1 Development Policy Review, 2001, 19 (4): Agricultural Technology Policies for Rural Development Robert Tripp The contribution of farming to rural development is highly dependent on the generation and delivery of new agricultural technology. The conventional narrative about agricultural technology calls for a new Green Revolution, aimed at small farmers, and driven by publicly funded research. However, agricultural technology policy for the future will need to differentiate clearly between the needs of emerging commercial farmers, many of them engaged with global commodity chains and requiring support in managing information- and skill-intensive innovations, and the needs of a semisubsistence and often part-time sector, requiring simple, often laboursaving, technology. The public sector has a role to play in both sectors, in research on its own account, but also in managing intellectual property rights, public-private research partnerships, and information delivery to farming. Introduction Agricultural technology is an exceptionally important determinant of farming s contribution to rural development. Discussions of agricultural technology policy frequently revolve around an extension of the green revolution model (Conway, 1997; IFAD, 2001). The original model incorporated new varieties, fertiliser and (often) irrigation, and led to widespread improvement in agricultural production. For many, the challenge is simply to consolidate and extend that revolution. But there are a number of factors that suggest that such a strategy will not be sufficient. These include the variable performance of these technologies, a changing economic and policy environment, and the significant diversification of the livelihood strategies of rural people. The Green Revolution was responsible for a significant increase in crop production, contributed to rural employment, and lowered food prices (Lipton and Longhurst, 1989). Although progress has been slower in less favoured environments, modern crop varieties have been adopted far beyond the bounds of the traditional green revolution areas (Byerlee, 1994), and even the relatively dismal agricultural statistics from sub- Saharan Africa obscure a number of success stories (Wiggins, 2000). However, there are worrying signs that food production is slowing down. In developing countries, the annual rate of yield growth for staples fell from 3% in the 1970s to about 1% in the 1990s (IFAD, 2001). This decline in yield growth is related to several factors. Early expansion of the seed-fertiliser technology concentrated on the most favoured areas, where yield increases may now be limited by second-generation problems, such as salinisation, pest build-ups and soil fertility imbalances. While these problems can be Research Fellow, Overseas Development Institute, London. Overseas Development Institute, Published by Blackwell Publishers, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
2 480 Robert Tripp addressed by further technological innovation, they also point to environmental concerns that impose additional constraints on technology development. Agricultural technology must not only contribute to more efficient food production, it must also address concerns of environmental protection and be compatible with policies that support diverse household livelihoods for rural development (Conway, 1997). Hence both the possibilities and the challenges for technical change in agriculture are more complex than a simple green revolution narrative would indicate. There have also been changes in the way that technology provision is managed. In the early years of the Green Revolution, government agencies managed much of the input distribution, and state enterprises took responsibility for seed production. Structural adjustment and liberalisation have brought an end to many of these arrangements (Carney, 1995). Chemical inputs are increasingly distributed by private suppliers, and those input subsidies that remain are under increasing pressure (Pletcher, 2000). Public sector plant breeding still produces many new varieties, but a growing proportion of seed production is done by private companies, some of which also have significant plant breeding capacity (Morris, 1998). The growing utilisation of hybrids for many of the crops used by developing country farmers, as well as the advent of biotechnology, signal further advances for the private seed industry. In addition, the forces of globalisation bring farmers in contact with a wider range of inputs and also mean that production must often meet the demands of distant markets (Reardon and Barrett, 2000). For many farmers, globalisation also means competing with imported grain supplies. Thus, farmers face increasingly complex, privatised, and competitive markets that condition their choice of technology. A third factor impinging on agricultural technology policy is the complex nature of rural livelihoods. Although it is generally recognised that agricultural technology development affects both farmers and rural landless labourers, there is less understanding of the implications for the many farming households that are significantly dependent on non-farm income (see Start in this volume). Diversified household strategies are nothing new, but they are gaining increasing attention because of their prevalence and their importance to rural livelihoods (Ellis, 1998). Growing national economies mean that many farm households have more opportunities for non-farm labour and employment, while in other cases inadequate yields and small plots force households to seek additional sources of income. The result is increasingly complex and varied conceptions of the small farmer, bringing additional challenges for guiding the development of agricultural technology. In summary, policies for agricultural technology development must take account of new economic and environmental challenges for farming, the increasing privatisation of technology provision, the complexity of agricultural markets, and the diversity of rural livelihoods. This article begins with a brief review of the types of agricultural technology likely to be available. It then examines three important areas that face policy-makers who wish to ensure that agricultural technology development is compatible with the wider goals of rural development. The first is related to the challenge of providing adequate information to farmers. The second is concerned with how policies envision the rural population and how they target technology development. The third concerns the future of public agricultural research.
