Title: Reports from Art Hansen, at the Chitedze Research Station in Lilongwe, Malawi
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00087426/00001
 Material Information
Title: Reports from Art Hansen, at the Chitedze Research Station in Lilongwe, Malawi
Physical Description: Archival
Creator: Hansen, Art
Publisher: Hildebrand, Peter E.
Publication Date: 1981
Subject: Farming   ( lcsh )
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00087426
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text

Chitedze Research Station
P.O..Box 158 Lilongwe, Malawi
18 July 1981

Pete Hildebrand
1125 McCarty Hall
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida USA 32611

Dear Pete,,

Enjoyed receiving your letter with the news about FSR and UF happenings.
I guess I agree that I might be chewing off more than I can swallow (or biting
off more than I can chew) but the alternative is to maybe bite off less than I
can chew and given my druthers I would druther make the error of mas en vez
de menos. In addition to my own inclination to jump in fast, there is a real
need here for the kind of rapid synthesis of systemic problems and potentials
that the FSR approach offers, and a good acceptance (in fact eagerness) among
many people in the Ministry of Agriculture for this kind of approach, I had
intended to only get involved in two areas this growing season (late November
to early June) since I came in late January,, needed to get settled and my
support systems set up, and I was alone with no other professionals to help
support and move along the farming systems work in an area once it got sur-
veyed. However, one of the evaluation officers from Blantyre ADD was excited
about FSR from Mike Collinson's visit last year and from a talk I gave in Feb-
ruary at a meeting in the Ministry, so he decided to start a survey in Phalombe
on his own. Phalombe was the third area on my list of priorities and would
have been the next after my first two this year, so I offered to help him iif
he was going ahead anyhow. Well,, as it turned out, he was eager to have it
done but not eager to work on it, so I ended up organizing it and will have
to be carrying it out from here on. So I end up with 3 surveys having been
done already instead of 2.
As you advised, the sondeo is a powerful tool for rapid summary assessment
of local systems and problems, illuminating some basic relationships and ele-
ments that need (or would respond to) immediate attention.. And, as you pointed
out,, it provides a good opportunity for various disciplines or representatives
of agencies to work together solving problems, thus encouraging inter-agency
cooperation (especially the research-extension flow) and permitting a concen-
tration of the available skills and experience, I had anticipated preceding
each survey/sondeo with a review of the research and extension literature for
That locality and following each survey/sondeo with a verification survey that
Should sample randomly local farmers about the major outlines of what the sondeo
had discovered. That first plan of work has been modified because of getting
involved in 3 surveys and because Malawi conditions are not right: 1) it takes
too long to organize the background data so we are proceeding on soil, rainfall
and local extension advice to set out relatively homogeneous areas to sample -
then following up the survey by the time-consuming gathering together of research
and other trials data to backup our decisions for new series of trials 2) the
discovery that research seems to be losing data as fast as we collect it has led
to a new departmental plan to pull together in the next 2 months everything we
know by crop by locality this way in the future we will have available that
kind of information for any research or extension decisions; 3) there is at
present a nationwide National Sample Survey of Agriculture underway that is
sampling a nationwide random sample of farmers instead of following up the
sondeo with a verification I intend to use the information collected in the
NSSA and in previous evaluation studies of the 3 areas where I am working,
and supplement that by asking the evaluation unit or extension to collect data
we want to flesh out the FSR sondeo. Otherwise I can see being caught in an

endless series of surveys without ever having the personnel or energy to do
anything with the information we get. At present, therefore, what I will
do is carry out a sondeo of a locality, work up from that the series of recom-
mendations for further evaluation, research, extension, etc. activities (inclu-
ding further studies), and then spend more time working out with the local staff
the implications of the recommendations and pushing, of course, for more
on-farm farmer-managed trials.
The 3 sondeos have illuminated important things in each area, often prompting
people to say, "of course that's important...why haven't we been doing that?" or
"we've known that but haven't yet done anything about it." The crunch, of
course, is not in running a survey that shows up problems but in following up
the survey with some activities that help solve the problems. So I want to
focus more on the follow-up than in resting now that the surveys have been done.
I know that I am spread way too thin; that is why originally I was only going
to do 2 not 3 localities. Since I am setting up a program and, thus, involved
in some administrative and training functions, and since our mandate is really
extensive concerning the entire department,, thus requiring my attention to a
number of points here at headquarters, I am unable to spend as much time as I
would like out in the field. The danger is becoming too much a planner and
too little a researcher. That way I would leave lots of nice plans after 2
years but maybe little achieved substance.
Much of this is not new to you. You have run through some of the same
thoughts in the field. It is useful to me to run these thoughts out to you,
however, and I would enjoy setting up a sounding wall/feedback relationship
in which I keep you up to date on my stuff here and you do the same for your
work out of and inside Florida.
When I first arrived I said that the Lilongwe area would be an important
site for an early FSR project because of the area's proximity to the major
research center (Chitedze) and the ministry headquarters, thus making the
logistics much easier for training people in the FSR approach and involving more
people and departments. At the time I said that probably we would not find
as many opportunities for immediate interventions here via FSR due to the long-
standing concentration on this area with research and extension. Well, I was
wrong. We ran immediately into a major lacunae in research and extension for
smallholders no one really knew what to recommend to farmers about "local"
maize. Way back at the time of national independence someone set the policy
that local maize varieties would not respond to fertilizer, so research and
extension should focus on improved varieties. If fertilizer would be used
on local maize it should be in minimum amounts (about 36 kg/ha N), and no credit
should be allowed farmers to get fertilizer for local maize, only for improved
varieties. At the same time credit was seen as a major weapon for development,
allowing farmers access to purchased inputs such as seeds and fertilizers.

