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Developing Smallholder Agriculture

Developing Smallholder BookCoverAgriculture


By Richard L. Tinsley

AgBé Publishing; 2004 440 pages, 24 Tables, 30 Figures, 30 Graphs, 70 Photos, 25 Boxes. US$ 49. Amazon Kindle Edition: US$ 30.

This book presents a synthesis of three decades of work with smallholder producers and their communities. It takes the farming systems work of the 1980s and 1990s a step further, and pays particular attention to those factors and issues that have proven to constrain agricultural development in developing countries.

Developing Smallholder Agriculture is thus a very practical book. As a synthesis of experience from countries in Asia , Africa and the Middle East , the book is not specific to any country. However, most readers should be able to quickly relate the subjects to their country. The photographs and other illustrations, which give examples from many different countries, help this.

Much of the information contained in this book is derived from unpublished project reports. In many ways the book presents lessons learned from farming systems programs as they developed and evolved over the last three decades. The book carefully reviews the hypotheses on which most assistance to smallholders has been based; that is smallholders’ failure to fully exploit their physical environment was the result of limited motivation, and a desire to minimize risks by delaying crop establishment until more assured climatic conditions prevailed. It replaces this notion with an appreciation for the limited resources smallholders have at their disposal to manage their land which often results in a six to eight week extended crop establishment and low yields.

For this reason the book concentrates less on the agronomy and soil science of the author’s professional background, but more on the various factors that impinge on the farmers’ ability to implement more productive crop husbandry. In so doing, the book promotes looking beyond technology and development. Dissemination concentrates on the supporting services that smallholders need to enable them to enhance their crop management. It emphasizes the importance of village-level, private micro-enterprises as a cost-effective means of assisting smallholders, and questions the potential of governments and public sector institutions in providing these support services.

The book’s perspective is that of a technical assistance advisor working through host country clients, for the ultimate benefit of the smallholder producer. As such, it addresses many of the stereotype ideas that advisors confront when working with host institutions.

Developing Smallholder Agriculture is one of the few books that directly addresses practical problems in the overall context of the socio-economic, political and technical environment of the smallholder. Forging links between different subjects and disciplines creates a holistic approach. The book uses both a scientific and a practical approach, and a specialized and a general point of view.

The book is aimed at a wide readership: depending on the background and interests of the reader, different chapters can be used as a textbook for students, a handbook for extension workers and consultants, and a resource book for development practitioners, researchers and policy makers. It is sufficiently technical for the agricultural scientist as well as being sufficiently general for decision-makers and specialists in related fields.

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  • Richard L. Tinsley
  • Dept. of Soil & Crop Sciences
  • Colorado State University
  • Fort Collins, CO 80523
  • Phone: +1-970-225-6249
  • Fax: +1-970-491-0564
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