Title: Social impact, economic change and development
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00095063/00001
 Material Information
Title: Social impact, economic change and development with illustrations from Nepal
Physical Description: 38 p. : ;
Language: English
Creator: Axinn, George H.
Axinn, Nancy W.
Michigan State University -- Farming Systems Research Group
Donor: unknown ( endowment ) ( endowment )
Publisher: Michigan State University. Farming Systems Research Group
Place of Publication: East Landing
Publication Date: 1981
Copyright Date: 1981
Subject: Agriculture -- Research   ( lcsh )
Agriculture -- Nepal   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Nepal
Summary: Reports that the South African Institute of Charatered Accountants issued AC 205 with the hope that it would contribute towards the standard of financial reporting by farmers. It formulates guidelines for the valuation of livestock.
Bibliography: Bibliographical references.
Statement of Responsibility: by George H. Axinn and Nancy W. Axinn.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00095063
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 - 123770178

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Full Text

Farming Systems

Research Group


The Farming Systems Research Group at Michigan State University is drawn from
the departments of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural Engineering, Animal
Science, Crop and Soil Science, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Sociology,
Veterinary Medicine, and supported by the International Agriculture Institute of
M.S.U. and the U.S. Agency for International Development through a matching
ilrenir,, ern.n grant under the Title XII program.

Farming Systems Research Group
Michigan State University

The Farming Systems Research Group at Michigan State University, supported
by Title XII Strengthening Grant Funds from the U.S. Agency for International
Development, and administered by the Institute of International Agriculture,
has included Dr. Jay Artis, Department of Sociology; Dr. Robert J. Deans,
Department of Animal Science; Dr. Merle Esmay (and Dr. Robert Wilkinson),
Department of Agricultural Engineering; Dr. Eric Crawford, Department of
Agricultural Economics; Dr. Russell Freed, Department of Crop and Soil
Sciences (also representing Horticulture); Dr. Al Pearson, Department of
Food Science and Human Nutrition; Dr. Tjaart Schillhorn van Veen, Department
of Veterinary Medicine; with Dr. George Axinn, International Studies and
Programs and Agricultural Economics, Chair, and Ms. Beverly Fleisher,
graduate research assistant.

from Nepal

With Illustrations

By George H. Axinn and Nancy W. Axinn

Working Paper No. 13

May, 1981



Paper No.















Farming Systems Research and Agricul-
tural Economics

Farming Systems Position Paper

Livestock Systems and Animal Health

Issues in Farming Systems Research --
an Agronomist's Perspective

Farming Systems Research As It Relates
To The Animal Sciences

Farming Systems Research Position Paper

The Farming Systems Research Approach in
the Agricultural Engineering Field

Issues in Farming Systems Research --
a Multidisciplinary Behavioral Science

Farming Systems Research and
Agricultural Engineering

An M.S.U. Approach to Farming Systems

The M.S.U. Farming Systems Research
Group Perspective

A Working Bibliography on Farming
Systems Research August, 1981

Social Impact, Economic Change, and
Development -- with illustrations
from Nepal


Eric Crawford

Al Pearson

Tjaart Schillhorn van Veen

Russell Freed

Robert J. Deans

Jay Artis

Merle L. Esmay

George H. Axinn

Robert H. Wilkinson

Beverly Fleisher and
George H. Axinn

George H. Axinn and
Nancy W. Axinn

STAFF PAPER # 1981-46

Social Impact, Economic Change, and Development

-- with illustrations from Nepal


George H. Axinn and Nancy W. Axinn

This material was excerpted by Professor George Axinn from a

monograph now being processed, and was presented at a conference


University, 14-16 May 1981. The Monograph and the research upon

which it is based reflect a collaborative research project, led

by George and Nancy Axinn, which involved many Nepalese Colleagues

at the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science, Rampur, Nepal,

and several graduate students at Michigan State University.

Limited distribution in this form is for discussion and revision

purposes only. Comments will be appreciated by the Axinns at MSU

Social Impact, Economic Change, and Development -- with some illustrations
from Nepal .

by George H. Axinn, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Assistant Dean
of International Studies and Programs, Michigan State University

There are four main ideas relating to the theme of this conference on

social impact analysis and development which I would like to share with the

group. These ideas are methodological rather than theoretical; they are micro

rather than macro, in terms of level of analysis; and, at best, they merely

provide some additional categories which may be useful to those concerned

with social impact of development activities.

To illustrate these ideas, I shall present some material based on
field observation and data collection in Nepal.

The four main ideas are: (1) impact analysis as evaluation; (2) descrip-

tion needs depth; (3) analysis via energy transformation; and (4) the recycling

ratio in social impact analysis.

Impact Analysis as Evaluation

To measure the impact of any particular set of activities upon a group

of human beings is an evaluative process. It calls for judgments to be made

on the basis of the values of those who make the judgment. To do it well

requires both descriptive and analytic tools.

In many ways, the depth and accuracy of the description is crucial if

the evaluation is to be sound. Unfortunately, the scholarly community,

Paper presented at the Social Impact Analysis and Development Conference,
Michigan State University, 14-16 May 1981

particularly in North America, has tended to devalue descriptive research

in favor of studies of trends, comparative studies, and exper-

imental research. Too often, from my perspective, phenomena which are being

compared with each other over time, or in different locations, have been

less than adequately described in the first instance, and the weakness of

the descriptive work is reflected in everything else that follows.

The quality of description, particularly the description of human groups,

may be directly related to the empathy of the observer. The sensitive scholar,

who can empathize in a genuine way with those being observed, is sometimes

able to develop a depth of description beyond that which is available when

one merely measures the quantities of those things which seem to be relevant

on the surface.

Patterns of behavior at various seasons of the year, and at different

times of day can be extremely important. Thus, the quality of description

may be directly related to the time invested in that description. Excellent

description of what happens at a particular hour of the day in a family or a

community might be quite misleading if it is assumed that the same types of

activity continue at other hours of the day. Similarly, typical behavior patterns

during the monsoon season in a rural village might be quite different in the

dry season in that same village.

Further, the values, norms, and aspirations of the individuals being

described are typically quite different from the values, norms, and aspir-

ations of those who are making the description. Here is where empathy is

so important. Here is where time invested may be directly related to quality.

For example, well meaning professional agriculturalists in Nepal have

been selecting new maize varieties on the basis of the quantity of grain pro-

duced by each plant. The value placed on the grain can be related directly

to the training of those professional agriculturalists, and to the net-

work of significant others with whom those agriculturalists interact, in

their own ministry of agriculture, in the international agricultural re-

search community, and in the schools in which they did advanced postgraduate

study. All tend to be concerned with the grain production of maize plants.

Farmers in Nepal, on the other hand, who feed large numbers of

ruminant livestock every day, are also concerned about the green parts of

the maize plant.

There has been a tendency for those maize plants which have largest

quantities of grain on them to be relatively short stemmed plants which pro-

duce less green material. But the green parts of the plant produce the

fodder for cattle and buffalo, sheep and goats. It is not surprising that

a group of professional agriculturalists, not unlike a group of professional

social scientists or anyone else, who have different values, norms, and

aspirations might not have inherently appreciated the value of the green

parts of the maize plant to small mixed farming families in a place like

Nepal. What is disappointing is that the level of description of the sit-

uation which might have been done prior to the identification of the problems

associated with the production of maize in that country, was not adequate to

reveal this phenomena.2

Description Needs Depth

Of course, what is described will be based on the conceptualizations,

the theory, and the hypotheses which are of concern to those making the

description. It is impossible, and certainly not parsimonious, to describe

everything about a small farm family. But if one has social impact analysis

2Detailed descriptions of rural life in Nepal, and analysis based on concepts
discussed in this paper may be found in the monograph, "Continuity and Change
in the Rural Social Systems of Nepal,"George H. Axinn and Nancy W. Axinn, forth-

in mind, and some empathy with those who are being described, and some

empathy with those who will attempt to understand the analytic material,

then the description can be informed by both sides.

Consider, for example, Table 1, which tries to relate the size of

farm family ecosystems with human pressure on the land in a small remote

rural village in the central part of Nepal. Sundar Bazaar is in Lamjung

District. It is relatively remote, in that there are no motorable roads

which lead to Sundar Bazaar. In fact, at the time of these studies in

1977, this village could not be reached by motorcycle or bicycle. Pony

trains regularly go through Sundar Bazaar carrying some freight; everything

else is carried in or out by human beings. If you want to go there, you

must walk. Walking time from the nearest motorable road is more than 8 hours

for me; perhaps less for some others. It is at least 5 hours to the nearest

grass airstrip, if one is wealthy enough to fly.

Table 1 illustrates that most of the rural people who live in the Sundar

Bazaar area have very small size farms by international standards. If you

notice the grouping, four farms have been sifted out from the rest because

their farms are so large. They control, on the average, just over four hectares

of land. The others are all smaller than that. The average size of farm for

the 66 other families in this study is just over 1/2 hectare.

The original reason for constructing this table was to describe the

dense human population on the land, and to illustrate areas by the size of

farm. Thus average figures forLamjung District, or even for Sundar Bazaar

area as a whole, tend to be quite misleading. For example, in Sundar Bazaar

area, at the time of this study, there were 7.5 persons per hectare. However,

on the smallest group of farms in this study, there were 24 persons per hectare

whereas in those four out-sized "large" farms, there were only about two

persons per hectare.

Table 1 -- Farm Size and Human Pressure on
the Land in Sundar Bazaar Area of
Lamjung District, Nepal, 1977

Number of Average Size Range of Ave. No. of Persons per
Families Farm (Ha.) Farm Size Persons per Hectare
(Ha.) Farm

Group I 16 0.17 .025-.25 4.1 24.0

Group II 17 0.39 .25-.51 5.6 14.7

Group III 16 0.62 .53-.71 6.1 9.9

Group IV 17 1.20 .76-1.82 7.7 6.4

Group V 4 4.06 2.54-6.01 7.8 1.9

Total or
Average 70 0.93 .025-6.01 6.0 7.5

I IV 66 0.60 .025-1.82 5.9 9.9

My students at Michigan State University have difficulty conceptualizing

a hectare. I, too, have difficulty thinking about a hectare. In an effort

to illustrate this description, Table 2 was made from the same data. I am

much more used to seeing tennis courts than I am to seeing hectares. How-

ever, with some simple arithmetic, I discovered that you can get 38.44 tennis

courts on one hectare of land. Also, you can get almost two football fields

on one hectare of land. With that kind of information, one can describe the

human pressure on the land by showing that on the smallest farms, each in-

dividual person has about 1 1/2 tennis courts on which to produce his/her

living. On the biggest farms, each person has about 20 tennis courts on

which to produce food, clothing, and shelter.

In terms of crowding and population density, if you picture a typical

U.S. football field including the end zones, people who have the largest

farms in Sundar Bazaar have the equivalent of one of those football fields

per person. On the smallest farms, there is more than one person in the

space between each of the 10 yard stripes -- more than 13 people on one

football field.

When first confronted with this descriptive data, I was concerned that

the lack of equity in land holdings might be overstated. Observation had

taught that some of the land higher up on the hills was usable only for pasture

of animals, and the best land was down in the narrower valleys, closer to the

rivers, and could be irrigated. One hypothesis was that the larger farms had

more poor land. Therefore, another analysis was made, and reported here in

Table 3, showing the percentage of irrigated land per farm by size of farm.

Contrary to the expectation mentioned above, it was evident that the larger

the size of farm, the larger the proportion of high quality irrigated land on

the farm. In other words, those with the most wealth, had both the highest

quantity and the highest quality of land.

Table 2
NEPAL 1977


I 16 0.17 6.5 0.32 1.6 13.2

II 17 0.39 13.8 0.73 2.5 7.7

III 16 0.62 23.8 1.16 3.9 5.3

IV 17 1.20 46.0 2.24 6.0 3.4

V 4 4.06 155.7 7.59 20.0 1.0


Table 3 --

Proportion of Irrigated Land (Khet) on
Farms in Sundar Bazaar, Lamjung District,
by Size of Farm, Nepal, 1977

Number Average Size Percentage of
of Farm Total Land
(Hectares) Irrigated (Khet)

16 0.17 36.5*

17 0.39 63.1

16 0.62 66.9

17 1.20 75.3

4 4.06 76.5

* Includes six farms with zero percentage of irrigated land.

Intensity of cultivation is another aspect of life on one of these

small farms which can be described. As Table 4 illustrates, those with

the smallest land holdings also tend to till the soil most intensively.

The three smallest groups of farms seem to be using around 180 percent of

the land. This means that many of their fields are cultivated twice each

year, and some may even be cultivated thrice. By contrast, on the very

largest farms, even though theirs is the best quality land, they seem to be

using only just over half (57.9) percent of the land available to them.

Table 4 also shows the different cereal grain crops produced on those farms.

From that, a reader may note that the percentage of available land used for

production of maize is highest on the smallest farms and least on the biggest

farms. Conversely, rice production is more significant than any other cereal

grain on all sizes of farms.

And just as Table 4 attempts to illustrate the intensity of production

of cereal grains, Table 5 shows that the numbers of animals are large on all

of these farms. This is an effort to describe the relationship between the

size of farm and the numbers of farm animals on that farm. As with the human

population, total livestock populations per hectare are greatest on the smallest

farms, and significantly less on the larger farms.

