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close this book Agricultural extension
close this folder Providing agricultural support services
close this folder Direct services
View the document Testing recommendations
View the document Administering credit
View the document Selecting and producing seed
View the document Providing farm inputs
View the document Surveying agricultural land
View the document Providing storage
View the document Marketing agricultural products

Direct services

Testing recommendations

OVERVIEW

As the middle link in the Research-Extension-Farming chain, it is the extension agent's responsibility to make sure recommendations to farmers are relevant, benefical and appropriate. Given the gap between researchers and small-scale farmers in most developing countries, recommendations often must be tested in the field by extensionists.

Why is it necessary to test at all? First of all, agriculture is an extremely location- and time-specific endeavor. There are too many major variables in agricultural situations to consider specific practices to be universally applicable. For example, a certain type of maize may be well suited to early rainy season cultivation in one area of Honduras while 100 miles away the local climate, soil characteristics and pest problems may make it a poor choice. Therefore, even practices developed by researchers for one region cannot be described as clearly suited to other local settings until they are tested thoroughly.

There are other reasons why recommendations must be tested: The extensionist herself must have confidence in a practice she is to recommend, so she must see herself the results of its use. This is also true for farmers. Unless a farmer sees a practice work well in his own locale, or hears that it works well from a reliable source, caution holds him back from employing the practice. Lastly, local testing of recommendations helps arouse farmer interest in new practices and enables farmers themselves to take part in the process of testing and formulating new practices.

In Chapter One, there is an outline of the steps in the Research Extension-Farmining chain. They can be summarized as follows:

1. Pure research

2. Basic research

3. Applied research

4. Adaptive research

5. Extension work

6. Farmer use and feedback

Testing recommendations in the field involves a combination of the adaptive research (4) and extension work (5) steps. In developing countries especially, these steps overlap and most often are handled by the extensionist herself. The extensionist plays a dual role (field research/extensionist). Because they rarely have the scientific training to do research without assistance, however, extensionists are urged to conduct tests in collaboration with local or regional research stations and staff. It is absolutely essential that all testing be done within the context of the knowledge, experience and interests of local farmers who are the most important experts in local situations.


Adaptive research

 

A Closer Look at Adaptive Research: How Yield Improving Practices are Tailored to Local Conditions

a. Small-plot experiments: These should be conducted at both the national station and the regional substations and are designed to test promising leads gained from applied research. In the case of most developing countries, this applied research may well have taken place in another country. The small plot experiments point out the more promising of these leads which may again be subjected to further small plot tests. An example would be the testing of a number of promising crop varieties. The very best of the promising leads become tentatively recommended practices.

b. The field experiment (farm experiments): Those practices showing the best results at the national and/or regional substations are now tested at scattered locations within the region to measure their performance under more varied soil and climatic conditions. They are tested at various levels of application and in varying combinations. Those practices with the best results become general recommended practices for the area involved. In short, these field experiments are the means for localizing general recommendations.

An experiment is a test that compares two or more treatments (e.g. two or more practices or varying rates of an input like fertilizer). Its design and management are based on rigidly standardized scientific procedures for assuring accurate unbiased results that are not influenced by extraneous factors. The results are subjected to a rigorous statistical analysis to determine if there is really any significant difference between treatments.

Because of the highly technical nature of such experiments, extensionists are not encouraged to carry out either small-plot experiments or field experiments themselves, unless absolutely necessary and then with tremendous technical support and conservatism with regard to results. Adaptive research steps like these are the final research efforts which adapt a practice to local conditions. As such, the extensionist role is to make sure they occur, scrutinize their appropriateness, and assist where necessary in their completion.

c. The field test or trial (the result test): This type of test or trial is usually conducted by extension workers in cooperation with participating farmers. Here the practice or "package" of practices is tested under realistic local farm conditions to determine its true range of profitability for the farmer. A new practice cannot claim to be proven until it passes the result test, which provides the ultimate basis for making a specific recommendation.

The result test is neither an experiment nor a demonstration. Only one variable selected for testing (e.g. a new practice or a specific "package" of practices) and is compared with the present or "traditional" practice. For example, a result trial would be used to determine the profitability of a given rate of fertilizer like pounds of manure and compost per square meter. On the other hand, a field experiment would be used to determine the response to several or more different fertilizer rates. The result tests are designed to obtain information about a practice, not to promote it. They are conducted on farms, but the purpose is to prove the worth of the practice to the extension worker and the extension agency, not to the cooperating farmers. The two treatments (e.g. the "old" and the "new") are not randomized and replicated as with an experiment; rather, the result test is repeated simultaneously on a number of local farms, since the goal is to get an overall idea of the new practice's performance in the area. Extensionists with good training in the reference crop or animal and the relevant practices can competently supervise result tests, and this can be one of their most valuable activities.

Extension begins when the emphasis shifts from testing to promotion, although there are areas of overlap between adaptive research and extension, especially in situations where resources are limited. Extensionists often visit national experiment stations in search of worthwhile practices to promote, which have undergone adaptive research. It is then up to the extensionist to promote these practices through result tests and demonstrations. The result test can be viewed as either the last step of adaptive research or the first step of the extension process.

d. The demonstration (result demonstration): This is not a testing procedure like the result test. Its objective is to demonstrate the profitability of a proven (locally tested) practice under actual farm conditions. If the new practice requires a change in traditional procedures, a good amount of in-thefield instruction may be needed along with the demonstration. When groups of visiting farmers receive such instruction as well as view the plot, the demonstration becomes a method-result demonstration. The extension worker should approach farmers from this standpoint: "We have good reasons for believing this practice is profitable and would like to help you prove it to yourself". A demonstration plot like this can be set up by an extensionist soon after arrival in a new locality. It should be laid out in a prominent place in order to arouse interest.

Method/result demonstrations, workshops during which farmers actually practice specific techniques or innovations, are the major extension tool for promotional purposes. See Chapter Four, FARMER TRAINING, for a detailed description of method-result demonstrations.

In all of these techniques for testing the suitability of recommendations to farmers, the extensionist is asked to consider the limits of her technical skill and the limitation of her point of view. Conservative, adequately-tested recommendations serve farmers best.

