Farming systems research/extension at the Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza

Material Information

Farming systems research/extension at the Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza
Alternate Title:
Farming systems research/extension at the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza
DeWalt, Billie R.
University of Arizona, Office of Arid Land Studies
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
The University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries respect the intellectual property rights of others and do not claim any copyright interest in this item. This item may be protected by copyright but is made available here under a claim of fair use (17 U.S.C. §107) for non-profit research and educational purposes. Users of this work have responsibility for determining copyright status prior to reusing, publishing or reproducing this item for purposes other than what is allowed by fair use or other copyright exemptions. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder. The Smathers Libraries would like to learn more about this item and invite individuals or organizations to contact Digital Services ( with any additional information they can provide.
Resource Identifier:
191047747 ( oclc )

Full Text

0/. 439



Billie R. DeWalt
Professor and Chair
Department of Anthropology
University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky 40506

Consultant report prepared as part of Cooperative Agreement 58-
319R-8-014, Identification of Results of Farming Systems Research
and Extension Activities, awarded to the University of Arizona,
Office of Arid Land Studies.


I. Introduction: Historical Summary and a New Strategic Plan


The Tropical Agricultural Research and Training Center (Centro Agronomico
Tropical de Investigaci6n y Ensefanza -- CATIE) was first established at
Turrialba, Costa Rica in 1973 as the result of an agreement between the-
Interamerican Institute of Agricultural Sciences (IICA) and the Government of
Costa Rica. The research station in Turrialba was originally established in
1942 by IICA and between 1960 and 1973, two predecessor organizations (CEI
from 1960-69 and CTEI from 1970 to 1973) carried out agricultural research
activities. CATIE was established as an autonomous scientific and educational
institution to engage in, promote, and stimulate research, human resource
development, and technical cooperation to search for alternative technologies
in the areas of agriculture, livestock and forests to respond to the needs of
the american tropics, especially those countries in the Central American
Isthmus and the Antilles. In addition to Costa Rica, Panama became a member
country in 1975, Nicaragua in 1978, Honduras and Guatemala in 1979, the
Dominican Republic in 1983, and El Salvador in 1987. While most.of the staff
is stationed in Turrialba, CATIE maintains scientific personnel and operations
in six of the member countries and plans to soon establish operations in El
Salvador. The Board of Directors of CATIE is composed of representatives from
each of the member countries, IICA, the Inter-American Board of Agriculture
(IABA), and three independent scientists.

Farming Systems Projects at CATIE:

CATIE's approach to the generation and transfer of new agricultural
technology has evolved substantially since its founding in 1973. Some of this
evolution can be traced to the various projects that have provided a
substantial part of its budget, some by the experience the center was
accumulating through its research, and some by the stimulation provided by the
methodological advances occurring in other international organizations and
national programs.

Although it is difficult to designate all of the various stages through
which CATIE's approach has gone, and even more difficult to determine the time
at which these changes occurred, some of those with the longest institutional
memory suggested the following as steps leading to the current perspective.
Some of the earliest work (after 1973) was done from a "cropping systems"
point of view. This grew out of the convictions of some of the researchers
that the international agricultural research centers were working mostly along
commodity-specific lines and were not looking at the mix of crops being used
by small farmers. This work was largely supported by the Regional Office for
Central America funded Small-Farmer Cropping Systems project (596-0064), that
operated between 1975 and 1979. This was strongly influenced by the work then
on-going at the International Rice Research Center.

When this project ended, it was replaced by the ROCAP funded Small Farmer
Production Systems (SFPS) project that was first authorized in 1979 and

eventually ended in September of 1985. This project included animals as a
part of the production systems and several people at CATIE now talk about this
approach as being a "mixed systems' (livestock/crops) perspective. At the
time, CATIE was organized into three departments -- Departamento de
Producci6n Vegetal (Crop Production), Departamento de Producci6n Animal
(Animal Production), and Departamento de Recursos Naturales (Natural
Resources). The cropping systems project was carried out almost exclusively
by the first of these. The "mixed systems" was centered in the Department of
Plant Production but some involvement of the animal production people did

Two other important projects funded by donors ran concurrently with the
SFPS project. The first of these was Production Systems in Specific
Ecological Zones, funded by the International Fund for Agricultural
Development (IFAD). This was funded at a level of a little less than $1
million per year and lasted from 1980 until 1985. The purpose of this project
was to support research and technology development for food crops for three
principal ecological zones of Central America -- the Lowland Humid Tropics,
the Semiarid Tropics and the Wet-Dry Tropics. Training for national personnel
was also included as well as technical assistance to national research and
teaching organizations. One aspect of this project involved the creation of
"prototype groups", researchers from different disciplines who worked together
as a team. These were established to demonstrate to the national governments
how such research and extension teams were to be organized.