I have shifted typewriters, and it is now 8 August. After starting on your letter
Pete, I got involved in working out a local maize trial selecting the seed from
a random selection of farmers. The typewriter I am now using was used by our only
typist but she left so we only have now one accountant for the whole project and
no typist. It reminds me of the old saying: for want of a shoe a horse was lost,
etc. The lack of secretarial services really slows down my work. Anyhow, to continue
where I left off in the letter...

Little by little extension became the servant of credit instead of the other way
around. Extension agents became totally engrossed in the processes of lining up
farmers to take credit, helping farmers who had credit, and supervising repayment.
No time was left over for extension to pay attention to non-credit farmers,and all
the research work was on new varieties not the local ones. Well, what is happening
is explained in the accompanying report (LADD local maize trials). Farmers are
continuing tJrely on local maizes but extension is totally involved in other varie-
ties which are eligible for credit for fertilizers. Our trials will hopefully
clarify somewhat the responsiveness picture and encourage extension to work with
what farmers are growing.

I am glad to hear (switching the subject) about the continuing success of the
methods course. As anything organic, it has to grow and stretch a little, but you
seem to have temporarily at least solved the in-class sondeo question. Obviously,
I think Malawi is an ideal place for you to collect a sample for the library of
sondeos, and it would fit very well with the need here to run some in-service courses
on farming systems research. As you know, Mike Collinson came over to Malawi last
year and ran a trial survey to show ministry people what the approach was like
(enclosed is a copy of the report turned out from that). The show was well-received,
although at the time DAR (research) was not interested the old guard has now been
replaced and the present head of research (Dr. Terry Legg) is interested and very
supportive. So it would not be really a demonstration of the sondeo; that was done
by Collinson and has been redone several times by me. What would be very useful
would be an avowed teaching exercise in which we could redo the Lilongwe area or
do another, thus extending the area reached in the country, and expose a batch of
people to fsr as a part of a course sequence. What I am proposing, to take you up
on your suggestion, is that we work out an agenda for you (and possibly the crew
or, at least, Tito) to come here and supervise or collaborate on a course for
research and extension staff (either high-level or more profitably, I think, at the
operational level) in which we also take them out and do a sondeo. The sondeo would
be faithfully recorded to serve as a teaching tool for UF and for future classes
here in Malawi. I will approach Darell with this, and I am sure he will be agreeable
to the idea, but I first need to know your ideas and availability. It is a shame
you could not fit another 2 days into your Kenya trip to stop by and visit us,
although you are probably aware that Malawi conditions mean it takes more than a
month to get clearance for anyone to come.
As an addendum to the above discussion about the farming systems methods
course, continue to fight to get all of the Malawians into the course. They need
it. They will be working scattered around the country in various stations where
each of them will probably need a general awareness of agronomy, practical econo-
mics, and a better understanding of priorities in adaptive or action research. We
are restructuring the department (DAR) check with Chris since we sent a copy of
Legg's memo on that and the new structure will set up 7 different stations, each
as research counterpart to the 8 development divisions (ADDs). Each of those 7
stations will have at least 3 professional officers who will be devoting part of
their time to development-oriented activities. This will be a change from the
present setup in which there are 3 big and a number of little (often one man)
stations and all the work is set up along national program (commodity-oriented)
lines. The students at UF are undoubtedly anticipating coming back into the old
arrangement in which they could settle into a specialist slot in a national commodity
program at one of the 3 big stations. Well, what is more likely is that many of them
will be assigned to the other 4 stations that are being assigned counterpart respon-
sibilities. (Since Chitedze is to act as counterpart to 2 ADDs, only 7 stations are
needed for the 8 ADDs.) Legg, Darell, and I agree that the returning students will
be needed to booost the professional expertise of the upgraded counterpart stations.
Some of them will end up at Chitedze, Makoka or Bvumbwe (the 3 biggies) but many will
be away, and they will definitely need the awareness of farming systems to help them
in their roles as counterparts to development divisions. Besides, the returnees
will have leadership responsibilities in DAR, and we need them to be aware of the
action responsibilities of research. Right now there is a strong disdain for exten-
sion among research workers and a feeling that researchers have done their parts -
when they have run their trials and reported the results in annual reports. There
is little appreciation that they need to make another effort to assure that their
work is useful and appropriate to farmers.
One final subject before ending this. Concerning on-farm trials, the present
arrangement really uses the farmers as cheap labor for the same type of trials that
are run on stations, i.e., random plot design replicated trials. The trials are
put on farms either because the stations do not have enough space or because someone
requested an ecological trial in a place where there are no stations and where the

