In mid-September 2011, ILRI and partners organized a ‘TechFit ‘workshop to ‘develop and test an analytical framework that can be used to collect, structure, screen and prioritise possible feed technologies and interventions from multiple angles – technical, institutional, social and economic’.
To better understand concrete feed technology ‘use cases’ and demands, the first day of the workshop included a question and answer session with five workshop participants. What types of technology questions or demands do they encounter? How do they screen and prioritise technology options? Who decides on technological choices, what criteria are used to rank them, and what is ultimately provided to farm communities?
Panelists Nils Teufel (ILRI India), Ben Lukuyu (ILRI Kenya), Aichi Kitalyi (Tanzania), Yashpal Bisht (Himmothan Foundation), and D. P. Tiwari (Pantnagar University) shared their experiences with Ranjitha Puskur.
Yashpal Bisht set the scene arguing that “farmers don’t ask for a technology … they ask for a solution.” So any tool, approach or framework to improve technology screening and selection must draw heavily on the immediate farmer context. In the areas where Bisht works (Uttarakhand and Himachal in India), for example, the communities will decide themselves on the technologies and interventions they will implement. For a specific technology, they are often quite clear what they want and don’t want – decisions by farmers on uptake are critical steps in the decision matrix being developed.
A lot of the subsequent conversations were about ways that researchers and farmers interact around animal feeding issues. On-farm trials and demonstration plots were repeatedly mentioned as mechanisms to identify, test, validate, and target appropriate technologies with farmers. Still however, Ben Lukuyu emphasized that these approaches help ‘bring’ technologies to farmers … but do we really know how they ‘pick’ the technologies and the criteria they use to select them? Aichi Kitalyi illustrated how technologies can have very unanticipated consequences – a forage plant used for thatching for example.
Nils Teufel added that we can work with farmers, identifying problems needing solutions (through participatory rural assessment, use of a feed assessment tool, etc), and ‘testing’ technologies, but there is still a big question on the criteria and processes used to pre-select and screen likely technologies before the deeper engagement with farmers.
Who decides, and how do we ensure that the results of their decisions are the best possible? Often technology selection choices are informed by past research or other assessment and decisions are taken nationally as part of research priority setting exercises; sometimes individuals or institutions recommend what they have ‘on the shelf.’ The TechFit tool or framework should make these pre-selection technology screening and matching choices more structured, more robust and more relevant.
Beyond the farmers themselves, panelists talked about other strategies they employ to get feed technologies into use. Partners – research, government, developmental – are a key to this and their capabilities, and their interests in, and understanding of, the intended technologies are important determinants of uptake.
They also pointed out that technologies are frequently introduced as part of wider interventions, hence the inter-relations among all of these are an important part of technology ‘choice.’
Technology choices therefore need to match farmers’ contexts, they need to complement other interventions, and they need to be compatible with their partner aspirations and capacities. . .
Moreover, in a subsequent presentation, ILRI’s Steve Staal emphasized that the attributes of the technologies themselves (their land or labor requirements for example) have a bearing on their uptake, while factors in the rural situation – policies, availability of markets and credit, livestock keeping ‘mindset’, and many others – are also critical determinants.
The panelists and the discussions illustrated and extended the justification for the TechFit framework and tool – they also added multiple layers of complexity for the working groups to address today.
View Steve Staal’s presentation:
The 4-day Techfit workshop aims to ‘develop and test an analytical framework that can be used to collect, structure, screen and prioritise possible feed technologies and interventions from multiple angles technical, institutional, social and economic’. http://techfit.wikispaces.com