Title: Research highlights
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00071929/00007
 Material Information
Title: Research highlights
Uniform Title: Research highlights (East Lansing, Mich.)
Physical Description: v. : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Bean/Cowpea Collaborative Research Support Program
Publisher: Michigan State University Bean/Cowpea CRSP
Place of Publication: East Lansing
Publication Date: 1984-
Subject: Beans -- Research -- Periodicals -- Africa   ( lcsh )
Beans -- Research -- Periodicals -- Latin America   ( lcsh )
Cowpea -- Research -- Periodicals -- Africa   ( lcsh )
Cowpea -- Research -- Periodicals -- Latin America   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
periodical   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: Michigan State University Bean/Cowpea CRSP.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1, no. 1 (1984)-
General Note: Title from caption.
Funding: Electronic resources created as part of a prototype UF Institutional Repository and Faculty Papers project by the University of Florida.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00071929
Volume ID: VID00007
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 13864898

Full Text

Michigan State University Bean/Cowpea CRSP

Vol. 2 No. 2 1985

The Family and the Farm System:
Some Thoughts on Collaborative Research*
Nancy W. Axinn
Michigan State University

"Farming systems" has become a catch
phrase covering a great variety of systems,
programs and projects. Farming-systems
concepts, as they are developing through
study and application, are a useful way to
approach the issues affecting rural families
in the developing areas of the world. In the
farming system, the farm family is the critical
component. The decisions the people make
in that system shape the destiny of their sur-
vival, their livelihood, their enterprise. And,
in the developing world, the decisions made
by others outside their immediate system -
the local politicians, the national bureaucrats
and the international donors shape the al-
ternatives individual farm families can con-
sider in their decision making.
The major emphasis in agriculture has
been on the farm production role of men,
while women's and children's roles in farm-
ing systems have been ignored. We need to
acknowledge more clearly men's roles in the
family system as well as the roles of women
and children in farming systems. New data
come in daily on women's agricultural work.
Children's contributions to the family-farm
system in the developing world are now
sometimes being recognized as they partici-
pate by herding livestock, cutting grass for
forage and carrying wood and water. In-
creasingly, scholars recognize that in the de-
veloping world women's work usually in-
cludes agricultural production responsibil-
ities in addition to bearing children, nurtur-
ing the young and the old, preparing the
food and maintaining the clothing and shel-

ter for the family.
Hill (1981), Flora (1981), Elbert (1981) and
Murray (1981) have addressed research is-
sues focusing on women in US agriculture.
Many of their concerns are also appropriate
for understanding farm families in develop-
ing countries. In addition, Safilios-
Rothschild (1981) has given attention to the
characteristics of the issues for women in-
volved in agricultural production in the de-
veloping world.
The Peasant's Charter (Food and Agricul-
ture Organization, 1981), based on the Dec-
laration of Principles and Programme of Ac-
tion of the World Conference on Agrarian
Reform and Rural Development, made simi-
lar suggestions. Despite population growth
in urban areas, rural people of the world still
constitute the majority, including a large
proportion of very poor people, landless
and near landless. The Peasant's Charter rep-
resents a concern for equity for the majority
rather than wealth for a minority. Some of
the suggestions listed in the objectives for
research are relevant, since much of the re-
seach being done is on US university cam-
puses. These objectives (Food and Agricul-
ture Organization, 1981:20) challenge some
of our traditional land-grant college ap-
proaches in agriculture and home econom-
* Review existing priorities in research, ex-
tension and training in relation to rural de-
velopment and the alleviation of poverty
and re-orient those priorities toward the
adaptation and improvement of location-

*Originally printed in The Rural Sociologist Vol. 4, No. 4 (1984) pp.

**Formerly Women-in-Development Specialist, Bean/Cowpea CRSP,
Michigan State University. Currently Rural Life Associates Consultant.

