Origin of SEAAFSRE



SEAAFSRE’s achievements

Potential for collaboration

Current contact persons





The farming systems approach to technology development and transfer was introduced in response to the low level of adoption of new agricultural technologies and practices by the smallholder resource poor families around the world. Further investigation into this low level of adoption revealed that the majority of these technologies and approaches were inappropriate and not compatible with smallholder farming systems and their socio-economic circumstances.

The primary objective of farming systems research and extension (FSR-E) is to improve the well-being of farm families by increasing the production and productivity of the farm and farmers’ resources. FSR-E, thus, aims to support the farm household to achieve a range of private and social goals within the constraints and opportunities conditioned by the natural, biological, socio-economic, technical, and human elements which determine the existing smallholder farming system.

FSR-E networks were initiated in Africa, Asia, and Latin America in the mid-seventies. FSR-E techniques and procedures have since brought a new meaning to farmer participation in agricultural technology development and delivery systems. The principles of FSR-E are being recognized and subscribed to globally by international development agencies and have indeed acquired a prominent place in a number of national agricultural research systems in various countries in Southern and Eastern Africa.

FSR-E, first, provides an approach for understanding the farmers’ constraints and challenges and how they deal with them. This understanding makes the research efforts more relevant and focused, resulting in appropriate technologies to suit the needs and circumstances of the farmers. While there is variation in FSR-E methodologies, they all involve knowing and understanding the farmer and his/her farming system, utilizing systems understanding in the design of technologies for development, testing the technologies under farmers’ environment, and evaluating technologies using farmer criteria. Thus, FSR-E is client driven (demand driven), explicitly considers the systems interactions, and puts the farmer at the centre of the process. FSR-E requires the full participation of the farmer, based not only on empathy and appreciation of his/her constraints but also on the respect for farmer knowledge and his/her ability as a manager to make rational decisions which often involve compromises in the best interest of the welfare of the farm family.

Farmer participation in technology development and transfer leads to improved adoption of new technologies. Adoption is defined as the farmers’ utilization of the new technologies on a significant and sustained scale. The simple existence of an improved technology does not constitute adoption, and the technology adoption process is not complete until there is significant and sustained use of the improved technology by the target group of farmers. The FSR-E procedure recognizes the step-wise adoption by smallholder farmers. The term agriculture is also viewed within a wider context to include not only crops and animals but also natural resources and other crosscutting issues to these systems.

Origin of SEAAFSRE

The Southern and Eastern African Association of Farming Systems Research and Extension (SEAAFSRE) for development, as it exists today, came into existence in 1999 as a result of a merger between previously separate sub-regional associations – the Southern African Association of Farming Systems Research and Extension (SAAFSRE) and Eastern African Association of Farming Systems Research and Extension (EAAFSRE). SAAFSRE and EAAFSRE were formed in 1992 and 1994, respectively.

SEAAFSRE is a network of persons who are willing to contribute, exchange and disseminate information on FSR-E in the sub-region with a view to increasing the productivity and welfare of the rural population. Its members are registered as individuals and not as representatives of any organization, institution or country. No geographic borders or qualifying criteria are established and anyone anywhere who is interested in promoting the FSR-E in Southern and Eastern Africa may become a member. SEAAFSRE is registered as a professional association in Swaziland and is one of seven regional associations constituting the International Farming Systems Association (IFSA).


The Association aims to:

  • Accelerate agricultural and rural development in Southern and Eastern Africa by promoting the development of knowledge and expertise in the field of FSR-E for development.

  • Promote exchange and dissemination of FSR-E information in Southern and Eastern Africa by facilitating, stimulating, and supporting interaction between FSR-E practitioners and users through efficient networking.

  • Promote sustainable agricultural and rural development by introducing appropriate technological innovations, and by encouraging the development of supportive policies, institutions and infrastructure to promote the adoption of such innovations.

  • Play a catalytic role in the development of national strategies and in the facilitation of the institutionalization of the FSR-E procedures and training within the region.

  • Link with the FSR-E practitioners and other related initiatives other parts of the world.

