Generating technology for traditional farmers : the Guatemalan experience

Material Information

Generating technology for traditional farmers : the Guatemalan experience
Hildebrand, Peter E.
Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnologia Agricolas
Place of Publication:
Guatemala, C.A.
Socioeconomia Rural, Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnologia Agricolas, Sector Publico Agricola
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
17 leaves ; 28 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Farming ( LCSH )
Caribbean ( LCSH )
Agriculture ( LCSH )
Farm life ( LCSH )
Agricultural innovations -- Guatemala ( LCSH )
Agricultural extension work -- Guatemala ( LCSH )
Farmers ( jstor )
Corn ( jstor )
Traditional farming ( jstor )
Spatial Coverage:


General Note:
Cover title.
General Note:
"Guatemala, C.A., August, 1979."
General Note:
"Prepared for presentation in the Symposium on Socio-economic Constraints to Crop Protection, IX International Congress of Plant Protection, Washington, D.C., August 5-11, 1979."
General Note:
Includes bibliographical references (leaf 17).
Electronic resources created as part of a prototype UF Institutional Repository and Faculty Papers project by the University of Florida.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnología Agrícolas. Permission granted to University of Florida to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
ocm7150 ( NOTIS )


This item has the following downloads:

Full Text
jj; V la cn f j c it
IR i cn c jj; f j cn tl
Este as On managed protegido por log Denschos de Autor D191tiflizeda con SO parmul Tri dereachos; ageserni POE III Institimb the Climbs y TAbnologia Answers This is a Copyrighted resource Digitized with permission All lights served by me mitturtz Be Dianna y Tachnoci Angicall Cast One ressournizE GARANTIE LES DROITS AUTEUR Diggrail avenclialpermssion Tousdml se sorlainsbW deCianciay TacbnologiaAmpacclas
OCR", New Ali 9 2036
siti KdAre.
,wee Caere..
Enanei D, "Hi
aRACMAM A A, vwa&4 AS anal 1.1 Preanagane age MAE W dizal 'Ba6i AS
alineftineweaccenexi arawaSai
Bari ari an canaErai 0 eande en Parodeni RJ-B)i Snare par Is ARACRa Jai an MW Sellannin Maine via cari Am"
a. a" peninsula, a Man .
Me I.
1-e 7=
i ay MACAMC.aaanw
G,,en* CMw
el .

Prepared for presentation in the Symposium on Socio-economic Constraints to Crop Protection IX International Congress of Plant Protection
Washington, D.C.
August 5-11, 1979
Socioeconomia Rural
Guatemala, C. A.
August, 1979

Cropping decisions of traditional farmers are influenced by many more factors than are those of commercial or modern farmers, and many are poorly understood by traditionally trained agricultural scientists. Utilizing an integrated system of farm surveys, farm records, farm trials aid farmer evaluation, the Guatemalan Institute of Agriculture Science and Technology (ICTA), with multi-disciplinary teams, studies the agro-socioeconomic conditions of traditional farmers in a specific area, determine those most important in influencing the traditional cropping system and what the farmers can and will do, and generates technological modifications that are appropriate to these farmers for immediate use. Success of the methodology depends on close communication with farmers, testing technology under traditional farm conditions, direct farmer participation in evaluation, and on the participation of a multi-disciplinary team to help assure consideration of all the factors important to the farmers. Traditional farmers' responses to plant protection are discussed, differences between subsistance and commercial crops and between areas are treated, and some technological modifications, both acceptable and non-acceptable as evaluated by farmers, are presented as examples.

Cropping decisions of traditional farmers are influenced by many
more factors than are those of commercial or modern farmers. Many of these factors are poorly understood by traditionally trained agricultural scientists. The world of traditional farmers is composed of uncertainties,fcars of hunger caused by living and producing on the margin, religious and cultural taboos and practices that limit certain alternatives, poor infrastructural support of farming and social services including education, and even limitations on fuel for fire, for light, and for farming, In most traditional systems, animals tend to form an integral and important component of the subsistence economy of the farm and cannot be separated from the crop component. Within this milieu, the traditional farmer has developed or inherited complex farming systems that allow survival under conditions that for most scientists, who tend to originate from much more favorable environments, are nearly incomprehensible.
Traditional or subsistence farms cannot necessarily be defined by
size, by the absence of modern technology, nor can "low productivity" always be used to describe traditional farms, Usually when the agricultural scientist thinks of low productivity he thinks of either labor or land produc1 Agricultural Economist, The Rockefeller Foundation, assigned as Coordinador de Socioeconomia Rural, Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnologlia Agricolas
(ICTA), Guatemala-

