Research and technology Knowledge

Posted July 1996

Technology assessment and transfer
for sustainable agriculture and rural development
in the Asia-Pacific Region


Soetatwo Hadiwigeno
Director General
Agency for Agricultural Research and Development (AARD)
Jakarta, Indonesia

1. Technology assessment for varying agro-ecological zones, production systems and resource endowments

Several means have been used by AARD to assess its research programmes and activities. The main objective is to assess: (i) the appropriateness of research activities vis-à-vis the needs for the national and agricultural development, (ii) the relevance of research and development activities for agricultural commodity development programmes launched by the Directorate Generals of the Ministry of Agriculture, and (iii) effectiveness of the research and development activities and results in meeting information and technology demands of the users: policy makers, scientists, educators, extension personnel, farmers and others.

Agricultural research policies

Agricultural research is directed to identify and develop alternative development policies and technological innovations for every ecological zone which are economically, socially and environmentally viable. These agricultural research policies are an integral part of the national development policy.

To ensure that research funds are efficiently utilized, AARD research programmes provide the inducement for both research activities and investment initiatives supported by other public sector bodies and the private sector. Research activities are increasingly inter-disciplinary, focus on overcoming critical constraints to higher productivity, efficiency, profitability, and stability, and will provide location-specific recommendations designed to enhance the comparative advantage of the nation's varied production environment.

Priority setting

The effective and efficient use of agricultural research resources requires that a set of criteria be established for prioritizing demands on research resource allocation. The following criteria are used to set research priorities:

  1. To ensure that adequate research is done on a core set of policies, resource endowments, and commodities which form the mainstay of agricultural development. Highest priority for agricultural research resource allocation will be given to those commodities and research areas which are of political, economic, social, and strategic importance.
  2. To ensure that research contributes to the sector objectives of increased growth, income, employment, and equity, agricultural research on other commodities and areas will be conducted where there is a high probability that the research will generate a fair balance of growth and equity-oriented development expenditures that yield: (i) ample social and economic benefits, and (ii) a broad spread of such research benefits to include the low income population sections and areas of marginal resource endowment.
  3. To ensure that research provides a foundation for long-term sector development, a portion of agricultural research resources will be allocated to pioneering research such as biotechnology and new product development, which will serve to expand the frontiers of the agricultural sector. This will include research which will lead to greater diversification of the farm sector.

Research on commodities in relation to resource endowments follows the government guidelines for development by diversifying, intensifying, extensifying, and rehabilitating by matching appropriate research initiatives to the quality of the natural resource base in the numerous agro-ecological ares of Indonesia, including inventory aspects of regional natural resource potential as well as comparative advantages of community regionalization. In the context of land use, three useful productivity classes of land are: (i) high potential, where diversification and intensification goals may be appropriate; (ii) future potential, where the goals of extensification may be best suited; and (iii) less potential, where rehabilitation may be most appropriate.

Priorities in research resource allocation have to ensure that strategic needs are met, regional resource endowments are efficiently utilized and new opportunities for agricultural growth and development are generated. Research programmes to support the development of commodity agri-business systems will also be taken into account. An agro-ecological classification of land and water resources which will serve as one dimension of a planning matrix includes the following areas: (i) irrigated, (ii) rainfed, (iii) upland, (iv) swamp, (v) marine, (vi) coastal, and (vii) inland water. The second axis of the planning matrix lists the commodity and discipline research ares which will contribute to the innovations for improving agriculture in these agro-ecological areas. These include (viii) food crops, (ix) horticulture, (x) estate crops including industrial crops, (xi) livestock, (xii) fisheries, (xiii) soil, and (xiv) socio-economics for agriculture. Scientists from these commodity and discipline groups are to devise innovations which will enhance the productivity and stability of the farming/harvesting systems of the area, reduce product losses, add value to the product through processing, and enhance the well-being of both producers and consumers through more efficient marketing, pricing and transporting systems.

