Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

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    • As I have glanced through the comments, I tend to divide them between smallholder farmers producing both crops while maintaining animals, hopefully more for animal products than draft, and pastoral systems. I addressed the conflict between crops and animal enterprises in an earlier posting. Now please allow me to comment on the pastoral system. 

      I think the pastoral system is closely tied to communal grazing and lands that are controlled by the "tragedy of the commons" where benefits come to individual, while risks are shared. This results in massive overcrowding and overgrazing as the most rational thing for individuals is to commit at many animals to the communal lands as possible, without regards to overall health and well-being of the animals. 

      Thus, my question is what can or is being done to improve the overall management of this lands that would restrict the number of animals being grazed and improved the quality of fodder and overall carrying capacity of the communal lands? My general model is the USDA's Forest Service management of the National Grazing Lands in the USA. 

      Wouldn't addressing this be the best way to enhance the quality and productivity of the animals?

      Thank you.

    • Regarding sustainable small scale livestock production, my concern is: are we dealing with pure livestock operations or mixed livestock crop operations. If mixed an important concern is the interaction between the livestock and crop enterprises. This would include the extent the livestock are providing draft power for the crops. This in an adverse economic environment that can often have severe labor shortages aggravated by a major undernourishment of that labor. It should be noted that a full day of agricultural labor, either animal, crop, or combination can require 4000 kcal/day when most smallholder farmers only have access to 2500 kcal/day. Which, when allowing 2000 kcal for basic metabolism, allows only 500 kcal for work, good for only 2 hours of diligent effort working with either livestock or crops. Thus, time devoted to livestock is time taken from crops, and conversely time devoted to crops is at the expense of livestock.

      Thus, in this labor shortage environment farmers are not interested in maximizing returns to livestock or maximizing returns to crops. Instead, they are interested in maximizing total returns to all farm enterprises, deliberately reducing management on one enterprise to enhance returns to another. Isn’t this the rational thing to do?

      Unfortunately, those assisting farmers tend to be focused on their specific concern, either as animal scientists or agronomists and have difficulty appreciating the compromises the farmers must make in managing both to optimize the returns from each while maximize the total returns.

      When in Ethiopia which has extensive livestock component among their smallholder farmers, I had some discussions with groups of farmers was able to estimate the daily allocation of time for each. Also, you might want to consider the drag on both livestock and crops when livestock is utilized for draft. This is a deceptively expensive source of draft mostly in terms of daily time caring for the animals regardless of if working that day, and the extra land required for forage. Again, in Ethiopia one farmer mentioned if he had reliable access to contract tractors, he would get rid of some of his animals and plow extra land for crops.  

      Please review the following webpages:

      I hope this is helpful to the total discussion.

      Thank you.

    • Data collection and analysis is only as valuable as the parameters that are addressed. If important parameters are overlooked, important information that can guide future programs to more effective efforts can easily be lost and may have been. When it comes to food security and nutrition, I would like to suggest a couple important interwoven parameters that have been historically overlooked. Once these parameters are addressed, the data collected and analyzed, substantial improvements might be possible to the basic approach to both food security and improved nutrition.

      1. First, is the operational feasibility of innovation. The agronomists, including myself, with their small plot technology do an excellent job of determining what is physical possible in an area, but say nothing about operationally feasible of their results particularly for smallholder farmers heavily relying on manual labor. That is who in the agronomic development technology transfer process is responsibility to determine:

      a. The labor or access to mechanization needed to complete various agronomic activities within the estimated time allocated;

      b.  If that labor or access to mechanization is available;

      c.  If not available, what are the rational compromises farmers should make to adjust the innovations to their limited operational capacity; and

      d.  How close to the current practices do these compromises come?

      From an agronomic data collection prospective there is a simple proxy value to measure operational feasibility. That is timing of operations particularly the spread of basic crop establishment, which is often 8 weeks or more. This is well past the normal estimate of only 2 weeks and well beyond when recommended top dressing of fertilizer and good weeding is overdue. This data is easy to collect through farmer interview or simple field observations. The difficulty here is that this has been long noted, but attributed to lack of motivation or risk avoidance, and the need for extension programs to badger smallholders on the importance of early planting. Something they are most likely aware of as their very livelihood depends on it. This of course assume early planting is fully discretionary and labor is infinitely available. Is that realistic?? Isn’t it time to assume delayed planting is non-discretionary and focus programs toward enhancing the operational capacity of smallholder so they can get their crops planted in a timelier manner??!!

