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This section has two parts. The first gives the background of the principles that led to this study and explains the increasingly important role of communication in participatory and client oriented agricultural research & development (R & D). The second describes policy changes in the Philippines which are creating a need for the new R & D approaches. The bibliography offers a guide to other literature related to this approach.


For a better understanding of the R & D evolution, the following main models and trends of the last three decades are described: the "transfer of technology (TOT)" model; the "systems perspective from cropping systems to farming systems development"; the "participatory approach"; the "agricultural knowledge and information systems" model; and finally, the "rapid and participatory appraisal of agricultural knowledge systems".

The transfer of technology model: no room for communication

Since the late 1960s, the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) of many nations have been centralised. The transfer of technology (TOT) model, which considers research the starting point for disseminating agricultural knowledge, has been the standard for NARS in many countries.

In a simplified form, TOT calls for the delivery of research results from scientist to the extension agent, who in turn will transfer the information to the farmer. This model performs well when the scientist, extension agent and farmer come from similar backgrounds, speak the same language and share information of common relevance. The design of extension systems has followed this model.

TOT has been successful in terms of increased food efficiency in favourable areas of many countries. However, TOT has often had inadequate results because of its centralisation of research resources (human and capital), its specialisation of research and the distance of research programmes from small farmers. The yield potential of the best endowed areas is often reached, but at the cost of environmental degradation. In terms of equity to resource-poor farmers, the R & D systems of many countries did not meet the expectation.

In the last two decades, many NARS have become concerned with how to service the technology needs of the large numbers of farmers who have remained outside R & D systems. These are farmers who work with small, fragmented plots of land in rainfed, sloping, droughty, and/or low fertility conditions. Their production systems are complex and diversified. There are no single solutions. Often, the conditions at research stations are different from conditions at the farms, farmers cannot afford to implement recommended technologies or do not have the resources to apply them. As a result, the farmer cannot adopt what the research and extension system offers.

NARS trying to respond to small farmers' needs have faced the constraints of TOT's unidirectional information sharing. In the TOT model, the research system (including basic research, applied research, adaptive research) passes on research results and technology to the extension worker. The extension worker is expected to package this information for dissemination to the farmer. This unidirectional process makes the farmer the receiver of "packaged wisdom". As Roling (1988) put it, the extension worker's job was essentially to get the farmer to do what the extension worker wanted the farmer to do. Then, if the technology was not adopted, it was blamed on the farmer's resistance to change.

The diffusion of innovations model (as developed by Everett Rogers (1983) and others) was based on this blame-the-victim concept.

That model was accompanied by the "training and visit system" (Benor & Harrison, 1977) in which farmers were categorised by their willingness and capacity to innovate. Homogeneous categories of farmers were targeted by extension programmes. Research results were matched with "recommendation domains", that is, homogeneous farmer groups for whom the technology was relevant.

The role of communication in the TOT model is merely to produce information materials for the transfer of knowledge from researchers to farmers through the extension system (Figure 1). This unidirectional transfer leaves little room for communication.

Figure I The TOT model concept.

The research system with its TOT model failed to question its own weakness. It did not ask why the client (farmer) was not adopting its product (improved technology). Instead, it searched for groups of clients willing and capable of adopting it, and for extension mechanisms such as "training and visit systems" (T & V) to reach them more efficiently. It did not seek to communicate, but rather to inform.

The TOT model seeks to sell (disseminate for adoption) a product (technology) by identifying potential customers (homogeneous groups of farmers) and improving the advertising (social marketing for extension). It fails however to feed back information systematically to its R & D department on the clients' views that might make the product more relevant. Feedback only happens when the recipient group is a well-organized and influential farmer lobby: pressure [from a farmer group] implies that farmers have some power to ensure their preferences are considered (Kaimowitz, 1992). Increasingly, compelling evidence suggests that interaction with and external pressure on research from farmers is essential if research is to generate technology options relevant to farmers' needs and opportunities (ISNAR: 1994, p. 3). In addition to external pressure from the farmers, others argue that researchers in the public sector also need to become more accountable to their clientele: "One of the biggest obstacles to institutionalising participatory, client-driven R & D is that presently most public sector agricultural research systems and staff are not penalised for producing technologies that farmers cannot use." (Ashby, 1993: p.2).

The systems perspective: an opening for communication

Cropping systems development was the first attempt by R & D subsystems to respond to the complexities of farming systems and was a significant first move away from the monocropping laboratory conditions which dominated commodity-based research.

