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Technology Development and Transfer: Lessons from Agriculture

Aug 14, 2012, 12:28 PM

Agriculture has two important pillars to increase its output by expanding the land area under cultivation and/or improving the yields on cultivated land.

If agricultural growth and performance measurement considered increasing the income of rural households, then the third pillar can be added, i.e. shifting the product composition to higher value products.

For decades, it has been lamented that globally the possibilities for expanding the land area under cultivation has been diminishing steadily due to population explosion and land grabbing in many developing countries.

In addition, resource poor farmers and less privileged, especially women and youths, who do not have adequate access to diversified markets or cannot fulfill other requirements shifting to higher valued crops, increasing yield is the only way out to higher income.

Increasing agricultural productivity is imperative, because majority of farmers are found in rural areas and the sector’s average productivity is declining in many low-income countries.

Significantly, majority of farmers in developing countries heavily depend on agriculture for their livelihood. According to World Bank Report, 720 million poor identified, 75 percent lives in rural areas. Thus increasing farmers’ income through improved productivity is an important indicator in agricultural policy development and poverty reduction strategies. Yields can be increased dramatically by the application of appropriate agricultural technologies like small-scale irrigation system, preservation and processing of agricultural commodities and the creation of small and medium enterprises.

Therefore, adopting these technologies requires training of farmers and provision of extension services over a sustainable period of time. 

The new paradigm of involving farmers in research and development would enhance farmers’ technical skills, research capabilities, and can better take decisions during technology development, transfer and adoption process is vital. This would result to innovations that are more responsive to their priority needs, and can surmount the constraints.

Importantly, linking technology development process to research, extension and farmer has the potentials to promote crop production, and adoption of agricultural technologies. This is what is called participatory technology development (PTD). Participatory technology development serves as a tool to strengthen the capacity of farmers and rural communities to analyze ongoing processes and to develop relevant, feasible and useful innovations.

One notable example of the existing paradigm is the dissemination of new agricultural technologies in Africa (DONATA). It was a real platform, where all the stakeholders play key important role in the process of learning and sharing of experiences, knowledge and skills at the same time not ignoring the indigenous local knowledge system of farmers. This was a maize pilot project in the four cluster villages of Kerr Jarga Jobe, Mamuda, Fass Chago and Pakau Njoggu of North Bank Region. It was a success story because participating farmers were able to reduce the yield gap from 1.5tons/ha to 2.5tons/ha and above which is remarkable achievement. The whole process was complete value chain from production, processing to marketing.

Furthermore, because of the success story of DONATA project in North Bank Region, the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP) follow suit the same direction with a different concept of Integrated Agricultural Research for Development (IAR4D). IAR4D comprises a set of individual and organizational behaviours that promote the integration of stakeholder concerns, knowledge, action and learning around a theme of mutual interest.

Moreover, there are challenges for the IAR4D; is how to organize such collaboration with farmers and rural communities is a major issue that may face national agricultural research systems?

The simple answer is training of trainers, both farmers and researchers, sensitizing national research and extension institutions to avoid delivering technology messages to farmers in top-down fashion. 

In addition, the IAR4D approach has the desire to minimize the environmental impact of agriculture focusing on the potential benefits from greater application of integrated farm management, including emphasis on nutrient management, which aims to increase the use of nutrient sources (soil resources, mineral fertilizer, and organic manure).

This approach was put into practice by the participating farmers of DONATA at field level i.e. the use of simple farm implements like sine hoe, seeders, and draught animals and the combination of inorganic fertilizer and organic manure.

Understandably, agencies that sponsors research and development programmes have adapted to the rationale of technology development and transfer as one of the benefits. Appropriate use of agricultural technologies and better policies are set of commonly accepted practices of farm economy as a perquisite for sound economic development.

In developing countries, there is a need to prioritize appropriate technologies and coherent agricultural policies as it can serve as a stimuli for economic growth.

The importance of agriculture to development projects and programmes has been recognised and it also contributes to socio-economic development of nations.

Importantly, harnessing better agricultural policies, scientific based and local knowledge and technological breakthrough is crucial as governments of developing countries should shift and re-direct their blueprint programmes to agriculture facing the challenges of an increasingly commercialised and globalised agricultural sector.

Appropriate use of agricultural technologies can also enhance the process of addressing the problem of production variability and food security of rural farmers living in marginal production environment.

In conclusion, access to agricultural technologies, training, and related improvements in research, extension and farmer linkage system, and marketing institutions are essential for the adoption of agricultural policies and technologies by farmers in developing countries.

Primarily, it should be part of government policy agenda to invest public funds into research and development and encourage the private sector to follow suit. This will help governments to boost its economic growth, generate income and attain household food security for the population.

Author: Saikou E. Sanyang
Regional Agriculture Director  NBR