Posted September 1996
However, the above gains were linked with negative influences. The Green Revolution technology has generally by-passed rainfed dryland areas and resource-poor farmers, thus exacerbating inequity. Production of some of the poor man's crops, viz. pulses, coarse grains, roots and tubers remained stagnant or even declined. The irrigation-associated problems of salinization and waterlogging have greatly negated the positive impact of expansion of irrigation. Increased genetic vulnerability, incidences of pests and diseases, excessive application of agrochemicals and environmental pollution are other serious adverse impacts and have aggravated the unsustainability problem.
Poverty, another important indicator and closely inter-related with the above, has several aspects (limited assets, landlessness, migration, etc.) and is a considerable problem in parts of the Region, though poverty is not alone responsible for resource degradation. The overall rural poverty proportion, according to FAO estimates, was declining between 1980 and 1987 (51.8% vs. 47.7%), with the total number of rural poor increasing (495 million vs. 506 million), though, and a large majority living in Asia (63.2% in 1980 vs. 62.6% in 1987). The Region accounts for about three-fourths of the world's malnourished people. These figures exclude China. Real incomes in several countries of the Region are declining, the ratio of per capita incomes in China and India, for instance, in relation to European countries widened from 1:2 towards the end of the last century to 1:70 currently. Population growth poses a formidable challenge to rural agricultural and non-agricultural employment. Demographic pressure, furthermore, is most intensive in low-potential areas with a majority of poor people and threatens the fragile resource base. Land pressure emerges as the common denominator of agricultural sustainability in the Region and intensification of production systems has to be advanced in ways that do not further undermine but rather enhance the resource base and preserve the environment.
Technology transfer was taken to mean a system under which various inter-related components of technology, namely, "hardware" (materials such as a variety), "software" (technique, know-how, information), humanware (human ability), "orgaware" (organizational, management aspects) and the final product (including marketing) are rendered accessible to the end-users (farmers). The system also includes institutional capacity for technology adoption, adaptation or rejection, constituting a matrix of technology component and institutional capacities for absorbing technologies (Table 1). Thus, technology transfer has both functional and institutional meanings. A technology transfer programme would be considered effective when there is minimal or no gap between the potential and realised impacts of the technology. It means that monitoring of the adoption or adaptation of technologies is an integral part of the technology transfer system. Transfer of technology must therefore be preceded and succeeded by technology assessment, reasserting that technology transfer and assessment are complementary processes.
|Institutional Capacity for technology||Technology components|
|Hardware, Tangibles||Techniques, Software||Knowledge, "Humanware"||Organization, Management||Product, Commercialization|
|Acquisition, Negotiation and Transfer|
|Generation, Upgrading, Adaptation, Invention|
|Reproduction, Capital goods, Manufacture|
One of the prerequisites for effective technology transfer is the appropriateness of the technology. Appropriate technology refers to a technology package which must be technically feasible, economically viable, socially acceptable, environment-friendly, consistent with household endowments, and relevant to the needs of farmers. The concept is a dynamic one and the elements of appropriateness will vary over time and space. Thus technologies are subject to adjustment, change and evolution.
As regards sustainability, the underlying definition is the one adopted by the FAO Council in 1988:
Sustainable development is the management and conservation of the natural resource base, and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations. Such sustainable development (in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors) conserves land, water, plant and animal genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable.It is understood that the definition of sustainability varies between countries. A common denominator should be, however, not to compromise increased productivity.
