Through farmers' eyes

Material Information

Through farmers' eyes results from Nepal's cropping systems research program are raising the productivity of some of the world's smallest landholdings
Integrated Cereals Project (Nepal)
Place of Publication:
Kathmandu Nepal
Integrated Cereals Project, Dept. of Agriculture
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
29 p. : ill. ; 28 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural extension work -- Nepal ( lcsh )
Cropping systems -- Nepal ( lcsh )
Farms, Small -- Nepal ( lcsh )
Grain -- Nepal ( lcsh )
Cropping systems ( jstor )
Farmers ( jstor )
Crops ( jstor )
federal government publication ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:


General Note:
Cover title.
General Note:
"HMG/IADS/ICP contract, Integrated Cereals Project, AID project no. 367-0014"--P. 4 of cover.

Record Information

Source Institution:
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:
13591943 ( OCLC )


This item has the following downloads:

Full Text

~t,w -V~


Results from Nepal's cropping systems research program are raising
the productivity of some of the world's smallest landholdings

"It is time that we call upon the scientist,
argriculturists, and technologists to opera-
tionalize their talents, their capabilities, their
skills so that they can be helpful to the
masses of Nepal, so that they can be helpful
to the farmers of Nepal. I also call upon
other sectors to realize that, if they are to
seriously participate in national develop-
ment, they will have to work with the
agricultural sector, because the agricultural
sector will have to be accepted as a "lead"
sector for some time to come."-Mohan
Man Sainju

ost farmers in Pumdi Bhumdi, a
mountain village in western Nepal, are
glad when their maize yields 3000
kilograms a hectare. But recently
several dozen farmers took part in a pilot
maize production program and achieved
average yields of 6000 kilograms a hectare.
This remarkable increase resulted from the ap-
plication of an innovative scientific approach
called cropping systems research.
To launch the production program, a
government agronomist helped the Pumdi
Bhumdi farmers organize production blocks-
groups of adjoining fields that would be
managed identically. After the pre-monsoon
rains soaked the terraced fields, they plowed in
their usual way and sowed Khumal Yellow, a
new maize variety. In addition to their
customary practice of dumping a few baskets
of compost on each field, they broadcast some
chemical fertilizer. They followed the
agronomist's advice on guarding against
destructive insects and on hoeing out weeds
periodically during the growing season. None
of these practices were unknown to the
farmers. But putting them all together along
with an improved variety-one that richly
rewards good management-was a technolog-
ical leap for most farmers and led to the
startling results.

The small farmer
For the typical villager, call him Kancha, and
his family, an important consideration in
agreeing to take part in the production pro-
gram is that the cropping pattern (12-month
sequence of crops) in the fields devoted to the
program would remain unchanged. Researchers
of the Department of Agriculture classify
those fields as "upland, high production
potential. Kancha's family tills a little under
a hectare of land, and, of that, the "upland,
high production potential" land constitutes
less than 10 percent.
The best land is intensively cultivated. The
family members sow maize, the main crop, in
March. In July, a month before the maize is
harvested, they transplant finger-millet seed-
lings among the maize plants. The gain of
several weeks by "relaying" the millet crop
into the maize crop permits Kancha's family to
harvest the millet in early November, leaving a
few days for them to plow the land and sow
wheat. The wheat crop is then harvested in

March, just in time to plant the maize crop
once again.
Because of the tight scheduling imposed by
this cropping pattern, Kancha's decision to try
new techniques hinged on more than just the
hope of higher maize yields. He had to assess,
in addition, the effect that adopting the
recommended variety and management prac-
tices might have on the crops that follow
maize in the cropping pattern.
Furthermore, Kancha's concern was not
limited to that individual cropping pattern.
The family's land is in six scattered pieces and

Maize and rice growing
in adjoining fields (fac-
ing page) and soybeans
and rice (below) are the
outcome of complex
choices the farmer
makes about his crops,
soils, labor availability,
and risk.

The planting period is
short and draft power
is scarce: a farmer sows
maize behind the plow,
without additional
tillage, to save time.

on them five distinct cropping patterns (see
sidebar "Farming systems terminology") are

0.06 ha. maize/millet-wheat
0.07 ha. maize/millet-fallow
0.11 ha. rice-wheat-maize
0.13 ha. rice-wheat-fallow
0.23 ha. rice-fallow-fallow
0.20 ha. rice-fallow-fallow
Harvest, land preparation, and planting-
the periods of intense field work-tend to fall
at different times in these cropping patterns. If
new methods would force the peak labor
period for one pattern to shift, it might con-
flict with the family's ability to furnish suffi-
cient labor at critical times in other patterns,
with potentially disastrous effects on their
precarious food supply. Thus Kancha's crop-
ping system-the cropping patterns taken
together-staggers and spreads the periods of
heaviest labor needs.
The full range of farming activities-
Kancha's farming system-embraces more than
just crops. A water buffalo and its calf,
several goats, and a few chickens are vital
sources of cash income and occasionally
enliven the family diet with meat and dairy

products. Bullocks provide draft power. The
dung produced by the animals, mixed with
crop residues, leaves, and other vegetative mat-
ter becomes compost, which is the family's
chief means of maintaining the fertility of
their fields. The livestock have to be tended
daily: Gathering forage, watering the animals,
collecting dung, and other husbandry activities
occupy three fourths of the family's farming
The ability of the new maize variety,
Khumal Yellow, to fit this delicately balanced
farming system is not accidental. Khumal
Yellow is one of a number of maize varieties
that cropping systems researchers tested in
Pumdi Bhumdi as part of several cropping
patterns including maize/millet-wheat. These
on-farm trials showed that Khumal Yellow
could substitute for the local variety and that,
in combination with some improved produc-
tion practices, it could give farmers like
Kancha exceptional returns.

A research chain
The maize varieties in the tests at Pumdi
Bhumdi had been developed at the national
maize station at Rampur. Cropping systems

researchers draw on the national research pro-
grams in maize, rice, wheat, and other crops
for new varieties and new techniques to test at
Pumdi Bhumdi and other cropping systems
research sites throughout the Kingdom. Thus
the arrival of Khumal Yellow in Kancha's field
is the culmination of a chain of experimenta-
tion and adaptive testing designed to mesh
new technology with the exacting requirements
of the cropping systems used by small farmers.
The elaborate agrarian tapestry that is
Nepalese agriculture presents a stern challenge
to researchers' skills. The scientist's ideas and
inventions may be successful in isolation, but
they have little value if they do not fit the
prevailing farming systems. The farmer's
methods on the other hand may be ancient or
seem overcautious, but they are the product of
a reckoning that integrates all the resources,
risks, and requirements that exist within the
farmer's span of vision. And they work-they
have kept the farm family alive from one
generation to the next.

Porters carrying wheat seed to a remote mountain

That is not to say that it is futile for scien-
tists to attempt to help farmers-far from it.
Scientists can draw on a vast array of
materials and a body of knowledge that are
not within the village farmer's grasp. More-
over, the scientist has skills in finding ways to
combine new techniques and materials for
maximum effect. The key is to view the world
through farmers' eyes in order to spot im-
provements that will fit farmers' systems. That
is the crux of cropping systems research.

Learning from farmers

Cropping systems research is a means of find-
ing out what farmers do and why they do it,
and systematically applying that knowledge to
test solutions to farmers' problems. In Nepal
it is not uncommon for two fields lying side
by side to be cropped quite differently, one
with a high-value crop intensively managed
and the other with a minor crop haphazardly
managed. The fields may be similar in
topography, drainage, and soil quality. Their
owners may be equally industrious. The ex-
planation for the differences may lie far from
the fields themselves, in decisions their owners
have to make about managing other fields,
about allocating family labor, about borrowing
draft animals, about risk, and so forth.
Cropping systems researchers take know-
ledge about farmers and their practices and
put it to work in testing improved varieties,
seeding rates, fertilizer application methods,
and other ideas in farmers' fields and
prevalent cropping patterns. Technological
ideas that pay off with little disruption of ex-
isting systems are most likely to be rapidly
adopted and to have a far-reaching impact on
Thus cropping systems research is the mid-
dle ground between experiment station
research and production campaigns. Cropping
systems research filters and refines the broader
research conducted under controlled experi-
ment station conditions. Cropping systems
trials test not only the technological worth of
new ideas, but also their compatability with
the economic and social circumstances of
Experiment station research, cropping sys-
tems research, and production programs are
interdependent parts of the productive
agricultural research and development system

"Food problems are sensitive both from
political and social points of view. In remote
hill areas of the country, direct government
involvement may be needed for both poli-
tical and social reasons. At the same time,
the government is often faced with inher-
ently contradicting interests of providing
higher prices to the farmers while at the
same time maintaining the supply of food
grain at lower prices to consumers."-B.B.
Khadka and J.C. Gautam

that Nepal is building. Experiment stations
test enormous numbers of varieties, ex-
perimental lines, inputs, and techniques under
carefully controlled conditions where even
small, but significant, differences can be
detected. Outstanding varieties and methods
pass into cropping systems trials where their
suitability for various cropping patterns is
assessed. Information on the strengths and
weaknesses of the technology flows back to
the experiment stations, while recommenda-
tions for improved technology are conveyed to
production programs.
Among the countries that are employing the
cropping systems approach to hasten the crea-
tion of readily adoptable new technology,
Nepal is in the vanguard. In the Hill region in
particular, the differences from one area to the
next in physical, biological, and socio-
economic conditions make the cropping sys-
tem approach especially appropriate. A policy
statement developed for the accelerated food
production campaign under Nepal's current
5-year plan calls for changes to "make agricul-
tural research practical . ., give priority to
farmers' problems, conduct agricultural re-
search according to geographical conditions
and meteorological variations .. ., and make
agricultural research farm extension
oriented.... "
The planners' desire for a more pragmatic
and productive agricultural research system is
not idle philosophizing. In Nepal, a country
blessed with great beauty and abundant water
resources, a large proportion of the population
is chronically short of food.

Food shortages
Paradoxically, despite undernutrition in many
districts, Nepal has been a grain exporter in
some years. The explanation traces to the
three major ecological zones into which the
country is divided.
The majority of the 16 million Nepalis live
in the Hill region, the Himalayan "foothills"
ranging from 300 to 3000 meters in elevation.
The arable land of the Hills is cultivated as
intensively as any land on earth.
Less than half of the population live in the
Terai, the steamy plains bordering India, which
are dissected by tributaries of the great Ganges
river. Until after World War II, the jungle-
covered Terai was more hospitable to tigers
and rhinoceros than to man. As malaria was
suppressed, settlers started to chop back the
jungle in order to cultivate the region's alluvial
soils. Now the Terai harvests about two-thirds
of the Kingdom's cereals.
The Mountain region ranges in elevation
from 3000 meters to 8800 meters (the peak of
Sagarmatha, or Mt. Everest) and is lightly
populated. Perpetual snow covers much of it.
Herding is the chief agricultural activity.
In the Hills, the rugged terrain hinders the
movement of food and other commodities.
The first road linking the capital, Kathmandu,
to the Terai and the outside world opened in
1952. As recently as 1976, only 15 of the 55
districts in the Hills could be reached by road.
Where the roads end, goods are shifted to
the backs of porters. Trains of porters, each
man bearing 60- or 70-kilogram loads, trek for
days or weeks to bring goods to remote vil-
lages. So universal is trekking that distances
are commonly measured in days of walking
rather than in kilometers.
The high cost and sheer difficulty of trans-
porting bulky products keep food supplies
from moving freely from the surplus-produc-
ing area, the Terai, to the deficit area, the
Hills. Equally important, the Hill region is
more impoverished than the Terai. Thus even
though the road network is growing, the flow
of food supplies is unlikely to enlarge greatly
unless the people of the Hills can expand their
purchasing capacity.
In the past, the Terai produced a surplus of
about 300,000 tons of grain a year, while the
Hill region had a deficit of 100,000 tons a
year. Government agencies purchased about

Farmers and researchers
visit a variety trial at a
high-elevation site.

"The development and dissemination of
yield-increasing agricultural technology are
often regarded as the key mechanisms in
boosting agricultural output. The successful
utilization of such technology depends on a
strong programme of adaptive research and
a comprehensive extension programme de-
signed to diffuse this technology which
must, to begin with, be appropriate and
suitable for adoption by the farmer. Re-
search into what constitutes appropriate
technology is, therefore, of vital importance.
Agricultural research must be problem-
oriented and research results must be tested
under farmers' conditions."-T.N. Pant and
G.B. Thapa

t .

The fields are small,
but the harvest is good.

40,000 tons of grain annually to sell at subsi-
dized prices in the Hills. In 1982, a poor year,
government food distribution in the Hills ex-
ceeded 100,000 tons. Less than 10 of the 55
Hill districts had a surplus.
Population growth is straining the capacity
of the Hills. The slopes are being deforested
as people gather wood for fuel, fodder for
livestock, and vegetative matter for compost.
Erosion is causing landslides and floods.
Agricultural productivity has been declining
for more than a decade. In the 1970's, accord-
ing to an analysis by B.B. Khadka and J.C.
Gautam, cereal production in the Hills rose by
1.27 percent per year, but the area planted ex-
panded by 1.66 percent, implying that yields
fell 0.5 percent per year. For maize, the most
important crop in the Hills, the situation is
worse-output has dropped even though the
area planted to maize has expanded. Now the
consumption of staple foodstuffs by an
average person in the Hills is nine tenths that
of his countrymen in the Terai.

