degree of risk associated with the
In this manner, research opportunities are identified and those with the
highest potential impact at the lowest possible cost are selected for testing.
Distinguishing Between Problems and Solutions
In an area of Central Kenya, researchers noted that a principal cause of
low maize yields weas late planting. The rainy season was short and late
planted maize was susceptible to drought. They proposed a solution to this
problem: early planting, that is, planting before or just after the onset of
the rains. The researchers conducted experiments which showed that early
planted maize gave higher yields. The extension service carried this message
to the farmers. Several years later, most farmers were still planting late.
An FSR/E team entered the area and investigated this situation. They
found that late planting was not a problem per se, rather it was a solution
which farmers used as a result of other problems they faced. Farmers planted
late because of the following reasons:
1. Lack of oxen to prepare land. Farmers without oxen had to delay planting
until oxen owners had finished plowing their own land.
2. Early planted maize was highly susceptible to damage by ants.
These were the problems farmers faced which prevented them from planting
early. The FSR/E team proposed several measures to attack these problems:
1. Improved oxen efficiency through improved feeding.,
2. Treatment of maize seed with insecticide to prevent ant
In summary, the first group of researchers had identified late planting as
a problem, but in fact, late planting was really a farmer solution to two
other problems: lack of oxen and ant damage of maize seed. By attacking these
farmer problems, researchers hoped to permit farmers to plant earlier in order
to raise their maize yields.
It is important to note that determination of experimental variables and
the levels of these and fixed factors need to be established based on survey
findings. For example, it is not sufficient to merely state at the end of
your diagnosis that increasing plant population is an important priority.
Rather, you must stipulate what a farmer's current plant population is since
this will be your experimental control. You must also describe the planting
pattern (e.g., 30 cm. rows, two plants per hole to be used in the experiment,
and you must decide whether this will be fixed at the farmer's current pattern
or you will explore different planting patterns as well. These issues are
explored in detail later.
PLANNING, DESIGNING AND CONDUCTING ON-FARM RESEARCH AND EXTENSION
The purpose of FSR/E is to develop new agricultural technologies that
address identified and selected priority problems of farm households. The
ultimate measure of the success of a new technology is the acceptance,
adoption, and sustained use by farmers. FSR/E teams use on-farm
experimentation involving active participation of farm household members to
test alternative technologies. The analysis and interpretation of the results
of on-farm trials allow the FSR/E team to evaluate the potential success of
new farming technologies and to make specific recommendations to farmers.
1. General Considerations Related to On-Farm Trials
Management practices and field conditions on most farms differ from those
found on experiment stations. These differences need to be considered in any
strategy to obtain meaningful experimental data from on-farm trials. On-farm
trials are not meant to try to simulate experiment station conditions in
farmers' fields. Rather, they are designed to help detect differences under
typical farmer management practices and environmental conditions.
On-Farm research is characterized by farmers' participation on their own
land. This participation varies according to the nature of the experiments.
In exploratory and site-specific trials, it is limited to providing the land
and some or all of the inputs. At this stage, farmer participation in
information gathering and decision making is secondary to that of the
researcher who controls the trials. In regional trials farmer participation
is greater, contributing heavily to the interpretation of results and eventual
recommendations. Finally, farmer-managed trials are conducted by the farmer,
while the researcher becomes the collaborator.
Researcher-farmer relations, location of trials on the farm, on-farm
experimental designs, and field data management, including recording,
processing, and standardization, are a few of the many facets that need to be
viewed from a proper perspective when doing research in farmers' fields with
their active participation.
ON-FARM RESEARCH PRACTICES
A. Researcher-Farmer Relations
When conducting research on farms, researchers are intruding upon the
farmers' land and taking their valuable time. The research may be using othe
of the farmers' scarce resources. Because of this, it is well for the
researchers to act always in the best interest of the farmers, treating them
as equals in the research process and considering them as desirable, not just
necessary, components in the technology generation, evaluation, and
disseminaion procedure. Farmers understand experimentation and are willing to
participate if they feel they will possibly benefit from it, and if they
understand what is happening. It is of utmost importance for researchers to
explain fully why they are there, what they would like to do, what is going to
be required of the farmers, and what the farmers can expect from the results.
It is most important to explain why it will be of value and of interest to the
farmers to be participants in the undertaking.
B. Listening to and working with farmers
From the very first contact made with farmers in the initial survey, or in
looking for collaborators for on-farm trials or enterprise records, it is
extremely important that the researchers begin by listening to and working
with the farmers. 'Farmers resent being told by "government people" that they
are doing things wrong, and that the "outsiders" know how the farmers should
do it better. If the researchers convey this attitude to the farmers from the
beginning, the relationship will get off to a slow start, if it gets started
Care must be exercised by the researchers to ascertain which of the
household members are the decision makers and to talk with those who are
responsible for specific crops. A wife may know little about her husband's
cotton crop; he may know little about her cassava or peanut crop.
C. The nature of the relationship
Farmers should be aware from the beginning exactly what to expect from the
relationship. Above all, they must be informed that the work is research, from
which both researcher and farmer will learn, and not a demonstration designed
to show how much better the research can do what the farmers are already
doing. (In most cases, the farmers know how to do it better, but they cannot
afford to.) Farmers must be aware of who will be expected to provide what,
who will take what risks, who will get what product. It is critical that
farmers understand the timing of the various activities and whether it is to
be at their initiative or at the initiative of the researchers. For example,
in a yellow maize area, if some white varieties are to be used, the farmers
should know if they can expect some yellow maize in return for the white maize
they will not want, or if they should just expect to lose that which was
produced. They should also agree to include white maize and understand why it
should be included. They must know who should provide the fertilizer, if it is
to be used, and when it must be available; who is going to harvest, when and
Farmers understand risk and are willing to (or are forced to) accept it
as a normal part of their production environment. If an experiment is lost
because of normal environmental conditions, farmers will understand it and
will not be concerned about compensation (although they would probably accept
it if offered). In order to avoid paternalism in the research process, it is
better not to consider compensation for these cases. If, on the other hand,
certain treatments are lost because they were poorly though-out or obviously
not adapted to the production environment of the farmers, the farmers can be
expected to think compensation is warranted unless they were well advised
beforehand of this eventuality. In this case, payment in kind, of the
quantity nd quality that otherwise would hve been produced, is probably
indicated. It is better, of course to avoid the situation by having
well-thought-out, simple interventions and adequate farmer involvement in the
design of the trial.
Farmers must understand the importance of the trial to the researchers.
The risk of not completing on-farm trials is higher than with experiment
station trials, because much depends on the cooperation of the farmers. There
are many examples of "lost" on-farm trials due to decisions made by the
farmers without consultation with the researchers. An increase in the market
price of the product might cause a decision for an early harvest of part or
all of the trial. A new variety or crop that is considered especially
attractive might promote harvest by farmers or their neighbors before the
final data are recorded. Under some circumstances, preliminary results
satisfy the curiosity of the farmers and they lose interest before the trial
is completed. When trials involve more than one cycle of production, or when
it is necessary to evaluate a rotation of crops, the risk of not completing an
on-farm experiment increases.
