Strengthening local capacity to adapt appropriate technologies

Developing appropriate rural technologies
Making available to rural populations technology that is compatible to local needs, eases their burden (without displacing them), saves energy, and costs little to install or maintain. It is important that local people decide on what to accept and what to reject and that local wisdom and technical expertise are used to design and create adaptations.
Technological innovation is an accelerating factor in rural development.

This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.

As a starting point there needs to be access to information and advice on potential technologies, costs and time involved and the capacity to follow up. A system should be developed to engage the local users actively in the design stage or in an adaptation. On-site pilot experiments and demonstrations both expand the village's vision and provide a relevant local test of adaptability. Finally, training and general education that provides the opportunity for users to test the technology and raise questions.

Cautions and guidelines for the implementation of this strategy include: (1) introduction of new technology unaccompanied by education that explores advantages and disadvantages; (2) providing access to technology on an equitable basis for rich and poor, educated and uneducated; (3) introducing advances that are beyond range of many people in villages; (4) working out the problems at the local level with people; (5) non-consideration of secondary social factors ( [eg] required changes in food preparation, displacement of certain occupations); (6) getting technically capable people who will consider the social factors and work at the local level.

Factors which can accelerate this strategy are: (1) making available listings of major appropriate technology centres and their catalogues to project groups; (2) demonstrations that take the technology to where the people in surrounding the villages have easy access; (3) making an intensive effort to enable acceptance of new technology in one local area and then wider publicity of the usage of the new techniques by the new users themselves; (4) introducing technology to improve local skills and traditional crafts [eg] weaving rather than introduction of new trade like knitting or crocheting; (5) involving women in design conversations regarding subjects like water systems, farm labour, agricultural processing, energy saving or stove design.

The Exchange Group for Appropriate Technology studied approaches which encourage or might encourage the development of rural societies in the Third World. The study brings out on the one hand the technologies at present used by these rural societies and their potential for improvement, and on the other hand the new technologies which they can integrate into their development process. In the case of numerous projects, often carried out by NGOs, the study describes the development of old and new technologies, perfecting technical innovations and fitting them into the rural community. Seven themes are covered: (1) reafforestation and fuelwood savings; (2) wells and boreholds - replenishment of groundwater resources in the Sahel region; (3) grain storage; (4) processing of oil-bearing crops; (5) alternative building techniques; (6) metalworking; and (7) village savings and credit schemes.

The introduction of new technologies in the form of hand-pumps and the introduction of new ideas through education affects and is affected by the cultural context within which it takes place. The challenge of rural development programmes is to provide people with the means to improve their situation and to assist them in successfully incorporating these means into their way of life. However, for assistance to have the maximum desirable effect, the designers and implementers of development projects must understand and be sensitive to the needs and priorities of the people receiving help.
Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies