MID-TERM EXTERNAL EVALUATION
FARMING SYSTEMS SUPPORT PROJECT
A Cooperative Agreement
The University of Florida and
The Agency for International Development
The following were members of the evaluation team:
Patrick Fleuret, Africa Bureau, AID
Charles A. Francis, Professor of Agronomy,
University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Raymond E. Kitchell, Development Management Consultant, Chairman
Edwin C. Price, Director,
Office of International Agriculture,
Oregon State University
Donald Winklemann, Director General, CIMMYT
October 1, 1985
Executive Summary I. Purpose of Evaluation II. Project Background III. Methodology IV. Performance to Date
A. Technical Assistance
B. Training and Publications
D. SOTA and Synthesis
E. Organization and Management V. Issues and Conclusions
A. Conceptualization of FSR/E
B. Strategies, Priorities and Program Development C. AID Policies and Programs in Relation to FSSP
E. Relevance of Existing Project Design VI. Recommendations Annexes:
1. FSSP evaluation guidelines and issues
2. FSSP summary memos prepared for evaluation team
3. List of persons contacted by team
4a. Replies of SEs to evaluation questionnaire
4b. Replies of AID field missions to evaluation questions
45 47 94 95 109
Missing From Original
with the Team in private sessions in Gainesville. A list of officials and staff who talked with the team is provided in Appendix No. 3. FSSP staff also provided the Team with examples of their products, supplemental documentation and special presentations requested by the Team.
Cooperation during the evaluation exercise by all parties to this
agreement was commendable and the only weak point in the exercise, (aside from the limited time available) was the absence of direct knowledge on the use and effect of FSSP services by developing country clients. Nevertheless, during the evening of June 27 and the next day, the team was able without great difficulty to arrive at a consensus regarding its assessment of performance to date and recommendations for the future. '
The evaluation report itself is not intended to be a summary of progress and achievements to date. Appendix No.2, in combination with annual and other special reports, will provide the reader with this information. Rather, the Team has attempted to provide the rationale for its assessment of performance to date, highlighting what it believes to be the most critical issues requiring resolution, and presenting action-oriented recommendations for improvements and changes which are intended to help the partners and collaborators in this agreement arrive at appropriate decisions regarding its future.
IV. PERFORMANCE TO DATE
A. Technical Assistance
The first section of the Cooperative Agreement calls for technical assistance in problem diagrams, design, implementation, and evaluation of projects involving FSR/E. The agreement envisions this activity as providing immediate help to resolve specific program implementation issues related to problems on farms and in program management. In the longer run, there should be a development of capacity in national organizations through institution building to develop in-country "professional expertise and commitment" which is needed for "sustaining coordinated national programs". The FSSP was envisioned as a field support project which would take its guidance from USAID missions, and respond to their expressed needs. The specific services which were included in the agreement would be available during pre-project, design, implementation, and evaluation phases of projects.
The project was involved in needs assessment in three activities in 1984 -- for Honduras, for Liberia, and for Cornell University/FSSP training needs. During the same year there were three activities in project design -for Jordan, the Gambia, and Sierra Leone. In project evaluation, the FSSP supplied people for four country activities -- Honduras, Botswana, Zambia, and Philippines. Team or individual briefings were conducted for four countries
-- the Gambia, Honduras, Rwanda, and Jordan. Debriefings were conducted for teams and/or team leaders from activities in Honduras, Paraguay, Rwanda, Gambia, and Liberia. Information from the debriefings is destined to be added to state-of-the-art files and used in the future in modules for training or for other materials in print.
The evaluation team commends this activity but notes that
disappointment has been expressed in the lower than expected level of demand, particularly in needs assessment. Since we were not afforded the time or the opportunity to interview any of the individuals who received this briefing or specific help in the field, it is not possible to evaluate its effectiveness. This would require personal interviews or an extensive questionnaires, which was not envisioned as a part of the exercise. The team was very impressed with the selection of contracting entities to implement projects in Latin America which built on the talents of professionals who were native Spanish speakers and who had extensive experience in the region. However, this reliance on a single private consulting firm has meant limited opportunity to build up the capacity of U.S. universities to fulfill this function another objective of the FSSP. We hope that this support capability is maintained within the project, although the basis for future contracts should be on a "payment for services" or "buy-in" basis by missions in this region.
From the mission cables, we were impressed with the projects quick response capability to do these contracts, and this capacity should be expanded and made available to missions on a world-wide basis. There was some concern expressed about the relevance of some of the technical expertise provided outside Latin America, and every effort should be made to provide professionals with experience which is relevant to the specific job at hand.
The current biodata resource includes information on more than 540
individuals. These programm Associates" come from twenty six organizations in the. FSSP Support Entity Network, including twenty one universities and five consulting firms. During 1984, fifty four searches for seventy one individuals were conducted and, during the first six months of 1985, twenty seven searches for thirty nine persons. There is an apparent growing interest in this support function, with requests coming from universities, AID, and private consulting firms. Of the searches conducted and individual biodata supplied, there is no evaluation of how many were actually placed in a program. From repeat requests from the same institutions or companies, and from limited qualitative feedback from clients, this biodata service appears to be filling a need. The job clearly is never finished, and must be expanded and kept current as people's circumstances change. The pool of specialists in the current biodata file represents the support entities, and there are many experts outside the project who should be included. Given the future cost of maintaining this activity, we believe the project should consider other options. Our recommendation would be to merge this biodata file with another file, such as the one maintained by Winrock International (WI), and by adding additional identifiers to the WI system this could provide an even greater pool of professionals to prospective clients at a lower cost. We consider this activity as one that has been done well, has attracted interest and provided a valuable service, but should be handled in a more cost-effective and comprehensive way.
Evaluation Task Force
During 1984 and 1985, a task force was set up to meet a need
perceived by the Technical Committee of FSSP to provide quality, replicable evaluations of FSR/E projects in the field. After some initial delays in
start-up, a task force was appointed with eight members and nine additional people in a backstopping group. They have met and outlined a framework for the evaluation instrument. At the moment, sections of the draft are in preparation, and the FSSP is making plans to test the instrument in CATIE, CARDI, and Zambia, plus other projects in Africa.
The evaluation team applauds this recognition of the importance of evaluation in projects and the need to develop tools which are appropriate to FSR/E in field evaluation of specific programs and activities. However, there is a critical need to involve AID/W effectively in the decision-making and formulation of any tools of this type. There is an institutionalized evaluation procedure already operational in AID, and a number of handbooks have been written at large expense to facilitate and standardize this process. It is critical that the agency which developed these instruments and which will need to use any new ones or modifications be included in their formulation. It is important to consider evaluation at the several levels of the project framework, decide what the evaluation should focus on, e.g., efficiency, effectiveness, and/or impact, and how it should be done within the context of AID contracts. There is need for an evaluative framework and a uniformity to approach which will use a standard device across as many types of projects as possible. There is also a need for a USAID technical input during the testing and evaluation phase of this activity. Thus, the team commends the effort, but insists on a greater participation by the agency to ensure the possibility of use within the AID system.
Research/Extension Project Handbook
Development of this handbook has been active over the past two years. It is envisioned as a document which could be used for future workshops on management of projects and the institutionalization of the FSR/E process. There is an assumption by core management that this document would be widely used by people in USAID missions, national programs, and bilateral assistance projects. It was cited that nothing exists in this area, at least in the specific area of FSR/E, and that most projects have no written guidelines to follow in development of this type of project.
The evaluation team has reviewed the current draft of the
research/extension project handbook, and concludes that although this may be the only such guidebook to date, its approach is overly simplified and the draft as presented would be of limited value to managers of FSR/E development projects. There are several books available on project design, and AID currently runs programs on project design and management. These should be used as a basis from which to start with project handbook development if, indeed, one is necessary. If so, there is a vital need for active AID/W participation in the process. The current version is weak on guidelines for management of interdisciplinary teams, for rigorous design of research on farmer's fields, and for a specific emphasis on FS research. Since considerable time and resources have been invested in the development of the current draft of the book from this project, it could be made available to development projects in its current form, perhaps in a loose-leaf arrangement. Given other priorities, it is not recommended that additional resources be dedicated to this handbook or future activities of this type, but
that emphasis be placed on implementation in the field using existing materials and procedures.
B. Training and Publications
This performance assessment is based on interviews, a review of FSSP documents and training materials, a support entity survey done by S&T/AGR, and a review of cables from missions commenting on FSSP activities. Since there has been no opportunity to get the direct views of participants in any of the training sessions.
Inventory of Activities and Assessment
FSSP has initiated a broad range of activities that can be regarded as training. These include: "sensitivity" workshops in the U.S.; "sensitivity" and "networkshops" in Latin America/Caribbean and in Africa; the development of specialized state-of-the-art training networks; a number of miscellaneous activities; and publications. Each of these five categories is reviewed separately below.
Three different types of domestic workshops have been organized by FSSP. Most of these were basic orientation workshops; in addition, one methodology application workshop has been held and one workshop to train FSR trainers (Iowa State). The table below summarizes these workshops:
Table 1 FSSP Domestic Workshops
Type 1983 1984 1985 Total
Orientation 5 4 1 10
Application 0 0 1 1
Training of Trainers 0 1 0 1
Total 5 5 2 12
Several aspects of these workshops deserve comment. First, there has been commendable success in having them sponsored by support entities; of the twelve workshops, only four were held in Gainesville and these have been for the most part pilot activities. Eight other institutions hosted the remaining workshops, and one Virginia State University has agreed to become the permanent home of the orientation workshops. Only one per year is now thought necessary, but the team believes the "orientation" mission has been accomplished.
Second, the domestic workshops have proved very useful as a way of building relationships among the U.S. community interested in FSR/E. This emerges strongly in the SE survey conducted by S&T/AGR.
Third, there was significant involvement of AID employees and foreign nationals (administrators, scientists, students) in the U.S. activities; about one-half or so of all participants were in this category.
A fourth point is that the domestic workshops have improved over time. Initially they were very weak both pedagogically and technically and AID criticisms and suggestions were often ignored, but significant improvements have been made.
Finally, the number of activities is large given the relatively short period of time FSSP has been in operation, which is a compliment to the energy and organizational talent of the FSSP core staff, but also reflects the lack of a "programmatic" focus.
There are a number of points where improvement must be sought.
First, FSSP staff attempted to use the domestic workshops to assess overseas training needs (for Africa especially). This "informal" needs assessment however was no substitute for a rigorous assessment through visits to AID field missions and national program leaders as is commonly done in other centrally-funded projects. A limited amount of this was done on a somewhat ad hoc basis in West Africa, but all-in-all the attempt to understand the full range of indigenous training needs was inadequate. This has led to disagreement among various concerned parties regarding the focus of many of FSSP's activities. Second, the early slide-tape modules were of lesser utility than they could have been; rather than attempting to prepare these materials in-house, FSSP could have used their Technical Committee structure, with AID participation, to gain access to people able to strengthen the materials both with regard to region-specific content as well as A-V technique.
