Over the past five years, the Sub-Programme has had four programmatic priorities. Continuing work started in the 1980s, the Sub-Programme actively promotes use and institutionalisation of the farming systems approach to development. Support for the farming systems approach has been a particularly important activity of the field programme and at regional offices. The second priority has been studies on farming systems dynamics which focus on the determinants of farm performance and sustainability. A third priority has been guidelines, training and studies relating to micro-macro linkages, including farmer adjustments to changing policies and assessment of small farmer competitiveness. During the last two years, the Sub-Programme has had, as a special assignment, responsibility for FAOs support to OCP and APOC including responsibility for developing a strategy for sustainable settlement and socio-economic development of the Oncho-freed zones of West Africa.
As of 1992, the farming systems approach was well developed. The Sub-Programme at that time was advocating use of the approach for planning, policy and project evaluation as well as for technology development. Among leading practitioners, (e.g. David Norman and Michael Collinson), the key role of FAO (AGSP) in promoting farming systems development (FSD)as opposed to farming systems research (FSR)was recognised and appreciated.
The diagnosis of AGSP as of the early 1990s was that the main challenges were spread of the systems approach beyond front-line researchers, institutionalisation of client-oriented research and development, and the related task of training. Several guidelines were prepared on training and institutionalisation of the FS approach. These have been in high demand. In addition to guidelines, the Sub-Programme has provided critical support to the International Association for Farming Systems Research and Extension (AFSRE) for publication of meeting proceedings, to facilitate information exchange among field practitioners.
In 1996, the Sub-Programme launched a review of the farming systems approach and future priorities for FAO. In collaboration with the AFSRE, an electronic conference was held on priorities in the months preceding the AFSRE symposium in Sri Lanka. Following the symposium, an expert consulation and workshop was held in Rome with GTZ extra-budgetary support in late 1996. Since the GTZ workshop, there have been several follow up activities to support broadening and institutionalisation of the farming systems approach (see below). Largely due to staffing departures and changes, this work was phased down dramatically in late 1997 and its continuation is being reassessed.
Due to member country demand, support for institutionalisation and training
related to the farming systems approach is continuing as a major Sub-Programme
activity through regional officers and the field programme (see below).
In the Pacific, for example, a regional farming systems training workshop
was held in 1995 (FSM, special issue). For Asia, an expert consultation
was held in 1997 on farming systems education (RAP Publication 1998/2),
and a network was launched to reinforce use of farming systems methods
for extension (RAP Publication 1997/14).
Recent support to AFSRE:
During the past five years, more regular programme time and resources have been devoted to studies on farming systems dynamics than to methodology development or institutionalisation of the farming systems approach. Much of this work has used a case study approach. Field studies have been used to identify and assess dynamic patterns and factors affecting the sustainability of farm resource use over time. These studies have been interdisciplinary, encompassing technical field practices as well as farm economics. The general purpose has been to identify issues influencing sustainable development, and conditions for success.
From 1992 to 1996, several monographs were prepared and published. These are more location specific and have not therefore been as high in demand as have been the more general farming systems and farm management guidelines. However, they have been quite useful for distribution in target regions.
The main on-going activity is a series of case studies on sustainability
indicators. The case studies focus on areas where there has been
technological or enterprise changes, and are designed to identify impact
of the change and factors influencing success and sustainability.
The case studies are in most cases carried out with national consultants,
thereby supporting member countries institutional and human capacity.
AGSP developed this Sub-Programme element to bridge the gap between agricultural policy formulation and analysis and micro-level farm management information. The focus is on improving agricultural policy formulation through more effective use of information and analysis of farm-households and rural communities. It contributes on the other hand to a better understanding by farm management and farming systems specialists of the information needs of key users of their outputs.
This programme area includes publications, case studies and training.
FSM 8 and 9 provide the conceptual framework for the activity and a textbook.
Several country case studies on the use of micro-level information for
policy analysis were subcontracted to local authors. Draft guidelines for
the conduct of a training course were developed for the Asian policy environment
and tested at a regional training course in India. Presently, a training
manual for global application is under finalisation and was tested at a
sub-regional workshop for Eastern and Central Europe, organised by the
Sub-Programme in late 1997.
Since April 1996, the Sub-Programme has supported FAOs role as co-sponsoring agency of the Onchocerciasis Control Programme in West Africa (OCP) and the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) and as lead technical agency with regard to sustainable settlement and development of the oncho-freed zones of West Africa.
