In the 1970s, the predominant mode of thinking was the top-down or transfer-of-technology model. New technology would come through transfer of good practices from the developed countries, with diffusion taking place through community development programmes. Diffusion was achieved through the establishment of a number of research institutions, initially through private and bilateral aid and later with multilateral aid, and the transfer-of-technology model became the correct institutional mode for agricultural development. The rationale for this approach was the widespread view that developing country agriculture was technologically primitive and that the rapid population growth rates meant a need for new technology. Similarly it was thought that the problem was not so much one of inefficient agronomic practice as of technology that needed upgrading. At the same time, plant breeders started applying plant characteristics previously confined to temperate food crops - hybrid vigour and dwarfing - to crops grown in tropical countries. The high-yielding varieties that emerged became the basis of what is now known as the Green Revolution.
The Green Revolution is an example of top-down technology transfer, since the impetus came from two international agricultural research centres (forming the basis of the current CGIAR network) rather than the developing countries themselves. Production technologies and varieties for mandated crops and geographical regions were developed in these centres and subsequently passed on to the national agricultural research systems for applied research and final transfer to farmers. Although initially the failure to benefit from modern varieties was thought to be due to ignorance of smaller farmers, later analysis suggests that high-yielding varieties were incompatible with prevailing socio-economic conditions and were only suitable under a specific set of favourable conditions. The centralized nature of the research institutes involved in development and diffusion of the technology did not allow feedback from farmers. Better understanding of the issues derived from the green revolution has led to a growing emphasis on agriculture as a complex dynamic system.
There is a growing realization that technological capacity-building in agriculture, if it is to be successful, should take place as close as possible to agriculture's enterprise equivalent, the farm. Two alternatives to the transfer-of-technology model are the "farming systems research" (FSR) and the "farmer-first-and-last" (FFL) models. The former has emerged mainly from the international agricultural research centres and relies on working with farmers to identify problems. It is intended to involve them to varying degrees in a process of change which takes place wholly or partly on the farm. However, it can be argued that farmer's involvement renders integration into mainstream agricultural research extremely difficult, because of the hierarchical nature of the latter. This has led to the farmer-first-and-last approach, more radical in that it assigns a central role to farmer-generated knowledge. There are many examples of farmers' innovation and their ability to manage complex environments in a sustainable fashion. However, despite the recognition of the value of farmer-generated knowledge, the full nature of this knowledge system, its desired institutional focus, and the extent to which it can contribute to conventional agricultural research systems are issues which are not fully resolved and it is unclear how a farmers' knowledge system would cope with increasingly new agricultural technology.
The Chapshala and Agricultural Tools Research Centre on the Surichi Campus in Gujarat, India is a self-supporting technology centre developing agricultural technologies such as hand tools which reduce physical strain while increasing production, including solar cookers and biogas plants. Several hundred artisans have been trained by a number of organizations to produce these technologies for the village market, providing an effective method for farmers to gain access to new technologies and also to get the relevant services to make use of these technologies.
2. Achieving technological capacity-building in the agricultural sector is both important and rather difficult. The importance is partly due to the fact that the benefits of the Green Revolution have not impinged on particular regions and classes (especially the poorest). This leaves an economic problem to be solved. The difficulties involved in actually achieving such capacity-building relate to the traditional alienation of formal research activities from the real production experiences and knowledge of poor farmers. Hence the challenge is how to create institutional structures that will both mobilize and enhance these key human resources, while at the same time permitting the benefits of scientific research to impinge where needed.