Helping Small Farmers Think About Better Growing and Marketing

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This manual begins by noting that there are many different types of farming families in the Pacific and that most of these differences can be attributed to the individual choices farming families make in three important areas:

  • the types and combinations of activities they undertake
  • the ways in which those activities are undertaken
  • the family’s reasons for undertaking activities

Farming families can also be differentiated in terms of the size of their farming operation. This is primarily defined in terms of the area of the farm or of the income received from farming.

The introduction to the manual states, therefore, that the key challenge in developing this manual has been whether one set of analytical tools can be suitable for all the different types of farmers on the small to commercial continuum. Although the farming systems approach to development (FSD) does contain some analytical tools for financial analysis it also includes other tools designed to deal with issues relating to multiple goals and activities (often non-economic) which are undertaken without entering the market place. Economic tools become more important the more commercialised a farming operation becomes.

This manual is designed to help extension and development officers and colleagues train their field facilitators to help interested small farmers and farmer groups make decisions that will improve their income and, hopefully, their feeling of well-being. The manual states that armed with this knowledge, facilitators will be able to better advise farming families about how to consider changes to their traditional farming system, how the changes may affect them, and whether or not those changes will be good for them.

The emphasis in this manual is on small farmers, since they form the majority in the Pacific. The manual itself is divided into five primary parts – where the introduction to each of the following chapters provides details of the material presented :

  1. The farming systems approach to development (FSD) (Chapter 3)
  2. Farm management (Chapter 4)
  3. Marketing (Chapter 5)
  4. The production-marketing link (Chapter 6)
  5. Risk management (Chapter 7)

Prior to these main parts, however, Chapter 2 is devoted to the facilitators. However, it worth noting that the manual also suggests that more educated farmers, and those who are more commercialised, will also be able to benefit from studying the manual.

The manual is well illustrated and includes photos, table and summary boxes to aid the reader. The appendices also include useful information in the following areas:

  • Role and techniques of facilitators
  • Examples of farm record forms
  • A list of useful references relating to the material presented in the manual
  • Definitions of the acronyms used in the manual
  • Definitions of the technical terms used in the manual

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