Within this context, the Sub-Programme has contributed to the design of policies and guidelines for the effective operation of OCP, APOC and SED. Through national workshops, consultancies and advisory missions, strategies have been identified and plans of action are being developed at regional and national levels.
Recent and on-going activities:
Work on farm management and data analysis continues as a major activity
of the Sub-programme throughout the review period, although with a lower
profile and level of resources compared to farming systems development
activities. Good quality guidelines have been produced on farm management
methods. AGSP has not, however, found a way of meeting consistently
high demand for farm data, particularly cost-of-production data.
The constraint is lack of primary data collection by most member countries.
1. Farm management research
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, AGSP generated several useful working papers on applied, quantitative farm management methods. In the years since, there has been minimal investment on farm management methods. Nevertheless, one guideline produced earlier on risk remained in demand and has been widely distributed. Two guidelines on farm management methods (FSM 6 and FSM 13) were produced by well-known specialists in farm management for developing countries. Both are of high quality and are in high demand.
Until December 1997, the Sub-Programme provided support to farm management
researchers in Asia through the Farm Management Commission for Asia and
the Pacific. This was an effective forum for exchange of ideas and
priorities which had met 14 times during the past 37 years.
Recent support for farm management networks:
2. Farm data and analysis
National farm data handbooks were an attempt to answer to the many enquiries received by AGSP for farm management data on specific crops and their profitability in a national context. It was also an attempt to conserve the wide farm management information collected by various AGSP-backstopped field projects in each country and to make this information accessible to a wider audience, preferably electronically. The work on farm data handbooks started in the mid-1980s and presently 25 countries have been covered. As it became clear that AGSP would not be in a position to collect and assemble farm management data on a global scale, consultancies were carried out with the aim to institutionalise farm management data collection and to define potential activities for AGSP in this area. To this end, a needs assessment is underway with the expectation to receive a feedback from target users of farm management data in member countries.
The development of a computer programme to collect, present and retrieve systematically farm management data started in the 1980s. It was linked to the idea of establishing a global farm management data bank in AGSP. Work on FARMAP was terminated in 1992. A simple, practical computer tool, FASYDB, was developed in 1996, in order to store and retrieve farm management data handbooks. As the programme area on farm management data is under review, FASYDB has not been pursued any further.
The Sub-Programme has carried out several subject matter studies on
important issues affecting farming systems development, food security and
farm-household welfare. Many studies have been carried out using
a combination of regular and field programme resources, illustrating complementarity
between normative and operational activities. At any given time,
AGSP might be working on three to five subject matter studiesat various
stages of completion. The main recent and on-going studies are characterised
1. Impact of HIV/AIDS
Using regular and field programme resources, AGSP undertook studies in eastern and West Africa on the impact of HIV/AIDS on farming systems. These studies, summarised in two monographs, clarify the significant and multi-faceted impact of HIV/AIDS. A brochure was prepared for public awareness. There has been substantial demand for these publications.
Case studies on the economics of water harvesting were carried out 1996
and 1997 in several countries of eastern and southern Africa in collaboration
with the FARMESA field programme. FARMESA is following up with a
synthesis monograph. With regular programme resources, additional
case studies were undertaken in West Africa. A synthesis workshop
is now being organised in collaboration with the senior water resources
officer in SAF. This work collectively is expected to contribute
to assessment of water control options for the SPFS.
3. Valuation of soil mining
In collaboration with the Royal Tropical Institute of the Netherlands (KIT), a study was launched in 1997 on the valuation of environmental resources used in agricultural production. The initial focus is on assessing the value of soil mining based on nutrient balances and estimated costs of replacing depleted nutrients. The collaboration now includes the Investment Centre, with potentially important applications to project appraisal and evaluation. The expanded collaboration, which will include case studies in 2-3 pilot countries, is aimed at general guidelines for integrating economic and environmental accounting.
4. Post-war rehabilitation
AGSP has been involved in several countries in post-war rehabilitation activities, specifically the period between relief and development. AGSP has been asked in these projects to assist with the delineation of target populations in need of assistance, in the definition of rehabilitation measures to be undertaken and in the provision of institutional advice as to effectively build up services and support to war-ridden countries. The experience gained in this rather new endeavour were summarised and conceptualised in a monograph now being published.
The conservation of biodiversity features high in international conventions like the Agenda 21. Member countries will have to mobilise the farming population in order to achieve the stated objectives. A publication was prepared consisting of two case studies which compare biodiversity rich and poor zones and raise awareness of the economic importance of biodiversity conservation.
