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The Use of Organic Residues in Rural Communities (UNU, 1983, 177 p.)[edit]

Discussion III[edit]

The assumption that cassava or its residues could be used in bioconversion processes to make animal feed is not well founded. Surprisingly little waste is available from cassava production and, in any event, cassava's main use in South-East Asia is for direct human consumption.

Microbiar treatments of cassava are known and practiced at the village level, but as a means of enriching the cassava with protein for human use. If significant surpluses become available it will be necessary to decide what to do with them. Cassava could be used to produce food, feed, or fuel according to what is required. If calories alone are needed for food or feed, there is no need for enrichment processes. The need will arise if protein production is the objective.

Cassava leaves were mentioned as possible feed ingredients. There is a danger in using them without some form of treatment to decompose the cyanogenetic glucosides they contain. One method is to allow them to ferment naturally, another is to inoculate them with a fungal preparation. Both methods are said to reduce the HCN content of the leaves to 5 per cent of that originally present, leaving less than 50 mg per kg in the final product. This is considered a safe level for use in feeds.

It did not escape notice that more than 2 million tons of cassava are being exported each year from South-East Asia to Europe to be used in animal feeds. The suggestion was made that this could be used in South-East Asia for protein enrichment and thus reduce soybean imports.

The use of molasses as a substrate for single-cell protein production was thought to be unsuitable for village conditions because of the equipment needed to harvest the SCP. On the other hand, it was felt that enriching the molasses with protein by growing an organism on it and using the total biomass could be feasible. It is, of course, possible to use molasses for the production of power alcohol, but this is not always encouraged by the authorities because alcohol can be put to purposes other than fuel.

The Philippine work on banana rejects excited considerable interest, not least in the manner of getting the technology into the villages. This is done by collaboration between the research team, farmers' cooperatives, and an organization called BLISS (Bagong Lipunan Integrated Sites and Services; bagong lipunan means "new society")

The problems of handling agro-industrial wastes were discussed. It was felt that these could, in practice, be solved only by research and development work in the industries themselves.

A general comment, applicable to all fermentation processes, concerned the upsetting of the ecological balance of micro-organisms in the vicinity of operations where there could be a build-up of substrate in and on the equipment being used. In order to detect and control a concentration of spores that could be toxigenic, a regular screening of the microbial population is advisable. This could be done by the team that had developed the process or by other suitably qualified persons.

Utilization of trash fish and fish wastes in Indonesia[edit]

I. Putu Kompiang
Ciawi, Bogor, Indonesia

The total amounts of fish wastes and trash fish available in Indonesia are not recorded in official fisheries statistics. However, the estimated minimum amount in 1976 was 450,000 tons. Unfortunately, only relatively small quantities are produced at each landing port.

Trash fish are found only in areas where there is shrimp trawling, such as in the Arafuru Sea, the Java Sea, and the Indian Ocean. Fish wastes are produced as byproducts of processing plants. ln 1978, 63,000 tons of frozen shrimp were exported, but the percentage of wastes that came from shrimp culture or from fishing in the open sea was not recorded. It is also not known how much of the total waste is supplied by small-scale traditional fishermen, who generally utilize the by-catch themselves, and how much comes from the larger trawlers. The ratio of shrimp to trash fish is generally very low, being about 1:5 during the season and as low as 1:20 in the off-season. It has been estimated that a minimum of 200,000 tons of trash fish per Year is returned to the sea as a result of shrimping in the Arafuru Sea, and 27,000 tons per year in Central Java, of which 600 tons is by fishing boats from Tegal. Most of this trash fish is dumped into the sea because the fishermen prefer to keep space available for possible large catches of shrimp.

In addition to trash fish, large gluts occur at times from the sardine industry in the Bali Strait. Mechanization of the boats and recent introduction of purse seining has resulted in greatly increased catches. During the heavy fishing season, which usually lasts for at least 30 days, the daily surplus is about 150 tons, giving a total excess of 5,000 tons.

Fish wastes are mainly produced at scattered processing plants. The estimated waste from the canning factory at Muncar, East Java, is 1,600 tons per year, and from Bali, 450 tons per year. Wastes consisting of gills and guts from the fish-freezing plant in Menado, North Sulawesi, amount to about 1,000 tons per year.

Wastes from shrimp-processing plants amount to 8,000-10,000 tons per year, and from frog-processing plants, 7,000 tons per year. As a result of mishandling there are also wastes at all landing ports. Lack of ice for preservation, and transport difficulties are the main causes of this loss. It has been estimated that 15 per cent of the catch, or 200,000 tons per year, is wasted in this way.


The Ministry of Agriculture has strongly emphasized that fish should be used directly for human consumption. Fish-meal production for livestock feeding should therefore be restricted to the use of fish wastes. Unfortunately, this is often not possible due to daily and/or seasonal variations in the size of the catch, transport difficulties, and/or inadequate processing facilities. Thus, complete utilization of fish resources is rarely possible in the tropics.

As a consequence of these seasonal and day-to-day fluctuations and the availability of only small quantities of waste fish and fish wastes at any one location, the production of fish meal is usually commercially unattractive. In spite of this, there are some small, cottage industry fish meal plants. Their operations are not efficient and there is no drying equipment. The fish is boiled or steamed and then pressed. The presscake is sun-dried and the press liquid (stickwater) is discarded. Up to 40 per cent of the protein is lost (table 1); if the raw material is not fresh, as is often the case, the loss is even greater. Stickwater disposal also creates environmental problems. The cheapest way of drying the presscake is in the open sun. Drying is often difficult, particularly in the wet season, so local fish meal is often of poor quality. The moisture content of these meals is generally above 10 per cent, with some samples as high as 17 per cent (table 2). The protein concentration is variable, ranging from 31 to 51 per cent. Good fish meal should have less than 12 per cent moisture to prevent the growth of moulds and should contain not less than 50 per cent protein.

TABLE 1. Percentage of Presscake from Boiled, Fresh, and By-catch Fish


Wet weight


Dry weight








Press-liquid percentage composition equals 100 minus presscake percentage.

TABLE 2. Chemical Composition of Indonesian Fish Meals

Sample No.






1 13.6 31.1 7.6 5.2 2.3
2 1 7.2 45.0 3.7 5.9 3.0
3 15.3 51.2 4.7 5.1 2.6
4 13.7 50.5 4.2 5.7 2.4
5 1 5.0 45.5 3.7 7.5 3.0
6 8.0 54.9 4.9 7.5 3.1
7 1 5.0 42.3 7.3 5.4 2.8

In some areas, trash fish wastes and frog wastes are fed directly to ducks. In North Sulawesi, fish wastes are used mainly as fertilizer. A fermented fish sauce, locally known as bakasang, is produced from fish guts. Some fish and shrimp wastes are used in fish paste.

Production of fish silage[edit]

The poultry industry in Indonesia is growing rapidly (table 3). Fish meal and soybean meal are the main sources of protein for poultry feed, but the supply is inadequate and some feed must be imported. A cheap and effective method of preserving fish wastes and trash fish would benefit Indonesia.

