(Peace Corps, 1984, 175 p.)

Introducing a new technology is it appropriate?[edit | edit source]


It is essential that people involved in the process of community development think about the eventual effects and results of any new technology or method they will introduce. In this session, the participants have the opportunity to examine the benefits and drawbacks of being part of technological change, and to make decisions as to their role in promoting community health and self-reliance.


To examine the role of the community worker in the introduction of a new technology
To identify characteristics of an "appropriate" technology


Helping Health Workers Learn, Chapter 15
Appropriate Technology Sourcebook, Introduction


"A Case for (or Against) Canning?", Handout 16A
"Appropriate and Inappropriate Technology, Handout 16a


Pens and paper


(Optional) Develop a case study or other teaching aid concerning the introduction of a new technology.


  1. (45 minutes) Introduction

Distribute Handout 16A, and allow time for the participants to read it.


This activity may be done either in the large group or in smaller discussion groups. If you choose, use another case study.

Discuss the questions at the end of the case study. Encourage the participants to relate the study to their own experiences.

  1. (15 minutes) Criteria for Appropriate Technologies

Distribute and review Handout 16B. Ask if there are any additions or changes that the participants would make to the list of characteristics of an appropriate technology. Include the following questions to guide the discussion:

  • In the case study, was canning an appropriate technology? Why, or why not?
    - Does solar drying fit the criteria for an appropriate technology in your community?
    - Does a fireless cooker? Any of the other technologies or methods we've covered in this training course?
  1. (15 minutes) Summary

Ask the participants:

  • What is your role in the introduction of a new technology in your community?
    - How (and by whom) is that role defined?
    - How do you think you will apply what you have learned in this course?


This session can be linked to the formulation of Action Plans (Session 21, Conclusion to Training). In that session, the participants look at their role as community workers, and make specific plans and recommendations for using what, they have learned in this training course.


Anita was nearly in tears. How could her Peace Corps experience be turning into this soap opera, when just a few days ago she'd been so happy to be in Belize that she had begun writing a letter asking to extend for a third year.

What had happened? Wasn't this in-service just what she'd wanted? A chance to get together with other village and Ministry extension workers, learn some new technologies for dealing with food preservation and storage, and trade ideas and information? Why did she feel so horrible, so alone, so alienated from everyone, both national and American?

OK, Anita thought, let's run this one through logically, and try to understand the "why" and the "how" of the last two days. She got out her journal and began to write:

I am a college graduate, I majored in home ec., and learned a lot about food technologies from people who knew what they were talking about. I've been canning since I was a kid, and I know from practice and theory that you can get really sick if the canning is done incorrectly. I know that people in this country are poor, and that in the villages there is scarcely enough money to buy the necessities of life, let alone pressure cookers and high-tech canning equipment. It's absurd to teach canning as a method of food preservation here, especially when there are other, probably better ways to do it. I can't believe that the Ministry home extensionists in this course really want to take canning to the villages... Oh, yes, the Mennonites who've lived here for nearly forever do can. And they are coming to do a short workshop for us, and I've heard they've taught villagers how to do it. But, the Mennonites use experience and knowledge about the technology and they are very careful.

But almost everyone here wants to learn how to can. They came to the course expecting that it would be taught. And they don't want to go away disappointed. It is what all the villagers want, they say, and its going to be taught no matter what I say, no matter what the instructors tell the extensionists, no matter how dangerous it might be under village conditions.

Today we were to give talks on different ways of preserving food, and my partner was Mary, the Director of the Home Extension Office at the Ministry. At first, Mary wanted to talk about canning as a great method for village extension workers. I finally convinced her to give a short talk about how dangerous it was to can, and then I showed the proper way to do it - with mason jars, and lids and a pressure cooker. She was uncomfortable with saying "no" to the canning idea, in front of all those other extension workers, especially since she'd been teaching it for years. Out I convinced her that it was the only right thing to do, so she did it. Now that I look back, she kind of stood there stiffly and recited the words. I wonder if she really was convinced? I wonder what she was thinking? I know that Mary said that she'd never seen anyone get sick, but I don't know how much she's really practiced canning...

It was right after the talks that I noticed the national extensionists giving me the cold shoulder. I guess they were mad at me for saying that canning wasn't safe, and maybe for convincing Mary to take the same stance. But I know I'm right, and I know they will thank me later.

I'm just doing what I think is best. After all, what happens if someone gets sick, or dies, even, as a result of improper canning? And the canning technology was taught in one of our Peace Corps Workshops?... What if? What if? I don't know what I did wrong. All I know is that I feel terrible, and I don't know how to face the group again tomorrow.

I guess I'll just go to sleep and hope I feel better in the morning.

Where did Anita go wrong?

What would you do to solve the dilemma?

Whose responsibility is it to either teach or not teach a method that might be dangerous and inappropriate?

What would be a helpful and useful approach to working with a village to preserve food?


Appropriate and
Inappropriate Technology


Appropriate technology is a fashionable way to say "doing things in low-cost, effective ways that local people can manage and control."

Development workers often use the term appropriate technology to refer to practical, simple THINGS - such as tools, instruments, or machines - that people can make, use, and repair themselves using local resources.

But appropriate technology also refers to METHODS - ways of doing, learning, and problem solving that are adapted to people's needs, customs, and abilities.

The technology of THINGS is called 'hard'; technology of METHODS is called 'soft'. Ideas are more flexible than bricks (if both are appropriate).


Two kinds of appropriate technology


To determine whether a certain thing or method is appropriate for your area, you can ask yourself the following questions:

Is it acceptable to the local people?

Do they (or will they) use it effectively?

Will it help to improve the wellbeing of those in greatest need?

is it low-cost and efficient?

Does it make full use of local resources, traditions, and abilities?

Does it take into consideration any local factors such as geography, climate, and traditions, that may affect its usefulness?

Does it keep a natural balance with the environment?

Is it something that local people can easily understand, afford, and repair by themselves?

To what extent were local people involved or consulted in its planning, design, selection, or adaptation?

Does it provide more local employment? Or does it take jobs away?

Does it build people's confidence to find their own answers and make their own decisions?

Will it help close the gap between the rich and the poor? Or widen it?

Does it help the weak to gain greater control and become more self-reliant?

From Helping Health Workers Learn



Select activities from Appendix G. Ideas for Evaluation. It is recommended that the mid-course evaluation include a question concerning specific technical information the participants would like to have reviewed during the "technical review" to be presented by the trainer during the second week. See Calendar, Appendix A. Some of the technical information requested may be included in the participants' method demonstrations, which should be presented before the technical review.

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Authors Eric Blazek
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Language English (en)
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Aliases Solar and Energy Conserving Food Technologies 18
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Created April 14, 2006 by Eric Blazek
Modified December 9, 2023 by Felipe Schenone
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