Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 49
The Poor Maufs Wisdom y Adrian Moyes Technology and the very poor
y Adrian
and the very poor

First published in 1979 ©Oxfam 1979

ISBN 0 85598 042 7

Printed by Express Litho Service (Oxford)

Published by Oxfam 274 Banbury Road, Oxford 0X 2 7DZ

This book converted to digital file in 2010

th e poo r man' s wisdom is despised, an d his words are no t heard .

Ecclesiastes 9:1 6

th e poo r man's wisdo m

technology and th e very poor

by Adrian Moyes








modern technology


local technology


technology "transformation "


political oppositio n


lack of interest


the slow spread of ideas


what Britain can do


Britain's technology programme


how t o do better




recommended reading


Ibt of case boxes


carpentr y too l productio n ; Tanzania



th e Bengal loo ; Bangladesh



aluminium plates ; India







bambo o tub e wells ;/«<i/a



grain storage ; Tanzania



cemen t block-making ; Brazil



water-mill; Malawi



oil-seed crushing; India


  • 10 medical equipment ; Kenya/Tanzania

2 0

  • 11 contour-bunding ; Guatemala/Haiti

2 2

  • 12 theOxtrike;/ndif l


2 4

  • 13 block-lined wells; Tanzania

2 6

  • 14 th e Arusha Appropriat e Technolog y Programme ; Tanzania

2 8

  • 15 pedal grain-grinder; Sudan

3 0

  • 16 th e British programme ; Britain



  • 17 a bette r programme ; Britain

3 4

  • 18 th e Technology Consultanc y Centre ; Ghana




Oxfam's Public Affairs Unit too k th e opportunit y provided by th e United Nations Conference on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD) held in Vienna in August/79 t o see whether there was any way in which Britain could do more t o help th e very poor t o benefit from technology. Its proposals were pub- lished under th e title of Good servant, bad master, in March/79.* This booklet contains a shortened version of tha t paper, together with a series of real-life ex- amples, taken largely from Oxfam's experience.

The booklet is laid out so tha t each left-hand page contains th e tex t of th e general argument, while th e page opposite consists of a "case-box" containing a description

of a particular case which illustrates or complements th e general

text .

Where Oxfam has helped t o finance a scheme, its contribution is included in th e case-box. This is t o give an idea of th e range of grant sizes required for this kind of work. Since Oxfam seldom provides 100% of th e cost of a scheme, it does not give an idea of th e tota l cost — only what one outside aid donor has contributed.

Those wishing t o see any of th e Oxfam files referred t o in the case-boxes should

apply t o th e Overseas Director, Oxfam, 27 4

Banbury Road, Oxford 0X 2


* Available from Oxfam Publications, 274 Banbury Road, Oxford, England, price £ 1 post free


Preparation of this pamphlet has benefited from th e help and comments of:

Anil Agarwal (Earthscan), Professor John Ashworth (Central Policy Review Staff), Andrew Barnett (Science Policy Research Unit, Sussex University), Martin Bell (Science Policy Research Unit, Sussex University), Sir Kenneth Berrill (Central Policy Review Staff), Mary Cherry, Peter Collins, Professor Charles Cooper (Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University), David Davies (Nature), Emmanuel de Kadt (Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University), Professor Charles Elliot (Overseas Development Centre, Swansea University), Anthony Ellman (Common- wealth Secretariat), Archie Forbes, Dr W Francis, Professor Chris Freeman (Science Policy Research Unit, Sussex University), Joseph Hanlon, David Hopper (World Bank), Guy Hunter, Jeffrey James (Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford), Janice Jiggins (Overseas Development Institute), Andrew Likierman (Central Policy Review Staff), VemonLittlev/ood (Intermediate Technology Development Group), Anthony Lovink (International Development Research Centre, Ottawa), Sir Ieuan Maddock (British Association for the Advancement of Science), Dr Geoffrey Oldham (Science Policy Research Unit, Sussex University), Overseas Development Administration staff, Oxfam staff and Field Offices, Arnold Pacey, David Seddon (Overseas Development Group, East Anglia University), Dick Stanley (Arusha Appropriate Technology Programme), Harford Thomas, Tropical Products Institute staff, Dr Roy Turner (Science Policy Research Unit, Sussex University), Michael Walsh (Crown Agents), Sir Geoffrey Wilson (International Development Research Centre), Jack Wood, Martin Wood, David Wright (Intermediate Technology Industrial Services Unit), Lord Young of Dart ing ton .

Oxfam thanks all those who gave their time and energy t o help .


Sixteen years ago th e UN held a big conference on science and technology for development. Looking back, those now seem days of almost Victorian optimism tha t th e powers of technology could solve th e world's problems; th e Green Revolu- tion suggested miracle seeds as th e solution t o hunger, nuclear power offered endless energy, even th e space programme suggested nothing was to o difficult.

Now it all looks a bit different. In th e rich world technology seems t o spawn problems at least as fast as it solves them — nuclear waste, pollution, unemploy- ment , increased use of raw materials. And in th e poor countries technology has no t (at least not yet ) done much for th e world's poor; 800m of them, about a fifth of th e world's population, live in what the World Bank calls "absolute poverty " — and as many again are only a bit bette r off. One reason for this, we can see more clearly now, lies in th e politics of technology — "Producing technology means producing instruments of control and influence over other individuals, firms and nations" , as th e Dag Hammarskjold Foundation put i t in 1975 . In othe r words, the rich control th e use of technology, and most often they use it for their own benefit. In doing so the y sometimes help the poor indirectly bu t often they by-pass them or make them worse off.

Oxfam sees a lo t of th e casualties of technology — bot h those who are actively hurt (for example by losing their land or a job) , and those who have been merely left behind. In two decades of working with the very poor, Oxfam (which finances abou t a thousand projects at any one time) , has accumulated a lot of experience of how technology can help — and harm. It sees how much technology th e poor already possess (an amount which surprises those who think tha t people are poor because they are ignorant) . It also sees how much more technology th e poor could be using.

The wonders of technology cannot, of course, be spread instantly all over th e world; th e spread and adaptation of knowledge is bound t o be slow. But there is a big gap between what is available and what is used. To Oxfam tha t gap is unacceptable.

This pamphlet explains the reasons for the gap, and makes some proposals on how Britain could help t o close it .

It is based on Oxfam's own experience, and so it concentrates on th e sort of tech- nology tha t th e very poor can use and control themselves. An example of how even th e very poor and unskilled can produce their own carpentry tools is given in Case-box 1.

Oxfam is concerned with helping people t o be more as well as to have more ; it cares not just about change — bu t who decides tha t change is desirable, who organ-

ises it , and who benefits from it . It aims t o help people handle their own affairs, and tha t includes controlling their technology - which can best be done by helping

people t o make bette r use


the technology they already have, and t o select and

adapt outside technology. Only by releasing the energy and inventiveness of the poor can poverty be ended. But tha t is only one of th e possible approaches t o the problem of using technology