Farmers who do not fully comprehend the nature of the trial may enter into
competition with researchers. For example, a check treatment that is meant to
simulate the farmers' practices and is to be conducted by the farmers may
receive special care because the farmers know how to do it better and want to
prove this to the'researchers. On a small plot, they can afford to do it even
if they cannot do it on their own fields. Or, the farmers may not understand
fully that they are supposed to manage the plot exactly the way they do their
own fields, so they wait for the visits of the researchers before they carry
out practices that they normally do earlier on their own land. In either
case, errors are created in measuring the farmers' level of production.
Finally, periodic review of all aspects of the trial, along with frequent
conversations between the researchers and the farmers concerning the progress
being observed, is critical to fruitful on-farm research.
THE ULTIMATE SUCCESS: ACCEPTBILITY BY FARMERS
Evaluating new farming technologies in FSR/E must extend beyond determining
the biological viability of the enterprise in question. FSR/E teams must
couch the evaluation of new technologies in the context of the technology's
acceptability to farmers and farm households. FSR/E teams must consider a
range of factors which may influence the farmers ultimate acceptance and
adoption of an alternative technology and establish appropriate criteria for
The purpose of this section is to help identify the wide range of factors
to consider when determining how to evaluate the success of a trial emphasizing
the critical involvement of the farmer in the evaluation process. FSR/E
depends on farmer participation in the initial diagnosis through design and
continued characterization and ultimate in the evaluation of the technologies.
Establishing appropriate evaluation criteria based on identified problems
in a farming system will help the FSR/E team to better evaluate alternative
technologies with a farmer's perspective. (One analysis technique for the
evaluation of acceptability by farmers is discussed in Volume III:).
An ample understanding of farm household goals, incentives, farming and
non-farming activities, available resources and constraints is the foundation
upon which to build the design and analysis of on-farm research. Much of the
knowledge will be generated during the diagnosis phase of FSR/E. Given this
understanding, and full farmer participation, appropriate evaluation criteria
and procedures for analysis can be selected. Although rarely is this insight
easily achieved, the usefulness of analysis depends upon doing so. Poorly
chosen evaluation criteria lead to wrong conclusions about the viability of
the alternatives being compared.
In the end, the acceptability of a technology depends on what the farmers
actually do. This can only be discovered in a final stage of farmer testing
where farmers themselves take over the new technology and incur all risks,
costs and benefits' Until this final step is taken, all other evaluations
remain only suggestive of the technology's potential.
2. THE IMPORTANCE OF PLANNING AHEAD
Planning ahead for evaluation before trial design is useful in several
a. It help link diagnosis and design, by organizing information on
production, the roles of different household members, and their goals into
a matrix that is based on treatments proposed for the trial.
b. It helps identify which data are needed to assess the success or lack
of success of a trial.
c. It helps assess trade-offs among different farm household members.
This can help the team make better decisions for refinement and validation
trials about which treatments to continue to test. It can also help the
team make better decisions about recommending a new practice at the end of
validation testing. Better information on the different trade-offs among
household members can also suggest recommendations for policy support and
programs in related areas (for example, reduction of the workload for
obtaining water by female farmers).
d. It helps link testing back to design. Since the treatments are
assessed for their impact on different farm household members, the
assessment of costs and benefits can be compared with the goals of the
household members. These goals as first identified in the diagnostic
informal survey were the basis for initial design. The comparison of
trial results can lead to better re-design of the next series of trials.
This linkage from testing back to design is an essential part of FSR/E.
e. It helps document long-term progress towards an acceptable solution
to farm household priority problems. The first year's trials may appear
to be unsuccessful, as treatments found not acceptable are eliminated.
However, over time, these results can be seen as a necessary step in
identifying acceptable technology. By using an evaluation framework
systematically, at pre-determined intervals for a series of trials carried
out over number of seasons, the value of earlier trials for later trials
can be documented.
3. KEY FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN DETERMINING EVALUATION CRITERIA
goals of the household and of individual stakeholders
scarce resources (time, labor, cash, land, animals, etc.)
probability of returns being less than a minimum acceptable level
control and distribution of inputs and benefits
possible effects on other enterprises and on overall household
production, consumption, and welfare
wage employment opportunities
access to credit, supplies, information
cultural and social factors
Clearly, more than a single evaluation criterion may be required.
a. Recognizing Individual Roles in Farm Procedure
Any farm production enterprise is rarely the outcome of the efforts of a
single person. Household members and others participate in differing ways or
have a stake in the outcome. These stakeholders can be grouped by the roles
they fulfill, even though each often his more than a single role.
Decision-makers use management expertise and/or authority to decide what to
produce, and when and how to produce it. Investors provide resources such as
time, labor, land, capital and animal traction. Beneficiaries receive benefit
from the production activity. Examples of benefits might include a portion of
the harvest, part of the sale proceeds, or time freed from production. It is
usually assumed that beneficiaries gain some positive outcome but frequently
negative benefits are also the case.
Level of involvement in each of these production roles is often associated
with age, gender and/or position in the household or community. Since
individuals in different roles have differing goals and incentives, it is
useful to consider stakeholders by their production role also by the
socioeconomic categories of age, gender and position.
To ensure adequate consideration of individual perspectives and
circumstance farming systems practitioners must constantly ask "who?" Who
participates in the decision to produce? Who provides what resources? Who
participates in the production enterprise? Who receives the benefits of
production? This questioning helps to ensure awareness and consideration of
the needs and roles of different household members throughout the farming
One way to help FSR/E practitioners to incorporate intra-household and
gender sensitivity in their evaluation of on-farm experiments will be to
acquire ne analytical skills by working through the "Case Studies on Gender
and Intra-Household Dynamics in Farming Systems Research and Extension" which
form a part of the overall training package which includes this manual.
Feldstein and Poats (1985) developed a conceptual framework for the case
studies to provide a guidelines by which information on gender and the intra-
and inter-household aspects of farming systems may be gathered, analysed, and
applied to the design of improved technologies for agricultural and livestock
systems. It covers the information necessary to model a farming system and
the process by which farmers (men and women) are included in the research and
extension activities in a given area. Some of the key issues and questions
provided in the conceptual framework are summarized here regarding the
evaluation of on-farm trials.
First of all, what are intra- and inter-household dynamics and variables?
What do they contribute to the analysis and evaluation of on-farm experiments?