Funded through USAID/BIFAD Grant No. AIDIDSAN-XII-G-0261

specific technology suitable for use by
small producers and cooperatives.
* Intensify research on special problems of
rainfed subsistence agriculture and shift-
ing cultivation as well as harvest and
post-harvest losses and storage.
* Coordinate and integrate economic and
technological research with related social
science research on an inter-disciplinary
basis, particularly on the socio-economic
implications of technological change.

Integration of Research Interests:
A CRSP Model
An example of a research effort guided by
these objectives, which are also reflected in
the objectives for research programs funded
by the US Agency for International De-
velopment (AID), is the Bean/Cowpea Col-
laborative Research Support Program
(CRSP). CRSP scientists are studying beans
and cowpeas in various areas of Africa and
Latin America where they are a traditional
food and the most common source of pro-
tein for poor families. Women are typically
involved in their production in most of the
thirteen countries where there are research
projects. And women are responsible for the
processing and utilization of beans and
cowpeas in all countries. Therefore, there is
an opportunity to learn how and where
these crops fit into the farm-family ecosys-
tem from many perspectives not only the
agronomic aspects of bean and cowpea
production and their relation to other crops
and to livestock, but also the human side of
production and marketing. We can follow
the food chain from seed storage to family
Scientists who are involved in the CRSP
program can build on what has already been
learned about women's involvement in ag-

ricultural practices in the countries in which
they are working, rather than assuming that
they are the same as currently followed in
the United States. Most US scientists, there-
fore, need to have some knowledge about
the sociocultural systems in which the crop
is produced, as well as the agricultural sys-
tems. Frequently, reliance is placed on the
collaborating scientists in the Host Countries
for this kind of information. These national
scientists are sometimes unknowing about
the actual agricultural practices in their own
countries. They may stay on the experiment
stations and know how it should be done
rather than visit in the farmers' fields and
homes to find out how it is being done. The
bean/cowpea research is planned to include
trials on the farmers' fields. It is planned to
include analyses of the farming systems in-
volved and women's roles in those systems.
The goal is to develop new varieties and new
practices that will impact positively on wo-
men's lives. Negative impact on women and
children has been too common with
technological change in recent historical ex-
This negative impact has been document-
ed. Dewey (1978), for example, noted that a
close relationship was observed between
reduced crop diversity and lowered nutri-
tional status in the areas she studied. The
Fleurets (1980) pointed out that irrigation,
mechanization and the introduction of fer-
tilizers and hybrid seeds lead to economies
of scale that lead simultaneously to inequit-
able land redistribution significantly affect-
ing the nutritional status of young children
(and their mothers). In food preparation and
nutrition, as well as in agriculture, scientists
trained in the United States sometimes re-
turn to their own country to recommend
imported foods the scientists learned to eat
in the US rather than adapting the principles

maize crop in East Africa.

of food preparation to the locally grown, in-
expensive foods of their own country. Our
CRSP research is focusing on traditional
food preparation with beans and cowpeas.
There are many reasons why research
stays on the research station instead of
being carried out on the farmers' fields.
There's no transport, the farmer isn't there
when the scientist gets there, the goats or
the wildebeest eat the bean trials because
they aren't fenced and so on. And, really,
most research scientists in whatever country
are much more comfortable on their own
stations where there's control and the exper-
iment will turn out like they know it should.
Similarly, involving women in the research
means finding them and interacting with
them; and there are all kinds of sociocul-
tural reasons why that may be difficult. If the
women are the farmers, it means working
with them around the other roles in their
lives, such as the responsibilities for bring-
ing water and wood, meal preparation and
mothering. To understand the impact of re-
search on these families, one has to know a
lot more than just plant genetics or en-
tomology. The agricultural production scien-
tist who has been "born again" and recog-
nizes the need to understand the family and
the farming system and, therefore, the con-
tributions that women and children make in
it is the strongest ally a program like the
CRSP can have.

Integration of Agricultural
and Family Concerns
The home economist, whose horizon has
expanded beyond her/his own area of
specialization to understanding women's
roles in agricultural production and the total
farm family's relationship to its ecological
niche, can make a substantial impact on that
farm system through specialized knowledge.

