Women and the cropping chain
 Modifying the cropping chain through...
 Farming systems research experiences...

Group Title: n, the cropping chain, and farming systems research in Sub-Saharan Africa
Title: Wome n, the cropping chain, and farming systems research in Sub-Saharan Africa
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00094291/00001
 Material Information
Title: Wome n, the cropping chain, and farming systems research in Sub-Saharan Africa some experiences from Nigeria
Physical Description: 27 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Abalu, G. O. I.
Donor: unknown ( endowment ) ( endowment )
Publisher: Institute for Agricultural Research, Samaru, Ahmadu Bello University
Place of Publication: Zaria, Nigeria
Publication Date: 1984
Copyright Date: 1984
Subject: Women in agriculture -- Nigeria   ( lcsh )
Agricultural systems -- Nigeria   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
conference publication   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Nigeria
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 26-27).
General Note: Typescript: photocopied.
General Note: "Paper for Farming Systems Support Program Seminar, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, October 16, 1984."
Statement of Responsibility: George O.I. Abalu.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00094291
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.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 434868834

Table of Contents
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Women and the cropping chain
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
    Modifying the cropping chain through farming systems research
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
    Farming systems research experiences from Northern Nigeria
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
Full Text

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George O.I. Abalu
Farming Systems Research Programme
Institute for Agricultural Research
Ahmadu Bello University


Sub-saharan Africa is a vast sub-region of Africa

comprising countries that vary considerably in terms of

culture, political and social structure as well as in terms

of historical background, size, population, resource endowment,

and income level. Over the past decade there has been

considerable disquiet about the steeply declining levels of

food and agricultural production in the countries of the


The sub-region presently has the distinction of having

the highest population growth rate in the world. This fact

coupled with a rapid rate of urbanization is resulting in a

rapid increase in the number of people that are seriously

under-nourished. The per capital calorie intake in most

countries in the sub-region falls below minimum nutritional

standards. The frigile nutritional balance presently obtaining

in a number of them leaves little room for natural or man-made

disasters (Abalu, 1983). As a result of this situation, the

probability that misdirected agricultural development policies

would result in considerable human misery in these countries

is quite high.

The economic morass towards which the countries are

collectively drifting has triggered a wide assortment of

government policies aimed at stimulating agricultural production.

*Paper for Farming Systems Support Program Seminar, University
of Florida, Gainsville, Florida, October 16, 1984.

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These have often taken the form of government intervention

to influence production, consumption and exchange.

Many writers on the agricultural scene in Africa now

appear to be convinced that many of these growth oriented

policies being implemented are,not producing the effects

that were intended. For example, a recent World Bank sponsored

report on the subject concludes that the "internal structural

problems and the external factors impeding African economic

growth have been exacerbated by domestic policy inadequacies"

(The World Bank, 1981).

Some of the most frequently mentioned policy inadequacies

include inappropriate trade and exchange rate policies, and

bias against agriculture in price, tax and exchange rate

policies. While these policy inadequacies may be useful

in explaining the sources of stagnation in sub-saharan

agricultural development at different times and in different

countries, one very important but less frequently discussed

policy inadequacy is the universal neglect of the role and

potential of women in the development efforts of these


In many of them, peasant women are still viewed as

an appendage to their menfolk to be sustained in times of

stress by extended families and supported in times of need

by the cash incomes of husbands and relatives. The recognized

assignment of women is therefore, primarily taking care of

domestic chores and child bearing. Anyone who has any

knowledge about peasant women in Africa knows that this

view of African women is as much a myth in Africa as it is

anywhere else in the world. The usefulness of women as a

development resource in the countries in the sub-region has

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never been fully appreciated. Yet the solution of the food

problem in the sub-region depends to a large extent on

improving the productivity of all workers, including women,

who are both farmers and partners in farm decision-making

(Germain, 1975).

It has already been indicated that the sub-region has

the highest population growth rate of any sub-region in

the world. Germain (1975) argues that reduction of this high

population growth rates would be facilitated if women's

dependence on large numbers of children can be reduced by

increasing their productivity and providing alternative

sources of status and security.

In the section that follows,the nature of the

"cropping chain" operating in the sub-region is examined

and important intra-household linkages in the chain are

identified. Section III examines how the cropping chain

can be enhanced by activating important intra-household

linkages through a Farming Systems Research (FSR) approach.