tivity. If neither of these factors of production is scarce for the traditional farmer, their productivity may, indeed, be low. But the farmer will also be obtaining a high level of productivity from other resources or factors which are scarcer for him.
A misunderstanding of the relationships which motivate traditicaal farmers can lead the traditional scientist into many errors. In Santiago, Sacatepeque; in the Central Highlands of Guatemala, the yield of maize, the basic food crop, is low even though the farmers recognize that fertilizers will increase yield. Fertilizer is available and used on vegetables which are also produced. The traditional technical response is to increase maize yields,,through higher populations of lower growing plants and with a heavier fertilizer application, but these farmers realize that more grain production without more forage will not satisfy the needs of their animals. Hetice, their solution is to plant more area to tall maize with low levels of fertilizer and use the fertilizer they tre able to purchase on vegetables where its productivity (and that of the capital used to purchase it) is much greater than it would be on the maize.
Criollo or local varieties of some crops can be more efficient in the conversion of fertilizer to product than new varieties, making the very scarce capital invested in fertilizer more productive than if it were applied to a modern variety. Table 1, based on small farm record data, shows the efficiency of conversion of nitrogen to wheat for several improved varieties and the local (criollo) varieties in an area in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Although efficiency has been improving in more recently

released varieties, the criollo varieties are superior in this characteristic and still popular among traditional farmers.
Table 1 Conversion of Nitrogen to Wheat in- Quezaltenango,-in the Western
Highlands of Guatemala, 1978.
Year of % of Average
Variety release Cases Yield kg/ha kg N/ha kg'grain/kg N
Criollos xxxx 22 2,100 56 37.5
Gloria 1974 33 2,500 90 27.7
Quetzal 1975 10 2,800 110 25.4
Xelaj6 1966 23 2,100 84 25.0
Narifio 1959 12 1,900 86 22.1
Source: Garcia, et al. (1979)
In many areas and for several crops, farmers look to the productivity of the seed they plant rather than of the land, The tendency is to use varieties which yield heavily for each plant and then seed with wide spaces to allow the plant more area, providing maximum nutrients or moisture, whichever is the scarcer. Opening planting distances also helps to increase the efficiency of labor at planting time, which in many areas can be a severely limiting resource. Scientists, looking to yield per hectare, tend to reduce productivity of each seed by recommending higher populations.
In an irrigation project in a very dry area of eastern Guatemala,
weeds are a very severe problem and a definite limit to yields of the vegetables that are raised as the priority crop. However, this area was histor-

ically a dual-purpose cattle zone and the farmers still maintain their herds for production of meat and milk. During most of the year, forage is very scarce, so the farmers use the vegetable fields immediately following harvest as a source of feed. Hence, they tend to let the weeds grow to increase the feed supply, even though it knowingly reduces the yield of their principle crop and is counter to the recommendation made by agricultural technicians0 In this same area farmers tend to prefer a lower yielding local maize variety to higher yielding, improved varieties because the leaves and husks are more palatable to their animals who also need this source of fodder during much of the year.
Return to cash expense as opposed to business or bookkeeping expense is of utmost interest to most traditional or subsistence farmers. In Table 2, several crop systems from eastern Guatemala are shown along with the return to cash expense. The maize-bean-sorghum (M-B-S) system is the most characteristic of the purely subsistence farmer on the steepest and rockiest hillsides. Maize-sorghum (M-S) is an intermediate system, planted on less steep hillsides or by subsistence farmers on the land remaining after they exhaust their meager supply of bean seed. Maize-bean (M-B) and the monocrops of maize (M) and beans (B) are commercial crops grown primarily on larger farms on flatter land and usually with hired labor as an important component. Improved technology with rates of return to additional expense of 50 to 100 percent can tempt the commercial farmers, but traditional farmers will be much more resistant to it.

