|The Improvement of Tropical and Subtropical Rangelands (BOSTID)|
|The economic context|
Evaluating the quality and adequacy of various resources for possible alternative uses is the first step in project planning. The climate and characteristics of land and soils, water supply (whether for irrigation, livestock, or domestic use), and incidence of weedy types of vegetation, insect pests, and plant or animal diseases should all be considered. The objectives of the evaluation process are to determine the forage and livestock enterprises that may be feasible and whether some alternatives can be ruled infeasible without further evaluation. These factors are described in more detail in chapters 4 and 5.
Location of the project and access to markets both for sale of products and for purchase of necessary supplies is another key consideration for determining feasibility. The location, climate, land, and water supply factors are often fixed. It is impossible, or at least difficult and often costly, to modify these factors. Water supply can sometimes be augmented by drilling wells or creating storage; however, the ecological consequences must be considered.
Human resources are the most difficult to assess. Most projects rely on organizations of pastoralists. Important questions to address are the following: Will the existing organizations be used, or will a new organization be established? What should be the size of the organization? How complex will be the functional specialization and what type of membership (inclusive versus exclusive, voluntary versus forced) is expected?
A new organization can only be established at a cost. Because of low population densities associated with arid rangeland, communication between members is difficult. Difficulties in decision making, therefore, increase as group size increases. For the same reason (lack of opportunity to communicate), there are limits to functional specialization.
Sanford (1983) emphasizes that the "costs" of project organization are often underestimated if not overlooked altogether. A first step to the evaluation of human resources is a good understanding of the existing social organization.
Data Needs and Sources
Data required for cost and benefit evaluation, frequently called "input-output" data, include: herbage or animal production or possible alternatives; physical quantities of inputs used, whether a product is produced or purchased; prices for inputs; and prices for output to be sold.
The principal sources of physical input-output data for projects may include well-trained professionals with technical expertise in the area, data from other projects of a similar type and under similar conditions, people from the locality with good knowledge of the area and what might be expected, and data from controlled experiments.
Preliminary experiments are very important sources of data for technical specialists who must make judgments about the productivity of resources in new projects. The preliminary experiments do not yield perfect or reproducible results, particularly when applied to international projects of an agricultural nature where factors such as weather, variability in inputs, and the performance of the field crew typically are incompletely controlled. Situations in developing countries lead to what might be called the experimental gap" between the yields that are obtained on the experimental plots and those likely to be achieved on projects. The technical specialists must attempt to estimate the extent of experimental gap and the extent of adjustment or correction. Farming systems research is attempting to narrow this gap.
In general, local data are most useful for ascertaining the response to different treatments or the change in output resulting from a change in level of the inputs.
Farmers or pastoralists may be the best source of information on crop or vegetation and animal performance, requirements for labor, materials, machinery use, feed requirements, and so on. Information collected locally by survey procedures can be used to establish benchmarks for current enterprise combinations and production practices, and to obtain crop and livestock labor requirements and machine use levels for operations of different sizes.