3 New agricultural technology Agricultural Technology Policies for Rural Development 481 Before examining policies for supporting the development of agricultural technology it will be useful to review the types of technology most likely to be available. Although we have no crystal ball to guide us, we can establish a reasonable inventory by examining what is currently emerging (in both industrialised and developing countries) and by taking account of the economic and environmental challenges that face farming. Three of the major types of agricultural technology are genetic innovations, physical inputs, and management techniques. Plant genetic research will certainly continue to be a mainstay of agricultural technology. We can expect the continued development of new varieties through conventional plant breeding, increasingly assisted by the techniques of biotechnology (Persley and Lantin, 2000). In contrast to the original green revolution strategy of providing widely adapted varieties that could be planted in a range of environments, many of these new varieties will have characteristics that address specific conditions (e.g. pest or disease resistance), environments (e.g. acid soils), or markets (e.g. high nutrient varieties). They will be the products of both public and private plant breeding, but most will be delivered by private seed enterprises. Farmers will also have access to a wider range of inputs. Some of these will be within the traditional range of agricultural chemicals, although products such as pesticides will have to meet more stringent environmental and safety standards and will often be narrowly targeted (Rola and Pingali, 1993; Way and van Emden, 2000). There will also be an expanded use of biological inputs for soil and water conservation, including cover crops and green manures (Buckles et al., 1998). Pest and disease control will also rely more on biological inputs such as micro-organisms or natural enemies (Marrone, 1999). Virtually all the chemical inputs will be provided by the private sector, and an increasing proportion of the biological innovations will be supplied by private enterprise as well. Finally agricultural technology will be increasingly characterised by new management techniques. Some of these emphasise resource conservation, such as reduced tillage techniques to control soil erosion and reduce costs (Sain and Barreto, 1996). Other techniques emphasise input efficiency. Precision farming can target fertiliser application to the requirements of each part of a field, rather than relying on a single blanket recommendation (National Research Council, 1989), and changes in the timing and rates of fertiliser application can reduce both financial and environmental costs (Matson et al., 1998). Other new management techniques emphasise the use of monitoring and analysis, as in integrated pest management (IPM), which is based on decision rules and economic thresholds to guide pest control practices (Schillhorn van Veen et al., 1997). These are all knowledge-based techniques that will rely heavily on public research for their development. In summary, most of the new technologies that will be available to farmers will require increased levels of knowledge for appropriate management, and the majority of inputs will be delivered by private enterprises. Farmers' choice of technologies will be governed by a rapidly advancing technological frontier and by the requirements of increasingly integrated markets. Farmers will have to learn how to operate in this environment if agricultural technology is to make a significant contribution to rural development.
4 482 Robert Tripp Information provision Most of these new technologies can be described as information-intensive (Byerlee, 1998), although that term embraces several different elements (Lockeretz, 1991). For purchased inputs, farmers must know which product is required for their particular conditions and be able to distinguish it from others on the market. Some of these inputs require special management, which will demand supplementary information. In other cases, farmers are expected to make frequent observations or engage in monitoring to guide the application of new techniques. In some cases, such as IPM, farmers must have a basic understanding of biological processes, and the probability of adopting environmentally sound technology is increased if they appreciate the underlying rationale for these practices (Pingali and Carlson, 1985). It is, of course, true that, since the beginning of agriculture, farmers have made careful observations about the inputs and techniques that they use. But the new technologies require skills and knowledge that many of them do not currently possess (Bentley, 1996). In addition, many require a considerable investment in learning about input (and output) markets, acquiring new management techniques, and monitoring and assessing production conditions. There are two principal sources for the information required to manage new technology. One is the private input system and the other is public extension and education. Both deserve the attention of policy-makers concerned with agricultural development. Most inputs, including seed, will be delivered by the private sector. If all farmers are to have access to these products, input dealers need to be widely distributed and competent to manage the distribution of new products and complementary information. The liberalisation of input markets has not always led to a rapid expansion of private dealerships (Shepherd, 1989; Pletcher, 2000), and credit and regulatory bottlenecks currently limit the scope for small input businesses. Credit is also a problem for farmers wishing to acquire inputs, and more imaginative schemes are required that link output sales to input acquisition, and that simultaneously build trust (another manifestation of information) in local agricultural markets (Dorward et al., 1998). In addition, input firms need to develop their reputations and farmers need organisation and support from consumer protection mechanisms to defend themselves in the market (Tripp, 2001). There is growing interest in the privatisation of extension services (Umali and Schwartz, 1994), but the short-term prospects would seem to be limited. Private extension services can be organised for high-value commodities, especially where a producers' association can exert demand and exclude free riders, or where individual farmers are willing to pay for specialist advice. However, much of the information required by farmers to take advantage of new technology will remain in the public domain. Most of the responsibility for delivering information about new technology has traditionally fallen on government extension services, but there are several reasons to question whether this is a reasonable expectation for the future. In the first place, public extension services have felt some of the sharpest cuts of the structural adjustment knife. Secondly, even under rosier funding scenarios, extension has rarely performed adequately, as a recent review of the World Bank's Training and Visit Programme in Kenya illustrates (Gautam, 2000). Thirdly, much of the information that farmers will require concerns the management of private sector inputs or is related to locationspecific judgements, rather than the blanket recommendations that extension usually