case box 1 hammer and saw plus th e item s h e has made himself
case box 1
hammer and saw plus
th e
item s h e
made himself
chisels, screwdriver,
carpentry tool production
wood-drill ,
set-square, adze , axe , plane ,
mallet, vice , measuring gauge, and lon g
handled knife ,
kee p the m in .
togethe r
wit h
bo x
th e
se e
educatio n as a means fo r their children t o
escape poverty b y moving ou t o f the
The y are no t precision tool s o f course ,
countryside or slum. The y
means o f getting a jo b in a different
world — in th e civil service or the rail-
bu t the y are goo d enoug h t o make tables ,
chairs, beds , doors , window-frames, brick
mould s and s o on
the y
are a con -
way s for example . The y d o no t se e i t as
a means
o f
helping their children t o live
more productivel y and happily where
the y are. Whether or no t their hope s are
desirable, th e parents' expectation s abou t
school s are correct; very littl e formal
educatio n in the Third World is designed
tinuing reminder t o each studen t o f his
ow n abilities — a continuin g boos t t o
his confidenc e in himself as a person
wit h th e skill t o make somethin g worth -
whil e ou t o f almost nothing .
Th e Schoo l
o f
th e potentia l for
is an exampl e o f
loca l technolog y
t o
hel p
th e pupils
t o
live bette r in their
ow n environment.
In Sanza village, in central Tanzania,
there is a Schoo l o f Work (Shul e y a
Kazi) whic h aims t o demonstrat e that it
is possibl e wit h onl y a littl e extra skill t o
live bette r in the countrysid e than in th e
and loca l capabilities t o make modes t
bu t substantial improvements — bot h i n
living standards and in self-confidence .
It also show s th e very small financial
inputs neede d for this kind o f develop -
men t work.
objectiv e is t o turn ou t villagers
Oxfam contribution
town . Th e
£15,252 over 3 years
wh o can work mor e productivel y bot h
Oxfam file TAN 86c
withi n their ow n families and withi n
their village community . The 10-mont h
course includes agriculture, livestock ,
carpentry, metal-work, masonry, brick-
making, lime-making and village and
and international politics . Th e
cos t per studen t is £15 0 fo r the course .
Part o f th e carpentry course consist s
o f making carpentry
tool s
— which
are several
time s th e
Euro-America. Th e students are provided
wit h a saw and a hammer; everything
els e the y
make themselves
— using
th e
stee l o f
old car springs t o
make th e
blades and shafts, and a local hardwood
(mninga) t o make the frames, blocks ,
handles, etc . At the end o f th e course
studen t takes hom e wit h hi m his
ow n
tool-ki t
o f
A standing vice. The operator uses his foot to
press down the levers on the right, thus gripping
whatever is placed on to p of th e main tool .
From First Steps in Village Mechanisation by
George Macpherson.

t o benefit th e very poor . There are many who say the world has not got time t o start from where the poor are and build slowly up from there . It is better , the y argue, t o give scientists and technologists the resources the y need t o make major breakthroughs — so tha t th e poor can be helped t o make really rapid strides. Examples are education by satellite, advanced science t o eliminate tropical diseases, and th e creation of resources out of what are at present non-resources — waves, wind and, especially, sun-soaked deserts (most of which are conveniently sited in poor countries).

Such breakthroughs need social and political changes if th e poor are t o benefit from them , and they may result in changes in skill patterns (more work for blacksmiths maybe, and less for potters) — bu t there is n o reason t o perpetuate old skills if th e majority of th e poor really benefit from th e new ones;i n all societies tha t are changing (including Britain) this kind of thing happens.

Another approach is t o start, not from where th e poor are , but from where th e technology is — and adapt it for use by th e poor. This approach includes th e application of high technology such as micro-processors t o obtain dramatic im- provements in th e efficiency of village diesel engines for grinding and irrigation, ferro-cement (cement on a framework of chicken wire — used for water and grain storage, ships, and so on) , and pedal powered devices for grinding, winnowing and pumping. This has been th e traditional line taken b y aid programmes (UN, govern- ment and voluntary). It looks easier than it is . There is a lot more t o adapting technology than modifying the hardware. Two of Oxfam's attempts t o adapt Euro-American technology for use by th e poor are described in Case-boxes 2 and 12; th e Bengal loo and th e Oxtrike . In bot h cases there have been many diffi- culties, and the Oxtrike in particular is still a long way from real-life use.

There is no t enough evidence yet t o see which approach is th e best. So in th e mean- while it seems sensible t o use all. This pamphlet emphasises one of them — building up local technologies and helping people t o select and adapt outside technology — partly because tha t is where Oxfam's experience lies, partly because it has been th e most neglected of th e three , partly because it is a vital resource in th e fight against poverty, and partly because the poor are likely t o remain poor if the y depend on th e technology of the rich.

the "very poor "

It is difficult t o measure poverty, and th e numbers affected by it . For th e purposes of this pamphlet it is sufficient t o take th e World Bank's estimate of nearly 800m people living in what it calls "absolute poverty" . The majority of them are in rural areas, and th e greatest concentration is in South Asia and Indonesia.

th e "Third World "

Because th e countries of the world form a spectrum running from th e very rich t o the very poor, and because many poor people live in countries tha t are relatively rich as conventionally measured (eg by average income per head), there is no satis- factory way of describing the group of countries which contain a lo t of very poor people. Underdeveloped countries, less-developed countries, developing countries, th e Third World, are some of the terms tha t have been used. The term Third World is used here because it does at least reflect (through the use of the word "world" ) the diversity of th e countries it contains. And it is short. The Third World contains 97 countries with a population of about 1900m, nearly half of th e world's people.

case box 2 th e Benga l Banglades h lo o Abou t 1,30 0 m
case box 2
th e Benga l
Banglades h
lo o
Abou t 1,30 0 m peopl e (67% o f Third
World population ) lack adequate sewage
facilities. The resulting high disease rates
cause abou t 25,00 0 death s per day . But
th e nineteent h
sewage syste m
century British-type urban
is seldo m th e right answer;
consist o f tw o large pillow-shaped buty l
rubber bags, each wit h a capacit y o f
18,00 0 litres. Th e sewage is hel d in thes e
tanks for 1 0 days , during which the
storage tim e and th e lack o f oxyge n kill
almost all germs, worms , eggs, bacteria,
et c — in particular thos e giving rise t o
cholera, typhoid , dysentry , whip-worm,
round-worm and hook-worm . The result-
ing effluent is free from danger and smell.
it woul d cos t about £100,000 m t o install
adequate conventiona l sewage system s i n
th e Third World — and there are operat-
ing and maintenance cost s o n to p o f that .
Th e rapidly growing citie s o f th e world
(Third World rural-urban migration is esti-
Th e loo s are simpl y flushed wit h water
b y hand , and quit e elaborate structures
bambo o are designed, made and
operated b y th e local peopl e t o ensure
th e suppl y o f water. The y also emplo y
mated at 75,00 0
somethin g much
peopl e per day ) require
simpler t o operate , and
someon e t
th e latrines
o ensure regular cleaning o f
and t o desludge the "pillows "
every three months . Onc e installed th e
less costl y
t o install and
maintain. Espec-
ially in th e slum areas where the poo r
loo s are thus self-financing (apart from
major repairs).
Th e
loo s
provided a psycholo -
On e alternative metho d is th e Oxfam
Sanitation Unit , originally designed for
refugee camps in Bangladesh where con -
dition s are crowded , sewage disposal
primitive, and th e risk o f disease (par-
ticularly cholera) very high. The Units
gical boos t as well . Peopl e can excret e i n
private, green grass and fruit trees grow
around th e units , on e
tim e cess-pools
have becom e swim-pools (stocke d with
duck and fish for food) , and in on e case
a mosqu e is locate d alongside a Unit .
Bu t developmen t o f th e Units has no t
yet .
buty l
rubber is no t
easily or cheapl y available t o mos t peopl e
th e
Third World. S o Oxfam is no w
othe r materials and
structures t o se e if the y ca n b e arranged
t o produc e th e same effect . Local cemen t
and bricks will b e used where possible .
Th e Oxfam
attemp t
Lo o is a goo d exampl e
o f
t o
technolog y
t o
need s
o f
poor .
It illustrates
the potentia l
o f doin g so , and also ho w such adaptations
ofte n nee d several stages o f developmen t
t o
ensure that
th e loca l
peopl e can use
contro l
technolog y
A Unit under construction. The squatting plates
will have partitions between them and the butyl
rubber "pillows" will fit into th e holes in th e
background Bob Reed, Oxfam.
Oxfam contribution
£388,529 over 5 years
Oxfam file BD 42

modern technology

Science and technology are not neutral ; they do no t benefit everybody equally. They nearly always tend t o benefit those who can afford t o take th e risks of innovation - and in any society tha t means th e richer and more powerful. Even where science and technology are intended t o help everybody equally, the y still tend t o benefit th e rich; th e "miracle " wheat and rice seeds of th e Green Revolution turned out t o benefit th e farmers who could afford th e irrigation, fertiliser and pesticides.