Changing food policy

In government councils, the food crisis com-
mands increasing attention. Government ex-
penditures on agriculture quadrupled (in real
terms) during the 1970's. Planned expenditures
on agriculture will double during the first half
of the 1980's. Agriculture in the Hills however
is only beginning to get the emphasis its im-
portance warrants.
From the 1960's through the early 1970's,
public expenditures were focused on the Terai,
which was seen to have a greater development
potential. Programs involving subsidized in-
puts, the development of agricultural institu-
tions, and irrigation hardly affected the Hills,
and extension work was minimal.
In the Fifth Five-Year Plan (ending 1980),
attention turned to the agricultural develop-
ment of the entire country, and, in the Sixth
Five-Year Plan, the stress is on food produc-
tion in the Hills. The changed priorities come
none too soon. Economists project that within
a generation the grain deficit of the Hills will
be 1.5 million tons a year, barring a radical
change in agricultural productivity trends. The
maturation of Nepal's cropping systems
research program gives hope that a significant
and sustainable rise in agricultural output can
be achieved.

A little compost is the
only means most
farmers have for renew-
ing soil fertility.

S. *''

Food stocks are kept close at hand.

Sinuous terraces and a multiplicity
of crops reveal the intensity of
Nepalese farming.



The cropping systems approach
The cropping systems project of Nepal's
Department of Agriculture has two broad ob-
jectives: to improve the technology (varieties
and methods) that farmers use in their crop-
ping systems, and to help spread proven tech-
nology rapidly.
One way farmers can produce more is by
realizing higher yields from crops they already
grow. Consequently, the cropping systems proj-
ect tests new varieties and methods within ex-
isting patterns. Another way is to grow more
crops each season. Thus researchers are seek-
ing practical ways to insert an additional crop
in existing cropping patterns.
Cropping systems researchers in Nepal pay
attention to all economic activities of farmers
including animal husbandry, and they are
directly concerned with the role of compost
and the importance of feed supplies in influen-
cing the choices farmers make about their
cropping systems. The program might be called
farming systems research except that so far no
specific research on farm animals has been

Representative research sites
Cropping systems research in Nepal is done at
six primary locations. The sites were chosen to
be representative of major agro-ecological
situations of the Kingdom, so that ideas
proven successful would have the widest possi-
ble applicability. Four sites are in the Hill
region, one is in the Terai, and one is in the
Inner Terai, a vast, flat valley separated from
the Terai by a range of hills. The sites differ
in length of rainy season (from 2 to 6
months), type of soil (three major soil groups
are involved), and size of farm (the site aver-
ages range from 0.5 ha. to 1.1 ha.). Farmers at
all sites grow rainfed lowland rice. But at
some sites, farmers also grow rice with irriga-
tion, and at one site some upland rice is
grown, too.
When the sites were initially chosen, social
scientists of the cropping systems program
made surveys to draw a quick socio-economic
profile of each one. These surveys were done
by finding a dozen or so knowledgeable vil-
lagers (key informants) at each site and con-
ducting intensive interviews. Subsequently,
more elaborate surveys involving randomly
selected farmers, crop cutting, and direct

observation were conducted'to provide addi-
tional information.
Surveys are one tool in the continuing
socio-economic analysis that is necessary for
cropping systems research. Some of the find-
ings from Kancha's village, or panchayat,
Pumdi Bhumdi, convey the rich detail that the
key-informant surveys provide:
Farms average three fourths of a hectare
each. Farmers believe one farm in three is
too small to support a household.
Hail is a threat particularly at the begin-
ning and end of winter though it doesn't
occur every year. Damage can be severe.

* About half the land lies fallow in winter.
Insufficient compost and the difficulty of
protecting far-off fields from marauding
monkeys and untethered livestock are the
main reasons.
* Little produce is sold.
* Labor shortages occur during land prep-
aration, transplanting, and harvest of rice.
* Bullock shortage is an important cause of
poor land preparation.
* Feed shortage during the winter limits the
number of animals farmers can keep, and
hence the amount of draft power avail-
able and the amount of dung produced.

"Agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and
improved seed are the only substitutes for
the limited land in the Hills. Thus planners
in Nepal have to supply more inputs and
complementary services to Hill farmers. The
provision of food to the Hills is a short-term
solution while the supply of agricultural
inputs is a long-term one."-R.B. Singh and
G.R. Shrestha

Surveys of farmers provide detailed
information that guides cropping
systems research activities.

A member of the Planning Com-
mission, M. Sainju, right, goes to
the field to see new wheat produc-
tion practices and to question
farmers and scientists.

Most farmers keep a female water buffalo
to derive cash income from its milk and
Milking buffalo and working bullocks are
fed some grain-usually millet, as well as
Low soil fertility is a major barrier to
more intensive cropping and higher yields.
The lack of sufficient dung, inefficient
compost-making practices, the scarcity of
legumes in the village's cropping systems,
and the slight amounts of chemical fertili-
zer applied all contribute to the problem.

Research staffing
Nepal's cropping systems research staff con-
sists of 2 agronomists, 10 assistant agron-
omists, and 2 social scientists. Because of
shortage of funds and qualified personnel, the
program usually operates with one or more
vacancies. The cropping systems program is
part of the Integrated Cereals Project of the
Department of Agriculture. ICP, which is par-
tially supported by the U.S. Agency for Inter-

-: 9 IW3.b :12

national Development, aims at improving all
aspects of cereal research and production.
Three of the foreign resident specialists as-
signed to ICP work primarily with the crop-
ping systems program.
In addition, at each cropping systems site, a
technician assigned by the Department of
Agriculture serves as the coordinator. The site
coordinator lives in the village and gets to
know farmers' problems and aspirations. He
and two or three aides recruit farmers as
cooperators, see that trials are properly in-
stalled, and collect yield data and other infor-
mation. Enterprising site coordinators are the
backbone of cropping systems research in
There is little difficulty in finding farmer-
cooperators. Most trials involve crops the
farmers would grow anyway. And the seed and
fertilizer the researchers supply for the trial
reduce the expenses the cooperators would
otherwise have. When the season is over, the
full harvest is the farmer's.

