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close this bookWorkshop to Produce an Information Kit on Farmer-proven. Integrated Agriculture-aquaculture Technologies (IIRR, 1992, 119 p.)
close this folderEconomic, sociocultural and environmental considerations in introducing integrated agriculture-aquaculture technology
View the documentSociocultural considerations when introducing a new integrated agriculture - aquaculture technology
View the documentEconomic considerations in introducing integrated agriculture-aquaculture technologies
View the documentWorking with new entrants to integrated agriculture -aquaculture
View the documentIntegrated agriculture-aquaculture and the environment

Sociocultural considerations when introducing a new integrated agriculture - aquaculture technology

It is important to understand how farmers understand the world before trying to introduce new technological options. Try to discover whether or not the new system can fit in well with the farmer's concerns, beliefs and values. And remember, farmers are "scientists", too. They have been developing, testing and adopting their own technologies for centuries in ways that are tailored to their cultural setting. If you make the effort to learn from them about the fit between cultural outlook and technology first, you will have a much better idea of which new technologies they are likely to take an interest in.


1. Even science is "cultural" — It is a belief system that incorporates certain values and goals and promotes a particular view of the world.

Even science is "cultural “

Agricultural scientists and economists value precision in measurement and the replicability of results, as well as maximizing efficiency and profitability.

Farmers may be motivated by goals and values that are different from those of scientists and economists.

Farmers may value security of livelihood for themselves and their children in the short and long term; they might place a higher priority on preserving harmony in the community than on maximizing individual gain; or they may seek to acquire merit for the afterlife, by contributing fish to a temple rather than selling them for money.

2. Cultural rules often limit what particular members of a given society (e.g., women versus men) can do. Cultural factors may determine who usually makes decisions, who is allowed to work in the fields, who may go to town to market produce and who may travel to a research station to attend demonstrations. This may set limits on the flexibility of households and communities to adopt new technologies. For example:

Cultural rules often limit

Women may not be permitted to catch fish, but they may be the ones who sell them.

Considerations of gender, religious beliefs, caste or clan membership, all may limit the distribution of benefits to be derived from farming innovations.

3. Interactions between extension agents or institutions and farmers may be constrained by culture.

It may be unacceptable for male extension workers to speak freely with women. Or a young extension worker may feel uncomfortable giving instructions to a distinguished community elder.

4. Culture changes over time: Children often have different beliefs, attitudes and values than their parents. This can cause conflicts over resource use priorities. For example:

Children may aspire to enter non-farm occupations; or they may be less concerned with respecting religious taboos.

Children may aspire to enter non-farm occupations

5. Communities and consumption. Farming communities are often divided by factors such as religion, caste, economic class and political affiliation. A given technology may not be suitable for the whole community and may increase conflict within, it.

Communities and consumption


There is no reason to encourage people to raise fish if they will not eat the fish themselves and if they cannot find anyone who will buy the fish. The same is true for any livestock or vegetable product that may be part of an integrated farming technology. It is, therefore, essential to consider the local cultural and economic constraints on consumption before attempting to introduce such a new technology.

Cultural constraints on consumption may include:

1. Religious Bellefs

For example:

- Muslims will not eat pig meat; many will not consume shell fish, but this depends on local custom and preferences.

- Most Hindus will refuse cow-meat; some castes eat no meat, fish or livestock product of any kind. Again, this will vary from region to region.

- Some Buddhists will no. kill and consume domesticated animals (including farmed fish) even though they will eat wild fish.

2. Totemic Beliefs

- Especially in Africa, but also among tribal peoples in Asia, Melanesia and the Americas, some people are forbidden to eat the animal that stands for their clan group.

3. Beliefs about Gender Differences

- In some societies, men may be allowed to eat certain foods that are forbidden to women and vice versa. Often, men expect to be given the most nutritious and preferred foods first. These factors may reduce the nutritional benefits that women receive from fish or livestock product/on. On the other hand, sometimes women can demand these foods when they are pregnant or nursing.