Following an FAO feasibility study in 1976, a group was set up to investigate the use of trash fish as fish silage for animal feed. Fish silage has many advantages: (i) the process is virtually independent of scale; (ii) the technology is simple; (iii) the capital required is small, even for large-scale production; (iv) effluent and odour problems are reduced; (v) production is independent of weather; (vi) silage can be produced aboard ships, so trash fish do not require chilled storage, and (vii) the ensiling process is rapid in tropical climates.

TABLE 3. Population and Production of Indonesian Poultry



Average Annual

Increase (%)

Population (millions)

Village chickens




Commercial chickens








Production (thousand tons)

Poultry meat




Eggs from

village chickens




commercial chickens








Some disadvantages should also be considered: (i) silage is a bulky product that causes storage and transportation difficulties; (ii) many tropical fish have a high oil content (e.g., Bali Strait sardines contain up to 25 per cent oil), which complicates the use of silage and may give an oily taint to the flesh of animals consuming it.

Fish silage can be prepared by adding minerals or organic acids (chemical silage), or by microbial fermentation supported by the addition of carbohydrate (biological silage). I have used both methods successfully and have evaluated their nutritional value. Formic acid and propionic acids were used for the production of chemical silage. Three per cent (w/v) of a 50:50 mixture of formic acid and propionic acid recommended by Gildberg and Raa (2) was needed, probably because of the high buffering capacity of our fish.

The addition of propionic acid prevents the growth of mould. This preservative action was maintained when the silage was mixed with a carbohydrate carrier. Moist mixtures of equal amounts of silage and cassava or corn remained free from moulds for at least three months at room temperature (30°C). Without the addition of propionic acid, the moist mixture usually became mouldy, bacterial growth caused a pH increase, and putrefaction followed within a few weeks (3).

Chemical silage was found to be very stable, and storage for 21 days caused no significant change in the relative concentrations of the amino acids, although there was 1.3 per cent amino nitrogen loss through ammonia production.

TABLE 4. The pH Value of Biological Fish Silage in Indonesia

Fish/Molasses Ratio

Fermantation Period (Days)






20:1 6.9 5.0 5.5 - -
10:1 6.8 4.6 4.5 4.5 4.8
6.7:1 6.7 4.5 4.3 4.4 4.4
5:1 6.6 4.4 4.3 4.3 4.3

Figures are averages of six observations.

TABLE 5. Chemical Composition of Chemical and Biological Fish Silages after 21 Days of Storage



Soluble protein



Chemical stager 62.5 18.0 81.3 1.4 3.6
Biological silage
10:1 molasses (w/w) 64.0 17.2 25.6 16.0 4.76
6.7:1 molasses (w/w) 63.2 17.3 24.9 11.6 4.40
5:1 molasses (w/w) 63.0 14.7 25.7 14.8 4.33

a. Percentage of total protein.
b. Percentage of total nitrogen as ammonia.
c. 100 kg fish: 1 5 litres formic acid: 1.5 litres propionic acid.

Biological silage was prepared by natural fermentation after adding molasses to the minced fish. The minimum ratio of fish to molasses for a stable silage is 10:1 (table 4); however, a ratio of 10:1.5 is recommended. After six months in storage, the silage was organoleptically stable and had a fresh, acid smell. As with the chemical silage, ammonia is produced during storage; after 21 days 10 per cent of the total nitrogen is ammonia, similar to the level found by Rydin (personal communication). The compositions of chemical and biological silage are shown in table 5.

The nutritional value of fish silage[edit]

The nutritional value of chemical silage when fed to pigs (4) and to common carp (5) was the same as that of the fish-meal control. Similar results have been reported by other workers. However, when chickens in Indonesia were fed at a high level (23 per cent dry silage) compared with usual fish meal diets, the nutritional value was inferior to that of fish meal (table 6). The factors that inhibit the growth of chickens fed chemical silage may be associated with the lipid fraction (3).

TABLE 6. Performance of Chicks Fed Fish Silage (One-Week-Old Chicks Fed for Three Weeks)

Treatment Weight Gain (g/3 weeks) g Feed/g Gain
Fish meal (23 %) 554a 1.75b
Chemical silage (23 %) 364c 1.96a
Biological silage (23 %) 462b 1.90a

a, b, and c indicate significant differences (p < 0.05).

The nutritional value of biological silage, even though inferior to fish meal, was significantly better than that of chemical silage. This is difficult to explain, but it has been reported that some antibiotics and B group vitamins are produced during microbial fermentation (6-8). When biological silage was used at normal levels (8 per cent dry silage in the ration), the body weight gain and feed efficiency were similar to results from fish-meal feeding (9).

Proposal for further research[edit]

The Indo-Pacific Fishery Council has suggested that the core research on fish silage in the region should be concentrated in Indonesia. The proposed research includes: (i) production of bulk quantities of fish silage, (ii) incorporation of silage into livestock feed, and (iii) modification of trawlers for silage production.

We are currently studying the production of chemical silage and the use of other locally available acids. Since there are trawlers dumping large quantities of waste fish, the technical and economic feasibility of producing silage on board fishing vessels should be evaluated.

Other carbohydrate sources, such as rice bran or cassava waste, should also be investigated for the production of biological silage. Cassava waste is being studied at the Department of Microbiology, Institute of Technology, Bandung. At present, it appears that biological silage will be more difficult to prepare than chemical silage on board ships. However, as the nutritional value of biological silage is greater than that of chemical silage, research on biological silage should be continued using on-shore fish wastes.

Studies to improve the nutritional quality of all silage should be continued.


1. J. Sumner, Proceedings of the Indo-Pacific Fishery Council Working Party on Fish Technology and Marketing. Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1976 (FT/76/4).

2. A. Gildberg and J. Raa, in J. Sci. Food Agric., 28: 647-653 11977).

3. I.P. Kompiang, R. Arifudin, and J. Raa, in Proceedings of the International Conference on Fish Science and Technology, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK, 1979.

4. L. Batubara and M. Ranguti, in Proceedings of the Indo-Pacific Fishery Council Working Party Meeting on Fish Technology and Marketing and Workshop on Fish Silage, Jakarta, Indonesia, 17-21 Sept. 1979.

5. D. Hidayat and D. Roestami, in Proceedings of the Indo-Pacific Fishery Council Working Party Meeting on Fish Technology and Marketing and Workshop on Fish Silage, Jakarta, Indonesia 17-21 Sept. 1979.

6. H.C. de Klerk and l.N. Coetzee, Nature, 192: 340 (1961).

7. P. Reeves, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Biophysics, vol. 2: The Bacteriocins (Springer Verlag, Berlin and New York, 1972).

