Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer

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4.11.1 Experience from agricultural technologies4

Past research on technology transfer in agriculture (particularly the Green Revolution) showed that tenure status of farmers had a great influence on the extent and timing of their acceptance of technologies. Size of landholding was another major influence in acceptance or rejection of technologies. These will have impact on the technology transfer issues raised in the chapter on agriculture. Technology can also affect the evolution or the status of property rights.

Adopting a new technology is a form of risk. Research in Thailand by Feder et al. (1988) found that farmers were more likely to make capital and technical improvements on their holdings if their land ownership is secure. This held true for farmers with small holdings as well as those with larger farms. Those without secure tenure were uncertain of their long-term status; even if given usufruct rights by the government, they were unable to obtain or did not want to invest the funds needed to make significant production changes.

The technologies known as the Green Revolution tended initially to benefit wealthier farmers with larger landholdings, and benefited landowners rather than tenants. Though production of rice, wheat, and other basic foods did increase remarkably, another effect of the Green Revolution was an increase in inequity. The newly developed grain seeds required high amounts of chemical fertiliser and pesticides that at first only the wealthier farmers could afford (Chambers, 1983). After a time-lag, small holders eventually adopted the technologies, with equal and often greater productivity than the larger farmers (Lipton and Longhurst, 1989).

Tenants - already among the poorest of farmers - suffered from the Green Revolution. The increased income from the more capital-intensive commercial production encouraged many landowners to cultivate their farms directly. Those who had been their tenants lost access to land and became further impoverished (Scott, 1985).

The introduction of a new technology implies a reallocation of productive resources - whether of capital, labour, other inputs, or of the land itself - too often ignored when those introducing the technology focus mainly on the technological innovation. The introduction of irrigation schemes in the Gambia altered labour allocation and property rights among men and women, and appeared to increase tensions among ethnic groups with competing claims to the resources (Carney and Watts, 1991).

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