Organization and management of research

To provide a long-term, integrated planning perspective for agricultural research, a set of master plans has to be prepared and updated periodically. Individual research centres and institutes have to develop plans based on the role identified for their institute in the sector and commodity-wide plans have to be revised to conform with the agenda resulting from the overall development plan.

To ensure that research projects and programmes are planned in accordance with the criteria established for prioritizing agricultural research expenditure, the existing procedures should be improved through the external and internal review of research proposals to evaluate conformity with plan objectives, to assess the relative technical merits of the research proposal and to gauge the likely impact and probability of success of the research activity. Review of the research proposals should be conducted by a multi-disciplinary group of experts to ensure a greater degree of inter-specialization involvement in research activity planning. The research project review model will serve as a basis for developing an improved planning procedure. There is also a need to further define the operational statement pertaining to the linkage among working units from the time of programme formulation up to the transfer and application of the technology.

Databases which are required for long-term resource use for planning will continue to be developed. This information will be sued to ensure that sustainable agricultural resources are utilized to their fullest extent, while preserving the quality of the natural environment. Particular attention will be paid to collecting and assembling the information required to plan for the rational use of land, water and fishery resource.

To provide a sound database for programme management, a Management Information System (MIS) should be used as a tool for effective use by agricultural research managers. The MIS should be fully automated and should contain information that is vital to informed decision making regarding the allocation of agricultural research resources. The MIS will provide data to research programme managers in a timely and accurate fashion and will be an important tool for planning, monitoring and evaluating research programmes.

To increase the efficiency of research resource utilization, greater stress should be placed on inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional agricultural research. The continued use of the farming systems approach to solving area specific technology problems will be strengthened and institutionalized in the research programme of AARD.

To foster greater economies of scale in research problem solving, greater networking amongst the technical discipline specialists in the various research units should be encouraged. Technical specialists in some professional peer groups have already conducted regular meetings, prepared widely circulated publications and exchanged information on recent developments in their fields. This practice will be extended throughout the AARD, should be strongly encouraged, and institutionalized in the AARD programme.

To capture benefits of research conducted outside Indonesia, continued effort should be made to tap into the research results of the International Agriculture Research Centres (IARCs) the other national research systems and the research services supported by larger private sector establishments. An aggressive research search and collaboration approach needs to be intensified to enable Indonesia to gain from third-parti research investments. Many memoranda of understanding already exist with international, regional and national institutions and the intensification of these contacts should be encouraged. The organization of seminars both nationally and internationally is one way to encourage such interaction. The implementation of international research collaboration and the execution of the actual research for global research development will be the responsibility of the concerned staff of research institutes/centres.

2. Technology transfer

To ensure the more rapid dissemination of agricultural research results, links between agricultural research and extension staff have to be intensified. Linkages between researchers and users will be further intensified in order to facilitate speedy communication of research results as well as to obtain feedback for future research programme formulation according to established priorities. This will be accomplished by increasing the number of field days, by conducting on-farm farming systems research jointly with the local extension staff, by cooperating with the local agricultural service staff on site selection, design and evaluation of verification trials, and by conducting periodic training courses for the subject matter specialists in the region so as to keep the extension service abreast of the latest research findings. The research units will, furthermore, intensify their active participation in the Commission on National Agricultural Extension at the national level and the Forum for Coordination of Agricultural Extension at the provincial level. In addition, efforts to minimize and resolve research communication problems due to uneven distribution of research units throughout the country as well as improvement of extension specialist skill will receive high priority.

Dissemination strategies

The main objectives of AARD's dissemination efforts are to make maximum use of research findings to support agricultural development, to meet the need of the research users to generate agricultural information and technology derived from research results, to share experiences and to exchange research findings among scientists for the advancement of agricultural science and technology, to provide current information to the extension personnel and educators to enable them to formulate extension and teaching materials to solve farm problems.

