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What makes a technology successful?

'What makes a technology successful for Africa?'. This is not an easy question. The answers, if they could be determined, would surely make life better for millions of poor Africans, who currently subsist but are constrained from achieving a better life. During the course of a workshop on livestock keeper-based tsetse control strategies held in Nairobi in October 2003, participants were asked to draw up and agree a checklist of questions on the basis of what they thought makes a technology useful or applicable in the African context. The following points are mainly taken from the workshop discussions about tsetse control strategies and the issues that may determine whether new technologies for controlling tsetse flies and trypanosomiasis will be widely adopted by farming communities in Africa. Other points were taken from supporting material.

Collective or individual action?

I find it quite scary actually that people are discussing community action as a collective action. I thought we had been down that road and it's painful to say, but there are sound economic reasons why it is not going to work. And what we have to do is to work on the individual and the private sector. What we know is that community-based methodologies, in the case of tsetse control, are not sustainable ... as soon as the project pulls out then the control interventions cease as night follows day. These new technologies which the individual farmer can apply at his own cost, there may be benefits to the other people in the community but he is not especially concerned about that, he is concerned about protecting his own cattle.
Ian Maudlin, DFID Animal Health Programme

It is quite clear from what we have seen in Western Kenya that unless you manage to organise or support the organisation of committees working at these crush pens where the animals are treated, it's not going to be very effective in the short or medium term. That's why we are so insistent on facilitating the setting up of proper management structures at this community level. But it requires also that there is an absolute transparency . . so unless this is properly managed you will invariably end up with a series of problems.
Burkhard Bauer, formerly Project Manager, FITCA, Kenya

These technologies have to be able to be managed by individuals. An ideal technology should not need a management structure to operate.
Sue Welburn, Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, UK

I think the technology has a disadvantage if it requires any collective action or institutional management...It seems to me that the perfect technology is one that doesn't require the government veterinarian to come visiting every month because if it does, he won't do it. So the perfect technology is one that can be used, once the farmer has learnt, independently by the individual farmer on his own and he is not dependent on anybody, be it his neighbour or someone from a government office.
Rosemary Dolan, Director, StockWatch Ltd, Kenya

When we start something, like we have done in FITCA with our groups, which is a set of individuals with an economic purpose, would you be happy if we called them things like 'animal health clubs' - things which are purely economic and not based on old-style community action. Because I agree that we over-use the word 'community' and people think that when you talk about community action, that people are doing things for the public good. So from now on when we talk about these farmer groups, we should try and emphasise that it really is a bunch of individuals who share an economic aim.
Simon Gould, FITCA, Uganda

Going from the experiences we have seen in the remote areas in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, (even Somalia where we are looking at tsetse and tick control), it has reached a stage where the farmers, deep down in the villages have some chemicals. It might be Amatraz, it might be a synthetic pyrethroid. And they apply it themselves with their own pump. Whether they work with a neighbour who has another 500 head of cattle or another three, four neighbours and they share the pump and they are able to apply the chemical on to the animals. And to some extent it does work.
JJ Oduor, CEVA, Kenya

I think we need to operate with broad definitions of collective action and I certainly prefer 'collective' to 'community', which is a term which begs enormous numbers of questions. I think that we need to recognise that there are actions that are hybrid in that they have both private and public benefits. For example, dipping has a strictly private benefit in tick control but a more public or common benefit in tsetse control. And we need to also make a distinction between public goods and common goods. I mean a public good is a very open thing, a common good is a private thing at a larger scale.
John Morton, Associate Research Director, Natural Resources Institute, UK

I think we shouldn't mix up and take communities as collectivities working together. I agree on this point that collectivity is built on individuals having the same interest whilst communities are normally understood as social groups. The second point is, looking for sustainability means that we have to look to economic potentials to be developed. If it is at farmers' level or collective levels we have to show clearly that the farmer is getting benefit from any interventions.
Harald Rojahn, FITCA Regional, Kenya

Where communities live and depend on cattle for their livelihoods, it is the benefit-cost calculations of alternative strategies that influence their decision to participate individually or as a community in T and T control operations.
Mulumba Kamuanga, ILRI, writing in Socio-Economic and Cultural Factors in the Research and Control of Trypanosomiasis, published by FAO

Role of education?

