At the “Techfit” workshop in Dehra Dun this week a group of scientist and development workers were in deep conversation about how to prioritize livestock feed technologies for different situations. Our task was to come up with a framework or tool that could be used by development agencies such as local NGO’s or extension offices. The tool would score technologies and suggest which would work best in a given situation.
We made great progress. At the start of the workshop, many of us wondered if such a tool could be developed. Would it be possible to reduce the complexity of the problem to something simple that could be used by non-specialists? As the week went on, the key components of the framework began to emerge.
First, we agreed that we needed an inventory of possible feed technologies including a score sheet for a range of technology attributes. These attributes would include aspects such as requirements for land and water, labour requirements, need for various inputs, reliance on community organisation, need for credit, complexity of the technology and so on. These attributes would be inherent to the technology and hence would form part of the final tool.
Second, we came to a consensus that we also needed to characterize the context in which technologies would be applied. Some of the same attributes would be suitable – things like land and water availability, degree of community cohesion, availability of credit etc. But scores for these attributes would be specific to particular contexts be it the Highlands of Ethiopia or the hill country of Uttarakhand. A key element of the tool will be to find a simple way to gather this information using checklists and quick questionnaires that can be used with farmers and other key actors.
The core of tool will be a way of combining technology and context attributes to arrive at an overall score for how a technology is likely to fit a particular context. The final score will not produce a magic bullet technology but it will help to narrow down the wide range of possible options into a few strong contenders. These can then form the basis for further discussion with farmers and development workers to decide on how they should be tested and tried in practice.
We see Techfit (or whatever we decide to call it) as one element of a wider set of tools that will help to capture some of the expertise of feed and forage specialists and make it available in usable form by development people. These other tools include FEAST (Feed Assessment Tool), SOFT and approaches for participatory technology development.
We will keep posting on Techfit as it develops.