Its approach of looking at the relationship among the many crops grown by small farmers led researchers to consider a broader set of variables - labour availability, gender roles, household economies, markets, supply and availability of credit and inputs, price policies, interactions among the different components of a diversified farm (livestock, trees, pasture, annual and perennial crops, aquaculture, etc.), energy, etc. The "farming systems development" (FSD) perspective invited the social scientist into the agricultural R & D arena. As an interdisciplinary approach, FSD has battled to gain recognition in the R & D community made up of specialised expertise and compartmentalized mandates. Not surprisingly, FSD has come under attack. After all, the TOT model has never welcomed critiques.

The systems approach makes an effort to close the gap between the research systems' agenda and the resource-poor farmers' needs. FSD recognises that the nature of research itself needs modification, but FSD still offers only unidirectional transmission of information. The control of decision making remains in the hands of the experts, although at least now they come from both the natural and the social sciences (Chambers & Jiggins, 1986).

Figure 2 Farmers' diagram (from Lightfoot, Feldman and Abedin, 1991)

The systems approach has at least provided a foothold for the field of communication. After all, systematic farming-systems surveys require contact with the farmers. Even though the survey tool remains researcher-controlled, the dialogue which develops is already an improvement. "Rapid rural appraisals" (RRA) are an example of the contribution of the FSD approach in terms of a cost-effective tool to obtain a multi-dimensional picture of a farmer's situation. However, RRA is researcher-controlled. The farmers are surveyed but their answers are used as part of an outsider's study. Participatory rapid appraisals tools have been developed to shift the control over the diagnosis from researcher to the audience. In this instance, the tools by which the audience expresses itself are in fact communication tools. The work done by Lightfoot & Minnick (1991), and Lightfoot, Feldman and Abedin (1991) using diagrams for improved FSD analysis with farmers is an important accomplishment because the farmer can contribute his own perspective, language or voice.

The systems approach courts the participatory approach: a red carpet for communication

Parallel to the evolution of FSD, the development of farmer participatory research methods brought attention to several previously-ignored issues. Farmers' indigenous knowledge, their experience in doing research (often dealing with multiple variables and risk considerations) and their capacity to share information are crucial assets. The development of participatory appraisal tools reflects the need to shift the control of FSD diagnostic tools from specialist to farmer. PRA methods have evolved through communication tools that are already part of farmers' livers (Haverkort, et al. 1991).

The field of participatory technology development began with the PRA diagnostic stage, but now involves farmers in several other steps of agricultural research. The communication possibilities for this kind of horizontal interaction are wide open and most promising. "Farmer participatory research" (FPR) requires communication to make use of its full potential as a facilitator of exchange between cultures and perspectives. Much work has already been done in terms of integrating communication tools into those PRA methodologies that include visualized analyses. This study drew on several:

(Cornwall, Guijt and Welbourn, 1992, p.14)

Figure 3 Overlapping domains in the systems approach

From the point of view of information exchange, the above methodologies call for close interaction among researchers, field workers and farming populations (Figure 3). The interaction between researchers and farmers refers to the growing field of participatory research, also referred to as farmer participatory research (FPR).

The interaction among research, extension and farmers as portrayed in Figure 3 is referred to as participatory research and extension or, in other words, the joint search for solutions to problems. As is highlighted in the last chapters of this report, the role of the extension worker in this context is one of facilitation of common learning. The field worker becomes a facilitator, a broker of knowledge supply and demand.

Agricultural knowledge and information systems: the door to integrate communication into agricultural R & D systems

As the systems approach to agricultural R & D evolves to accommodate participatory approaches, the underlying TOT linear model is stretched to its limit. This is evident when institutions try to adopt newer methods and find that the underlying TOT model blocks the way. For example, the FSD units of many NARS function effectively as add-on services, but have not become part of the major commodity programmes.

Figure 4 The AKIS (from Roling, 1988)

The TOT model is being eclipsed by newer models which acknowledge the overlapping of researchers, outreach workers and farmers. (Christoplos & Nitsch, 1993). Rather than focusing on the technology itself, the new systems recognise that information and knowledge provide a common denominator among farmers, extension workers and researchers. In the late 1980s, researchers at Wageningen Agricultural University in the Netherlands proposed the "agricultural knowledge and information systems" (AKIS) model.

The model describes the two-way flow of information and knowledge among the research, dissemination and utilizer sub-systems (see Figure 4). These sub-systems play equally important roles in the system.

The utilizer sub-system is a source of information and knowledge that feeds into the other two. For the utilizer sub-system to be on a more equal footing with the other two, the sub-system must have a demand capacity. After all, the best extension systems in the world develop where farmers are organized and able to lobby for the technical assistance which they consider priorital (Roling, 1988). It is the demand capacity of farmers that dictates the quality and effectiveness of the extension support. The opposite process, whereby extension systems conceivably strengthen farmers' production systems through technology, is more a myth of the TOT model than an observable reality.