Description could go much further. The point here is that some depth

of description provides insight into the nature of life among those being

described, which, in turn, can provide a base for social impact analysis.

Analysis via Energy Transformation

Beyond description, of course, analysis of what is going on in a partic-

ular situation, and how it changes over time, is crucial in social impact

analysis. If there is no change over time, one could assume there has been

no impact. If things do change then the issues arise as to whether the new

situation is "better than" or "worse than" the prior situation. Then come the

normative and evaluative judgments of what is more desirable and what is less


Table 4 -- Average Cultivated Crop Land by Size of Farm in
Sundar Bazaar, Lamjung District, Nepal, 1977
as a Percentage of Total Land on that Farm

Number Size of Paddy Wheat Mustard Maize Millet Total Crops
Farm (lHa.)

16 0.17 45.3 15.3 7.1 75.3 28.8 171.8

17 0.39 65.6 21.5 6.2 53.8 35.1 182.2

16 0.62 74.2 30.2 6.5 47.6 20.6 179.1

17 1.20 62.4 14.8 5.7 24.1 10.0 117.0

4 4.06 32.6 9.1 1.6 6.9 7.7 57.9


Table 5 -- Distribution of Livestock on Farms
in Sundar Bazaar, Lamjung District,
Nepal, 1977

Number Average Number of Number of Number of Number of
of Size of Large Animals Small Animals Large Animals Small Animals
Families Farm (Ha.) per Farm 1/ per Farm 2/ per Ha. per Ha.

16 0.17 1.69 2.38 9.98 14.05

17 0.39 2.94 3.76 7.65 9.79

16 0.62 4.88 3.94 7.90 6.38

17 1.20 5.41 4.06 4.49 3.37

4 4.06 4.50 6.25 1.11 1.54

Total or
70 0.93 3.79 3.70 4.75 4.64

1/ Includes bullocks, adult cows, adult buffalo.
2/ Includes goats, sheep, young cattle and buffalo.


However, prior to that, and assuming that continuity and change are

normal phenomena for any human group, the issue arises as to what should

be measured. Too often, the highly differentiated, specialized, money

economies of North America and Western Europe guide scholars to make their

measurements in terms of cash flow. In the example below, I should like to

suggest that materials flow and energy transformation can also be used as

markers of continuity and change. Energy flow can be used as a proxy for

various other kinds of change, just as cash flow is used (usually by econo-

mists) as a proxy for other kinds of change. Since our concepts of poverty

tend to be as culture bound as other indicators of what some have termed

the "quality of life," the rationale for the search for other markers is

associated with an attempt to "escape" the cultural norms associated with

so many other markers of change.

In Nepal, my colleague and research partner (and wife), Nancy Axinn and

I attempted to make estimates of materials flow and energy transformation

in farm family ecosystems.

The farm family has been selected as the unit for analysis, building on

the concepts of functional differentiaton in rural social systems, with the

family ecosystem as the basic unit, and considering shifts in both social

differentiation and energy transformation as central variables in a cycle of

continuity and change. (Axinn, 1977, Axinn and Axinn, 1979, 1980).

The majority of people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America live on small

pieces of land, and subsist by consuming what they produce and producing

whatever they consume. Further, current census data from Asia indicate that

the total numbers and relative proportion of such families is increasing.

Different from the large-scale, commercial, capital-intensive farming

systems of North America and Europe which are specialized in the production

function, these farming systems are small-scale, non-commercial, land and


labor intensive units which perform supply and marketing functions as well

as production, and are also heavily involved in personal maintenance, health

care delivery, governance, and learning.

Since they are less differentiated, these farming systems also tend

to produce a great variety of cereal grain, livestock, and fruits and

vegetables. From an agricultural economic perspective, they are integrated

both vertically and horizontally. Even their production is much less

specialized than that of the large-scale farming systems.

Whereas cash flow may provide an adequate indicator of the total

flow of materials through the large-scale commercial farming system, it is

less useful as a proxy for such activity in the small, mixed farming systems.

In a unit which sells its outputs for cash money, and purchases its inputs

with the same currency, the flow of cash tends to correlate with the total

volume of other activity, and with relative wealth, and may serve as de-

scriptive proxy for the entire system. In the subsistence unit which tends

to recycle more materials than it exchanges with other systems, the flow

of cash sometimes accounts for such a small proportion of the materials

flow that it is misleading.

For example, a small mixed subsistence farming system will be declared

in "relative" or "absolute poverty" by international agencies if its annual

cash income is below a certain mark. However, the same system may have a

large kitchen garden, may provide its human members with more than adequate

quantities of fresh milk and dairy products, some meat, and eggs, and actually be

so wealthy that the family which owns and operates it does little

physical work. They may have servants and farm hands to do the physical

work. (This is a relative phenomenon, since in such systems wage rates tend

to be quite low).


Since the "shadow production" which is consumed within tends not to be

reflected in cash flow measures, the higher the proportion of materials flow

which internal, the less adequate a proxy such as cash income is as an in-

dicator of the nature of the system.

Energy transformation is an alternative proxy which can be a useful

indicator of change over time, both for the large-scale commercial farming

systems and for the small-scale subsistence farming system, as well as

transitional units in various stages in between.

Just as a monetary value can be assigned to any sort of item, so can

an energy value. And the two types of evaluations can be exchanged. Thus,

there is no special "magic" about energy values that makes them better than

money values. However, as descriptors of materials flow and other activity

in a farming system, the use of energy values as a proxy offers some advantages.

One advantage of an energy measure, like KCals, BTUs, or Joules, in

comparison with such money measures as rupees, pounds, pesos, or dollars,

is that the relative values are defined and generally accepted as unchanging.

The ratio of U.S. dollars to Indian rupees changes from day to day, but one

KCal equals 3.968 BTUs by international convention, and the ratio tends not

to change.

A second advantage is that while the cash price of one kilogram of rice,

for example, varies from one place to another on any given day, and the world

price of rice varies from day to day and year to year, the number of KCals

in one Kilogram is relatively standard. Even with variation in the type of

rice, its moisture content, and the way in which energy value is to be trans-

formed (burned, eaten by humans, eaten by ruminants), the energy values are

relatively more standardized than the money values.

And thirdly, in systems which utilize cash for a relatively low pro-

portion of all transactions, the assignment of cash values may be even less

valid than assignment of energy values. However, in both cases, such proxies


assigned to a variety of materials should be considered as only approximations

of a relative value, and not precise measures of reality. Thus the large calorie

(KCal) is used here an an indicator of estimated relationships, and nothing more.

Just as social phenomea described by money values are subject to

certain economic "laws," the energy descriptor is conditioned by "the

Laws of Thermodynamics." (Georgescu-Roegen, 1975). Thus the engineering

concepts related to energy flow can be as helpful to the social analysis

as the economic concepts, and combining both may strengthen the analysis.