Experiences from a Nigerian effort to institutionalize a

viable FSR program are presented in Section IV. The

presentation is made not so much to demonstrate a gender

sensitive FSR program (which it is not) but to expose a

working FSR program which is largely gender neutral but

which is capable of stimulating thinking on how a FSR program

can be made to be gender sensitive.

The summary and conclusions of the paper are presented

in the final section.


The prevailing cropping system in an area reflects the

way farmers in that area organize their resources to produce

crops and the various factors which affect the nature of



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this organization. Since the majority of farmers in the

sub-region consume what they produce, the crops that emerge

from an operating cropping system determine what is consumed

and when it is available for consumption. The crops that are

produced and consumed, in turn, provide food for the family

and energy for work and survival of family members. It is

these relationships which are collectively depicted as
the "cropping chain" in this paper.

The cropping chain is in reality an integral part of

a global household strategy of economic diversification

which also involves livestock activities and non-farm

employment. Farmers allocate family and hired labour to

different crops, livestock enterprises and non-farm

activities to secure as nearly as possible a year round

food supply, adequate diets, and appropriate cash flows.

Operating cropping patterns will influence global

household strategies in a multitude of ways. For example,

different cropping patterns will have different labour

needs that will influence the allocation of time within

and between households and provide employment, and hence,

incomes for landless peasants and their families.

Although the distinction between cash and subsistent

crops is becoming increasingly spurious in most of the

countries in the sub-region, some crops can still be

identified as being cultivated mainly for sale. The income

derived from the sale of these crops provides a means for

purchasing additional or more varied goods and for meeting

other financial obligations of the farming household, The

interaction of land, labour and cash inputs between

subsistence and cash crops will influence the extent and

nature of the marketable and marketed surplus, and hence, the

generation of incomes in the rural communities.

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Emerging cropping patterns and the attendant patterns

of diversified income strategies are dependent on inter-household

linkages and intra-household relations.

The extremely poor record of development administrators

in achieving significant improvements in operating cropping

systems, and hence in the welfare of the majority of

peasants in Third World countries in general, and African

countries in particular, would suggest the need for a more

imaginative development approach designed to impact on

larger numbers of african peasants not only through direct

increases in physical production, but also through indirect

means such as employment creation, improvements in

nutritional status, and introduction of self-sustaining

social support systems.

Such a strategy must take into account the diversity

in potential beneficiaries in resource holdings and therefore

in ability to adopt and respond to economic incentives

(Longhurst, 1980). In the African context, this diversity

often manifests itself vividly in terms of men's and

women's interests and they usually have very important

implications for agricultural development in terms of

income differentials by sex and how these differentials

translate into phenomena such as production, equity, and

family welfare.

There is now a considerable body of evidence to suggest

that particular policy choices and technological innovations

do in fact impact male and female wage rates and employment

opportunities in Africa quite differently due to cultural

norms that operate and define appropriate social status and

behaviour for males and females (Peters, 1984).


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Raynaut (1980) asserts that these differences, at least

as far as Niger is concerned are usually neither the result

of chance nor of the dynamism of the two groups, Rather

they represent the means by which the different social

positions are expressed and they correspond not only to

institutional situations (aristocratic, traditional land

use riguts) but also to active strategies.

This raises significant questions not only of the

productive capacity of households, but also of equity among

households and among larger social groups. As Peters (1984)

suggests, internal composition of the household and the role

of women become key subjects of enquiry in the large

project of understanding rural production systems and

how to improve upon them,


Why Farming Systems Research?

Because of the failures of national and international

efforts at alleviating poverty from the low income countries

of the developing world, there has been an evolution of

development thinking and experience which now emphasizes the


(1) The small farmer remains the pivot of developmental

activity in most of these developing countries.

(2) There is a necessity to re-examine national

planning approaches in these countries to ensure

that "development from below" is efficiently

supported by "decision making from above"

(Dams, 1981).