ILLUSTRATION

Lay out: a result test


A result test

 

TOOL

Checklist

1. Factors which Decrease the Need for Extensive Local Testing of a General Recommendation before Promoting It

a. Local growing conditions are uniform over the work area (soils, climate, management level, etc.)

b. The adaptive research on which the general recommendation is based was technically adequate and was subjected to a rigorous analysis (including statistical analysis).

c. The adaptive research took place under growing conditions similar to those of the work area.

d. The new practice represents a single factor change (only one new input or change).

e. Capital requirements are low.

f. The potential benefits are high and not subject to great variation.

g. No changes in growing practices are needed.

h. The extension agent has had prior experience with the new practice.

i. The new practice reduces costs or shortages by replacing a higher priced or less available input with a lower-priced or more available one. Examples: Substituting an animal-drawn cultivator for laborious hand weeding.

TOOL

Checklist

2. Some New Practices and their Relative Need for Extensive Local Testing Prior to Promotion

a. A new (improved) crop variety: Very extensive local testing needed along with detailed analysis of the results.

b. Fertilizer use: Low to moderate rates can be recommended on the basis of limited local testing, lab soil tests, and diagnosis of obvious visual hunger signs. Higher rates should be based on local farm experiments, result trials, and individual farm soil testing. Considering the many local variations in soil fertility, general recommendations often result in the application of too much or too little fertilizer or the wrong nutrient combination. For example, applying only N + O soil also deficient in P (phosphorus) may give the farmer only 25% of the yield response obtained when both are applied.

c. Mechanization: Depends on the model and type of equipment. Appropriate small scale equipment usually has a wider adaptation than most new practices, although soil and weather can affect performance.

d. Change in crop rotation or a new cropping system: Very extensive testing is needed (at least several years).

e. Disease and Insect Control: Chemical and cultural methods have much wider adaptation than biological ones. At least some limited testing should be done with specific chemical and cultural controls before promoting them to farmers.

f. Chemical weed control: Effectiveness varies greatly with different soils and weather conditions; local testing should always precede promotion.

g. Irrigation practices: Feasibility studies conducted by experienced technicians should always precede the installation of a new irrigation system; possible negative environmental effects must also be examined (i.e. salinization, ground water depletion, malaria, bilharzia, etc.)

h. Introduction of a new crop: Very extensive testing is required.

 

TOOL

Checklist

3. How to Set Up A Result Demo Plot

I. Select an appropriate practice or "package" to demonstrate

a. Given a lack of local experience and time to adequately test practices, rely on the local extension service to provide appropriate choices; always check to see if adequate local testing has been done; the amount needed will vary with the practice, i.e. selecting an adapted improved crop variety requires much more lengthly local testing than the use of mulch or insecticides.

b. One practice vs. a package: Although a package may be more complex and cost more, it may be the only way to achieve good enough results to interest farmers. A well designed package actually reduces farmer risk.

c. The practice(s) chosen should be afforable, adapted, and profitable for the majority of farmers. Some extension services may divide the region's target farmers into several recommendation domains, each with an adjusted package to reflect variations in soils, topography, economic circumstances, etc.

d. Gestation period: At least in areas where extension efforts are relatively new, practices that produce results in weeks or months are more likely to be readily accepted than those requiring longer periods.

II. Select a cooperating farmer (or organization)

a. Choose key farmers who are influential but not necessarily the best or most progressive, since they may be regarded as eccentric or as favored pets of the extension service.

b. Group demos on rented land are OK, but the group should be a pre-existing one (like a co-op) rather than one specially organized for the demo.

c. Since the farmer or farmer's group should do most of the actual work (this makes the demo credible), be sure that this is understood. This brings up the question of whether the inputs should be donated or charged for.

III. Choose a suitable location and

layout

a. Site criteria: A conspicuous location with good exposure like near a road or trial. The land and soil shouldn't be atypically favorable or unfavorable but representative of target farmers' situations.

b. Size: Large enough to be realistic but not so big that it's difficult to visually compare the traditional and improved practices plot side by side. A couple hundred sq. meters per plot would be adequate for a maize demo, with less area sufficing for more intensive crops like veggies. It's also easier to find cooperative farmers if they know that the plots will be small, thus minimizing any perceived risk.

c. Plot layout: Decide the best way to show off the demo to an audience, plus consider audience size. A side by side layout is better than a front and back layout.


Side by side

It's usually best if the rows run front to back rather than parallel to the viewing area. This makes it easier for farmers to enter the plots.

IV. Provide adequate supervision of the demo

a. Both the extension worker and the farmer need to be thoroughly familiarized with the what, why, when, and how of the various operations involved.

b. Make sure the needed inputs are on hand.

c. Make sure that the inputs and other practices are correctly applied on schedule.

d. Avoid the tendency to favor the improved practice plot by giving it an unrealistic amount of care.

e. Keep accurate records, including rainfall, which will help analyze the success (or failure) of the demo.

V. Promotion and Followup after demo

a. At what stages will the demo produce visible results worthy of farmer attention- (i.e. only at harvest or by color and plant size difference at earlier stages).

b. Arranging farmer visits

• Supervised, scheduled visits conducted periodically at key stages are best. Since new practices usually require a combination of explanation and instruction, a combined result-method demo may be appropriate. However, do not count on farmers being convinced enough to try the new practices even by the time a successful demo reaches harvest stage. Also, farmers may not be able to apply the practices until next cropping season.

• Any demonstration should provide farmers with realistic cost-return data for the practices. Researchers and extension workers tend to exaggerate the claims and benefits of a new practice. Be conservative, yet realistic. A typical result demo is done on a small scale when farmers implement the methods on larger fields.

What About The "Spontaneous" Demo?

A Spontaneous Demo is a very effective type of demo using farmer's field that already demonstrates the benefits of what you're trying to promote. One advantage of the spontaneous demo is that it escapes the possible stigma of appearing contrived like a purposely organized result demo.

TOOL

4. How to Make Conservative Recommendations

Researchers and extension workers tend to exaggerate the benefits of a new practice, while farmers usually have a more objective attitude. Here are some rule-of-thumb adjustments for arriving at realist_ claims.