The Third World today is full of examples where modern technology has harmed th e poor — usually by reducing the amount of labour required, bu t sometimes by producing a superior and/or cheaper product than tha t of traditional workers.

Plastic buckets and bowls, for instance, are superior in almost every way t o clay pots — bu t village potters lose out . Plastic sandals are cheaper than leather ones, and because of this more poor people wear them and thus protec t themselves

against hookworm.

But leatherworkers lose work — which is particularly import-

ant in India where leatherwork is considered unclean, and is mostly done by th e very poor . The case of th e Indian aluminium plate makers is described in Case-box 3 .

Unless a new technology utilises otherwise unused resources and produces a product which does no t compete with existing ones, then someone somewhere will be hurt

by losing a jo b or a market. Unfortunately few technologies do tha t (one tha t does

is described in Case-box 4) , and so

modern technology usually hurts someone.

Sometimes it hurts th e rich, as with the loss of a transport or water supply monopoly — bu t most often th e poor.

Modern technology can do more than increase unemployment. It can destroy local skills and confidence. As George Macpherson puts it : "Brightly painted tools and

metal goods from foreign lands appeared (in Africa) and any pressure on th e

blacksmith t o develop new procedures

(as he had done in th e past) was lifted, and

he was left t o produce only such items as th e shops did no t sell"*. Similarly, the availability of modern food products and th e introduction of cash crops in Latin America reduces th e pressure on women t o learn about local foods; knowledge of herbs, leaves, roots , etc , is becoming confined t o th e elderly and may soon die out . In Mali, herdsmen are coming t o believe tha t they cannot help themselves; their onl y hope of salvation lies in th e World Bank with its modern techniques. The process has been going on for a long time . In 1700 India was the largest ex- porter of textiles in th e world; b y 1850 i t was a ne t importer of Lancashire cotton .

In 1800 the Batswana people of Southern Africa made knives the y considered superior t o imported English ones. But the English knives proved cheaper, and th e Batswana lost their iron-working skills. Under-development is partly the creation of Euro-American technology. The process continues today , but because the pro- ducts of traditional technology are not usually included in calculations of Gross National Product, their disappearance is seldom noticed.

*George Macpherson, First Steps in Village Mechanisation, Tanwnia Publishing House, Dare es Salaam, 1975