Cropping patterns
To establish research priorities, cropping
systems researchers have to understand farm-
ers' existing practices. Through interviews and
observation, researchers learn how farmers
categorize their various parcels of land and
what cropping patterns predominate in each
land category.
Kancha and his neighbors in Pumdi Bhumdi
distinguish between upland and lowland fields
(see "Farming systems terminology") and sub-
divide those two types into high production
potential and low production potential. Pro-
duction potential is related to the amount of
compost that the parcel receives and the soil's
capacity for holding moisture. Fields with low
production potential are usually planted only
once a year, while those with high production
potential tend to be double-cropped or triple-
The predominant cropping patterns in
Pumdi Bhumdi are:

Upland, low production potential

Upland, high production potential

Farm men and women
tour a neighbor's fields,
inspecting a new variety
being grown for the
first time.

Lowland, low production potential
Lowland, high production potential
To study farmers' cropping patterns, the
cropping systems workers sample and weigh
the inputs that cooperating farmers use. For
seed, for example, the data collected provides
information on the variety planted, the ger-
mination rate, and the seeding rate. The
workers also record when and how thoroughly
each cooperating farmer carries out cultural
practices such as land preparation and
weeding. And at harvest time they measure
yields. From this information, costs and in-
come can be calculated.
Some cooperators may be asked to alter
their regular practices somewhat. Without
changing the customary cropping pattern, a
farmer might be asked to use a different
seeding rate, to apply a dose of chemical fer-
tilizer, to plant a new variety, or to try com-

binations of these or other new ideas. This
line of research is aimed at improving farmers'
existing practices.
Researchers also investigate ways to intensify
cropping patterns by growing a crop when
land is ordinarily in fallow. For example, rice-
fallow-fallow might be changed to rice-fallow-
maize. The main technical problem would be
to find a maize variety that could be planted
in early spring and that would mature fast
enough to permit on-time planting of the
main crop, rice.
A third line of cropping pattern research in-
volves intensification by introducing alternative
crops. In Pumdi Bhumdi, for example, re-
searchers have tested cropping patterns that in-
clude such crops as lentils, peanuts, broad-
beans, soybeans, mungbeans, or oats. Some of
these are already grown as minor crops in
gardens, in patches of wasteland, on extra
steep slopes, in mixtures with maize, or on the
bunds of rice paddies. But finding practical
ways to fit them into major cropping patterns
could boost productivity and incomes

Experiment station
research is the begin-
ning of a long chain of
testing that culminates
in farmers' fields.




Component research

The varieties introduced and practices being
tested in cropping pattern research are ones
that have shown promise in component re-
search. Component research is also done by
enlisting the cooperation of farmers. But in-
stead of planting one rice variety, the farmer
might be asked to subdivide his field and
plant six varieties next to one another. In such
side-by-side plantings, researchers and farmers
can compare new varieties. How vulnerable are
they to local insects and diseases? How fast
do they ripen? How well do they tolerate dry
spells? Answers under site conditions to such
questions permit selection of the most suitable
variety for introduction into cropping pattern
Similarly, comparative trials of fertilizer are
made. Does application of phosphorus, or
potassium, or some minor element improve
yields? What rate of application is most
economic for maize? for rice? in low potential
soils? in high potential soils?
Or what about seeding rate or time of
planting? The number of questions that can
be investigated in component research is
limited only by funds and the researcher's
good sense about trials that are likely to have
a high payoff.
In practice, because component testing in-
volves a small number of variables, the trials
can be superimposed on cropping pattern
testing. That is, component testing can be
conducted without disturbing existing cropping
patterns. In fact it is important that compo-
nent comparisons be made within the context
of cropping patterns because of the far-
reaching impact one change can have on the
rest of the cropping pattern. Fertilizer, for ex-
ample, often affects not only the crop to
which it is applied but the following crop as
well. A realistic assessment of the optimum
rate of fertilizer has to embrace the effects on
the entire cropping pattern.

Farmers' role in trials
Cropping systems research melds the farmer's
unique understanding of local farming condi-
tions with the researcher's insights about
technological options and knowledge of
reliable methods for testing choices quickly.
Every year about 400 farmers take part in
research at the six cropping systems sites.

A few liters of buffalo milk each
day provide a large share of the
cash income of many farmers.

Farmers collectively guide the research. In
initial key-informant surveys, information from
farmers influences the types of trials that are
established. Continuing surveys provide addi-
tional data on farmers' risk perception, off-
farm employment, division of labor, and other
subjects that can have significant bearing on
the practicality of new technology and hence
the priorities for experimentation.
The farmers manage the trials; they harvest
and consume the produce. Researchers seek
farmers' opinions about the trials conducted
in their fields and in their neighbors' fields.

Comments that a variety is too late, too short,
too difficult to thresh, or that a cultural prac-
tice takes too much time become part of the
information that the researcher weighs in plan-
ning subsequent trials. Farmers are also asked
what should be studied. Oats, for example, are
being tested at Pumdi Bhumdi because
farmers said they are interested in the crop as
a livestock feed. Finally, the continual observa-
tion that occurs when the scientist is regularly
visiting a farming community becomes a
means of reinforcing or moderating ideas
formed in talking with farmers.

A site coordinator measures a
farmer's field in preparation for
planting a cropping systems trial.

Field trial of a maize and mung-
bean intercrop.

Social and economic analysis

In cropping systems research, no sharp line
divides agronomic and economic research. The
agronomist must recognize the social con-
straints and economic limitations that farmers
face. The social scientist must know the
biological, chemical, and physical basis of
farming. The difference between the two types
of scientists is mainly in the focus of their
The agronomist and the social scientist
work side by side. The principal activities of


Croppings systems researchers use certain
symbols to indicate the relation and sequence
of crops in a cropping pattern:

Symbol Meaning
followed by
+ mixed with
/ relay

maize + soybeans

Thus the cropping pattern "rice-wheat-
fallow" means that in a 12-month period a
rice crop is followed by a wheat crop, which is
followed by a fallow period. The pattern
repeats itself every 12 months. "Rice-wheat-
maize" means rice is followed by wheat, which
is followed by maize. The first crop listed is
the main crop-the crop that is planted at the
beginning of the true rainy season.

cropping pattern. The yearly sequence and
spatial arrangement of crops within a field.
cropping system. The various cropping pat-
terns used on a farm and their interaction
with each other and with other farming

farming system. Activities related to cropping
and livestock production on one farm.
intercropping. Two or more crops planted
relaying. Planting one crop among the matur-
ing plants of a previously planted crop.
lowland fields. Fields that are flooded for rice
growing during at least part of the year.
Lowland fields usually have bunds to trap
and retain water. Even if some other crop,
such as wheat for example, follows flooded
rice, the field is still considered lowland.
The term has little to do with topography:
On the same hillside, lowland fields may be
higher on the slope than some upland

upland fields. Fields that are not submerged
during any portion of the cropping season.