As will be demonstrated below with data describing small farm family

ecosystems in Nepal, it is possible and feasible to estimate the flow of

materials and transformation of'energy in such systems. Out of rudimentary

efforts to do that has emerged a conceptualization of the farming system

which, in turn, provides a base for sociological analysis of continuity and

change, and for demonstrating a relationship between social differentiation

and energy transformation.

The conceptual framework for the materials and energy transformation

perspective of small farm family ecosystems is illustrated in Figure 1.

Here, a farm family ecosystem is viewed as a component of a larger rural

social system. The larger system has many similar farm family ecosystems,

and all are seen as part of a still larger social, political, economic,

religious, cultural, and physical surrounding environment.

Within farm family ecosystems, the three major components are plants,

animals, and humans. This conceptual framework is similar to Koenig and

Tummala (1972), and the model developed by Tummala and Connor (1973), which

provide a technique for accounting for the mass and energy flows into and

out of similar agricultural systems. It is also similar to the work of

Thomas (1974 and 1976). While the analytical techniques are similar, this

model differs in that it allows analysis of a basic subsistence ecosystem, in

which most materials and energy are recycled within the system, rather than

exchanged with the outside world.

Energy Flow in Small Subsistence Farm
Family Ecosystems

Figure 1

O Components of

W Components ol Near
and Surrounding




Thus, the major flows of materials and transformations of energy in

this model are among the plant, the animal, and the human components. The

"other production" component deals with such "subsistence industry" activities

as the manufacture of tools, clothing, housing. Major outside flows to

the farm family ecosystem from the surrounding environment are solar energy,

water, firewood, grazing and grass cutting, and small supplements to health

and diet (such as salt and spices). There is significant exchange of both

human labor and animal draft power among the farm family ecosystems in such

a rural social system.

Major inputs to the human component of such a system are cereal grains,
fruits and vegetables, milk and dairy products, meat, firewood, and water.

Principal energy outputs are in the form of labor. Learning and controlling

(deciding and allocating) reflects small energy transformations, serving

as "triggering" mechanisms as described by Adams (1974).

The animal component of the farm family ecosystem may include such

livestock as cattle, buffaloes, goats, swine, and poultry. Major outputs

from the animal component include draft power, manure, milk and dairy pro-

ducts, meat, and eggs. Inputs to the animal component are straw and fodder,

cereal grain or grain by-products, human labor, tools and facilities (in-

cluding stables and barns), and grazing.

The plant component is the major energy source for the small subsistence

farm family ecosystem. It can be likened to the system's powerhouse as it

converts solar energy into nutrients which can be transformed by both the

humans and the animals, and which supply the bulk of their calorie requirements.

In addition to solar energy, other inputs to this component include

draft power, manure, (or other fertilizer), human labor,tools, seed, and

water, along with such other potential inputs as insecticides, fungicides,


and herbicides. However, the magnitude of solar energy available on each

hectare of land is so much larger than all other energy sources combined

that the entire system can be viewed as one which takes a small fraction

(estimated at one to three percent) of the available solar energy and

converts this as the resource for all other activities.

By combining the flow of materials into and out of each of the major

components of such a system, it has been possible to illustrate differences

between farm family ecosystems on different size pieces of land, and to

demonstrate the relationship among farms of various sizes in a rural social


Beyond that, such a model offers a useful conceptualization to those

who study the whole farming system. It enables evaluation of the costs and

benefits of production, for example, of any particular plant or animal

commodity in relationship to all inputs and outputs as they flow through

such a system.

For example, one variety of cereal grain can be compared to another

one not only on the basis of grain production, but also in terms of the

use of straw and other by-products, as well as costs in terms of seed, human

labor, manure, and draft power.

Further, in addressing such questions as the potential substitution

of small scale garden tractors for animal draft power, such a conceptualization

permits the inclusion of several variables which may be overlooked by

conventional studies of this issue (Axinn and Axinn, 1979, 1980).

Relationship of Materials and Energy Flow to Social Differentiation

With estimates of materials flow and energy transformation in farm

family ecosystems, it is feasible to use these as indicators of functional

differentiation. The supply, production, and marketing functions, in


particular, can be compared among different farming systems. Farming

systems which specialize in production will tend to have greater pro-

portions of materials and energy flows from outside (input supply), and

greater proportions of such flows to the outside (output marketing). Less

differentiated farming systems tend to have a higher proportion of total

flows within the farm family ecosystem.

From this perspective, social differentiation may be used as an

indicator of change. Most strategies for rural development have been

strategies designed to increase functional differentiation in farming

systems. One reason that international attempts in rural development have

not been more successful, has been that designers of such projects have

tended to use such economic indicators as cash flow rather than assessments

of such social phenomena as functional differentiation.

Structural and functional analysis of rural social systems can provide

a base for assessing change, and for development strategy. Such phenomena

as status, role, boundary maintenance, migration patterns, and value orientations

may be much more significant to change in rural social systems than annual

cash income.

Similarly, farming systems which are less differentiated in function

tend to carry on more different types of operations. A family which supplies

its own inputs and consumes its own outputs will not specialize in one crop.

Rather, it will tend to produce cereal crops, livestock, fruits, and vegetables.

Conversely, in the highly differentiated large-scale dairy farm of mid-

America, for example, although it may produce milk from 300 cows daily,

100 percent of that milk is likely to be sold to a separate firm. If the

farm household requires a quart of milk, they are likely to purchase it from

an outside supplier.


Figure 2 provides a diagramatic illustration of what might be termed

a "pure" type of commercial farming system. Materials and energy flow in

as inputs (arrow A) and flow out as outputs (arrow B). If 100 percent of

the materials and energy flow were describable by indications of the total

flows on arrows A plus B, that would be, by definition, a "pure" type

farming system where the production function dominated all other functions.

If a "pure" type of subsistence farming system were to be described

with a similar diagram, it would look like Figure 3. There,arrow C represents

the materials and energy flow which is both produced by the farm family eco-

system and consumed by that same farm family ecosystem. If zero inputs were

supplied from outside systems, and zero outputs were marketed to outside

systems, then 100 percent of the materials and energy flow would be on arrow

C, and that would be a "pure" type of subsistence farming system.

Neither of these "pure" types exist among the rural social systems of

the world. Even the most remote and undifferentiated farm family ecosystems.

tend to exchange some materials and energy with outside systems, and even the

most commercially specialized farm family ecosystems tend to transform some

of the materials and energy which flow into them within the system, producing

some kinds of outputs which are consumed within the system.