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(3) The break through in science which brought about

advances in the agriculture of the developed

countries of the world have resulted in an

increased emphasis on specialization which has

inevitably channelled agricultural research in

developing countries into progressively more

restricted problem areas which in turn has been

accompanied by an undesirable decrease in

communication both between and within disciplinary


The above thinking and experiences imply that future and

existing development nrogrammes for the agricultural and

rural sectors of developing countries should focus more on

the dynamics of small scale farm operations with a more

holistic and inter-disciplinary understanding. This fact

highlights the need for new research orientations for developing

agriculture in the third world and improving the welfare of

the citizens who inhabit it. The required approach would

need to refocus and re-orient research specifically to the

small farm sector, benefiting from past elementalist efforts

where necessary, but drastically altering past research and

development strategies in favour of developing integrated

sets of technologies which are relevant to farmer situations

and circumstances. Farming Systems Research (FSR) is now

receiving a lot of attention and interest as having considerable

potential for providing the needed impetus in this direction,

What is Farming Systems Research?

A system may be defined as a set of interrelated parts

linked together in a functional manner such that the various

components interact with each other thus reflecting the

characteristics by which the system as a whole is identified.

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The systems approach to the solution of farm problems in

third world countries gained considerable world wide attention

beginning in the mid seventies as a result of the persistent

inabilities of these countries to meet their food and raw

materials need.

The three principal elements that distinguish farming

systems research from traditional agricultural research are

the fact that (Rohrbach, 1980)

it involves an explicit attempt to understand the

farm, the farmer, and the farm environment as a

system of interdependent parts;

it initiates the research process with an attempt

to analyse the characteristics of representative

target farmers and target villages; and

it permits the entire process of research, including

the analysis of the farming systems, the technology

development and testing, and the verification of

the results, to be carried out by interdisciplinary

teams of social and biological scientists.

Theoretically, the processes involved in FSR should be

viewed as concerned with the interrelations of all the

interacting components which make up the farming systems in

an area: the land itself and the structure of farms and

fields imposed on it, the climatic and soil fertility

influences which operate, the labour resource and how it is

used, the capital available for farm improvement and the

relationships with input delivery marketing and extension

services, social structure, etc. In practice, however, this

is far too vague and there is need to focus on delimiting

the constraints which operate in a precisely definable

farming system and designing and testing technologies

which would alleviate these constraints (Fisher, et al., 1980).

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Stages in Farming Systems Research

There are four distinguishable stages that are relevant

for the implementation of an effective Farming Systems

Research Programme at the National Agricultural Research

Institute of a Third World country. The outline of these

stages are presented below. It should, however, be

emphasized that the stages are not necessarily mutually

exhaustive nor are they equally important for all institutes

and for all areas. The particular stage or combination of

.stages that are relevant to a particular national agricultural

research institute or for a particular area would depend on

what information and research results are already available.

Diagnostic Research

This stage of the FSR process can also be called

exploratory research. It is aimed at understanding the

agricultural problems in a particular area and identifying

the key agricultural constraints that are responsible for

inhibiting rapid increases in production on farms in the

area. This stage of the research is usually carried out

very quickly lasting anywhere from a few weeks to a few

months but certainly with a duration not exceeding one year.

The primary objective of the diagnostic research is to

quickly gather information about farming problems and

constraints in an area by visiting and talking to farmers

right on their farms and in their homes.

On the basis of the research carried out in this stage,

it would be possible to come up with a tentative description

of the farming practices farmers follow in a particular

area and a good understanding of why the farmers in the area

follow these practices. Because the farming problems in

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an area are complex and interdependent, it would be desirable

for the diagnostic research to be undertaken by an

interdisciplinary team. This team should normally comprise

but not necessarily limited to an agronomist, an economist

and a sociologist. By the time the team finishes its work,

it should come up with concrete and practical suggestions of

what needs to be done to remove the problems and constraints

they have identified for the area. These suggestions

together with a description of the.problems and constraints

identified for the area are then taken to the research

station for the design of solutions.

On-station Research

The research to be carried out in this stage which may

also be called Technology Design Research, is aimed at

putting together a set of recommendations that stand a good

chance of removing the constraints that have been identified

for the area and, hence, solving the agricultural production

problems of the area. Quite often these recommendations

are already available at the research stations and it is

just a matter of.putting them together in an innovative and

relevant manner. At other times the possible solutions to

the problems identified may not already exist at the research

institute. In this case, it would be the responsibility

of the institute to direct that research efforts be

concentrated at finding solutions to the identified problems

and constraints.

On-farm Research

At this stage of the research process, the research

activities are carried out right on the farmers' farms

to test and verify the effectiveness of the recommendations

that have been proposed earlier on at the research stations.

