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With all the money invested in gender based projects mostly for women "impowerment" I have an underlying concern that should be addressed at the beginning. The entire women "impowerment" effort has an underlying current that all or at least most women are in an adversary relationship with thier husbands. I find this hard to beleive as adversary relationships are very unpleasant to say the least and most people try to avoid them. Thus, I would be interested to know what percent of women are in an adverary relationship and in need of impowerment vs. what percent are in a colloborative relationship with their spouces and not in need of impowerment? Also, since women are heavily involved with domestic chores, child care, meal preparation, etc. how much time and more imporant dietary energy does this consume, vs. how much time and energy do thay typically have to participate in economic activity? I think with the limited calories available to the family women would consume most of thier available calories with the domestic chores with very little time and effort available to engage in economic opportunities, either assisting the family in farming or some indepoendent economic activity. In addition if they become involved will this become a source of added antagism between spouces? Finally, if women become involved in independent economic activities, instead of assisting with the primary economic activity of the family, what will the impact be on total family well being? Would the family be better off concentrating on the primay economic effort even if lead by the husband? Shouldn't answering these questions be the precursor to an major effort at women "impowerment".
Please review the dietary energy webpages to see how limited available calories will impact on womens ability to become involed in economic activities in addition to thier domestic responsibilities.
An interesting subject. It looks like this is another effort for “Estate Management” of smallholder lands. If this is the case make certain you learn the lessons from past efforts in particular the major debacle of the Gizzeria Scheme the Brits attempted outside Khartoum, Sudan at the confluence of the Blue and White Nile over 100 years ago. While as a major advocate for smallholder farming, I will agree that the estate management can be more productive and provide a better opportunity to meet national food security then individual smallholders. I will also agree that it could be a toss up if an individual is personally better off economically being an independent smallholder or an estate employee. However, as you do move from one to the other it can be a sensitive shift with many issues to consider.
1. Since an estate cannot have any isolated private holder inclusions you need some form of eminent domain to assure all land is included.
2. Then if you are not outright purchasing the land and disruptively displacing people, you need some equitable relationship for the use of the land.
If I were doing it, I would look at sharecropping in which during the season of estate management the owners will receive 30% of the crop. That is basically the world-wide standard share for use of land. This would be 30% of the total estate production prorated to the farmer according to area involved and not just 30% for the land involved as time differential across the estate will make the production on individual farms unequal. I would than guarantee the farmers the opportunity to work for the estate. The combination of wage earning and share should provide a reasonable income to the farmers. Also, if the estate is only interested in one crop a year the land should be available to the owners use during the off-season for personal production of something like short season vegetables.
Anyway, just some thought on estate farming of smallholder lands.
This is an interesting topic. I am not certain it is doable. What I would be concern with is that whatever is done has to be both financially viable and operationally feasible. Too often these are overlooks as we tend to make labor intensive innovations with the underlying assumption readily available and diets are enough to undertake the additional labor. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case for smallholder farmers. My prime example is that I would expect that composting crop residues would require more caloric energy then would be derived from the extra yield obtained. Calorie deficit is a major problem in most smallholder communities leading to major labor shortages. Please review the following webpages:
Just a brief question. I recall the main documents mentioned concerns for saturated and trans fats, etc. If you are in economic environment where you need to exert more calories than you have access to, as most smallholder farmers are, will consuming saturated or trans fats be a problem, or will the need to energy result in their being quickly consumed? I think the concern for saturated or trans fats are more a concern of the obese than the starving.v
I have carefully reviewed the Zero Draft and would like to offer the following comments for consideration.
1. First is what I consider a major omission in the total effort for improved nutrition which I will provocatively refer to as the Genocide Omission. I hope the title gets your attention.
I come from an agronomy perspective with a primary concern for farmers to be able to produce the crops needed for a quality diet. In this regard I think we have done an excellent job of determining what constitutes a quality diet but have implied that accepting or rejecting a quality diet is 100% discretionary to the individuals and households. I seriously doubt this and think most decisions are highly compromised. Thus, the important concern now is to integrate the recommended improved diet into the economic situation of the beneficiaries. Unfortunately, most of the people with suffering severe malnutrition are poor with their economic opportunity heavily dependent on hard manual labor and proportional to the ability to undertake that manual labor. However, in your Zero Draft no mention is made of the dietary needs to optimize economic opportunities. I think this needs to be corrected.
As best I can estimate this, to do a full day of manual labor, be it agronomic field work or other manual labor, requires a diet of at least 4000 kcal/day. Any think less and the economic opportunity and ability to produce or purchase the recommended quality nutrition will be compromised. The calorie needs are rarely included in any nutritional reports I have seen. The best I have seen is dismissing the need by comparing it to an “active” person requiring 2800 kcal/day. This would be a FAO office worker with healthy exercise regime such as taking an extended lunch break for a walk around the Forum, Circus Maximus, and perhaps out to the Colosseum and back. Far short of what is needed for a full day of manual labor.