4. Beliefs about Food Cleanliness and Health

- Sometimes people believe that certain foods are unclean or will make them sick. For example, many people refuse to eat fish raised on animal excrete for these reasons.

Here is a checklist to help you think about how cultural beliefs might affect the adoption of the new technology you want to introduce. What other technology might be more culturally appropriate?

Consumption checklist

Will be available and acceptable to:






Pig Meat

Cow Meat

Poultry Meat

Eggs/ Filk









Local Markets

Distant Markets

This checklist is just to help you decide whether or not a new technology will generate products that are going to be available and acceptable to all members of the producing households as well as to buyers in the market. You must still, however, make a separate assessment of the long-term level of demand and prices in the markets that he produces might be selling to, (and purchasing inputs from), before deciding whether or not a given technology will be viable. See the paper on Economics Considerations In Introducing Integrated Agriculture-Aquaculture Technology.


In most farming communities, women and men do different kinds of tasks on and off the farm and in the house. A new integrated farming system technology will usually require changes in the way that members of the farming household use their time. Some might have a greater burden of work (e.g., feeding fish or livestock, repairing dikes, selling fish) and need to reduce the time they spend on other activities. But this is not always true. Sometimes, new tasks can be easily combined with present activities (e.g., digging a trench can supply fertilizer for horticultural crops on an embankment) or children and elders can perform new tasks that are not physically demanding but costly in terms of time (e.g. feeding fish in a distant pond).


The following checklist will help you to think about these problems and whether or not they can be easily solved by the farming household. But remember, households differ. Some have lots of young children who require supervision. Sometimes, an elderly widow will be living alone and doing most things by herself because her children have gone to find jobs in town. How can an integrated system help someone like her to increase her food and income without demanding more labor time? Are there neighbors, relatives or a women's group with whom she can cooperate and get help?

For each task on the checklist, make a mark under "Present" if the category of family member (children, adult women, adult men, elders) contributes substantial labor under the existing system. Then make a mark under "Future" if they will need to contribute once the newly integrated system is adopted.


adult women

adult men










Field Labor

- Field

- Preparation

- Pesticide &


- Weeding

- Harvesting



- Grain

- Livestock

- Fish



- Feeding

- Milking,



- Eggs

- Pen Maintenance

- Herding


- Cooking/Cleaning

- Building/Maintenance

Child Care

Tool Making/Repair

Marketing Produce/

Buying Inputs

Working for Wages

Other (Trading,

Crafts, etc.)


Before introducing a new integrated agriculture-aquaculture technology, it is important to consider who will make the management decisions that are crucial for its success. For example, elders might have ultimate authority in the household concerning when to sell crops or livestock, but make few day-to-day management decisions concerning stocking rates, feeding and fertilizing.

Women often manage family finances as well as making day-lo-day decisions concerning food purchases and preparation. Because women are usually responsible for ensuring adequate nutrition for themselves and their children, they are often more motivated than men to adopt new technologies that provide nutritional benefits, such as fish culture. Also, women will be eager to invest their time in improving the productivity of a resource over which they have control of both management and the harvested product (for example, a backyard pond).

Distribution of resources

When we speak of "distribution", we mean the ways in which the resources needed for an integrated farming technology are made available to farmers. Some resources will be available on the term and cost nothing (if the farm household owns them). These resources may have to be diverted from other Uses, however, and this constitutes a hidden cost. Other resources will have to be borrowed, leased or purchased.

Before attempting to implement any of the technologies in this Kit, you should try to answer the following questions together with the farmers you are working with. (You can do this as part of the drawing exercise discussed in the selection on Working with New Entrants to Integrated Aquaculture-Agriculture.

1. What resources are easily available on most farms in the area? (A new system should not depend upon resources that are scarce, difficult or expensive to obtain.)

2. Which of these resources is being under utilized/not utilized? (A new system should focus on bringing these into the system).

3. Which of these resources is being over utilized/not being utilized in a sustainable fashion? (A new system should strive toward restoring sustainability.)