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The primary objective here is to see if the recommendations

would actually eliminate the problems and constraints that

have been already identified as being the main reasons why

agricultural production cannot be increased rapidly in the


Mass Adoption Activities

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What goes on at this stage is not really agricultural

research as such, but an action programme aimed at

ensuring that the recommended practices.that have been put

together and tested on a small number of farms can be

replicated over a large number of farms in the area.

It is obvious that it would be impossible to achieve

mass adoption of improved recommended practices without

operational and effective national or state agricultural

support services and institutions. It is for this reason

that it is extremely important for the Farming Systems

Research Programmes of National Research Institutes to be

properly aligned to those of the agricultural development

process already in motion in an area.


Agricultural research traditions in Northern Nigeria,

go back to 1922, when Samaru served as a regional research

station and as the headquarters of the Department of

Agriculture of the Northern Provinces. Actual research

*This section draws freely Abalu and Raza (1984).

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in Samaru started in 1924 with the appointment of technical

staff (the first being a botanist). In 1957.agricultural

research became the responsibility of the Research and,

Specialist Division of the Ministry of Agriculture of the

Northern Region of Nigeria. The Institute for Agricultural

Research (IAR) was established in 1962 with the transfer

of this Division from the Ministry to Ahmadu Bello

University (ABU).

Since then-the focus of research at IAR has been moving

gradually from multi-disciplinary undertakings to inter-

disciplinary endeavours. In this respect, three distinct

but interrelated stages can be identified.

The first stage emphasized multi-disciplinary research.

Before the establishment of IAR, research was mainly

concentrated on technical problems i.e. on the physical

and biological aspects of farm problems within a multi-

disciplinary framework with little or no coordination

between the technical scientists and with a conspicuous

absence of the social science disciplines related to

agriculture. An almost similar situation continued after

the establishment of IAR in 1962 till 1965 when the Rural

Economy Research Unit (RERU) was established.

The second stage involved a gradual appreciation of

inter-disciplinary research. Originally, research at IAR

was mainly organized on a department basis which served

as a nucleus for both teaching (for the Faculty of Agriculture)

and research (for IAR). Staffing and funding both from

the Faculty and IAR (which incidentally came from different

sources) were merged at the departments level. Research

priorities were mainly determined by the departments

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concerned while coordination and cooperation between the

physical, biological and social scientists was limited and

was mainly confined within the boundaries of individual

disciplines. However, inter-disciplinary focus was not

completely absent, but was provided in the form of an

umbrella by the governing bodies of the Institute namely

the Board of Governors, and the Professional and Academic

Board. Research programmes are drawn up by the sub-committees

of the Professional and Academic Board which are mainly

organized on crop basis. These committees are inter-

disciplinary in orientation and encourage an inter-

disciplinary approach to the solution of farm problems.

RERU (later the Agricultural Economics and Rural

Sociology Department) was represented in all the above

research committees, and this helped to provide a social

science perspective to the understanding of the technical

problems confronting each research committee. In addition

this unit particularly used an inter-disciplinary approach

in its research programme, drawing on the discipline of

rural sociology, geography and agricultural economics.

However, the technical scientists of the Institute did

not often actively involve themselves in the research

programmes of the Department and RERU. This was a serious

gap which needed to be closed with the passage of time.

The third stage involved a major effort to reorganize

research at IAR. In 1975 ABU was federalized. Correspondingly,

a new statute for IAR (1976) stressing the need for farming

systems research following an inter-disciplinary approach

defined the present role of IAR as follows: "To conduct

research into the development of farming systems which

involve crops of savannah ecological zones and result in

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the maintenance or in improvement of the soil resources,

and especially in the production and products of sorghum,

millet, maize, wheat and barley; cowpeas and soybeans (in

coordination with other Institutes); groundnut and sesame

and other oilseeds of economic-importance; cotton and

other vegetable fibre of economic importance; tree and

horticultural crops and shall in particular conduct

research into....the technical social and economic

integration of cultivation of the crops into farming

systems in different ecological zones and their impact

on the economy." Thus the new statute provided the

necessary framework to reorganize and revitalized research

along inter-disciplinary lines by removing the institute

from a rigid departmental structure to more dynamic crop

based programmes. The necessary inter-disciplinary

communication between programmes was achieved through

Research Review Committees (RRC's) identified for each

programme. Each programme is headed by a Leader and the

RRC which he presides over is comprised of at least a

breeder, an agronomist, a soil scientist, a crop

protectionist, an agricultural engineer, an agricultural

economist/rural sociologist and an extension specialist.

