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My Comment to ?Technology Transfer for the Poor?
7 May, 2007 12:26 pm
I agree fully with David DICKSON, Director of SciDev.Net, author of the article on Technology Transfer, that developing countries must adopt effective policies on technology transfer, meeting the needs of all social classes, including the poorest. He has given an excellent description of the problems with technology transfer, ?demonised in many development policy circles as a process by which multinational corporations become rich at the expense of poor countries ? selling them products they cannot afford and keeping them politically subservient by refusing to license technical know-how.?.
Although being a simple and very cost-effective technology to improve the soil conditions in the drylands, stocking water, fertilizing the soil with mineral and organic elements, enhancing the microbiological activities in the soil and, last but not least, significantly enhancing agricultural and horticultural production (food security !), the TerraCottem soil conditioner is generally seen as a commercial product of the Western countries and not as an effective tool to improve food security in the drylands. Poor rural people in the developing countries would not be in a position to afford such an expensive compound and thus, governments or other decision-makers are mostly not tempted to consider applying such a technology at a larger scale.
Let me bring you some considerations :
- Unlike mineral fertilizer, the TerraCottem soil conditioner (see www.terracottem.com) has only to be applied one single time. It remains active in the soil for many years and an investment cost has therefore to be spread over that number of years.
- TerraCottems water stocking components contribute in a significant way to save irrigation water, even up to 50 % of the volume used normally in the area.
- Its organic components stimulate the development of microbiological activities in the soil, so that after a short period a rather sterile, dry soil is becoming a richer and continuously moistened soil.
- Its granular composition makes it easy to apply without any machinery. It can be mixed with the soil to a depth of 20-25 cm only using the simplest tools (like a small hoe).
- There is no need for complex capacity building of the poor rural people. It takes only some minutes to explain how these granules work in the soil.
With David DICKSON I say :
- .., effective technology transfer, , is now recognised as essential to economic growth and social prosperity.
- .societys poorest sectors are often forgotten in technology transfer debates. Debates raised by the poverty gap between rich and poor countries are being replaced by concerns about the gap within developing countries themselves.
- .the biggest challenge governments face is actively developing forms of technology transfer that will directly benefit the poor. In some relatively rare cases, the utility of a new technology will be enough to reach all levels of society; the mobile telephone is perhaps the best example. In others, however, the needs of the poor are inevitably marginalised by procedures structured around the dynamics of the marketplace.
Investment in soil conditioning in the drylands to improve food production even with a minimum of rain or irrigation water, is one of the most important tasks to achieve sustainable development for the rural people.
It is a choice to make : shall we help the rural people to have better standards of living or shall we refuse to BUY ONLY ONCE FOR A VERY LONG PERIOD such a soil conditioner from a business company ?
Maybe one would prefer to buy them a mobile phone ?
Today I read another publication of SciDev.Net :
Indian loan project gives solar energy to rural poor
30 April 2007
A UN project in India has given thousands of people in rural areas access to reliable electricity by enabling them to take out small loans to purchase solar panels. The project, launched by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2003 in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, facilitated over 18,000 loans for solar panels over three years. ..
This is really a fantastic initiative. Giving people access to reliable electricity by enabling them to take small loans to purchase solar panels is a very constructive program.
Just allow me one last consideration : would it also be possible to enable poor rural people to take a small loan to purchase the TerraCottem soil conditioner. It would certainly bring them less fear for hunger and malnutrition.
Something to think about ?
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Given all that, it is all the more difficult to understand why a good technology can't find the support of decision-makers in the area of development policy. The argument of the initial relatively high investment can easily be countered by a mid to long term economic analysis. The colateral beneficial effects (biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation) only add to the positive picture.
If policy makers remain indifferent to all these arguments, then the poor will have to take things into their own hands and, hopefully, get easy access to microfinancing.