Third, the workshops have been implemented by relatively junior and
inexperienced people-again FSSP could have done better by administering the workshop process but leaving implementation to people with the breadth an depth of experience required.
Fourth, the workshops have been relatively heavy on social science and process, but light on technical content and problem focus. (Again this could have been improved through greater reliance on outside expertise and AID participation).
In sum, the domestic workshop series has been spotty but it is
encouraging that things appear to be getting better as time goes on. Probably too much was attempted by the core staff itself in the beginning; quality suffered. The current intent to de-emphasize the introductory workshops and concentrate on a few priority areas, is a laudable attempt to prioritize and focus the FSSP effort and should be given strong support by AID.
A relatively large number of overseas workshops of varying duration have been held. In some of these FSSP was solely responsible for the proceedings, in others responsibility was shared and in some FSSP has played an ancillary role. Some attempt to categorize the activities along these lines is made in the table below (this does not count workshops organized by others at which FSSP was represented.)
Table 2 FSSP Overseas Workshops
Year Region Major Moderate Minor Total
AFR 1 1 0 2
ASIA 0 0 0 0
LAC 2 0 0 2
1984 AFR 1 1 1 3
ASIA 0 1 1 2
LAC 2 0 0 2
1985 AFR 2 1 3 6
ASIA 0 0 0 0
LAC 1 3 0 4
Total 9 7 5 21
The following positive points need to be recognized. First, the LAC workshops have apparently been implemented very well judging from mission cables which are on the whole complimentary. Second, the quality of activities has improved with time, indicating that FSSP staff are learning from their experience. (This is particularly evident in Africa). Third, the large number of activities undertaken suggests a-very high level of energy and commitment on the part of FSSP core staff and'their hard work should be recognized.
There are also some areas where improvement is warranted. First, the Africa workshops have been weak with regard to Africa-relevant content, with regard to the availability and quality of French language translation for both oral presentations and written materials; and with regard to A-V technical quality. Although some improvement has been made over time, the current materials are still far too weak. This must be addressed as a high priority, preferably by drawing on the technical resources of others actively engaged in FSR and related activities in the region.
Second, the very large number of activities carried out suggests that the FSSP staff have been giving too much attention to doing things and not enough attention to doing them well. A third and related point is that the workshops exhibit little sense of strategy, direction, or problem-focus. FSSP has seemingly been willing to support nearly anything anywhere, with the result that their staff and intellectual resources have been fragmented. Two noteworthy exceptions to this general rule are the Togo animal traction workshop, which was preceded and succeeded by related activities that appear technically-oriented and cumulative in nature; and the Paraguay program, which although little advertised is very important. .
A final point relates to the Paraguay activity specifically and the
LAC program generally: these activities have been implemented very often by a private consultant firm, and it is questionable whether this is the best approach to host country institutional development. AID/Paraguay makes this point explicitly in their cabled assessment of the FSSP activities there and notes the lack of a multiplier effect associated with U.S. university expertise.
In sum, the overseas workshop program has been implemented with
admirable energy but has been weakened by inadequate attention to the quality and relevance of training materials. Good trainers can compensate to some extent for weak materials, but all-in-all'FSSP needs to devote much greater attention to improving their materials with effective involvement of the SEs and AID. This is recognized by FSSP leadership and staff and is, we believe, in accord with their own emerging sense of priorities.
Training Materials Development
Much of what needs to be said regarding this topic has been touched on in the sections above. But it is important to note that FSSP staff have progressed over time in their approach to training materials development, with the result now that energies are being focused on refinement of three training units or modules on diagnosis, design of field trials, and management/administration. This focus should be encouraged and supported, but even further prioritization is needed. Specifically, the management module should receive lesser priority than the other two. This is not because management is unimportant, but because (a) the other modules are more central to FSSP's basic mission; (b) it will be easier to introduce good technical content and a sense of problem into the first two than into the third; (c) the management/ administrative module as currently presented is technically much weaker than the other two; and suffers from the same deficiencies noted in the Project Handbook; and (d) FSSP has strict limitations of staff time, financial resources, and time remaining until project completion. Attention should be concentrated on improving the first two modules and institutionalizing their delivery in appropriate SEs and host country national programs.
Miscellaneous Training Activities
FSSP has sent core staff or SE representatives to an impressive
number of meetings, conferences, and workshops. FSSP has also provided useful support to relatively large numbers of individual scientists overseas, enabling them to attend activities that they could otherwise have missed. While admirable in intent, the cumulative impact of these various disconnected efforts is probably not great and there is an unfortunate fragmentation of staff attention as a result. Especially now that funding levels have declined, FSSP management should re-think the approach to such activities and give serious attention to reducing the level of support provided.
Publications and Related Matters
FSSP produces a number of useful printed materials that deserve
mention. The newsletter has been generally accepted in the U.S. and is very highly regarded overseas. The distribution list is large (nearly 5,000), and
it is available in Spanish and French as well as English. It is possible to quarrel with the content of the newsletter and with the translations, but overall this service is a valuable one and FSSP should be commended for having done the job well.
FSSP is also responsible for generating 100 bibliographic entries each year and arranging for them to be annotated and distributed by AID's central evaluation office (PPC/CDIE). In addition, all such materials are retained at the Kansas State University (KSU) documentation center. One problem is that the annotation service provided by AID/PPC/CDIE has been both slow and technically weak. This reflects a flaw in the original project design. The annotations should be done by FSSP (preferably through SEs), not by CDIE. S&T/AGR should address this problem immediately.
Many other documentary efforts are also underway various books,
manuals, an inventory of FSR activities, guidelines in various fields, and so forth. It is clear that this represents a dispersion of staff effort and financial resources, and not all the activities can be regarded as high priority.
FSSP management should undertake a careful review of these activities and thin down the number considerably both to conserve core funding and help staff prioritize their time. As already noted, two obvious candidates for elimination are, first, the manual on project management guidelines, which is peripheral to FSSP's basic mission. Moreover, this topic is addressed by a large number of other books, articles, and training courses. The second clear candidate for elimination is the series of country briefing books. While undoubtedly useful, these represent an extremely low-priority undertaking given FSSP's basic purpose and limitations of staff and funding.
Program design gave this activity a high priority and it was a
featured part of the FSSP presentation during the review. It was clear that FSSP staff have thought long and hard about networking and its implementation, e.g. see Chris 0. Andrew, "Considerations for Networking Development to Support U. S. Technical assistance," 1985. Several specific activities were listed in briefing materials (see exhibit #1) and the process itself was given considerable attention.
FSSP told us a network links three or more in sustained interaction. It features exchange among equals, a collegial activity resting on common concerns. FSSP's role is to actively promote such networks-"to foster/fuel/fan" in the words of one. To this end FSSP seeks to identify themes of high priority to farming systems research, to identify individuals with interest in the theme, to facilitate their coming together, and to structure an environment in which they can initiate and sustain the exchange of ideas. The aim is to improve performance through the stimulation that such sharing engenders and through the sense of endorsement from peers with common cause.
Exhibit # 1 FSSP NETWORKING ACTIVITIES
Universities (BIFAD, CRSP) USAID Missions National Institutions CGIAR & Others Existing Networks
FSSP Activities PV0s & Others
Referrals Individuals Participants Visitors Response
Newsletter Program Associates Training Technical Assistance Documentation FSR Inventory Publications Biodata Files
FSSP sees several lines through which networks can be developed: 1)> within the U. S. support base, 2) through IARC networks, or through such regional institutions as SAFGRAD, 3) inside countries, 4) through groups bound together by topical interests, 5) through private firms, and 6) through the creative crossing of barriers.
In looking at the six activities initially envisioned it is clear that FSSP's major success to date has been in fostering the development of a network among those in U.S. universities and private firms (SEs) who are concerned with FSR/E. One possible measure of this is the undocumented FSSP management estimate that every dollar of funding from FSSP for this activity has called forth up to two dollars of added spending by others.
Emphasis has been given to technology generation through
collaborative, on-farm research in which interactions and the farmer play critical roles. Coming together in FSSP sponsored meetings, and in the context of an ever clearer framework of ideas, has contributed much to the exchange among practitioners based in U.S. universities. The principal FSSP activity here is the annual workshop at Kansas State University. This recurring event is certainly the fulcrum of international farming systems activities in the U.S. With growing participation from non-U.S. practitioners, it is arguably the single most significant gathering in the world for those involved in farming systems research.
A second major U.S. based effort is the nine "introductory"
workshops. These are seen by FSSP as training and are discussed above but it is likely that a great deal of peer exchange occurs and that much sustained exchange has been touched off. To the extent this surmise is true, then those workshops have fostered/fueled/fanned networks among those of like interests. FSSP has undertaken several training courses in developing countries. While these have featured a teacher-student stance of varying quality, it is again likely that significant peer exchange has occurred and that potential networks have emerged.
Among the networking activities to date, perhaps the most significant for the future were the focused efforts in Africa. There, three classes of networks were identified for the west--commodity based, animal based, and university based-and a pace setting animal traction workshop was held in 1985 in Togo. It was judged by participants and observers to be quite useful. Its format will, according to FSSP staff, set the pattern for future efforts. While it is still early to say whether sustained communication among practitioners will emerge, there is cause for optimism. As well, the model (and that for a similar effort in early 1984 in Southern Africa) contributed to an Africa wide workshop on animal traction at ILCA in July 1985 to which FSSP contributed.
Judgment about these earlier efforts must necessarily be tentative. Networking, after all, requires a sustained, continuing exchange if it is to be cost-effective. It seems likely that sustained exchange has come about through the efforts in the U.S. An unresolved issue is the extent to which FSSP should take a leading role in networking vis-a-vis efforts to supplement, expand, or reinforce ongoing networking activities carried out by IARCs,
regional organizations, and others concerning FSR/E problems already identified and prioritized. Clearly sufficient time has not yet elapsed to see if that will emerge from the Togo session.
FSSP staff expressed a strong commitment to creating networks in the future. They have the animal traction theme as one point of departure. The more general farming systems research theme is another. FSSP staff are well aware that much attention is already being given to networking in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Indeed the funds already committed by others--West Africa, for example, has networks in each of several commodities and in farming systems research, the last through IITA and others--total well more than will be available to FSSP. In these circumstances, they see themselves as taking steps which will complement the activities of others. As can be noted, this reflects some internal inconsistencies in approach.
FSSP is optimistic about farming systems networks based on West Africa university staffs. These professionals have, as we understand it, participated less than their NARC colleagues in existing networks. With the success of the Togo workshop, FSSP plans to use that effort as a model for future networking. Along with workshops, FSSP will incorporate other vehicles for structuring and facilitating exchange, e.g. exchange of staff, professional visits and exchange of publications.
In evaluating FSSP's efforts in networking and in commenting on its
future, several conclusions can be reached and suggestions offered, as follows.
o Less emphasis should be given to networking in the U.S.
