Authors: Charles A. Francisa, Richard R. Harwooda and James F. Parra
Increased food production and greater income for farm families are primary goals of agricultural development in the Third World. Most strategies to achieve these goals are unrealistic in assuming that limited resource farmers can move out of basic food production in multiple cropping systems to high-technology monocropping for export. These strategies are based on petroleum-based inputs that demand scarce foreign exchange. They may include excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which adds unnecessary production costs, endangers the farm family, and degrades the rural environment. Dependence on export crops and world markets is economically tenuous, especially for the small farmer. Future agricultural production systems can be designed to take better advantage of production resources found on the farm. Enhanced nitrogen fixation, greater total organic matter production, integrated pest management, genetic tolerance to pests and to stress conditions, and higher levels of biological activity all contribute to resource use efficiency. Appropriate information and management skills substituted for expensive inputs can further improve resource use efficiency. On the whole farm level, appropriate cropping on each field can be integrated with animal enterprises, leading to a highly structured and efficient system. Such systems can serve the needs of national agricultural sector planners, who in many countries are concerned with increased self-reliance in farming inputs and in production of basic food commodities. This includes a realistic focus on training of local development specialists, increased research on food crops under limited resource conditions, and providing information, incentives, and appropriate technologies for operators of both large and small farms. Well-conceived national plans include varied food production strategies and options for farmers with different resource levels.