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SUMMARY OF THE SONDEO METHODOLOGY USED BY ICTA
Peter E. Hildebrand *
The SONDEO is a modified survey technique that has been developed by ICTA as a response to budget restrictions, time requirements and the other methodology utilized to augment agricultural information in a region where technology generation and promotion is being initiated. The purpose of the sondeo is to provide the information required to orient the work of the technology generating team. The cropping systems are describe, the agrosocioeconomic situation of the farmers is determined and the restrictions they face are defined so that any proposed modifications of their present technology are appropriate to their conditions. In order to understand the methodology, it is first necessary to understand how ICTA is organized.
Without entering into the organization at the national level, the
regional organization will be discussed. Each of the regions in which the Institute functions has a Regional Director who is the representative of the Director General of the Institute and of the Technical Director. Within the region, each area in which work is being carried out is in charge of a "Sub-regional delegate", a technician who has a minmum amount of administrative responsibilities. All the technicians, from whatever discipline or program who work in the area are resIponsible to him. This multi-disciplinary team is usually comprised of some or all of the following: plant breeders, pathologists, a technician from socio-'conomics and approximately 5 general
* Agricultural Economist, The Rockefeller Foundation, assigned as Coordinador de Socioeconomla Rural, Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnologla Agricolas,
agronomists who are the Technology Testing Team, This group, backed up by the national Coordinators of Programs ( corn, beans, etc. ) and Support Disciplines ( socioeconomics, soil management ) are responsible for orienting and conducting the generation and promotion of technology in the area. The work includes basic plant breeding an Id/or selection on the ( usually small) experiment station in the area; farm trials; tests by farmers of promising technology; evaluation of acceptability of the technology tested by farmers and economic production or farm records maintained by farmers with the help of the technicians. In order to provide the original orientation to the team, the Sondeo, or reconnaissance survey is conducted by members of the Technology Testing Team who are going to work in the area, sometimes personnel from the appropiate Program, and a team from socioeconomics comprised of one or more of the following: anthropologists, sociologists, economists, agricultural economists and/or engineers. Usually, there are 5 people from Socioeconomics and 5 from the Technology Testing Team who form a 10 man Sondeo team for an area.
If ICTA is to work in an area that is not previously defined, such as
by the bounds of a land settlement or irrigation project, one of the objectives of the Sondeo is to delimit the area. This is done by first selecting the predominant cropping system used by potential target farmers in the area and later determining the area in which this system is important. The reason that a homogeneous traditional or present cropping system is used is that it is this cropping system that ICTA will be modifying with new or improved technology. Hence, having a well-defined, homogeneous system with which to work simplifies the procedure of generating and promoting technology, The premise on which
selection of a homogeneous cropping system is based is that all the farmers who presently use it have made similar adjustments to a set of restrictions which they all face, and since they all made the same adjustments, they must all be facing the same set of agro-socioeconomic conditions.
Besides delimiting the area of this homogeneous system, the tasks of the Sondeo team are to discover what agro-socioeconomic conditions all the farmers who use the system have in common, then determine which of them are the most important in determining the present system, and therefore, would be the most important to consider in any modifications to be made by the team in the future. Finally, the end product of the Sondeo is to orient the first year's work in farm trials and plant selection and it also serves to locate future collaborators for the farm trials and for the farm record project.
Because the farm trials are conducted under farm conditions, during the
first year they provide an additional learning process into the conditions that affect the farmers and are invaluable in acquainting the technicians with the realities of farming in the area, The farm records which are also initiated the first year, provide quantifiable technical and cost information on the technology being used by the farmers. At the end of the first year's work, then, the technicians have not only been farming under the conditions of the farmers in the area, but they also have the information from the farm record
project. For this reason, it is not necessary to obtain quantifiable information in the Sondeo. Additionally, the Sondeo is not a benchmark study. More reliable information for evaluation of the impact in the area is available from the farm records, which gain in value each year.
The -primary purpose of the Sondeo, then, is to acquaint the technicians with the area in which they are going to work. Because quantifiable information is not needed, it can be conducted rapidly and no lengthy analyses of data are required following the survey to interpret the findings. No questionnaires are used so farmers are interviewed in an informal manner which 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 accessability of the area the Sondeo should be completed in from 6 to 10 days at a minimum of cost. Areas of from 40 to 150 km2 have been studied in this period of time. Following is a description of the methodology for a 6 day operation.