|Unsustainability Issues||Unsustainability Indicators|
|Arid drylands (500 mm)||Ruminants/pastures|
Short season legumes
Water conservation and use
|Low soil fertility|
Low soil organic matter
Soil erosion & desertification
Soil cover/biomass loss
Yield fluctuations Poverty
Cropping of submarginal lands
Changes of herd composition
|Semi-arid drylands (500-1000 mm)||Ruminants|
|Irrigated lands||Rice-based |
|Weeds, pests & diseases|
Salinity & waterlogging
Micro-nutrient leaching & imbalances
Reduced organic matter
Excessive use of agrochemicals
Lowered water tables
Uncertain water availability
Methane and nitrous oxide emissions
On-farm water management capacity
Plateauing or declining yield levels
|Semi-humid lands (1000-1500 mm)||Food grains (rice)|
Roots and tubers
|Input use Focus on cereals|
Inadequate systems integration
Lack of market development
Availability and management of water
|Reduced ground cover|
Acidification and alkalinity
Pests and diseases
High input use
Soil and water pollution
Prices and income
|Humid lands (>1500 mm)||Plantation
Roots and tubers
|(see semi-humid lands)||(see semi-humid
Loss of biodiversity
|Highlands (average temp. 20 degrees C)||Potato Maize|
|Land tenure |
Accessibility & marketing
Limited technological choice
|Loss of forest cover|
Run off/soil erosion
Reeduced water retention capacity
Loss of biodiversity
Downstream flooding and sedimentation
|Highlands (average temp. >20 degrees C)||Plantation crops Spices Roots and tubers Horticulture Rice, wheat Dairy cattle Agroforestry Coffee, tea Ornamental plants Shifting cultivation||(as above)||(as above) Incidence of shifting cultivation|
Intregrated tree/animal systems
Lack of technologies
Inadequately integrated systems
Competition for land
|Salt water intrusion|
Rising seas levels
Pests and diseases
Reduced organic matter
Reduction of mangrove cover
|Islands (volanic and atoll)||Fruit
trees Roots and tubers|
Integrated coconut/ruminant systems
Lack of technologies
Minimum data sets for the characterization of AEZs and resource endowments (bio-physical and socio-economic), i.e. the environment under which a technology is supposed to operate, were defined as follows:
In subhumid and humid areas, besides soil and bio-diversity conservation, a major objective should be the management of soil acidity and phosphorus fixation. There appears to be scope for the expansion of irrigation in Asia to reduce pressure on upland areas with considerable migration, but the financial implications of irrigation expansion are becoming highly severe.
Irrigated lands are prone to salinization and objectives should be water use efficiency and water resource protection. The decline in yields must be arrested and even reversed through integrated management of nutrients, soil, water and biotic stresses under intensive production systems. It was recognized that these and assured rainfall lowlands provide the bulk of the food and agricultural products.
In highlands, the risk of erosion needs to be checked through conservation measures and afforestation. Of particular interest are second order consequences that may occur at some distance from the production systems, e.g. downstream flooding and sedimentation.
Coastal areas and islands face particular problems of rising sea levels/salt water intrusion and objectives can be defined at the level of global changes, e.g. reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Based on the analysis above, there are several available and needed generic technologies for the AEZs and unsustainability problems, keeping in mind the distinction between information/management- based and material/input-based technologies.
There is emphasis on hand and glove relationship between agriculture and environment. Besides, economic, social and political factors intimately impact agriculture. The increasingly complex world of agriculture thus calls for an integrated approach to be efficiently productive, equitable and sustainable. The governments should develop policy settings to meet this demand. Technology assessment should become an important intervention for research and technology development geared to sustainable agricultural and rural development. It was noted that most of the countries lack the capacity for formulation of appropriate policies and FAO should assist the countries in this regard by sensitizing and enhancing the capacities of policy makers through trainings/seminars and increasing access to information. Policy issues such as intellectual property rights, biosafety, technology standards, incentive structures, trade and pricing, institutional support, and environmental accounting should be addressed to.
To close the gap of information on and to develop desired human resources and institutional systems for sustainable agriculture in the Region, FAO, in close collaboration with other international and national programmes, organize training programmes, workshops and information exchange to sensitize and train extensionists, researchers and farmers to further develop and apply guidelines, methodologies and indicators leading to sustainable agricultural production.
here are, however, considerable technological capacities available in the Region. Some mature NARS and the CGIAR and other international Centres in the Region offer, through regional co-operation and networking, substantial scope for synergies, considering that the Asia-Pacific countries share many of the AEZs, production systems and resource endowments. Given the diversity of development stages in the Region, there are numerous on-the-shelf technologies awaiting assessment for use in other countries.
National capabilities in technology assessment and transfer are critical. The development of such capabilities should be supported initially by FAO and NARS through case studies to generate inventories of resource endowments and unsustainability indicators for (a) given AEZ(s). Of particular interest would be agricultural systems associated with deforestation, besides other basic questions of land use (e.g. agriculture vs. in-situ conservation of biodiversity and agriculture in marginal lands). A suitable methodology should be developed to assess trends in sustainability of such competing land use systems and to identify technologies appropriate for monitoring the trends and for promoting sustainable agriculture.