With what has already been accomplished, FSSP can reduce its commitments and expect that participants will find the funding necessary to carry on this work.
o The role for FSSP in farming systems networks in West
Africa has yet to be clearly defined. For instance, it is not clear what an institution based in the U.S. can do to ensure that the role of identifying priority themes and participants for developing countries is satisfactorily played, especially given the substantial commitments already made to the development of networks by others.
o FSSP, in collaboration with AID, should bring more evident purposiveness to their networking efforts. This means identifying priority problems, priority countries, and priority participants. It also means framing appropriate supporting materials, reducing the role of opportunism, and reinforcing structure and design in the planning of FSSP supported networking activities.
o Given the cost of the activity and the uncertainty ,
associated with the utility of output, the evaluation team is
forced to question the cost-effectiveness of the current
approach and urges that, as part of a collaborative strategizing
process, the purpose, scope and approach of future networking
activities be clearly defined, particularly in Africa.
D. State-of-the-Art and Synthesis
"State-of-the-art" (SOTA) activities are the synthesis of current
information and experience on farming systems concepts, methods, and technical issues. The purpose is to make such information, including guidelines and training materials, conveniently available to practitioners. This is important because the FSR/E projects that produce and use the information are often small and widely separated. It is difficult to learn where information is available and to obtain it. Accordingly, it is difficult for individual FSR/E groups to compare and evaluate various approaches, procedures and results. SOTA activities in the FSSP are a service to FSR/E practitioners and others who set the direction of agricultural development efforts located in universities and other contractors for FSR/E projects and AID. Thus, it is important for FSSP to obtain access through effective linkages with the deliverers of FSR/E services.
This review of "state-of-the-art" and synthesis activities within the FSSP addresses their following aspects: general approach; procedures; level of achievement; and future directions. The basis for review includes oral presentations and answers given to the evaluation' team by the FSSP staff and other informants, program documents (the 1982 Cooperative Agreement, 1984 Annual Report, 1985 Annual Work Plan, 1985 Implementation Plan for the 1985 Annual Work Plan, and "FSSP Summary Memo on State-of-the-Art Development prepared for the evaluation team and several State-of-the-Art subject matter papers. These sources appeared representative of the scope and quality of work required of FSSP and of FSSP's response, and hence adequate for the review.
2. General Approach
The Cooperative Agreement (October 1982) suggests that
state-of-the-art research should identify issues common to FSR/E programs and evaluate causes, solutions and possible consequences of the concerns most frequently expressed. The work is expected to yield five practical field guidelines that might cover alternative methodologies used by national programs, organizational concerns, extension, training and the costeffectiveness of PSR/E.
The summary memorandum on SOTA given at the June 1985 review
indicates that efforts to systematize SOTA development have just begun. SOTA development is regarded as an implicit activity in training, networking and technical assistance, but no specific strategy has evolved. Fifteen topics are listed on which information has been assembled, or soon will be. The
topics are prioritized presumably according to the need expressed by practitioners of FSR/E, and hence in the order in which work on them will be completed. Unfortunately, AID was not invited to participate in this process.
Intervening reports and workplans discuss SOTA activities but do not reflect a consistent approach or consistent themes in conceptualization of this area of activity. Each discussion tells what is being done but the steps aren't clearly related. In presenting SOTA syntheses, one report highlights the role of the Technical Committee and the bibliography, another training units, and another case histories; all no doubt related to SOTA development but not according to a particular plan. A definition of SOTA is not found, nor the purpose of SOTA, its objectives, or a plan for achieving the objectives. Nevertheless, from several sources and through diverse activities, syntheses of information on a number of topics are being accomplished (See Appendix 2).
The sources of SOTA synthesis vary. The role of extension and issues with respect to livestock in FSR/E were examined by special task forces. Many of the topics are to be treated in training units. Agro-forestry is covered in a workshop proceeding, as is traction power, while integrated pest management is presented in a University of Florida course, and nutrition in case studies.
The Evaluation team wishes to express the following concerns about FSSP's general approach to SOTA and synthesis development:
o A definition (and perhaps renaming, if it aids
understanding) of SOTA/synthesis activities is needed,*and a
stronger conceptualization of the job to be done.
o Given a definition of the concept, a strategy and work plan
for achieving objectives is needed. A strategy might show how
aims suggested in the cooperative agreement are linked to
activities (bibliography, case studies, technical committee,
course development, etc.) at any given time, how activities are
linked one-to-another, and how these together are linked to
expected SOTA products.
o If convenient access to synthesis of information on
frequently cited issues in FSR/E is indeed an objective, as we
think it should be, then the present passive approach (i.e.
leaving the syntheses to comprise mainly of products from other
activities--training units, textbooks, courses, workshop
proceedings, network operations, etc.), requires modification.
Accessing and using information from such diverse sources and in
such diverse formats may not be an easy task.
o Even if information were easily available and understood
from these various sources, it is not clear that it would
represent a state-of-the-art synthesis. Training courses, for
example, might reasonably contain the basics of FSR/E,
emphasizing "tried-and-true" methods, but go light on theory,
history, or comparative review that a synthesis might contain.
Similarly, workshops, textbooks and case studies often are developed with objectives that may not support a synthesis.
There is no substitute for SOTA/synthesis in a dynamic setting
based on research.
Identifying issues for study, prioritizing them and getting the work done are the major procedural concerns. The Technical Committee of the FSSP is to provide guidance on the identification of issues for study and, presumably, in the setting of priorities. This is to be done through a representative of the FSSP core on he Technical Committee. Information is then assembled and synthesized through the various means mentioned above--training unit development, task forces, bibliography, workshops, etc. In practice, the leadership and initiative for getting the work done, and much of the direct responsibility for SOTA activities, presently resides with the FSSP core staff.
A review of the procedures followed and results obtained suggests
that identification of issues and setting of priorities with respect to those issues has been satisfactory. That is, the areas of SOTA activities listed in Appendix 2, particularly the highest priority areas, appear an appropriate beginning set of problem areas for study. However, the prioritization was apparently done primarily by core staff, with little input from the technical committee and no discernable input from AID. The set of issues contains technical problems (e.g. agro-forestry, IPM, livestock), methodological areas (diagnostic surveys, on-farm trials), .institutional questions (e.g. extension, social science, in FSR/E and evaluation of FSR/E approach), and principles of FSR/E (e.g. economic characteristics of .small-scale farmers).
The identification of issues and setting of priorities, however, might be improved by:
o Organization of issues in a manner that provides a sense of the kinds of expertise required for their study-e.g. principles of FSR/E, methods of FSR/E, organization of FSR/E, technology of
FSR/E, economics of farming systems, etc.;
o Establishing procedures for identifying issues that more
explicitly incorporate the views of FSR/E project staff
overseas, e.g., what are the FSR/E backstopping issues that can
be explored by FSSP for bilateral contractors?;
o Associating with each problem area a quantitative or
qualitative measure of the importance of the issue (e.g.
projects that requested work on nutrition, areas of the world
where agro-forestry technology is a concern, economic conditions
under which crops/livestock technology is lacking, expected
gains from closer linkage of research and extension).
The slow progress to date in developing and implementing an overall plan for SOTA activities within the core FSSP, and the largely untapped greater capacity of the FSSP program as a whole (including the support entities), suggest that a larger amount of the responsibility for SOTA
development should be distributed to associated universities. A needed expansion of activities that are explicitly planned; a process closely involving the Technical Committee with AID participation, for SOTA synthesis (i.e. not simply comprised of training units, workshop proceedings, etc.), cannot and should not be accomplished solely by an already heavily committed core staff. Both the quality and the volume of SOTA development accomplishments require a wider base for contributions to this effort.
The level of achievement of the FSSP with respect to SOTA activities is reviewed on the basis of selected SOTA materials already identified. Assuming the products presented by the FSSP to be the appropriate kind of output, how satisfactory are they?
o The range of topics selected by FSSP management for study as SOTA activities appears an appropriate beginning list of farming
systems problems areas. As methodological and conceptual issues are
resolved, the program should increasingly focus on technical issues
identified through network activities. Traction power is an example
of such an issue already covered. Additional issues should be
identified according to their importance in the countries where
farming systems projects are being carried out.
o Prioritizing the SOTA problem areas, in collaboration with AID,
is also a useful step and should similarly be based upon likely
benefits in countries where FSR/E is being carried out with linkages
to the FSSP.
o *Production of SOTA materials has been slow, with very few of the
15 initial topics considered finished. As cited earlier, SOTA
materials have been developed mainly for other purposes and without
much central direction. Apart from content consideration, this
approach has undoubtedly delayed SOTA output, compared to identifying
resources and proceeding with a specific plan for producing SOTA
o Materials vary widely according to the apparent target
audience. The "Task Force Report on Livestock in Mixed Farming
Systems" may be useful to a high level research officer to
understand broad concepts, perhaps as input into a decision of
whether to commit agency resources to a farming systems
livestock project. The report is not likely to be of much use
to a field practitioner needing to know the state-of-the-art for
conducting livestock research in FSR/E. This problem is shared
by many of the materials because they were not planned as SOTA
o The quality of SOTA documents needs improvement, largely
from the standpoint of comprehensiveness and practical
usefulness. In most cases, one or two items are recommended as the SOTA documentation on a topic. Again, perhaps .because they were not produced as SOTA documents and often written by a few authors, they necessarily lack the perspective and credibility.
usefulness. In most cases, one or two items are recommended as the SOTA documentation on a topic. Again, perhaps because they were not produced as SOTA documents and often written by a few authors, they necessarily lack the perspective and credibility.
In summary, the quality and rate of progress of work on SOTA
activities to date suggests that a specific strategy and multi-year plan for producing a limited number of priority SOTA products be formulated and that resources be identified among the support entities to conduct the work in a timely manner. The materials produced should be carefully reviewed for comprehensiveness, soundness, understandability and practical use to practitioners. Review of SOTA might be conducted by either the Technical Committee or by independent scholars recognized for their expertise in the respective fields.
5. SOTA Strategy
There is little in FSSP documentation to suggest planning or
direction of SOTA activities. The above recommendations with respect to general approach, procedures and level of achievement imply future steps to be taken. Most important is an overall strategy and plan, agreed to by the principal parties of interest, that defines what SOTA activities are, who is the target user of the documents and for what purpose, and that shows where the SOTA program is headed.
Finally, usefulness of the term "State-of-the-Art" without reference to synthesis should be reconsidered. Its meaning may be sufficiently obscure as to inhibit understanding of FSSP objectives within FSSP, USAID, and country projects. Another acronym or word denoting "modern methods, principles and technology" may be more useful than "SOTA", per se.