Reading recommenda-
tions from cropping
systems researchers. :


the social scientist are developing agro-climatic
and socio-economic profiles of the cropping
systems sites, elaborating understanding of
farming systems employed at the sites, helping
establish priorities among cropping systems
trials, gathering information from farmers
about the trials, comparing the returns and
risks of new technology and old technology,
and helping to formulate recommendations to
be used in production campaigns.
All results from cropping systems research
are ultimately measured in economic terms.
Researchers look for improvements that lead
to high net returns, but that also have
reasonable cost so that the technology is
within the economic reach of small farmers.

Difficulties in conducting research
Farmers' fields are not easy places to do
research. Textbook experimenters despise un-
controlled variables, and at cropping systems
sites, few extraneous variables can be
A host of factors frustrate the researcher's
desire for "normal" and uniform testing con-
ditions. The fields in which cropping systems
researchers place trials often vary in fertility or
water-holding capacity. Individual test plots
are likely to differ in size and shape because
the terraced hillside fields in which they are
placed rarely are neat rectangles.
Furthermore, farmers who agree to coop-
erate do not always provide wholly typical
conditions. They are more likely to designate a
poor field for research than one of their better
fields. They may also change the way they
care for the trial field by, for example, apply-
ing less compost than usual or leaving weed-
ing until all their other fields are weeded.
And, sometimes, farmers unexpectedly harvest
the trial field before the site coordinator can
sample it to measure yields-and the season's
research results are lost.
Trials designed to find ways to intensify
cropping systems are especially vulnerable to
unusual destruction. Such trials tend to be out
of step with normal cropping practices because
they are planted earlier or later than neighbor-
ing fields, or when other fields are fallow.
Sometimes trials involve crops different from
those in surrounding fields. As a conspicuous
island of growing vegetative matter, such trials
exert a powerful attraction for birds, monkeys,
and insects, not to speak of wandering farm

"There are a number of major technical
and socio-economic constraints faced by
farmers which may slow down the adop-
tion of improved technology. A major
technical constraint is the lack of plant
nutrients followed by a lack of water, and
insect and pest damage. Other constraints
include the lack of labour and power during
peak periods, lack of money, problems
associated with cattle grazing, and climatic
problems connected with flood, high wind,
bad weather, shade, low temperatures, cold
water and hail. Survey results indicate that
the main socio-economic constraint is the
farmers' lack of knowledge of the recom-
mended technology and of the benefits that
can be derived from using it. In addition,
there is the organizational problem relating
to co-ordination among the various agencies
concerned."-P.N. Rana and S.B. Mathema

animals. Yet, if a proven technology developed
from out-of-phase trials were adopted by
numerous farmers in a locality, pests would re-
main dispersed and farmers would have an in-
centive to control their livestock, so the
damage might be less intense.

Many happy returns
Despite these pitfalls, cropping systems re-
searchers are amassing a wealth of informa-
tion on existing and improved cropping
systems and putting it to use. A sampling of
some of the improvements coming from crop-
ping systems research in the Hills:
At Pumdi Bhumdi, a new rice variety,
K39, and a new maize variety, Arun, have
set the stage for sharp increases in the
output of lowland soils where rice-wheat-
maize is the major pattern. K39 fits as
the main season crop and yields more
than any local rice variety. Arun, because
it is early maturing, can be planted
following wheat when the first spring
showers occur, yet it can be harvested by
the time the fullfledged monsoon rains
start, so that rice can be planted without
delay. In lowland fields in Pumdi Bhum-
di, where the traditional pattern is rice-
fallow-fallow, planting fast-growing Arun

maize just before rice (rice-fallow-maize)
can more than double food output. In
upland fields where maize/millet-wheat is
grown, replacing the local variety of
maize with Khumal Yellow greatly im-
proves yields. Better practices also raise
yields of the millet and wheat without
any change of variety.
At Chauri Jahari, a dry area of western
Nepal, the usual pattern in lowland fields
is rice-wheat-fallow, with the wheat grown
in the winter with irrigation. An improved
rice variety, Laxmi, plus improved prac-
tices for both rice and wheat raises yields
substantially. In upland fields where
rice + maize-wheat + mustard-fallow is
popular for high-production potential
soils, Arun maize performs well in-
terplanted with the upland rice. Improved
practices for wheat, which is grown with
irrigation, have a substantial yield effect.
In addition, substituting mungbean, a
quick-growing legume crop, for the fallow
period following wheat provides extra
returns from this pattern.
Rice-wheat-fallow is also the common
pattern for lowland fields at Lele in cen-
tral Nepal. Farmers have been planting
T176, an improved rice variety, for several
years. But by introducing pure seed stocks
and better management ideas, cropping-
systems researchers have been able to help
farmers increase yields.
At Khandbari, for rainfed lowland fields,
rice-linseed-fallow, rice-fallow-maize, rice-
fallow-mungbean, and rice-mustard-fallow
can advantageously be substituted for the
traditional rice-fallow-fallow. In upland
fields, Khumal Yellow maize has made a
great impact in the traditional pattern
maize-millet-fallow and in maize-maize-
fallow with Arun as the second maize
The improved and alternative cropping pat-
terns all require the farmer to apply more in-
puts, or employ more labor, or use more draft
power. The cost may be modest, 20 or 30 per-
cent more, or it may be double or triple what
the farmer is already investing in crop produc-
tion. The return on the improved technology,
however, makes the investment worthwhile.
Benefit-cost analysis shows that with good
weather the farmer may get back 8 or 10
rupees for every additional rupee invested in

improved crop production, and occasionally
the returns go to 12 or 13 to 1. In poor years,
the returns fall off to 2 or 3 to 1, yet are still
enough to cover the higher cost of improved

Tieing in the research stations

Some kinds of research are impractical except
under research station conditions: crossing
plants and selecting progeny, screening
thousands of varieties and lines for insect
resistance or disease resistance, or conducting
experiments to determine the interaction of
several agronomic practices. In addition an im-
portant activity of national experiment stations
is the testing of experimental varieties and
methods developed in other countries and by
international research institutes.
The central stations for research on the ma-
jor cereals of Nepal are all in the Terai and
Inner Terai. However, in recent years com-
modity research has become more dispersed.

Ceremonies to announce the winner of the
village maize-ear contest.