Table 2 Relationship of Cropping Systems and Rate of Return to Cash Costs,
Eastern Guatemala, 1977
Grcss Cash Net Rate of
System Type Income Cost Income Return
$/ha $/ha $/ha %
M-B-S Subsistence 253 27 226 837
M-S Subs/Comm 170 67 103 154
M-B Comm/Subs 270 120 150 125
M Commercial 237 113 124 110
B Coimercial 126 83 43 52
Source: Pelaez, et al. (1978)
In a potato producing area of the Western Highlands, virtually 11l farmers are using the same lower yielding potato variety (Loman) that is very early, allowing two crops per year and is well accepted on the local market. To improve yields, the potato program selected a longer season potato (Atzimba) that had a higher yield potential. However, by adding one month to the length of growing season, the farmers could grow only one crop per year0 For this reason, and because the new variety was not as acceptable on the market, farmers have not adopted it.
Given the wide variety of conditions found in Guatemala and the low acceptance of technology by traditional farmers, the Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology (ICTA) was founded in 1973, to reorganize the generation and promotion of technology so that the large number of small farmers in the country could begin to participate in the national economy.

The Institute developed an "Agri'cultural System" (ICTA, 1977) that has been in use for several years, though it is still changing as needed modifications are visualized. It is not perfect, but it has been found to have some valuable characteristics and is being used as a model in some other countries. Very briefly, its most critical charcatecistics follow (Hildebrand, 1978).
A work zone is defined, in so far as possible, on the basis of au area in which the majority of small farmers follow a similar, traditional agricultural system, or in other cases, it may be the confines of a land reform project where most of the (artificially created) farms are quite similar. A team comprised of social scientists and the agricultural technicians assigned to the zone surveys the area to determine what the farmers do, how they do it and why they do it that way (that is, define the agro-socioeconomic conditions of the area). This team jointly analyzes the results of the survey and makes recommendations concerning the tech-.ology to be developed.
Technology validation and generation is carried out both on experiment stations (about 10% of the work) and on the small farmers' own farms (about 90%). This work is divided into three general levels. The Commodity Programs (those identified with a commodity such as maize, beans,swine, etc.) conduct controlled trials on the stations and a few farms in the area. A "Technology Testing Team" (the technicians assigned to the zone) conducts technical trials under the supervision of the Commodity Programs on a much larger number of farms and acts as a means of extending the exposure of the

materials and practices throughout the zone. The most promising technologies are then submitted to agro-economic trials to help the team evaluate them further. The Institute pays most of the cost of the technical and agro-economic trials and the farmer on whose land they are conducted receives the crop.
The trials and evaluations through this stage are based on the technicians' understanding of the farmers' needs and evaluation criteria as Gbtained from the survey and from farm records which are initiated immediately following the survey. But even though the technicians live in the area and work on the farmers' own land, they cannot make the final decisions as to the "appropriateness" of the technology even after passing it through this exhaustive system. Therefore, the most promising technologies are-passed on to farmers for their own evaluation. Here the farmers pay for inputs and furnish labor and the product is theirs0 ICTA technicians obtain what information they can from these "Farmers' Tests", but the farmers do the evaluation. The year following these tests by the farmers, ICTA makes a follow-up survey of the same farmers to determine whether they have adopted the technology, to what degree, and if not, why. if a sufficient number of the collaborators from the year before have adopted it of their own accord over a significant part of their own land, it is considered as "acceptable" and is then turned over to the extension service as "appropriate technology"
for those farmers who use that same traditional agricultural system.
2 In Guatemala, the Extension Service is separate from the technology generating institute Ideally these two funttions should form a continuum within a single entity,