The analysis of social differentiation in rural social systems in-

dicates that the quantities of energy transformed also vary over time. The

evidence presented below suggests the proposition that functional differentiation

and energy transformation vary together. The more highly differentiated

the farming system, the greater the quantity of energy it will tend to transform.

Further, the more differentiated the farming system, the larger the

farm itself is likely to be. The larger the farm, the greater the total flow

of materials and energy per person is likely to be. This wealth tends to be

accompanied by social and political power.

Figure 2








Figure 3








The Recycling Ratio

The extent of functional differentiation in a farming system is in-

dicated in this study by a recycling ratio. The higher the proportion of

materials and energy flow which is within the farm family ecosystem and its

near environment, the higher the recycling ratio. The higher the recycling

ratio, the less the farm family exchanges materials and energy with outside

systems. Farms with a high recycling ratio are usually called subsistence

farms. Farms with a low recycling ratio are referred to as commercial or

market-oriented farms.

The diagram in Figure 4 was constructed by putting together the diagram

in Figures 2 and 3, to illustrate a typical farm family ecosystem. Materials

and energy flow in (arrow A), materials and energy flow out (arrow B), and the

system also recycles some of its materials and energy (arrow C). The recycling

ratio represents the proportion of the total flow which is recycled (internal).

It is calculated by adding an estimate of the total flow in from other

systems (A) to an estimate of the total flow out to other systems (B) and

to an estimate of the total quantity of flow which is recycled within the

system (C); and then dividing that sum into the total quantity of flow which

is recycled within the system. The formula may be represented as:

C A + B + C.

In terms of social differentiation, the recycling ratio deals directly

with three functions: production, supply,

and marketing. Farm family ecosystems with a high recycling ratio tend to

distribute resources among these three functions more evenly than farm

family ecosystems with a low recycling ratio, which tend to specialize in

the production function, and depend upon others for the supply and marketing


Figure 4







A + B + C


From the perspective of dependence and independence, farming systems

which recycle larger proportions of materials and energy within the system,

are, by definition, more independent of other outside systems. Conversely,

farming systems which recycle a smaller porportion, and receive greater

quantities of materials and energy from outside, while marketing greater

proportions of their production to others outside, are more dependent upon

those outside the family system.

In the large scale, mono-crop, capital intensive commercial market

oriented farming systems of North America, the recycling ratio tends to be

very low. Most inputs are purchased from outside the farm family ecosystem

(seeds, feed, fertilizer, and fuel for traction). Most outputs are sold in

the market in exchange for cash.

By contrast, in the small scale, mixed-crop plus livestock, labor in-

tensive, subsistence-oriented farming systems of Africa, Asia, and Latin

America, the recycling ratio tends to be much higher. Most inputs are pro-

duced within the farming system. Most outputs are consumed within the

farming system.

The recycling ratio can be useful as an indicator of rural development,

but the normative issues of good and bad will depend upon what the society

values in terms of its lifestyle. Thus, the community where each farm family has a

high recycling ratio may not be benefited at all by the introduction of

technologies which would reduce this ratio. On the other hand, if that

community wants more of the goods available from the outside, then its goals

may be a reduction of the recycling ratio -- and technologies which will

lead to that reduction may, in fact, be appropriate. Thus, the recycling

ratio can become an indicator of change in rural social systems, but not

the goal for rural development, which is normative. The assumption is that


each family and each society may determine its own goals. The recycling

ratio can be used as a measure of where they are, and as an indicator of

progress in the directions they have chosen.

Development goals, can be stated in terms of the optimal levels

of quantity of materials (converted to energy values). Similarly, the

recycling of human labor, plant production, animal production, or other

production can be separated from each other. Thus, a recycling ratio of

human labor will demonstrate differences between families which must not

only cater to their own needs, but also work as laborers (or servants) for

others in order to sustain themselves. It demonstrates that other families

have sufficient power to be served by outside laborers in terms of their

normal lifestyle. This type of indicator allows a human group to fix develop-

mental goals for themselves which are less likely to be skewed by "outsider's

criteria" and the typical economic indicators of "cash income."

By observing activities on farm family ecosystems, it is possible to

estimate the recycling ratio. This, in turn, permits comparison between

individual families, and between rural groups of different cultures, dif-

ferent types of agriculture, and different religions. It also enables the

separation of "subsistence" agriculture -- where the recycling ratio is very

high -- from market agriculture -- where the recycling ratio tends to be

much lower. Both from the perspective of insiders, who might systematically

organize for their own "development," and from the perspective of outsiders,

determined to assist with "development," different strategies are likely to

be appropriate for farming systems with high recycling ratios than for farming

systems with low recycling ratios. Thus, programs of technology development,

of extension education, of market infrastructure would be quite different for

the farming system with a high recycling ratio than for the farming system

with a low recycling ratio.


To illustrate, supply of chemical fertilizer has been attempted in

areas where farms have a high recycling ratio. Since farmers in those areas

tend not to buy and sell on the market, they tend not to perceive need for

such expensive outside inputs. Thus, chemical fertilizer programs have

tended to fail in those types of situations. Conversely, farms with a low

recycling ratio, and a high potential market output, may have needs for

outside inputs to prevent depletion of soil fertility.

In evolving strategies for rural development, identification of

"target groups" by the relative size of their recycling ratios might provide

a useful focus for programming.

The recycling ratio for any group of farms indicates which farming

systems are more "open" than others. Those with a high recycling ratio

would be characterized as relatively more "closed." As they recycle most

of their energies within the farm family environment, information supplied

by tradition tends to be adequate to maintain the system. These farmers

tend not to look to society's bureaucratic system to provide inputs of in-

formation via extension services, for instance, or material/energy such as

seeds and fertilizer. Those with a lower recycling ratio would indicate

more "openness" for new information which might be provided by outside

systems. It could be assumed that those whose low recycling ratio reflect

labor energy surplus would be responsive to information about alternative

employment opportunities, training for different occupations, or intensive

agriculture options. Those farmers whose low recycling ratio reflects

surplus production available to the market would be open to information on

credit and marketing, as well as alternative energy sources, such as

mechanization, and fertilizer, which would reduce their dependency on

farmers in labor surplus situations.


Additionally, this group of farmers would tend to be more specialized

and hence look to the bureaucracy of the society to provide organizational

management to expedite exchanges among specialized commodity producers.

Utlimately, those with the higher recycling ratios make the least demands

for support services or material/energy inputs and are the least likely to

be motivated to use those which are offered.

The recycling ratio, taken alone, may be considered to be value neutral.

In the particular farming systems studied in Nepal, relationships between

this ratio and other factors, not necessarily value neutral, are demonstrated.

The extent of functional differentiation, the quantities of energy trans-

formed, and the degree of independence tend to relate to various other social,

economic and cultural indicators sometimes used to assess the 'quality of

life.' From these conceptions of function and differentiation come

hypotheses relating social differentiation to energy conversion quantities

and to dependence.