The second project was funded by the European Economic Community and was
titled Models of Concentrated Action. Its purpose was to use a farming
systems perspective to develop alternative production systems for areas of
Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. It was funded in two stages and covered
the years 1982-1985.

During the 1980s, there were also several grants that brought about a
focus on "agroforestry systems'. Some work on alley cropping occurred in
connection with the Department of Crop Production, but most work was centered
in the Department of Natural Resources on trees for fuelwood, and trees with
multiple uses. Though this research was done from a systems perspective and
included substantial socioeconomic input, there does not seem to have been a
great deal of cooperation with the farming systems activities in other units.

Most of these research projects ended in the mid-1980s. Lack of fiscal
control and other problems led to a several' year period in which CATIE was
unable to attract significant new projects and CATIE is currently in the
process of reorganizing. It spent the years between 1984 and 1987 in a
comprehensive review of itself, but has come up with a ten year plan that maps
out new initiatives for the center. The ten year strategic development plan
and CATIE administrators are insistent that this reorganization is not to be
interpreted as a change of direction. CATIE is not abandoning the lessons
learned during previous projects but instead will concentrate on obtaining
funding for projects that are a direct extension and evolution from those
research programs previously implemented.

The Status of Farming Systems Research and Extension at CATIE

Farming systems research and extension is not a term that is commonly
used among the people at CATIE. Even the earlier projects reviewed above did
not use the terminology, instead they frequently referred to production
systems or simply "systems". There is some sensitivity among CATIE personnel
about whether or not they do "real farming systems" work. In part, some of
this is probably due to criticisms that have been made in previous evaluations
of their cropping and production systems projects. CATIE researchers defend
themselves by saying that the systems models they use developed out of the
institution's own particular circumstances and necessities.

CATIE researchers feel that the institution has been particularly good at
the diagnostic and technology development aspects of FSR/E and this has been
confirmed by evaluations of the program. A matter of concern with regard to
CATIE's work, however, is that it has focused much too heavily on the
collection of information rather than on analysis (Zimet et al 1986:25). To
be fair, CATIE has probably done a better job of analysis and dissemination of
data than national programs or some of the international agricultural research
centers. CATIE has experimented with characterizations of both small regions
as well as developing and using data bases to determine much larger regions
for which the same or similar agricultural technologies might be useful.
These characterizations and studies, however, are excessively based on crop
and natural environment interactions with little or no attention paid to the
sociocultural and economic aspects of systems.

CATIE has also been criticized because the institution supplied the
inputs for the validation trials on farmer's fields (Mann et al. 1981:36-7)
but researchers felt that this was the only way in which they could obtain
results and determine whether the new technologies worked. CATIE's mandate is
for all of Central America and, given the problems of working with farmers in
several different countries, the scientists wanted to be sure that they would
obtain research results. The organization has also been criticized for not
paying enough attention to extension. CATIE has produced a lot of reports and
pamphlets with new technologies, but most researchers admit that these were
never communicated very well to farmers and that there has been little actual
adoption of the new technologies (see also Zimet 1986:41). In part, CATIE
personnel say that the responsibility for dissemination of the results was up
to the extension services in each of the countries, but they admit that the
extension and technology transfer aspects of CATIE's work have been a problem.

Another problem with CATIE's farming systems efforts is that it has not
played a central role in establishing and maintaining a regional network of
researchers (an obvious model is the network that exists in Asia). The many
graduates trained at CATIE provide the basis for such a network, yet the
center has never been successful in establishing a regular means for these
individuals to communicate with one another and to establish region-wide
programs. Attempts were made several years ago to establish such a network,
but they did not go beyond sending out questionnaires asking who would be
interested in participating in such a group. The effort never progressed
beyond this.