One of the stragths of this technology generating system is the use of multidisciplinary teams to make the agro-sccioeconomic studies of each new zone of work and to aid in the evaluation and interpretation of results. In order to be able to understand and interpret the small farmers' agrosocioeconomic conditions, it is necessary to consider all the factors which have an influence on what they do and can do. Hence, it requires a multidisciplinary team with each member contributing his own specialty, but all subordinating to the common objetive: to understand what the farmers a.e doing, why they are doing it that way (how they have adjusted historically to their agro-socioeconomic conditions), and what is required in any new technology if it is to be accepted on a large scale.
For the survey, usually five social scientists (among them can be anthropologists, sociologists, economists or agricultural economists) are paired with agricultural scientists (among whom may be found both plant and animal technicians in entomology, breeding, pathology, physiology, etc.). Besides changing interviewing partners every day to reduce interviewer bias and increase cross-disciplinary interchange, the group meets each night to discuss the day's findings, make preliminary interpretations and orient the following day's interviews (Hildebrand, 1979).
The integrated, multidisciplinary concept continues beyond the
survey. The agricultural technicians on the team help the technician from socioeconomics who is assigned to the team in the collection of farm record data and he, in turn, helps in the field trial work. Because this team lives and works in the zone, and because the work is almost exclusively on

farms, the technicians have a great deal of contact with the farmers in the area and continue to learn about their conditions both through dialogue with them and because they are planting under farm conditions. Hence, they are able to obtain a very good understanding of the agro-socioeconomic conditions of the farmers in the area.
This close association with the farmers has brought to light many interesting facts abcut traditional agriculture and the capability of traditional farmers to adopt new technology. One of the first characteristics encountered was the tremendous variability among areas. Even an area of relatively large and homogeneous farms on the south coast was found to vary sufficiently that the generation of technology for one agrarian reform project could not be transferred to other project areas on each side as had at first been Rroposedo Even more marked is the difference between technology in the tropical lowlands and that in the highlands as is illustrated by maize in Table 3.

10 \\ C'
Table 3 Some Measure of Technology Used in Three Maize Producing Areas
of Guatemala, 1978.
(Percent of area in maize)
Practice Tropical areas: Highlands Area:
La Ma uina Nueva Concepci6n San Carlos Sija
Plowing by: tractor 100 100 30
animal 0 0 21
Manual land preparation 0 0 49
Improved seed 85 78 1
Herbicide 0 17 0
First weeding: manual 70 67 100
tractor 44 0 0
animal 23 74 7
Manure 0 0 95
Chem fertilizer (first) 0 33 100
(second) 0 0 23
Insecticide ist 75 100 0
2nd 28 100 0
3rd 0 100 0
4th 0 71 0
5th 0 40 0
Cost of production 1/"
$/ha 153 193 340
Yield kg/ha 2,300 1,800 4,700
No. of cases 25 18 25
I/ All direct costs excluding interest on capital, administration and
land rent.
Source: Garcia, et al. (1979) and Gonz'lez, et al. (1979)
It is not surprising that such differences exist between areas, but
it was found that even for the same farmers in the same area, there is a
difference between subsistence and commercial aropso In the Highlands,
maize is the traditional food crop and wheat is a relatively new crop that
is raised. almost exclusively for sale. Farmers utilize a great deal of
modern technology on wheat but maintain traditional technology for maize.

Table 4 demonstrates this difference in technology for the same group of farmers in the valley of Quezaltenango in the Western Highlands.
Table 4 Differences in Technology for Maize and Wheat for the Same Group
of Farmers in the Western Highlands-of Guatemala, 1978.
(Percent of area in each crop)
Practice Wheat Maize
Plowing by: tractor 17 3
animal 16 27
Manual land preparation 67 70
Improved seed 84 2
Herbicide 92 0
Manure 0 24
Chemical fertilizer (first) 100 95
(second) 56 25
Insecticide 0 0
No. of cases 53 25
Source: Garcia, et al. (1979)
On these farms, the average size of plot for wheat is 0.55 ha and for maize is 0.38 ha. None of the farmers owns tractors, rather they hire their land plowed when tractors are used. On the other hand, the animals are largely owned by the family and not rented. The maize produced just covers the necessities of the family on the average farm, and the wheat is a cash crop with a subsidized and stable price. Once again, the difference in technology in the two crops is great, especially with respect to the use of improved varieties and herbicides.