Attendance of RRC meetings is open to all IAR research staff.

The RRC prepares research projects for the approval of

the Professional and Academic Board and draws up research

plans which reflect the priorities prescribed by the Governors.

The Farming Systems Research Programme (FSRP) is at

the centre of this major reorganization at IAR as all the

research activities of the other programmes have a direct

bearing on its activities.

Objectives of the FSR Programme

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The overall objective of the FSRP of the institute

is to provide a good understanding of the farmer, his farm,

and the total environment in which he operates, as a system

of interdependent parts with a view to evolving improved

agricultural technologies which are relevant to his felt

needs and problems.

This broad objective is being achieved through a

number of sub-plrogrammes operating within the following

set of procedures:

Identify the constraints operating to limit

output of a particular farming system in the area

of responsibility of the Institute.

Evaluate, on the basis of existing information,

possible technologies which might overcome the

most important constraints) of farmers in the


Test, usually on farmers' fields, the technologies

which appear to be appropriate and then either;

reject the technologies and try something

else, or

modify them and try again, or

accept them and propose the necessary institutional

and social action to facilitate their adoption

(extension, input delivery, extension, marketing,

social reorganization, etc).

Hook up the successful technologies into an

on-going Agricultural Development Project or

Programme to achieve mass production.

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Monitor the adoption process and either;

continue to modify the technology as necessary,


be prepared to try something else if despite

the existing on-farm research results, the

technology is not widely adopted or,

identify and propose solutions for the next

most important constraint if the technology

is being adopted.

Research Sub-programmes

To facilitate the achievement of the general objective

of the programme, its activities are being carried out

under a number of sub-programmes, each with a coordinator.

The present structure of the programme and its sub-programmes

are discussed below.

Diagnostic Studies Sub-programme

The activities of this sub-programme are aimed at

providing an understanding of relevant.farming systems and

agricultural problem areas with a view to identifying the

key constraints that must be removed if agricultural.

production in the area is to be significantly increased and

the welfare of the farmers meaningfully improved.

The project areas in this sub-programme are as follows:

Exploratory surveys

Other surveys

Data systems

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The exploratory surveys have the following specific


(1) Identify the important cropping systems in

different ecological zones in the mandated

research areas of the institute.

(2) Describe these systems with respect to:

(a) Crop composition and intensity,

(b) Cultural and agronomic rationality.

(c) Economic and social logic.

(3) Utilize the knowledge so obtained in shaping
cropping systems work at the institute.

The relevant areas of emphasis include but are not

necessarily limited to the following:
(1) Soil and rotational aspects: type of soil,

length of cropping and fallow.

(2) The cropping patterns: arrangement of crops in

time and space.

(3) Cultivation practices: power source, tools used,
timing and phasing of farming operations.

(4) Fertility maintenance: manurial, fertilizer, and
other practices used to maintain fertility.

(5) Labour use: source and profile, family or hired?,

labour requirements in relation to the season,

priorities for labour allocation.

(6) Other inputs: source and use.

(7) Harvesting practices: when, how, and why?

(8) Pests and diseases: types, occurence, effects

and control measures applied.

Although major emphasis is placed on the above aspects

in the surveys, serious consideration is also been given

to other relevant items in the farming systems whenever

possible. Items of importance in this regard include:

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(1) Storage and utilization of crops and crop

residues: subsistence requirements, marketable

surplus, marketed surplus, utilization of

residues, insect pest and disease problems in


(2) Product and input prices.

(3) Institutional factors: agricultural development

projects, extension programmes, credit facilities,

input delivery systems, government policies, etc.

(4) Food consumption and preferences.

(5) Population: settlement pattern, population


(6) Local industry and non-farm occupations.

From time to time there arises demand for fairly

restricted types of surveys to identify and provide answers

to specific constraints and problem areas. For example,

a particular weed problem or insect problem could arise on

which very little documented knowledge exists. It becomes

necessary to embark on a quick survey of the problem to

produce the required knowledge on which subsequent research

work would be based. While the general procedures to be

followed on these types of surveys are quite similar to

those used on the more orthodox exploratory surveys discussed

earlier, the precise procedures followed varies depending

on the particular problem area under consideration.

Another area in which a broad based research strategy

that cuts across the whole programme is needed is in the

development of appropriate methods of data collection,

processing, and analysis. Because farming systems research

is a relatively new type of research strategy, there is need

* --we-.'