stations do not own trial plots. There is no attempt to check whether the trials
make sense in the actual farm environment or whether they fit into the existing
systems. Research personnel, either from the station or hired by the local ADD,
select the site, plant the crop, and apply the fertilizers, as well as inspect the
growing crop once or twice and harvest the sample. The local farmer provides the
land (willingly or unwillingly, although the farmers are all selected by extension
as collaborators), prepares the field and weeds it, and receives as a free gift the
harvest. All supplies are provided by the researchers except for the land and the
farmer's labor.
There are entirely too many trials being run, and there is not well-established
a rationale for so many trials. There is a directive that research should run trials
in every one of the 180 extension planning areas. Well, originally these 180 were
supposed to represent ecological areas so it would have made sense to test each for
environmental conditions, but the resultant 180 areas are not ecologically distinct
(nor in many cases internally homogeneous) so there is no necessity to run research
trials in all of the areas.
The running of similar trials on a research pattern (random blocs and replica-
tions) only makes sense when you are really doing research. When it is more or
less extension, since there is no research need to run them, then 1) research
personnel need not be running them, and 2) the research pattern should not be
followed. Anyhow, to cut this short, Darell, Legg and I agree that the number
of on-farm trials run by research should be cut. Extension can take over the
demonstration trials and research will only run actual research trials. Right
now research is so over-extended that we do not get much good usable data from
this excess of trials. To complicate matters, DAR does not have a good institutional
memory so many duplications are conducted because we do not know the data already
existed. To cut into this problem I suggested and Legg and Darell agreed to ask
the various programs to compile research histories (phase one is for the last 5
years) of what is known (actual data and interpretations) by crop by ADD. This
way there will be a summary document for each crop, and it can be cross-compiled
by ADD (which we are going to do so as to present to each ADD a document of what
research knows for their territory). When someone proposes new research it will
be much easier to check whether we already knew that.
Now, at the same time that I agree that there are too many trials being run
by research on farms, I am suggesting that we need to run another type of on-farm
trial. I have been suggesting that we encourage on-farm, farmer-managed trials,
i.e., trials that are simply designed so a farmer knows what is happening, trials
that compare two technological alternatives rather than a whole host of alternatives,
and trials in which the farmer does it all with advice from us. The last point,
farmer management, ensures that the technology is really tested as it fits with the
existing farming system. The farmer will do all of the work, supported by prior
and concurrent instruction, and will be monitored to obtain his/her comments on
whether the alternative fits well or badly with concurrent labor/land/taste/capital
parameters. These farmer-managed trials are after we in research think we know
(from previous research trials) that the suggested alternative to be run against
the current practice does theoretically have advantages. That is, we will not run
farmer-managed trials until we feel confident from previous research that it is a
superior alternative. The farmer-managed trial becomes a test of its suitability
to farm conditions and, as such, is still a research responsibility. Research will
share with extension the tasks of choosing topics and subjects through the fsr
surveys, coordinate with extension (as part of the follow-through of my project) on
designing and setting up the trials, coordinate with extension and evaluation the
monitoring and farmer instruction aspects, and present the results in a way that
is understandable to extension and farmers. Farmer involvement will be stressed
by me through the trial monitoring. Anyway, you and I comparing notes are the con-
verted and the converted, but I wanted you to know what my plans are and that I do
see the problems in the present on-farm trial arrangement and the conflict between
simultaneously reducing the number of off-station trials and increasing the number
of effective farmer-managed trials.

My goodness, this has become a letter to be sure, longer than I had intended.
The long delay in landing an economist has hindered the farming systems program,
of course, as has the delay by the Malawi government in hiring professional officers
so I could begin intensive tutoring and have reliable in-house staff. I have been
concentrating on spreading the gospel in the survey among the various agencies in
the ministry, especially among the research staff who have accompanied me on each
of the surveys. But without any professional staff yet assigned to the program
it is hard to sustain the effort. This is exacerbated by the simultaneous weakness
in secretarial staff. I enclose copies of my quarterly report (April-June) and 2
monthly reports to fill you in on anything left unsaid here. We just started the
monthly reports as of June as a result of Chris' suggestion; he used you as a good
example of how/why people should write monthly reports to keep people up to date.
As the months roll by I will keep you informed by sending you a copy of the report
directly; although we are also sending a copy to International Programs you might
not be receiving copies of them.
Please keep me in touch with the UF programs; the courses, North Florida work,
etc. and let me know your thoughts on setting up a trip here to work on in-service
training and collection of a sondeo for the course records.


Art Hansen

enclosures: Quarterly report
June monthly report
July "
LADD local maize trials report
Malawi map
Collinson's Ntcheu report

Since I am typing my own letters any typos are my fault...drat! (

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