In an agrarian reform project area on the south (Pacific) coast, that produces approximately 17,000 has of maize each year, evaluations of acceptability of technology by farmers have been conducted on maize for three years, and there are at the present time, four years of farm trials and farm record information. These data present an interesting relationship between the evaluation of acceptability of new technology following Farmers' Tests and the adoption of the technology by farmers in general. Table 5 shows the index of acceptability for the different components of the technology package and Table 6 the technology used over a four year period by record keeping farmers in this same area.
Table 5 Index of Acceptability of Technology for Maize Production, La
M~quina, Guatemala 1975 to 1977.
Technology Index of Acceptability-for Year: 1/
Component 1 9 7 6 .197'7 ... 1 9 78
Improved seed 41 61 71
Planting distance 13 28 60
Insect control (plant) 53 66 48
Herbicides 1 12 11
Fertilizer 0 4
Insect control (soil) 0 4
Land preparation 0
Planting date 50
Number of components 8 6 4
Average Index 19.8 29.2 47.6
I/ Percent of farmers using the component on their own the year following the test multiplied by the percent of their land on which they are using the component divided by 100. The year shown is the year
of the evaluation.
Source: Brol, et al. (1976), Ruano (1978) and Chinchilla and Hildebrand

Table 6 Technology Csad in Maize in La Maquina, Guatemala, 1975 to 1978.
(Percent of area in maize)
Technology 1975 1976 1977 1978
Improved seed 45 60 59 1/ 85
Insect control (plant) 57 74 78 103
Herbicides 1 0 0 0
Tractor cultivation NA 35 40 49
Fertilizer use 1 5 1 0
Insect control (soil) 0 2 0 0
Number of cases 20 49 46 25
Area in maize (has) 237 574 566 318
Average yield (kg/ha) 1,948 2,078 2,013 2,324
1/ Does not follow trend because seed imports from Nicaragua were stopped
due to an outbreak of coffee rust in that country.
Source: Brol, et al. (1975), Brol, et al. (1977), Guerra, et al. (1978)
and Gonzalez, et al. (1979).
Tables 5 and 6 illustrate some very important aspects of technology generation for traditional farmers. Table 5 clearly demonstrates that farmers are very selective of the technology components they choose. arly in the life of ICTA, the recommendation of a complete technological package was the methodology in use. Gradually the number of components was reduced and the index of acceptability increased accordingly. The increase in 1&e average index can be attributed to three factors. One is the reduction in the number of components. Second, as more was learned about the farmers, remaining components were modified to be more appropriate to their conditions. Third, ICTA's methodology improved so farmers were more aware of the technology being tested and were more involved in evaluation. That is, the method of conducting "Farmers' Tests" improved over this period of years.

insect control and the use of improved seed have always received a high acceptability index for maize in this area. The use of insecticides became more acceptable when powdered, and especially granulated insecticides were substituted fcr the liquid insecticides first recommended. Many farmers did not ivB spray equipment ar.d !ater is difficult for many to obtain close enough to the fields tc, be practical. Granulated insecticide is applied either with a bottle with a hole in the cap or using the fingers. Powdered insecticides are put an a cloth bag which is shaken over the plant. An analysis of the factors that have contributed to the increase in maize yields in this area indicates that 53% is due to improved varieties and 47% to the control of insects (Pelaez and Shiras, 1978).
Planting distance also received a high index of acceptability in 1978. Although this component does not appear as a practice in Table 6, it is also in wide use because more than half of the maize in this area is planted by machines, most of which are adjusted to the recommended distance, and much that is planted manually t:lso conforms to the recommendation.
The situation with respect to herbicides is an interesting case. The Technology Testing Team continues to feel that this component will be accepted as the technology improves and as labor for weeding becomes more scarce and expensive. However, up to the present time, farmers have preferred to increase mechanized cultivation instead of using herbicides. Herbicides can be less expensive than hand or mechanized weeding, but it is somewhat difficult to use and can be risky in varied climatic and soil conditions. Also, the farmers have the same problems as with liquid in-

secticides-- lack of equipment and a convenient supply of water. Therefore, because the income effects are not spectacular, tha d;her problems with its use as presently recommended tend to offset its positive effects in the eyes of these farmers.
It should be mentioned that fertilizer use is not recommended for
the soils of this area, Although there is some response, it is not economic and the farmers are right in not applying it. Control of insects in thc soil was a practice used early in the life of the Institute as a form of insurance against failure of T.rials and Farmers' Tests. However, it was obvious that the farmers were not going to adopt it so it was dropped from the package after the second year.
In summary, the generation of technology for traditional farmers requires a change on the part of the scientist and his methodology that is not necessary when working with larger, commercial farmers. The traditional farmer is subjected to many more influences than the commercial farmer ;Lnd many of the factors which influence him are little understood by the traditional scientist. The methodology developed by ICTA revolves around obtaining a full understanding of the agro-socioeconomic conditions which confront the traditional farmers in each area of work, This requires that the technicians learn to farm under the same conditions the farmers face and that the farmers become full partners in the evaluation of the technology proposed for them. The most efficient means of achieving this close contact between farmers and technicians is for muitidisciplinary teams to live and work in the same area as the faimers they are serving

