Development projects often fail to give priority to alternative technologies best suited to particular needs; rather, they tend to waste resources on more sophisticated systems which eventually prove unsuited to the purposes they were expected to serve. This situation frequently arises as a result of a lack of information: "small" technologies seldom receive widespread promotion, and consequently planners are unaware of alternative options and existing possibilities. Governments may compound the problem by calling unsophisticated alternatives "inferior". Lack of cooperation among projects or among nations also hinders awareness and acceptance of alternative solutions. However, even if an appropriate technological solution is adopted, it may never filter through the bureaucracy to the village level, where it is actually needed; or the villages may never receive adequate instruction in how to implement the solution.
Examples of village development projects failing, even though all the equipment was available, are legion, especially in the developing world. Irrigation pumps may be installed while the technical knowledge to keep them operating is lacking, so inoperative pumps are stored in a village while at the same time the farmers ask for irrigation equipment. (This knowledge is potentially available since similar engines in automobiles are commonly kept in running order twenty years past their normal life). Other equipment, supplies, materials and skills needed for construction, health improvement, increasing farm production and small industry are available in the larger regional towns, but techniques are expensive to obtain in both time and money. Water wells have been dug for centuries, but today the idea is so prevalent that the ground is too hard or the water too deep to reach even with modern drilling equipment, that a village goes without water that could be near at hand. Fertilisers and other chemicals available from the government require precision application for effective use. Even though their yields could be increased, the farmers do not have the necessary means for using modern farm technology; technology could greatly improve livestock production, yet husbandry goes on as it has for centuries. Commercial techniques of cooperative buying and selling may be understood by vendors and private farmers, yet they are not practised.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
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