The basic notion underlying these terms is that a 'household' is not an
undifferentiated grouping of people with a common production and consumption
function, i.e. with shared and equal access to resources for and benefits from
production. Rather, individual members of households or families share some
goals, benefits, and resources; are independent on some; and in conflict on
others. Individuals are also members of other groups through which they may
gain access to productive resources or benefits and to which they may have
obligaitons. Poor rural households often depend on a number of activities,
on and off farm, and alliances for survival. Farm management decisions on any
enterprise are affected by the interplay of the roles and -resources of the
individuals connected with that enterprise as investors, laborers, and
beneficiaries. Thus, there are patterns of activity within the household and
between households which relate to the ways in which members make choices and
carry out activities.
What we face is complexity, not homogeneity. In a particular farming
system or single enterprise within that system, the pattern of resources and
incentives must be discovered, not assumed. The conceptual framework is
designed to assist in this discovery.
The way the conceptual framework operates is to examine the four areas of
knowledge important to FSR/E to which a consideration of intra-household
dynamics can make a contribution: labor, non-labor resources, incentives, and
the process by which farmers are included in FSR/E. These areas are
considered for each stage of FSR/E (diagnosis, design, on-farm experimentation
and evaluation, and recommendations) by asking a series of questions. We will
consider here only those appropriate to experimentation and evaluation
What changes in labor allocation, in time or task, are actually associated
with on-farm experiments? Do these contribute to or detract from increases in
productivity or income for this enterprise? Do changes in labor allocation
impact on other enterprises including household production? Do they fit what
was predicted in the design?
2. Access and Control of Non-Labor Resources
How and to whom have new resources been supplied? Who has/has not used
them? What networks of relationship or exchange have been used to garner any
additional resources needed? Can further constraints in access to resources,
by particular groups be identified as result of the testing?
What motivates people's decisions about the allocation of labor and other
resources to farm production, home production, and alternative uses? What
incentives/disincentives are there for farmers (men and women) to modify
practices concerning the enterprise in question? What
incentives/disincentives are associated with the particular modifications
being tested? Are there incentives or disincentives associated with being a
cooperating farmer? How do the technologies being tested affect individual
Are women as well as men included as cooperating farmers in on-farm
research? For particular enterprises? Fields? In the management of trials?
Are they included in interviews evaluating the trials? Are there factors
which inhibit the participation of particular categories of farmers?
This framework is flexible and can be used to describe a farming system or
the variables affecting a particular enterprise. People are often overwhelmed
when confronted with a new list of questions to consider as they analyze and
evaluate a situation. The questions presented in this section on social
science and farmer perspectives are not designed to burden FSR/E practitioners
with interesting but irrelevant detail. Instead, the purpose is to provide
practitioners with the tools and skills to better understand the nature nd
processes of farming systems in order to identify better solutions to the
problems confronting all farmers today.
b. Understanding Farm Production Incentives, Goals and Strategies.
The general end sought by the farm household can be considered to be
improving or maintaining the overall welfare and security of its members.
However, underlying this overall end is a complex of individual and household
goals. Some goals such as obtaining food for mutual consumption are common to
the household, while others like increasing individually controlled ifuns may
be held by individual members and even may conflict with goals common to the
entire household. Strategies are the methods which the household uses in an
attempt to achieve its goals.
Households and individuals, considered as farm production units, are
commonly placed into two categories. Those producing for home consumption are
classified as subsistence. Those producing for sale or exchange are
considered as market or commercial. However, most farm producers actually
follow strategies which are both subsistence an commercial. However, most
farm producers actually follow strategies which are both subsistence and
commercial in nature. On most farms, crops are grown for direct home use and
market. Likewise, livestock are raised to produce products for household
consumption, and some livestock and/or livestock products are sold.
For primarily subsistence crop or animal enterprises, the strategy
followed by families is to produce in order to meet home consumption needs.
Producing at least a minimum subsistence level of outputs is of greater
concern than gaining high yields. Common strategies for lessening the risk of
failure to meet minimum needs include intercropping, farming parcels located
in different ecological zones and micro-environments, and maintaining mixed
herds of differing aged animals. Production arrangements frequently
substitute farm produced resources, such as household labor, fodder, manure,
seed from previous crops, and so on, for off-farm resources requiring cash
purchase, such as hired labor, commercial feed and fodder, chemical fertilizer
and hybrid seed. However, there usually is a need for a minimal cash return
to ensure the purchase of essential consumption items and some farming
supplies not produced on the farm.
For primarily commercial or market crops and livestock, the strategy
followed by producers is to gain maximum returns on resources invested,
usually in the form of profit or net income. This may be done by increasing
yields, improving product quality, or changing the amount of inputs used until
maximum return per uint of land or other relevant resource is reached. Often,
commercial plantings and livestock herds are managed as businesses, somewhat
apart from household concerns. Therefore, concern for minimizing risk is less
intense than under a subsistence strategy where failure means hunger in the
Household factors such as consumption preferences, resources like time,
labor and cash, and activities such as food preparation and processing are of
consequence in setting farm production goals and strategies. For example, a
decision to purchase materials for a new roof on the home might limit the cash
available for buying fertilizer. In another case, a consumption preference
for a local type of chicken leads to a decision against raising other breeds
which might provide more eggs and meat. Maize yields might be limited by less
than timely weeding, but a recommendation requiring more time spent at weeding
might not be accepted if that time is needed in collecting fuelwood or for
carrying water for the household or if the weeds are needed for animal fodder
Household commitment to farming is affected by other non-farm production
activities and wage employment opportunities, and the distribution of costs
and benefits within the household. Some households farm only as a secondary
activity, while deriving primary income from home food processing activities
like making tortillas or beer for sale. Others may depend on the wages of one
or more members, working part-time or full-time either locally or as migrants.
Successful evaluation of proposed farming improvements is undertaken with
full consideration of possible effects on non-farm production activities.
4. IDENTIFYING RELEVANT EVALUATION CRITERIA
(The following (a-c) is adapted from Hidebrand and Poey pp. 74-78).
Identifying appropriate evaluation criteria for analyzing the results of
on-farm research is a critical step in on-farm research. Evaluation criteria
are biological, economic or social measures which are used to assess the
acceptability of two or more alternatives. Appropriate criteria which are
relevant to farmers must be identified. These criteria provide a basis for
comparing farmer practices with proposed alternatives and for evaluating the
results of each.
Careful farming systems practitioners begin to identify criteria by
considering each stakeholder's perspective and priorities within the overall
framework of the household.
a. Land as a Scarce Resource
The most common evaluation criterion used by agronomists is field per unit
of land area, frequently kg/ha. The use of this criterion implies that land
is the most limiting resource on the farm and therefore that productivity of
the land is the most important evaluation criterion. This is not always the
case. On many small farms, even though there is little land, land is not the
most limiting constraint. Nor is the same constraint necessarily the most
limiting for different production activities.