Four other aspects of CATIE's involvement in farming systems work deserve
comment. The first of these is whether CATIE has collaborated effectively
with the agricultural research and extension systems within the Central
American countries. Investigators in CATIE and the Agricultural Science and
Technology Institute (Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnologia
Agricolas -- ICTA) in Guatemala commented on the poor relations that existed
between these two organizations. In part, this resulted from "ICTA's position
... that there was no reason to seek crop or farming systems research
assistance from CATIE when they had their own research methodology* (Zimet et
al. 1986:15). Some of these difficulties probably stemmed from ICTA's history
of being established with technical assistants funded by Rockefeller and USAID
who were incorporated within the organizational structure of the institute
(see Ruano and Fumagalli 1988). The professionalism and pride engendered
within ICTA because of this experience made it difficult for researchers to
collaborate effectively with CATIE personnel who remained outside of the
structure of ICTA and who were providing unwanted "technical assistance." The
resident CATIE scientist in Guatemala acknowledges the initial conflicts that
occurred but reported that the situation improved once scientists worked out
matters of disagreement (Kass 1983). What this example illustrates, however,
are the problems that can arise when an institution like CATIE, with a
regional mandate, has to work with national institutions, all of which have
different historical origins and capabilities.

A second problem is that questions were raised in the third evaluation of
the SFPS about whether CATIE did a very good job of networking with other
institutions that were doing FSR/E (Zimet 1986:126). Some researchers at
CATIE bristled at this, saying that the original development of their work was
influenced by the work of IRRI, that people like Hubert Zandstra had helped
them in the early stages, and that they had almost constant contact with
people from CIMMYT, CIAT, CIP and other institutions, and that they had lots
of contact with FSR leaders like Hildebrand, Collinson, and Norman. Other
CATIE researchers admitted that there probably has been a lack of networking
in recent years, partially because of insufficient funds for international

The third aspect deserving comment is that socioeconomic input has been
lacking in many projects at CATIE (Zimet et al. 1986:59). One researcher
commented that this was because the importance of socioeconomics was just
beginning to be recognized in FSR/E about the time that CATIE's projects were
ending. More realistically, this was probably due to other causes because the
importance of socioeconomics in FSR/E was recognized at least as early as the
beginning of the SFPS.

Finally, the systems research carried out by CATIE has not been firmly
entrenched as a part of the educational functions of the institution. Part of
this derives from the fact that in the projects that were funded by the
Regional Office for Central America and Panama (ROCAP), researchers were not
permitted to teach or could only minimally participate in the teaching
program. Thus, many of the individuals with the strongest commitment to
farming systems research and extension were not able to transmit their
knowledge and experience to the researchers in training. In addition, because
most of the CATIE budget came from projects, rather than from core funding,

professionals came and vent as the project support ebbed and flowed. This
made for a lack of continuity in the staff of the Center.

These past problems and difficulties are aspects that CATIE personnel are
attempting to deal with in the reorganization of the institution.

The Ten Year Strategic Plan and the Central Role of FSR/E within It

The document, Facing the Challenge: CATIE's Programs, Objectives and
Strategies (CATIE 1987), outlines a ten year strategic development plan (1988-
97) for the institution. The plan attempts to build on the past experiences
of the institution to effect a reorganization that will help to transform the
institute to better fulfill its mandate. CATIE is a development-oriented
research and education institution working toward increasing and sustaining
agricultural productivity and development in conjunction with national

The team developing the strategic development plan was conscious of the
previous lack of coordination among the different departments within CATIE.
To better achieve its purposes, CATIE is being reorganized into three research
and development programs that are to be interactive with one another.
Priority is to be accorded to increasing the interchange and communication
among these programs. To quote: "The three programs do not operate
independently from each other. In order to achieve the institutional
objectives and goals they need to be integrated' (CATIE 1987:56).

The first program is for Tropical Crops Improvement. This program will
be devoted to a) improving coffee, cacao and plantain production through
obtaining more productive and disease resistant genetic material, b)
collecting, maintaining, evaluating and distributing promising tropical plant
genetic resources, and c) technology development through researching critical
components limiting production of coffee, cacao, plantain and non-traditional,
promising tropical crops.

