Farming systems in Central America research highlights


Material Information

Farming systems in Central America research highlights project area Acosta-Puriscal, Costa Rica
Caption title:
Highlights of research activities conducted in the wet-dry area of Acosta-Puriscal, Costa Rica
Physical Description:
3 leaves : ill., (table) ; 28 cm.
Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza
Place of Publication:
Turrialba, Costa Rica
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural productivity -- Costa Rica -- Acosta   ( lcsh )
Farms, Small -- Costa Rica -- Acosta   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
Costa Rica


Includes bibliographical reference (leaf 3)
General Note:
Cover title.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
oclc - 756675742
lcc - S494.5.P75 F2 1982
System ID:

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Farm resources

Small farms pr emiate in the highlands of Acosta-Puriscal in Costa Rica.
76% of all survey farms1) cultivate less than 10 ha, the average size is 7.5 ha..
Farmers are cultivating their fields on an extremely sloped landscape, 65% of
all fields are situated on slopes with more than 30%, which prevents the intro-
duction of mechanized cultivation methods. Erodable soils and erratic rainfall
conditions are some of the environmental factors which strongly influence actual
farming systems.
Average family size is 7.4 persons with 1.7 man equivalents available for
farm work.
Land use consists of annual crops (1..4 ha), perennial crops (1.4 ha) and
pastures or fallow land (4.7 ha). In almost all farms trees are used as live
fences, in pasture lands and in combination with coffee which is the most impor-
tant cash crop in the area. 74% of the smallholders rear about 27 chickens and
27% of the farms own on average 2.3 pigs. Cattle production is found on 59% of
all farms, which own an average of 10 heads. Half of the cattle owners have a
stock of 5 or less animals.

Labour input and labour distribution

Crop production is very labour intensive due to the fact that all activities
are carried out by manual labour with simple tools (shovel and cutlass). 364 man-
days were devoted to crop production during a one year period on an average area
of 2.8 ha. Compared to crop production the livestock enterprise is labour exten-
sive with 30 man-days per year. General farm activities constitute 25 and off-
farm work 67 man-days per year (see Table 1).
The labour distribution shows a slight peak in May and a pronounced one frno
October to January during the coffee and tobacco harvest periods. Most of the
hired labour-which amounts to 76 man-days per farm is used during these peak
labour periods. Increase of crop production by cultivating more land seems not
to be possible especially during the second cropping cycle due to labour bottle-

Labour intensity varies greatly between principal farm enterprises: It's
lowest for "covered beans" (produced with a zero-tillage practice) with 36 man-
days per ha, increases to about 80 ran days for maize and maize-beans in asso-
ciation, to 178 nan days for coffee (mostly in association with fruit and shade
trees), and the highest labour requirements were in tobacco production with 198
man-days per ha.

Production and productivity per farm enterprise

Maize and bean production are relatively high canpared to the ecological
conditions (steep slopes and high rainfall), with an average of 1800 kg/ha and
510 kg/ha (mainly covered beans) respectively (see Table 1). Good husbandry
practices which includes in maize production very often the application of mine-
ral fertilizer are the principal factors for the high yield. Average coffee
production with 970 kg/ha (dried beans) is rather low compared to the best quar-
tile of the farmers in the area who produce 1500 kg/ha.

1) A few farms with more than 100 ha were eluded from the survey.


Tobacco production is very intensive with high external inputs and careful-
ly managed (fertilizer application per plant, two-three hand weedings). Conse-
quently, tobacco yields were high with 1100 kg/ha of sun dried leaves. Pastures
consists mainly of local grasses with low production (stocking rate: 1 head/ha).
Erosion problems are particularly pronounced in natural pastures without rotation
Gross margins per ha are highest for the cash crops, coffee and tobacco with
031.100 and 028.600/ha respectively. They are followed by sugar cane (012.000/ha)
which is produced by 18% of the frnners and finally by food crops with gross mar-
gins/ha between 07.000 and 08.400. The gross margins per man-day have a different
order: they are lowest for maize and sugar cane. The last mentioned crop is
very labour intensive due to on-farm processing activities. However, the labour
input for sugarcane is not very time specific and processing can be carried out
when opportunity costs for labour are low. Next follows maize- beans in associa-
tion with 0113/man-day. The cash crops tobacco and coffee (with fruit trees)
show a higher labour productivity compared to the other crops mentioned before
with about 0144 and 0175 per man-day. Both crops generate, therefore, high employ-
ment and income. Covered beans show the highest gross margins per man-day due to
a low labour input but also due to high bean prices during harvest time. The figu-
re is therefore, compared to the other crops, overestimated.

