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Small-scale farmers living in the hillsides of the mountainous systems of the tropics need methods of sustainable intensification of agricultural production adapted to the local environment.
  For further information contact: GIS Communications

Site-specific development is a concept that will be explored in depth in a Special Session of the 7th International Conference on Precision Agriculture in Minneapolis in July 2004. Abstracts are currently being invited for this session and can be submitted to Liliana Rojas until 31th December 2003. The session will include a range of papers from around the world related to the use of geographic information to accelerate agricultural development.

Site-Specific Development

Millions of farmers in the developing world find themselves in
a downward spiral of poverty, driven by factors beyond their control such as price collapse, climate change, natural disasters or unfair trade environments. These factors compromise the ability of farms to sustain livelihoods.

In many cases farmers could break out of this downward spiral by adaptation, forexample, by diversifying intohigher value crops. The key to change is information about opportunities and risks - information that is specific to a farmer’s situation
- that can help decide how to change, where and when. The concept, which we call site-specific development, is very straightforward - develop timely specific information to answer practical questions such as: “Can I grow this on my farm?” or “What could grow well here?” These questions are asked every year by tens of millions of farmers. By and large, they lack clear answers.

The demand for site-specific information in the developing world is huge. Our concept is to couple modern scientific methods of natural resource assessment to robust delivery systems that can generate accurate information that farmers and their advisors need to support specific decisions. While general information is good, specific information is even
better. Without it farmers are burdened with potentially
hazardous risks of generalization. The value of specific information is proportional to the errors it removes.

Topics in site-specific development

  • Information chains which connect farmers in developing countries with processors and buyers of higher value farm products.
  • Generation of geographic information to support site-specific decisions
  • Robust application systems to deliver relevant site-specific information to farmers and other local decision makers
  • Progressive reduction of uncertainty through increasing specificity

Contact: Rachel O’Brien


Related Web Sites
University of Minnesota Precision Agriculture Online
7th International Conference on Precision Agriculture (2004)
4th European Conference on Precision Agriculture (2003)

Development of Site-Specific Tropical Agriculture

Participative research in mountainous regions will give highly variable results. Thus, the perceptions of both farmers and scientists on the land's performance need to be combined to help producers "adapt" the improved production options. This also seeks to favor the adoption of sustainable practices in agricultural production, local knowledge of soil fauna, 3-dimensional participative mapping, monitoring of natural resources by means of low-altitude aerial photographs taken from a kite, dynamics of land use, and the quantification of spatial (or temporal) change of that use to determine critical areas and the management of soil fertility.


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Merging local and scientific spatial perceptions of agricultural systems

3-Dimensional Participative Mapping

We use 3-dimensional participative mapping and the monitoring of natural resources by means of low altitude aerial photography from a kite or balloon, to combine perceptions of farmers and scientists on land use. This interaction will help farmers "adapt" options of improved production. We also promote the adoption of sustainable practices, and guide low-cost diagnosis of pest and diseases.


Exploring low altitude photography for improved management of local
agricultural systems

Local knowledge with global impact

The power of farmers' knowledge to describe the natural resources they manage has been known for some time. This power is increased substantially if it is linked with a more generalizable scientific understanding. However, normal language seems too impoverished to capture the richness of both sources of information, so methods of participatory three-dimensional mapping have been refined and advanced that use representations of the landscape itself as a common language. A method was developed with farming communities in Cauca (Pescador) and Valle del Cauca (Yotoco and Restrepo) that allows farm-scale to catchment-scale joint analysis of local and scientific perceptions of genetic and biophysical systems using georeferenced participatory three-dimensional models, which can be transferred to GIS for continued analysis. The method has been presented at several workshops and a manual is currently under preparation. A clear relation has been revealed between a local land quality classification at catchment scale and the biodiversity of the soil macro-fauna. It has been shown that various land uses lead to different soil chemical and physical conditions that have distinct impacts on soil biodiversity at the catchment scale. This provides a basis for practical, diagnostic soil quality indicators.

A practical problem with farmer participatory methods is acquiring hard data at the resolution that farmers like. A method is being developed to acquire rapid, accurate, high-resolution photography at low cost, using kites and balloons. This information is georeferenced so that it can be merged with other information (including that from participatory three-dimensional mapping) in GIS, and enable spatial and temporal monitoring of genetic and biophysical resources. This is an invaluable tool for on-farm crop experimentation.


Related Web Sites
CIAT Participatory Research Project (IPRA) - in Spanish
P3DM Gallery

Land use impacts on soil macro-fauna biodiversity at catchment scale

Develop a methodology for rapid characterization at the landscape scale of soil biodiversity of macrofauna.


Land use impacts on soil macro-fauna biodiversity at catchment scale

Framework for assessing the potential contributions of scientific and local knowledge to soil fertility management

Examine the opportunities for farmers and scientists to assess and manage agronomic uncertainty in risky hillside situations.


Framework for assessing the potential contributions of scientific and local
knowledge to soil fertility management

Our Team

  • Thomas Oberthür, M.Sc. Tropical Agronomy, Ph.D. Geography
  • Germán Escobar, Biologist-Entomologist, Specialization in Ethnobotany, and Agro-ecology and Development
  • Luz A. Clavijo, Specialization in Environmental Management, Geographical Information Systems, and Geographical Expert
  • Herman Usma, Electronic Technician, Research Expert, and Geographical Information Systems
  • Sandra Bolaños, Industrial Engineer - Topographer, Remote Sensing Expert


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