      2.  A major factor in the operational feasibility is the caloric energy balance of smallholder farmers to undertake a full day of diligent agronomic field work. It is interesting to note that we have historically recognized that smallholder farmers are poor and hungry, but rarely factored hungry as a major hinderance to crop production. We have also rarely even collected data on how many calories smallholder have access to. Why has this not been done?? What little data is available show daily caloric intake of between 2000 – 2500 kcal. If you subtract the 2000 kcal/day estimate of basic metabolism, where is the energy for agronomic field work?  With these limited dietary calories how many diligent hours of field work are possible, and what will this do to the time it takes to get basic crop establishment? To do a full day of diligent agronomic field work takes in excess of 4000 kcal. Are our extension efforts compelling people to exert more effort than the calories they have access to? If so, does that qualify for Genocide? How close are we? Should this be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague as a potential “Crime Against Humanity”? Very provocative, but just how accurate is it?? Should we enhance the effort to collect information of available calories, analysis that in terms of potential hours of diligent agronomic effort, impact on crop husbandry, and food security? Also, how would the need for calories to meet economic opportunity impact on the nutrition programs promoting more diversified diets? Which should get the highest priority? I fear it will be for higher levels of caloric energy to optimize economic opportunity.

    • As I review the briefing material and current comments on the forum for UN Decade of Nutrition from the perspective of an agronomist with the biggest concern producing sufficient food to support an ever increase global populations in as sustainable manner as possible with an emphasis on smallholder production in developing countries, I have several concerns mostly falling under Action Area 1: Sustainable, resilient food systems for healthy diets.

      Is what I fear will compromise the acceptability of most of the current work on improving nutrition. That is the need to consider the nutritional requirement to optimize economic opportunities. To often those with the greatest need for improved overall nutrition are those who also have the menial economic opportunities requiring heavy manual labor. This will require upward of 4000 kcal/day when often they will only have access to 2500 kcal/day, which is typical for smallholder farmers. This limited diet severely restricting the hours per day of diligent work, prolonging the time required for various farm management activities, and reducing total production below that needed for family food security, let alone extensively participate in any value chain marketing. This makes the ability to produce or acquire improve nutrition unfeasible. Unfortunately optimizing economic opportunity will take priority over improved nutrition. Thus, there is a need carefully review the affordability of improved diets after providing sufficient calories to meet economic opportunities. If not, then most of the work on improved diet will be academic with limited development prospects, even when followed by an extensive education extension program. For a detailed review on problems of dietary energy balance please review the following webpages:……

      Feel free to copy and distribute the poster as feel appropriate and take hour or so to try and balance the 4000-kcal energy requirement with any records you can find on casual labor wages, either as declared by governments or actually paid by farmers or other employers. It does not take long and the result mind-blogging. An undercurrent in the webpage is the need to provide a egg a day per child as promoted by an World Bank seminar/webinar I attended a couple years ago. For the price of the egg, you can purchase enough grain for about 3 hours of diligent labor. Which is more critical for those on the economic margin?

      The real need here is to reduce the drudgery of smallholder famers which quickly translates to the need for access to mechanization for basic land preparation. Expediting land preparation and crop establishment, should have a major impact on family food security, ability to extensively participate in market value chains, and affordability of improved nutrition as experience with the shift from water buffalo in paddy production in Asia. Please review the webpage:…

      On other issues please check for some of the major global trade off between land required for agriculture production vs. land reserves. Also, the total availability of organic nutrients vs. plant nutritional needs to feed the total populations. Finally, beware of condemning GMO as most the GMO development is intended to reduce chemical application and thus protect the environment. Thus, you cannot promote fewer chemical applications and condemn GMOs. Please review these webpages:… ;…