I. Discount the amount of yield increase claimed for the new practice:

a. An experienced extensionist with lengthy local experience can discount claims pragramtically.

b. Result test data is representative: Discount expectations of increased yield by an amount equal to the standard deviation (a measure of statistical variance that you can calculate using the PC/ICE Traditional Field Crops manual.)

c. If the recommendation is based on outside data, discount the yield increase by at least 25%.

d. If test results occurred under a better than average crop year, discount increased yield claims by a least twice the standard deviation or by 35%.

II. Make an additional discount for less than optimum employment of the new practice by farmers.

For example, the effectiveness of recommended fertilizer rates depends greatly on proper timing and placement. There are no rules of thumb here. Usually, the more complex the practice and the more new skills involved, the greater the discount should be.

III. Make conservative economic estimates on returns

A new practice's potential economic returns make fertile ground for exaggeration:

a. Base all estimated costs and returns on "farm gate" costs and prices so that items like transport and commission are included.

b. Use harvest time prices when estimating returns.

c. After calculating the additional costs for the new practice(s), add on an extra 10% as a safety factor.

NOTE: Obviously an extensionist might end up discounting claims to a ridiculous extreme if he applied all the above guidelines. Remember that the purpose is to make claims realistically conservative, so it is wise to use judgement.

TOOL

5. Ways of Reducing Risks Associated with New Practices

Aside from assuring that new practices are adequately tested locally before promoting them, there are several other ways of reducing farmer risk:

a. It is usually better to encourage farmers to try a new practice on only a of their land. This reduced both risk and hesitation and also enables the farmer to make comparisons.

b. In the case of purchased inputs, recommendations should be geared to providing the low budget small farmer with the maximum return per dollar spent rather than maximum profit per hectare. This is especially true for a high cost item like fertilizer; since yield responses begin to drop off as rates increase; low to moderate dosages will give the best return per dollar. (Bigger farmers can work on the principle of high volume, low return per dollar which give maximum profit per hectare).

c. Make sure that farmers thoroughly understand the how, what, when, and why of the new inputs or practice(s).

d. Small farmers in any area will vary in skills, capital, and management ability. The extension service should make sure that its recommendations are tailored to the needs of the majority but should also make provison for the special needs of more advanced farmers.

e. A "package" of practices that addresses the major yield-limiting factors simultaneously may also reduce risk under certain conditions.

TOOL

6. Ideal Conditions for Promoting Improved Crop Production Practices to Small Farmers

• The new practice does not increase farmer risks.

• It does not depart radically from current practices or require considerable re-training.

• The potential gains exceed the added costs by at least two to one (This is the benefit/cost ratio.)

• The needed commercial inputs and associated services involved with the practice are readily obtainable at reasonable terms. For example, the spread of improved maize varieties in Kenya was greatly aided by the establishment of a network of 1000 small seed suppliers.

• The practice has been thoroughly tested in the area where it is to be introduced.

• The pay-off from the new practice occurs in the same crop cycle in which it is applied.

• The costs of the new practice are within the farmer's means. This usually implies access to reasonable credit.

TOOL

7. Cost/Benefit and Net Return Analysis

This is a tool for measuring the economic benefit or loss attributable to a specific practice. It can be used to measure existing practices or new ones.

Procedure

• List all inputs used in a practice.

• List cost of each input, in money terms. (Give effort to gather them a money value for locally-available inputs).

• Record and summarize costs of inputs.

• determine and record yield attributable to a practice.

• Calculate the money value of that yield.

• Set up a cost/benefit ratio.

• Determine the economic benefit of a practice.

Example :

Inputs and Cost

Labor

Available

-

Seeds

5 pounds at 15¢/lb.

.75

Hoe

Available

-

Manure

100 pounds at 10¢/lb.

10.00

Mulch

Available

-

 

TOTAL COST

$10.75

Estimated Yield

   

10 pounds onions/square meter

30 pounds onions

 

3 square meters

   

Yield Value

   

Market price $2.00/pound

$60.00 value

 

30 pounds

   

TOTAL COST

 

$10.75

VALUE & YIELD

$60.00

 

Economic Benefit

$49.75 total

 

Administering credit

OVERVIEW

Farmers can exercise certain options only when they have the financial resources to do so. Accumulating these resources (sometimes called 'capital') is a necessary first step toward innovation and change. Farmers can accumulate resources by saving surplus income or borrowing resources from other sources. To the small-scale farmer saving presents a major problem because even the diligent application of customary farm practices does not often yield much surplus beyond home needs. One of the major catalysts of potential farmer innovation in developing countries is therefore the provision of credit.

There are many kinds of credit: informal sharing of a shovel and family communal labor, village-level borrowing at the money lender's, bank loans or inputs-credit schemes. Beyond the village level, credit is both a powerful tool and a potential cause of dependence. While credit is a way of life for American farmers, it is only as a last resort or an initial catalyst event that it is considered in this manual. Cooperative ventures and capital-sharing are better ways to help small scale-farmers gain access to the resources for change. (See TOOL Forms of Credit for Small Scale Farmers).

Farmers themselves have various motives for using credit:

CONSUMER CREDIT

• Survival - when a crop failure or family ilness causes the normal balance of home needs and harvest to go out of balance.

• Family and Social Obligations - when a wedding, funeral or other family obligation requires money or resources not at hand.

• Consumption - when something the farm family wants is beyond normal means.

• Investment in the Home or Cottage Industry - when the farm family wants to buy a labor-saving device (corn grinder), set up a cottage industry (sewing machine and cloth) or repair/expand a house.

 

AGRICULTURAL CREDIT

• Survival of Farm Enterprise - (e.g. securing seed or using a cultivator) securing resources necessary to keep the farm going.

• Paying for Seasonal Labor - extra labor beyond the family may be needed to plant, weed or harvest when there is no surplus to provide wages.

• Acquiring Inputs - purchasing new tools, fertilizer or equipment to carry out a new package of practices.

• Increasing Efficiency - sometimes farmers wish to substitute animal or machine power for human power for land preparation, for example, but need to borrow to employ it before realizing profits.