E. Organization and Management
The management of this project has reflected, to a significant
extent, the problems in a collaborative arrangement involving a large number of institutions in an innovative and experimental effort. The FSSP project management team, that is, the Director and his core staff, have a number of clients to deal with and satisfy, e.g.; the Title XII community in general, and particularly the FSSP participating universities (generally referred to as support entities); AID including S&T, the regional bureaus and field missions; and, ultimately, the end-users including bi-lateral contractors, NARCs, IARCs, etc. The cooperative agreement itself is vague regarding expected results and the signals coming from AID are sometimes distorted or contradictory, or at least are interpreted as such. Since there is not complete agreement or understanding among all the players as to the purpose and principal thrusts of the projects, annual work planning and result-oriented progress reporting becomes a difficult process and, without an agreed upon strategy, short-term and activity-oriented. As will be briefly described, the FSSP has made a strong effort to develop organizational and procedural guidelines* but it
*See "Procedural Manual Operational Guidelines for the Farming
Systems Support Project:, a draft dated April 1985.
appears that often there is more structure than substance in the arrangements and materials.
The Cooperative Agreement specifies that the University of Florida will ". perform as the lead entity and will coordinate the inputs of collaborating institutions with similar interests in FSR/E." It goes on to explain that the FSSP will be administered centrally with core administrative and management staff coordinating and supervising overall program activities. Program and administrative support was envisioned as emanating". from a confederation of entities working cooperatively with the recipient." The precise advisory and participatory structure was not stipulated in the agreement but was expected to evolve as the dimensions of the program became more obvious. Many entities are to-be called upon to participate in and prepare for implementation responsibilities. A "core program", presumably to be worked out in the work planning process, was to multiply expertise by helping developing "core areas", also undefined, at various institutions directed toward establishing specific areas of strength. It is worthy of particular note that the CA language states:
A coordinated organizational administrative
and managerial strategy will be essential
to achieve that end. The rapidity with which the FSSP is being initiated through the cooperative agreement has not provided the interinstitutional communication time required to
finalize a particular mode.
The FSSP Director pointed out to the team that "lead entity" is not the same thing as a "management entity" as used in CRSPs. The participating universities or support entities are not equal and there is no cohesive research objective to provide the basic framework. Therefore, one of the earliest challenges facing the project leader/director was to recruit his core staff and build-up the project structure and organization.
The original agreement contemplated three core staff members, i.e., a project leader, a coordinator for technical assistance, and a coordinator for training and networking, plus supporting staff. It was anticipated that consultants would provide many of the short term services required by the agreement. The current staffing pattern is listed on pages 50-52 of the Procedural Manual and includes, in addition to the Director, five coordinators. Core management has also actively been seeking AID's approval and funding of a regional support program based in Cameroon and the assignment of an additional full-time coordinator. In addition to advice received by organizations mentioned below, the Director receives counsel from a senior-counciler in residence (Pete Hildebrand) and from time-to-time, may seek external advice, e.g., the hiring of a consultant (Bob House Vanderbilt University) on FSSP management.
In the view of the team, and as expressed elsewhere in this report,
the core staff has taken on more responsibilities and delivery activities than Originally contemplated or desirable. This is due, at least in part, to the pressure on them to produce results, the absence of an approved long-range strategy and agreement on the priority and nature of specific expected results S(i.e., outputs), and their individual and collective high motivation to produce. It has had, however, some unfortunate consequences regarding quality and relevance of work undertaken and/or planned. The size and skill composition of the core staff is obviously at issue, particularly in light of the current funding difficulties. Since these are non-tenure track positions and, according to the Director, are more management than substance or discipline oriented, it was not possible to recruit an agronomist or other bio-scientist for the core staff. The net result, except for a former AID research management specialist, is an unbalanced team of young and ambitious social scientists who are learning (and they are learning), but mostly by trial and error. In the process, the natural self-preservation instinct of the core staff (like any institution) may be subconsciously modifying the original project approach to fit personal capabilities, objectives and perceptions.
Particularly in the early days, there was a reluctance for core
management to involve the SEs effectively in the central program and to accept SE proposals but, according to a member of the Advisory Council, this has improved and there is more acceptance of "delegating a chunk of the program to specific SEs" There can be little doubt, however that some SEs felt spurned.
The Project Director, a long-term and tenured faculty member of the University of Florida and an economist with extensive experience in Latin America, has a good personal style and is well-liked and respected. He has done a very good job in separating FSSP per se from the UF in the eyes of the university community while, at the same time, getting good UF support. He has not, however, always been equally as successful in dealing with AID. Core management is not always sensitive as to when AID should be involved in FSSP decisions and activities and at what level. Confronted with conflicting signals, or signals he doesn't like, the Director has shown a tendency to treat the cooperative agreement as an iron-clad contract rather than a partnership. This is an indication that, after three years, there is still a great deal of misunderstanding, confusion or disagreement as to what FSSP is to accomplish and the optimum way to do it.
An Advisory Council, composed of three members selected from amongst the SEs of the FSSP network, was established as an advisory body to the Director and a sounding board for policy purposes. Current representation includes: (1) Larry Zuidema, Cornell University; (2) Jean Kearns, University of Arizona, and (3) Dale Harpstead, MSU.
Apparently this council has been quite active and has the support of the university community. It has been involved in the selection of SEs, in policy meetings with AID officials, and, most important, in melding the various views regarding FSR/E, at least at the policy level. It has helped in establishing the Technical Committee and providing general support to the
Director. The Council, which is non-technical in composition, has suggested or concurred in areas of program concentration but agrees that more can be done in strategizing and using a problem focus; possibly through the use of regional committees. As a support project, FSSP activities are viewed as about right with a need to broaden the base of faculty participation. If the Council can be faulted at all, it would be in taking too soft a role in encouraging program development and project design revision, providing more programming guidance to core management, and in advising the Director on the more effective timing and level of AID involvement as a partner in major project decisions.
The Procedural Manual describes the Technical Committee as the only "standing committee" of the FSSP and as advisory to the Director and core staff. It is to serve as a technical resource base and as regional and institutional representative for network and communication purposes. Areas to be considered include: research, extension, management, data retrieval and analysis, family, livestock, cropping, agro-forestry, soil and water infrastructure and policy systems. Its purpose, inter alia, is given as (a) provide for common goals and serve as trustees of the systems approach (b) assist in developing guidelines and roles for task force strategies and (c) representing disciplinary interest in farming systems through multi-disciplinary interfaces and integrated approaches to research and extension programs. Membership selection is primarily from Program Leaders with core staff representation.
Given the size and composition of the core staff, the Committee was viewed as a mechanism to involve the technical agro-disciplines but, by the admission of most parties, it has not yet functioned effectively. The Committee as originally composed was balanced and with good people but after two meetings attendance began to fall off, partly due to indecision about the advisory role of the committee and its clients. There have been no inputs into networking or training with the only concrete result being the review of submissions for the bibliography of readings in farming systems by the Committee itself (Kansas State University serves as the lead institution in this documentation effort).
The current chairperson indicated some frustration in attempting to set priorities for a support or passive type project. There has been an attempt to come up with task force subjects and people, e.g., in evaluation, animal traction, and intra-household dynamics, and to determine SOTA priorities but they are mostly short-term and reflect on-going functions. To a considerable extent, this reflects a lack of sufficient guidelines and/or delegation from the core staff. In turn, this may also reflect the conflicts between a service and research orientation. The Director himself has indicated concern about the gap which has evolved and the underuse of the committee to date. It appears obvious to the team that a good part of the problem concerns the role of the core staff vis-a-vis the supporting entities and the FSR/E community in general.
The task force concept (ad hoc committees) is employed to address
technical support needs as an instrument of the Technical Committee and core staff. The task-oriented approach is to be employed to support training, technical assistance, networking, and SOTA/synthesis A product is expected.
The most active task force appears the one concerned with evaluation, a subject initiated by the Technical Committee and reflecting their concern with the need for quality, replicable evaluations of FSR/E projects in the field. A lead entity Winrock International was selected in September, 1984. The group, led by James Henson from.WSU, includes membership from several universities, The Research Triangle Institute, with ex officio advisors from FSSP and AID. The evaluation task force is also backstopped by a large group of individuals but there is a significant gap no professional representation from the AID evaluation community. Since AID already has a well-developed and institutionalized project evaluating system, the team is concerned that the end product may not be acceptable in part or in whole to AID.
Other task forces have been created, e.g. on livestock, in connection with the animal traction workshops, but to date this mechanism to involve technical expertise has been underutilized.
An important objective of the project is to increase the quality and quantity of U.S. expertise in FSR/E to strengthen the base for the FSSP and other AID initiatives in FSR/E. As the lead university, U.F. is expected to ".eagerly solicit help from and cooperate with other institutions" which will collaborate in providing technical assistance, training and guidelines to FSR/E programs in the developing countries. The agreement is non-specific regarding the structure of the "confederation of entities" which will work cooperatively with UF. Therefore, one of the first tasks of the Director was to develop the University support base which was formalized in a non-funded Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the purpose of linking support entities (universities and private firms) to the FSSP. According to the 1984 annual report, there are 26 support entities in the base, including five consulting firms.
Some AID officials have indicated surprise at the large number of SEs which was decided by the Director with the assistance of the Advisory Council but without consultation with AID/S&T. It is important to note, in this connection, that the execution of MOA does not, by itself, give an accurate picture of SE participation since, on the one hand they are non-funded and, on the other, SEs may use other than FSSP funds when participating in an FSSP related activity
At the request of the team, FSSP management supplied some rough data on the issuance of funded Purchase Orders (POs) to SEs. This was difficult to do because the accounting system is not set up to provide aggregate data by SEs. In the $250,000 to $302,000 bracket were, in order of magnitude:
AGRIDEC, CSU, MSU, and KSU. In the X50,000 to $249,000 bracket were, also in order of magnitude: U. of Arizona, WSU, VPI, Development Alternatives, Inc., and U. Minn. In effect, the major recipients of FSSP funding have been two private consulting firms and approximately seven universities neither an unwieldy nor impressive number. It appears that MOAs are used mostly as public relations instruments rather than as the basis for programmed linkages.
At the request of the Team Leader, the S&T project manager prepared a survey questionnaire which was sent to all SEs asking for their response to a series of statements describing their reactions, on a rough favor-to-disfavor scale, to FSSP activities. Nineteen program Leaders and 18 Administrative Coordinators responded. The two groups did not differ substantially in their replies and were therefore consolidated. The questionnaires and a compilation and analysis of replies is included as Appendix No. 4.
The support entity survey reflects the judgment of the respondents based upon direct observation, information provided by the FSSP, and other sources. A significant number of the respondents had no opinion regarding the training and networking activities in foreign countries. Perceptions of the members in the joint venture regarding the performance of the project, however, are important regardless of the amount of direct involvement in the project. Although the responses in large part are self standing, some major conclusions from the "objective" questions are evident.
o Members of the support entity group are more favorably impressed
with the domestic workshop training activities than the delivery
of training and networking activities in developing countries.
o A great deal of dissatisfaction exists regarding the lack of
involvement or contribution to the support of FSSP activities.