case box 3 the aluminium came from Birla, India's second largest industrial consortium, aluminium plates and
case box 3
the aluminium came from Birla, India's
second largest industrial consortium,
aluminium plates
and so Birla was alerted to the new
making dishes from
Metal plates, dishes, and utensils are used
very extensively in India. They are tough
and easy to clean — and even very poor
families usually possess a few. In the
1960s Indian metal-workers began mak-
ing them out of aluminium, instead of the
"traditional" but increasingly expensive
brass and steel. The plates could easily
be cut and shaped with simple machines
and tools. They were sold in the villages,
often by the workers themselves. It cost
about £10 0 to create one job.
An ideal application of appropriate
technology, it might be thought. But
anodised aluminium. The new dishes
sold better because they were shiny.
That killed the village version.
This is an example of how a modern
technology can destroy a local one
(local, but not particularly old). Some
people benefited - the owners of Birla,
and the numerous people, many of them
very poor, who got better value for
money in the shape of plates with a shine
on. But the plate-makers were harmed
— and the society in which they lived was
to an extent diminished by the loss
of their own technology and the self-
confidence that went with it.
source Joseph Hanlon "Does AT walk on plastic sandals?", New Scientist, May 25/77 , p 468
Even the poorest in India possess some metal dishes. This picture shows the entire household
possessions of one villager in Bihar, India. Alan Leather, Oxfam
Most of th e more sophisticated technology in th e Third World exists for th e
Most of th e more sophisticated technology in th e Third World exists for th e 10-20%
of th e population who are rich enough t o provide a market for manufactures. Most
of these people live in towns and most have jobs in factories, offices or services,
bu t ther e are also some rural rich such as merchants, speculators, moneylenders,
coffee planters and so on . The markets the y provide, and thus their technological
needs, are very
t o those in Europe and Nort h America - as th e richer
parts of Bombay, Kinshasa, Rio , or Port au Prince so visibly confirm. Their educa-
tion , cultural habits, and pattern s of consumption are essentially Euro-American.
So is th e technology the y have set up t o service themselves.
Scientists and technologists (who may be in rich countries, or in the minority rich
sectors of Third World countries) have acquired traditions, criteria, and assumptions
which have evolved as part of th e mechanism of development in Euro-America.
They assume, for instance, tha t it is desirable t o stimulate consumption by produc-
ing many varieties of th e same product ; tha t rapid circulation of goods benefits
th e economy, so tha t a fast rate of obsolescence is desirable; tha t since most of th e
population has already satisfied its basic needs, th e best way of stimulating con-
sumption is t o produce more sophisticated goods, whatever their social value; tha t
innovations are worthwhile even if the y add little t o consumer satisfaction.
It is possible of course for individual scientists and technologists t o over-ride these
assumptions, and some have done so . But th e assumptions are basic t o a rich
society's technology and the y account in part for th e failure t o apply it t o th e
needs of th e very poor.
But th e conclusion is no t t o join th e Luddites - t o condemn all technology. The
very poor often benefit as consumers of cheaper or bette r products. It is those who
are producers of th e products in question who are harmed directly. Most of th e
very poor are affected only indirectly — b y th e loss of skills and of confidence in
their own
abilities. The need is not t o
ban modern technology, bu t t o equip the
poor t o take advantage of it , and t o develop th e sort of political and social arrange-
ments tha t will enable them t o do so .
case box 4 and th e cos t o f th e cemen t and th
case box 4
and th e cos t o f th e cemen t and th e finger-
lings. Th e onl
outsid e hel p h e get s is
advice from
th e programme staff and
th e
temporary us e
o f tool s owne d b y th e
Th e pond s are run b y me n —
Very ofte n on e technolog y drives ou t
another ; it doe s the same job , or nearly
th e same , mor e efficiently . Paper-making,
metal-work, pottery , leather-work,
whic h is important becaus e me n d o littl e
productive agricultural work in th e Zaire
and the y constitut e a major underused
resource. Th e schem e is designed s o
weaving, and furniture-making are som e
o f th e man y example s o f loca l technolo -
gie s that can b e replaced, and thus
almost th e onl y
things neede d from out-
weakene d
or destroyed . But som e tech -
side th e village are cemen t and advice ,
and th e advice will no t b e needed inde
finitely .
nologie s d o no t replace anything ; the y
create somethin g entirely ne w (ne w t o a
particular area, that is - no t necessarily
ne w t o th e world) . Ideally , the y make use
o f resources hithert o unused . One such
i s fish-farming i n th e Zaire.
Th e
pond s
constructe d
valleys and fe d b y channels from springs.
The y cove r abou t 1/3 acre. The y are
stocke d wit h fingerling (youn g fish)
o n
manure, grasses, leaves
A goo d
yiel d
is 33 0
kg a year. Even after
paying all cost s and keeping som e fish fo r
th e
family , a fish-farmer
wit h
profit o f several hundred pounds . In
Steve Cavell, Oxfam
mos t place s there
s o
even th e
plent y o f suitable
very poo r can ge t
goo d
exampl e o f
access t o one .
whil e idea initially rejected b y
peopl e
becaus e
it wa s impose d
a worth -
th e loca l
Th e old colonia l Belgian Congo
government introduced fish-farms o n a
tivel y o n the m from outside . When later
introduce d in a different
— in
befor e
independence , bu t
same area — th e idea caught
on . It is also
the y were no t successful; there was a
ta x
goo d
exampl e
o f
technolog y
o n
potentia l
(no t
actual) production ,
somethin g ne w - and from unused re-
littl e
available, and
there was a lo w level o f loca l involve-
men ,
valleys ,
ment . In th e past fe w years a programme
vegetabl e
bee n
t o
in Bandundu Province
bee n
create bot h
largely because
o n
protei n
food ,
whic h canno t be
th e
o f
it relies
th e local
th e moment )
s o
is eate n
locall y
people . A farmer joinin g the schem e has
and no t sent t o th e towns .
t o
contribut e
month s o f
Oxfam contribution
for each pon d h e put s int o production ,
£10,715 over 3 years
Oxfam file ZAI 78
local technology The poor already possess a lo t of technology. It is one of th
local technology
The poor already possess a lo t of technology. It is one of th e things which keeps
them alive. But it is in some ways different from Euro-American technology. For
one thing , it is based more on knowledge than on understanding — and different
amounts of knowledge are available t o local people. People know a lot about an
above-ground insect whose whole life-cycle is in one area, bu t much less about a
below-ground insect invisible for much of th e time , or about a locust which breeds
hundreds of miles away. Sometimes th e lack of understanding is serious — as
in th e cause of diseases. Sometimes it matters
less — it is enough t o know
tha t a
crop disease spreads rapidly at times of heavy rain without understanding tha t it is
spread by th e raindrops splashing u p from th e ground.
Local technology also differs in tha t th e needs it is geared t o meet are basic needs
— in effect survival. The aim is not so much t o
save labour or t o introduce new
products, bu t t o ensure survival under th e worst possible conditions. The ways
tha t worked in th e past are more trustworth y tha n anything new; conservatism is
life insurance.
Local technology is not
old, traditional
or static — though it may be
any or all. It includes th e ability t o add t o itself — from outside if need be . Metal '
hoes and maize are relatively new in Africa, though they now look traditional,
and th e aluminium plates made in Indian villages (see Case-box 3) are very new.
Local technology consists of an extensive body of skills, an enormous amount of
information, and a strong element of experimentation. The body of skills includes
such things as sun-dried food preservation, innumerable methods of raising water,
floating fish-farms in the Mekong river (a giant floating cage, anchored in th e river),
water-mills in norther n India (almost identical t o European mediaeval ones),
waste re-cycling (especially in South-East Asia), metal work (in 1800 an English
traveller sent samples of Indian iron and steel t o Sheffield — t o illustrate th e
standards t o aim for), house-building t o make th e most of local materials — and,
of course, agriculture; every farmer is th e expert on what his land will produce,
under any weather conditions.
Local information is often, perhaps
usually, superior t o tha t of outsiders, however
highly qualified and scientific. A survey carried ou t in Ghana in 1970, for instance,
showed tha t th e farmers' knowledge of soils is, from a practical point of view,
superior t o tha t of th e university and agricultural extension staff.
A study of th e Hanunoo people in th e Philippines revealed tha t th e average adult
could identify an amazing 1,600 species of plant — some 40 0 more than were
identified in a systematic botanic survey. The Hanunoo have thre e different ways
of describing slopes, four different ways of describing th e firmness of th e soil,
nine colour categories t o reflect its properties, and 10 basic types and 30 subtypes
of rocks. The Hanunoo are not unique ; other studies have found similar knowledge
elsewhere — for example in Nigeria and among th e southern African bushmen.
Experimentation is an important part of local technology — provided tha t there is
case box 5 mers wit h 2V2-5 acres (b y poorest farmers), and onl y n
case box 5
mers wit h 2V2-5 acres (b y
poorest farmers), and onl y
n o means
th e
10% b y thos e
bamboo tubewells
wit h less than
1 0 acres.
10-2 0
wa s th e
wh o
benefite d
most .
Th e
The bambo o tubewel l was invented in
Bihar (north-eastern India) abou t te n
very small and distant plots ,
cult t o irrigate eve n wit h a mobil e pump -
years ago . A s usual, nee d was
it s mother .
set , and
t o guard against stray
The government had decide d t o encourage
cattl e
the y
were cultivating at a tim e
irrigation b y making loan s for tubewells
whe n
othe r
peopl e
were not .
Rs4,00 0
An d
and diesel
pumping sets . But no t many
(£230) ,
fanner s go t them ; th e
(£230) , and th e same
wells cos t Rs
4,00 0
again for th e pump
for which the y foun d it hard t o get
— and credit was onl y available t o
farmers. Also , there were onl y a fe w very
slo w drilling rigs. S o farmers began t o
experimen t wit h cheaper methods . One
though t o f using bambo o as a lining, and
bambo o
and coi r (from coconuts ) t o
make th e strainer. The onl y non-local
materials were th e coir and som e strips
o f galvanised iron t o hol d the casing in
place and pitch . The wells wen t dow n
70-80ft ; boring b y th e sludger metho d
too k 20-2 5 days. All th e necessary skills
were locall y available — largely through
experienc e with small handpump wells .
Assuming all materials purchased, and
all labour hired, the cos t was cut t o
RslOO-16 0 (£6-9 ) - compared t o £23 0
for the original government version.
There was a further innovation ; the diesel
pump-sets were bolte d o n t o ox-carts s o
Boring a tubewell by the sludger method -Bihar,
India. A metal tube full of water is lifted up and
down in a wooden derrick. A man uses his hand
as a value to let water and mud out at the top .
The resulting hole is later lined with bamboo.
on e pump coul d service several wells ,
Jim Cranmer, Oxfam.
and a pum p owne r coul d hel p get his
investment back b y hiring ou t his pump .
is an exampl e
o f a Third World
At first government agencies frowned
invention , using loca l materials and skills,
whic h caught o n very rapidly. It also
o n
eventua l
pumps used wit h
bambo o
tub e wells. When the y
so ,
illustrates ho w th e poo r ma y b e debarred
from benefiting from ne w technolog y
b y such factors as th e distribution and
there was a very rapid rise in their number ;
15 4 in 1968/9 , 1,20 0 in 1970/1 , and
19,00 0 b y 1972/3 .
siz e
o f
plots , and th e priorities o f
Source Ed Clay, Planners'preferences
But despit e its cheapness and apparent
success, ver y fe w small fanner s benefited .
Only a fe w wells were installed b y far-
local innovation in tubewell irrigation technology
in NEIndia, IDS discussion paper No. 40 ,
little or no risk. Most people do not have enough spare resources t o risk a
little or no risk. Most people do not have enough spare resources t o risk a failure.
But where th e risk is strictly limited, there is a surprising amount of experiment.
The Hanunoo, who possess a very stable agricultural system, show great interest in
unfamiliar varieties of plant , testing them in small plots near their homes. In Bihar
(India) th e bamboo tubewell, described in Case-box 5 , is an example of a useful
innovation developed out of experiments carried out over a number of years in
th e late 1960s.
The importance and potential of local technology is only now becoming recognised.
Even today it is widely underestimated by those trained in Euro-American tech-
nology - especially Third World people. Indeed it is systematically disregarded
and downgraded by local technological and agricultural advisers, who need t o prove
th e superiority of th e prestigious knowledge they have acquired. Sometimes th e
advisers do no t take their own advice; the y tell people t o cultivate a single crop in
a field for instance, while continuing th e traditional practice of planting a second
one between th e rows of th e first on their own fields. But more often people come
t o accept tha t there are two types of knowledge, and tha t their own isi inferior.
In Bihar (India) and Nigeria there are examples of farmers who have adopted
chemical fertilisers as "modern practice " while abandoning the more effective
green manuring "traditional practice" .
The supposed superiority of modern technology is a serious obstacle t o develop-
ment and a serious danger t o local technology. But i t is equally foolish t o suppose
tha t local technology is necessarily superior. The case for local technology does not
rest on its superiority over modern technology. It rests on three othe r things. First,
local people possess a store of useful knowledge and technology which outsiders
do not . Second, people are more likely t o work successfully on something the y
have had a hand in devising. And third , if the poor are t o handle their own affairs,
the y must control their technology - and th e best way of doing tha t is for them t o
improve th e technology they already possess, and for them t o decide what out-
side technology t o use.
Local technology has never been static , and part of its attraction is its ability t o
incorporate new technology from outside . In the past tha t process has often been
to o slow.
The task today is t o speed it up - and t o help the poor develop the
ability t o improve their own technology and t o select and adapt from outside.
That may sound a difficult task - especially when so many outsiders deride local
technology. But it can be done . An example from Tanzania is given in Case-box 6.
But th e cost of doing tha t sort of project on a large scale would be prohibitive;
there are 8,000 villages in Tanzania alone, and Tanzania has a population of only
15m. There is a long way t o go in developing techniques for doing something
similar on a mass scale.

