Development of a Farmer
Recording System in Burkina Faso
Collection of quantitative and qualitative data requires regular monitoring of labor and other inputs. Conventional surveys do not produce sufficiently detailed information, and close monitoring by scientists would have been too timeconsuming.
In Burkina Faso, the Integrated Soil and Water Conservation in Africa (ISWC) program was facilitating joint research on the sustainability of improved traditional planting pits called zaï. It also looked at the socioeconomic constraints related to zaï, such as the use of materials and the time investment for digging and managing the planting pits at the household level. It was responsible for monitoring the joint experimentation but could not visit the participating farmers on a daily basis to interview them about their activities. The scientists felt that reasonably reliable quantitative information could be generated only if the farmers would record the data themselves. They believe that developing a Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) tool would also serve to reduce the role of external actors in participatory research (PR) and to increase the credibility of PR in the eyes of conventional researchers because scientifically-valid data would be generated.
Instead of text that the farmers could not read, drawings were used to visualize the different agricultural activities. Because keeping records was a completely new activity for the farmers, the scientists thought it best not to overload them with data collection and therefore reduced the number of parameters to be recorded to a minimum.
Most farmers involved in the
ISWC-Burkina program are
illiterate. Setting up and carrying
out joint experiments and fully
involving the farmers in these
experiments required the
creation of a system that would
allow them to record data
about their farming activities.