For example, small farmers in Narino, in the south of Colombia,
traditionally plant their scarce potato seed by spacing it widely to maximize
the productivity of each potato seed. The amount of seed determines the size
of the potato field. Hence, land is not the most limiting resource with
respect to potato'production on these small farms. However, the rest of the
land on these farms is planted into grain crops. For grain, land is a
limiting resource. For this reason, in the case of potatoes, technological
changes which increase the productivity per unit of land area but decrease the
productivity per unit of seed will not be attractive to these farmers. On the
other hand, the same kind of technology for grain crops could be acceptable.
The importance of using a relevant criterion in evaluation on-farm trials is
obvious in this case.
b. Labor as a Scarce Resource
In some areas of Africa, land is not a limiting resource. Farmers can
plant as much land as they are able to manage. However, in these same areas,
rainfall is scarce so weeding the crops to reduce competition for the limited
soil moisture becomes a critical factor. These farmers tend to plant the
amount of land they can effectively weed because planting more land is a waste
of effort if it cannot be weeded. In this case, labor for weeding becomes an
important evaluation criterion and changes in crop production practices must
also be evaluated against this factor. One relevant criterion might be kg of
product per person day spent in weeding.
In some areas, such as eastern Guatemala, crops must be planted as soon as
possible after the initiation of the rains. Delayed planting reduces yield
heavily because of a mid-season dry spell, increased pest problems, or because
the crop does not mature before the rains terminate. In this case, labor
available for planting becomes a very important criterion and the relevant
measure covered by kg 1 person day in planting.
c. Cash as a Scarce Resource
In commercialized agriculture, cash can effectively substitute for most
other inputs. If more seed is needed, it is purchased with cash (or credit
which is another form of cash). If more labor is needed, it is also purchased
with cash. However, in many small, limited resource farm situations, nearly
all resources used in the production process come from the farm. Only a few
inputs are purchased. On farms where farmers are unaccustomed to making
purchases with cash, great care must be taken to evaluate the return to the
additional amount of cash required for alternative technologies, whether even
a limited amount of cash required for alternative technologies, whether even a
limited amount of additional cash is available, and if it is not available,
where it will come from.
On fully commercial farms, where cash is basically not a limiting factor,
the criterion of profit maximization may be relevant. Profit maximization is
achieved when the value of the product obtained from the last unit of input is
just equal to the cost of that additional unit. Commercial farmers will often
have objectives other than profit maximization and other constraints which
will limit the fulfilment of the profit maximizing criteria.
Farmers with very limited amounts of cash will not usually be interested
in using as much cash in a single enterprise as is required to maximize
profit. Rather they will be looking for ways to achieve the highest return
per unit of cash invested. In this situation, the amount of product per unit
of cash is a relevant evaluation criterion. But even commercial farmers will
often have other objectives than just profit maximization, and other
constraints, which will limit the fulfillment of the profit maximizing
Because cash can be converted into many different kinds of inputs, it is
more critical to look at alternative uses for it, especially on small farms
where family necessities compete directly for limited cash resources. If
researchers consider only return to cash investment in the commodity in which
they are interested, they may well find that what appears to be a "good"
technology is not acceptable to farm families who would rather use the cash
for a wedding or to repair the house.
d. Consideration Related to Risk
Often the measures used in field research are based on averages. It is
common, for example, to consider the difference between mean yields of two or
more treatments from a trial or experiment. Techniques in biological analysis
including analysis of variance are used to determine if the mean yields of two
or more treatments are really different. Means or averages are useful
beginnings, but do not tell the whole story. Farmers also want to know what
the chances are that their yield or income may fall below some minimum
acceptable level if they adopt an alternative to their present practice. In
other words, how risky is it?
In focusing on evaluation of technological alternatives in this unit,
"risk" can be considered as the probability of returns from a farm production
activity falling below some minimum level acceptable to farmers. Risk, as
defined here, is evaluated by all farmers with in the scope of their
individual farm settings. For some farmers, the possibility of starvation may
be the most important risk factor which they face. FSR/E field terms must
consider aspects of risk for farmers as a group within recommendation domains,
as well as risks associated with individual farms.
Risk, as considered by individual farmers, arises from variability and
change they face which are related to their individual farm setting.
Specifically, some facets of variability considered by farmers when they make
their estimates of riskiness include the following;
1. changes in yield or product quality caused by such factors as
variations in weather which happen over time even when farming
practices do not change;
2. Changes in farming practices over time
a. Changing input quality
b. changing rates or times of application
c. changing cultivars
3. changes in the prices of inputs
a. seasonal price fluctuations
b. long term price trends due to inflation or various cycles
c. other factors such as government policy changes
4. changes in prices received for products
a. seasonal price fluctuations
b. long term price trends due to inflation or various cycles
c. other'factors such as government policy changes.
Changes related to (1) come about because of bioclimatical effects that
differ from year to year. These are beyond the control of farmers. But, with
their years of local experience, farmers have a feel for the extent of these
effects. Changes related to (2) are a result of differences in management,
the human factor. Farmers usually have a good idea of the expected results of
changing their practices before they do so. However, there remains the
possibility that they were mistaken and that the changes might produce
negative outcomes. Changes related to (3) and (4) result from economic
conditions mostly or completely outside the control of farmers. However, they
are aware of previous trends in costs and prices and use this awareness to
estimate risk. FSR/E field teams must consider all these factors contributing
to variation within a single farm setting when assessing alternatives.
At the same time, the field team must include variation among farmers in a
recommendation domain in its considerations. Different farmers often use very
different practices in growing the same crop. Costs of inputs vary greatly
among farmers depending upon their distance from a source of supply,
transportation available and what balance of farm produced versus purchased
inputs they use. Prices received by different farmers vary according to
factors such as product quality, time of marketing, and distance from market.
e. Considerations Related to Other Farm-Household Activities
Often secondary effects from introducing alternative technologies occur in
other enterprises on the arm which are not directly involved in the change.
For example, fruit production from an orchard might be increased by
controlling weeds, but those weeds would then be unavailable for livestock
grazing. Increasing the planting density of one crop in an intercropping
situation might decrease the yield of a second crop.
The suitability of changing a farm practice is often seen in a different
light when viewed in respect to the overall production, consumption and
welfare of the household. If the amount of a resource use in a farm
enterprise is to be increased by a proposed alternative, where will that
increase come from? How will that affect the activity where it is presently
used? For example, a recommendation to use additional manure in cropping to
gain better yields might conflict with the need for manure as fuel for
If use of a resource in a farm enterprise is decreased by a proposed
change, where and how will that freed resource be used? How will that
increased input affect the activity where it will be used? A recommendation
to increase the planting density of a grain crop might decrease the amount of
land needed to obtain a given yield. If the freed land remains unused because
time is not available to manage a new enterprise on it, the change may have
been for naught. If the freed land is used to increase plantings of another
crop, how will the new plantngs affect the overall costs and benefits to the
household? Who among the household members will have to invest additional
management time, labor and capital, and who will receive the various returns
from the new crop?