• Marketing - while waiting for a good price for their produce farmers may need to borrow to survive.

• Expanding the Scale of Farm Business - to acquire additional land, to finance farm improvements (clearing land, building storage facilities, constructing irrigation works, etc), to increase herd size.

It is important for the extension worker and small-scale farmers to understand why and how credit is extended to farmers. Credit being a form a dependence on resources beyond farmers' control, it should be carefully and cautiously used. When the motivation of the lend is different than the farmer's motivation, there is much less opportunity for informality, for leeway with regard to the repayment of a loan, and generally for sympathy for the farmer's precarious position. It is of prime importance that the extension worker and farmer seeking credit be aware of the motives of lenders.

Locally, credit can be extended as a social obligation or an aspect of friendship or family responsibility. However, credit is most often proferred in order to earn interest on the loan. This is the basis of commercial lending in and out of the village. Beyond earning interest, credit is loaned to facilitate sales, to assure the delivery of farm products or as a public service through development projects. These motives are important to consider in seeking credit with farmers.

In order to determine whether it is worthwhile to incur the risks of using credit, it is useful to calculate the costs and terms versus the profitability (the cost/benefit) of credit. The cost of credit is not fixed and has to be determined by lender and borrower in informal cases like communal labor. There may also be customary or unwritten rules as to what such credit costs/terms will be. The cost of commercial credit on the other hand is always the amount of the loan, plus agreed-upon interest, plus any expenses incurred by the borrower in securing the credit.

Most of the cost of a commercial loan is interest. Interest is calculated a variety of ways, each resulting in a different amount of credit and a different cost (see ILLUSTRATIONS). A common form of interest for small-scale farmers is the advance sale of crops, in which the lender is promised crops at current prices even though the price will be higher at harvest time. The difference in price constitutes a loss to the farmer which is a form of interest, or credit cost.

Credit "terms" are all the conditions, including credit costs, that are part of an agreement between lender and borrower. (These are listed in the TOOLS section.) The usefulness of credit is a measure of the costs and terms versus the returns or results of credit use. Cost/benefit is calculated in monetary terms for most commercial credit, although timeliness, social appropriateness and other considerations also must be weighed. Most especially, the Peace Corps extension worker must help a farmer weigh the value of credit against the danger of dependency on factors beyond the farmers' control. This must always be part of the calculation of credit cost/benefit.

Because most commercial credit is extended for profit, it is rarely extended to the small-scale farmer. What with the uncertainties of weather, pests and diseases, the limited money-making ability of the small-scale farm, and the inconvenience of administering credit to a far-flung clientele in rural areas, the small-scale farmer is often not considered a good "risk".

Other forms of institutional credit (through development projects or ag product distributors), where these exist, are more readily available to small-scale farmers, but do not allow freedom to use the loan for any purpose. The loan must go to producing a certain crop or buying certain inputs. Thus, it is not easy to help small-scale farmers gain access to credit.

The process of acquiring credit involves, first, surveying a farmers' needs and clarifying with her the specific need to borrow capital. Secondly, the farmer and extensionist must inventory local credit sources. Next, extensionist and farmer must calculate the costs of credit and estimate the returns to the credit to determine the cost/benefit of employing the credit opportunities identified. This would include clarifying the terms of credit. Then the farmer and extensionist must apply for the credit. Finally, the extensionist must help the farmer honor the terms of the loan and re-pay it when due. Refer to Chapter Five, ORGANIZING COOPERATIVE ACTIVITIES, to see how to bring farmers together to solicit credit. Use the TOOLS in Chapter Six, MANAGEMENT, to help organize and carry out this process of acquiring credit.

ILLUSTRATION

1. An example of the results of a credit inventory:

Source: Ag supply store.

Type: Credit on fertilizer and hybrid seed, at planting time, to be repaid at harvest.

Location: Capital city, 400 km away.

Terms: Only for farmers or organizations who buy 2 tons of fertilizer and $100 worth of seed.

2. An example of credit costs:

a. Simple credit cost

Total loan

$100

Credit costs (fixed fee)

$10

Farmer expenses (travel)

$ 5

TOTAL CREDIT COST

$15

b. Annual interest credit cost

Total loan $300

$300

loan

8

months

8%

annual interest

2%

fixed service charge

INTEREST ANNUAL RATE

x

TOTAL LOAN

x

% YEAR USED

=

INTEREST CHARGE

.08

x

$300

x

8 (.75) 12 (months)

=

$16

Total interest charge

$16

Fixed service charge

$ 6

Farmer expenses (travel)

$ 5

TOTAL CREDIT COST

$27

Tool

FORMS OF CREDIT FOR SMALL-SCALE FARMERS

LOCAL SOURCES

• Borrowing tools, seed or other inputs from a neighbor, friend or cousin

• Work companies (groups of laborers work on each other's fields or work in a field for reciprocal work late)

• Communal labor (village farmers provide labor to local leaders out or respect and in the knowledge that leaders are benefactors in times of hardship)

• Informal sharing of equipment labor or other inputs in the village

• Borrowing from local money-lenders, merchants or leaders to pay back in kind at harvest.

INSTITUTIONAL SOURCES

• Borrowing from local lenders commercially - to be paid back in cash plus interest.

• Cooperative lending institutions credit co-ops, farmers associations or co-ops, consumer co-ops, etc.

• Ag product processors, e.g. canneries who extend credit as advance payment to get ag products.

• Ag equipment suppliers, e.g. fertilizer suppliers or feed dealers to extend credit to stimulate sales.

• Commercial banks

• Government or development agency - sponsored credit programs.

Identifying these sources is another research task which may be done with reference to that chapter as a guide.

TOOL

Checklist for clarifying credit terms

Once sources are identified, terms become the major consideration in matching credit alternatives with alternative opportunities to employ additional capital in the farm enterprise. The following checklist can be used to determine the terms under which credit is being offered through the credit sources available to the subject group of farmers.

CREDIT TERMS

1. Credit costs

a. Credit charges.

b. Credit expenses.

