This book was produced by FAO as part of the work program of its Farm Management and Production Economics Service (AGSP) for the furtherance of a systems approach to farm development, especially of small traditional farms of the tropical world. Impetus to this has been given by the ongoing activity of FAO's Regional Commission on Farm Management in Asia and the Far East.
Because of both the importance of small farms in Asia and the continuing expansion of farm management analytical concepts and methodology, it is timely to build on previous FAO publications in this field. Substantially, these began with the publication in 1958 of W.Y. Yang's book Methods of Farm Management Investigations and, recognizing FAO's special interest in world food security and the sustainable development of small farms, have continued through to today's FAO Farm Systems Management Series to which this book belongs.
The present volume is not an updated compendium of methodology. The authors have first developed an agricultural systems framework and a classification of farm types and the modes and fields of farm management analysis. They have then selected from the existing body of farm management methodology those techniques for analysis and planning which, on the experience of several decades, seem to be of greatest practical use for professionals analysing and planning farm-level agricultural systems, viz: budgeting, enterprise and whole-farm comparative analysis, response analysis, mathematical programming, simulation and risk analysis. Although the authors' techno-ideological framework is economics, they point out that it usually does not matter which discipline - agronomy, economics, engineering, sociology ... - takes the lead role in the analysis of small-farm systems as long as these typically diversified farms and their farm-household units are approached holistically as functioning integrated systems which need to be adequately understood before prescription for 'improvement' is offered.
Most modem textbooks on farm management are set in the context of modem Western commercial farming. In being oriented to the small farms and rural households of Asia where population pressure is greatest, this book illustrates the practical application of analytical methods described in J.L. Dillon and J.B. Hardaker's book Farm Management Research for Small Farmer Development in this same series.
To contribute positively to sustainable agricultural development, these methods must contribute to the betterment of food security and income of poor folk supported by small farms using traditional technology and internally generated resources. To assist in this, the first requirement is that we have a better understanding of the actual agro-economic structuring, nature and functioning of these small-farm systems and their households. We must seek such understanding with great care and humility. For as this book points out, these small farm-household systems which were once dismissed as 'backward' and as prima facie evidence of under-development, will generally on closer inspection prove to be far more sustainable, efficient and resilient than the bulk of commercial agriculture in the West.
From decades of experience, we now know better than to try to replace traditional smallholder agriculture with some allegedly superior form of modem commercial agricultural production transferred from the West. The degree of interdependence among crop and livestock activities and between the farm and the household in such small-holder systems is such that one would not attempt to adjust, improve or modernize any single element without expecting repercussions throughout the whole system. This characteristic of more-or-less tight structural integration does not necessarily mean that all these farms are biologically and economically efficient and sustainable. They range from what are arguably the world's most sustainable, sophisticated and complex systems - the household forest-gardens of Sri Lanka, Kerala and Java - to systems which, through excessive demands placed on them, not infrequently generated by external factors, have become degraded to the point of abandonment.
In this book the authors present a powerful argument for the application of farm management and farming systems analysis to these complex small-holder agricultural systems in Asia. They leave the reader with profound respect for what this traditional world of the small farm can offer in return.
Chief, Farm Management and Production Economics Service, Agricultural Support Systems Division