8. S. Lindgren and G. Cleustrand, in Swedish J. Agric. Res., 8: 61-66 (1978).

9. I.P. Kompiang, Yushadi, and D. Cressell, in Proceedings of the Indo-Pacific Fishery Council Working Party Meeting on Fish Technology and Marketing and Workshop on Fish Silage, Jakarta, Indonesia 17-21 Sept.1979.

A new approach to reaching rural areas with biotechnology[edit]

Romeo V. Alicbusan
Microbiological Research Department, National Institute of Science and Technology, Manila, Philippines


Beginning in 1974, the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) has intensified the outreach programme aimed at development of rural communities in the Philippines. Biotechnological food preservation and production activities are being conducted in the country's 13 regions. The objective is to teach biotechnology to interested individuals and for them to use the knowledge for their own domestic needs. They are also expected to develop home and cottage industries using locally available raw materials

Considering the total land area of 300,700 sq km, divided into 7,100 islands with a population of 47 million and 111 linguistic, cultural, and racial groups, the outreach programme during the past five or so years has hardly penetrated the target sector of society.

It is lamentable that, in spite of significant numbers of available low-cost technologies developed in various government agencies, including NIST, relevant information seldom reaches rural communities. Lack of a better mechanism for spreading these technologies, coupled with political, social, cultural, and economic constraints, is the primary reason for this shortcoming.

Rural communities are basically agricultural, with a large number of tenant farmers. Per capita income is usually 18 to 20 per cent lower than the national average, which affects literacy. Fifteen per cent of the rural population is illiterate compared with 2 per cent in the urban sector. lt has been estimated that 70 to 75 per cent of unemployed labourers are in the rural sector. With limited land resources coupled with high illiteracy, increased productivity can only be achieved through the combined inputs of money, land, fertilizers, labour, planting materials, better handling and marketing of produce, and low-cost technologies. There are many problems in the rural communities, but their potential for development cannot be ignored.

A new approach to industrialization[edit]

To develop an industry such as mushroom production, there must be available capital, an abundant supply of raw materials, manpower, technology, a sufficient and constant volume of the product, and an efficient marketing system. Considering these important components of industrialization, one of the best approaches to encourage private entrepreneurs to become involved in such a project is to prepare a feasibility study for them. In the feasibility study, the amount of capital needed, the pay-back period, and the return on investment - including the projection of activities shown in figure 1 - would probably be convincing enough for enterprising people to engage in business.

From the schematic diagram of operation (fig. 2), it can be seen that there are two types of farming - corporate and community - each employing two methods of production - the indoor and outdoor systems. The corporation must adopt the whole scheme in order to reach the required volume of production with lower investment in a relatively short period of time.

First, the corporation engages in its own corporate farming, adopting both indoor and outdoor methods. The reason for this is to maximize the use of bedding materials and space. The production cycle in both cases is 22 days, but outdoor production is started at least 22 days before the indoor one. When production from the outdoor beds has been completed, 30 per cent of the spent substrate is then put inside the growing house, steamed, spawned, and given the necessary care to grow mushrooms inside the growing houses. The indoor method requires a quarter of the space the outdoor type demands.

Another reason for corporate farming is to have a sure source of mushrooms in the event that community production should fall short of the target volume because of inclement weather or other reasons. Also, a corporate plantation shows contract farmers that the corporation is not totally dependent on them, otherwise farmers might force unacceptable terms on the corporation and business could not prosper.

In preparation for the establishment of a mushroom industry in communities, illustrated hand-outs in both English and the vernacular are given to selected university graduates who are trained by the research and development staff in the different aspects of mushroom production.

Farm modules[edit]

Before the establishment of demonstration farm modules, preliminary studies were made, Surveys were conducted on the available resources in a pre-determined area with regard to manpower, economic conditions in the village, availability of raw materials for mushroom beds, water supply, political organizations, the market potential of the town, as well as the people's aspirations. Questionnaires were prepared and filled out in co-operation with community inhabitants. The data were collated and analysed and a final decision was made as to whether or not a farm module would be appropriate.

FIG. 1. Mushroom Farm Module Operation and Cost/Benefit Analysis

FIG. 2. Mushroom Enterprise Operations

The corporation rented an area for a farm demonstration module and selected two villagers to work on the farm as employees of the corporation. This demonstration module became the show-window of lowcost technology for mushroom production and subsequently intensified interest among the villagers. It is the aim of the corporation to sustain the interest generated by providing some inputs that the farmers could pay for from their produce.

Planting two mushroom beds a day for a total of 44 beds in a 22-day production cycle would give an income of P1,500 to P2,000 (US$205 to $273) per month. This level of income is comparable to that of senior researchers at NIST.

Farm modules are open to the public. Charts of the economics of production are reporoduced and distributed free to interested farmers. Those desiring to set up their own farm modules are accepted for training only after payment of a P200 fee. They have to work on the farm without pay but are given free food. While training, they have to learn the rudiments of running the farm. The training lasts for two weeks - long enough for the trainees to see the results of their work.

The rationale for exacting a training fee is, first, to discourage the obviously curious, and, second, to make the trainees take their work more seriously and learn the techniques in a relatively shorter period. It has been a common experience in the transfer of technology that most things given free are not seriously regarded by the recipients even if they are for their own benefit.

When the training is complete, and farmers have signified their intention to develop their own mushroom farms, a contract is signed between the corporation and the farmers. The corporation sends its technicians to extend technical assistance in siting, laying out the farm, preparing an operational plan, and initial planting of the beds. The corporation supplies the spawn, plastic sheets, chemicals, and sprayers on credit. Payment for these items is deducted from the income from the mushroom harvest. Under this arrangement, the farmer merely provides the lot, bedding materials, and labour. The corporation buys the produce on the farms at a previously agreed upon price.

Mushroom contract farmers who continuously engage in mushroom production for six months without any financial obligation to the corporation receive back their training fee of P200 without interest. By this time, the farmers have already saved enough money to buy all the supplies needed on the farm.

As the contract farmers acquire more experience in operating a farm module of 44 effective beds, they can develop other modules, using their own resources. No new modules, however, can be set up without prior clearance from the corporation. This is necessary in order to prepare the necessary production inputs - i.e., mushroom spawn, plastic sheets, chemicals, etc. - coming from the corporation, and also to prepare the market for additional harvest.

Technical problems in mushroom production are referred to the corporation for immediate solution through roving technicians or letters. Problems beyond the competence of the corporation's research and development staff are relayed to government research institutions for rapid disposition.

Initial production in corporate community farming, which is understandably limited, is usually given away free to political and civic leaders of the village and to other people. This system is part of the effort of the corporation to educate people on the palatability of the product.

Mushrooms are picked at the right stage. Picking is usually done at three-hour intervals. The harvests are cleaned of soil and bedding debris, graded according to size, and packed in 1 kg perforated plastic bags. To keep the mushrooms fresh at the button stage, packages are placed inside styropore baskets with crushed ice. The ice is contained in waterproof plastic bags to avoid wetting the mushrooms. The low temperature preserves the mushrooms fresh for 48 hours.