With such a variety of potential evaluation criteria, how can a farming
systems team identify those which are most crucial to the evaluation? One
consideration in weighing and ranking criteria is significance to each
stakeholder (see Section 1). Continuing dialogue with principal stakeholders
is essential. Observing roles and questioning each relevant type of
stakeholders; male farmer, female farmer, head of household, homemaker, older
adult, youth and so on, will provide feedback on the importance and
suitability of specific criteria to each of them. Directed questioning about
proposed changes in farming practices also assists in pinpointing possible
effects on other enterprises and overall household welfare. The generalized
farming systems model is helpful in considering interactions among the crop,
livestock, household and off-farm components of the system and in gauging the
possible effects of changes in farm practices.
5. RESEARCHER-PLANNED ON-FARM TRIALS
a. Trial Function in the Research/Extension Process
According to their function in the research/extension process, trial types
follow a general sequential trend. For each type of trial, specific designs
and types of analysis are common.
1. Exploratory testing
These are trials conducted when little is known about the domain or
about possible treatment effects in the domain. They can be
complementary to, or part of, the characterization of the domain and
usually precede refinement trials. These trials normally assess
qualitative effects of several factors, rather than quantitative
effects. Frequently, two levels of each factor are included and few
replications are used. The most common designs used include the 2
factorial and "add-on" or "take-off" trials. This type of trial can
sometimes be superimposed on farmers' fields without the necessity of
special preparation of the experimental area.
2. Refinement testing
Two kinds of trials can be included in this stage: site specific
trials and regional trials.
Site specific trials are trials done on only one farm. They often
focus on quatitative effects. They are similar in design to conventional
trials, but usually fewer treatments are involved. Perhaps as many as 20 to
25 treatments can be included, although this is not recommended unless a more
complex type of design (e.g., a lattice or Latin square) is used to keep the
experimental error at an acceptable level. Because of the requirement for
intensive researcher's management, only a few of these trials are normally
conducted in a given domain. The most common design is randomized complete
blocks (RCBD) with four replications.
Regional trials are trials done on more than on farm, but analyzed as one
set of data. They ae amenable to both agronomic and agro-socioeconomic
analysis. They are designed to expose the best treatments from site-specific
trials to a much wider range of environments within a domain. Perhaps six
treatments may be included, and five to ten sites can be utilized. A
recommended design'is randomized complete blocks (RCBD) or incomplete blocks
(IBD) with two to four replications per site. ANOVA, regression, or modified
stability analysis can be utilized. Combined analysis with site as a source
of variation can be used in ANOVA to quantify treatment-by-environment
3. Validation testing
These trials provide the opportunity for the farmers themselves to manage
and the farm households to evaluate the one or two most promising
interventions identified in refinement testing. Large plots with no
replications within farms are used. The purpose of these trials is for the
farmers to compare the interventions with their own practices, so one plot
with existing practices can be included in .the design. This individual farmer
control plot serves the researchers more than the farmers, because the farmers
will be able to evaluate results based on their own fields. If researchers
wish to measure results of the farmers' own practices, they can also sample
the farmers' fields. However, agronomic and economic records of the farmers'
practices must be kept to provide the necessary information. If possible, it
is desirable to have at least 30 farmers conducting these trials in a given
domain, although sometimes as few as 10 farmers may be acceptable. The larger
numbers improve the precision of the evaluation of the degree of acceptance by
farm households of the new technology'.
b. Researcher-Farmer Management Sharing
The relative participation of the multidisciplinary research team and
farmers in conducting trials leads to another classification that will
influence the number of trials of each kind in a given time and resource
situation. There is a close correlation between management type and trial
1. Researcher Planted/Researcher Managed
This category includes those trials that represent a high economic risk to
farm households because of the unpredictable or unknown behavior of
intervention treatments under farmer conditions. Normally these trials would
either be conducted in the experiment station, or if planted in a farmers'
fields, the total cost of labor and inputs should be covered by the project.
These trials are most common in exploratory and refinement testing. An
example would be testing an array of new weed killers.
2. Farmer Planted/Researcher Managed
This category includes "superimposed" trials where treatments are placed
on fields which have already been planted and are being managed by the farmers
themselves. Treatments are marked by stakes or other means, and individual
treatments are installed either by the researchers or the farmers. Together,
researchers and farmers harvest the crop when it is mature. The design of a
superimposed trial should be simple. Replications should be used at each
location, although data from designs without replications at each site can be
combined for regional analysis and interpretation. These trials are also most
common in exploratory and refinement testing, for example, fertilizer
sidedress application in a maize field.
3. Farmer Planted/Farmer Managed
Trials completely handled by farmers must include the following
characteristics: a) technology must be simple enough for farmers to
comprehend and manage; b) farmers must use their own resources so they can
understand all implications of the alternatives; and c) design of the trial
must be simple enough that farmers can observe differences in treatments
and/or measure them, with their own means of measurement. These trials are
the most common in validation testing. An example would be testing of a new
cultivar under the farmers' normal planting and cultivating procedures. The
farmers pay all their usual costs plus the cost of the seed of the new variety.
6. DESIGN AND ANALYSIS OF ON-FARM AGRONOMIC TRIALS
On-Farm Biologic Research is one of the main tools in the farming systems
approach to the development of technology for small-scale, limited resource
family farms. On-Farm Research also provides some of the basic information
for the continuing characterization of the farms, the families on the farms
and the area where the research is being conducted.
In order for the researcher to properly evaluate the technology it is
necessary for the trials to be conducted under the real conditions of the
farmers for whom it is being developed. This provides an opportunity for the
researcher to fully understand the conditions faced by the farmer and for the
farmer to be able to participate actively in the evaluation process.
Statistical training teaches the researcher to control sources of
variation from factors that are not of direct interest. This random or
natural variation is grouped into what is called the error term, in analysis
of variance. In order to reduce the error term, researchers are taught to
make the experimental area as uniform as possible. Usually this involves
applications of fertilizers or lime, irrigation, and insect or disease control
measures so that these factors do not limit production potential. The result
is that the researcher creates a superior environment for the production of
the crop involved. These standard procedures are very important for the
evaluation of maximum potential of the technology being developed and provide
critical knowledge for the technology development process.
Most small-scale, limited resource family farmers, however, are not able
to apply this kind of inputs required to achieve the same high potential that
is possible on experiment stations. Because the response of technology can be
very different in these less than optimum conditions or the poorer environment
found on most farms, it is necessary also to evaluate technology under their
In the farming systems approach, a series of steps is involved in the
process of technology evaluation. These steps are designed to protect the
collaborating farmers from risk when they participate in the evaluation of new
technology, but at the same time, to move through the evaluation phase as
rapidly as possible. Initially, researchers manage the trials, but there is
as much participation from the farmers as is possible. In final stages,
trials are very simple and farmers are able to manage the trials themselves.