As this applies to smallholder agriculture there is suppressing little referenceable data available on the calories available to smallholder famers. The limited data I have found indicates between 2000 and 2500 kcal/day. Allowing 2000 kcal/day for basic metabolism and recognizing that hard manual labor such as land preparation with a hoe will require 300+ kcal/hour, the work day can be limited to a couple diligent hours perhaps paced over a couple more. The result will be a prolonged crop establishment period extending to 8+ weeks with declining potential yield as the delay progresses. The end result is if relying on manual labor you will never be able to cultivate enough land in a sufficiently timely manner to meet food security needs. Thus, improving quality nutrition will be impossible as basic economics of survival will force you to concentrate on high calorie crops. The bottom line will be if you want food security and quality nutrition the key will be facilitating smallholders access to mechanization, so they can get their crops planted in a sufficiently timely manner to have a chance at food security.
Please review the following webpage from the https://smallholderagriculture.agsci.colostate.edu/ website I manage.
2. Part of the above concern is to look more at household needs than individual needs. That to improve the nutritional need of children, adolescent girls, nursing mothers s etc. who cannot be fully involved in economic activities someone in the household needs to be involved in heavy manual labor. To do this you need to aggregate the dietary needs for the entire household. The tendency is to look mostly at individuals.
3. The other concern is administrative overhead you are proposing in the Zero Draft. Please note that most of the countries you are concentrating on are what I refer to as Financially Suppressed Economies in which about 80% of earnings or food production is used just to feed the family. Thus, there is essentially no discretionary funds to provide a tax base for government to obtain the revenue to provide the services you are proposing. No taxes, no services. To expect a government to provide services beyond what they have the financial resources to fully fund, including the operations funds for officers to move about and diligently do their jobs, can quickly become a disservice to the general population. Too often it results in services being declared as provided based on the “honor/gratuity/baksheesh” system. This would limit the reliability of the service as I think is the case of the certified seed program in Keno, Nigeria. Unfortunately, no service is better than an unreliable service. Please be careful with the administrative overhead you are suggesting are affordable to host countries or make some notations about the financial viability of providing these services.
It should also be noted that administrative costs are far more associated with the number of people you must deal with rather than the volume. Thus, supervising food safety for large farms marketing produce in large 18-22-wheel trucks may be cost effective as was shown some 20 years go for the insecticide contaminated watermelons in Kern County, California. But would be prohibitively expensive for each ox-cart of produce being marketed by individual smallholders. Please be cautious with these administrative concerns.
Please review the webpages:
My final comment concerns Monitoring & Evaluation. This is a major concern as it has to be done objectively and independent of the projects being monitored. The most important objective of an M&E program is to guide future programs to better serve the beneficiaries. Thus in addition to protecting the under writing taxpayers in assuring their taxes are being effectively invested and the beneficiaries are profiting as much as possible, the M&E effort also represents the beneficiaries. What they cannot be is a tool for propagandizing the projects. Unfortunately, the USAID MEL (Monitoring, Evaluation, & Learning) program is far more intent on propagandizing then evaluation and does wonder to develop impressive but meaningless number, making innovations that by all normal standards are total failures, appear to be highly successful. This does nothing for the beneficiaries, and reinforces the failure to be included in future projects. Hopefully, FAO can do considerable better and develop M&E programs that effectively guide future projects.
Please review the following webpages:
My third concern is the over emphasis on the cooperative business model to assist smallholder farmers. This is very disturbing because it only takes some brief computations on basic business parameters to show that reliance on a cooperative is far more likely to push smallholder farmers deeply into poverty than be a mechanism for poverty alleviations, despite the tremendous rhetoric to the contrary. The reason is the cumbersome administrative overhead costs associated with running a cooperative, particularly if the success of the cooperative requires seconded outside managers. This overhead cost will usually exceed the much promoted but never quantified financial benefits from bulking input purchases or produce for sale. When this happens you have to find a buyer who will pay extra for dealing with a cooperative, or reduce what you can pay the farmers, pushing them further into poverty.
The emphasis on cooperative in development projects goes back some 40 years and is based on the unsubstantiated vilifying claims that private traders were exploiting farmers. Such claims if not substantiated are slanderous and thus subject to litigation. Given the financially suppressed economy common to developing countries this is actually impossible. The limited buying power of the general population put tremendous downward pressure on consumer prices. Fortunately the farmers aren't that gullible and avoid the cooperatives like the plague leaving the development effort catering to a very small percent of the potential beneficiaries and even then the members’ side selling the bulk of their produce to the vilified private traders in contradiction to approved cooperative by-laws. The only market volume passing through most cooperatives is in-kind loan repayments and the net impact on the community economics is trivial.