The first day is 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 system that will serve as the key system, get acquainted in general terms with the area and begin to search out the limits of the homogeneous system. Following each discussion with a farmer, the group meets out of sight of the farmer to discuss what each one' interpretation of the interview was. In this way, the team members begin to get acquainted with how each other thinks. Interviews with farmers ( or other people in the ar ea ) should be very general and wide-ranging because the team is exploring and searching for an unknown number of elements. (This does notimply, of course, that the interviews lack orientation ),The contributionor point
of view of each discipline is critical throughout the Sondeo because the team does not know before hand what type of restrictions maybe encountered. The more disciplines that are brought to bear on the situation the greater is the probability of encountering the factors which 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, all 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 from the technology testing team and one person from Socioeconomics who work together in the interviews. The 5 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 requires more time 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 are also discussed to help in the 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 problemas of the farmers of the region.
Following the discussion, the team pairs are changed to maximize inter-
disciplinary interaction and minimi e interviewer bias and they return to the field glided by the previous di cussion. Once again following the half-day or day's interviews the group meets to discuss the findings.
The importance ofthese discussions following a series of interviews cannot be over-stressed. Together the group begins to understand the relationship encountered in the region, delimit the zone and start 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, appropriate entities can be notified.
However, 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 process.
This is a repeat of day 2 and always includes a change in the makeup of the teams after each discussion. At least a minimun of 4 interview discussion cycles is necessary to complete this part of the Sondeo. If the area is not too complex, the cycles should be adequate. Of course, if the area is large enough that a full day is required for interviewing between each discussion session, then four full days are 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 what topic each will be re-
sponsible for, 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 corn technology may have been discussing a key point with an anthropologist and needs to refresh his-memory about what a particular farmer said in a brief discussion with him. In this manner the interaction among the disciplines continues.
As the technicians are writing the report, they invariably encounter points for which they have no answer, nor does anyone else in the group. The only remedy is to return to the field on the morning of the fifth day to fill in the gaps that were felt the day before. A half day can be devoted to this activity and finishing the writing of the main body of the report..
In the afternoon of this day, each team member reads his written report to the group for discussion, editing and approval. The report should be read from the beginning just as it will be when finished. As a group, the team should approve and/or modify what is presented.
Day 6The 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 ICTA 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 multi-disciplinary team and should be supported by all of the members. Furthermore, after participating for all six days with each other, 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. But just the fact that they have written it, is where most of the value lies. By being forced into a situation where many different points of view had to be taken into consideration and coalesced, the horizons of all will have been greatly amplified. On the other hand, the report can serve as orientation for non-participants such as the Regional Director of Technical Director in discussing merits of various courses of action. However, it is also obvious that the report will appear to be one written by 10 different persons in a hurry, which is just 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 that served one basic function in just being written.
The exact format and content of a report of a Sondeo will vary acording to the area being studied and the nature of the crops or livestock enter-
prises included. Following is a brief description of an outline of a report recently completed in one area of Guatemala where small grains and vegetatables were of primary interest.
Purpose Describes the reason the Sondeo was undertaken and the dates.
Homogeneous technology Describes the principal characteristics of the technology regarding the crops of interest found within the limits of the area and the important differences outside the area that changed the nature of the cropping system and defined the limits of the area.
Description of the delimited area Georgraphical limits, altitude,
soils, other important features and includes a map drawn with the boundaries as precise as possible.
Land Land tenure and farm size were important restrictions in the cropping system and were described.
Labor General labor availability and periods of scarcity and the
special tasks performed by women in the homogeneous system were described.
Capital The Capital flow in the traditional system which provides the funds for investing in both the basic grains and the vegetables was described and the poor functioning of the small farm credit system was noted.
Corn The most important components of the corn production system were described.
Beans The role beans play in the system and their lack of general importance.
Vegetables The production system and the marketing of vegetables were described.
Livestock activity The special importance of livestock and the livestock-crop interaction was discussed.
Conclusions Conclusions for each one of the above sections were drawn with special emphasis on their meaning to the future work of ICTA.
Recommendations Those relevant to ICTA and to other entities in the Public Agricultural Sector as well as the private sector.
COORDINATING THE SONDEO
The disciplinary speciality 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 these should also be from among those who will be working in the area in the future. The discipline of the Coordinator of the Sondeo is probably not critical, either, if he is a person with a broad capability, an understanding of agriculture ( if it is an agricultural sondeo ) and I experience in surveying and survey technique. However, the coordinator must have a high degree of multi-disciplinary tolerance and be able to interact with all the other disciplines represented on the team.
The coordinator, in a sense, is an orchestra director wo must assure that everyone contributes to the tune, but that in the final product, all are in harmony. He must control the group and maintain discipline. He arbitrates differences, creates enthusiasm, extracts hypotheses and thoughts from each participant, and ultimately will be the one who coalescesthe product into the final form. it is, perhaps not indispensable that he has prior experience in a sondeo, but it would certainly improve his efficiency if he had.