The national rice program, for example, now
does varietal development work at 1500
meters' elevation near Kathmandu and has a
testing location at 2000 meters' elevation, in
addition to its main station in the Terai. As a
result of increasing experimentation at higher
altitudes, several new varieties have been
released that are well-suited to the temperate
climate of the Hills.
Throughout the year, commodity researchers
and the cropping systems researchers meet in-
formally during frequent visits to experiment
station plots and cropping systems sites. At
the annual summer and winter workshops, the
cropping systems researchers and the com-
modity researchers review new findings and
plan future experiments.
Through this process, the cropping systems
researchers get access to promising new lines
and methods as soon as the commodity pro-
grams have identified them. The strengths and
weaknesses of the varieties are promptly
reported to the commodity researchers, who

MM K k "F.: W *_1..L

use the information in subsequent experimen-
tal work.
The development of the maize variety Arun
exemplifies the interaction between cropping
systems researchers and commodity research-
ers. Cropping systems research uncovered the
urgent need for an early maturing maize varie-
ty. Traditional maize varieties were so slow
growing that many farmers were forced to
harvest the maize while immature to be able
to seed the subsequent crop on time. The
equally unattractive alternative, which some
farmers chose, was to harvest the maize at
maturity, but to skimp on land preparation for
the following crop and to plant it late.
Researchers at the national maize station in
Rampur, in the Inner Terai, began selecting
for earliness and yield in several maize popula-
tions. Promising selections were tested in
farmers' fields by the maize program and at
cropping systems sites. From this process Arun
emerged. The maize population from which it
is derived stems from a cross made at CIM-

Mobile teams from the
Agricultural Develop-
ment Bank go to the
villages, making it
easier for farmers to
get the credit needed to
take part in production

MYT, in Mexico, between a Philippine variety
and a French hybrid. Thus Arun embodies na-
tional and international collaboration, which
produces rich payoffs from agricultural

Verification trials'

Cropping systems research in Nepal has
reached the stage where it has findings worth
spreading. Dissemination takes place in two
steps: pre-production verification trials fol-
lowed by production campaigns. At cropping
systems sites, however, verification trials are
unnecessary so pilot production programs have
been started.
Verification trials are intended to make sure
that the right recommendation is used in the
right place. In the various development
districts, the agricultural development officer
and extension workers categorize villages (pan-
chayats) in relation to the agro-climatic char-
acteristics of the various cropping systems
sites. Panchayats that appear to be similar to
one of the sites are tentatively selected and
then quickly surveyed using techniques and
questionnaires developed by cropping systems
researchers. From survey data on the physical
environment, on present cropping practices,
and on socio-economic conditions, improved
cropping patterns can be chosen that are likely
to be profitable to farmers. The survey also
provides information necessary to spot atypical
farmers when selecting cooperators and to
avoid unrepresentative parcels of land in
choosing fields for the trials.
To help extension workers, the cropping
systems staff has written a comprehensive
manual called Guidelines for Pre-production
Verification Trials of Cropping Systems Rec-
ommendations. It gives recommendations for
31 improved cropping patterns that have been
proven at the cropping systems sites. The pat-
terns are grouped according to the ecological
conditions they best fit.
For each crop in each pattern, the manual
supplies recommendations for:

land preparation
seed rate
fertilizer rate
fertilizer application
compost use

Nevertheless whenever farmers' existing
practices for a particular category are suffi-
cient, the manual simply suggests using
"farmer's level. "
The manual recommends verification trials
of up to four improved cropping patterns.
Each cropping pattern requires five farmers,
each of whom plants about one-tenth hectare
of the trial. To provide a basis for comparing
the results, about 10 percent of each farmer's
trial land is reserved for cultivation with tradi-
tional practices.
It may take two years of trials to detect and
eliminate patterns that are excessively sensitive
to normal fluctuations in seasonal weather in
the area. The outstanding cropping patterns in

planting method
planting date
weed control
insect and disease
data to collect

the verification trials can then be used as the
basis for building production campaigns.
An important role of the verification trials
is to introduce cropping systems concepts to
both extension workers and farmers. The
verification trials encourage extension workers
to change their perspective from a crop-by-
crop approach to a cropping pattern approach.
It also acquaints them with cropping systems
The manual for verification trials furnishes
practical advice on laying out trials. It recom-
mends that the trial parcels not be excessively
scattered, so that the extension worker can
easily visit them. It also recommends trial
plots no smaller than 500 square meters,

because large plots make a more powerful im-
pression on neighboring farmers, are more
suitable for field days, and are better seed-
mulitplication plots.
Field days are integral to the verification
trials. They expose farmers in the area to the
new technology, they give extension workers an
opportunity to get farmers' reactions and to
answer questions, and they provide the
occasion for farmers to buy or barter for
improved seed.
The small cropping systems staff has only
limited ability to participate in verification
trials. The staff aids the Agricultural Develop-
ment Offices by training extension workers,
providing technical advice, and helping to

A farmer-leader briefs
visiting farmers at a
production-block field




* a

Regular meetings of
disciplinary and
, researchers ,4



|te-L. IMll*l^& ~----l^ ~***
r .II.....U. =-w- >j
*l U LU . -




analyze data from surveys and trials. The
cropping systems staff also works closely with
rural area development projects, which are
specifically staffed and organized to operate
production campaigns. Several such projects
are conducting verification trials preparatory
to launching production campaigns using crop-
ping systems technology. The cropping systems
staff helps the projects through training and
by giving advice on organizing trials.

Production campaigns
The ultimate objective of production cam-
paigns is to increase farm production by in-
troducing improved farming technology. But
the initial goal, which will determine the long-
run success of production campaigns, is to
convince farmers, extension personnel, and,
especially, decision makers that the cropping
systems approach works. Getting agencies and
individuals to work in harmony to raise pro-
duction throughout Nepal will require strong
commitment from politicians and adminis-
trators. If the campaigns have their backing,
improvements in extension staffing and incen-
tives, in timeliness of input deliveries, and
availability of credit will be possible.
Pilot production programs have been
launched at the cropping systems sites. The
programs are intended as models of ways to
raise production. They involve the Agricultural
Development Office, the Agricultural Develop-
ment Bank, the Agriculture Inputs Corpora-
tion, the Sajha (cooperatives), and other sup-
port agencies of the government. In 1983,
pilot production programs at the sites covered
13,000 hectares and by 1985 over 50,000 hec-
tares will be under the programs. Experience
gained in the pilot production programs will
be used in launching production campaigns in
other areas following verification trials.
The central feature of the production cam-
paign is the production block. A block is
made up of about 100 hectares of contiguous
fields that have the same cropping pattern.
Forming blocks allows the production team to
work within a small area, so team members
can meet frequently with all farmers in the
block to resolve problems. One hundred hec-
tares planted to improved varieties and grown
with better methods also makes an impressive
demonstration, which fosters interest in the
production campaign among farmers in the