The actual integration of agronomic con-
cerns into the total family-farming-system
analysis is just now beginning to occur. How
do social scientists and biological scientists
develop methodologies that work for both
of them? That's the puzzle! A number of re-
search projects include an integrated ap-
proach to the problem being addressed.
Now the challenge is to keep them glued to-
gether in actual practice.
Sometimes the Principal Investigator in Af-
rica or Latin America is the integrating force
(the glue), as he (and, so far, it's always he in
CRSP projects in these countries) recognizes
the real-world factors usually sociocul-
tural in nature that impinge on agricul-
tural production. The CRSP has provided a
vehicle for scientists from the United States
to see how different the practices of food
production are elsewhere in the world and
how much women are involved in fact,
women frequently are central to food-
production activities. The CRSP researchers
include some biological scientists whose
whole training in the US has been on the as-
sumption that the farmer is male. We want
to help these scientists resist the fictitious
assumption that the rest of the world fits the
contemporary commercial US model and to
appreciate both the similarities and differ-
ences. The cornerstone of the Bean/Cowpea
CRSP is collaboration between USAID and
the universities, between US university sci-
entists and the scientists in the developing
countries, among a variety of disciplines
focusing on one problem, and collaboration
between men and women. We believe it is
an illustration that the whole can be greater
than the sum of its parts as we work to find
real ways to improve the lives of the families
in those countries, as well as improve the
quantity and quality of beans and cowpeas
that they eat.

:IL-UKL 4: Latin Amerncan families hired as migrant workers at
coffee nursery.

FIGURE 3: African family planting beans by spitting seeds as
they work the soil.

US land-grant colleges and universities
can provide the ambience for this integra-
tion. The "mission" orientation of the land-
grant system has been established from the
beginning. This mission in the 1980s is not
just the well-being of the local farm families
in your states, nor the well-being of the state
itself nor our combined interest in the
United States. The 1980 mission is the well-
being of our world population, now so in-
terdependently linked. Our land-grant re-

sources, successful in achieving earlier
goals, are equal to the task. The knowledge
base and the potential to build on each
specialization in agriculture and home eco-
nomics exists. The farming-systems focus,
evident in several universities, could be-
come an integrating force if it included
specialists with a family-ecosystem perspec-
tive. The challenge is to develop the proc-
esses whereby these resources can work to-


'The issues in transferring assumptions of farming-
systems research and the land-grant system to de-
veloping countries were reviewed by Flora (1981).

Dewey, Kathryn. 1978. "The Impact of Agricultural
Change on Diet and Nutrition in Tabasco,
Mexico." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting
of the American Anthropological Association, Los
Elbert, Sarah. 1981. "The Challenge of Research on
Farm Women." The Rural Sociologist 1:387-390.

Fleuret, Patrick, and Anne Fleuret. 1980. "Nutrition
Consumption and Agricultural Change." Human
Organization 39:250-260.

Flora, Cornelia Butler. 1981. "Farm Women, Farming
Systems, and Agricultural Structure: Suggestions
for Scholarship." The Rural Sociologist 1:383-386.

Food and Agriculture Organization. 1981. The Peasant's
Charter. Rome: United Nations, Food and Agricul-
ture Organization.
1983. "Farming-Systems Research and the Land-Grant
System: Transferring Assumptions Elsewhere."
The Rural Sociologist 3:220-228.

Hill, Frances. 1981. "Farm Women: Challenge to
Scholarship." The Rural Sociologist 1:370-382.
Murray, M. Eloise. 1981. "Factors Guiding Research on
Farm Women." The Rural Sociologist 1:391-393.

Safilios-Rothschild, Constantina. 1981. "The Role of
Women in Modernizing Agricultural Systems."
Washington (DC): US Agency for International
Development, Women in Development (mimeog-

For further information contact:
Bean/Cowpea CRSP
200 Center for International Programs
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan 48824-1035
Telephone: (517) 355-4693
Telex: 810-251-0737

An international community of persons, institutions,
agencies and governments committed to collectively
strengthening health and nutrition in developing
countries by improving the availability
and utilization of beans and cowpeas

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