In addition, the type of involvement is not strongly correlated
with original expectations as reflected by the MOA.
o Almost all institutions believe they have considerable expertise
and capability in FSR/E. This finding has implications with
respect to the development and delivery of future domestic
o At this point in the project, only about half of the respondents
feel that the FSR/E methodologies and training support materials are appropriate. This finding warrants additional follow-up to
determine the basis for this response.
o The institutional impact of participating in FSSP is mixed. A
majority of the respondents feel it is beneficial; however, over
one third of the respondents feel FSSP participation has not
enhanced their institutional capability in farming systems.
Among the top-ranked positive features of the FSSP reported in an "open-ended question" fashion were:
o opportunity to participate in FSR/E work overseas without a
long-term project (particularly for smaller universities);
o opportunity to interact with FSR/E thinkers and
o providing a forum for synthesizing and testing key systems
On the negative side, the features most reported were:
o lack of opportunity to gain overseas experience;
o start-up problems, including visible mistakes such as the
slide-tape modules for training materials;
o inadequate technical inputs;
o excessive reliance on the "old-boy" network; and
o heavy on organizational structure and light on SOTA/research
On one point there seems to be universal agreement. The annual FSSP conference at Kansas State'has been, in the short life of this project, almost institutionalized indicating a real need for this type of mechanism to bring universities together in the development and use of FSR/E.
While this subject is also addressed in other parts of this report, it is important to note that there has been an undue reliance on the annual work planning process to provide the framework for strategizing, refining or redesigning the project and to develop priorities. Program'development has been conceived by core staff as primarily an internal rather than a collaborative or joint process with AID and FSSP collaborators. With an evolving (hopefully ) project concept and the collaborative mode provided by a cooperative agreement, this has proved to be a weak reed to lean on. There has also been little interaction with other AID centrally-funded activities of interest, e.g., in livestock, aquaculture and crop systems analysis.
There are indications that the Director and his Advisory Council may be uncertain as to where the project is going, or should go, and what AID actually wants. This is manifested by the protective tendency to rely on a strict interpretation of the CA wording. To some extent this is understandable given the conflicting signals sometimes coming from Washington, e.g., global v. Africa approach, support v. research. It is also reflected in the FSSP core confusion or intransigence as to who is in charge in AID/W despite a recent letter to the Director, dated March 12, 1985, which clearly designates the "S&T/AGR management team" and its specific responsibilities.
Finally the extraordinary interest in this evaluation exercise by both parties indicates a realization that serious problems exist and need prompt resolution.
University and State Support
"There is ample evidence of support of the FSSP by the University of
Florida, both directly and indirectly. In addition, U.F. also acts as an SE. There are problems, however, in applying State of Florida regulations to international and national activities, e.g., in sub-contracting, per diem rates, provision for travel advances, and late payments. Since a large number of out-of state institutions are involved, this is serious enough to warrant special attention.
From the organization and management point of view AID has had its
own share of problems beginning with, and to some extent the result of, the CA itself and an over-reliance on the annual work planning process as the mechanism for collaboration. At some point after the first year or so of operations, it could have been reasonably expected that a project redesign or definition could have been attempted. This, too, is awaiting the results of this evaluation a heavy burden for a limited and external exercise.
The relationships of the first project manager with FSSP, insofar as day-to-day activities have been concerned, have been excellent. However, for some reasons beyond his control, he has not been able to act effectively as a consensus mechanism for AID itself. The Project Committee appears to have become inoperative and "considered" regional bureau inputs based on a clear understanding of the project have .been difficult to obtain.
While the PP or CA does not mention an Africa focus, the Assistant Administrator of S&T believes this is the raison d'etre for the FSSP. While all concerned now realize that Africa is, or will soon be, the principal if not the exclusive focus of the FSSP, signals from the Africa Bureau have been mixed, have not been adequately reviewed by mid-level management, and have not been communicated to the FSSP management core through proper S&T channels. Problems with the inter-bureau communicating process and AID's collaboration with FSSP are also exacerbated by the appearance of split responsibility within S&T, i.e., between its offices of Agriculture and Rural Development. As an example, despite the March 12, 1985 letter on new project management arrangements, a staff member from S&T/RD introduced himself to the team as the "project co-manager", and apparently he is still considered so by U.F. Perhaps S&T/AGR thought it was solving this problem when an IPA officer assumed responsibility for overall project management and direction but this does not yet appear to be the case either internally to AID, or with the FSSP and its Advisory Council, and will not be until a single officer is designated as the project manager.
A final observation on management concerns the nature of AID staff relationships in a cooperative agreement. It is unlike a contract involving specific services or products which, after negotiation, involves AID primarily in an oversight and facilitative role with the contractor responsible for implementation. Rather, in a CA, AID and the recipients become partners, throughout the entire project cycle, in a joint effort to achieve .the project purpose using an approach that requires flexibility and experimentation. This means that staff and backup resources must be available at appropriate
organizational and technical levels and in a timely manner to interact with FSSP management including its Advisory Council, Technical Committee and/'task groups. Staffing and funding shortages have made this difficult for AID staff to perform effectively, at least up to this time.
V. ISSUES AND CONCLUSIONS
The Team, on the basis of its analysis of performance to date and
current planning, believes that the major issues involved may be summarized as follows:
o Lack of consensus regarding the contribution of a centrallymanaged support project to FSR/E;
o Absence of a long-term strategy as the basis for joint
determination of FSSP priorities and as the basis for
o Major changes in AID policies and priorities;
o The management difficulties in this type of project and
the proper balance between core and SE participation; and,
in light of the above;
o The need to review the current relevance of the original
In this section, the report repeats or expands on the team'sanalyses, conclusions and suggestions on these principal issues which, in an action-oriented version, are summarized in Section V as team recommendations.
A. Conceptualization and Synthesis of FSSP
A sense of diversity in views and approaches was a major
consideration in establishing the need for the FSSP. Why this idea emerged and what the Project has done about it is itself an interesting story.
Step back a bit and see the impressions about agricultural research over the last decade or so. Most notably, there was an impression -supported by study -- of the great potential for investment in such research. Accompanying that was a spotty record for development assistance investment in the research systems of developing countries, some enormous successes but overall an uneven record. Finally, there was an emerging impression that the research paradigms which had had such apparent success were not the most relevant for research aimed at the problems of small farmers in developing countries. Practitioners were coming forward with different ideas. Among these were a set of guidelines featuring farmer participation in research, on-farm efforts, collaborative or interdisciplinary activities, and some broadly defined problem settings. Activities with this flavor came to be called farming system research and development assistance agencies saw great potential in their application. USAID in particular invested substantially in this pursuit through bi-lateral programs and a diverse set of undertakings was
soon in place. As well, there was a sense that extension and research were not coming together as they should. Somehow, it was thought, communication among farmers, researchers and extension agents was not as it should be.
By 1980, with vocabularies coming from several disciplines and with ends defined by a multitude of purposes, the farming system field presented great apparent diversity. While at its core the concepts are clear and simple, farming systems research soon encompassed virtually everything in agriculture -- from technology generation, through markets and infrastructure, the rural household, women's roles, to rural development and agricultural policy. Many sought to keep technology generation, testing and diffusion at center stage. Even so, however, there was still scope for diversity as, along one spectrum, attention varied from a commodity or enterprise emphasis all the way to simultaneous coverage of the entire pattern of production with crops and livestock accorded appropriate weights. Little wonder, then, that practitioners (or managers, or apologists or interpreters) frequently talked past one another.
USAID saw the need to bring order and coordination to their own programs and to contribute to harmony and understanding in farming systems research wherever it was underway. This led to the FSSP project, which was to "foster and coordinate the many farming systems research and extension programs (FSR/E) instituted in the last.decade" (Cooperative Agreement, Page
As we understand it, FSSP was to offer two kinds of support to those concerned with FSR/E. One went to AID missions and involved assistance with the program cycle -- briefings, PID preparation, PP, needs assessments, evaluation, debriefings --'where farming systems was involved. The second related to the intellectual dimensions of FSR/E and involved training (for Title XII teams and for NARC staff), networking, and assessing the evolving dimensions of the work itself.
What has happened with these objectives over time? First, the need for the first kind of support has not evolved as predicted. The emphasis on FSR/E Title XII participation has not grown as was projected. Moreover, recently USAID regional bureaus are finding advantage in having project preparation undertaken by the same entity which will implement the project. These developments have led to a lower than anticipated demand for assistance through the project cycle.
On the intellectual front, time has brought substantial change.
Impressions about what farming systems research is all about have begun to
jell. FSSP's activities (along with those of CGIAR and many other institutions) have contributed to this. FSSP, as with a great many others, sees such research (1) focused on technology generation and diffusion, (2) for well defined sets of farmers, (3) involving collaborative efforts (e.g., biological and social scientists), (4) with significant on-farm activities, and, (5) sensitive to the heavy influence of interactions (concurrent and through time, biological and economic) on the decision making of small farmers in developing countries. This last point, with the emphasis on interaction, makes it possible to accommodate research on whole systems as well as that on
commodities or enterprises within the farming systems rubric, so long as the research is undertaken with full awareness of the interactions, e.g., across enterprises, into the household, and including off farm work.
These developments have forced a change in the priorities among clients. As an example, service to overseas missions has been less than originally anticipated while networking for Title XII contractor overseas staff is being given higher priority. These new priorities and opportunities are described in the subsequent portions of this section.
B. Strategies, Priorities, Program Development
A Change in Approach
FSSP staff expressed to the evaluation team two approaches to the selection and scheduling of activities, a response approach and a proactive approach. The response approach means to inform clients of capabilities then supply services upon request. This approach was also referred to as the "opportunistic mode" of operations. The proactive mode implies the formulation of a strategy for reaching a goal, the creation of an environment in which clients are likely to request services, and otherwise elicit actions by clients that advance FSSP goals.
The FSSP has largely followed the "opportunistic"'or "response" approach until now. This, perhaps, was appropriate to the intended "cooperative mode" of the FSSP's design by which the project's services would be redesigned as the need becomes evident. Indeed the opportunistic approach has been useful in the early phase of FSSP. Clients' needs and FSSP's comparative advantages in services were initially unclear. The opportunistic approach facilitated an assessment and matching of needs and capabilities.
It is a major conclusion of the evaluation team that more of FSSP's
activities should be conducted in a proactive mode. Or in a somewhat negative context, strategic planning and priorities setting are not yet apparent in the principle activities of FSSP. Lack of planning and strategizing is apparent in:
SEs structure and linkages
Some unilateral prioritization is apparent in SOTA but it is not clear how they were set or how this relates to level and scheduling of effort. Much more needs to be done.