    • As I reviewed your introductory material on Agriculture indicators for the Private sector contributions of SDGs, from the perspective of an agronomist mostly interested in stimulating smallholder production for both crops and livestock, I am convinced the private enterprises are the primary and most effective means of supporting smallholders. However, I think your analysis needs to put more emphasis on the small village-based family enterprises that are in direct contact with smallholder farmers, rather than your emphasis on large corporations including the multi-nationals. These family enterprises are what most smallholders rely on to provide vast majority of their support services most noticeable production inputs and marketing produce where they are the primary link between the farmers/producers and the large private corporations serving the agricultural needs of the country. In addition to these well-established services the family enterprises also provide essential contract mechanization services for basic land preparation and crop establishment, as well as threshing and other mechanizable post-harvest needs. The need for contract mechanization services in smallholder communities, may be essential to achieving many of the SDGs. It is the only means to overcome what I provocative refer to as the Genocide Oversight, of developing labor-intensive innovations that attempt to compel smallholder farmers to exert up to twice the caloric energy they have access to. Furthermore, it might be the key to minimizing the need to convert marginal lands from cropping, but halving the total crop establishment time, reducing the delayed establishment yield loss to the food needs can be meet with less land, and more left in natural vegetation. Please review: ; ;

      Also, I think history has shown these contract mechanization services can only be provided by through the family enterprise system as only when you have an owner/operator will the mechanical maintenance be maintained for the full designed life of the machinery. Historically any form of joint ownership of mechanization has proven dismal. This would include government mechanization units and even producer organization. When these have attempted to provide mechanization services the equipment has been surveyed out of service with less than half the designed service hours, often as little as one-third. It might also lead to some off-the-book charges for access to the mechanization, or operators vandalizing the odometers so they can service additional areas without accounting for the services.

      While the village-based family enterprises will provide most of the immediate needs of the producers, it may be difficult to get detailed information on their business activity. They tend to operate on minimum records mostly kept in notebooks. This may be deliberate and beneficial as it would limit the ability of tax collectors to determine any taxes due.

      I would also be highly skeptical on including producer organizations as private sector enterprise. While they are highly promoted by academia and imposed by the development community for their social desirability, a careful analysis of the competitiveness would quickly show they are non-competitive in open competition with family enterprises, and if smallholder fully relied on them, they would force the members deeper into poverty. The result is they attract only a small percent of the potential beneficiaries and even those who agree to participate will divert most of their business to the competing private service provider. Thus, they require continued external facilitation and collapse once almost immediately after external support ends. When viewed objectively they are a real scandal. Please review: ; ;

    • I would like to strongly endorse S. Justice's comments concering the importance of mechanization to promoting smallholder agriculture, the emphasis on contract access vs. direct ownership, and the main stream development effort tendency to overlook the importance of mechanization.

      I think the development efforts overlooking mechanization is related to the short comings of agronmy, which is my profession. Agronomy working mostly on small plot research does an excellent job of determining the potential of an area, but says nothing about the operational needs to extend the small plot results across the remainder of the field, farm or smallholder community. The default assumption is that it is not a problem, and only requires extension education for interested farmers to adopt the technology. There is little  analysis of labor requirements, or more important the availability of the needed labor, or the rational compromises farmers have to make in adjusting technology to thier limited labor and operational capacity. This falls into an administrative void between the agronomists and social scientists.  Who in any given agricultural development project is assigned to sort out labor requirements, where the labor will come from for the entire smallholder community, and what the compromises are when not available. 

      Unfortunately labor is in severe short supply as well as the dietary energy to fuel that labor, leaving most of the development effort ineffective as the lack of labor will extend the basic crop establishment out to 8 weeks or more well past the period when recommendations are valid. Please consider the following webpages:…;……

      Thank you




      Allow me to continue my previous comment by asking: 

      How much of the intercountry trade across Africa, particularly small scale trade is cleared by informal unrecorded agreements with gratuities or other favors, making accurate estimates of actual volume impossible to determine?

