Originally published at: http://humidtropics.cgiar.org/constructing-typologies-to-capture-farming-systems-diversity/
For Humidtropics, scientists of the Plant Sciences Department of Wageningen University, The Netherlands, have been working on a guideline for constructing typologies for farming systems. The guideline aims to support researchers that need to capture the rich diversity of farming systems.
Farming systems in the humid tropics exist across a wide variety of cultures and landscapes. The biophysical, institutional, social and economic drivers differ between contexts, resulting in different responses of farmers and communities between and within areas. In addition, farms are in different development stages, and farmers have different skills and ambitions. Over time, all the differences in drivers and in farm features lead to variability between and within farming systems. The variability that is encountered in farming systems is challenging to fully comprehend.
On one hand we would like to come up with a methodology that provides reproducible results. On the other hand we would like to embed the typology construction in a participatory setting to allow exchanges of knowledge between farmers, experts, policy makers and researchers. Therefore we advocate a methodology that includes both statistical and participatory methods.
The question we deal with in the typology guidelines is “how do we group farms in a meaningful way?” (Figure 1).
Figure 1: What is the method to group the different farming systems?
We have come up with a 6-step methodology for the construction of typologies (Figure 2). While going through the methodological steps our objective also is to raise awareness of opportunities and pitfalls that arise during typology construction.
Figure 2: The proposed 6-step methodology to construct a farming system typology.
Conducting the steps for typology making turned out to be feasible for the case-studies in Africa, e.g. Ghana (Figure 3) and Zambia (Table 1). However, to fully embed the typology making in a participatory setting turned out to be challenging and improvements can still be made.
Figure 3: Spatial distribution of farm types in a village in Ghana's Northern Region. The typology was constructed to find representative farms for detailed analysis. Constructed within the AfricaRISING project. Source: Kuivanen (2014).
Table 1: Typology with five farm types in Eastern Province, Zambia, to define entry-points for sustainable intensification. Constructed within the AfricaRISING project. Source: Timler et al. (2014).
In the appendices of the typology guidelines, ample information on performing quantitative assessments is available, including scripts for the R statistics software package. We hope that within Humidtropics and other international programs we can build a community that finds ways for improving the methodology for typology construction and use.
Download the complete Typology Guidelines. There is also a Spanish version available.
Blog by the Humidtropics team of the Plant Sciences Department of Wageningen University (WUR).