Associated with the inclination of the FSSP toward a "response
approach" is an apparent emphasis on the process and dynamics through which FSSP actions and decisions happened rather than on the content and direction
of actions based on any strategy to achieve desired results. The evaluation team recommends the following.
o The emphasis on an African focus, while justifiable,
should not exclude the use of relevant experience in
Asia or Latin America as it may apply to Africa or limit
their access to FSSP products. Technical services to
these regions, however, should be supplied on a "buy-in"
o Identify technical problems that critically affect food
production, particularly in sub-Sahara Africa, which prospectively can be solved through a FSR/E approach.
Principle activities of FSSP should relate to those
technical issues, including networking, training, SOTA, technical assistance, and the distribution of.responsiabilities to SEs. Network activities on traction power
is a step in the right direction. Additional examples of possible technical issues are: weed management in
upland system, small farm irrigation practices, dryland range management, efficient water use in arid and semiarid regions.
o The formulation of an FSSP strategy with respect to
Africa should have a problem focus and be carried out
in close collaboration with SEs, S&T, and the regional bureaus. Questions such as whether to post core staff
in Western Africa should await the results of such a
o Program development should be defined to include the
inputs of not only the internal management of the core
FSSP team, but all collaborators including SEs, task
groups and others. Particular attention must be given
to planning how they might diverge from activities
planned under the original project design. Strategic
decisions should be consistently reflected in work plans
and annual reports.
o While it may be clear internally to the core what the
priorities and strategies are, it does not come through.
These must be clearly articulated in processes and
products from the various program activities.
o The Technical Committee should be immediately given the
task of performing a more active role in strategizing,
technical review, promoting access to technical resources,
and to follow up evaluation of FSSP outputs.
o AID should be recognized by FSSP management as a full
partner in strategizing, program development, and work
planning at the purpose and output levels.
C. AID Policies and Programs in Relation to FSSP
FSSP has experienced a number of difficulties in implementation due to unresolved contradictions about AID's approach to agricultural development in Africa and elsewhere. Three of the most prominent contradictions are discussed below, and a final section draws conclusions that shed light on the question of what needs to be done over the next two years.
1. Field Support vs Research
At the time FSSP was conceptualized it was generally felt that FSSP should not do research per se but should rather provide support for field research activities. This is reflected very strongly in the PP and Cooperative Agreement. Now, however, the pendulum has swung in the direction of research and FSSP is criticized for being insufficiently involved in or linked closely to field-level work.
This is not fair to FSSP management and should not cloud our judgment of the value of what has been accomplished. There is more subtle aspect to this as well. By restricting FSSPs involvement in actual FSR/E work, the PP/Cooperative Agreement made it very difficult for FSSP to develop (SOTA), training materials and problem-oriented networks. This is because only hands-on involvement in the process of agriculture research can generate the up-to-date and well-targeted guidance and knowledge required. On the other hand, FSSP management has been slow in establishing working linkages with field researchers. FSSP has also been too slow in bringing a technical orientation to their work. However, the overriding problem was a basic flaw in project design, which assumed that SOTA field support could be provided independently of hands-on involvement in agriculture research.
2. FSR/E vs Commodity Work
Within the Agency there is considerable ambivalence and lack of
clarity regarding what FSR/E is and what it should do, particularly regarding the relationship between FSR/E and commodity research. People's different and often partial conceptions led to conflicting expectations regarding FSSP. All this might have been resolved had more time been spent putting together the project paper, but this process was rushed. FSSP was left to generate a definition of FSR that would suit various actors in AID, and the FSR/E community, an obviously impossible task. Now, however, at least with regard to Africa, an Agency consensus on the role of FSR/E has been achieved, FSSP should carefully review the Plan for Supporting Agricultural Research and Facilities of Agriculture in Africa, and discuss the implications with those in S&T and AFR who share responsibility for guiding the evolution of FSSP. In the meantime, however, FSSP should not be regarded with disapproval for having failed to develop a definition of FSR/E that would satisfy everyone in AID and outside as well.
3. Networks and Networking
As with the concept of FSR/E, there has been considerable uncertainty and disagreement regarding the role of "networks" in agricultural. development. FSSP management has chose, perhaps inevitably given their lack
of involvement in on-going research programs, to concentrate on simply facilitating the exchange of views and experience in the realm of FSR/E broadly defined. At the same time, there has been within AID a growing conviction that the "network" concept should have the following basic attributes: (a) be organized around the definition and resolution of particular technical issues or problems arising in agricultural research; and
(b) facilitate the exchange of genetic material and trial results on a regional basis among cooperating scientists when joint activities complement and support one another. This understanding had not been concisely stated until publication of the Plan referred to above, and it has not yet been effectively communicated to FSSP management. Thus their networking activities are viewed with some disfavor due to the general lack of technical content; but until recently it was not all that clear what AID expected of a network and in any case FSSPs "support" role makes it difficult for them to take any sort of technical leadership role in supporting network development. There are a range of possible solutions, including careful discussions with S&T and AFR of the networking guidelines contained in the Plan (which represents an AID consensus on this point); more careful attention to ensuring that technical issues guide the development of future networking activities; and a general withdrawal from the "sensitization" type of FSR workshops.
This evaluation has identified some significant issues in communication between AID and FSS"P management with regard to implications for the future shape of FSSP programs, particularly in Africa. The one-week exercise, however, does not provide sufficient scope to wholly resolve these issues and arrive at definitive, viable, and pragmatic conclusions. It is not possible for an external group to say at this point exactly what FSSP should do to meet emerging AID interests in research as opposed to program support. It is not clear to us how a project directly focused on FSR/E can effectively address the commodity tie-in; given FSSP distance from national programs and IARC's. It is difficult to state how they can best help support networks; and there is insufficient information available to judge how best the focus can be sustained and increased. For these reasons it would be prudent to defer major decisions on re-orientation of FSSP and the nature of the Africa program in particular until early 1986, prior to which AFR, S&T, and FSSP would have participated in a joint strategy review leading to a respecification or redesign of the Cooperative Agreement which would have taken into consideration the recommendations included in this report.
D. Management of FSSP
The management of a complex project of this nature, (i.e., an
innovative effort in an evolving interdisciplinary systems approach to on-farm management involving a large number of competitive universities and discilines with differing perceptions and needs) is bound to be difficult and challenging for it is breaking new ground. In a cooperative agreement, management control is shared and even diluted further when there is a lack of an operational consensus as to the purpose of the project and the approach to be taken among the principal FSSP players, including AID. These problems, some already identified under "performance", are reiterated below along with the teams' suggestions of what might be done. The team wishes at the outset,
however, to make clear that in its view, all the parties have been making significant and honest efforts to improve the management of this project in order to assure its success. In many cases, the problems are due to resource and other constraints beyond the control of the participants. The pressure to get started and show results has sometimes affected their quality and relevance. Some critical assumptions made at the beginning of the project, e.g., a projection of USAID field demand for project-cycle support in FSR/E, have not the been validated. In hindsight, it is easy to find fault. This is not the intention here. Rather it is to provide the rationale for considering immediate steps which can be taken to improve the management of the FSSP within the context of the other findings, conclusions and recommendations included in this report.
The Director of the FSSP, under difficult circumstances, has done a good job in: (i) mollifying most of the universities who originally competed for the "lead" role; (ii) separating FSSP core management from the University of Florida; and, in the process (iii) gaining acceptance from the FSR/E community in general. The ability of the Director and his core staff to work effectively with AID, however, is subject to some qualification regarding timing and sensitivity to AID needs, complicated by problems within AID itself.
While an elaborate organizational plan has been developed covering the purpose and role (operational guidelines) for the FSSP, including its mandate, organization, and procedures, the university support base, etc., it is often more structural and procedural and lacking a programmatic rationale.
This is particularly serious in the case of the role and functions of the core management staff vis-a-vis the SEs, including the Technical Committee and its task groups.
While sincere recruitment efforts were undertaken, because of the
lack of tenure-track positions and other reasons, most of the core staff are young social scientists and there is an absence of adequate biological-scientific input. Under pressure to produce, through trial-by-error if necessary, the staff has become too involved in delivering per se but without the cohesive framework of a high level of USAID mission demands or overall strategy. Quality and relevance of results have suffered thereby and appear ad hoc in nature. Given the nature and history of the project, perhaps this development was inevitable and improvements are being made: In the team's view, however, they are not sufficient and require, inter alia, a clarification of the core's role vis-a-vis AID, SEs and task groups which takes into account the expectation of continual funding limitations. In short, core staff should become more involved in planning and facilitative effort while "delegating" more implementing responsibilities to selected SEs and providing support to them through backstopping services and supplemental funding.
The University Private Sector Base
Land-grant universities and five private consulting firms, all U.S., make up the FSSP base. Twenty-one universities have signed MOA's and, together, they thereby become "support entities". The lion's share of FSSP funds, however, have flowed to two private firms and seven universities.
The SEs are the primary source of members serving on the FSSP
Advisory Council, the Technical Committee, and the two or three task groups established to date. The team was not able to ascertain the policy and criteria for the number of entities selected and the reason thereof except a willingness to sign an MOA and expand the'base.
The Advisory Council appears to be functioning in a useful manner as a small advisory group to the Director and a buffer to both the university base and AID. It has not, however, been of much use to date in helping him to strategize, at least on a more formalized and long-range basis, or in putting life into the Technical Committee. The team sees the Technical Committee, which has had a marginal impact to date, as the mechanism or the means to add substance and interdisciplinary technical input to the core management function and as a means to more effective technical and problem-oriented participation of the SEs and others, including AID, in FSSP activities. More use of problem-oriented task forces seems called for under the leadership of a specific SE, with core support not leadership. AID staff, not just confined to the S&T project management team, also needs to be involved at the working/technical levels with field participation when feasible. The absence of such involvement, and the possible negative consequences, is particularly noteworthy in connection with the Evaluation Task Force.
There are similar problems evident on the AID side. From an
organizational point of view, they are not helped by the received split in project management responsibilities both within S&T/AGR and between S&T/AGR and S&T/RD. It is in the process of being exacerbated further as the focus shifts to Africa. Despite recent attempts to clarify matters, the FSSP Director acts confused as to who is calling the signals in AID and at what level. Since these signals have sometimes been contradictory, he takes refuge
in a literal interpretation of the CA, a position which is not conducive to eventual project effectiveness and success. For the time being, at least, senior management in the S&T (and perhaps the Africa Bureau) must provide more guidance to the APMT staff, allocate the resources necessary to operate in a collaborative and joint manner, ensure that the intra-agency consensus process is working, and closely monitor progress over the next 12 months. While it is desirable that many bureaus and offices of AID are involved in implementation through participation in the Technical Committee and working groups, for strategizing, program development and work planning, a unified AID front must be maintained through S&T's Office of Agriculture.
At this point, the team wishes to note that the collaborative mode involving joint decision-making, as usually envisioned in a CA, while often indispensable is also a difficult mode for AID and S&T in particular, given its multitude of goals, programs and clients combined with continuing staffing
and support constraints. It is particularly severe when a centrally managed project involves a number of technical disciplines and combines research and similar activities with technical assistance and support of field activities. When the basic approach and the expected results are unclear, it puts even a greater responsibility on AID staff who may not have the time, inclination and/or capability or background to contribute to the process. In extending this project or entering into new CA's, these facts of life need to be considered by AID programmers and managers.