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to evolve relevant and effective procedures of data collection,

processing and analysis in support of the overall objective

of the programme. Appropriate procedures on data collection,

processing ani analysis need to be developed and standardized.

To this end, a project area concentrating on evolving

appropriate data computing systems has also been built into

the diagnostic sub-programme.

On-station Studies Sub-programme

Studies carried out in this sub-programme are designed

to examine the range of strategies that are thought to be

relevant in dealing with the constraints identified in the

diagnostic-studies sub-programme as well as other constraints

which may -have made themselves known through other processes.

Ideally most of the basic information needed in this

sub-programme should be available from the body of existing

knowledge. It is however quite reasonable to expect that

there may exists situations where the needed knowledge would

have to be generated from scratch. In any case, the major

emphasis of studies in this sub-programme is centred around

testing possible improved cropping systems into which

productive technologies can be fitted. The systems of

direct relevance to this sub-programme include but are not

necessarily limited to; mixed-cropping systems, sole cropping

systems, and irrigated cropping systems. Consequently,

the project areas under this sub-programme include:

Mixed cropping systems

Sole cropping systems

Irrigated cropping systems

Other systems

- 20

On-farm Studies Sub-programme

This sub-programme concerns itself primarily with evaluating

promising strategies arising from the work of researchers in

the on-station studies sub-programme, other programmes of the

institute and other research institutes in and outside the

country. Research in the sub-programme is designed to

test recommendations originating from all these sources.

Particular attention is paid to those recommendations and

strategies which may be useful in removing the constraints

faced by farmers under the jurisdiction of the institute.

It is expected that by removing these constraints, desirable

and acceptable changes would be produced in the existing

farming systems in the area.

The recommendations and improvements being subjected

to evaluation are normally arrived at through a careful

evaluation of the range of constraints and problems actually

facing farmers. In other words, on-farm studies carried

out in this sub-programme are, whenever possible, based on

previous research efforts in the design stage in the on-station

sub-programme. Furthermore, on-farm studies researchers are

encouraged to, as much as possible, discuss suggested

improvements and strategies with the farmers themselves

and with the relevant extension agents operating in the area.

The research projects in this sub-programme are either

researcher-managed or farmer-managed depending on the level

of farmer involvement in carrying them out.

The project areas under this sub-programme are as


- 21

Improved mixed cropping systems

Improved sole cropping systems

Improved.-;irrigated cropping systems

Mechanization systems

Village Leve)..Studies Sub-programme

The farming systems is influenced by institutions and

structures. These institutions and structures which are

established to support or influence the farming system,

usually consist of collective action which control, limit

or liberate the actions of farmers. These include marketing,

credit, input delivery, extension, and social organization.

To be effective these institutions and structures must be

so organized and structured that they are capable of responding

adequately to improvements in the farming system. Marketing

channels, for exam-le, must operate in such a way that they

do not restrict inter-farm and inter-regional exchange of

the increased production forthcoming from an improved farming

system. Credit institutions must be responsive to the

increased cash flow needs of farming families who are willing

to adopt improved technologies. Ready access to the improved

inputs that have been recommended by all farmers is a crucial

requirement for the adoption and maintenance of high productivity.

Effective social organization would ensure that the benefits

accruable from improvements in the farming system are not

concentrated in a few hands but reach a large number of

people in the rural community, thus ensuring widespread


Whether or not food production and the welfare of farmers

can be improved through improved technologies will depend on

the establishment of a whole range of effective institutions

- 22

and social structures or the reform of existing ones to

support improved farming systems. Since the studies 'in

this sub-programme involve institutions and structures, they

normally cut access farms .located in different parts of an

area. They can be said to be village or country wide since

their impact permeates: the rest of society, Because these

studies deal mainly with policies and structured changes,

they are usually macroLoriented and involve more social

scientists than technical scientists.

The studies carried out in this sub-programme are

principally aimed at identifying institutional and social

constraints operating in the farming system in the area and

finding solutions to these constraints. The results of the

studies carried out in this sub-programme are therefore,

meant to provide information to policy makers, managers of

services and infrastructures, and other administrative

representatives who are in a position to initiate the

institutional and structural reform which are considered

necessary for the successful incorporation of improved farming

systems. In this regard, prototype institutional and social

arrangements are experimented with, usually on a small scale,

and the results and implications of these results submitted

to the appropriate authoritLes. For example, different

extension methods, input delivery systems, credit scheme,
..... aLh'tLt tn Exneriinentation with the aim of evolving

- 23

Limitations of FSR in Northern Nigeria

From the preceding discussions, it is obvious that

there are a number of limitations of the FSR strategy as

presently being institutionalized in northern Nigeria.