      Permettez-moi de poursuivre mon commentaire précédent en demandant:

      Quelle proportion du commerce international à travers l'Afrique, en particulier le commerce à petite échelle, est compensée par des accords informels non enregistrés avec des gratifications ou d'autres faveurs, rendant impossible une estimation précise du volume réel?



      How much of the cross border trade do you think will come from large commercial farmers vs. smallholders. I would image most would come from the larger commercial farmers because:

      1. Most smallholders do not have sufficient surplus production to contribute to exports

      2. The quality of smallholder production tends to be lower than the larger commercial farms

      3. the administrative cost of assuring international quality will be lower for large commercial farmers and almost prohibitively expensive for smallholders. 

      Selon vous, quelle part du commerce transfrontalier proviendra des grandes exploitations agricoles commerciales par rapport aux petits exploitants ? J'imagine que la majeure partie des échanges sera le fait des grands agriculteurs commerciaux, car:

      1. La plupart des petits exploitants ne possèdent pas assez de production excédentaire pour contribuer aux exportations

      2. La qualité de la production des petits exploitants est généralement inférieure à celle des grandes exploitations commerciales

      3. le coût administratif associé à la garantie d'une qualité internationale sera moins élevé pour les grands exploitants commerciaux et pratiquement prohibitif pour les petits exploitants.


    • As I have read through the responses I noted many of the responses recommend government policies or programs like education and school lunches. This lead me to wonder if the government has the financial resouces to fund the enforcement of policies or support suggested programs. I am inclined to think most host governments have a very limited tax base in which to generate the revenue to implement such program. To taxes no services. In this case aren't most of these policies and program an expression of good intentions rather than an effective intervention. I appreciate the good intentions but I wish more could be done.

      Please review the following webpages:……

      Also the emphasis on policies and programs assumes that the use of child labor is fully discretionary and explotive of the children. However, as I mentioned in my previous comment in most cases i assume relying on child labor is essential to minimize food insecurity and most urgent need is to reduce the drudgery in smallholder production so child labor is not required as most parents would much prefer their children were in school so they develop an opportunity for a better life.


    • I think one of the keys to minimizing the need for child labor in smallholder agriculture is to address a major oversight in the effort to improved agronomic production particularly in SSA that relys heavily on manual labor. I think it is safe to assume most parents are interested in their childern's overall welfare and would perfer not to have them involved in child labor. Instead they see it as essential for thier family survival. The need thus is to take a close look at how to reduce the overall drudgery associated with manual smallholder farming.

      This gets to the limits of the agronomy discipline as it does an excellent job of determining the agronomic potential of an areas while saying nothing about the operational resources need to expend small plot result across a smallholder community. The underlying default assumption is that it is not a problem and farmers only need extension/educated on improve techonlogy and the adoption is then fully discretionary. I think this is far from true as the manual labor can be extremely limited. Unfortunately, the availablity of labor or labor substitues falls into an aministative void between the agronomists or other applied biological scientists and the social scientists. Who in an agronomic development effort is responsible to determine the amount of labor needed, the availability of the labor and what are the rational compromises in apply improved technology, most of which require additioal labor, when the labor is not available?

      Has anyone looked at the dietary energy balance between the 4000 kcal/day energy required to undertake a full day of agronoic field work and th approximately 2000 to 2500 kcal/day available, to most smallholder farmers. This is just meeting basic metabolism needs with only enough energy for a few hours of field work with perhaps limited diligence. The result is taking up to 8 weeks for basic crop establishment with progressively declining yield until it is virtually impossible to meet basic family food security with manual agriculture. You simply cannot hoe your way out of poverty. Thus to effectively reduce the reliance on child labor the most effective means may be to facilitate smallholder access to mechanization for basic crop establishment and perhaps mechanical threshing to improve the yield recovery.  This has to be done through private ower/operators of equipment and not through any means of shared equipment.

      Please visit the following webpages:………;

      Thank you

    • 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.

    • 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 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:…………

      Thank you,

      Dick Tinsley

    • 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:… ;…

      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: ;… ;…

      I think that hits the main point. If these issues are included please point out where so I can quickly review them. Thank you.