The production team consists of a produc-
tion officer (for up to 1000 hectares), two
junior technical assistants (up to 500 hectares
apiece), and one production leader in each
block. The production leaders are farmers who
have been selected for their influence with
other farmers as well as for their interest in
the new technology.
After being given training in the technology
and in motivating farmers, the production
leaders are responsible for persuading their
neighbors to organize a production block.
They explain the purposes and benefits of the
program, how to join, and when to attend
meetings. After the block is formed, they help
participating farmers apply the new methods.
As compensation, production leaders receive a
training allowance and, each season, sufficient

inputs such as seed and fertilizer for a half
hectare of production.
The production team helps farmers follow
the recommended practices so that they
achieve the full measure of benefits and are
thereby encouraged to stick with the new
methods. Those who need credit to purchase
fertilizer, seeds, or other inputs are given pro-
duction loans for the whole year, that is, for
an entire cropping pattern. The production
team makes sure the inputs are on hand local-
ly when the farmers need them.
The production team reaches farmers by
seeking them out at the tea shop, rice mill,
milk collection station, or other places where
they congregate. There, meetings are an-
nounced and news of current problems and
their solutions can be spread. The production

A sack of improved
seed is the prize for the
three farmers who
achieve the highest
yields in a wheat pro-
duction program.

team also visits farmers' homes 5 days a week
to be available to advise on production prac-
tices throughout the season.
Monthly meetings are held to discuss topics
critical to the success of the recommended
technology, such as time of seeding, pro-
cedures for processing loans, or rat control. To
encourage farmers to attend, a small prize
such as a kilo of improved seed or a hand
tool may be raffled at the meetings.
Meetings are held in the fields, too. Nearby
farmers might be invited to visit a production
block to see how the new varieties and meth-
ods perform. The farmers, it is hoped, will
then be eager to form a production block
themselves. At another type of field meeting,
farmers in the block might gather on the land
of the production leader to see operational
techniques demonstrated. And, of course, field
days are routinely held shortly before harvest
to show the results to area farmers, workers in
support agencies, and officials.
Pilot production programs began at the
cropping systems research sites in 1981/82. At
Lele, in central Nepal, for example, yields
from production blocks involving a rice-wheat-
fallow cropping pattern were 4300 kilograms
of rice per hectare and 4400 kilograms of
wheat per hectare. These yields were over 60
percent higher than the yields of neighboring
farmers. The rice production program at Lele
covered 55 hectares and involved 313 farmers,
indicating both the small size of the individual
fields and the magnitude of the organizing
task the production teams face.

Will farmers adopt the new ideas?
The production campaigns are organized to
deal with the scarcity of inputs, which is
perhaps the most formidable barrier to the in-
troduction of new farm technology. In each
pilot production program, several farmers are
offered the opportunity to be seed growers.
They are given advice on growing crops for
seed and on methods of processing, storing,
and treating seed. Thus each production pro-
gram has several local sources of high-
germination, improved seed in addition to seed
available through farmer-to-farmer distribution
and outlets of the Agriculture Inputs
To improve credit availability, the Agri-
cultural Development Bank has modified its
procedures to fit the cropping systems ap-

proach. The bank allows participating farmers
to borrow against crop production, instead of
being required to submit a land registration
certificate as collateral. Moreover the loan is
made for the whole year, so that the farmer is
not obliged to visit the bank each season to
arrange credit for the next planting. The
junior technical assistants of the production
team help farmers plan a budget for the whole
year's operations.
To ensure that inputs are available, the pro-
duction team gives the local cooperative an
estimate of the program's input needs 3
months before each season begins. For in-
stance, one 100-hectare wheat production pro-
gram in Lele required 20,000 kilograms of
20-20-0 fertilizer, 8900 kilograms of urea fer-
tilizer, and 7500 kilograms of new seed of
improved varieties.

International meetings
such as this one in
Thailand permit Nepal
to share its knowledge
of cropping systems
research and to gain
from the experience of
other nations.

"Before we can ask farmers to change,
and that is what development is about,
there must be other changes prior to
changes by farmers-in research, in exten-
sion, and in administration."-A.N. Rana
and Wayne H. Freeman

"While migration during the last two cen-
turies was characterized by many positive
features, the recent movement of people
from the Hills to the Tarai brought about a
number of socio-enomic repercussions. The
drain on the hill labor force, ecological im-
balance and the declining hill economy on
the one hand, and encroachment of forest
land, resettlement problems and the nega-
tive impact on the Tarai economy on the
other become critical issues for Nepal, and
they are looming larger everyday."-M.M.
Sainju and Ram B.K.C.

A cropping systems
cooperator explains new
varieties and practices
employed in trials he is

In the early 1970's Nepalese government of-
ficials and representatives of the U. S. Agency
for International Development began planning
the Integrated Cereals Project. Their aim was
to strengthen research on cereals and the crop-
ping systems in which they are grown and to
ensure that the technology that results could
be readily adopted by the average farmer.
Although the project was concerned with the
whole country, the planners were particularly
interested in improving the agricultural produc-
tivity of the Hill region. The cropping systems
program of the Department of Agriculture was
seen as the focal point for identifying useful
new technology and for furnishing well-tested,
reliable varieties and practices to farmers
through the extension system.
Since 1976, with funds made available by
USAID, Nepal has improved facilities at na-
tional commodity research stations, provided
local and foreign training for several hundred
researchers, and contracted with the Interna-
tional Agricultural Development Service
(IADS), Arlington, Virginia, USA, for
technical assistance and services. Agricultural
specialists provided by IADS have helped to
institute a multidisciplinary approach to com-
modity research and to launch the cropping
systems program. As the Integrated Cereals
Project has progressed and as Nepalese scien-
tists have returned from advanced studies, the
number of foreign specialists has been reduced
and assignments have been shifted-to new
areas. lADS staff members are no longer
working directly with the commodity research
stations. More of the lADS staff time is being
devoted to helping organize on-farm trials and
production campaigns and to training produc-
tion teams.
The planners of the Integrated Cereals Proj-
ect set out to bring about significant institu-
tional changes in the way that research is done
and in which it reaches farmers. The progress
that has been made is testimony to the sound-
ness of the planners' vision and the will-
ingness of authorities both in the government
of Nepal and USAID to make a long-term
commitment to the project.