We already know that there are so many technologies available and what we should be doing is giving the farmer education on the available options so they can make informed decisions. [We need] to look at the information... production of brochures, other IEC [information, education and communication] materials that can help educate the farmer.
Grace Murilla, Trypanosomiasis Research Centre, KARI, Kenya

We are not going to start new activities in the remaining lifetime of the project but farmer groups are now coming to visit these farmers so we must let farmers talk to farmers - because the best teacher here is the farmer not the technician. Exchange visits are the best way forward.
Burkhard Bauer, formerly Project Manager, FITCA, Kenya

What we have been doing is working on technologies but we all know that the technology will never be perfect. Why not develop tools that will help the farmers to evaluate those technologies, to test them and adapt them to their own situation. ... Our role should be the role of the facilitator so he does not have a nonsense design, mixing the parameters. I believe that is where research needs to turn drastically. We don't need to produce more technologies but more methodologies of how the technology can reach the farmer.
Bruno Minjauw, ILRI, Kenya

Involvement of the private sector?

The private sector has to be eventually involved. The problem, of course, will be quality control and also checking that the technology is being used properly.
Rajinder Saini, International Centre, for Insect Physiology and Ecology, Kenya

The answer to this it that the project has to let go and if it is going to fly, it is going to fly because the private sector picks it up. So the project proves the concept and then should let it go.
Keith Sones, freelance consultant, Kenya

Demand for the technology

One thing which we must keep in mind is that it is very difficult to check the community perceptions and adoption potential when it is a new technology. First of all you have to disseminate the technology, you have to show the farmers how it works. Whether they will accept it or not will come much later.
Rajinder Saini, International Centre, for Insect Physiology and Ecology, Kenya

Knowledge of the symptoms of trypanosomiasis is an important factor affecting farmers' willingness to contribute money to tsetse control. Before people are engaged in active programmes for controlling tsetse, it is important that the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs of local residents are understood so that knowledge gaps can be targeted for active programmes of basic education.
Mulumba Kamuanga, ILRI, writing in Socio-Economic and Cultural Factors in the Research and Control of Trypanosomiasis, published by FAO

None of these technologies should be thought of in the way of being imposed on communities. One size does not fit all.
Sue Welburn, Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, UK

We have had several examples from NGO-led operations in Ethiopia where they are deciding what the [spraying] interval for treatment will be. And with these groups in Ethiopia, the farmers wanted to treat just three times a year, at four-month intervals and anyone who has published information on this knows that this will not actually be effective. While the intervals reflect what the farmers are prepared to pay, they do not really fit in with the technical demands of the system.
Steve Torr, Natural Resources Institute, UK

As scientists we tend to get a bit short-term and I'm thinking particularly of some of the simple techniques that we are introducing in that these may not reduce tsetse per se but farmers notice that agricultural production is improved.
Simon Gould, FITCA Uganda

I think one of the most effective means of tsetse control in Africa is in areas where people have encroached, as a result of population pressure and land use changes, and tsetse habitat is destroyed. It is not done with a view to controlling tsetse flies or tryps, it's a sort of demographic process. And I think that you have to bear in mind here that people will take up insecticide technologies mainly with a view to controlling ticks or nuisance flies, and controlling tsetse and tryps may occur as a fringe benefit of that activity. Although it may be disappointing to some people, that is the reality.
Mark Eisler, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, UK


Sustainability will depend on the farmers being able to identify the markets for their products so that they can improve their incomes. These two have to go hand-in-hand. So we must look at the market outlets so we can sustain this technology and improve people's livelihoods.
Grace Murilla, Trypanosomiasis Research Centre, KARI, Kenya

Date published: March 2004


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