Because of the social dimensions of this approach to rural development,

it provides an alternative set of variables for assessing the social and

cultural impact of change, and it opens new strategies for the social organ-

ization and administration of development.

The major hypothesis which flows from this rationale is that there is a

positive correlation between energy transformation and functional differentiation

in farm family ecosystems.

In addition, each of these characteristics of farm family ecosystems is

related to size. There is a positive correlation between size of farm and

quantity of energy transformed. Also, there is a positive correlation between

size of farm and functional differentiation.

-29- ,

The recycling ratio has been suggested as an analytical tool, and,

by definition, the extent of social differentiation in individual farm

family ecosystems varies inversely with the size of the recycling ratio.

In order to test these propositions, actual quantities of flow, in

terms of large calories, were calculated for the three main components

illustrated in Figure 1 above. Figure 5 illustrates how one component,

the human component, was analyzed on farms which average 0.39 hectares

in the Sundar Bazaar of Lamjung District in Nepal. The quantities shown

represent the quantities of energy flowing into and out of the human group

on that size of farm during the course of one year. The figures are in

large calories.

Having assembled such data, for each of the main components, it was

possible to put the human component together with the plant component and

the animal component of farms of a given size, as illustrated in Figure 6.

On the basis of this type of analysis, it was possible to construct

Table 6, which is a gross approximation of the total materials and energy

flow in farm family ecosystems and their near environment by size of land

holdings in the same area. There, the total material and energy flow per

farm family figures illustrate wealth in relationship to average size of

landholding. Those who control the most land, also have the most energy

flow per farm family.

The proportion of the total production of materials and energy in such

a farm family ecosystem which is transformed within that family referred to

above as the recycling ratio, is shown in Table 7 for Lamjung

District. It is estimated by adding together the total production of cal-

ories by human, plant, and animal components of such an ecosystem and then

calculating the proportions of these which are in fact recycled within the


Figure 5

Materials and Energy Flow in the Human Component of

Farm Family Ecosystems in Sundar Bazaar Area of Lamjung

District, Nepal, 1977. Average Farm Size 0.39 Hectares.

(Energy transformations are presented in KCals per Ha. per Year)

Cereal Grain





Surplus Labor

Personal Maintenance




CD Figure 6
n I Lamjung Farm Size
= 0.39 Ha.

(1K 3 -- 197\
N Vrai;h _Animals\
8Is 31.937.710

314 i( 42 health

0094 100 act t
314 948 *



Table 6 -- Gross Approximation of Total Materials and
Energy Flow in Farm Family Ecosystems and
their Near Environment by Size of Land
Holdings, Sundar Bazaar, Lamjung District,
Nepal, 1977

Number Average Size Total Material Total Material
of of Land Holding and Energy Flow and Energy Flow
Families (Hectares) per Hectare in per Farm Family
KCals (x00) (in KCals x000)

16 0.17 185,907.6 31,604.3

17 0.39 130,389.4 50,851.9

16 0.62 113,211.8 70,191.3

17 1.20 68,721.9 82,466.3

4 4.06 23,612.8 95,868.0


Table 7 --

Recycling Ratios* for some farms in Nepal. Based on data
from 70 farms in Lamjung District collected in 1977.

Number of Average Size Recycling Ratio
Farms of Farm in

Lamjung District

16 0.17 90.55

17 0.39 96.37

16 0.62 94.83

17 1.20 91.79

4 4.06 77.09

* The Recycling Ratio is the proportion of total materials and energy
flow into, within, and out of a family ecosystem which is recycled
within the system (exclusive of solar energy).


Lamjung r = -.93


farm rather than "exported" from the farm, or "imported" to the farm.

As Table 7 illustrates, the smaller farms have the higher recycling

ratios, and the larger farms have the lower recycling ratios. There is

an inverse relationship between the recycling ratio and the size of farm.

Correlation is -.93 for Lamjung District.

In Lamjung District, the very smallest farming systems, which send

out both labor and draft power and bring in cereal grain, have a slightly

lower recycling ratio than the next three groups, but all four major

groups in this district (66 of the 70 farms studied) recycle more than

90 percent of their total materials and energy flow. As might be expected,

the four "over size" farms, which don't seem to fit the rest of the Lamjung

group have a significantly lower recycling ratio at 77.09.

The second smallest group of farms in the Lamjung area, averaging 0.39

hectare per farm, have the highest recycling ratio (96.37 percent),


approaching what might be labeled complete subsistence agriculture at

100 percent. From there, as the farm sizegrows, the recycling ratio


The recycling ratio was defined as an index of functional differen-

tiation, and these data tend to validate it as such an index. To the

extent that it is a valid indicator of functional differentiation, the

data presented in Table 7 support the hypothesis that there is a positive

correlation between size of farm and functional differentiation. The data

presented in Table 6 support the hypothesis that there is a positive

correlation between size of farm and quantity of energy transformed. By

logic, we infer that there must be a positive correlation between energy

transformation and functional differentiation.

Discussion in Relation to Other Rural Social Systems

The positive correlation between quantities of energy transformed

and functional differentiation is reflected in information available

about other types of farm family ecosystems in other parts of the world.

In the highly commercialized large scale mono-crop agriculture of Michigan,

for example, indications are that farm family ecosystems may have recycling

ratios as low as 2 to 5. Almost all inputs are purchased on a commerical

market, and close to 100 percent of the energy value of farm production is

sold to specialized marketing firms outside. Wheat producers will purchase

bread from outside, and dairy farm families may buy homogenized milk. They

have not only differentiated (specialized) the production function, eliminating

supply and marketing, but they tend to have further specialized to fewer and

fewer different farm products. In quest of economies of scale, they have

further differentiated the production function. (Tumala and Connor, 1973).

In the opposite direction, low income pastoralists in the Rift valley

of Kenya tend to have even higher recycling ratios than the small mixed


farmers of Nepal. The pastoralist family ecosystems must move with the

rains, continually seeking water and grazing for their cattle, sheep, goats,

and donkeys. As they move from one location to another, they take their

whole families, all livestock, their homes (tents, etc.) and all other

worldly goods with them. Such groups live on the milk (and blood) of their

cattle, and the meat of their sheep and goats. Only small and supplementary

inputs like salt are purchased from outside. In times of drought some grain

or other foodstuffs might have to be purchased. On those occasions live-

stock must be sold or bartered. Normally, however, if there is any surplus,

livestock numbers are increased. They represent savings, or family wealth.

With no travelling banks or other investment possibilities, even surpluses

are recycled within. And with no travelling schools or health centers,

most functions must be done by the relatively unspecialized, undifferentiated

nomadic farm family. Therefore, recycling ratios may tend to be in the

high eighties or over 90 percent.