5 Agricultural Technology Policies for Rural Development 483 offers. Finally, farmers increasingly require basic technical knowledge to help them manage new techniques rather than top-down instruction. If conventional public extension is not a sufficient answer, what are the alternatives? IPM promotion has often used farmer field schools (FFSs), where farmers meet periodically during the season to learn about ecology and test alternative pest control methods. But this strategy requires significant resources and has not been widely applied (Way and van Emden, 2000). Parallels have been drawn between FFSs and other attempts to organise farmers at the village level to manage adaptive experimentation (Braun et al., 2000). But these methods require considerable investment and are often dedicated to a limited range of technologies. In addition, they tend to be the products of temporary (and often competing) donor funding, rather than being integrated in a more sustainable, publicly supported strategy. The way forward is not clear, but the problems of the extension service underline the broader inadequacies of the rural education system. Much of the basic knowledge required for managing the new technology could be imparted in local secondary schools. In addition, an adequate rural education system should prepare farmers to operate in increasingly sophisticated input and output markets. The growth of information technology offers several more promising alternatives. Governments do not have to await the arrival of the computerised village in order to improve farmers' access to information. They can take better advantage of radio and television programmes and the production of attractive and widely available printed materials, to ensure that farmers have access to reliable information about agricultural technologies and markets. Much more thought needs to be invested in improving currently inadequate extension and education systems in order to offer innovative means of delivering knowledge and information to smallholders. Targeting technology development One of the principal responsibilities of policy-makers concerned with rural development is to see that agricultural technology is adequately targeted. This means ensuring that technology is available for various types of farmers and that it supports equitable rural development. The techniques for including a poverty dimension in public agricultural research policy are complex and of uncertain effect (Byerlee, 2000). The following discussion does not attempt to review particular planning methodologies, but rather emphasises several competing images of resource-poor farmers that influence the way that technology development policies are conceived. The range of farming environments and strategies makes it impossible to provide a simple system for classifying farmers for the purposes of technology development policy, but some approximations must be made. Farm size and production environment are often used as parameters for targeting technology, but there are also reasons to direct increasing attention to the status of human capital for differentiating among farms. Policies for targeting agricultural technology are often based on the assumption that small farms are more efficient than larger ones. However, that assumption is not always valid, and in many places larger farms are more productive, in part because of better access to capital and markets (Dorward, 1999; Harriss-White and Janakarajan, 1997). One of the answers is to improve credit availability and market performance in favour
6 484 Robert Tripp of smaller producers (Kydd and Dorward, this volume), but gaining access to these services still requires a significant investment from the household. The aftermath of the Green Revolution brought calls for policies to favour more marginal farming environments. One problem is the lack of an accepted definition of 'marginal', so such policy pronouncements often lack specificity. If marginality is associated with physical parameters such as rainfall (or access to irrigation), technologies different from those for favoured areas are obviously required. If marginality is more a function of isolation or market access, then infrastructural development is called for. More important, there is not a straightforward relationship between various types of physical marginality and rural poverty, in part because of differences in the diversification of household income. In addition, the relationship between household income and dependence on agriculture is not necessarily determined by the production environment. Renkow (2000) presents data showing a relatively higher dependence on non-farm income for the poorest households in several Asian studies, regardless of production environment, and the opposite trend in data from West Africa. These deficiencies of farm size and production environment for understanding how agricultural households take advantage of technology suggests that some attention should be given to other factors, particularly the human capital available for farm management. Paying closer attention to the labour, skills and education of farming households will help make technology development policies more consistent with wider rural development goals. There are several implications. First, technology design and delivery must take account of the many poor households for which agricultural production is only one of several income sources. These households require labour-saving technology to allow more time for other income-generating activities (de Janvry and Sadoulet, 2000). They will also usually have lower skills and education levels, which affects their capacities to adopt information-intensive technology. (Wealthier households may be equally diverse, but they often have the human and financial capital to take advantage of new technology.) Paradoxically, although these households are the primary targets of low-input, resourceconserving technologies (often under the rubric of 'sustainable agriculture'), their labour constraints often make it difficult for them to take advantage of these alternatives (Hogg, 1988; McDonald and Brown, 2000). The situation of part-time farming households has complex implications for technology generation. In many instances, a significant proportion of the households producing basic staples are in deficit and must rely on grain markets for the difference (e.g., de Janvry and Sadoulet, 2000). A recent study in Kenya showed that in most areas the majority of maize-growing households were net purchasers of maize (Jayne et al., 1999). These households must base their production decisions on the price of grain in food markets rather than on the farmgate sales price. Because of market deficiencies, the difference in these two prices can be significant. Heisey and Smale (1995) demonstrate that, because of these differences, deficit maize producers in Malawi should have significantly higher incentives to use hybrid seed and fertiliser than surplus households. Where sufficient non-farm income is available, such patterns of technology use are observed; Low (1986) shows that in Swaziland hybrid maize is adopted as a time-saving technology by households with non-farm wage income.