    • As I have been following the conversation I think we have done a great job of academic side of the egg and defining how nutritious it is and important to get into the diet, I hope we can start focusing on the development side and how to afford the egg so it can get into the diet. Thus I would like to return to the exercise is introduced into my initial comment about "hart choices: compromises in quality Nutrition". Has anyone downloaded and attempted to the exercise and for the poor of the world relying on heavy manual labor as their only economic opportunity tried to see what the compromises are in including or excluding the egg for the diet or the children’s diet. The exercise link is:  

    • I recently attended a World Bank seminar/webinar on nutrition which was largely promoting the need for an egg a day to prevent stunting in infants and toddlers. I academic side was well done, but was it practical? I doubt it. Most smallholder farmers and other deeply entrenched in poverty are unable to afford or produce. Please visit the webpage: where the example is used in a synthesized hypothetical case based on hard data from Angola, and also try working your way through the exercise on Hard Choice: Compromises in quality Nutrition and see if you can include the egg or sell the egg to acquire more energy to meet the dietary needs of you economic opportunity most likely based on heavy manual labor. The link to Hard Choices is:

      Thank you,

      Dick Tinsley

    • Please allow an additional comment to my previous one. That is I tend to get upset with the term illiterate and the implication that it means uninteligent as applied to smallholder farmers. Please  note that literacy requires inteligence, opportunity and motivation to take advantage of the opportunity. Remove the opportunity does not mean lost of inherent inteligency. Thus the result is there are many poorly educated but reasonable inteligent smallholder farmers, who are actually fairly skilled practitioners in the art of farming, and can quickly sort out what is and is not in their best interest. They are quite capable of sorting out fertilizer rates best suited to thier land and the decline production function as crop establishment is delayed.

      Thank you

    • If you will excuse me I would like to return to the discussion and mostly reiterate my previous concerns regarding code of conduct regarding fertilizer use. This goes back to keeping careful track of the financial limits of most developing country that limits the amount of effective regulation and supervision that is possible without providing civil officer a major opportunity to extract gratuities for service assumed run, but not done. The result of this is an almost total reliance on the private sector to handle the distribution of fertilizers, with an emphasis on the village based family enterprises that are in direct contact with the smallholder farmers. They are also friends and neighbors and their best prospects for remaining in business is highly dependent on return business, which make them very quality conscience of the service they are providing.

      Also, there is a need to be careful on any soil testing expected. Typically soil test cost approximately the same as a bag of fertilizer, and thus if the text in like to result in less than a bag of difference in fertilizer application, it will not be cost effective. Since most of the fertilizer in N based the difference of a whole bag of fertilizer on a one hectare or less field is unlikely. Can any host country actually get soil test results in the timely manner available in the USA (24-48 hours).

      Also, be careful on your emphasis on organic fertilizer. While fully support the idea, it must be cost effective both financially and operationally. The latter being mostly associated with the labor needed to move around large volumes of low concentrated nutrients. In the context of developing country smallholder farmers that are already energy limited, the extra energy must come from the increased yield resulting from the organic nutrient application even if this is some 6 months later. I would guess that the farmer will need to gain 100 g of grain for each hour of additional labor handling the organic material. (100 g grain = 300 kcal, the energy exerted by an hour of diligent effort). Is this possible? In addition, there are limits on the amount of organic material available on farm for nutrient recovery. I think when dealing with crop residues the ratio of accumulated area to distributed area is about 3 to 1. Given all this I suspect the best means of nutrient recovery and recycling is to leave it up to the mobile composter (goats) they will take material normally burned and fairly quickly convert it to a material easily in cooperated, while actually gaining some energy from the process. Isn’t feeding rumens animals the same process as composting? Microbial de-carboning and concentration of the material. Again, please check the webpage:…

    • Opening Comment

      Before being with my commentary, I would like to express my concern and disappointment on the limited commentary being submitted to this forum. Only 15 comments for a forum that is over half completed. Perhaps it is just poor time around the major Christmas/New Year Holidays.