Please review the following webpages:
My second comments is really an outgrowth of my first concern. It is the dietary energy balance of smallholder farmers. This gets to the major emphasis on nutrition. However, as I have reviewed the nutritional projects, the emphasis mostly academic with primary interest in providing quality nutrition particularly for pregnant and nursing women. What it does not address is the nutritional need to optimize economic opportunity. Since most of the intended beneficiaries are smallholder farmers or other manual labourers, the need is for sufficient calories to put in a full day of work. This is rarely mentioned in the project, and when it is the reference is for active people with a calorie exertion of 2800 kcal/day. I would contend that this represents an office worker with a healthy exercise program of 2 hr/day. That is far from the 8+ hrs a day a smallholder farmer is expected to work which has a calorie estimate I place at 4000+ kcal/day. Unfortunately the data on caloric consumption by smallholder is very limited often in the range of 2000 to 2500 kcal/day. That barely meets basic metabolism requirements with limited work energy. I think this does wonders to explain why farmers are taking 8 weeks for basic crop establishment, how often are our innovations for improving smallholder production expecting them to work harder? Where will that energy come from? As you address the issue of improved nutrition you might take a look as some of the tough choice they have to make in balancing nutrition with their income. Please review the following webpages:
I have reviewed the opening comment and glanced through all the comments, or at least those in English. I have several diverse comments I would like to add, but will do so on separate comments with links to various pages on the Smallholder Agriculture website I Manage. I believe these comments apply to most developing countries.
The first comment is a major oversight in the approach to development. That is the operational limits face smallholders. The agronomist, which includes myself, do a great job of determining the physical potential of an area, but small plot research does not address the operational resources need to expand the small plot research to a full field, farm, or smallholder community. It just assume it is not a problem. It often blames non-compliance with agronomic research as limited education or risk aversion. However, when limited to just manual tools it takes up to 8 weeks for basic crop establishment with the farmers working as hard as possible, but perhaps limited by diet. The real need is to provide the farmers with access to some forms of contract mechanization to remove the basic drudgery. Who in a typical development project is responsible to determine the labour requirements, the availability of the labour, and what are the rational compromises when that labour is not available? Has this fallen into an administrative void between the agronomist and social scientists? Please review the following webpages:
While I have only been able to briefly look at the draft document, there are a couple concerns that I have which are historically overlooked as I have harped on in previous forums. Thus, please allow me to mention them and ask how these are being or will be addressed in the final draft of the report.
1. The operational feasibility of agronomic interventions: This is basically an oversight in the development effort, but it severely hinders acceptance by smallholder farmers. When you carefully look at agronomy it does an excellent job of determining the physical potential of an area but says nothing about how the farmers will operationally achieve that. That is how much labor or access to contract mechanization is needed, and how readily available is it, with the default assumption that it is not a problem and labor is infinitely available. Basically, how often is it assumed that smallholder farmers working alone or maybe assisted by an adolescent son can manage their hectare plus of land as easily as research/extension officers can manage a 0.10 ha research of demonstration plot assisted by a hired labor crew. When you think about it, it is kind of a ridiculous assumption! The underlying problem is that the operational limitation in smallholder cultivation has fallen into an administrative void between the agronomist as applied biological scientist and the social scientist. Within the typical development effort who has the responsibility to estimate the labor requirements need to implement innovations, the availability of that labor and most critically what are the rational compromises smallholder farmers should make as integrate the innovation into their limited operational resources and the other farm enterprises they are involved with. When this is done most likely you will find the farmers are maxed out and maximizing, not the return to a give crop or livestock enterprise but maximizing the total return to all farm enterprises. I like to think of this a separating THE SCIENCE OF FARMING as defined by research/extension for the ART OF FARMING taking into consideration the limited operational capacity and integration across all enterprises. How much of the persistent yield gap between research/extension and farmers can be accounted for the limited operational capacity of the farmers? Is this a greater problem than lack of knowledge? Please visit and consider the following webpages and links within them: https://smallholderagriculture.agsci.colostate.edu/integration-an-under-... ; https://webdoc.agsci.colostate.edu/smallholderagriculture/OperationalFea...
2. Dietary Energy Balance: Another but highly related concern is the dietary energy balance between what smallholder farmers have access to and what they are expected to exert in doing a full day of agronomic field work. The difference is about 50% with farmers only having access to approximately 2000 to 2500 kcal/day when the need more than 4000 kcal/day. While we recognize that most smallholders are poor and hungry we usually fail to see that as a major hindrance to crop production. If you consider 2000 kcal/day as representing basic metabolism, smallholder farmers often are barely able to have access to enough energy to meet the basic metabolism requirements with little energy for heavy manual labor such as land preparation using a hoe, which consume some 300 kcal/hr. This then substantially curtails the workday to a few diligent hours of labor, perhaps paced for a couple more. It than extends the crop establishment time for up to 8 weeks with progressively declining potential yields, until the crop is established too late to for sufficient yield to meet domestic food security needs let alone have some surplus to move up the value chain. The result of both these issues is to consider emphasizing drudgery relief instead of crop or animal extension education. Please consider the following webpages and included links: https://webdoc.agsci.colostate.edu/smallholderagriculture/ECHO-Diet.pdf ; https://smallholderagriculture.agsci.colostate.edu/ethiopia-diet-analysis/ ; https://webdoc.agsci.colostate.edu/smallholderagriculture/BrinksDrudgery...
I think that hits the main point. If these issues are included please point out where so I can quickly review them. Thank you.