In the AKIS, the two-way exchange of information is crucial for effective generation and transfer of relevant technology. As a consequence, the role of the dissemination sub-system (the extension organization) has been reformulated from a one-way TOT persuasive channel into a two-way channel for requests and answers which facilitates the learning process for both farmers and researchers. But the change from disseminating to facilitating requires staff with fundamentally different attitudes, skills and knowledge. From the point of view of the AKIS, and of participatory research, the facilitator can be described as a broker of information demands and supplies.

The model is aimed at "supporting decision making, problem solving and innovation in a given country's agriculture" (Roling, 1990). The AKIS model is based on systems theory and is therefore difficult to operationalize in the context of existing linear systems which were developed in the NARE; under the TOT model. The model must first be tested by using it to analyze a given AKIS. Roling (1990) suggests eight different research methods to study AKIS:

  1. Comparative analysis of two systems
  2. Comparing the formal and the actual system
  3. Linkages matrix
  4. Tracing one successful innovation back through the system
  5. Comparing the ideal theoretical system with the actual
  6. Analysing the transformations (research findings into recommendations, messages, etc.)
  7. Participating in linkage events
  8. Assessing corporate ideology

However, the above choices remain research-controlled and do not necessarily incorporate the participatory dimension.

AKIS and participatory rapid appraisal: the starting point for this study

The main contribution of this study has been the experimental development of an approach to make the AKIS model operational. "Rapid appraisal of agricultural knowledge systems (RAAKS)", a methodology pioneered by Engel and Solomon (1983) provided a concrete starting point - an operational method with steps to follow. Using RAAKS to study an AKIS provides a strategic diagnosis in support of knowledge management.

As developed by Engel and Solomons, RAAKS may be used as a management tool for understanding an agricultural knowledge system, or for any other system where knowledge is the common denominator among groups of individuals and institutions. RAAKS is rapid and very systematic, but it is also a complicated exercise. The project team borrowed heavily from RAAKS but tried to make it more accessible to farmers. Following a growing trend of participatory analyses (Dela Cruz, et al., 1992; Lamb, R., 1993), this study explored network analysis from the user perspective.

The team focused on communication linkages and the patterns of exchange in the context of the AKIS. It also focused on mapping the AKIS from the farmer level up. For a farmer, the AKIS is basically a communication network for the exchange of information. "Communication does not take place randomly, but within patterned networks. Network analysis, when applied to communication about agriculture in rural communities, reveals those people who are regularly used as sources of advice and information and agriculture and conversely those who are not well connected to establish networks (Garforth, 1993: p.2).

In the analysis of the major linkages, the relevance of other actors' services was used as a criterion to review linkages. This criterion refers to the usefulness of a service for the other actors' learning process.

At this stage it may seem tempting to try to develop a blueprint for the new tasks of the extension organization and its field workers. However, the nature and structure of an AKIS are not static - they differ according to site and level of analysis. In terms of change through time, farming systems' "evolvability and flexibility are critical characters for survival" (Lightfoot, Pingali and Harrington, 1993: p. 18) and therefore contribute to the evolving nature of an AKIS. In addition, the extension organization is only one among the many actors in the AKIS and therefore the role of a field worker and the organization must be flexible - flexible enough to exploit the strengths and maybe overcome some of the weaknesses of an existing AKIS.

A future step would be the description of the AKIS as a learning system: 'What we are suggesting through our parading of systems agriculture is a further shift towards the creation of new learning systems. Here, agricultural professionals will be engaged in the process of collaborative inquiry with farmers, in action-oriented research towards the establishment of sustainable relationships between people and their environment" (Sriskandarajah, 1991:p. 3). "The focus is then less on what we learn, and more on how we learn. The need is for learning environments: conditions in which learning can take place through experience, through open and equal interactions, and through personal exploration and experiment" (Pretty & Chambers, 1992: p. 5).

Knowledge management is defined as the activities people perform to facilitate collective learning and local knowledge processes among individuals and organizations. RAAKS is a participatory communication method that enables the actors in an AKIS to diagnose and define problems and plan interventions. This feature of the RAAKS has proven important in the present study in terms of the potential application of the approach as a management tool for agricultural decision making at the municipal level.


In this section particular attention is paid to the significance of the approach in the context of the new policy framework with examples drawn from experiences in integrating the above R & D models and methods in the Philippines.

In 1987 the Department of Agriculture (DA) was given the mandate "to use a bottom-up, self-reliant, farm systems approach that will emphasise social justice, equity, productivity and sustainability in the use of agricultural resources" (Dar, 1993: p. 1). However, the same author acknowledges that "in many instances, farming systems technologies developed by R & D institutions failed the test of site realities... The lesson is that in the formulation of interventions we have to begin by taking as the point of departure the existing tradition and resources of farmers." (ibid, p.5).