    The Association’s main assets are its dedicated and enthusiastic members and council and its supportive patrons. In pursuit of improved farm productivity and welfare, the FSR-E promotes its activities through:

  • Publishing the FSR-E Southern and Eastern Africa network newsletter; bulletin, members directory and also plans to publish a journal in future.

  • Organizing or supporting conferences, seminars, and workshops to build capacity, provide the necessary linkages, and facilitate FSR-E activities.

  • Holding meetings of the Association.


The resources for the functioning of the Association are generated from membership fees and organizations interested in enhancing the quality of life in rural areas by the bringing about agricultural and rural development, using the FSR-E approach.

SEAAFSRE’s achievements

  • The Association organizes and holds biannual conferences on a rotational basis within the region. The conferences provide an excellent platform for practitioners to share their experiences and also enhance their professional growth. Up to 1999, the conferences where held annually. To date, the Association has held ten conferences in Swaziland (1993), Namibia (1994), Zimbabwe (1995), Tanzania (1996), Zambia (1997), South Africa (1998), Botswana (1999), Kenya (2001), Uganda (2003), and Malawi (2005.

  • The Association very successfully hosted the 15th AFSRE (current IFSA) global symposium focusing on "Rural Livelihoods, Empowerment and Environment: Going beyond the farm boundaries" in South Africa in December 1998. The symposium was attended by well over six hundred FSR-E professionals from around the world.

  • The Association has a dedicated membership of more than 500 individuals from academic, community, public, and private sectors in Southern and Eastern Africa. This number is growing as more individuals become acquainted with the association, its objectives, accomplishments, and ideals for the future. The enthusiasm generated by FSR-E even amongst persons who had little or no knowledge of it before, has been a major achievement. The number of people who have become interested, their diverse backgrounds and wide geographic distribution has been beyond any original expectations. They are united by the common goal to enhance the quality of life of rural populations by using the FSR-E approach as a vehicle to achieve development.

  • At its 1996 Conference in Arusha, the Association brought up the idea of documenting experiences on the approach to assist countries in adopting the approach. This lead to a set of studies that resulted in a book on the ‘Institutionalization of farming Systems Approach in Eastern and Southern Africa’ edited by Ponniah Anandajayasekeram and Ted Stilwell and published in 1998.

  • The farming systems research and extension approach has since been adopted at policy level by most countries in the region although its implementation has been adapted to suit different structures and circumstances in the respective countries. The approach is also widely taught in agricultural colleges and universities in the region. The FSR-E movement has, therefore, contributed significantly to the development of participatory methods in agricultural research and development. The Association and its members have contributed significantly to this institutionalization process .

  • SEAAFSRE is an active constituent member of the International Farming Systems Association (IFSA) with which it is in productive engagement. Based on the constitutional amendments made during the 1998 Pretoria Symposium the Regional Associations are the sole members of the International Association. Individuals will be members of the International Association through their membership of a regional association.

  • The association also assisted in establishing national/country chapters. Individuals were identified as national contact points to disseminate information. In some countries, e.g., Tanzania and Zambia, the country chapters played a significant role in supporting the national level FSR-E activities. Members of the association also actively participated in training the younger research and extension practitioners in their own countries.

  • Until recently, SEAAFSR-E produced a newsletter distributed to its members as well as a further 400 individuals and organizations worldwide.

Potential for collaboration

  • Many researchers in the region have benefited from nearly two decades of training in farming systems research and extension which helped to improve the skills and raise the profile of the approach in the region. The region now has expertise and human capital that could benefit other regions.

  • Similarly, SEAAFSRE is ready to participate in any meaningful way in support of the development and promotion of farming systems research and extension approach throughout the continent.

  • SEAAFSRE has shareable experience as a professional association including on matters ranging from organizational issues, methodological development, facilitation of professional growth, to lobbying and policy influence.

Current contact persons

Dr Maxwell Mudhara, e-mail:

Dr Jeff Mutimba, e-mail:

Dr Charles Masangano, e-mail:

Dr Ponniah Anandajayasekeram, e-mail:

Website links