In these stages, the farmer are the primary evaluators. Many times, farmers
can decide on the basis of what they see whether or not they like the
technology and do not need to measure yield differences. Researchers obtain
the information they can from farmer managed trials, but the process should
not interfere with evaluation by the farmers.
The nature and design of on-farm trials must change as they move through
the sequence from researcher managed to farmer managed. Many of these changes
create problems for a researcher who is accustomed only to working under
experiment station conditions. For this reason, many researchers at first do
not like the idea of working on farms where they are unable to control
conditions as they would like. However, after most researchers have seen the
advantages that can come from exposing their technology to all the different
environments found on farms, and from including the farmer in the evaluation
process, they are pleased with the results. One of the most important aspects
of on-farm research is the opportunity it provides for feedback of information
to the researcher and into the technology development process. This is part
of the continuing characterization of the farm, the farm families and the area.
In moving through the sequence from experiment station research, to
researcher managed on-farm trials, to farmer managed on-farm trials and then
to extension and farm production, the complexity of the trials at each
location diminishes. That is, the number of treatments and replications is
fewer. At the same time, both plot size and number of locations increases.
As these changes take place, the extent of farmer management of the trials
increases and the need for research management decreases. These changes make
possible the larger number of locations. For the research, the capability to
control sources of variation decreases. However, the need to control those
sources decreases because the possibility of measuring i~ e sources of
variation increases. Biologic precision, and discrimination among variables
decreases while the ability to test socio-economic interactions under farmers'
conditions increases. Al of the above changes increase the number of farmers
involved in technology development and increase the direct investment farmers
make in that process. Finally, as that number of farmers increases, the
inter~ation of extension with research is enhanced.
A standard experiment at one location on an experiment station is designed
for the purpose of detecting differences among the treatments. That is, it is
hoped that the variation among the treatments is sufficiently large that
treatment, as a source of variation, is statistically significant. Analysis
of variance is often utilized to detect this kind of difference.
Experiment station experiments are often designed to search for
"Potential" or maximum effect of a technology. However, this potential is
measured only for the one location. Two or more locations can be used with
the same type of experimental design and analysis in order to measure the
"Deviations From Potential" at different locations. The same analysis can be
conducted independently at each of the locations. Location can also be
considered as a source of variation. By utilizing location, regional
variation can be studied in order to make inferences concerning stability of
the treatments. When conducted at several locations in a region, and when
block effect as well as location effect are considered as sources of
variation, this type or trial could be called "Regional Agro-Technical
Different locations frequently mean different environments. Technology,
many times, responds differently to different environments. Because of this,
there is a tendency to hold number of environments to a minimum. An
alternative solution is to choose locations that are as similar as possible.
A third approach often used when repeating the same experiment at different
locations is to control all possible sources of difference as much as
possible. Once again, this usually involves application of fertilizer or
lime, irrigation, and insect or disease control measures that tend to create a
superior environment for the production of the crop.
The creation of superior environments in on-farm research defeats one of
the primary purposes of this type of trial in the farming systems approach.
That is to subject that technology being developed to all the good and the bad
that the farmers are going to give it, when, and if, they adopt it. In order
to be able to evaluate the technology adequately, it is necessary to reduce
control over many factors. Instead of control, these different factors can be
measured and their effect on the technology can be calculated. Or, more
importantly, treatment effects can be measured in the presence of these other
sources of variation. If treatment effects cannot-be detected experimentally,
under these real farm conditions, farmers will not be able to detect the
differences either. If they cannot detect any differences, they are not
likely to adopt the technology being developed.
The environment in which farmers produce is a result of all the factors
that affect production. Soils and climate are usually associated with
environment. Other resources such as capital and labor also influence the
kind of environment in which a crop is produced. Management, which is
responsible for allocating all the resources to the different enterprises on
the farm, is ultimately one of the most important determinants of the crop
In order to begin to evaluate the influence of farmer management on
technology, farmers must be given an opportunity to participate actively, even
in researcher managed trials. In order to evaluate the effect of
socio-economic constraints on the technology, larger plots must be used. This
usually means that only a few treatments can be included in the trial and
usually there are no replications. Incorporating the farmer means that the
conditions under which the trials are being conducted must be close to what
the farmer normally does. In this manner, "Probable Farm Responses" to the
technology can be detected.
The design of the farmer managed trial must be simple enough that the
farmer can do essentially all the management. The farmers must supply all the
resources so that they can make a complete evaluation of the technology. The
researcher obtains two kinds of information from farmer managed trials.
During the year of the trial, the "Achievable or Practical Response" to the
technology can be determined. This is the response when the technology is
completely in the hands of farmers. Sample yields can be taken or farmers'
estimates of yield can be utilized. The year following the farmer managed
trial, the researcher can return to find out whether the farmers utilized the
new technology on their own initiative after trying it the year before. Based
on a simple and rapid survey of the previous year's collaborators, an
"Acceptaility Index" can be calculated. Technology that is found to be
acceptable, that is with a high acceptability index, can be incorporated into
extension programs'with confidence that it will be received favorably by
similar kinds of farmers.
The on-farm trial sequence, then, is designed to allow researchers to
converge as rapidly as possible onto technology appropriate for defined
clientele while at the same time minimizing risk to farmers who participate in
testing and evaluation. When appropriate analytical procedures are used,
farmers can be partitioned into homogeneous groups for purposes of making
recommendations. In FSR/E, these homogeneous groups are called recommendation
A very useful analysis of data from trials conducted under a wide range of
environments has been used by plant breeders for nearly 20 years. By
modifying their procedure slightly, it is very appropriate for analyzing data
from both researcher managed and farmer managed trials. The procedure is
called modified stability analysis.
When a trial is conducted at several locations, an environmental index for
each location is defined as the average yield of all the treatments at that
location. For example, if there are four treatments and the yield of each at
one location is 30, 35, 25 and 38, then the average yield at that location and
the value of the environmental index "E" is 32. The environmental index can
reflect al the conditions which create the environment at each location.
Other things beings equal, a good climate will be reflected in a higher index
than a poor climate. A good manager will create a better environment than a
poor manager and his farm will have a higher environment index.
Each of the individual treatments will respond differently to the
different environments. Figure 1 is the response of maize to one treatment or
technology over a range of environments in the Lilongwe area of Malawi. The
response curve or line is calculated by simple linear regression using the
yield of the treatment at each location as the dependent variable and the
environmental index at the location as the independent variable.
That is, treatment yield Y is a function of environmental index "e", or
Y = a + be. As is true in all cases of regression analysis, the wider the
range of observation, the better the estimate. In other words, a wide range
of environments is better than a narrow range of environments.
Figure 2 shows the results from the same trial conducted on the experiment
station in the same area as the previous data.