The- most glaring of these is the omission of the livestock

sub-system from the programme.

The importance of the livestock sub-system in

understanding the complete farming system of an area has

already received attention in this paper. Furthermore,

the view that the crop production sub-system should be

seen as being part of a larger household economic

diversification strategy involving other sub-systems -

livestock and non-farm activities was also emphasized.

Then why the omission of the livestock sub-system?

The problem is actually a structural one arising out of

the fact that national agricultural research in Nigeria is

organized along separate crop and livestock lines with

each national research institute having a mandate for a

prescribed number of crops or animals. Cooperation

between the institute responsible for livestock production

and those responsible for crop production and coordination

of their research programmes and strategies might help in

solving the problem. This is however, not yet the case.

The other major limitation of the FSR programme in

northern Nigeria is that it appears to be gender insensitive.

This omission is actually by default rather than by design.

The research environment of the Institute is largely

moslem where the activities and obligations of men and

women appear to be clearly defined. The man provides food,

family and gifts at festival times while the woman provides

labour for food.preparation, child bearing and rearing

and general domestic chores. In principle she is not

expected to work on his farms or fetch water (Longhurst,


The above arguments are however, untenable and do

not provide sufficient explanation for the lack of an

active gender content in the programme. First of all, the

argument that women do not engage in farm work is a myth

as there now exist considerable evidence to the contrary.

Secondly, it is known thnt almost all social transactions

in the area have, as fourn-.ation, an intricate web of social

linkages.(Longhurst, 1980).

The inevitable conclusion here therefore, is that the

inability of the FSR programme in northern Nigeria to

capture the role of inter-household linkages and intra-

household relations into the research process is a serious

omission which needs to be rectified. This is the more

critical as a sound understanding of important inter-

household linkages and intra-household relations is a

critical pre-requisite for projecting both the short and

long term effects of intervention strategies aimed at

improving upon farming systems.

However, the framework for a gender sensitive FSR

programme is already in place and functioning at the

Institute. What is needed is a conscientious effort to

actively capture the role of inter-household and.intra-

household relations into the overall research-process.

In this regard, an important starting point is the

movement away from the tradition-bpund:.atomistic and .

- 24

facilitating concept of"household units" or"family units"

to more appropriate-concepts and boundaries for research,

analysis, and action. This would be accomplished if it is

recognized that the most appropriate and convenient"unit

of data collection"may not necessarily coincide with those

of observation, analysis, or.intervention.


There is presently considerable anxiety over the

deteriorating food situation in sub-saharan Africa. There

is now some expectation that the national agricultural

research centres in the countries in the sub-region can

contribute towards reversing this trend and achieving the

development of the overall economies by r-assessing their

research strategies and reorganizing their research


A Farming Systems Research approach Lends itself

well as an effective research strategy for improving upon

existing cropping patterns and increasing agricultural

production. However, since women form an important aspect

of the cropping chain, any successful effort to change this

chain for the better must improve the productivity of all

workers, including women who are often both farmers and

partners in farm decision-making.

Practical experiences from northern Nigeria would

suggest that the conceptual framework of Farming Systems

Research with its inter-disciplinary focus is a reality

even for third world countries. However, a successful

- 25

- 26

Farming-Systems Research effort must make a-conscientious

effort to capture important inter- and intra-household

relations into,.the research process. An important issue in

this regard involves the correct determination of appropriate

units of observation, data collection, data analysis, and



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Africa: Prospects for the future. Report
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Department, Food and Agriculture Organization
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Abalu, G.O.I. and M.R. Raza (1984). Inter-disciplinary
Research and Development: The case of Farming
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Dams, T. (1981). "Synoptic View" in Rural Change: The
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Fisher, N.M. and S.T.O. Lagoke (1982). Cropping Systems in
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Germain, A. (1976). Poor Rural Women: A policy perspective.
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Longhurst, R. (1980). Rural Development Planning and the
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Mimeograph Paper. Institute of Development

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Raynaut, C. (1980). The contribution of the Anthropologist
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the development and implementation of a
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