      Introduction – Economically Suppressed Economy (Revisited)

      for my additional commentary. Having been encouraged by the facilitators comment that the forum was intended to look at the administrative issues surrounding fertilizer usage, allow me to continue where my first comment left off and review the other aspect of a financially suppressed economy, with limited tax base to support public services. That is the need to rely on the private sector for most business activity with an emphasis on the family enterprise system that is in most direct contact with smallholder producers. These are the default service providers that handle the bulk of the agriculture support business, both inputs and marketing, even when there are major development NGOs and public-sector entities trying to assist small farmers, and often boasting how great they are. Given the limited government budgets to provide a regularity service, and the fairly large prospects that when attempting there is greater prospects that the service will be on the honor/gratuity system more providing an informal income opportunity for the civil officers than an effect quality or regulatory control, there really is not much alternative.………

      Private Service Providers – Family Enterprise System

      The question is how necessary is such quality and regulatory control over fertilizer and other agronomic inputs in a financially suppressed economy? That is, with the limited purchasing power of an impoverished society, there is tremendous downward pressure on consumer products. Typically, consumer price of locally produced foods will be only 1/3rd or 1/5th that in more developed countries like the USA. For this to happen, the crop production delivery system must be extremely efficient with razor thin profit margins, particularly if fuel prices are at a primum to at least the USA price more in line with European prices, and inputs such as fertilizer and crop protection chemicals are on the world market prices. There is no room for any cumbersome business model as usually found with Government Parastatals or even Producer Organizations. Under these suppressed economic conditions, it is possible for the nominal price the farmer receives be only 1/3rd the consumer price, with the difference representing easily accounted for in packing, spoilage loses, pilferage, shipping costs, etc. leaving only reasonable profit margins for the middle men preforming the essential services.

      It should be noted that the private service providers are often condemned as being exploitive of smallholder farmers. However, this done by decree without any supporting documentation of costs of business accounting, including the nearly transparent tripling of ton/km transport costs for working off the tarmac to serve remote smallholder areas. Without any supporting data, such condemnation could be considered slander and those making such claims subject to the host country liability laws governing slander. It should also be noted that those making the slander condemnations usually have a vested interest in promoting government support services and producer organizations seeking donor support, etc.………

      Parastatal and Producer Organizations

      These alternative of government parastatals and producer organizations and touted as being ideal and in the best interest of the smallholder farmers. However, this is again done by decree without any accounting or other supporting data comparing the costs of business between them and the competing private service providers. Just a rather arrogant assumption that because they represent the government or farmers, they are automatically competitive with no need to keep track of overhead costs. Certainly, parastatals have been fully discredited for their cumbersome non-transparent business model, and we need not return to the ADMARCs that plagued Malawi for many years. However, the producer organizations may not be much of an improvement. While they claim they can bulk up commodities for sale or inputs for purchase to get the farmers a better price, and this is possible but I have never seen what this means in terms of percent of financial benefit. Is it 1%, 2%, does it go as high as the 35% needed to offset the overhead costs mentioned by the Central Growers Association in Kitway, Zambia. Nor have I ever seen the overhead costs to obtain these benefits to make certain the overhead costs are less than the private service providers thin profit margins. Thus, the proclaimed and envisioned financial benefit remains completely unsubstantiated. Instead there appears a large complaint about not honoring commitments and members side selling the bulk of produce to the “much condemned” private service providers for immediate cash and necessary by the overall financial management strategy of retaining goods in-kind as long as possible, selling only to meet immediate cash needs and needing the cash. The net result is that producer organization rarely have a market volume appreciable exceeding the loan repayments with 90% or more being side sold to private service providers. I don’t think you can substantially impact poverty with that limited market volume. This is than covered up with some exceptional promotional reporting, that rambles on but avoid including the basic business parameters that determine the success and sustainability of an enterprise.…………

      Quality control

      While one of the important concerns in fertilizer management is quality control and avoiding someone diluting the nutrient content, the question how can this be best done with financially stalled government that would struggle to maintain a fertilizer testing lab to verify the nutrient content of imported or manufactured materials, and fudge the results as an informal income opportunity. For this I don’t have a real answer nor webpage to reference. However, the starting point would be to import only well bagged fertilizer with the manufactures label clearly visible including a date/batch stamp that could be traced and at least the age and expiration date clearly discernable. I would expect the cost of tampering with such bags would not be worth the added value of diluted material, and any breakage bags would have to be sold at a discount. Again, I would expect the private traders would be more concerned with maintain high quality as they rely on repeat customers. One aspect of private sector business model is the importance of inventory control and not get overstocked that ties up needed capital. It also must be noted that some fertilizer like urea, and NH4SO4 can usually be visible identified just by looking at the granular structure, and if someone attempted to dilute the fertilizer with sand this would also be easily seen with quick bag check.