Because good experimental procedures were used on the station, the range
of environment is narrow and all the environments are superior. Here each
environmental index is calculated for each replication. However, because a
narrow range of superior environments was created on the station,
extrapolation of the results to the environmental level of most of the farms
would not be very satisfactory. That is not to say, however, that experiment
station results cannot, or should not, be used in evaluating technology.
Rather, station results should be combined with on-farm data to provide an
even wider range of environment.
Figure 3 shows the combined on-farm and station data and the resulting
response to environment for the same technology or treatment. A similar
regression equation can be calculated for each of the technologies of
treatments included in the trial. Different treatments can then be compared
for their response to different environments.
Figure 4 shows two different treatments or technologies. One of the
treatments is.better for poor environments and the other is better for good
environments. This type of environmental interaction provides the basis for
partitioning farms in the area where the trial was conducted into two
recommendation domains. For farms with poor environments one recommendation
would be made and for farms with good environments another recommendation
would be made.
In order to facilitate extension activities, appropriate recommendation
domains can be differentiated either on the basis of yield or on the basis of
the characteristics related to environment. If one technology in the trial is
the traditional technology, it can be compared with an improved technology.
In Figure 5, the traditional technology is superior to the improved technology
for farms whose yield with the traditional technology is less than 1.5 tons.
For these farmers the "Improved" technology is not as good as their
traditional technology. For farms whose traditional technology produces more
than 1.5 tons, and are therefore those which have a better environment, the
new or improved technology is better.
If farmers are able to tell extension personnel what their usual yields
are then this is an easy method to partition the recommendation domains and
make recommendations that are most appropriate for the conditions of specific
farms. Some farmers, however, do not know what their yields are. An
alternative means of partitioning farms into recommendation domains is by
detecting the characteristics which create the poor and the good environments.
Slope or other soil conditions can sometimes be associated with environment,
proximity to dwelling can influence environment and the presence of animals,
especially if the manure is used on the crop, can also have an important
effect on environment.
In summary, on-farm agronomic research provides the opportunity for
researchers to expose their technology to a much wider range of environments
that is possible in on-station research.
-It is designed to incorporate the farmer actively in the evaluation
process yet keep risk to the farmer to a minimum. This can reduce the
length of time involved in the technology development process because
feedback from client to researcher is immediate. Communication problems
-Instead of striving to artificially control environment, on-farm research
is designed to utilize a wide range of environmental conditions to the
benefit of the analysis. This improves understanding of the response of
the technology and aids in the partitioning of the clientele into
-Simple yet effective statistical methods are available for analyzing data
from on-farm trials. These methods reaqire- only hand held caculators so
they are adaptable to any part of th world where technology development is
-Finally, because the procedure includes so many farmers in an area,
extension activities flow naturally and freely from the research efforts.
Extension personnel can be incorporated directly into the research and
researchers can participate actively in extension activities.
7. DETERMINING IMPACT OF PROPOSED TECHNOLOGIES ON OTHER HOUSEHOLD ACTIVITIES
Just because a technological change may be profitable or desirable in one
farm enterprise does not necessarily mean that it will be a favorable change
when the overall production, consumption and welfare of the farm-household is
considered. In the previous sections we have been considering the analysis of
technological alternatives only from the point of view of the enterprise in
question. Now we will consider ways to examine the effects of changes in
technology on the other activities taking place on or off the farm.
It is not always easy for an FSR/E: field, team to access the possible
impact of a change in one enterprise on other activities on or off the farm.
In the end, it will have to be the farm decision-makers who decide exactly how
such adjustments will be made (see next section on Farmer Acceptability).
However, this does not mean that the whole farm perspective should be ignored
by the field team. Preliminary judgements regarding. the technological
alternatives under consideration must be made by the field team even before the
technology is put into the hands of the farmers for their testing and
It is useful for field team members to ask themselves some of the
questions posed earlier in the process (IIr I,C Planning for Evaluation).
These same questions may well have been asked during the design of the
alternatives to be tested by on-farm research. But after the research has
been completed and is being evaluated, it should be considered again. The
relevant questions are:
1. If the amount of a resource required in a farm enterprise is increased by
a proposed alternative, where will that increase come from?
2. How will that affect the activity where it is presently used?
3. If use of a resource in one farm enterprise is decreased by an alternative
practice, where and how will that freed resource be used?
4. How will that freed resource affect the activity or activities where it
will be used?
5. If more of the product in question is produced, what effect will this have
on the farm as a whole?
Land use and crop activities calendars (I:V) can be useful for the
purpose. For example, from the crop activities calendar as presented in
Volume I, one could see that April and May are busy months for land
preparation, and much of the planting takes place in late June and early July.
Practices which free time in these months may provide much needed labor for
other crops. But practices which require more labor during these periods may
not be acceptable because of the other activities which need to be carried
out. These possibilities should be evaluated when designing alternatives.
They should also be taken into account when analyzing the proposed
Another useful means of tracing the possible implications of changes in
the practices for one enterprise on other activities on the farm is by using
the model of the farming system developed in the initial surveys or
characterization. Interactions among the crops, the livestock and the
household are particularly evident in these models. Obviously it is not
usually possible to quantify the effects, but an evaluation can be made
concerning potential problems from making shifts in resource use. For
example, if a new technology requires an added cash expense; it may be
possible to examine the model of the farming system to determine where this
additional money could come from. What other expenses could be cut and what
impact might this have on the welfare of the household? It may not be
possible for the field team to answer the question, but it would at least
being the competition for whatever money is available to the attention of the
Increasingly complex and sophisticated techniques can be used to analyze
whole farm impacts of a change in technology. These can include expanded
partial budgets, whole farm budgets or linear, curvilinear or stochastic
programming. However, these techniques often can require much more time and
resources than are often available to field teams.
It is important to remember that even the most sophisticated methods of
analysis are only tools to help field teams evaluate alternative technologies
as a proxy for the farmers themselves. This is why we must be "devil's
advocates" in our analysis, to represent as many as possible of the hard
questions farmers would ask if they could see our results (see III:II,B,3).
It is the farmers, ultimately, who make the decision of whether or not to
adopt a technology. So it is necessary for field teams to incorporate farmer
and stakeholder evaluation in their analyses.
Fortunately, it is possible for field teams to conduct directed surveys of
farmers in an area in order to involve them in the process and to augment
other analyses. Some directed surveys can be conducted in a single day if a
specific question is being addressed. An example could be related to an
outbreak of some insect that the field team was not expecting. In one day it
would be possible for the team to ascertain if this is a regular occurrence
and what, if anything, the farmers usually do about it. Other, more complex
questions may take a few days, but the information can be forthcoming rapidly
and with little cost. This type of dialogue with farmers may well be the most
important analytical technique available to the FSR/E team.
Adapted from: On-Farm Research: Organized Community Adaptation Learning and
Diffusion for efficient Agricultural Technology Innovation.