The corporation obtains the mushrooms from the farms for centralized marketing in urban food markets. Farm modules in the outlying areas of metropolitan districts are assigned to sell fresh mushrooms. Farmers in far-away places that require more than three hours' travel one way are told to dry the mushrooms.

Knowing the financial status of some contract farmers, the corporation adopts a cash-and-carry basis for transaction. To maintain the quality of the products, a grading system is introduced with corresponding prices.

This method of biotechnological transfer to rural communities was recently adopted by a newly formed corporation dealing in mushroom production in the Philippines.

Advantages and disadvantages[edit]


  1. The common financial problems of rural communities are partly solved because the corporation can extend some production inputs on credit.
  2. The supply of mushroom spawn (spore), which is one of the major contraints encountered by mushroom-growers, is solved by the corporation.
  3. Marketing problems associated with a highly perishable product like mushrooms are solved because the corporation buys all the product right on the farms.
  4. Technical assistance to mushroom-producers can be extended with more dispatch than by government departments.
  5. The involvement of rural communities provides job opportunities, better utilization of agricultural wastes, and, in turn, the corporation reaches the desired volume of production in a shorter period of time with less expense.


  1. Not all interested individuals can be given the opportunity to engage in mushroom production because of some limitations in economically obtainable sources of bedding materials.
  2. The quality of the produce is rather hard to maintain due to varying conditions of growth in different mushroom communities.
  3. The type of management varies from place to place because problems obtaining in one mushroomgrowing community are not necessarily the same in others, hence a case-to-case basis is needed for problem-solving.
  4. Owing to several factors affecting production, the target yield is not usually attained. This is primarily because of lack of sufficient experience by the farmers. An unstable volume of production has an adverse effect on the marketing system.

More advantages and disadvantages will be encountered in the future. This is to be expected because of the biological nature of the business. It is comforting, however, that early indications from five mushroom-producing communities suggest that this novel approach is feasible.


Alichusan, R,V. "Mushroom Production Technology for Rural Development." In Bioconversion of Organic Residues for Rural Communities (IPWN-1 /UNUP-43), pp. 99-104. United Nations University, Tokyo, 1979.

____. "Countryside Development through Optimized Utilization of Resources with Appropriate Technologies." Lecture delivered during Unesco Regional Training Course, Bandung, Indonesia, 8-24 Jan. 1979.

____. "Profile of Philippine Resources and Technology Diffusion Efforts for Their Utilization." Paper submitted to UNU-sponsored workshop, Philippines, 1978.

____. "Community Development Is the Answer to the Present Economic Crisis." Paper read on 39th Foundation Day, San Pablo City, Philippines, 7 May 1979.

Processes in biotechnology transfer to rural communities[edit]

C.V. Seshadri
Shri A.M.M. Muragappa Chettiar Research Centre, Madras, India

The notes presented here are from the Indian experience in transferring biotechnology to rural communities. The lessons to be drawn from these notes have to be translated to suit use locale, i.e., specific factors in other areas. In fact, this is true even for widely separated areas in India. In a sense, then, this suggests why technology transfer is seldom a technological process. We shall examine why this is so and point out the means-to improve the situation.

Communication of technology and its demystification[edit]

Technology has to be communicated to rural people who make no distinction between work and leisure, who have been practicing some form of biotechnology for hundreds of years, and who have no margin for failures. To such people technology is usually transmitted on two false premises: (a) it is an end, not a means, and (b) the know-how is more important than the know-what and the know-when. One can recognize that these premises have led to many wrong decisions in developing countries, and we shall not elaborate on this in detail other than to give some examples. To communicate properly the right priorities in technology and to explain them clearly to rural communities, the best scientific talent has to be constantly available in the rural milieu where the technology is to be practiced. This means that the scientist must live there. Three examples will help illustrate the point:

  1. The farmers need irrigation water. "Let us build a big power plant to supply them with electricity." This is a typical example of a technology's becoming an end in itself, not a means. Very little thought is given to transmission losses, fuel shortages, pollution, unequal water-table lowering, etc.
  2. The farmer wants a biogas plant. There is no point in worrying him about the microbiology of the process or about trying to reach maximum efficiency of gas generation. He should be told, however, what sort of return he can expect according to different circumstances.
  3. The farmer needs more information. "Let us get him some from published sources." This kind of attitude completely begs the question that science is transferred by reprints and technology by people.

In situ development and local participation[edit]

Usually even the simplest technology, when practiced at a rural level, needs adaptation to local conditions. For example, when considering a biogas plant, one may not find a good valve for miles and so will have to substitute a reconditioned local one. Thus, the development process invariably involves local innovation. This development is essential to the proper flowering of technology. In fact, the occurrence of errors and their correction, all taking place in front of the village, is helpful in giving people selfconfidence. This naturally leads to the question of local participation. Unless people see that things are fabricated and processed locally, the technology is difficult to transfer. Development in situ eliminates the problem of technology transfer.

In demonstrating the experience of transferring technology to rural areas two case studies are presented which have been prepared for teaching purposes. These case studies are backed up by detailed notes and calculations that are submitted to students and are also accompanied by a slide presentation.

Biogas Plants

Currently available biogas designs are very expensive, even though there is a considerable government subsidy. Therefore, the effort in transferring this technology has been to make low-cost designs available. Consider the following factors:

Materials needed Availability and associated factors
- Bricks Very expensive and deliveries uncertain
- Steel plate Unavailable in village areas and impossible to weld
- Steel rods Available in nearby townships
- Cement Available but of uncertain quality
- Lime Freely available
- Pipe fittings Available in townships
- Sand, stones, etc. Available
- Plastic sheets Available in townships
- Lumber Available
- Masonry, carpentry, and skills Available

The choice of materials, skills, and machines has to be matched to the village habitat. The design methodology and design calculations for two types of biogas plants are discussed in detail in notes given to the students.

Algal Culture at the Village Level

The aim of this teaching programme has been to maximize protein output per unit of land and water. For this algae cultures via photosynthesis offer the best solution. The lecture is accompanied by about 30 slides and roughly 20 pages of detailed notes. Some of the highlights of the programme are as follows:

  1. It is best if you can identify a local filamentous species that is easily harvestable and of high food value. Otherwise an international species has to be obtained. Harvesting is a very expensive step for single-celled species.
  2. A central laboratory to maintain healthy, if not axenic, cultures is necessary. Also, laboratory instrumentation is necessary to monitor pH, contamination, etc. At the rural level, some skill transfer is called for to keep cultures healthy and to follow the necessary procedures.
  3. The technology of making small ponds and filtration devices is explained.
  4. Solar driers or cookers to subject the harvested algal slurry to temperatures up to 100°C are required.
  5. The medium for culturing algae must be adapted to local conditions.
  6. Techniques for using the algal dry mass are explained.