A complementary effort to the case study approach should be made by FAO to develop and establish inventories of available technologies relevant to productivity and sustainability in agriculture. Initial activities should concentrate on pilot projects, focused on selected technologies representing the range of generic technologies. The information required from inventories should pertain to sources of technology, method(s) of application, environmental friendliness and risks, and broad terms under which technology may be acquired. Attention should be given to intellectual property rights and technologies ready for commercialization. The accessibility and utility of inventories should be monitored by individual countries by a survey of inventory users. Assistance should be provided by FAO and other donors for adaptive trials to support technology adoption.
The majority of the farm holdings in the Asian countries are small and suggested that technologies for them should be information-based, encompassing low use of purchased inputs, improved efficiency of manual labours, especially women, and integrated farming system. Appropriate policy interventions to improve receiving and delivery capacity of small farmers are essential for adoption of new technologies. Appropriate land-tenure system, such as land-to-tiller, would enhance adoption of technology for increased sustainability. Recognizing that, in several countries of the Region, specific programmes focused on technology transfer to small farmers have been in vogue, that such experiences should be critically analyzed and shared with other countries.
Rainfed/dryland, highlands, coastal lowlands and islands are generally endowed with fragile resource base, have low productivity and the majority of the inhabitants are resource-poor and are obliged to eke out an existence in harsh biophysical and socio-economic environments. The task of resource management is very complex and the risk taking capacity of such areas and their people is very low. Therefore, sustainability matters assume very high, if not higher, importance than productivity per se. Risk-resilience and linkage mechanisms specifically designed for resource-poor farmers in harsh environments should be a prime consideration while developing and transferring technologies for such settings.
In order to address unsustainability problems in agriculture in humid and sub-humid lands, the development, evaluation and adoption of new and available technologies should focus on the promotion of integrated agro-economic or market-driven systems. Such integration should consider crop production, horticulture, vegetables, use of ponds, aquaculture, ruminant and non-ruminant livestock, marketable products, and the stability of market outlets.
Post-harvest technologies are a priority area for sustainable agricultural production and growth. It is recommended that the development of post-harvest technologies focus on:
Given the complex multidisciplinary and intersectoral nature of technology development and transfer, effective linkages among concerned sectors and players should be strengthened/established and managed for attaining sustainable agricultural and rural development. Although different types of links will be required for different types of technology, the most important linkages envisaged are: research- extension-farmer, private-public, regulatory agencies-policy-R&D and agriculture-industry-environment. Based on informed judgement, regulatory agencies in individual countries should develop mechanisms and national guidelines and procedures to procure need-based technologies and to use them safely. FAO and other international agencies should establish mechanisms to help recipient countries to obtain protected technologies and to develop harmonized international biosafety standards for safe introduction or development and release of genetically engineered organisms.
Technology transfer approaches vary according to technology packages and target groups. Recognizing that there are serious gaps in technology transfer under certain systems, there is a need to re- evaluate the technology transfer approach. That the transfer of technology (TOT) approach and the training and visit (T&V) method were based on extension of knowledge and "know-how" and were effective only under simplistic, predictable and controlled settings. Under complex and veritable settings of rainfed agriculture, these straight-jacket approaches were rather unsuccessful, and recommended that farming systems and participatory approaches should be followed under such settings. The Beyond Farmer First approach is the latest paradigm of technology transfer. Under this approach, farmers' needs and priorities are put first and farmers participate in research and extension. The shift in the approach calls for professional, institutional and policy-related changes and that for this approach to succeed, human resources development should be strengthened and attitudinal and behavioral barriers would have to be removed. This approach emphasizes on learning and skill development rather than on knowledge and technology per se which are generally contextual in time and space, hence limited in their transferability.
To facilitate the establishment of joint ventures and partnerships of various kinds, it may be expedient to foster regional/sub-regional technology assessment capacity through regional or sub-regional clearing-house or technology assessment center(s). Existing capacities, such as the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) and other networks and institutions, indeed abundant in the region, could be pooled. The suggested regional network, involving sub-regional networks and linking with other networks in the region, would promote cooperation and information exchange, and primarily address sustainability problems, food production and alleviation of poverty. The structure of the network should ensure strong linkages between disciplines and sectors. 1 It will be necessary to generate much of this information in the course of pilot programmes, since the knowledge of the factors determining sustainability and the associated indicators is limited. It is precisely the latter area that could emerge as the most important area for agricultural research in the future.