6. Wild plants
A monograph was prepared in order to draw attention to the contributions of wild plants to farm-household income and welfare, family health, nutrition and food security as well as conservation of biodiversity and plant protection.
The publication is intended to highlight prerequisites and potential
contributions of small scale rural fish ponds to the farm-household economy.
It is further aiming at demonstrating tools for rapid rural appraisal teams,
senior extensionists and researchers to assess the feasibility of aquaculture
in a given environment in a participatory way with the farming community.
The Sub-Programme has a large and active field programme. The large field programme reflects member country demand for application of farming systems methods and concepts for technology development, planning and programme design. AGSP and regional officers have been actively involved in project implementation through design missions, workshop organisation, field surveys, and report preparationin addition to general backstopping and technical assistance. The consequence has been synergistic integration of normative and operational activities of the Sub-Programme.
The most important field programmes at present are two regional farming systems development programmes, one is Asia (FARM-Asia) and one in eastern and southern Africa (FARMESA). A selection of materials are provided for the FARM-Asia project to illustrate the nature and range of contribution of the project.
During the past two years, the field programme of the Sub-Programme
has declined significantly. This appears to be linked to an increased
in the number of SPFS-linked projects which do not include multidisciplinary
input relating to farm economics and farming systems analysis.
Applied farming systems development
The farmer centred agricultural resources management programme in Asia (FARM-Asia) is an initiative of eight Asian countries (China, India, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia) for practical support to sustainable agriculture and improved food security in Asia. The objective of this programme is to enhance the capabilities of Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations to build local capacity of resource-poor communities and farmers in Asia for equitable and sustainable development in order to achieve conservation, management and utilization of natural and agricultural resources/systems through participatory approaches.
The programme is supported by UNDP and executed by FAO.
Farm applied research methods for eastern and southern Africa (FARMESA), involving Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Zambia; with a regional coordinating unit in Zimbabwe. The Sub-Programme has been actively involved in PRA surveys, organising workshops, and governance meetings.
The project operating in five countries of eastern and southern africa
is mainly concerned with addressing the problems arising from top-down;
approaches to small-holder farming by improving the processes through which
new technologies are identified, adapted and applied. It also seeks to
increase the effectiveness of agricultural policy analysis and formulation
by directing attention to the farm and community levels. The primary focus
is upon techniques that allow field workers, researchers and policy analysts
to collaborate with farmers in solving their immediate farming problems.
To be of any use to farmers these new approaches must be tested and applied
in a field context while working with them at each stage of the process.
The programme is supported by SIDA, Sweden.
AGSP carried out a vast, country-wide horticultural baseline survey under this project.
AGSP is backstopping a farming systems expert in this cereal technology development project. It is presently the longest AGSP-supported field post.
Technical assistance in water harvesting project. Consultant recruitment and backstopping for socio-economic and agronomic aspects of water harvesting.
Planning and institutional support
Provide farm managers with information and techniques for efficient management by establishing a system for collecting and publishing farm management data, and providing training to ministry officials in farm management.
Small farmers development through adoption of appropriate farming systems. Develop proposal, select national consultants organise workshops, design field study
Farming systems training for sustainable development. Review national training activities, organise workshop on farming systems approach.
AGSP provided to the Agricultural Rehabilitation Strategy Formulation for Afghanistan the central technical expert working for the whole project duration alongside the team leader.
The project attempts to remedy the drastic fall in cereal production in this CIS-Republic. AGSP is backstopping the farm structure expert for the formulation of a cereal policy and programme options.
The project developed a multidisciplinary wheat productivity enhancement programme; project report consists of a policy oriented summary report and eight specialised technical documents.
Typology of farm-households and adoption of a new agricultural strategy. Design field study, organise and lead workshop to assist data analysis.
Prepare guidelines for research and planning on development of low-input pasture production and conservation. Backstopping and consultancy for farming systems analysis and report
Lead formulation mission. Organise orientation workshop on FSD and PRA. Plan and lead field surveys in pilot areas.
Sustainable food security in Bangladesh formulation missions.
NGO and farmer organisation support
Cooperation programmes for sustainable agricultural and rural development. Organise workshop for resource persons, review programmes of work.
Reinforce technical and analytical capacity of farmer organisations. Organise launching and planning missions, workshop resource person.
Effects of HIV/AIDS on agricultural production systems and rural livelihoods in Western Africa. Organise planning workshop, identify consultants, guide fieldwork.
Develop socio-economic component of environmental monitoring system.