Whole farm production and productity

The value of whole farm production was on average 082.540. The coefficient
of variation is high (88%), minimum values are in the order of 010.000, maximmn
values close to 0330.000. Perennial crops constitute 54% of the value Of total
farm production, followed by food crops with 20%, tobacco with,15% and livestock
with about 11% of total production (see Table 1). The net farm income of 066.000
is high compared with the Jinotega area in Nicaragua but rather low compared to
other areas in Costa Rica and to the better farmers in Acosta-Puriscal. The size
of cultivated area, man-days used and variable costs explain more than 60% of the
observed variation. To the net farm in~~me is added the off-farm income of 05.400
to arrive at the total family income of 071.400 per year.

Testing of technology under farmer conditions

A technical package concerning "covered beans" was identified in collabora-
tion with national institutions, discussed in meetings with participating farmers,
and then adapted. The package consisted of improved varieties, increased plant
density, a low fertilizer application (150 kg of N-P-K : 10-30-10) and insect
control). Average yield was increased by 21%, but gross margin/ha only by 12%
due to higher production costs. Although 78% of the participating farmers were
satisfied with the bean harvest aid manifested interest in adopting the recomen-
ded package, the relative low increase in net income was not regarded as suffi-
cient by the project team.


Farming systems in the Acosta-Puriscal area are diversified and some enter-
prises have already a high production standard. This refers especially to toba-
cco but partly also to grains compared to the ecological conditions of the region.
Coffee production can be increased significantly as has been shown by the better
farmers and pasture production could be increased drastically by new species and
rotation practices.
Iong term soil conservation require the integration of crops and trees and
pastures and trees especially on highly sloped areas. First results on coffee
associated with shade and fruit trees indicate the high production potential of
this fanr, enterprise.


Table 1: Labour use, production and productivity of small farmers in Acosta-
Puriscal, Costa Rica, March 1981 February 1982, N = 68 fazms1)

LABOUR USE, mandays2) C.V. (%) Per enterprise X C.V.(%
per farm

Crop production 364 70 maize 83 52
Animal production -30 154 maize-beans 713) 32
General farm activities 25 93 covered beans 36 35
Total' farm 419 68 tobacco 198 43
Off-farm activities 67 169 sugar cane 1244) 54
coffee + fruit trees 178 59


Value5) of total production 82.540 88 maize 1.8 7.000 84
Food crops (mainly grains) 16.350 50 maize-beans 1.,6+0.2 8.000 113
Tobacco 12.400 49 covered beans7) 0.51 8.400 233
Perennials 44.540 126 tobacco 1.1 28.600 144
Livestock 9.250 149 sugarcane 12.3008) 12.000 97
Net farm income 66.000 90 coffee+fruit trees 0.9710) 31.100 175
Total family income 71.400 81
Gross margin/ha crops 19.400 69
Gross margin/MD/crops 157 52
Gross marginAD/livestock 357 117
Net farm inome/MD of FL) 192

1) Data were collected by weekly visits throughout one year
2) 8 hours of work of a male adult equivalent
3) Maize-beans in association is cultivated only in Puriscal, where mandays for maize
plots were on average 65/ha.
4) Man-days include processing of sugar-cane
5) Colon (9) = 0.067 US$ in March 81 and 0.025 US$ in February 82
6) G/MD = Gross margin/man day
7) Covered beans are produced only during the second cropping cycle of the year, where
bean prices increased by 80% compared to the first cropping cycle
8) Value of production
9) FL = Family labour
10) Yield for dried coffee only
SOURCE: PLATEN, H. von., RODRIGUEZ, G., and LAGEMNN, J.: Farming Systenm in Acosta-Puriscal,
Costa Rica, CATIE, Turrialba, 1982. (in preparation).

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