2. Management Processes
The report repeatedly points out the need for a new project framework
which, as the result of experience to date, should provide a verification or revision of the original project logic, i.e., project purpose and approach, including a rationalization of research and support, the establishment of desired end results/project activities (outputs), critical assumptions, and
performance and EOPS indicators. This redesign should be the result of a strategizing process which involves AID, FSSP core management, and representation from the Advisory Council and Technical Committee in a joint exercise. It is evident that the annual work planning process with its
short-term and activity orientation has not and cannot provide the raison d'etre which appears missing in the eyes of some important officials within AID and the Title XII community. Such a redesign, and its acceptance by the major players, must be a pre-condition for any consideration of extension of
During this process, the issue concerning the role of the core
management vis-a-vis the APMT, the SEs, Technical Committee, and expanded use of problem-oriented task groups, must be considered. The potential and desired interface with other AID/S&T projects should also be reviewed. The global vs regional focus of the project and its ramifications must also be resolved as quickly as possible. On the basis of this redesign, a work plan should be developed for the remainder of the project emphasizing, as suggested elsewhere, SOTA/synthesis, development of priority training modules, and networking/support activities, with new starts postponed until the justification for an extension is clearer.
The team was impressed and a bit concerned with the role both parties were granting to the Evaluation Team regarding these issues. While it is hoped and expected that our analyses and suggestions will help in arriving at critical project management decisions, these issues must be resolved by the "partners" themselves, i.e., UF/FSSP and AID, in a joint, collaborative and continuous fashion.
Reporting and Accounting
One of the advantages of a redesign as suggested above is that it can provide the basis for improved reporting on progress involving pre-determined results using milestone events even when qualification is not feasible. An annual report of the plans, activities, and accomplishments of the Advisory Council and Technical Committee would also be useful, combined with a
similar report on the annual FSSP conference. Rather than requiring quarterly reports, per se, progress reports by various task groups might be more useful in the future and more feedback on the effectiveness and impact of field activities. There also should be more reporting on how FSSP is impacting, directly and indirectly, on the U.S. FSR/E community.
In addition, accounting data could be adjusted. or repackaged to
provide more programmatic information, e.g., the amount of funds transferred to individual SEs and task groups and the results obtained and the cost of producing major products such as training modules and manual. This would help in making more rational choices from program alternatives and choosing the most cost-effective outputs. The need for both a work plan, based on an output concept, and an implementation plan appears redundant.
As both a management tool and networking device for the FSSP, the annual KSU symposium has been widely recognized as very useful and valuable and should be continued. The process of using the annual symposium to involve SEs in planning and decision-making should be continued and strengthened, including more effective AID participation.
State of Florida
Finally, it has been noted that the regulations of the State of
Florida regarding contracting, travel costs and advances, etc., are not always comparative with a project which has a nationwide and international dimension. This problem has been faced and solved by other universities in similar circumstances. Solutions range from special legislation granting exemptions to establishing "institutes" with special authorities. If the University of Florida wishes to continue its role as sponsor for the FSSP, i.e., as the "lead" university, and enter into similar arrangements in other subject-matter areas, the team believes that the University should initiate action with its legislative committee to seek a satisfactory and immediate solution.
The limited time available to carry out a comprehensive evaluation of this project precluded an in-depth investigation regarding specific activities, e.g., views of officials who received training, discussions with individual SEs, or any assessment of field activities. For these reasons, it is believed that some follow-up evaluation on specific topics, particularly those of interest to the Africa Bureau, should be undertaken by qualified consultants) in collaboration with AID staff.
4. Specific Recommendations
Management of FSSP
o The core management staff should be reduced in size and become
more involved in planning, coordinating and facilitative effort
while transferring more implementation/delivery responsibilities
to selected SEs and task groups, providing support through liaison and backstopping services and allocating FSSP seed
and/or supplemental funding.
o Greater recognition needs to be given by FSSP management and
core staff to the "partnership" role of AID in this cooperative
venture. As part of an effort to increase the relationship
between FSSP and AID, there should be at least ex-officio AID representation on the Advisory Council (outside of the APMT),
formal representation of the APMT on the Technical Committee, an
increased AID participation in task groups.
o The Advisory Council should assist the Director of FSSP in the
further elaboration of the FSSP -FSR/E approach and in
multi-year strategizing with assistance from the Technical
o The Technical Committee should be revitalized, with help from
FSSP core staff and the APMT, to serve as the mechanism for (i) supplementing and expanding the technical and interdisciplinary
base necessary to carry out basic functions; (ii) to serve as the nexus between the core and SEs in problem-oriented FSR/E
o In pursing the above, greater use should be made of SEs and
others, through problem-oriented task groups, lead by selected
SEs and with core support. AID staff participation at the
working level should be encouraged and facilitated.
o Senior management in S&T, and in the Africa Bureau if a regional
focus is decreed, should provide clearer guidelines to the APMT,
ensure that an effective intra-agency consensus process is
working, allocate the necessary priority and resources (time and
travel funds) necessary to operate in a collaborative and
partnership mode, and closely monitor progress over the next 12
months-particularly the implementation of recommendations in
this report which are acceptable to them.
o A unified agency project management responsibility should be
maintained in one office, viz, S&T/AGR. This should be made
abundantly clear to the Director of FSSP, including those
problems or subjects in which higher-level participation may be
o An exercise should be initiated as soon as possible to attempt
the formulation of at least a preliminary, multi-year
strategizing process which will provide the basis for the
revision of the project logical framework (design)
including a verification or change in project purpose and
rationalization of the research (SOTA/synthesis and methodology) versus project-cycle support focus;
selection of regional (Africa) v. global scope, or some reasonable combination of both;
resolution of the role (including size and composition) of core management vis-a-vis the SEs;
determining desired interface with other AID centrally and field managed (i.e., bilateral contracts) projects; and within the context of these actions;
redefining the major project design elements, i.e., clearer statements of project purpose and approach, specification of desired end-results (major outputs) of project activities, explicit statements of critical assumptions and provision of performance and EDPS indicators.
o Based on the results of the above recommended joint
strategizing, rationalization and programming exercises, develop
an output-oriented work plan for the remainder of the current
project life, limited to SOTA/synthesis, development of priority
trailing modules and problem-oriented networking and support
o Also deriving from the steps suggested above is an improved and
more useful reporting system for management purposes, which,
inter alia, would:
focus on progress (through use of milestone events) in
producing major results and problems encountered;
provide more information on the plans, activities, and
achievements of the Advisory Council, Technical Committee, SE, and the task groups;
provide a feedback on the effectiveness and impact of field activities;
present highlights on the impact of FSSP in involving the SEs, in particular, and the US FSR/E community in general; and
discuss the results of the KSU-FSR/E symposium and plans for the next one.
Budget and fiscal data should be repackaged to provide more
programmatic information, for example:
the purpose, cost and results of FSSP activities carried out by
SEs, task groups, core staff and others; and
actual and/or projected costs to produce major products such as
training modules, management manuals, evaluation methodology;
o High level representation to the appropriate authorities of the State
of Florida should be made by the University of Florida for
appropriate relief from State contracting and similar regulations
which impede FSSP activities involving a nationwide as well as
international dimension; and
o Finally, that necessary changes in budget categories and increased
allocations be made for the high transaction costs involved in a
cooperative agreement of this nature.
E. Relevance of Existing Project Design
After two and one half years of project implementation, it is timely to access the relevance of the project design as envisioned by those who wrote the project document, and how this was translated into the Cooperative Agreement. This must then be evaluated in light of the above analysis of the project, and how the perceived needs have changed during the interim.
Programs and needs evolve, as do the perceptions of what farming systems is or can be for projects and for the farmer. This evolving understanding of concepts and ways to implement them need to be reflected in the types of specific plans and their implementation in the field. This project is a "support project", and the types of support to AID missions, bilateral contractors, and national progr:.ms has changed as the FSSP has attempted to provide specific types of services over the past two years. Some activities have generated interest and response, while others have not This is the framework within which we analyze the current relevance of project design.
The evolving needs for support in farming systems were envisioned by AID in their choice of the cooperative agreement mechanism instead of a contract for this project. This meant that a regular dialog hopefully would occur between project management and AID to assure that the project is developed in concert with the needs of the agency and other clients. In the absence of other mechanisms, the annual work plan has turned out to be the main instrument around which this dialog occurs. There has been a relatively long and cumbersome process surrounding the preparation and negotiations of this plan, with the recipient expressing concern about the length of time needed to "get it accepted by AID", the lack of direct involvement by "appropriate" level administrators, and the resources and time invested in rewrites and additional trips to Washington. AID expresses concern about the recipient ignoring or not seriously incorporating its suggestions and the poor quality of its proposals. Clearly, there is a need to streamline and clarify this approach, although the choice of a cooperative agreement mode still appears to be the appropriate one to maintain the relevance of the project approach from year to year.
Several shifts in emphasis in project design are regarded as critical by the evaluation team as already proposed. A major objective is "to improve the capabilities of intermediaries -- those who cause things to happen on the
farm. Any redesign must consider a reappraisal of the purpose of the project, deciding what the project will produce as a measurable output, and how this may be evaluated. Recommendation to this effect are included in this report.
Any project design must reflect the fact that the most important level of networking is within developing countries. Networking is needed among bilateral contractors, among CRSPs, among IARCs, among national programs, and linking all these entities when appropriate with each other and with USAID mission people and projects. This is an important support function which should receive major importance in future strategies. Both networking and training should emerge from any project redesign with a strong problem focus.
Comparative analysis of experiences and synthesis of lessons learned as specified in the Cooperative Agreement is a worthwhile activity, and one specific project in cooperation with the Population Council with partial support from outside (Ford Foundation) is under way. This should be encouraged, with a minimum investment from core funding. The center at KSU also provides a resource for projects in the US and other countries. This is not synthesis, but the use of these materials and the continued publication of key papers by experts in the area of farming systems (networking papers) can help to move this process 'along. This is not a high-cost item, and should be continued.
The documentation center at ESU has done an outstanding job of bringing relevant materials together, cataloguing them, and making this resource available to people throughout the world who are interested in farming systems. This activity should definitely continue and remain a part of the project design. The evaluation team views this activity as an excellent prototype for contracting specific projects to institutions in the supporting entity group.
State-of-the-art research was envisioned as a part of the original project design. This has not received high priority in the FSSP, although many individuals associated with the project have carried out research under other sources of funding and their reports often are found in newsletters, papers, the RSU symposium, and in specific project implementation papers or reports. The case study project is a good example of attracting outside support to synthesize information and provide this to people interested in farming systems research and extension.