Processes in transferring biotechnology to rural communities[edit]

P. L. Rogers and R.J. Pagan
School of Biological Technology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia


The transfer of technology to rural communities in a way that will benefit their neediest members is one of the major challenges of our generation. The problem is how to translate technologies that we have available into suitable forms for village use and to promote them for the rural poor. A low standard of living seems to breed mistrust of outsiders and promote conservatism (1). The rural poor cannot afford to take risks; newness means unreliability; poverty saps energies and narrows the horizons of the possible.

Experience has demonstrated that uncritical technology transfer is likely to benefit only a minority rather than to improve the lot of the larger community (2). It is fundamental to be aware of the sociological structure, educational level, and cultural orientation of a particular community in order to bring about effective and equitable technology transfer (3; 4).

Any consideration of technology transfer to rural communities should begin by identifying the fundamental needs and aspirations of their people. Questions should then be asked as to how technology transfer might assist in meeting these needs. Some of the needs are very basic: food, shelter, clothing, medical services, land ownership, employment. Others, such as education and the need to make full use of all the natural resources available to the community, reflect rising aspirations and the desire to improve living standards and distribute benefits more widely.

Technological innovations can assist in meeting some of these needs and aspirations, and some form of technology transfer is clearly desirable for many communities. Well-planned and identifiable programmes designed for a particular country and region are necessary, as highlighted by recommendations from the UN Conference on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTAD) in Vienna.

The development of a technology to meet particular needs may arise in a number of ways: (a) the reviving of old techniques previously used within the community; (b) the adaptation/improvement of existing (indigenous) methods; (c) the acceptance of and adaptation of modern technology; (d) the development of new techniques relevant to a particular situation.

The concept of "appropriate technology" is useful when considering which techniques are likely to be adopted by a rural community. Appropriate technology may be defined in terms that emphasize smallness, simplicity, and low capital costs; it provides work-places with minimum capital investment. The implanted technology is likely to be more complex and efficient than traditional technologies, but simple enough for village labourers. It must be designed to provide knowledge, training, machinery, and employment at prices and levels that can be assimilated by the simplest of communities.

Programmes of technology transfer (or, more appropriately, "technological innovations at village level") require planning at the national level but implementation at regional and village levels. The education of key village personnel in the new methods will play a vital role in such programmes, as has been illustrated by the Saemaul ("new village") movement in Korea. The village should also be educated in the benefits of such programmes and encouraged to develop innovative methods for other areas of need within the rural community.

Biotechnologies appropriate for rural communities[edit]

Biotechnology in its broadest sense is concerned with processes or process steps in which biological agents are used. Processes involving micro-organisms fall within this category, and are of major interest in the present discussion. Areas of biotechnology relevant to rural communities can be identified as: (a! bioconversion of lignocellulosic and carbohydrate wastes to provide energy, and to provide food and feed; (b) simple wastewater treatment; and (c) upgrading of foods and beverages produced by fermentation of indigenous raw materials. As the present workshop is concerned with bioconversion, our discussion will focus on this.

The following raw materials may be available to rural communities for bioconversion through fermentation:

  • sugars: sugar cane, sugar beets, molasses, fruit, whey, pineapple wastes, coconut water, coffee wastes, etc.;
  • starches: cereals (wheat, maize, barley, rice, sorghum), cassava, potatoes;
  • cellulose: rice straw, wheat straw, packaging materials, animal manure, wood residues, bagasse from sugar milling.

FIG 1. Enzymatic Conversion of Delignified Rice Straw to Sugars (ref. 5)

Conversion of Cellulose and Starch to Sugars for Fermentation

Although organisms exist that can degrade cellulose and starch directly, the most efficient way to convert these substrates into yeast (single-cell protein) or ethanol (as a liquid fuel supplement) is first to convert the cellulose and starch to sugars. Acid hydrolysis can be used, but enzymatic processes are proving increasingly attractive. Such processes are shown in figures 1 and 2. The kinetics of cellulose conversion by two different enzymes for delignified rice straw are illustrated in figure 1 (5). The kinetics of starch hydrolysis using a two-step enzymatic process are shown in figure 2. A heat-stable enzyme such as Termamyl (Novo) will liquefy the starch at 80° to 90 following cooking. After a period of one to two hours, amyloglucosidase is added (60° C; pH = 4.5) to saccharify the resultant dextrins and oligosaccharides to produce fermentable sugars.

The data illustrate the rates of hydrolysis that can be achieved with commercial enzyme preparations. At the village level, rather than purchasing commercial enzymes, simple barley malt, raggi, or koji-type processes could be developed.

FIG. 2. Enzymatic Conversion of 30 Per Cent Starch Slurry to Sugars Using Two Enzyme Processes

Ethanol Fermentation and Yeast Growth

Ethanol fermentation and yeast growth on various carbohydrates have been selected for discussion here, as other papers are concerned with low-technology processes for algal biomass, fermented foods, and methane production.

Fermentation ethanol from indigenous raw materials is likely to provide significant quantities of liquid fuel in the future. Already Brazil, the United States, and the Philippines have embarked on programmes to convert agricultural crops (e.g., sugar cane, sugar beets, cassava) into ethanol. In Australia, a number of rural communities growing sugar cane, sugar beets, and wheat are evaluating the production of fermentation ethanol to meet local fuel needs. Similar situations apply in New Guinea, Fiji, and the South Pacific islands, many of which have abundant supplies of carbohydrates but no oil.

In the same way that methane is generated by anaerobic digestion in rural communities (e,g., India, China) to meet some local energy needs, fermentation ethanol could be produced in small-scale processes to supplement the available liquid fuels. Ethanol can be blended with petrol in proportions of 1 to 20 per cent and no major engine modifications are required. Higher ethanol blends are being tested with motor vehicles and farm machinery.

Yeasts are traditionally used for fermentation, although recent research in our laboratories on an organism used in making tropical alcoholic beverages (tuak in Indonesia) has shown considerable promise. In figure 3 the kinetics of ethanol production for Zymomonas mobilis on 25 per cent glucose are compared with Saccharomyces carlsbergensis (uvarum), a yeast selected for its sugar and ethanol tolerance and ability to flocculate. Although yeasts are probably the most suitable for small-scale batch fermentations, Z. mobilis has specific rates of ethanol production and glucose uptake two to three times higher than yeasts and would be advantageous for high-productivity continuous fermentations (6).

Within the farming community in Australia, simple, low-cost processes are currently being developed for the conversion of farm wastes and substandard grains into fermentation ethanol. They depend on grinding or sprouting the grains, followed by cooking and enzyme addition. This is then followed by a yeast fermentation to produce 8 to 9 per cent w/v ethanol and distillation to 96 per cent ethanol suitable for blending. The distillation is achieved either through a wood-fired still or a solar still using radiant energy. It is evident that such a process could be adapted fairly readily to rural communities elsewhere.

Modifications to low-technology situations include the use of local barley malt, raggi, or koji preparations to replace commercial enzymes, and the use of various nutrient sources, such as paddysoak water, to provide nitrogen and minerals (7). The design of simple fermentors, such as tower fermentors that concentrate the yeast by internal recycle (8-10), and the development of low-cost materials (plastics, fibreglass) for the fermentor and holding tanks minimize the capital costs.