7 Agricultural Technology Policies for Rural Development 485 A related implication is that, because of their part-time and low-skill investment in agriculture, these poor, diversified rural households may be less likely to respond to messages about input efficiency or environmental protection. More carefully targeted use of inputs requires learning about new techniques and monitoring their results. Goals such as soil conservation have less immediate relevance to farmers with low farm productivity. Similarly, cheap, broad-spectrum pesticides may be an easy way to lower risks, even though the long-term environmental consequences are quite serious. This means that extra effort (and a somewhat different rationale) will have to be invested in bringing these messages to many of the lowest-income farming households. Finally, it is important to build the human capital of those households that can take full advantage of information-intensive technology and participate in commercial agriculture. Technologies for these farmers should ideally create additional demands for labour (de Janvry and Sadoulet, 2000). The simultaneous demand for labour-saving technology on part-time farms and labour creation on large-scale ones is not as contradictory as it may seem, but there are significant limits to the degree to which rural development policies can mandate such technology development paths. Naylor (1994) describes the expansion of labour-saving herbicide utilisation in Asian rice production. Although this trend is largely motivated by higher rural labour costs (a function of expanding non-farm opportunities) and other changes in rice-growing technology (particularly the switch to direct seeding), it can have negative consequences in particular circumstances, as with the older women who contribute much of the weeding labour in the Javanese rice system and who have few alternative sources of employment. In summary, an examination of human capital in farming can make the targeting of technology development more efficient by reminding policy-makers of the diversity of farming households. General categories (such as 'small farmers') are of decreasing utility for policy formulation. Household capabilities and aspirations should play a larger role in shaping policy on technology development. Some rural households need to be helped to find reasonable exits from agriculture, and investment in technology generation on their behalf may be misplaced. Many other households require help in using agricultural production as a backstop or safety net for their diversified portfolio of activities; although they may bring little produce to market, their prevalence and poverty demand particular attention to technologies that improve their efficiency and protect the natural resources that they manage. Finally, other rural households need help in becoming viable commercial farming enterprises. The appropriate technologies, and the techniques for delivering information, differ according to the type of livelihood strategy. Public agricultural research The changes in agricultural economies and technology described above have important implications for the future of public agricultural research. These include establishing a working relationship with the growing private agricultural research sector, investing more in information generation, and facing up to the increasing diversity of rural livelihoods. All of these challenges require an adequately organised and funded public agricultural research service and imply significant changes in government and donor behaviour.