Research results are disseminated through formal and informal channels and mass media. Recently, electronic media have been included in this effort. The various means and strategies employed are as follows:

  1. Publications are the most important channel in disseminating research results to different users located throughout Indonesia. The strength of publications is the possibility to reach users in all locations simultaneously. Several types of publications have been used by AARD and its research institutions, such as:
  2. Various meetings such as seminars, symposia, workshops and other meetings discussing research results. The meetings are attended by policy-makers, extension personnel, farmers and other users with the main objective to disseminate research results and obtain feedback from the research users.
  3. On-farm research, i.e., the testing of the adaptability of certain research results in farmers' fields, in terms of physical as well as social environment. A more comprehensive type of on-farm research is conducted on a commercial scale (developmental research). On-farm research is implemented with active participation of extension personnel and farmers who can benefit directly from tested and adapted new technologies.
  4. Field-days on research results, presenting the relevance of research results to extension personnel, farmers, practitioners and other users.
  5. Various research-extension consultative meetings to solve farm problems that could not be solved by extension personnel alone.

There are further means to disseminate research results such as informal visits of farmers and extension personnel to research institutions, personal contacts between researchers and extension personnel and similar activities.

Efforts to improve the dissemination of research findings are being undertaken in line with the fast development of science, technology and research activities, the dynamic changes of the behaviour of the research users, the increasing demand for agricultural development based on science and technology and increasing need for information on research results by users.

More effective guidance to agricultural research and more rapid translation of research findings into government policy is accomplished by increasing the frequency and quality of seminars and presentations of research results to key government policy-makers. The format for an occasional forum between policy makers and researchers will be developed to promote greater frequency of direct contact and interchange of ideas between these two groups. This will facilitate policy formulation and increase the relevance of agricultural search. In order to facilitate technology adoption and applicability, it is anticipated that research reports will contain an assessment of economic costs and benefits and the impact on employment.

To enhance the market-responsiveness of the agricultural research system, increased linkages between the private sector and the AARD scientists are encouraged. A system is devised to encourage research institutes to enter into collaborative projects with the private sector. However, such collaborative research ventures will not be allowed to substitute for higher priority research which is required to satisfy the broader mandate of the research units. Private sector representatives, however, are invited to participate in major planning and reporting events sponsored by AARD.

Case study: Agricultural research-extension linkages

In 1991, an agricultural research-extension linkage programme was initiated by AARD, with the aim to assess the need for specific technology and to improve the flow of information through an action programme. The programme is intended to find effective systems and mechanisms for disseminating research results and providing feedback from the field, with the final objective of accelerating the information flow and technology transfer from research to the users. This programme involves personnel from diverse institutions and farmers working together on improving communication systems and strengthening linkages.

Initially, the programme concentrated on five provinces, the selection of which was based on the complete lack of research institutes catering for these areas. Activities included: (i) the identification of resource potentials and constraints to the adoption of new technologies, (ii) the identification of available technologies to meet the local technological needs, and the scope for training the extension personnel and key farmers in the use of new technologies, (iii) demonstration of the performance of identified technologies in farmers' fields, and (iv) research field-days to show and discuss implications for the adoption of identified technologies.

The technological needs for the Bengkulu province were identified as developing farming systems for food production which simultaneously conserve the land resources. For this purpose, the alley cropping system was considered most appropriate. Coffee was used as alley crop, while soybean, corn and ginger were planted between the alleys. Although the results of the technology have not been demonstrated yet, the interaction among all participants have strengthened the research-extension-farmer linkages considerably.

Based on several supervisory visits to the location, it could be concluded that the response to the use of alley cropping technology in Bengkulu was positive. It was further concluded that some technologies are not being fully adopted by farmers due to a lack of demonstrated benefits of the technology, labour shortage and lack of proper inputs. Strong support from local leaders was needed for improving the role of extension personnel in providing guidance on the adoption of new technology.

Similarly, encouraging results were gathered in the other four provinces. Research needs were identified, and approaches to improve the transfer of research results were developed.

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