By definition the higher the recycling ratio, the less the social

differentiation. And the data presented above, as well as the international

comparative experience tend to confirm that the less the social differen-

tiation, the less the total quantities of energy transformation for each

farm family ecosystem.

The Recycling Ratio in Social Impact Analysis

The conception of continuity and change in rural social systems as

a cyclical phenomenon, based on the farm family ecosystem approach, can

be useful for several different types of agricultural and developmental


1. From Agricultural to Farming Systems Research. Historically,

the development of agricultural research systems has faced issues of social


control, rewards and sanctions, reference groups and which topics

to study. One of the issues beginning in early organized efforts in

Germany and Scotland, and continuing with the establishment of state

experiment stations in the U.S.A. was whether to service the expressed

needs of farmers, or let the growing scientific community decide which

agricultural problems were appropriate for research. The formal research

institutions have had to mediate not only between farmers' concerns and

scientists' concerns, but also contend with the authority of public

political-economic forces which provide their sustenance. The latter

tend to reflect the changing nature and values of the larger social system

(especially urban forces) and particularly its power structure.

Thus, as European and North American societies became increasingly

differentiated and industrialized, and as the scientific community also

became increasingly specialized, the nature of agricultural research

reflected these trends. While this was perhaps appropriate in countries

like the U.S.A., where highly specialized, large-scale, capital-intensive

agriculture "fit" the larger social trends, it produced a style, mind-set

and level of differentiation which made it quite "unfit" for relevance

to the small-scale, undifferentiated labor-intensive farming systems in

places like Nepal.

In the past three decades of agricultural research, the scientific

community has had difficulty recognizing the fundamental differences

between the types of farming systems found in much of Asia, Africa, and

Latin America, and those found in North America and Europe. During the

past century, North American and European farmers have shifted from rela-

tively high recycling ratios to relatively low recycling ratios. They

have become so low that studies of energy flow in Michigan in 1979, for


example, do not even take into account such factors as human labor and

animal manure, since the energy values of "inputs" such as chemical ferti-

lizer, diesel fuel, electricity and gasoline are so high that the other

figures become insignificant by comparison.

The large scale, commercial, specialized and highly differentiated

mono-crop agriculture of the industrial countries has its own problems.

In response, its scientific community applied science to those problems

and developed technologies which were appropriate. However, the attempt

to transfer some of those technologies to the small scale, mixed-crop and
livestock, labor intensive and capital-short agriculture of the so-called

"developing countries" was a dysfunctional exercise. Usually, the attempts

at technology transfer failed. When the technology transfer succeeded,

sometimes the problems which were caused tended to defeat long run

"developmental" goals.

Perhaps the recycling ratio can inform agricultural research of the

nature of the problems which would be appropriate to study for any particu-

lar type of agriculture. The aspiration is that science applied to the

type of agriculture in which most materials and energy are recycled within

would result in technologies that would be less dominated by goals of

increasing production, and more concerned with reducing storage losses,

increasing consumption, and increasing equity among various members of

rural social systems.

The assumption of a cycle of change, rather than the linear "progress"

model, may encourage more historical analysis in agricultural research, and

could reveal much from the past which might be useful in the future.

Similarly, the conception of a farm family ecosystem, with change in

any component affecting and constrained by the condition of all other


components, may be useful to agricultural researchers who are turning

toward farming systems approaches. A farming systems perspective should

enhance the capacity of the highly specialized scientific community to

relate to relatively undifferentiated types of agriculture by adjusting

the research agenda with different approaches to problem definition.

For example, the issue of the advantages and disadvantages of small

garden tractors as substitutes for animal draft power is a subject for

agricultural research. However, when only cash flow data are used, the

analysis may lead to a different evaluation than when all materials and

energy flows are taken into account. Such matters as use of straw and
other fodder by draft animals, allocation of child labor to livestock

care, manure values, exchanges between the farm family ecosystem and its

near environment, when entered into an evaluative equation, may produce

different results.

Further, agricultural researchers are less likely to declare a new

cereal grain selection to be "improved" if they consider more than the

grain yield. If the recycling ratios of the farming system are taken

into account, some varieties will be rejected even when their grain yield

is high, because their fodder yield may be insufficient or their requirement

for innovation in procurement of outside inputs may make them less than


2. Agricultural Extension Education perspectives might also be ex-

panded by a farm family ecosystem perspective. For example, in areas

where small farming systems have a very high recycling ratio, credit

for purchase of inputs tends to be rejected or ignored by farmers. That

is because they usually supply their own inputs, consume their own outputs,

and do not require large amounts of credit for operation.


If those (outsiders) planning the agricultural extension programs

had first analyzed such phenomena as revealed by the recycling ratio, alterna-

tive programs might have been proposed. Technological improvements in

storage of home grown seed and farm yard manure are more promising than

production credit to those with high recycling ratios. Similarly, there

are many agricultural extension programs in South Asia which make the

assumption that farm families keep dairy cattle primarily for milk. Based

on that assumption, the programs are designed to help farmers increase

the milk production of those cattle. The farm family ecosystem analysis

reveals in some parts of Nepal, as an example, that the primary reason

for keeping a cow is usually for the production of a male calf, which might
some day supply draft power. The second reason is usually for the

production of farm yard manure, which serves either as fertilizer or

as fuel. For many families, milk production from their cows may be a

third or even fourth (following certain religious functions) reason for

keeping the cow. Such poorly planned extension education programs usually

fail, thus avoiding any serious damage they might do to the farm family

ecosystem. However, it is normal to blame the farmer, as an "ignorant

peasant," for not following the program's recommendations, rather than

to discover the weakness of the initial assumption.

Farm families with high recycling ratios can use many information

inputs of agricultural extension education at the decision points which

have been identified in Figure 1, as the small circles between the compon-

ents of the farm family ecosystem.

Improved storage technology, for example, can stretch the harvest

of grain to more adequately meet nutritional needs of the family through

the whole year. New information on weather and resource variables can


contribute to planting and rotation decisions which will expand production

to provide food and seed for the family.

Symbiotic relationships among plants traditionally intercropped, as

well as between plants and animals, can be recognized by agricultural

research and those practices supported by the research and extension

professionals. This support can expand the development of the skills

and abilities (human capital) of the small farm family.

3. International Development Assistance can also be informed both

by the cyclical perspective and by the farm family ecosystem approach.

The extent of functional differentiation, as well as the extent of energy

transformation and nature of materials and energy flows all offer clues to

outsiders as to what types of interventions are likely to be seen as
"development" by insiders, as well as to provide strategic help in

determining what is likely to succeed and what is more likely to fail.

Examples of the failure to use this approach are much more plentiful

than examples of success.