8 486 Robert Tripp The majority (but certainly not all) of the plant breeding done in industrialised countries is managed by the private sector. This trend is also evident, to a lesser degree, in developing countries. The public sector must come to terms with the growing capacities of private research (Tripp and Byerlee, 2000). The challenge is to identify applied plant breeding priorities that neither the domestic nor transnational private sectors are willing to address. There will continue to be many crops and production environments that will be the responsibility of the public sector, which needs to position itself to make the best use of the international agricultural research centres (IARCs) and, increasingly, proprietary technology. The latter will require that public research systems have access to sufficient intellectual property management skills to be able to interact productively with the private sector. The increasing importance of efficient and environmentally responsible crop management presents an additional challenge to public agricultural research. Most of this information-intensive technology is a public good (Byerlee, 1998). Public research has an important responsibility for developing techniques to ensure safe and efficient use of private inputs, as well as to make better use of locally available resources (such as mulches and manure) for crop management. The development of such management techniques will lead to additional 'spin-offs' and opportunities for private technology development (e.g. biopesticides, field monitoring apparatus, or micro-irrigation equipment). But the public sector must take the lead in providing the information that allows farmers to make the best use of new technology (Naylor, 1994). This demands high quality field research from the public sector (Way and van Emden, 2000). The plant varieties and crop management advice from the public sector needs to be directed to both 'full-time' and 'part-time' farmers, although in many cases the precise recommendations and technologies will differ. The challenge of addressing the parttimers is particularly difficult. First, we have seen that they are less likely to be able to use information-intensive technology and may be less impressed by environmental arguments. Second, there is a strong tendency in public research systems to not regard such households as 'real farmers'. The importance of addressing the constraints of rural households that depend on multiple income sources has been discussed at least since the advent of Farming Systems Research (FSR) in the 1980s (e.g., Maxwell, 1986), but the message has rarely been taken on board in a serious fashion. Part of the public agricultural research mandate must include the welfare imperative of helping those households which follow a 'pluriactive path' out of poverty (de Janvry and Sadoulet, 2000). The burden placed on public agricultural research is exceptionally demanding, and it is not clear that these systems are up to the task. There is much to be done in strengthening the management and priority-setting capabilities of national research institutes (Byerlee and Alex, 1998). Government support for agricultural research is inadequate (Pardey et al., 1997) and external funding for agriculture is also falling (Trotter and Gordon, 2000). There are particularly pressing responsibilities for donor assistance to agricultural research, but neither the current CGIAR emphasis on high science and regional planning (von Braun, 2000) nor the myriad of dispersed, often competing, donor projects would seem to be the answer. No one is yet willing to pay attention to the importance of building national agricultural research systems that are financially sustainable, answerable to the farming population, and responsive to rural development policy.
9 Agricultural Technology Policies for Rural Development 487 Conclusion Agricultural technology has in the past been a catalyst for both agricultural development and rural poverty reduction. However, its future role must take account of an increasingly complex environment, featuring new economic circumstances, the expanding role of the private sector, and the growing complexity of rural livelihood strategies. Public sector responsibilities are correspondingly diverse and challenging. A particularly important requirement for technology diffusion is the improvement of services and infrastructure (such as education and markets) that serve rural development in general. In addition, more specific attention is required to public agricultural institutions. Agricultural development policy needs to adopt a much more sophisticated view of the rural population. Policy-makers must abandon the rubric of 'small farmers' in favour of strategies that recognise the variable contributions that agriculture makes to rural incomes and adjust technology development to differences in the skills, resources and objectives of rural households. Finally, re-invigorated and efficient public agricultural research and extension systems are required, that are able to interact with the private sector, help provide productive technology to support a robust farming sector, and contribute to the broader goals of enhancing rural livelihoods. References Bentley, J. (1989) What Farmers Don't Know Can t Help Them: The Strengths and Weaknesses of Indigenous Technical Knowledge in Honduras, Agriculture and Human Values 6: Braun, A., Thiele, G. and Fernández, M. (2000) Farmer Field Schools and Local Agricultural Research Committees: Complementary Platforms for Integrated Decision-making in Sustainable Agriculture. AgREN Network Paper No.105. London: Overseas Development Institute. Buckles, D., Triomphe, B. and Sain, G. (1998) Cover Crops in Hillside Agriculture. Ottawa and Mexico, DF: IDRC and CIMMYT. Byerlee, D. (1994) Modern Varieties, Productivity, and Sustainability. Mexico, DF: CIMMYT. Byerlee, D. (1998) Knowledge-intensive Crop Management Technologies: Concepts, Impacts and Prospects in Asian Agriculture in P. Pingali and M. Hossain (eds), Impact of Rice Research. Manila: IRRI. Byerlee, D. (2000) Targeting Poverty Alleviation in Priority Setting for Agricultural Research, Food Policy 25: Byerlee, D. and Alex, G. (1998) Strengthening National Agricultural Research Systems. Washington, DC: World Bank. Carney, D. (1995) The Changing Public Role in Services to Agriculture: A Framework for Analysis, Food Policy 20: Conway, G. (1997) The Doubly Green Revolution. London: Penguin Books. de Janvry, A. and Sadoulet, E. (2000) Rural Poverty in Latin America. Determinants and Exit Paths, Food Policy 25: Dorward, A. (1999) Farm Size and Productivity in Malawian Smallholder Agriculture, Journal of Development Studies 35:
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