      Application rates

      Finally, one must look carefully at the recommended application rates and possible need for farmers to adjust them to their specific conditions. In this regard, it must be noted that recommendations are based on small plot analysis aimed at maximum yield, and not the economic optimal yield that provides the farmers the best return on their investment. I would venture that under developed country conditions the optimal fertilizer applications would be 75 to 80% of the maximum yield recommendation, however, under the suppressed economic conditions of most developing counties with the more limited returns they can receive the optimal percent could go as low as 60% of maximum. This might then be further eroded by the operational limits under which smallholder operate particularly if relying mostly on manual labor working with hoes. This operational limit will extend crop establishment up to 8 weeks, with considerable additional compromise in terms of plant populations and quality weeding. All of this progressively costing potential yield and impacting on fertilizer response.……

      At this point I have said more than enough and will sign off. I hope you all have a chance to review some of the referenced webpages and additional links within them.

      Thank you for putting up with this bit of unrepentant heresy.

      Dick Tinsley



    • After reviewing Andrew's comments I have to put in a note of concern regarding the emphasis on Organic Fertilizer. There are 2 main concerns one is the volume of organic material available to make organic fertilizer relative to the potential demand. I fear you can only meet a very small fraction of total need through organic material. The second concern is the labor required to collect process and redistribute organic fertilizers, the caloric energy this will require, and will that energy be recovered by the higher yields. I seriously doubt it. Please review the following webpages including links to other pages:……

      Thank you,


    • As I review the previous 4 comments listed below, I am not sure where this forum is leading. When I think of code of conduct for fertilizer I focus mostly on the administrative side, of quality control and access. In that regard my concern is on what host governments can afford with their highly limited budget and make certain whatever regulations can be financially enforced and minimizing any opportunity for "informal income" opportunities by civil officers. My concern is based on most host governments being financially stalled, with poorly paid civil officers and virtually no operating funds. The result could be testing of fertilizer quality being mostly on the honor/gratuity system and access to limited supply of fertilizer requiring some informal payments to gain access. Please review the following webpages:………;



    • May I attempt a historical perspective and question one of the basic premises of Extension programs. I think the cooperative extension system originated in the USA as a means of educating farmers living in isolation in remote areas. I think this goes back to the Homestead Act that provided each farm family a 1/4th section of land (1 mile sq.), or 160 ac (65 ha) with a homestead in the middle. The result was people averaged a half mile (0.8 km) from their nearest neighbor. Thus the extension program was set up to establish a clear documentable administrative link from the research/extension program to the individual farm family. Now when this is applied to developing countries and smallholder communities don't most people live in villages in easy contact with their neighbor. In this case is this documentable administrative link still necessary? Desirable perhaps but really necessary? Certainly the T & V (training and visit system) attempted this, but didn’t that fairly quickly become "talk and vanish"? Given the financial limits of most host countries, and the overly ideal message that beneficiaries most likely don't have the means to fully accommodate without some massive compromises as I mentioned earlier, Wouldn't it be more effective to look at mass media for to deliver the basic extension message, and then do some follow up to see how well it is received, the compromise people make to optimize the message to their individual situation?

      Just something to think about.


    • I think this forum is scheduled to wrap up tomorrow so allow me a follow-up comment to my previous comment.

      It looks like my comment, which was submitted at the request of one of the moderators, has been orphaned, with no follow-up commentary. Instead the discussion continues to endorse and promote the expansion of extension services without regard to the funding available to recruit extension personnel or provide the operational needs that would allow them to be effective and reach the majority of the intended beneficiaries. Please as you promote expanded role of civil services make certain the funding is there or you will simply squander limited tax revenue funds.