The residual yeast produced in the fermentation is also likely to be of value as a protein-enriched supplement for animal feed. It could be concentrated to a slurry by solar drying for easier addition to animal feed.

Traditional Enzyme Preparation

The conversion of starches to yeast-fermentable carbohydrates may be accomplished in several ways. Malting is the common practice in brewing with cereal grains. The use of a variety of moulds is common in preparing many Oriental foods. Koji, the best known, is a general term for moulded masses of cereals or soybeans. These materials serve as a source of enzymes, and in some cases as an inoculum. There are a number of types of koji, depending on their use, but Aspergillus oryzae is the mould generally used. A specific koji is prepared for each type of product in order to produce the proper mixture of amylolytic, proteolytic, and lipolytic enzymes, Raggi and Java yeast are used in Indonesia and consist of rice flour containing fungi, yeast, and bacteria. Certain strains of Mucor, Rhizopus, and other moulds have been isolated from these preparations 111).

FIG. 3. Production of Ethanol from 25 Per Cent Glucose Using Zymomonas mobilis and Saccharomyces carlsbergensis (uvarum )

The development of small-scale equipment for solid substrate fermentations, such as would be involved in traditional enzyme production, is discussed in detail by Hesseltine (12; 13),

As outlined earlier, the village-level manufacture of malting enzymes, koji, or raggi should be encouraged in order to supplant the need for commercial enzymes for starch hydrolysis.

How biotechnology transfer might function[edit]

Once a particular project that involves a fermentation process at village level or within a rural community has been identified, it is clear that an effective educational programme is fundamental for its success. Key personnel within a community need to be trained both in the new techniques and in the likely benefits, Such people will then disseminate information within their community. Close liaison and cooperation should be maintained with policy-makers and scientists at centralized tertiary institutions

Facilitating biotechnology transfer within the South-East Asian region are a group of young scientists who have been trained in the adaptation of fermentation processes to regional needs. This has come about through the very successful operation of a regional microbiology network established following a Unesco meeting on Regional Co-operation in Basic Sciences in South-East Asia held in Tokyo in 1974. There have been a number of training courses related to nutritional and environmental problems and the effective use of natural resources (listed in the Annex below).

The problem that remains is to translate this knowledge to the village level and to research techniques for scale-down of fermentation processes. Seshadri (14) points out that two requirements need to be met for widespread propagation of bioconversion methods: {a) cheap fermenter designs, and (b) culture or inoculum banks to supply starter cultures. Encouragement to villagers to produce their own source of enzymes, using traditional methods, could be added.


The dramatic and continuing interest in "appropriate technology," founded on Schumacher's ideas and idealism, has focused on the village and the rural poor as prime targets for technological innovation. The technology need not be radiacally new or different to have immediate and far-reaching effects on lifestyle, morale, and living standards of a community.

Biotechnology in a primitive form - fermentation of alcoholic beverages (e.g., tuak), preservation of foodstuffs (e.g., tempeh) - has always been carried out in villages. Modern biotechnology can, given suitable agricultural residues or effluents from processing agricultural materials adjacent to a rural community, lead to a significant and valuable upgrading of either protein or energy content. This is especially relevant in these days of unstable oil prices and high levels of inflation.

Although the economics of production may be favourable, it is evident that strong governmental support is required. As illustrated by the US Department of Energy report "Alcohol Fuels: Policy Review" (June 1979), stimulation of private-sector, small-scale ethanol production from agricultural residues will require a number of government incentives, including low-cost loans, research and development grants, excise tax exemption, and so on. It is not unreasonable to consider that similar incentives will be required to stimulate biotechnology transfer within South-East Asia and elsewhere

Besides fiscal intervention from the government, technology resource pools specifically designed to transfer information on products and processes to villagers should be set up both within and among various countries. These information networks must be designed to provide technological data quickly, efficiently and with minimum cost to both the user and the government, and, of paramount importance, any new technology must be seen by the people who will use it as something both trustworthy and beneficial.

Annex: Training Courses Related to Biotechnology within the Regional Microbiology Network for SouthEast Asia (Sponsored by Unesco, UNEP, and ICRO)

Conservation and use of micro-organisms for waste recovery and indigenous fermentations - Bandung, Indonesia, August 1974.

Microbial protein production from natural and waste products - Bangkok, Thailand, April 1976.

The role of microbiology in the management and control of the environment - Manila, Philippines, November 1976.

The role of micro-organisms in waste recovery, fermentation, and environmental management - Singapore, November 1977.

Environmental management - biological waste treatment and by-product utilization - Seoul, Korea, July 1978.

Training courses in applied microbiology and fermentation technology (sponsored by the Government of Japan) - Osaka, Japan, 1974-1979.


1. P. Devitt, in Internatl. Devel. Rev., 2011): 16 119781.

2. E. Schumacher, in Futurist, 11: 93 (1977).

3. G.S. Ramaswamy, in Internatl. Devel. Rev., 18 (2): 7 (1976).

4. R. Darling, in Internatl. Devel. Rev., 19 (4): 27 (1977).

5. N. Toyama and K. Ogawa, in T.K. Ghose, ea., Symposium on Bioconversion of Cellulosic Substances into Energy, Chemicals and Microbial Protein (Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, 1978).

6. P.L. Rogers, Kye Joon Lee, and D.E. Tribe, in Biotechnology Letters, 1 (4): 165 (1979).

7. K. Bose and T.K. Ghose, in Process Biochemistry, 8 (2): 23 (1973).

8. F.K.E. Imrie and R.N. Greenshields, in Proceedings of the 4th International Conference, GIAM (São Paula, Brazil, 1973).

9. S.J. Pirt, Principles of Microbe and Cell Cultivation (Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, U K, 1975), pp. 45-48.

10. F.K.E. Imrie and R.C. Righelato, in G.C. Birch, ea., Food from Waste (Applied Science Publishers, London, 1976), P. 79.

11. C.S. Pederson, Microbiology of Food Fermentations (Avi Publishing Corporation, Westport, Conn., USA, 1971).

12. C.W. Hesseltine, in Process Biochemistry, 12 (6): 24 (1977).

13. C.W. Hesseltine, in Process Biochemistry, 1 2 (9): 29 (1977),

14. C.V. Seshadri, Analysis of Bioconversion Systems at the Village Level, Monograph Series on Engineering of Photosynthetic Systems (Shri A M.M, Murugappa Chettiar Research Centre, Madras, India, 1978).