2. Security.

a. Land.

b. Capital assets.

c. Savings account.

d. Conditional sale deed.

e. Sponsors.

f. Integrity of the borrower.

3. Duration of the loan.

a. Less than 6 months.

b. "Til harvest."

c. Six to 12 months.

d. One to five years.

e. "Until repayment."

f. Over five years.

4. Timeliness of loan.

a. Is the loan available at the time needed?

b. How flexible to change is the date of repayment?

5. In kind or cash?

a. Is the loan disbursed in kind (fertilizers, seed, etc.)

b. Is repayment required in kind?

c. How are values (prices) set on these goods?

6. Constraints on Credit Use: Is it stipulated that the funds be used only in a specified fashion?

7. Application procedures.

a. Application form.

b. Financial statement.

c. Personal interview.

d. Farm visit by field superisor.

8. Disbursement procedure.

a. Processing time required.

b. Form of disbursement.

9. Repayment procedure.

a. Lump sum payment.

b. Partial payment or partial amortization.

c. Periodic repayment of principal and interest.

d. Interest paid in advance.

10. Penalty for default.

a. Discount for loan paid on time.

b. Penalty charge for default.

11. Other terms.

Selecting and producing seed

OVERVIEW

The quantity and quality of seed is one of the most limiting factors in crop production. It is essential that small-scale farmers gain access to necessary amounts of high quality seed if they are to realize profitable yields. Yields are a function of many factors, two of which are variety (the type of seed) and seed quality. (See TOOLS for checklists of "Factors To Consider in Evaluating Seed Variety", and for "Guidelines for Selecting Quality Seed".) Because adequate quality seed is not often available to farmers in developing settings, extensionists may have to multiply or at least help farmers grow their own seed.

There are generally four variety types:

Traditional Varieties

These are the varieties most village farmers use. Local varieties' advantage include:

• farmer familiarity with their characteristics and needs

• fair to good resistance to local insects/diseases

• local availability

• proven ability to produce acceptable yields under local physical and management conditions (local adaptation)

• low cost

• ability to be multiplied successfully on the farm

Disadvantages :

• adapted to low soil fertility and management practices

• low responsiveness to increased soil fertility, use of fertilizer or other improved practices

Hybrids

These are produced (by crossing two or more inbred lines of a crop) by plant breeders at seed multiplication centers. Advantages:

• out-yield local varieties by up to 35 percent

• more resistant to insects/disease

• responsive to improved practices and fertilizer use.

Disadvantages

• not locally available

• not replicable on the farm (hybrid seed reverts back to original characteristics if replanted, yields drop sharply)

• expensive

• unfamiliar to local farmers

• require good management practices

• have a narrower range of adaptation to growing conditions

Synthetics

Synthetics are improved varieties developed from cross-polinate lines tested for their combining ability. Advantages: Same as hybrids above

• greater genetic variability (more adaptable) than hybrids

• less expensive than hybrids

• seed can be replanted if carefully selected

Disadvantages :

(Same as hybrids)

Varieties improved through mass selection

These occur through natural crossing between plant lines without tests of combining ability. Advantages:

• better response to fertility and improved practices than traditional varieties

• cheaper than synthetics or hybrids

• seed can be replanted

Disadvantages :

• less responsive than hybrids or synthetics

• product of more random process

By using the TOOLS indicated in this subchapter, farmers and extensionists can choose the type and specific kind of seed for use on local farms. Once the type and specific varieties of seed are chosen, it is important to make sure enough quality seed is available. If a hybrid seed is chosen, then providing adequate seed involves identifying a professional seed multiplication center which has the variety, procuring and then distributing the seed. If farmers select a synthetic or mass-selected variety, initial procurement from a seed multiplication center may be necessary. However, synthetics and massselected varieties, like traditional varieties, may be replanted and therefore replicated on the farm.

Seed multiplication on the farm involves several steps. First, the farmer and extensionist must be sure the variety they wish to multiply is not a hybrid. Second, the farmer should determine the amount of seed he wishes to produce for replanting and designate a portion of his yield for that purpose. Third, during harvest and the processing of the crop, special care should be taken to select and dry the seed to replant. (See "How To Select Home Grown Seed" in the TOOL section.) Four, seed should be stored carefully away from sources of moisture, insects and disease which can damage it. Finally, when selecting seed for use at planting time with farmers, conduct a germination test and/or a field test to make certain seed quality is good.

ILLUSTRATION

Ralph has been working with local rice farmers for six months. They have been experimenting since last year with new varieties which a previous extension agent had introduced. Some of the new varieties had yielded much more than the local varieties. Three in particular are of note. One variety yielded double previous yields. Two others exceeded local variety yield by significant amounts. The farmer (Jo) who used the highest yielding variety also used a recommended application of nitrogen fertilizer. Of the farmers who used the other new varieties, only one (Abdul) used fertilizer at all, below the recommended rate.

This year, Ralph does not provide fertilizer to farmers himself and the farmers do not buy any on their own. The farmers insist on using the same new varieties, however. Jo is astonished to find that the highest-yielding variety of last year yields less than most local varieties. Abdul, who used a different new variety with some fertilizer, found his yield to be almost as good as last year. Ralph concludes that Jo's variety is probably a hybrid geared to special fertilizer and management practices, and that Abdul's is a synthetic or mass-selected variety. Ralph verifies his conclusions with regional ag researchers. He then explains the difference in variety types and characteristics to the farmers and recommends Abdul's variety fertilizer and a locally adapted package of growing practices. The farmers agree to use Abdul's variety, to purchase seed from him, and to forego the purchase of other outside inputs. Ralph plans to help each farmer multiply his or her own seed during the year. He also plans to test all the varieties present in the area with the help of the local ag research station.

ANOTHER SITUATION IN WHICH SEED SELECTION IS IMPORTANT:

Chris and her counterpart Jina have been working with a group of women on kitchen gardens. The women are particularly interested in reducing the amount of inputs they must purchase with hard-won cash. The two extension workers are therefore trying to determine several things: which local vegetable varieties can be easily grown for seed; what germination rates can they expect from these varieties; what varieties will maintain their viability in successive propagations? With time Chris learns from her investigation that there are no lists of "recommended varieties" for the area in which she works. She realizes she must learn about the seed from local farmers/gardeners, and by personal experience or local testing. She comes to understand that this will be a long process which must precede any gardening project.