case box 6

grain storag e Tanzani a

Tanzanian villagers know quite a lot about storing grain from one harvest t o another. Otherwise, of course, they would be dead by now. In Bwakira Chhii village, each family stores its own grain using quite a variety of structures, some incorporating a cooking fire to help dry the grain and keep insects away. A team of Tanzanians visited the village in 1976 with the aim of helping the villagers t o make greater use of their existing know- ledge, and to select storage technologies from outside.






end result was









The team based its activities on the belief that the villagers themselves could go a long way towards solving their own problems on the basis of their own skills and resources. They returned to the vil- lagers in a systematised form all the information they got from them, thus giving them confidence that they possessed a concrete technology. The villagers pro- vided detailed information - for instance on the resistance of hardwoods to insects, the behaviour of rats (avoiding the rat-guards by jumping from post to post), and previous local experience with insecticides. They explained that the maize had t o be home-dried — because it had to be harvested moist — because the farmers could not protect it for long in the fields from the wild pigs and monkeys - because there was not enough co- operation in the village to have communal pig-sentries.

The villagers were not overwhelmed into accepting the team's suggestions:

they rejected many of them, including air-tight stores and communal storage. They picked and chose from among their own practices and from the team's sug-

An improved "dungu" grainstore.

At the end of the two months, this was the scene; IS new village-designed grain stores were built and in use; several other improved stores were built; even the poorest were using insecticide; the village storage committee had set up a research project to monitor results; and the village had agreed to teach 15 other villages t o analyse their storage problems. Later the Committee held a seminar at the University at which they answered detailed questions from the students — questions t o which they had no difficulty in supplying the answers. It was at this point, says the Report on the project, that the Committee members really began t o see themselves as storage experts.

This is an example of

  • - helping people to make greater use of their own technology

  • - building up their confidence

  • - helping them to select outside tech- nology.


Oxfam contribution

Oxfam file TAN 6h



technology "transformation*

The principles and techniques of technology are valid all over th e world. But th e social and economic activities needed t o make use of those principles and tech- niques vary as much as people and societies do . When technology is transferred from one society t o another, th e principles and techniques remain th e same, bu t the y can be re-arranged and combined with a different set of social and economic activities — t o make a technology tha t has been "transformed" .

In Zululand, for example, local "witchdoctors " have taken over th e principles of nutritio n taught in th e Valley Trust nutritio n programme; the y now grow and sell spinach, and have asked th e Valley Trust t o lay on cooking and nutritio n demon- stration courses for trainee "witchdoctors" . The principles of nutritio n are th e same bu t th e social means of delivery are a bit different. The local people have trans- formed th e technology because the y have been able t o see ways of combining th e principles learned with th e activities of their existing institutions.

Most Third World communities, especially rural ones, are ill-equipped for th e trans- formation of technology; they have no access t o th e little bits of modern research

tha t could help improve their existing equipment, nor do the y have th e workshops

where such adaptations could

be made . But the y do have

some power t o transform

technology. Where the y are presented with a range of new techniques, the y can

select for themselves the one most relevant t o their needs,

and the y can combine it

with elements from their own technology. And above all the y

can work ou t th e

social and economic arrangements the y need t o use th e new techniques.

For if technology is t o be successfully transformed, it has t o fit in with th e institu- tions of its new users, or if it demands institutional changes, the y must be ones tha t th e local people agree with and can handle . The institutions may be at family level,

as when a new agricultural technique tend s t o transfer work

from women t o their

husbands. They may be at village level, as when village meetings have t o choose somebody t o go for training as a village health worker, or when a savings club is set up so tha t people can join together t o buy fertilizers. Or the y may be at local

government level, as when the technicians needed t o maintain village whole district, and have t o be organized from a central office.

pumps cover a

Sometimes new technology can fit comfortably int o th e activities of existing institutions, as when a family builds itself a latrine withou t outside help . Some- times existing institutions can extend t o cope with a new technology, as when traditional village elders organize a village health committee or water scheme. And sometimes entirely new institutions have t o be devised, bu t in such a way as t o be compatible with existing ones. Case-boxes 7 and 8 illustrate th e importance of th e connection between institutions and technology.

When experts talk about "institutional obstacles" t o new technology, the y often mean tha t local people are unwilling t o accept new institutions or t o pu t in th e effort t o make them work. In Oxfam's experience, however, a greater problem is tha t Euro-American-trained experts tend t o think tha t technology offers ready- made solutions t o problems, and are unwilling t o recognise tha t new technology


case box 7

cemen t block-makin g Brazil

Th e value o f a piec e o f technolog y t o th e

very poo r depends

o n

the social arrange-

ment s




In north-East


fo r instance , there is a simple cemen t


machine .

It consists

o f


moul d which is filled wit h a mixture o f

sand and cemen t (o r lime ) and vibrated wit h a moto r (electri c or diesel ) for 2 0 seconds . Th e resulting bloc k has three cavities in it t o economis e o n materials. It can b e used wherever electricit y or a

- all th e large and in most o f th e smaller

diese l engine is available

i n effec t

i n

town s o f th e interior.

This machine coul d easily be used b y private entrepreneurs t o make them- selves as big a profit as th e market woul d bear. Fin e for everyon e able t o afford th e blocks .

case box 7 cemen t block-makin g Brazil Th e value o f a piec e


A n alternative arrangement, devised b y PA T AC , a Brazilian developmen t organ-

isatio n funded

b y Oxfam , enables

eve n

thos e

wit h n o

resources at all

t o build

themselve s

a reasonable

hous e or repair


existin g

ones .


Th e

machine s


managed b y groups o f families. With

th e machine , on e group

can make

1,00 0

block s



day .


hous e




1,50 0

blocks , s o



fe w day s

o f


tim e



is possibl e t o make

enoug h

for bot h a hous e and a profit — which

pays for

th e

mortar) , and

cemen t (fo r th e block s and

th e roofing materials. Many

peopl e can onl y work in the evenings

(whe n there is littl e light ) or o n Sundays

it takes


Also ,



— and day s th e

s o price o f

cemen t

is goin g up , s o

i t take s eve n longe r t o make enoug h

pa y

for it . PATAC operates a

block s t o revolving

loa n fund

s o



thos e

wit h n o resources t o start wit h can

benefit .

In practice , however , th e technologica l

hardware is onl y


small starting poin t

for developin g th e social arrangements t o handl e othe r problems too . Th e families help each othe r wit h obtaining materials, hous e design , obtaining titl e t o their land , and s o on . Having started wit h house-building, the groups are be- comin g interested i n a range o f practical and social problems; the y are puttin g pressure o n the local authorities, for instance , t o install drains, water and elec - tricity .


Th e


value o f

this particular bi t

o f

hardware lie s in th e confidenc e





gives in



insolubl e


— like



decen t hous e whe n you'v e n o spare cash



o r gettin g

a municipal

authorit y


Brazil t o provide water for the poorest .



Oxfam contribution

Oxfam file BRZ 141

£168,661 over 7 years


always involves institutional change. By leaving this ou t of account, the y doom their projects t o failure.

Transformation of a new technology takes quite a long time . People

have t o be

able t o see th e new device or technique actually working under local conditions, decide whether it is useful t o them, and work out what changes in their way of life and their institutions may be necessary if the y use it .

It may mean more time for women, or more work for women; it may involve more money for everyone, or more money for one or two people ; it may lead t o less free time in th e festival season, or to o much work in th e peak weeding season; it may


community work t o empty latrines, or community contributions t o pay for

a maintenance worker. People also need time t o work out and test different ver- sions of th e technology t o see which is th e best . It is quite seldom tha t a technique is adopted b y the people immediately, in th e form in which it is first introduced.