      Also, as I commented previously I think you need to review the message being send to assure that it is appropriate enough the beneficiaries can appreciate it. For nutrition I suggested that what improved nutrition being promoted must be affordable or producible by the beneficiaries, particularly if they are expected to engage in heavy manual labor requiring exerting 4000 kcal/day or more.

      Please allow me to return to my agronomic base, the historic base for most extension programs, and challenge if the agronomic message is really suitable for the smallholder beneficiaries. There is a major problem in the agronomic technology development and transfer process. This is what I rather provocatively call the genocide oversight. Sounds horrible but unfortunately too close to the truth. Agronomic technology is typically developed through small plot research, perhaps plots only 4x6 m. This does an excellent job of determining the environmental physical potential of an area. However, it says nothing about what it will take to expand that small plot result across the rest of the field, farm or smallholder community. It just assumes it is not a problem. Basically, what is being done for the past 50 years is demanding that a poor hungry exhausted farmer, who is lucky to have access to 2000 kcal/day that will allow him to only work 3 or 4 limited diligent hours per day, put it a full day of effort requiring over 4000 kcal as mentioned above. That doesn’t work and is the reason for my provocative label of “genocide oversight”. The net result is that it takes up to eight weeks to get basic crop establishment, and rendering the wonderful research results null and void. Isn’t it a little absurd and perhaps a little arrogant to expect the hungry smallholders to be as effective in managing their farm in the same manner as the nearly unlimited resources of an experiment station or demonstration plot? Who within the technology development and dissemination process is responsible to determine the operational requirements, labor access to machinery, etc. to extend the small plot demonstration to the rest of the farm? Then determine if that labor is available and if not what are the rational compromises the farmers has to make in adjusting the research/demonstration results to their limited operational base. Perhaps they have already optimized the research result to their 8 week crop establishment time. Until this issue is address won’t the extension message continue to mostly badger farmers on information they have a good knowledge of but not the means to take advantage of. Please review the following webpage:…

      Will this hold for nutrition promotions as well as agronomic promotions?

    • This sound like an interesting forum, but I have some concerns. First I always get concerned when project suggest expanding government services. My basic definition of developing country, and the common denominator between them, is a financially suppressed economy in which consumer prices are only a fraction of those in developed countries, but wages are suppressed to 1/12th a developing countries. The result is more than 80% of income has to be spent on food. Since taxes have to come from the limited dictionary funds, there is very little tax base to generate the revenue for public services like extension programs. No taxes – no services. Thus while the government may employ people as extension agents, they will have a fairly low salary and virtually no support funds to implement programs, and thus effectively reach only a small percent of the intended beneficiaries. This also means they will often be seeking supplemental income which this could be a financial necessity. In short most host governments are financially stalled unable to undertake the services expected of them let alone add additional services like those envisioned in the article. Please review the following webpage from the website along with any appropriate links:……

      The second concern is the relevance of improved nutrition to an impoverished society where the most impoverished are expected to undertake the most ardent manual labor. The improved diets being promoted are often develop from academic sources, and I will agree they are ideal and highly desirable, but are they feasible. That is can the impoverished people they are intended to benefit have a wage base that will allow them to afford the diet, or the energy needed to produce it. This gets to the issue of calorie energy balance, in which most smallholder farmers have access to only about 2000 kcal/day, which will barely meet their basic metabolism needs let alone allow them to engage in heavy manual labor. To undertake a full day of diligent agronomic labor the dietary energy needs to be in excess of 4000 kcal/day. The result is the work day is restricted to 3 or 4 hours of limited diligence and it can take up to 8 weeks for basic crop establishment with declining potential yield and food security with the delay. If they cannot afford or produce this dietary energy what are the rational compromises they should make in their diets that will optimize their very survival. Does the need for calories to complete the coming day’s tasks trump the desire for more diversified diets? Please review the following webpages and related links, and if possible take time to work through the exercise: Hard Choices in Quality Nutrition. If so inclined you are more than welcome to print and post the poster.……