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5. Problems, constraints and issues

The starting-point for developing a useful programme of research and uptake efforts is to analyse the interlocking problems surrounding small water-lifting technologies. Figure 5.1 shows a problem tree that covers most constraints and issues, including those raised in the country reports (Annexes D to F) and at the brainstorming session of October 2001.

This diagram uses the terminology of technologies, applications and situations introduced in Chapter 2. It includes a number of technical issues such as water resources or irrigation methods and socio-economic: marketing or fuel prices. These topics form part of the cause-and-effect chains that are relevant to water-lifting technologies; although some are outside the scope of issues the Programme seeks to change. The highlighted boxes represent factors that have been included in the Programme, those excluded, i.e. without highlight, may remain as they are if livelihoods are to be significantly improved. However, any interventions to change these factors will remain outside this Programme.

The term ‘appropriate' in this diagram includes good matching of technology to application and situation and robustness and efficiency. The letters a to k and x, against some of the boxes, are referred to in the text below.

Figure 5.1 Problem tree

Notes: an arrow from fact A to fact B means that A is one of the causes of B; the diagram does not necessarily show all the causes of B, nor all the effects of A; highlighted facts are those the Programme will seek to change. the rest being relevant but outside its scope.

It is significant that several of the facts shown in the problem tree have multiple causes. The set of problems includes a few loops, that can become vicious circles. For instance, the use of inappropriate water-lifting technology often causes pumpsets to work inefficiently. The resulting excessive energy costs contribute to the fact that some users cannot afford the necessary fuel or the right technology, which are themselves among the reasons why inappropriate technology is used in the first place. Some other interactions are not shown in the diagram, because it seeks to concentrate the most important. In particular, the technical inefficiency of irrigation distribution increases the amount of water farmers seek to lift; this exacerbates several factors in the problem tree.

Some of the issues in the problem tree are shown with effects, with no causes below them. These are the:

a) complete absence of fully developed technologies for some applications, and for others the available devices are not robust and efficient;

b) many pumps are operating inefficiently, often because they are badly matched to their applications, which results in unnecessarily high fuel or energy consumption and has several knock-on effects;

c) agents and equipment users often do not know how to choose the right technology, because they do not understand the relevance of different applications, and do not have access to adequate comparative information concerning the characteristics of available devices;

d) some users are unwilling to change to any technology other than the one they know, even though it may be inappropriate for their situation and application. For example, farmers who have had subsidized motorized pumps, if only briefly, and are unwilling to change to human-powered; or dealers and farmers who have become convinced of the universal merits of one particular brand, despite its inappropriateness for some applications;

e) some users do not know how to operate and maintain the equipment they have;

f) some equipment agents and mechanics do not have the skills to maintain and repair the appropriate technology; and

x) some potential users cannot obtain affordable credit, and others make distorted choices because of conditional credit or subsidies.

It is notable that © to (f) are matters of knowledge or understanding, indicating the widespread need for capacity-building, training, and awareness-raising activities. However, farmers' incentives are at least as important as their knowledge and understanding.

The three remaining problems, in the third row of the diagram, beside fact ‘a', can be summarized by saying that appropriate technology is often not being used, or not efficiently. They are connected by a number of cause-and-effect links to the highlighted facts lower in the diagram. These include the knowledge-based problems already listed (c, d, e and f), plus another set that comprises problems of an economic or commercial nature. They concern the availability and price of water-lifting equipment, spare parts, fuels and lubricants, all of which are among the problems emphasized in the country reports, where in some situations:

g) appropriate technologies that exist elsewhere in the world are unavailable locally;

h) spare parts, fuels and lubricants are not always available (for example, gasoline may become scarce at some times of year, even if kerosene or diesel is available);

i) there is no free competitive market for different types of equipment from different manufacturers through competing agents, which results in limited choice and high prices. This is sometimes linked to a history of aid projects which have used subsidies or special credit schemes linked to bulk purchase of only one or two types of equipment);

j) some potential users of appropriate water-lifting technology cannot afford it for lack of capital or credit (credit limitations are sometimes partly related to land tenure, when farmers have no land title to use as collateral for loans); and

k) some potential users cannot afford the running costs of the appropriate technology, whether for fuel or person-hours to operate human-powered devices.

An important issue, which is stressed at the end of Chapter 4 is the matter of subsidies and credit: fact ‘x' in the above problem tree.[12] Users of water-lifting technology naturally and rightly respond to the opportunities and incentives that face them. If a certain type of pumpset is offered at a heavily subsidized price, or with very soft credit, which amounts to the same thing, resource-poor people will accept it even when it is not the most appropriate technology for their situation and application. Even if they are sufficiently well informed to know that this technology is not their long-term optimum, they are still behaving rationally in accepting it, because poor people are forced to take a short-term view. Therefore, subsidies, and some types of credit policy, can seriously distort the choice between technologies, even if everyone is fully informed and aware of the available technologies and how they should ideally be matched to applications.

Most ways of introducing new water-lifting technology, discussed in Chapter 4 under Introduction and marketing of water-lifting technologies involve some degree of subsidy, whether direct and overt or in the indirect form of special credit arrangements or protected markets. World markets for agricultural products are fundamentally shaped by subsidies, especially by those in the developed countries. Unless this fact changes there will be little future for people involved in small-scale agriculture without some countervailing system of subsidies. The problem is how to structure and apply the necessary subsidy element without distorting the choice of technology away from what is technically and financially appropriate to the users' situations and applications. This study, and the Programme it seeks to guide, addresses the provision of appropriate technologies and the task of equipping people to choose between them. Although, this is a complementary step, subsidy and credit policies will be required if these objectives are to be achieved.

Another important aspect concerning the appropriateness of technology, highlighted in Chapter 4, is the need for a progression of technologies with manageable steps between them. This should start with a financially and technically manageable technology for first-time irrigators with small land-holdings and little or no capital. A package of interventions that fails to provide this series of technological steps may help to raise average agricultural production, and average or total income, but it will have little impact on resource-poor people, whose interests are central to IFAD's aims and to the purpose of this study.

[12] Issues of credit and subsidy were initially excluded from the scope of this study and the Programme, but were added in December 2001: hence the use of the letter ‘x'.

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