TOOLS

1. ICE manual M 13 Traditional Field Crops

2. ICE manual M 2 Small Farm Grain Storage

3. ICE reprint R 25 Intensive Vegetable Gardening for Profit and Self-Sufficiency

4. ICE reprint R 40 Rice Production

5. ICE packet P 4 Small Vegetable Gardens

6. Locally available manuals, booklets and pamphlets on seed propogation and crop production.

Providing farm inputs

OVERVIEW

Beyond credit, locally-adapted practices and adequate seed, there are other outside inputs to which small-scale farmers do not have ready access. The extensionis may help farmers directly by providing such inputs when needed. These inputs may include:

• labor, equipment or machinery

• tools

• manures, lime and other organic soil treatments

• manufactured or inorganic fertilizers

• pesticides, herbicides, and other ag chemicals

• storage containers

• any other items necessary for production, harvest and processing of ag products.

Through thorough research and planning (see Chapter Two), the extensionist and farmers determine which crops or livestock should be raised and generally which practices to employ. The extensionist makes sure any recommended crops or livestock practices are thoroughly tested under local conditions. Then, based on farmer interests and recommendations, farmers choose the practices and crops/livestock that seem best for them. At this point the farmers and extensionist assess the need for various specific inputs to their farm enterprises.

Determining what inputs are needed involves, first, an assessment of the specific problems each crop or animal enterprise entails. Then the extensionist and farmer can list various inputs to solve each "specific problem". Finally, the farmer can choose the most appropriate input for the job.

For example, in order to raise okra, a farmer must weed her plot on several well-timed occasions. (See ILLUSTRATION for an example of this process). She will probably choose the most convenient and familiar, cost/beneficial weeding inputs, in this case mulch and one locally-made hoe.

It is extremely important that the extensionist and farmer weigh the appropriateness of any input employed in the farm enterprise. (See TOOLS for "Guidelines for the Selection of Appropriate Inputs" and Chapter Six, MANAGEMENT, "Planning", TOOLS for "Guidelines for Selecting Appropriate Resources"). Appropriate in this case means useful to the small-scale farmer. The choice of an appropriate input involves much more than the technical solution to a problem. The independent choice of several inputs for a production project on purely technical grounds can add up to a gross disservice to other farmer interests and needs.

For example, using pesticides in an irrigated rice field upstream from a drinking or washing hole is not appropriate, even though it may solve the immediate insect problem successfully. Friday afternoon work companies to prepare land for planting are not appropriate in a Muslim village where worship is held on Friday afternoon, even if they are the best local form of communal labor. Choosing inputs involves the spectrum of farm and village interests.

Procurement involves these steps: identifying the sources of inputs, ordering the materials or making sure the materials are available, arranging for payment and transportation, purchasing and transporting the inputs and storing and distributing them. Logistics are often difficult where roads, communications, networks and transportation systems are new and incomplete. It is therefore necessary to plan and carry out procurement steps in a rigorous way. See Chapter Six, MANAGEMENT "Planning" and "Carrying Out Plans" for TOOLS to procure inputs.

Distribution of inputs should be orderly, efficient, culturally appropriate and well-documented. The more inputs to be distributed, the more formality is necessary. (Chapter Six, MANAGEMENT, provides TOOLS for the formal 'management' accomplishment of tasks like distribution of inputs.

"Fairness" is often an issue which arises when inputs like tools or fertilizer are being distributed. "Fairness" is culturally-defined, however, and is rarely the same to an American and a Costa Rican or Kenyan person. For example, an American extensionist may receive a partial shipment of vegetable seed in response to an order through the agriculture ministry. Since there is not enough to fill every farmer's specific order, the extensionist may decide to equally divide the seed among all farmers to be "fair". The local chief may be very upset to know he is to receive as much as his neighbor, an ordinary village person. To the chief, "fair" means according to local custom, by which the chief is accorded more out of respect. The orderly and efficient distribution of inputs must be culturally attuned or it will cause misunderstandings and create serious mistrust.

Some inputs may be borrowed instead of purchased. These may be treated like credit in terms of assessing cost, terms and cost/benefit. Keeping careful records of equipment, machinery or input loans is imperative. Signed or witnessed agreements, according to local custom, help sort out terms when return or payment is due. Borrowed inputs must be monitored carefully and cared for according to agree-upon terms.

In situations where support services are new, the provision of inputs is of tremendous importance but also is a tremendous source of power. If an extensionist is the only person in a village with real access to the inputs which village farmers need in order to realize profitable yields, the extensionist's power is apparent. When inputs are procured and stored through the extensionist and they must be distributed by him, he holds another kind of power. If the inputs are to be procured through him, the extensionist can even reserve the power to choose which input to get. This is the power of doing things for people.

In situations where ag support has not reached small-scale farmers, the power to help this way is often a challenge worth the risk of dependence. It is important for the extensionist to understand that he can only accept this responsibility provisionally, however, even though at first it may be vital to bring resources to the aid of small-scale farmers in this way. Accepting responsibility to be a source of inputs to village farmers, the extensionist must always keep in mind the needs, interests and goals of farmers, and help to meet them. In the case of farmers who wish to use harmful and dangerous pesticides on their crops, for example, the extensionist must weigh carefully his personal conviction to say no against his respect for the opinions of his farmer friends. There is no formula for this sort of decision-making, but it is of paramount importance that the extensionist use his 'power to provide' with great care and consideration. (See Chapter Six, "Evaluation", Chapter Five, ORGANIZING COOPERATIVE ACTIVITY; and this Chapter, "Indirect Service").

Fertilizer and Pesticide Use:

It is imperative that etensionists promoting the use of any manufactured fertilizer or pesticide consider the issues involved in their use. Much has been written about "organic" versus "inorganic" agricultural practices. Extension workers are asked to clarify their own opinions and values with regard to these issues, and to work with farmers focussing as far as possible on the wishes of farmer/clients. Where an extensionist disagrees with a farmer over "chemical" use, the extensionist should provide information (technical knowledge) to help the farmer make her own choice. Right and wrong are personal viewpoints in this matter. Farmers have a right to their choice. Extension workers also must exercise thoughtful personal choice.