Technology Diffusion Through On-Farm Research
During the process of conducting on-farm research which helps adapt
technology to the agrosocioeconomic conditions of a community or
Recommendation Domain, farmers are also becoming familiar with or learning
about the new technology. This learning takes two forms. One is the hands-on
or experiential learning of the innovators or other using the technology. The
second is observational learning through information gained by observation and
other forms of study by those who.are not involved actively in the use of the
technology. A learning curve, as illustrated in Figure 1, relates
achievements toward reaching potential results (such as potential yield from a
new technology) with numbers of attempts as using, or experience with, the
During the process of community adaptation, adjustments in the technology
(such as choosing a subset of components, modifying levels of inputs or making
the technology more nearly conform to community traditions) have the effect of
facilitating learning. Facilitated learning, making a new technology more
familiar, simpler, or easier to learn to use, shifts the learning curve to the
left, Fig. 1. The ultimate potential of the technology so adapted may be
lower than for the "maximum yield" or full technological package as shown in
the figure. The opposite can also be true, but probably in fewer cases.
Movement along the learning curve occurs with experience, but comparable
movement can occur through learning by observation. If a farmer begins to use
the technology after having learned about it first through observation, it is
also equivalent to a shift of the learning curve to the left, Fig. 2. If the
potential of the technology is unchanged, similar results are achieved in a
shorter period of time. The learning curve on the right in Figure 2 could
represent an earlier adopter while the curve on the left could be that of a
later adopter who learned through observation, the equivalent of what the
early adopter learned with one attempt at using the technology.
The Farming Systems Research and Extension (FSR/E) approach to technology
development is a means of formalizing community learning and adaptation. To a
community, FSR/E brings the additional resources of outside scientific
knowledge and expertise. By combining the efforts of scientists from several
disciplines with those of the farmers in the community, adaptation to local
conditions is accelerated and dissemination is more rapid.
In the FSR/E approach, some farmers are helping adapt the technology while
they obtain experience with it, Fig. 1. Others, those not directly involved
in on-farm testing, have the opportunity to learn by observation, Fig. 2.
Particularly relevant to the efficiency inherent in FSR/E is that shifts to
the left in the experiential learning curve from adaptation (Fig. 1) and from
learning by observation (Fig. 2) can be cumulative, Fig 3. To help understand
the relationship of on-farm research to technology diffusion it is useful to
consider the concept of a biophysical research domain which is comprised of
one or more agro-socioeconomic recommendation domains. The research domain
may also be comprised of one or more diffusion domains which may or may not
coincide with the recommendation domain or domains.
A research domain, similar to what Byeree et al. (1980) call a
"homogeneous target region", is an ex -ante designation of a roughly
homogeneous bio-physical or agro-climatic zone which spans an environmental
range throughout which it could be expected that selected technologies have
potential applicability. For most technologies "the same experimental program
may be implemented over the whole region" (Byerleeet al., 1980, p. 61). In
many cases all, or nearly all farms in th target region area will pertain to
the research domain. An example is a new disease resistant variety of a crop
which would be expected to demonstrate resistance throughout the area. An
exception would be with a new implement for large tractors and other farmers
have no tractors. In this case the researcher domain for the implement would
include only those farmers in the area with large tractors.
In a research domain, alternative new technologies evolve into treatments
to be included in experiments and trials for station research and/or on-farm
experimentation. If research conducted in the research domain involves
several locations and is designed to take advantage of modified stability
analysis (Hildebrand, 1984), then the biological research can result in the
definition within the research domain of one or more recommendation domains
based on the biological response of the treatments to the agro-socio-economic
conditions of individual farmers, Fig. 4. A recommendation domain, then, can
be defined as a group of farms or farmers with roughly homgeneous farming
systems for which an improved technology meets their biophysical and
socioeconomic requirements for adoption.
Other agro-socioeconomic research conducted simultaneously with the
biological research in the research domain (for example, directed
agro-socio-economic surveys, soil surveys, or farm enterprise budgets)
provides information needed to characterize the farms in each recommendation
domain, so thay can be identified for further research and/or to identify
Diffusion domains are interpersonal communication networks through which
newly acquired knowledge of agricultural technologies would naturally flow.
In the technology adaptation sequence, the use of diffusion domains can aid in
the location of validation trials. These farmer-managed trials, which are
used to confirm the acceptability of the technology to farmers, will be more
efficient in promoting observational learning and dissemination, strategically
located within relevant diffusion domains across the recommendation domain.
FSR/E IN A COMMUNITY CONTEXT
To the extent that a community falls within a research domain, or that a
research domain can be considered as a community, FSR/E becomes an organized
and structured community learning and adaptation system for agricultural
technology innovation. As an organized system and using the methodology
described above, FSR/E is highly efficient in enhancing technology innovation
in agriculture. First, because modified stability analysis benefits from the
utilization of a wide range of environments, farmers who were formerly thought
of as "innovators", "early adopters", "late adopters", and "non-adopters" can,
and should all be included in on-farm research. Improved regression estimates
of the response of technologies to environments in modified stability analysis
results from including a wide range of farmers. This can improve the
efficiency of technology innovation for the superior environments (environment
of the innovators) while at the same time providing adapted technology for
late adopters and non-adopters in poorer environments. Hence, community
adaptation is taking place simultaneously for all strata of the community. In
contrast to results of adaptation only by innovators, learning curve shifts
resulting from adaptation in an FSR/E approach will benefit farmers in both
favorable and unfavorable environments.
Both experiential learning and learning from observation are also
distributed more widely in the community from an FSR/E approach than from
spontaneous community adaptation of centrally developed technology. When
adaptive research or experimentation is being conducted by a community
innovator, poorer farmers in the community may well be reluctant to obtain
information from the innovator. By conducting on-farm trials over a wide
range of environments and in all diffusion domains in a community, FSR/E
facilitates the process of obtaining information and of receiving hands-on
experience with a technology. While a farmer is gaining information about a
technology, the technology can also be in the process of adaptation to
community conditions. If on-farm research is conducted in all diffusion
domains in a community as well as in all environments, the social distribution
of research and extension benefits will be more equitable and rapid. In
summary, FSR/E complements, and makes more efficient, a naturally occurring
technology innovation process in agriculture community adaptation, learning
ISSUES AND PROBLEMS IN THE ORGANIZATION AND MANAGEMENT OF FSR/E
Every country and each institution is different and the organization and
management of field teams to carry out FSR/E activities must be designed
according to the needs, structure and resources of the individual organization
involved. However, it is useful to have a model to serve as-a base for
creating the organization and management of FSR/E teams when a program is
being contemplated. In this chapter, one means of organizing such an
operation is discussed. It is based on actual cases and for that reason, can
be considered as a model that can function in a country with scarce resources,
but which desires to create an efficient program for developing and delivering
technologies to its farmers.