Four Cell Analysis

What is Four Cell Analysis?

It is a participatory technique to assess the abundance and distribution of local crop diversity within farming communities. It takes into account richness and evenness of inter or intra specific diversity. This participatory tool can be used to map out arable crop diversity or fruit tree diversity in the home gardens and orchards of communities of the project. This can be done in gender and age disaggregated focus group discussion. When repeated over time it can give valuable insight into the rate of loss of diversity in that specific area and explains factor responsible for such decrease or increase of the population.

What is the purpose?

  • To measure the abundance (richness) and distribution (evenness) of local crop diversity
  • To identify common, unique and rare/endangered varieties or species
  • To understand and document reasons why each variety is in a dynamic state within a community and to enhance knowledge for potential intervention.

What does the output look like?

Four Cell analysis

Four-Cell Analysis for understanding abundance (richness) and spread (evenness) of local crop diversity (variety) at the community level. Cell A refers to many households cultivating varieties in large area; Cell B refers to few households growing large area; Cell C refers variety grown by many households om small areas and Cell D refers to few households cultivating in small areas. The cut-off point of each axis is based upon the judgement of the focus group discussion members.

How does it work?

Tip for Facilitators

It may be tempting for a facilitator to simply draw the four cells and ask farmers to classify the varieties. However, our experience shows that it becomes difficult for the group to coherently think and discuss along two axes (many-few households and large-small area) simultaneously leading to confusion and incorrect responses. Hence, we highly recommend doing the many-few household axis first followed by large-small area axis.

The method starts with a focus group discussion among farmers from a specific village. The target local crop varieties are categorized into four groups using two indicators; abundance (many or few trees or area) and spread (many or few households).

  • First the facilitator asks the farmers list all the varieties grown for the target crop within their village boundaries. Farmers can bring live seed to make the discussion interesting. Otherwise, they write down the name of each variety on an index or meta card until a full inventory is prepared.
  • Then the facilitator picks up a variety and asks the group, “Is this variety grown by many households or few households in your community?” A discussion will ensue and needs to be facilitated until the group reaches a consensus on how many households are considered to be many for the crop being discussed. It is interesting to also document the reason they give for this threshold. Once this threshold of households is agreed upon, one by one every variety is classified at the two sides of the many/few households axis.
  • Next the facilitator picks up a variety and asks the group, “Among the households that grow this crop, do they grown this variety in large or small area?” This will again lead to a discussion and a threshold of large/small area is determined. Then the question is repeated for all varieties and thus all varieties are classified into four cells.
  • During the discussion, it is important to probe for and document the reason why each variety falls in a particular cell. This will provide key insight into the bottlenecks, barriers and opportunities for those varieties. However, many facilitators forget to document this information and simply categorize the varieties into four cell. Without this information, it is difficult to identify action steps and hence the exercise is incomplete.
  • After these steps are completed, some facilitators also ask if aside from the varieties listed are there any that were lost in very recent memory? This question reveals varieties that have recently gone extinct or might be on the verge of extinction. This discussion flags the varieties that might still be salvaged from within or nearby communities before it completely disappears. This addition is also call the five cell approach or the red list approach.

When is the tool used?

  • To document the key reasons why varieties are in a certain dynamic stage
  • To empower farming communities by enabling self-directed conservation and development action plans
  • To make farming communities aware of the threat of genetic erosion
  • To identify potential interventions within a community
  • To monitor genetic erosion over time

For more information

For more information: Sthapit B, Rana RB, Subedi A, Gyawali S, Bajracharya J, Chaudhary P, Joshi BK, Sthapit S, Joshi KD, Upadhyay MP. 2006. Participatory four cell analysis (FCA) for local crop diversity. In: Sthapit, BR, Shrestha PK and Upadhyay MP 2006. Good practices: On-farm management of agricultural biodiversity in Nepal, NARC, LI-BIRD, IPGRI and IDRC)