ILLUSTRATION

Choosing Inputs

A farmer is going to grow okra using a new variety and locally-adapted practices suggested by the local extension agent. The extension agent discusses this project with the farmer after they agree on the practices and variety. A "specific problem" the farmer must cope with is WELL-TIMED WEEDING. The farmer and extension worker devise a list of possible inputs to help solve the weeding problem:

• family members and friends, by hand.

• family members and hoes.

• family members by hand (longer hours).

• mulching and some weeding by family.

• herbicide by local agent and farmer (backpack sprayer).

They discuss the choices. The herbicide is too dangerous and too expensive to use in this situation. Weeding by hand will take too long, especially since family and friends cannot meet at the same time. Hoes sound good, but they will cost a small amount, care of the local blacksmith. Mulch is readily available, bus is not the best sole solution.

The farmer and extensionist agree that the best solution is to mulch the okra garden and purchase one hoe to weed when needed.

TOOLS

1. Guidelines for Choosing Appropriate Inputs

Useful inputs are:

• culturally appropriate

• in agreement with farmer interests

• familiar to or easily learned by farmer

• technically beneficial

• not economically risky (cost/beneficial)

• locally available or within easy access

2. For managing procurement sorties, see Chapter Six, MANAGEMENT, "Planning", TOOLS.

3. For using fertilizer and other soil additives like organic manure or compost, see I.C.E. manual R8 (1980) SOIL, CROPS & FERTILIZER USE

4. Distribution Record Chart (illustration)

DATE

TOOLS

FARMER

DATE OF RETURN

5/10/84

hoe

Miki sold

$1.00 paid

5/11/84

hoe

Ishmael

due 5/18

 

rake

Ishmael

,,

 

shovel

Ishmael

,,

5/12/84

wheelbarrow

Mary

due 5/19

 

hoe

Mary

,,

 

shovel

Mary

,,

5/13/84

10 hoes

Jo and work

due 5/20

 

10 shovels

company

,,

etc

TOOL

Agricultural math aids:

a. See I.C.E. manual R4 Agricultural Mathematics for Volunteers

b. See I.C.E. manual TRADITIONAL FIELD CROPS, Appendices, for

• How to Conduct an Elementary Statistical Analysis

• How to Convert Small Plot Yields

• Measurements and Conversions

c. See the same manual, page 143 and following to see

• Determining Fertilizer Needs

• Basic Guidelines for Applying Chemical Fertilizers

d. Consult local ag suppliers farmers or research stations for guidelines on seeding rates, feed rations, etc.

e. See I.C.E. manual R8 SOILS, CROPS & FERTILIZER USE

Ag Chemical Safety Information:

Refer to I.C.E. Traditional Field Crops M13 or

Pesticide Safety Packet P4.

Surveying agricultural land

OVERVIEW

Surveying as it is meant here is the branch of applied mathematics used to determine the area of any portion of land, the lengths and directions of boundary lines, the elevation and contour of the surface and the art of accurately delineating these measurements on paper. Surveying of this kind is a service provided rarely to small-scale farmers. It is important to them for several reasons:

• As land tenure and farm practices allow for more individual ownership or tenancy of land, it is important to know the exact location, boundaries and area of a parcel of land.

• This is doubly true where there is a shortage of land.

• In order to calculate optimum seed, lime, manure, fertilizer, irrigation or other applications on a given extent of land, precise area measurements are necessary.

• In order to properly level or contour a field to use irrigation or rainfall water most efficiently, the elevation and contours must be measured exactly and mapped out.

• In order to locate irrigation channels, dikes or drains, contours and elevation must be accurately gauged.

Surveying is done on two planes: boundaries and area measurement are located on a two dimensional plane - length and width; elevation and contours are located on a three dimensional plane - length, width, and height. Boundaries and area measurements are depicted on a map as lines. Elevations and contours are indicated by points or lines marked with a certain height value, (see ILLUSTRATION).

This kind of multi-dimensional "literacy" is not often easy to share with village farmers, who have learned a different type of spatial orientation. See Chapter Four, FARMER TRAINING, "Cross-Cultural Communication", for an indication as to the nature of visual and spatial "illiteracy" and how to cope with it.

ILLUSTRATION

Map and contour survey of Pa Jo's farm (rice paddy & vegetables).


Map and contour survey of Pa Jo's farm

 

TOOL

ICE by-request-only reprint.

Sierra Leone Surveying Manual

Providing storage

OVERVIEW

Approximately thirty percent of grain in storage all over the world is lost because of insects, rodents and molds. For the small-scale farmers with whom Peace Corps extensionists work this is a major problem of every day life. In villages protection from such pests and molds is lacking. Because this is a vital area in which to help farmers, I.C.E. has produced an exhaustive manual on the subject. Sections are included on the following topics:

The Grain Storage Problems

Grain, is a Living Thing

Grain, Moisture and Air

Preparing Grain for Storage

Grain Dryer Models

Enemies of Grain

Storage Methods

Extension workers must focus some of their attention on issues beyond the production of agricultural products. By helping a farmer double her grain or vegetable yield, an extensionist may cause a major storage problem. Where does the new grain go? How does the farmer protect it from pests, moisture, thieves? The technical information necessary to solve a storage problem is available in the above-mentioned manual. An extensionist can help by encouraging farmers to plan their storage strategies. Also, farmers can determine the most appropriate storage facilities and strategies with the extension worker's help. Finally, adequate storage is the most practical marketing tool a farmer has. He or she can hold onto a crop until prices become favorable if storage is adequate. The importance of storage facilities cannot be overemphasized.

ILLUSTRATION

Maria felt very proud. Due in part to the encouragement and assistance of Joel, the area extensionist, she had worked hard on an intensive onion garden. The yields were great! Joel was also very pleased. Basket after basket was carried to Maria's little adobe hut. It soon became apparent, however, that there was not enough room. Joel offered to store the rest himself.