Technology tha t is not transformed almost always fails, as th e Third Worldwide litter of failed aid projects confirms; broken down or misused (or unused) wind- mills, water pumps, artificial insemination equipment, and so on and on . Appro- priate technology (which may be simple, intermediate or high) can be developed by outsiders (ie people who are not going t o use it) ; bu t i t can only be transformed b y insiders — by th e people who are going t o use it and benefit from it . Failure t o appreciate this is a major reason why th e very poor do no t use more technology.


case box 8



Institutional arrangements are vital t o th e

success o f a technological

innovation .

Sometime s it is easy t o see ho w vital - becaus e different arrangements are used

t o

handle th e same innovation . This was

th e case wit h a water-mill in Malawi.

Th e mill was built at Mlowe , a village

o f

abou t

2,00 0 peopl e

o n

th e shores



Lake Malawi. The communit y is some -

what isolated ; it is

connecte d t o


b y footpaths , and th e

road network onl y

nearest grinding mill is 3 0 mile s away up

th e lake shore . The demand for bette r grinding facilitie s increased i n th e early

1970 s






reduced th e staple crop o f cassava.

Encouraged b y a foreign docto r at th e

Mlowe Hospital,

the villagers undertoo k

t o build a water-powered mill . They formed a Committee , go t advice, con - structed th e associated water-works, and ,

wit h the help o f som e aid organisations,

bough t

th e mechanical parts the y

coul d

no t mak e locally . Th e amoun t o f work


was quit e considerable , and it

was som e achievement t o get th e mill working.




t o

criticise th e scheme , o


course .

Th e capital

cos t

is high



£8,000 )





no t





wit h



no t



wate r

s o


a widel y

idea. An d th e technolog y was

unknow n

locall y


whic h

coul d

give rise t o main-

tenanc e



difficultie s


Nonetheless , it worked , and it benefite d 2-3,00 0 people .

Onc e th e mill was completed , how -

ever, th e government District Council at Rumphi decide d t o take over it s adminis- tration . The intentio n was fo r th e village Committe e t o continu e it s involvement -

bu t the villagers came t o feel that th


government was no w responsible for th e mill. Th e government however , has no t carried ou t th e necessary maintenance and repairs, and as a result th e mill i s

already o n it s way t o collapse ; th e un-


timber is beginning t o rot and

th e flood damaged water-works are being

erode d

away .

It is no t possibl e t o conclud e o f course tha t th e institutiona l change alone was responsible for th e deterioration ; mayb e th e village Committe e woul d have le t th e mill g o in th e sam e way . But th e early success and th e subsequent decline are strikingly related t o th e institutional change in responsibility .

Because the capital had bee n obtained for free (perhaps a mistake o n the aid donors ' part) and th e running cost s were very lo w (onl y maintenance and repair

costs) , th e mill was able t o provide cheap as well as convenien t grinding facilities, and peopl e from othe r quite distant villages came t o use it . Encouraged by

its success, the

Committe e began t o work

o n scheme s t o us e the mill water-works

for irrigation — t o grow maize , rice, bananas and vegetables.