4. Which of these resources is a common property resource? (A common property resource is a resource that is jointly drawn upon and managed by a community or a part of a community, e.g., grazing lands, ponds, irrigation water, forest products. A new system should enhance the benefits all users receive from such resources).

5. Which of these resources are controlled by only a small percentage of farmers or by non-fammers? (Farmers will be reluctant to invest in a system that requires resources that are not under their ownership or control, such as land that might be sold or an irrigation water supply that might be cut off someday.

On-farm resource availability and utilization checklist


Under utilized

Must be Diverted

Common Property


Over utilized Distributed

a. LAND (Proper soil slop, drainage)

b. WATER SOURCE (Reliable, sufficient quality)



e. HOUSEHOLD WASTES(Ash, Sewage, Food wastes)






k. LABOUR (Knowledge/skills, numbers, strength, timely availability)


It is useful to remember that most farmers in the world have little margin for taking risks. Sometimes, building a store of value to provide insurance against catastrophes (such as drought, flood, political upheaval, market instability, social and legal obligations) may be perceived by the farmer to be more desirable than investing for maximum returns.

Farmers view their ties with friends, neighbors and kinfolk as insurance against risk as well, since they will rely on these people for help if disaster strikes. This is why farmers invest in social relationships—by sharing resources (such as money, tools and labor), by paying visits, attending community celebrations and religious ceremonies and by exchanging gifts. It a farmer harvests fish or poultry before they are mature, it may be because he or she must meet a social obligation that can't be put off until later. Farmers should not be expected to make decisions in accordance with fixed models. Rather, the models for integrated technologies should be flexible enough to accommodate farmers' varying needs and their perceptions of acceptable risk.

Most farm households will be familiar with the benefits that may be derived from integration in terms of reducing risk. Most likely, they already combine diverse enterprises (e.g., livestock, crops, wage labor, gardening) in order to protect themselves from the possible failure of any single endeavour. The integration of agricultural enterprises with fish culture can increase household security by providing additional sources of income, by improving cash-flows over time and by improving the long-term sustainability of the household and community resource base. Also, when nutrition is improved through integration, people become less vulnerable to illness.


The farming households in any community are likely to have unequal access to resources and unequal control over their use. Often, extension agents focus on "leading farmers" or "progressive farmers" — those with the greatest access to resources on the farm or with sufficient income to purchase these resources off the farm. Extension agents do this because it is easier to show a complete, complex system on a single farm or because these farmers often have more education and are more likely to "think like" the extension agent. These farms are often used to "demonstrate" the gains to be achieved from an integrated system. However, there are good reasons not to focus on resource-rich farmers. in technology extension efforts.

Inequality between households

· Resource-poor farmers will usually be discouraged from adopting a new technology they are shown on a wealthier farmer's farm. (They will think, "how can I possibly do it without land and cash?).

· Resource-rich farmers often control the distribution of inputs to poor farmers. Helping the rich farmers to expand may reduce access to resources by poor farmers, making it yet more difficult for them to adopt a new system that may improve their livelihood.

· When resource-poor farmers lose access to the means of survival, they are pressured to use the most fragile parts of the local ecosystem in order to gain a livelihood, often leading to environmental degradation. New technologies should be focused on solving this predicament; they should enable farming communities to manage environmental resources in a sustainable fashion by improving the security of livelihood for the community's poorest members.

· Remember, farmers continue to live in communities after outside advisers leave. This is why it is a good idea to use extension agents who have intimate knowledge of the community they serve and why it is good to involve the whole community in choosing new and locally appropriate systems. If one farmer shows a rapid increase in visible wealth after adopting a new technology, others may be envious and isolate them from the community or sabotage their investments.

Integration can reduce inequality in communities if the primary beneficiaries are the resource-poor community members.

· By making the resources they have access to more productive, poor farmers become less dependent on loans or favors from wealthy farmers.

· Involving resource-poor farmers in designing new integrated technologies may be a way of strengthening their control over their own lives and giving them better organizational capacity and power in the community.

Prepared by: ERIC WORBY