The second program will now be called Sustainable Agricultural Production
and Development. This program is oriented to:

a) technology development through emphasizing research on critical
components limiting production of annual food crops (rice, corn,
beans and sorghum), livestock (meat and dairy bovine cattle), and
forestry, b) development of improved economic and sustainable
production systems aimed at an integrated regional development, and
c) development of improved methods for agro-technology transfer and
utilization of new technologies by farmers (CATIE 1987:2).

The third program is Integrated Natural Resources Management. This
program will be oriented toward:

a) providing general biophysical and socioeconomic information aimed
at integrated regional resources management, b) conducting
appropriate planning of regional natural resources utilization as a
basis for the development of sustainable production systems, c)

providing information and assistance on conservation of regional
natural resources (soil, water, natural forests, biological
diversity), and d) conducting research on resources management
(CATIE 1987:2).

A key component of the Sustainable Agricultural Production and
Development program will be a unit known as Production Systems Development.
This unit will have responsibility for integrating technology developed by the
three programs into technological packages that should be transferred to
farmers (CATIE 1987:56). The interrelationships among the three programs are
shown in Figure 1. In addition, the Production Systems Development-unit is
supposed to work in a complementary way with National Agricultural Research
Systems (NARS) and with International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs) to
assemble these improved production systems.

The technology transfer aspect will be handled through the development of
pilot areas in each of the Central American countries, Panama and the
Dominican Republic. Joint and complementary efforts with national
agricultural research and extension systems in these pilot areas will validate
and refine the technologies. The'NARS will then be responsible for
transferring these technologies to other appropriate areas. To further
facilitate communication and cooperation, CATIE has created a network to be
known as the Regional Agricultural Research and Extension System (RARES). The
RARES will be composed of representatives from international, regional and
national research organizations, from universities and other educational
institutions, and from development organizations and projects. Though CATIE
will play an important role in the organization of this system and expects
that, within it, "... each participating institution would play a carefully
planned, active and complementary role" (CATIE 1987: 2), it is not yet clear
how this organization will be organized and managed.

The other major component of CATIE activities is educational programs.
The Master's degree training programs and the continuing education programs
have long been seen as one of the most positive aspects of CATIE's efforts.
About a thousand MS graduates from Latin America have been trained at CATIE
and the center reports receiving between 250 and 300 admissions applications
for its programs each year. About one-third qualify for admission but the
lack of scholarship support allows a much smaller number to enroll. From 1973
to 1983, an average of 27 students were enrolled. Enrollment has been
increasing and in 1987 there were 59 students enrolled. CATIE promotes
exchange and cooperation through the Region'l Cooperative Network for
Education in Agriculture and Renewable Natural Resources with more than 35
institutions of higher education in member countries.

Graduate training is provided in the areas of Animal Production (Animal
Breeding, Ruminant Nutrition, Animal Production Systems), Plant Production
(Integrated Pest Management, Plant Breeding, Tropical Soils, Agricultural
Production Systems), and Renewable Natural Resources (Wildlife Areas,
Watershed Management, Silviculture, Economics and Management of Renewable
Natural Resources, Agroforestry). Although systems research has been
emphasized for a long time, graduate students can be trained at CATIE without
ever taking a course in systems. My conversations with CATIE administrators

and staff found that some of them were strongly supportive of making the
systems perspective the central organizing theme of CATIE's educational
programs. Others said that because the research programs were being organized
along these lines, the educational program would automatically take such a
form. I did not have time to talk with staff in programs like breeding,
soils, nutrition, and others but I believe this commitment and belief would be
lacking in those areas. A much stronger effort to include the systems
perspective -- whether in the guise of the agroecosystems perspective
developed at CATIE or as farming systems research and extension -- must be
made if it is to effectively transmitted to future generations of agricultural
and natural resource researchers.

Another major effort in the new ten year plan is to obtain funding that
enable the center to have greater financial and institutional stability. Most
of CATIE's budget (78.7%) has come from special projects with only a small
part (21.3%) as core funding. This has meant that CATIE has had to shift its
emphases and programs subject to the whims and fashions of the donors who
provided project support. A core philosophy, continuity of staff, and
accumulation of experience and capabilities has been difficult to build with
such a budgetary situation.