The price at this time of year was not best, but it was still good. Because of the space problem, Maria elected to sell her entire crop except five basketsful, right away. She realized a modest profit. Two months later, the leftover onions which had not rotted from moisture commanded double the previous price at the local market. Joel and Maria both learned the importance of learning marketing, drying and storage techniques as part of the gardening process.

TOOL

Small Farm Grain Storage Manual

ICE, M 2

Marketing agricultural products

OVERVIEW

The extensionist is often in a good position to help farmers understand and participate more successfully in the marketing system. One of the largest and most uninviting arenas the small-scale farmer enters by virtue of change is the marketplace. In it, she is subject to the forces of supply, demand, big business and government policies and regulations. Here, if anywhere, the farmer needs the direct assistance an extensionist can provide.

There are two main ways in which extensionists can help small-scale farmers successfully approach the market system: by organizing largescale cooperative groups aimed at gaining local or regional price advantages, or by securing favorable prices through timely marketing. Refer to Chapter Five, ORGANIZING COOPERATIVE ACTIVITY, to learn about cooperative marketing.

The process of helping farmers secure price advantages through timely marketing involves four steps:

I. Establish who controls the crop/animals at harvest and under what conditions:

A. Advance sales: farmers may receive payment in advance for a crop, thereby obligating it to a buyer.

B. Contracted sales: farmers may contract to sell a crop to a buyer at a certain price for certain quality and quantity.

C. Loan or credit restrictions on sale: farmers may have to sell a harvest when a loan payment is due.

D. Tenancy or rent restrictions on sale: farmers may have to sell or give part of a harvest to a landowner or local leader due to tenancy terms, rent due or local custom.

II. Establish an estimate of price fluctuations during various seasons of the year (see Price Data TOOL).

A. Find out the average low price during the month when 75% of all producers sell.

B. Find the average high price over a time when price is highest.

C. Make sure the high and low prices are equivalent-same grade product in the same condition at the same point in the marketing process.

D. Subtract low price from high price to get an approximate seasonal price difference.

III. Estimate the costs of holding products off the market

A. Estimate the average length of the "holding period" between the middle of the period of average high price and average low prices.

B. Estimate roughly the cost of holding each product (bushel of rice, pound of beef) off the market (e.g. - storage facility cost or depreciation; storage losses; handling costs, etc)

C. Estimate the profit or loss to the farmer by holding a crop out of the market. (This depends on the difference between the cost of holding out and the anticipated seasonal price rise).

Net Benefit

Estimate price rise - estimated holding cost = Net Benefit (per unit of crop)

IV. Decide to hold crop or sell

Before a farmer can contemplate marketing strategies, her crop must be free at harvest of any restricting arrangements. If the crop is free at harvest, and if the net benefit of holding the crop out of the market place is significant (more than 25 percent), then the extensionist can advise the farmer to hold her crop out until the price rises to the seasonal average high price.

There are other strategies for successfully participating in the market system. They are listed as one of the TOOLS, "Interventions by Farmers in the Market System". This tool also serves to illustrate the points raised in this subchapter.

ILLUSTRATION

1. A Farmer's Eye View of the Marketing System (ICE reprint)

THE FARMER HAS A VESTED INTEREST IN:

BECAUSE IT DETERMINES:

AND HE PROBABLY KNOWS IT'S RELATED TO:

BUT HE PROBABLY DOES NOT KNOW IT IS RELATED TO:

MARKET ACCESS

Which commodities he can produce.

Transport facilities, quotas, "monopoly" control.

Effects of government policies.

MARKETING STANDARDS(WEIGHTS, GRADES) THE AVAILABILITY AND QUALTY OF DIRECT MARKETING SERVICES (weighing, timeliness of payment, credit, other).

How he prepares his crop for market. His choice of buyers for his crop.

Local custom. Buyers' preferences. His personal relationship with the buyer. The buyer's honesty. The buyer's resources.

Legislation. Processors' preferences. Buyer's management ability. How much it costs the buyer to perform marketing functions.

OVERALL MARKETING EFFICIENCY

Marketing margins and the price he receives.

How efficiently the transport and assembly functions are performed.

Management and technical skills. Productivity of labor. Many and varied costs. The less visible market functions.

COMPETITIVENESS OF THE SYSTEM

Marketing margins and the price he receives. His choice of buyers.

Number of potential buyers, and alternative markets. The buyers' financial and political power.

Control of financing. National policies. The subtler forms of influence.

THE MARKET, EQUATING SUPPLY AND DEMAND (price determination)

More than any other factor determines the prices he receives for his products, planting and harvesting schedules, and his farm enter price mix

Orderly marketing. Seasonal factors. The size of the total crop. Distant demand factors beyond his control.

National policies. How much of the consume rprice is absorbed by the marketing process. Internal supply and demand. Costs of holding the crop.

 

TOOL

 

Checklist for collecting price data (ICE reprint)

SOURCES OF DATA: (current)

• actual sales

-reported by farmers

-reported by local people

-reported by handlers of products

• reports by ministries, market publications, etc.

(historical)

• recent memory

-as above

• official reports and studies as above

 

ANALYZING DATA:

• collect data from sources

• convert all data to common units of value

• check prices to eliminate abnormally high or low prices

• make sure information on prices is relevant to the community in which farmer/clients live.

• establish average prices by observing them over a regular period of time (2 or 3 weeks).

 

TOOL

Interventions Farmers Can Make In The Market System

Farmers can influence four factors which affect the prices of their products over a short period of time:

• Time of sale

• Choice of Buyer

• Collective or individual marketing

• Condition of the product

Farmers can learn about their options concerning these four factors with extension workers. Often the prie of a product is lower near normal harvest time, so holding the product in storage is often a way to gain a higher price. Storage depends on perishability, facilities, farmer's ability to wait for income, etc. The choice of buyers is often limited for small-scale farmers, due to transportation costs. Collective marketing is advantageous when costly transportation is a means to a higher price. Collective marketing involves thorough planning of harvest, handling & storage as well as price and profitsharing agreements. The extension worker can help point out the need for these considerations and can facilitate the process of dealing with them.