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Chapter 10


Small farm systems combining various crops and animals will continue to remain the backbone of agriculture and sustain the livelihoods of several millions of poor farmers in South-East Asia within the foreseeable future. The natural resource base, with its reservoir of plants and animal populations, will be expected to provide the bulk of the food required to support increasing human populations. Small farms have contributed to this need in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

Increased food production and alleviation of poverty in the long term will not be without costs and effects on the use of the natural resource base as well as the environment. The challenging task for the future is how these goals can be achieved in a manner involving a more efficient, low-input, sustainable agriculture. It is likely to make use of indigenous knowledge systems in which there is reduced dependency on chemicals, maintenance of soil fertility, integrated pest management and conservation of on-farm genetic biodiversity. The overall development priority is to make small farms more sustainable and profitable through appropriate technological interventions and policy adjustments.

The farmers first priority is to increase income and feed their families. Policy adjustments must thus consider a balance of environmental and social issues and formulate proposals in a manner that can be supportive of small farmers and their efforts.

The more efficient use of natural resources will involve the adoption of appropriate technologies which generate profits for farmers and spearhead agricultural growth. Mechanisms to encourage greater use of such technologies, methods of diffusion, delivery and acceptance by farmers will assume far greater importance in the future. The onus is initially on the scientist and policy makers to facilitate this process which, if well organised and delivered through participatory processes, has the advantage in the long term of making the farmers themselves into both the managers and beneficiaries of new technology. Constraints on the adoption of new technologies will need to be addressed and overcome in order to balance the immediate food security needs of farmers and the longer term agricultural growth and conservation goals. Research is also required to provide a better understanding and definition of the links between poverty, natural resource use and management, indigenous knowledge systems and institutions.

Rising human populations and decreased availability of land will demand more intensive production systems and this will increase the pressure on natural resources. This will highlight the importance of integrated systems of food production that maintain environmental integrity.

In Asia, there is already a good understanding of small farm systems. It began with a specific focus on crops in the 1970's and has now been extended to crop-animal systems during the last decade. This has in turn led to a better understanding of the role and nature of involvement of animals in integrated systems, and the development of appropriate research protocols and methodologies that can assess the extent of the contribution made by animals. This aspect however is very much in its infancy and will need even greater attention in the future.

The systems approach has been extremely useful in the past in enabling a good understanding of farming systems. Given the complexity of the issues, the new development imperatives and the dynamic nature of farming systems, further progress will require more changes in methodology in the future. The following issues adapted from Chambers (1991) and Zandstra (1991) constitute the challenges for the future:

The challenges facing animal production in the future will be especially critical since questions and doubts linger about its efficiency, contribution and inability to meet national targets. These concerns now need to be more closely identified with issues concerning the environment, efficient natural resource use and management, and sustainability. Strategies must therefore address not only increased contribution from animals in the future, but also enable them to make a parallel ecological and socio-economic impact. Sustainable animal production within integrated small farm systems in South-East Asia offers considerable potential to meet the challenges and development imperatives of the future.

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