The ten year strategic development plan has a sound basis in programs and
projects carried out during CATIE's history. It seeks to build on the past,
to learn from the mistakes that were made, and to move CATIE into an even
greater position as a regional technology development center. In order to
accomplish this, I believe that CATIE needs to pay special attention to the
following areas of concern.

II. Conclusions and Recommendations

1. CATIE has been an important educational resource for Latin America. The
educational contributions of CATIE should be recognized and extended. An
already extensive network of researchers have been trained at the institution.
By strengthening the educational programs at CATIE, international donors could
build upon this network to encourage greater international cooperation in
agricultural research and development efforts.

2. The core budget of the institution should be expanded to reflect
recognition of CATIE's strength as an educational institution and its need for
organizational stability and continuity. Because of the economic crisis
affecting Latin American countries, funds to improve the quality of CATIE will
probably have to come first from the international donor community.
Arrangements should be made, however, to have member communities contribute
funds to match those of the donors. This match can gradually escalate so that
at some point the member countries would become more responsible for the
continued maintenance of the center.

The project nature of CATIE's funding has meant that many personnel
formerly employed have moved on to other projects and institutions. Although
these individuals are undoubtedly spreading some of the ideas that they
learned in these other contexts, the loss of experienced personnel is a
problem for the continuity of research and education at CATIE.

3. Research and teaching functions at CATIE should be complementary
activities and ways should be sought to improve the feedbacks between research
and teaching. Research and teaching have not been strongly linked at CATIE
since the ROCAP projects that did not allow project staff to be strongly
involved in teaching. There should be more regular opportunities for CATIE
researchers and instructors to fulfill both roles. Graduate students are
involved in research projects at Turrialba but there is a need to integrate
these students' research with their eventual responsibilities in their home
countries. The program to establish pilot areas in various regions should
involve graduate students by having them do thesis or practicum research
projects in these regions after they finish their course work in Turrialba.
These projects could be supervised by CATIE staff stationed in member

4. Training in farming systems research and extension should be incorporated
at the center of the graduate training curriculum. The center has made a
commitment to a systems approach to the generation, testing and dissemination
of technology. For example, the ten year plan states that a major strategic
element in CATIE's reorganization is:

A need to maximize the use of a systems approach to agricultural
growth and development. Emphasis would be given to research on the
critical components of farm production systems and their integration
into highly productive technological packages, to the use of a
regional perspective for an integrated management of the resources
and the development of improved systems, and to the establishment of
links with other institutions in order to integrate the perspectives
of planning, research, education, and development (CATIE 1987:6).

Administrators were adamant that the multidisciplinary perspective had to be
extended from just the project level (as had occurred in the ROCAP projects)
to the whole institution. This same commitment to the systems approach should
be recognized within the academic curriculum so that the individuals trained
at CATIE can apply the same approach upon returning to their home

Organizing the teaching program around a systems component would also
help to better integrate the three research and development programs.
Researchers and instructors in these programs who are not already committed to
the systems perspective could be exposed to these ideas through their

5. CATIE must strengthen its staff capabilities in socioeconomics. Previous
evaluations have emphasized the lack of attention to socioeconomic factors in
characterization of areas, choice of target groups for technology transfer,
and evaluation of prospective farmer participants in validation trials. In
addition, survey instruments have been criticized as too long and analysis as
too cumbersome and time-consuming (Zimet 1986:59). CATIE administrators and
program directors are conscious of the importance of socioeconomics. For
example, it is stated that "... the planning component provides a product
composed basically of socioeconomic information and diagnostic studies

necessary to formulate specific research and educational plans to be execute
in a given country" (CATIE 1988:7). Further, "... in the process of
establishment of the pilot areas, CATIE along with the institutions involve
will participate in a monitoring and on-going evaluation system" (CATIE
1988:14). Despite the commitment to the need for socioeconomic research,
administrators express doubt about how to recruit appropriate social
scientists. Existing contacts with international centers in which there art
successful socioeconomics programs (e.g. CIMMYT, CIP) should be mobilized tc
identify qualifications and capabilities needed by anthropologists,
economists, or other social scientists. The Production Systems Development
area is an especially important area for social science input.