Training programs are under way to ac-
quaint extension personnel with the cropping
systems approach and recommendations.
Training takes place mostly in the field, just as
does the instruction they will be giving to
Women are being employed as field assis-
tants to improve contacts with women farmers,
who constitute half the farm labor force of
Nepal. Tasks such as seeding and the cultiva-
tion of certain crops such as millet are almost
exclusively done by women. Moreover, most
other field operations, aside from land
preparation, are shared by men and women.
Because there are few female agricultural ex-
tension workers in Nepal, some village women
who are high-school or primary graduates
have been recruited for training.

Will the farmers adopt new technology? In
Nepal, as elsewhere, it seems likely that they
will, provided that the technology is a genuine
improvement over their existing methods and
that they can get the seed and other inputs
that are needed.
Certainly innovations have swept the King-
dom before. In 1965 short wheat varieties that
had been bred in Mexico were introduced to
Nepal from India. The Mexican wheats were
faster maturing and had more disease resis-
tance than local varieties. Many Nepalese
farmers found that in some fields previously
left fallow during winter they could plant the
new wheats and have them harvested in time
to plant maize or rice. Within 4 years, the
wheat area doubled; and within 10 years, it
tripled. Now almost 400,000 hectares of wheat

Members of a produc-
tion team teaching
farmer-leaders the
importance of applying
fertilizer in relation to
crop growth stages.

"Sustained growth and development in
agriculture is possible only when scientists,
technologists, and farmers work together to
solve a problem or improve the existing
situation. A farmer is an uneducated scien-
tist and economist, but he is the accom-
plished judge for any technology made
available to him. His rejection or adoption
of any technology makes a whole lot of dif-
ference to the time, effort, and money put
in the development of technology."-B.B.

are grown, 85 percent in improved varieties.
At about the same time, several short,
fertilizer-responsive varieties of rice from
Taiwan were introduced. The varieties were
suited to temperate conditions and, for
farmers with irrigated fields in the fertile
Kathmandu valley, the potentially high yields
of the Taiwanese varieties made it worthwhile
to switch. Even a major drawback of the
Taiwanese varieties-that they are harder to
thresh than local varieties-did not prevent
their adoption. Farmers soon adopted foot-
operated threshers like those used in Taiwan.

S-_ 4E
.-4~ C 'v-

An abundant crop is
the product of good
farmers, good varieties,
good practices, and
good science.

Expanded production campaigns

By 1985, when 50,000 hectares are scheduled
to be under pilot production programs,
enough agricultural development officers will
have been trained to enable production cam-
paigns to be launched throughout any district
for which there is suitable cropping pattern
technology. Procedures for making credit
readily available to farmers will have been
proven and modifications in the system for
providing inputs will help ensure that they
reach farmers on time.
Cropping systems technology is not difficult
for farmers to adopt. Unlike the purchase of a
new piece of equipment, it does not require a
large investment, and farmers can easily revert
to customary practices if the new technology
does not work out.
Surveys made by social scientists prior to
launching production programs have shown
that farmers generally have heard of the im-
proved varieties and are willing to use chem-
ical fertilizer, even if they have not done so
before. Some farmers, in fact, start using com-
ponents of the new technology before produc-
tion programs begin. The surveys have also
shown that farmers desire some production
credit, but they are willing to participate in
production programs without it.
On the other hand, the surveys have re-
vealed several farmer attitudes that will slow
the rate of adoption. Farmers do not perceive
great advantages in the new varieties and prac-
tices. Furthermore, their understanding is often
incomplete. They may know about improved
varieties, but not about the practices that are
recommended with a new variety. Women are
particularly likely to be uninformed because
the extension service is not in contact with
Success in convincing farmers to try new
methods will breed new problems. As more
farmers adopt new technology on more land,
demand for credit will swell enormously. The
volume of inputs that will have to be delivered
on time will be immense. Difficulties in
marketing will arise as district consumption
requirements are exceeded by local production.
Policy makers will have to address new prob-
lems of prices and transportation of agricul-
tural commodities. Nevertheless, struggling
with surpluses would be a welcome change
after decades of dealing with shortages.

A better future

As long as the densely populated Hill region
is a food-deficit area, the paramount priority
of researchers must be raising the production
of cereals, the staple foods. But when farmers
in the Hills become better able to ensure the
basic dietary needs of their families, they will
seek to expand more profitable enterprises. As
a temperate agricultural zone on the edge of
the Asian tropics, the Hill region has an im-
mense comparative advantage for the produc-
tion of horticultural crops and dairy products
if marketing systems can be developed. Large-
scale production of fruits, vegetables, spices,
milk, and cheese could give the Hills a sound
basis for commerce, not only with the Terai
plains, but with Asian subcontinent as a
Cropping systems researchers are placing in-
creasing emphasis on improving soil fertility,
which is the critical factor in permitting the
transformation of the Hill region from sub-
sistence agriculture to an efficient commercial
agriculture. Immediate gains in output can be
achieved through greater use of chemical fer-
tilizer, but in view of the vast area involved
and the mammoth logistic problems, fertilizer
is not likely to be the whole solution. Re-
searchers are looking at ways of applying fer-
tilizer more efficiently so that more of it is
used by plants and less is volatilized or
washed away. Opportunities exist for improv-
ing farmers' compost-making methods so that
more of the nutrients are retained. Mixing
chemical fertilizer and compost can enhance
the nutritive value of both products. Cropping
systems researchers are also investigating
legumes that might fit certain cropping pat-
terns, particularly in fallow periods. Legumes
improve the fertility of the soil, especially if
plowed in as "green manure, and they make
excellent feed for livestock. Other crops, such
as oats, and certain trees, offer possibilities as
livestock feed. Cropping patterns involving
them are being studied.
Even as cropping systems researchers shift
their sights, some of the testing of varieties
and methods can be transferred to the produc-
tion programs themselves. Thus by using the
production team to take on some of the nec-
essary continuing research, the cropping
systems researchers can turn their attention to
new challenges.- STEVEN A. BRETH

Integrated Cereals Project
Department of Agriculture
Kathmandu, Nepal

HMG/IADS/ICP Contract Integrated Cereals Project AID Project No. 367-0114

Additional reading
Ministry of Food and Agriculture, HMG. 1981.
Nepal's Experience in Hill Agricultural Development.

Department of Agriculture HMG. 1981.
Seminar on Appropriate Technology for Hill Farming Systems.

Photo credits. Steven A. Breth: cover, p. 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 28.
I.C. Bolo: p. 10, 11, 20, 21, 23, 26, 27, 29. W.F. Freeman: p. 2, 3, 4, 5. Hugo Manzano: p. 18, 30.

Printed in Singapore by Singapore National Printers (Pte) Ltd.