The constraints are not merely methodological or technical. Land tenure and migration to the highlands are major constraints to effective agricultural development in the Philippines. The FSD perspective has become integrated into some R & D programmes, yet its impact has been limited because of inadequate diagnosis of existing practices (knowledge). This has lead to technological packages which do not respond to farmers' predicaments or issues which influence the farming systems but which are not of a technical nature.

The Philippines 2000 medium-term strategy calls for an intensification of agricultural production - rice, corn, vegetable and other cash and commercial crops in key production areas (KPAs). Increases in yields per unit area will free an estimated 1.3 million hectares of marginal rice and corn farms for cash crops and livestock. However, it is the marginal farms, requiring assistance in technology, services, skills and organization, that are most difficult to service.

Experience in Leyte (Eastern region) shows the difficulty in servicing marginal farmers with the tools used by conventional R & D: "research activities ... continue to focus on testing and transfer of technologies with the agenda set by bureaucrats and researchers, not farmers." (Go & Go, 1992: p. 5).

The Philippines 2000 policy proposal was designed at the top. However, the implementation of the programme at the field level, particularly in regard to those resource-poor farmers who will be encouraged to shift into other commercial crops, will need to be addressed. Go & Go (1992) add: "the desire for a bottom-up approach remains little more than part of the conceptual undercurrent." On the other hand, the new patterns of decision making imposed on Local Government Units (LGUs) by the Local Government Code also changes the control over the process at the field level. This is particularly important in terms of both technology development (through the DA network of regional research centres) and extension, which is now a LOU activity. "Not only will there be a redistribution of R & D responsibilities but the thrust and demands for services may change. Local needs are expected to be given more impetus as they become a local concern." (Villanueva, 1991: P. 7).

A "key agricultural development area (KADA)" programme proposed by the DA is "an area-based strategy to attain production of selected agricultural commodities and the promotion of agribusiness activities through the delivery of agricultural support services from the DA, the LGUs, peoples' organizations, non-governmental offices and private organizations" (Dar, 1993b: p. 4). Through the KADA programme, the DA hopes to find an adequate agreement with the LGUs in those key production areas identified by DA. However, it remains to be established how LGUs in non-KPAs will access DA services. The DA is proposing new linkages with the LOU extension facilities through work complementation. In addition, the DA recognises the importance of work complementation with other actors in the system- state colleges and universities (SCUs), NGOs and the private sector.

In 1994 the Congress of the Republic of the Philippines was to have voted on the act to establish an "Integrated System for Agriculture Technology Generation and Transfer" (ISATGaT). In addition to dealing directly with the need for functional linkages with the LGUs, the problem of the gap in technology generation, transfer and adoption is ably summed up in the explanatory note of the act:

'The traditional system of separating research and extension activities among and within government agencies and academic institutions has been frequently cited as the main reason for the ineffective transfer of technology to farmers and other end-users. The recent Revolution of the agricultural extension services from the DA to the LGUs has even further worsened this situation. While most of the extension workers have been transferred to the LGUs, the researchers remained with the national and regional centres. The SCUs, in the mean time, continued with their R & D and extension activities as usual independent of the programmes of the DA and LGUs. As a result, many activities were unnecessarily duplicated and many important problems and opportunities are left unattended.

"Planning and implementation of agricultural R & D and extension activities whether by government agencies or SCUs, have been conducted almost entirely without farmers' participation. In many cases, this results in a very poor fit between the technology the farmers need and the technology that is generated and hoped to be transferred."

When the act is operationalized, the system for technology generation and transfer in the Philippines would become more integrated and streamlined. It is important to note that there is an increasing realisation and appreciation of the fact that extension workers, in order to be more effective in their work, would need to embrace new identities as facilitator/enablers and capacity/builders.

The above scenario, as seen from the LOU point of view, becomes increasingly complex in light of other policies and programmes such as the Department of Science and Technology's (DOST) Science and Technology Agenda for National Development for the year 2OOO (STAND), espoused by PCARRD, or the Agrarian Reform Communities of the Department of Agrarian Reform. The LOU's will be faced with competing and often contradictory proposals from different departments, university researchers, development projects, NGOs and the private sector. On the basis of a review of the sections in the Local Government Code pertinent to the Department of Agriculture, which defined the agricultural extension and on-site research services to be provided by the LGUs, there appears to be very little mention of mechanisms by which the code will be implemented. The LGUs will need a platform for negotiation (Roling, 1993), otherwise they will be overwhelmed by the agendas of the other actors in the system.

This points out the need for increased attention to mechanisms by which the LGUs may link with farmers on the one hand, and regional- and national-level institutions on the other. The following section describes the approach as a possible management tool which the municipal level LOU could use to diagnose problems, identify potential partners and negotiate assistance.

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