The socioeconomics area is particularly important for two reasons.
SFirst, biological agricultural scientists generally do not appreciate the
important role that socioeconomists can play in the technology generation anc
diffusion process. Second, agricultural research and extension programs in
the country programs are unlikely to have any capability in socioeconomics.
The demonstration effect that such a program could have were it effectively
integrated into CATIE has great potential.

6. CATIE should establish a regional network for enhancing communication
among those operating with a systems perspective. This group would link
graduates of CATIE's programs along with other individuals who are doing work
on agricultural and natural resource systems in the region. These networks
will become increasingly important if the pilot areas programs develop
technological packages that are effective. Network participants could use
these areas as sources of ideas and technologies for diffusion to wider areas
within countries or in other countries.

The regional network is also important because CATIE has had previous
success in spreading the idea of systems research to the other countries.
Guatemala currently has the Proyecto de Generaci6n y Transferencia de
Tecnologia Agropecuaria y Producci6n de Semillas (Project to Generate
Agricultural and Animal Technology and Production of Seeds) that is attempting
to link research and extension. Costa Rica has a similar program called
Program de Incremento de la Productividad Agricola (Program to Increase
Agricultural Productivity). Both of these projects are funded through the
Interamerican Development Bank and use a systems perspective. USAID people in
Costa Rica reported that, although farming systems research and extension was
not a label that was used in any of their projects, many of the ideas and
methods of FSR/E had been incorporated ih them.

The comments in this brief report are based on two days in Costa Rica. One
day was spent talking with USAID and ROCAP personnel in San Jose. The second
was spent talking with CATIE personnel in Turrialba.




|** ... .. + . . .








Bill Baucom, Agricultural Development Officer, USAID

Jaime Correa, Rural Development Office, USAID

Frank Zadroga, Regional Specialist for Natural Resources and Environment in

Harry Peacock, Project Advisor for USAID Northern Zone Project

Carlos F. Burgos, Head of the Annual Food Crops, CATIE

Oscar Fonseca, Subdirector General, CATIE

Romeo Solano, Head of the Production Systems Development, CATIE

Donald L. Kass, Soil Physics, CATIE


Byrnes, Kerry
n.d. Small Farmer Production Systems (596-0083). Draft report for

1986 Final Report, 1980-85, IFAD TA A-D Grant. CATIE: Turrialba.

1987 Facing the Challenge: CATIE's Programs, Objectives, and Strategies.
CATIE: Turrialba.

1988 Implementing the Research: Education Development Strategy. CATIE:

Hobbs, Huntington, Roberto Martinez Noguiera, Luis Marcano C. and Jorge
1988 Fortalecimiento del Sistema de Investigaci6n Agropecuaria y
Transferencia de Tecnologia. International Service for National Agricultural
Research: The Hague.

Hobgood, Harlan, Rufo Bazan, Rollo Ehrich, Francisco Escobar, Twig Johnson,
and Marc Lindenberg
1980 Central America: Small Farmer Cropping Systems. Project IMpact
Evaluation #14. USAID: Washington.

Kass, Donald L. (resident scientist in Guatemala)
1983 Final Report, Small Farmer Cropping System Project June 1, 1978 -
March 31, 1979 and Small Farmers Farming System Project March 31, 1979 Dec.
31, 1981. Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigaci6n y Ensenanzan Turrialba,
Costa Rica.

Mann, Fred L., Donald Esslinger, Albert Hagan, and Harry Minor
1981 Central America -- Evaluation of Projects: Small Farm Production
Systems (SFPS) and Agricultural Research and Information System (PIADIC).
USAID: Washington.

Ruano, S. and A. Fumagalli.
1988 Guatemala: Organizaci6n y manejo de la investigaci6n en finca en el
Institute de Ciencia y Technologia Agricolas (ICTA). Special series on the
organization and management of on-farm client-oriented research (OFCOR).
ISNAR. The Hague, Netherlands.

Zimet, David, Joseph Conrad, Edwin C. French III, and Federico Poey
1986 Evaluation Report on CATIE Small Farm Production Systems (596-0083).
USAID: Washington.