Problems and possibilities of introducing appropriate technology[edit]

Doeke C. Faber
Centre for World Food Studies, Amsterdam, Netherlands


In recent years, the alarming number of people who suffer from malnutrition has created an awareness of the ever-increasing importance of producing more food. The problem, however, is not solely one of an overall physical food shortage, but also one of the existence of extreme poverty where effective demand is non-existent. In other words, millions of people lack the purchasing power to satisfy even their most elementary needs, such as food, shelter, and health care. It is well known that this problem is most severe in the developing countries. To be even more specific, the most seriously affected people are typically the rural labourers, the landless, and the small traditional farmers. This group of people must subsist on the production of the small home plot and, more importantly, on the irregular, seasonal employment offered by the larger farmers. Because wages are usually a fixed share of the total production, it follows that in bad years, when yields are low, wages will also be low. Moreover, as mechanization progresses, less employment can be offered. Thus, even though total production may increase, the incomes of the landless and small farmers may decline. Therefore, one cannot ignore the burden of these people, as it appears that they will become the direct victims of the continuing development of the commercialized sector of agriculture, resulting in a worsening distribution of income within agriculture.

Yet there is another reason why they deserve our attention. For it is this very large group of peasants who will be the commercial farmers of tomorrow. It is the task of national governments to allocate sufficient resources for creating an environment in which the traditional peasant can employ himself and improve his standard of living through increased production and higher income. For such an effort to be successful, the limited ceiling of present expectations of the peasants must be raised. Governments must aid in this process by providing adequate extension services, reducing risk through guaranteed intervention prices, stimulating the development and introduction of appropriate technology, etc. Only by actively pursuing development and bringing about necessary changes will the landless and small farmers be provided an incentive to shed their traditional image.

This paper will briefly examine some of the problems that may hamper the rapid development of traditional agriculture. Even though everyone recognizes the need for change, governments and other institutions may not have provided the necessary prerequisites for the change to occur. Some of the prerequisites are discussed below. Finally, the role of research and technology development is examined, as is the need for a multidisciplinary approach to solve the "appropriate" technology problem.

The traditional farmer[edit]

Ted W. Schultz, the recent Nobel laureate in economics, once wrote, "The man who farms as his forefathers did cannot produce much food no matter how rich the land or how hard he works" (1). This statement represents the problem in a nutshell. It means that there is little hope for the hundreds of millions of peasants who try to scratch a living from the face of the earth with almost bare hands. Conversely, it implies that a farmer who has access to, and applies the most recent knowledge of, technology for agriculture or raising livestock produces an abundance of food even if the land is poor. In fact, what Schultz says is that the latter kind of farmer not only produces enough for his family, but for perhaps 50 more people. It goes without saying that these SO people, whose production effort has been replaced by that of the single farmer, can now be employed more productively elsewhere in the economy, The difference between traditional and commercial farming is that the former type of agriculture is based on factors of production that have been used by farmers for many generations, while the latter has typically applied new techniques and modern non-farm inputs as they became available.

As the traditional farmer will be the centre of our discussions, it will be useful to sketch his position against the background of perceived failure by those who have tried to bring about change. Schultz's statement, though bold, has been supported by empirical evidence (1, ch. 6). It is contended that the traditional farmer cannot, within the means available to him, increase his production. However, it is not only the means available, but also the frame of mind the traditional farmer is in. For many generations the farmer has perceived his future possibilities to be very limited, and at times his expectations appeared to vanish into a bottomless pit. For the peasant to be successful in altering the courses of action open to him, his level of expectations must be raised. But, unless he has a sufficient desire to improve his standard of living by exerting himself, he cannot be expected to show much interest in applying new techniques or modern inputs. To break this vicious circle an extensive education and extension programme must be launched to lay out clearly the opportunities open to him. However, not all depends on future expectations.

For any entrepreneur to apply new methods or inputs, especially something radiacally different from the tried and trusted, a number of ancillary conditions must be fulfilled. For the situation of the traditional farmer, Schultz has postulated at least four reasons that may point to a lack of success in the efforts to modernize traditional agriculture (4).

  1. Extension programmes as designed in the 1950s and 1960s have failed because they were based on the assumption that peasant farmers were inefficient. It was noted earlier that the traditional farmer is not inefficient but that he merely labours under the restraints of traditional agriculture.
  2. Extension education and credit programmes were often based on the assumption that the traditional farmer or peasant did not save and invest enough, nor did he use the optimum amount of credit. The truth, however, is that there were insufficient opportunities to invest within the confines of traditional agriculture.
  3. New agricultural programmes have attempted to induce farmers to use new agricultural techniques or apply modern inputs, only to learn that these modern gadgets were simply not profitable or productive enough to make it worthwhile for the farmer to use them.
  4. In most instances where farmers do not respond to applying modern inputs to raise production, no really profitable or rewarding new agricultural inputs have been developed, produced, or supplied cheaply enough and at the right time to make it worthwhile. This lack of incentive may well be the main cause of the problems currently experienced by the traditional farmers in the developing countries. Fortunately, a few success stories can be mentioned: Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, and India. These cases are sufficiently known and we will not refer to them further.

The failure of change and the role of government[edit]

The peasant as defined above has not been converted into a commercial entrepreneur even after 30 years of intensive effort and millions of dollars. This should quickly drive home the point that the conversion process is not one of money and time alone. Indeed, those two conditions may be necessary, but they are not sufficient. The other condition that must be fulfilled is that the process of change must be understood by the "changers." This process will only acquire momentum if an environment has been created in which the process can sustain itself.

Governments have had a significant role in frustrating the development effort. To speed the process of change, governments have often taken over the job of entrepreneurship and have been "far from efficient" in doing so (5). Schultz goes on to say that" government seriously constrains the entrepreneurship of farmers and farm housewives, thereby reducing the efficiency of agriculture and the standard of living of farm families" (5). To transform traditional agriculture into a modernized agricultural sector, adjustments at all levels within the enterprise are called for to take full advantage of new and better opportunities. Two conditions must be satisfied before this can be realized: (a) the decision-making process must remain on the farm; (b) governments must create a friendly environment for change.

The first condition should not cause unsurmountable problems. The decision-making process belongs to the individual owner of resources. Each decision-maker will, in his environment and within his perceived expectation, make decisions as to how to allocate his resources. He will unknowingly, but almost perfectly, equate the marginal value of products from the resource with the marginal cost of the resource. It is, however, the second condition that requires change. One may wonder why today we can only point to a few success stories where economic change has brought about increased agricultural productivity and improved farm well-being; for example, the wheat farmers in Mexico and India, or the rice farmers in South Korea, Japan, or Taiwan. Unfortunately, such stories remain very rare, because governments neglect to create an environment conducive to change. The small peasant is not to blame, he does not resist change or desist from work, but he merely does not find the "alternatives" among his possibilities. There is no adequate incentive for him to take a risk.