Finally, it should be mentioned that the technology development.
system described here is not out of reach of developing countries. This is evident because it is a functioning program in Guatemala, financed largely by national funds and staffed principally by local technicians. What is required is a dedication on the part of the government to improve the lot of the small, traditional farmers in the country and on the part of the technicians who work in the field. The reward is seeing visible evidence that the farmers, who are the clients, are in fact, improving their productivity and increasing their incomes.

Brol, B.B,, O.A. Caldero~n a-nd P.E. Hildebrand. 1975. Registros econ6micos
de prcduccio'n con agricultores colaboradores del parcelamiento La M'aquina. ICTA, Guatemala.
Brol, B.B., O.A. Calder'n and P.E. Hildebrand. 1976. Evaluaci6n de la aceptaci6n de la tecnolog-ia generada por ICTA para el cultivo de mailz en
el parcelamiento de La M2"qrina, 1975. ICTA, Guatemala.
Brol, B.B., O.A. Calder-'J'n and P.E, Hildebrand. 1977. Registros econo'miclos
de producci'on de ma'1z con agr-L:ultores colaboradores, Parcelamiento
La M'aquina, 1976, ICTA, Guatemala.
Chinchilla, M.E. and P.E. Hildebrand. 1979. Evaiuaci~n de la aceptabill>Iad
de la tecnolog-a generada por el ICTA para los cultivos de malz y ajonjoll. en el Parcelami.ento La Ma.quina, 1977-78. ICTA, Guatemala.
Garcia, Miguel; Leonzo Godinez y M.E. Chinchilla. 1979. Registros econ&:iicos
de produccio'n, Quezaltenango y Totonicap~n, Regi6n I, 1978. ICTA, Guatema la.
Gonz'alez, P.A., Esa-i Guerra y J.C. Leal. 1979. Registros econ6micos de produccio'n en mal'z, ajonjoll' y arroz, La Blanca, La M~quina y la Nueva
Concepcion, 1978. ICTA, Guatemala.
Guerra, Esau~, P.A. Gonzalez, H.M. Orozco, J.G. Pel-aez and P.G. Shiras. 1978.
Registros econo'micos de produccio'n en maiz, ajonjoll y arroz, La Blanca, La Ma-uina y La Nueva Concepcion, 1977, ICTA, Guatemala.
Hildebrand, P.E. 1978, Motivating small farmers to accept change. Conference
on integrated crop and animal production to optimize resource utilization on small farms in developing countries. The Rockefeller Foundation Conference Center, Bellagia, Italy. ICTA, Guatemala.
Hildebrand, P.E. 1979. Summary of the sondeo methodology used by ICTA. IOTA,
ICTA. 1977. Un sistema tecnolo-gico agricola. In NOTICTA, Julio, 1977 No.26.
ICTA, Guatemala.
Pelaez Guillermo, Daniel Cardona y Leonel Ortilz. 1978. An'alisis agro-econ6'mico de las caracterlsticas de los sistemas de cultivos de ma~z, frijol y sorgo en Jutiapa, Guatemala. XXIV Reunion Anual del PCCMCA. San
Salvador, El Salvador.
Pelaez, J.G. and P.G. Shiras. 1978. An'alisis de los factores que inciden
en el rendimiento de malz en el parcelamiento La Maquina, Guatemala.
XXIV Reunion Anual del PCCMCA, San Salvador, El Salvador.
Ruano, Sergio. 1978. Evaluaci'on de laazeptabilidad de la tecnologia genera-#
da por el ICTA para el cultivo de malz en el Parcelainiento La Ma'quina,
1976-77. IOTA, Guatemala.