The normal international development assistance assumption, whether

it be by host country nationals, by "donor" country staff, or by inter-

national organizations, has been that since development and modernization

vary together along the straight line of advancing technology, whatever

comes from the more "advanced" countries is obviously better for the

so-called less developed countries. The fallacy is that in most cases

a technology invented in one system to solve some of its problems is

not likely to "fit" very well in another very different system. If it

be introduced, like an animal organ transplant which is not appropriate

for the new system, it is likely to be rejected, and may cause damage to

the rest of the system into which it is introduced.


Typical examples are petroleum powered tractors, being introduced

to small mixed farming systems of Asia and Africa. These technological

"improvements" in large-scale, mono-crop, capital intensive farming systems

tend to be rejected after introduction to small-scale, multiple crop and

livestock, labor-intensive farming systems.

Beyond the mechanization example, which is so obvious in retrospect,

there are many less obvious current examples. These include the promotion

of increased cereal grain yields by extension systems controlled from

central governments. It is often in the interest of government to increase

production, since it is assumed this will increase food supplies, and per-

haps reduce pressure on international exchange. However, it is just as

often not in the interest of farm family ecosystems. Sometimes this is

because the cost of such yield increases is in excess of the net gain to
the system. There are many instances of this in situations where the

only feasible way of achieving the increased yields is to increase chemical

fertilizer inputs. With high costs of such fertilizer, the small mixed

farming system is often better off when its yields are lower.

This type of intervention is sometimes encouraged by international

technical assistance, in association with international agricultural

research units. Since the rewards to professional staff within host

countries are much larger from the international research network than

they tend to be from the local bureaucracy, evaluations of foreign materials

with foreign criteria result in local recommendations which may not be in

the interest of local farmers. In fact, just as international reward

systems and values overwhelm the national ones, both of these bureaucracies

tend to overwhelm any influence small farmers might have on the nature of

what is researched, what is extended, or what is the essence of international

assistance programs.


There is some direct utility for socio-cultural impact analysis, and

the assessment of the impact of outside interventions on social systems and

their cultures. While progress is being made in this field, there has

been a tendency for social and behavioral scientists to be comparatively

"vague" and general in their findings, particularly when compared with

biologists and economists. This has encouraged international banks,

development agencies, and governments to turn more to the economic data

and the agronomic information. Merely to know that certain customary

practices may be in jeopardy because of the introduction of some new

technology has not seemed to influence those supporting the projects as

much as "hard" data about expected increases in income or agricultural

yields. Demographers have been more convincing, but their data tend to

be macro level, and less helpful for micro impact analysis.

Criteria in addition to cash flow and population trends are greatly

needed if social scientists are to make a contribution in this area.

There is so little documented about such phenomena as the social organization

and administration of change agencies in the rural social systems of the

world, that the opportunity for rural sociologists seems particularly


The concept of a cycle, itself, suggests the need for more research

on patterns of technological change, not only with recent innovations

(which have been so attractive to rural sociologists), but historically,

even going back to ancient times, further documentation of change from

the highly differentiated to the less differentiated is needed. Analysis

of how social change accompanied shifts toward less intensive exploitations

of available energy resources, and the social dynamics of the technological

changes involved, would have immediate utility in contemporary North

America and Europe.


The field of urban-rural and rural-urban migrations also could exploit

the cyclical conceptualization, by relating continuity and change in

different parts of the world at different points in historical time to

each other. Also, long-range migrations and short-range migration patterns

might well be analyzed from the perspective of the social differentiation

and energy transformation measures, and related to continuity and change

in types of farming systems. Here the opportunity includes the assembly

of studies by ethnologists, archeologists, historians, and others and

making analyses from a rural social systems perspective. See, for example,

E. Boulding (1976)..

With respect to phenomena like the recycling ratio, more detailed

field research would contribute significantly. The descriptive base needs

much additional work.

Studies of the decision making process at the "trigger points" identified

in the farm family ecosystem model might reveal continuity and change in

values, and the value relationships associated with functional differentiation.
The independence of a high recycling ratio versus the dependence

associated with a low recycling ratio varies as a social goal from

place to place and time to time. How any why this happens needs

further study.

Parallels with local "basic human needs" criteria may be associ-

ated as much with the total quantities of materials and energy flow

as with the proportion which is recycled. More analyses in more parts

of the world would add significantly. Perhaps studies which identify

opportunities for raising recycling ratios in farming systems in the

United States, by such strategies as reducing energy inputs and diversi-

fying functions should be explored?


Beyond the use of social differentiation and energy transformation

analysis within individual farming systems, there is great opportunity

for rural sociologists at the next levels of analysis of larger social

systems. At the village level, it has been observed in this study that

there is a social significance in the collection of forage for livestock

from the near environment, and often from common pastures and forest

lands. This results in inputs of manure for plant production and soil

fertility which are obtained away from the individual family ecosystem.

The relationships between individual family needs and values, and those

of the larger community, can be explored much further with this type of

analysis. The larger questions of energy transformations and materials

flows at the community level, and linkages with the larger social system

of which the community is a part, are already being studied. This conceptual

framework may have utility for such investigators.

Detailed analysis

in different agro-climatic zones, among different ethnic groups, and with

different types of farming systems offer the rural sociologist research
opportunity almost everywhere in the world. Among the objectives of

such further research are the refinement and improvement of the methodologies

described here, expanding the understanding of farm family ecosystems as

systems, comparative studies of farm family ecosystems in different

cultural and geographic locations, and providing a better base for inter-

national scientific and technical exchanges.

Limitations of Materials and Energy Flow Approach

There are several limitations to this type of analysis. The decision

to consider off-farm grazing and grass cutting, as well as firewood

gathering, to be part of the near environment, increases the recycling



The type of analysis reported above must be considered to be at a

primitive stage. The opportunities for further work far outweigh the

achievements thus far. Within individual farm family ecosystems, time-

use studies such as our work in Nigeria (Axinn and Axinn, 1969) and detailed

quantification of materials flow among the plant, human and animal components,

would certainly contribute to validity. Further, the data were collected at

each location at one point in time. Trend data over the months of a typical

year, or a period of several years, would strengthen the perspective. And

comparisons of different types of family farming systems using this sort of

analysis would also be useful.

However, I have tried to demonstrate that it is possible to assess

materials flow and energy transformation within small family farms, and among

such farms in a rural social system. Assessments of such materials flow and

energy transformation may be more valid as indicators of quality of life than

assessments of the annual cash income which are so widely used at present.


Adams, Richard Newbold

1974 "The Implications of Energy Flow Studies on Human

Populations for the Social Sciences." in Energy Flow

in Human Communities, Proceedings of a Workshop in

New York, New York. University Park, Pennsylvania:

U.S. International Biological Program and Social Science

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