Government policy-makers must base their decisions and policies on the behaviour of farmers. Note that the subsistence farmer may react differently from commercial farmers to economic stimulants. It is therefore advisable to devise a policy for agriculture that differentiates between beneficiaries in matters such as subsidy and tax policies, input prices differences, or quantity allocations. Farmers, in making decisions about allocating resources, etc., calculate expected cost (including their measure of risk) and expected returns. Weighing one against the other results in economic incentive. The optimum economic incentive then brings about optimum allocation of resources, resulting in maximum production that will clear the market at prices that take the best advantage of consumer demand (5). The question remains, why does government treat agriculture as it does? There are many arguments to answer this question. To mention a few:

  1. Urban masses, although numerically a minority, are much better organized and have secured much more political clout than have their rural counterparts.
  2. Agriculture is usually considered a backward sector. It is only looked upon as a useful labour and food resource.
  3. Primary agricultural export products are usually subject to very erratic price behaviour, causing problems with the balance of payments. Many developing countries have chosen the industrialization model, where industrialization (really urban development) will act as the flywheel for overall development. Low food prices would be a requirement for low wages, and agriculture can supply food at low prices because of the "excess" labour in the rural sector.

These arguments should never be a reason to undervalue agriculture as is now the case. They will only be counterproductive in the long run.

Small farmers and appropriate technology[edit]

Since the 1960s, technology has made a great impact on the economic growth process, Especially in the developing countries, newly developed knowledge and the application of new techniques have clearly benefited various sectors of their economies. In particular, improvements have come from the development of hybrid seeds, biocides, inorganic fertilizers, and better communication systems.

However, during the 1970s there was a growing concern about the "apparent incongruities between the goals of the developing countries, their labour supply conditions and other resource endowments, and the technologies these countries were importing" (6). One can distinguish between new and old technologies by looking, for example, at the amount of labour used per unit of output, or the amount or quality of input per unit of output (e.g., hybrid seed). The introduction of some technologies produces adverse effects for a community, region, or country. For example, a new technology may have adverse consequences for the rate of employment, or, alternatively, it may affect the socio-economic relations within a community. The consequences of technological change are therefore not always positive.

It can easily be shown that a technology that supplants labourers directly affects the welfare of the landless and traditional farmer. Less employment means less income and results in the desolate situation of poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. Moreover, the socio-economic system as a whole is affected by such a development. The interdependencies between the landless and small farmers on one side and the larger, commercial farmers on the other are disturbed. No longer does the large farmer depend on labour supplied by the landless, and thus no longer can the landless labourer depend on work (food) provided by the larger farmer. Economically such a situation makes no sense, for as long as there is "surplus" labour, its opportunity cost is zero, which translates into very low wages. Yet farmers do mechanize because of management and hiring problems or because of time constraints, or for other noneconomic reasons. The consequences of a disturbed socio-economic system cannot always be foreseen. Policy-makers should pay close attention to the possible side effects of newly introduced changes. There is no way to escape the fact that every new technology has within it the inherent danger of disturbing a stable socio-economic structure. This may, however, not always be a reason not to go ahead with planned development.

So far, we have interpreted "change" as either higher expectations or higher output prices, etc. Given the fact that most traditional farmers have very little chance to increase the area under cultivation (especially in South-East Asia), another opportunity for increasing production is to raise yields, assuming that the government provides the necessary incentive. This yield-increasing technology can be realized by re-evaluating the plant production process. Farmers must turn their attention to on farm inputs rather than non-farm inputs (e.g., fertilizer, pesticides, etc.). A number of new methods have been developed to increase production in ways that permit the traditional farmer to work within the means available to him; for instance using legumes as an inter-row crop, better use of cow dung, improved management skill, new tillage techniques to make available more of the soil nutrients, etc. In this manner the farmer will realize higher yields and thus more revenue, without incurring large costs or drastically different techniques.

If change can be brought about in this manner, then we have made a case for different technologies for various farm sizes or structures. Appropriate technology means just this: appropriate not only in terms of advancement, but also in terms of feasibility (or acceptance) within the target group, or in terms of working on constraints that appear to be most limiting in a given situation.

Unfortunately, appropriate technology as defined above is not yet recognized as a possible solution to the problem. The National Research Council (6) states that "there is little evidence to suggest that major research efforts to find efficient 'intermediate' technologies for small-scale village-level production would either be markedly successful or contribute substantially to development." It could be argued that this statement only holds if total production must be increased regardless of the producer. More likely, however, "intermediate" technologies have been applied or even developed on such a small scale that no meaningful statement can be made about them. The gist of this paper is that, in the first place, the welfare of the landless and traditional peasants must be improved, not necessarily the welfare of all farmers. Indeed, the primary goal is to increase incomes for the lowest farm-income groups, and appropriate technology must be made available to them.

The role of science[edit]

In developing and introducing new technologies, explicit decisions have been taken by some individuals, groups, or governments - decisions such as technologies for what, for whom, and where. Such decisions often come about after a need is recognized. Thus, once it is realized that it is necessary to improve the overall food situation, but in particular the situation of landless labourers and the peasants, research interests are directed to this problem by means of allocating funds.

Unfortunately, so far very little has been done in the area of agricultural technology development at the village level. A village technology can be defined as one that complements the growing of crops. As holdings are of different sizes and farmers have different quantities of resources available to them, different factor input combinations will be Used, such as the man/land ratio or man/capital ratio. Therefore, again, a case can be made for a different technology for different sized farms. It must be stressed, however, that by developing tailor-made village technologies, dynamic relationships between the social classes must be understood and taken into account if the exercise is to be meaningful. Murray has found that a village properly administered has a much higher chance of succeeding in undertaking new projects, even though it may be poorly endowed, than a village that experiences social disruptions (3).

Also, no research effort, no matter how well designed and carried out, will be spared a limited life if the results are conceived as unsatisfactory by those who finally apply a new technology. It is for this reason that increasingly projects are being developed by multidisciplinary teams of researchers, including engineers and social scientists.

Finally, a last remark about the role of government. To the degree that agriculture or particular crops are under-valued by governments, it is of direct consequence for the amount of research funds directed toward those crops or that sector. Because, as with all economic projects, the rate of return is all-important, funds will always be channelled into the most profitable enterprises.

Concluding remarks[edit]

It is clear from present worldwide efforts that agriculture needs to boost its output to at least abate the hunger and malnutrition experienced by millions of people. By directing efforts toward the traditional farmers and landless labourers, two problems could be solved at the same time.


1. T.W. Schultz, Transforming Traditional Agriculture (Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn. USA, 1964).

2. K. Nair, Blossoms in the Dust (Duckworth Ltd., London, 1961), p. 190.

3. C. A. Murray, A Behavioural Study of Rural Modernization: Social and Economic Change in Thai Villages (Praeger Publishers, London, 1977), p, 101.

4. T.W. Schultz, "Economic Growth from Traditional Agriculture," chap. 1 in T. Shukla, ea., Economics of Underdeveloped Agriculture (Vora and Co., Ltd., Publishers, Bombay, India, 1 969).

5. T.W. Schultz, "Economics and Politics in Agriculture," chap, 1 in T.W. Schultz, ea., Distortions of Agricultural lncentives (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Ind., USA, 1978).

6. National Research Council, Appropriate Technologies for Developing Countries (National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., USA, 1977), p. vii.