Oxfam file MAL 25

Oxfam contribution



political opposition The use of technology by the very poor has social and political costs. Funds
political opposition
The use of technology by the very poor has social and political costs. Funds for
research and investment can be used t o benefit either the poor or th e rich, either
th e rural or th e urban, bu t seldom bot h at th e same time . In most countries it is in
towns tha t the power lies, so town interests usually win. An increase in rural
job s can reduce th e number of people so desperate tha t the y will work for land-
owners for almost nothing . Urban interests may block investments tha t will boost
agriculture, or frustrate policies t o direct technology t o th e poor . Small-scale local
production may mean a smaller market for multi-nationals and big local manufac-
turers. Investors want a high retur n on their investment — and tha t may mean
fewer jobs. The example of th e Indian oil-seed extraction industry (Case-box 9 )
shows tha t t o maximise profits you do one thing, t o maximise jobs for th e poor
you do another.
A lot of people benefit from th e way tha t Third World societies are variously
arranged at present. They are th e people who control th e means of production ; who
the land or th e
factories or th e transport facilities; who have th e money t o
or invest — or t o buy the products of" modern technology. They want t o keep
things tha t way.
They ensure tha t there are operating theatres for th e townspeople, instead of
dispensaries for th e rural poor ; tha t research and development is directed t o large
scale industry and sophisticated goods; tha t there is social recognition and praise
for research workers who follow international science; tha t they give low priority
t o extension services and small industry programmes. Foreign investment, some of
it from Britain, contributes t o this; it favours capital rather than labour-intensive
production techniques which benefit th e rich bu t have little impact on th e poor .
There is more t o these policies than mere self-interest of course. Many people in
th e Third World believe tha t th e quickest way t o end poverty is t o industrialise as
rapidly as possible: they point t o Japan as th e classic example of a country which
systematically and successfully adopted th e latest technology from abroad, with
little short-run concern for th e poor or their technology. According t o this view,
as President Mobutu of th e Zaire puts it ; "underdevelopment equals under-
equipment" .
Technology is a necessary condition for development, bu t it is not a sufficient one.
It cannot get round the need for political reform; it cannot make land reform
unnecessary by increasing yields so high tha t even small plots of land will be viable.
Technology is not like that ; it cannot solve political problems unless there is
political will t o solve them .
Technologists, however, like t o promote the idea tha t they are a-political. Societies
are controlled for th e most part by those who are already rich and powerful, and
so when technologists opt out of thinking about social organisation, businessmen
and commercial concerns step in . Technology then tends t o serve th e rich, and it
is no t usually in their interest tha t i t should serve th e poor. This is another reason
why so little of it does.
case box 9 Electri c ncta r (2bp) oil-seed crushing Indi a Main ver t Pressu
case box 9
Electri c ncta r (2bp)
oil-seed crushing
Indi a
Main ver t
Pressu r
Electric powered ghani
Oil from ground-nuts and mustard seeds
is a major source of cooking oil in India,
an important aspect of both physical and
psychological well-being. It can be ex-
port needs are reduced (because the
ghanis are more numerous the average
distance from
to mill
is less), the
tracted in any of three ways — by large
scale oil mill, or by a kind of giant pestle
and mortar, called a "ghani", powered
either by bullocks or by electricity. To
provide l>h tonnes of oil a day, the capi-
tal cost for each method is the same —
about Rs 900,000 (£56,000 ) - but
there are differences;
transport can be done by bullock-cart
thus generating extra local employment
and revenue, and because the ghanis are
sited near the fields, the employment
and money they generate remains in the
countryside where most of the poverty
But anyone interested in the economic
return on capital would have to go for
the one oil mill would employ 14
the one oil mill rather than either of the
ghanis; its return would be 13%, while
the 4 2 electric powered gharris
would employ 21 0
the electric extractor gives only 7% and
the bullock powered version only 2%
the 88 bullock powered ghanis
would employ 264 .
(assuming a standard selling price of oil
at 7 Rupees/kg for each method).
Although the ghanis have a slightly
lower extraction rate (which means in
effect that they waste food), they do
have additional advantages; people like
the taste of the oil they produce, trans-
Despite the social advantages in terms
of employment, and people's control
over their own produce, food supply,
and work, the economics point to the
large-scale, low-labour mill.
source D. Ashoka, R. Swaminathan, S. Jairam, "Ground-nut oil extraction - a study of appro-
priate technology",
in Managing the choice of Technology, Indian Institute of Management,
Bangalore, 1977
lack of interest Quite apart from th e political and financial pressures outlined above, most Third
lack of interest
Quite apart from th e political and financial pressures outlined above, most Third
World scientists and technologists are not encouraged t o take an interest in th e sort
of science and technology tha t might benefit th e poor . They d o no t enjoy a very
high social standing in their own societies (unlike lawyers) and as a result the y rely
on the world of international science for recognition. This generates pressure
towards mainstream prestige science of th e sort which leads (or might lead) t o
papers in respected journals, invitations t o international conferences, or Nobel
prizes. Thus there is concentration on nuclear physics instead of th e technology of
solar cells, on tracked hovercraft instead of trains. An example of one neglected
field is medical equipment — described in Case-box 10.
Even where scientists and technologists are personally interested in th e problems of
th e poor, the y find their own system is against them; Mexican scientists have been
discouraged from studying th e synthesis of chemicals from local plants, and the
ASTRA cell for appropriate technology at the Indian Institut e of Science, Bangalore
(India), has had difficulty in getting its papers int o its own Institute's journal .
Textbooks, university curricula and exchange visits combine t o increase th e pres-
sures. The needs of th e poor and local technology are no t considered t o be objects
of scientific enquiry.
On a personal level to o th e pressures work against the sort of science and techno-
logy tha t might benefit th e poor. Scientists and technologists like th e comforts and
stimulus of th e city ; the y do not want th e inconvenience and discomfort (and per-
haps health risks) of spending much time in slums, or in poor , often remote and
unpleasant, parts of their country . This means tha t it is hard for them t o do good
relevant work. It
is also hard for them even t o
choose th e right topics. As A.K
Reddy, of th e Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, puts it ; "If th e task is left to
scientists alone, the y usually end up choosing problems which are of concern only,
or mainly, t o those sections of society with which scientists have th e best contact —
viz, th e affluent urban cities" .
Nationally also the pressures work in th e same direction. Most Third World govern-
ments are no t very interested in helping their own poor. They are interested in
their country'.s wealth, in overall Gross National Product, no t tha t of th e poor .
They seek t o end poverty b y means of rapid industrialisation, hoping, as th e Irish
do, tha t a rising tide lifts all boats . This leads them t o concentrate on research and
development and investment tha t will make money, often at th e expense of th e
poor. They are also interested in their own wealth or tha t of their class - and this
wealth may be adversely affected if the y help th e poor t o free themselves from
their poverty. So in rather few cases do Third World governments do anything t o
counter th e othe r pressures which keep scientists and technologists away from th e
poor. Rather the y add t o them.
The lack of interest in th e problems of poverty is another reason why more tech-
nology is no t available t o th e very poor .
case box 10 medical equipment Kenya/Tanzania There is littl e enoug h medical equipmen t available
case box 10
medical equipment
There is littl e enoug h medical equipmen t
available t o th e poo r in th e Third World.
equipmen t can b e made locally , largely
or wholl y from locall y available materials.
Such things as splints , crutches, wheel-
chairs, bab y incubators, drip-feed stands ,
water-pumps, fridges, weighing-scales,
calipers — as well as simpl e component s
such as nails, hinges, wheels , etc , and
An d a high proportion o f what doe s
exis t is i n som e wa y unusable ; i t ha s bee n
th e tool s t o make the m such as hand-
tools , sheet-metal benders and forges.
The y have t o b e carefully
made s o
maintained ,
broken , or even
stolen .
the y are easily cleaned t o avoid risk o f
infection . But i t ca n b e done .
Th e
o f
mone y and staff. The African Medical
M operate d
b ^ the. actio n cf t> foot pea»l a n a
and Research Foundatio n (AMREF )
i^t e patent
based in Nairobi, Kenya , reports o n a
200-be d hospital where "100% o f th e
sphygmomanometer s were ou t o f actio n
n o measurements o f bloo d pressure
bee n take n
months . Als o ou t o f
actio n were
75% o f th e suctio n pumps ,
o f
th e
weighing scales, and on e o f
th e
tw o
oxyge n
cylinde r
valves. "
is possibl e
technolog y
t o
re-design equipment , s o that
it is les s
foot pria l
likel y
t o
b e
place ,
easier t o
stole n i n
repair wit h
th e first
locall y
Fro m Intermediate
b y S.W. Eaves
an d J.R . Pollock , Zaiia , Nigeria, undated .
made parts if it doe s g o wrong. A n
exampl e is the sphygmonanomete r — th e
colum n o f
mercury and cuf f that is used
ambitiou s
attemp t
t o
technolog y
for taking bloo d pressure. Th e colum n
t o a poo r country' s healt h service b y
o f mercury is very easily broken -
mos t
setting up a rural medical workshop at
ofte n
b y
shuttin g the
o f
th e
bo x
Dareda i n northern Tanzania. Th e aim
whe n th e colum n has no t bee n replaced
t o
upgrade maintenanc e practice and
correctly .
ofte n
stolen ; th e
t o
(o r redesign) equip -
mercury is valuable and th e bo x is easy t o
ment , and t o produc e equipmen t and
carry and conceal . The instrument can
components .
b e redesigned s o
i t
is no t necessary
t o mov e th e colum n o f mercury ; i t re-
mains permanently fixed
th e correct
positio n in its box . That makes it muc h
less easy t o break. An d th e bo x can be
redesigned s o
is large and
heavy ,
and painted bright red - which makes it
Th e application o f technolog y t o
relatively simple technica l medica l
equipmen t is a subject that interests few
technologists . The y se e it as uninteresting,
unchallenging work in unpleasant condi -
tion s in th e interior - work whic h will
d o nothin g for their careers or their status.
much less easy t o steal.
In addition ,
a wid e
range o f
OxfamfileTANP/1 5
the slow spread of ideas The way ideas spread is not very well understood . Very
the slow spread of ideas
The way ideas spread is not very well understood . Very often apparently good
ideas don' t catch on , while
others, no t obviously any better , unpredictably do .
Europe in th e Middle Ages almost completely ignored th e wealth of chemical,
mathematical and medical knowledge tha t had been built u p in th e world of Islam