The balanced use of funds for SOTA, training, and networking is important for the project, and determining this balance on the basis of a central strategy is a function of the design considerations each year when developing the annual work plan.
In summary, the project design needs to be an evolving activity which takes into account past experience in the project and elsewhere, the current thinking in AID, in the central bureau and in missions, and the current ability of the contractor and supporting entities to deliver. This process needs to work more efficiently than it has in the first two years of the project, and every effort should be made to keep the project relevant to current needs of client groups, the thinking of AID, and growing capacities of the project and the supporting entities.
The previous narrative has included many explicit and implied recommendations which are "actionable", i.e., if approved by the parties to the FSSP Cooperative Agreement, action may be taken to implement them or initiate follow-up actions. They are compiled and consolidated below to facilitate review.
1. Provide future technical assistance to non-Africa regions through
2. Handle bio-data services on a more-cost effective and comprehensive
basis, e.g., merge with WI system and add additional identifierss".
3. Include AID evaluation community participation in the Evaluation Task
4. Distribute current version of draft FSR/E project handbook in
loose-leaf form. Do not allocate additional resources or staff time
to this or similar activities of this type.
5. A careful review of documentation efforts should be undertaken by
FSSP management, in collaboration with the APMT, to reduce
considerably the number, conserve core funding and prioritize staff
6. Annotation services now provided by AID/PPC/CDIE should be done by
FSSP, through an SE. S&T should address this problem as soon as
7. Continue KSU publication of key papers and its documentation center
8. Continue support of annual KSU-FSR/E symposium.
9. FSSP management, on a priority basis, should address the identified
weaknesses in current training methodology and materials particularly for content relevance to Africa-by drawing on the technical
resources of SEs and others actively engaged in FSR/E related
10. Develop an overall training strategy which, inter alia:
o withdraws from "sensitizing" type workshops;
o emphasizes international training workshops with specific focus
on priority African agricultural problems;
o concentrates on development and refinement of priority training
modules using the technical resources of the entire SE network
and other institutions and individuals with unique capabilities;
o re-thinks miscellaneous training activities and reduces level of
11. A specific plan for SOTA activities leading to a useful synthesis of
experience in a small number of priority areas should be formulated
in collaboration with AID, which will include an identification of
resources and (at least preliminary) assignment of responsibilities
12. This plan should include a strategy statement which defines what
SOTA/synthesis activities involve within the FSR/E framework, who are
the target users or clients for its products and for what purpose,
and where this program is headed, both in the short and long-term
13. As methodological and conceptual issues are resolved, SOTA activities
should shift to technical issues of relevance to developing countries
where FSSP-associated projects are conducted.
14. Encourage joint efforts involving outside support (e.g., Population
15. As in training and SOTA, and in collaboration with AID and the SEs,
FSSP management should establish an overall strategy for networking
activities in FSR/E, which includes:
o concentrating on problem and technical-oriented networking
activities within the developing countries;
o the results of a careful review of the AID/AFR "Plan for
Supporting Agricultural Research and Facilities of Agriculture in Africa", particularly in relation to a problem and commodity
o continue networking activities at the current level but in
support of existing viable networks.
Program Development and Project Redesign
16. As mentioned in several categories above, there is an urgent need to
relate the principal activities of FSSP, i.e., networking,
SOTA/synthesis, training and technical assistance to technical
problems critically affecting food production, particularly in Africa. FSSP
S management, in collaboration with S&T, AFR, the Advisory Council and the
Technical Committee, after review of the conclusions and recommendations in
this report, should embark as soon as possible on a strategizing process
leading to a project redesign in early 1986 for the remainder of the existing
agreement. This redesign and/or respecification should include:
o revision of the logical framework, including a verification or
change in the project purpose and approach;
o rationalization of the research (SOTA/synthesis and methodology)
versus project-cycle support focus;
o selection of regional (Africa) v. global scope, or some
reasonable combination of both;
o resolution of the role of core management vis-a-vis the APMT and
the SEs; and
o determining desired interface with other AID centrally and
17. Within the context of the above actions, redefine the major project
design elements, i.e., develop clearer statements of project purpose and approach, specification of desired end-results (major outputs) of
FSSP activities, explicit statements of critical assumptions, and
provision of performance and EOPS indicators.
18. Based on the results of this collaborative strategizing and planning
exercise, an output-oriented work plan should be jointly developed
for the remainder of the current agreement term, limited to SOTA/synthesis, development of related training modules, and
problem-oriented networking and support activities.
19. A special review should take place within the next 12 months to
assess the results of this strategizing and planning and its impact
on performance, including the quality and relevance of activities,
for the purpose of recommending extension or phase-out of the project.
20. The collaborative strategizing and program development process should
be an annual and evolving one, needed to keep FSSP activities
sensitive and relevant to the current needs of client groups, the
thinking of AID, and the growing capacities of the SEs.
21. Core management staff should be reduced in size with a change in
duties to involve more planning, coordinating and facilitative effort
while transferring implementation/delivery responsibilities to
selected SEs and task groups, providing support to them through
liaison and backstopping services, and allocating FSSP seed and/or
22. Greater recognition needs to be given by FSSP management and core
staff to the "partnership" role of AID in this cooperative venture.
As part of an effort to increase the desired and necessary
collaborative relationship, there should be ex-officio AID policy
level representation on Advisory Council and formal APMT representation on the Technical Committee.
23. The Advisory Council should assist the Director of FSSP in further
elaboration of the FSSP/FSR/E approach and in multi-year strategizing.
24. The Technical Committee should be revitalized, with help from core
staff and the APMT, to serve as the mechanism for (a) supplementing
and expanding the interdisciplinary base necessary to carry out basic
functions, (b) to serve as the nexus between the core, AID, and SEs
on technical matters, and (c) to accelerate the more effective use of
SEs in problem-oriented FSR/E activities.
25. In pursuing the above, greater use should be made of SEs and others,
through problem or technically oriented task groups, led by selected SEs with core support. AID staff participation at the working level
should be encouraged and facilitated.
26. Senior management in S&T, and in AFR if a regional focus is decreed,
should provide clearer guidelines to the APMT, ensure that an
effective intra-agency consensus process is working, allocate the
necessary priority and resources (time and travel funds) necessary to operate in a collaborative and partnership mode, and closely monitor progress over the next 12 months-particularly the implementation of
recommendations in this report which are acceptable to them.
27. Unified agency project management responsibility should be maintained
in one office, viz, S&T/AGR and with one, and only one, project
manager through which all communications to and -from FSSP must pass.
This should be made abundantly clear to the Director of FSSP and core
staff, including those problems or subjects in which higher level
agency management participation may be appropriate.
28. Deriving from the steps recommended for strategizing and program
development, an improved and more useful reporting system for
management purposes should be installed which would, inter alia:
o focus on progress (through use of milestone events) in producing
major results and solving problems encountered;
o provide more information on the plans, activities and
achievements of the Advisory Council, Technical Committee,
Support Entities and task groups;
o provide feedback on the impact of FSSP in involving the SEs in
particular, and the US FSR/E community in general; and
o discuss the results of the annual KSU-FSR/E symposium and plans
for the next one.
29. Budget and fiscal data should be repackaged to provide more
programmatic information, e.g.:
o the purpose, cost and results of FSSP activities carried out by
SEs task groups, core staff and others; and
o actual and/or projected costs to produce major products such as
training modules, management manuals, evaluation methodology.
30. High level representation to the appropriate authorities of the State
of Florida should be made by the University of Florida for
appropriate relief from State contracting and similar regulations
which impede FSSP activities involving a nationwide as well as
31. Necessary changes in budget categories and allocations should be made
to cover the high transaction costs involved in a cooperative
agreement of this nature and to implement these recommendations.
FSP E ALLATIWN GUIDELINES AND ISSUES
I. Review the project objectives and purpose, as developed by the
concept papers, PID, PP, log frame and contractual documents, as well
as the subsequent wortplans. Latermine the degree to which the
current interpretation of this objective by the principal
participants in the "Fa Systems Support Project" is consistent
with AID policy and strategy for the technology generation and
transfer process, and the present day "state-of-the-art" in the field of farming systems, as viewed by evaluation team members. Recoamend
new directions if warranted.
I. One purpose of the cooperative agreement is to develop, strengthen "
and expand the capacity of the recipient and collaborating
institutions to provide tPch'ni 1 assistance, training and guidance
to k5R/E programs in developing countries. The recipient institution
is to function as the lead entity and act as coordinator of the
iputs from collaborating institutions with similar interests in
1. nave support ii "-c.J-ively c. -b.---ut-d i'rs
2. What factors nfluence participation levels among support
3. Is there an optimum number and mix of support entities?
Source of information for review of this issue would include (1)
Memorandum of Agreement with the support entities, (2) the value of
staff time spent in tr a ng, techniical assistance and state-of-the-art
research and synthesis activities, and participation in foreign and
domestic workshops, and (3) other summary statistics from the Support
Z. A working del nticon of the FSSP is to develop the i ndgenous human
resource capacity to assess the constraints to agricultural
production, identify potential interventions for overcoming such
constraints in existing farming systems, and generate ng and testing the effectiveness of alternative approaches to achieve these goals.
How has the project addressed these issues and how are they
proceeding to implement this task? Is this effort adequate and
properly designed for achiving tnis goal?
V. A number of methodological issues war-rant consideration. FSR/E
authorities referencedd by Shaner, et. al.) state that the FSR/E
approach views the farm systems as a whole and focuses on the
interpendencies between the components under the control of farm
household members and how these components interact with he physical,
biological, institutional, political and economic factors not under
1. Have project activities demonstrated agreement with this
statement and a thorough understanding of its implications?
2. The whole farm approach means that total farm resources must be analyzed in a way which allocates these resources to the most
productive activities in terms of farmer and country welfare
objectives. When total farm resource use and allocation issues
are addressed, constraints to production can be significantly different from those assumed with single enterprise analysis.
In addition, the whole farm analysis can give valuable input
into identifying agricultural comparative advantages and
associated constraint identification can feed back to policy
makers dealing with prioritizing the research/extension agenda.
Does the project explicitly deal with this issue, and in
general, have the methodologies for analyzing the economics of
farming systems been developed to an equal level of adequacy and
competency as the agronomic trials work?
3. There are several methodologies which could be employed for
each stage in tne FSK/E development process. Has the project
reviewed these methodologies to determine the comparative
advantages of each witn regard to their most favorable context, and imparted the notion of choice of methodologies according to different environments in the project's training and networking
Reference documents: Louise Fresco's comparison of anglaphone/
francophone FSR/L approaches and iSSP networking paper, 15.
V. Is a redirection of FSSP indicated by reduced funding levels and
increased attention to Africa?
1. Are tools (newsletters, networking, training activities,
etc.) consistent with "new needs"?
Z. Assess the role, assignment, and location of core staff.
Can FESSP effectively carry out programatic thrusts when limited
to one geographic focus?