between 800-1300 AD. The circulation of th e blood for instance, was known t o
Ibn-al-Nafis who died in 1288 AD; in Europe Harvey "discovered" it in 1628.
In th e Third World toda y ther e are plent y of examples of ideas tha t d o no t spread
or only d o so very slowly. One reason is simply th e time tha t is needed even under
favourable conditions. The pipeline between basic research and marketed product
in Britain is decades even today . Even a change in non-physical ideas takes time t o
spread; Catholic priests in th e Philippines are only now taking u p Paulo Freire's
ideas on "conscientisation" which were common in Brazil te n years ago. Another
reason is th e natural conservatism of people near th e survival level who cannot
afford risk. The example of th e A-frame (described in Case-box 11) shows how an
idea accepted in one country is rejected in another.
Sometimes, however, th e reason why technology does no t spread is quite different.
People know about it , bu t the y don' t want it — at least in th e form in which it is
presented t o them . Outside experts suffer from "scientific arrogance". They have
n o doubts about "what these people really need " — an approach sometimes ridiculed
as th e solar-powered nutcracker syndrome. But th e application of technology,
and even more , its transformation, is a two-way process — in which th e technologist
learns from th e users, as the y do from her or him.
This involves a fairly radical change for scientists and technologists. It means going
t o where th e people are , and analysing their existing skills as well as their needs.
Their skills may be iron-work or food preservation or th e ability t o live in a rain-
forest. It means involving th e future users in th e development of any new tech-
nology; only if th e people are involved will th e technology be appropriate (because
i t will incorporate their knowledge and skills); only if the y are involved will i t be
accepted b y them ; only if the y are involved can the y acquire themselves th e skill
of applying technology t o their own needs. Case-box 13 describes th e replacement
of an outside technology b y one based on village-level skills.
Research workers concerned with th e problems of poor areas need t o
be linked t o
scientific centres — no t just institutionally bu t intellectually as well. If technology
is t o be made relevant t o th e majority of a Third World country's population, th e
problems of poor areas need t o be an integral part of the system, no t a marginal
Just as th e future users need t o be an integral part of th e research and de-
velopment process, not just a recipient one .
The organisational arrangements for this redirection will differ from country t o
case box 11 contour-bunding Guatemala/Haiti When a fanner dies in Haiti, they say he fell out
case box 11
When a fanner dies in Haiti, they say he
fell out of his field. The fields are so steep
it is almost true; when you get old you
can easily slip and fab to death. In
Guatemala the fields are equally steep;
"We sow with a shotgun and reap with a
fishing rod" they say. The erosion is
terrible. Yields get lower — and farmers
open new fields, higher and even steeper.
In San Martin, a small highland town
near Chimaltenango in Guatemala, a
development programme has introduced
contour-bunding to stop the erosion.
The contour-bunding can be simply,
if laboriously done. A ditch is dug along
the level of the contour and Napier grass
(a tough grass with a strong root system)
is planted sparsely along the uphill side
of it. The grass thickens and prevents
the soil from being washed down the
hillside, and the ditch channels rainwater
to the side of the field, thus reducing
erosion below it. In time the grass forms a
terrace wall up to a metre high, and the
land uphill of it becomes gradually flatter,
eventually forming a terrace.
equivalent of level ground). The farmer
starts at one side of the field, moves the
A-frame until the string shows that both
legs are level, and puts a peg in the soil
to mark the point. He swivels the frame
round to the next level point, and marks
that with a peg — and so on across the
field. The use of this simple tool has
made possible a major and successful soil
conservation programme, in which some
5,000 of the 7,200 families in the area
took part.
No elaborate investment is required to
make the ditches — one man and
a hoe
can dig 20 metres in a day. The only
technical problem is finding the level
contour along which to dig the ditch.
The farmers don't use theodolites - they
use A-frames. The A-frame consists of
three bits of wood tied together to form
a capital A about a metre high. From the
top a stone is suspended by a string,
and a mark is made where it touches
the cross-piece when the frame is on level
ground (if there is no known level ground,
a second mark can be made with the
frame the other way round; then the mid-
point between the two marks is the
Because the technical success was
considerable Oxfam tried to spread
the technique of contour bunding to
south-west Haiti. It financed visits by pro-
gramme staff and extensionists. But in
Haiti the idea didn't catch on. Too many
people rented land in the programme area
there, and they knew from first-hand
experience that the landlords simply
re-possessed any improved land - one of
the programme workers has twice had
land re-possessed because he improved it.
This is an example of a device which
can be technically successful in one
country (though with limitations) but
rejected in another because of the political
and economic conditions there. It shows
that there are often good reasons for the
slow spread of ideas.
Oxfam contribution
Oxfam files GUA 12
and HAI 43
£50,296 over 9 years,
country . In some countries many of th e very poor live in towns, sometimes quite
country . In some countries many of th e very poor live in towns, sometimes quite
close t o th e scientific centres. In some th e remoteness of rural areas suggests a net-
work of rural research centres t o which research workers could be seconded.
Another method is for th e research teams t o work in rural areas on a temporary
basis — though there is a danger, already apparent in India, tha t th e scientists will
be seen as "strangers and weekend-goers" and thu s no t trusted . In th e Third World
there is quite a lo t of experience already available on how t o link science and
technology t o th e people's needs. Here is a
case where Third World experience is
far more relevant tha n anything in th e rich world;i t is an ideal opportunit y for th e
new TCDC movement (Technical Co-operation between Developing Countries)
t o make th e experience of one available t o all.
The most systematic attempts t o spread th e use of technology have been made in
agriculture; in most countries a large network of agricultural extensionists (adviser-
teachers) exists t o help people grow more food. To date th e results have been
disappointing. Many research stations undertake research tha t is no t relevant t o
th e poor, such as work on wheat suitable for combine harvesting, or o n cash crops
whose cultivation leads t o reduced nutritional intake by th e farmers. But even
when th e research is relevant, Ministries of Agriculture tend t o make poor use of
it . Most countries operate their extension services under th e impression tha t there
exists a kind of reservoir of new techniques (often from other countries) waiting
t o be diffused, or disseminated, or some othe r imprecise verb. This is seldom so .
The big research centres can develop new seeds or techniques, bu t the y need t o be
adapted or "tuned " t o fit with local conditions, physical, social and economic.
Agricultural technology tha t is no t adapted t o local conditions is particularly
dangerous — because its failures make farmers suspicious of new technology
of all kinds.
The extensionists on their part are often badly trained, badly paid and badly super-
vised. Usually the y are not local people, and so the y know less tha n local farmers
about local conditions — which leads them t o rely on th e supposed superiority of
modern technology t o maintain their status. Usually the y are men, regardless of th e
high proportion of farming work done by women. Their targets are often set in
terms of th e number of farms visited, or bags of fertiliser distributed, or overall
production targets for their area, even if most comes from a few rich farmers. The
result is tha t a vast system consisting of hundreds of thousands of people and speci-
fically designed t o spread knowledge of bette r agriculture, very largely fails t o
help th e poor .
One answer is t o amalgamate research and extension int o one service — as has been
done in China, where th e "open door " system introduced in th e 1960s means tha t
scientists and technologists spend roughly one year in th e laboratory, one in th e
village, and one travelling in rural areas t o pick up different approaches and exper-
iences. Research stations are under provincial control t o tr y t o make them more
responsive t o local needs
tha n if they were centrally controlled, and local research
activities are carried ou t by th e local people and funded by local collective funds.
case box 12 from mild stee l whic h ca n b e readily obtaine d
case box 12
stee l
whic h
ca n b e
obtaine d
an d easily
worked ; i t
ca n
b e
the Oxtrike
cu t
wit h
foot-powere d
guillotine ,
folde d
o n
machine , an d easily welde d
o r rivetted.
Th e
I974 T O I979
brakes o n bot h
ha s foot-operate d
wheels (protecte d
.{• UOPK
th e rain t o increase safety) , a differential,
and a three-speed gear-box. Th e bod y can
b e
t o
passengers o r
We will own our own Rickshaws and
lake home all our earnings to feed our families
Th e design
is no t perfected
i n
Britain; i t i s important tha t i t shoul d b e
In almost every cit y o f sout h Asia there
o f cycl e rickshaw pedal-
capable o f loca l adaptations t o suit eac h
environment, an d that each user societ y
should have a hand i n it s development .
lers. Their lif e expectanc y i s well belo w
average an d th e most commo n form o f
o f th e death i s heart failure.
Unfortunatel y
are no t interested i n a n unteste d proto -
No t
onl y
i s
lif e
fo r th e pedallers
type , thoug h tw o manufacturers
in Papua
physicall y rough - i t i s economicall y
Ne w
fo r licences ,
rough too . Most
o f th e
pedallers d o no t
on e i n Keny a
(t o make
10 0
ice -
ow n their rickshaws — the y hire them .
cream rickshaws).
In Nagpur, a cit y
Central India, a
o f about 2m . peopl e i n
o f th e
This i s a n exampl e o f a n attemp t t o
7,00 0 rickshaws are owne d b y "rickshaw
a Third World problem b y doin g
garage" owners wh o possess u p t o
30 0
work i n England o n adapting moder n
vehicle s each . The y take over half
th e
technolog y
t o loca l
needs . I t illustrates
daily profit
o f 70p , recouping th e cos t
th e
o f di e rickshaw (abou t £70 ) in less than a
th e
lon g lead tim e required, and suggests
importanc e o f leaving a t least part o f
year, while
th e pedallers ar e left
wit h
th e developmen t t o the loca l society .
onl y 30 p a day .
Th e Industrial Service Institut e (ISI) ,
an Indian developmen t agency in Nagpur,
has helpe d th e pedallers t o organise them-
selve s t o change this . A s a result a
rashtra State law has bee n passed, conferr-
ing licenses o n pedallers rather than
"garage owners" .
b y this modest
th e
ope n
t o
t o their rickshaws.
such innovation
is th e Oxtrike ,
Oxfam contribution
fo r Oxfatn.
It s frame
i s made
£5108 over 2 yrs
So research workers must answer t o th e local community t o justify their use
So research workers must answer t o th e local community t o justify their use of
research funds. Communication is
bot h person-to-person direct, and through
printed manuals. The system broadens th e function of research workers. Instead
of simply concentrating on inventions and discoveries, their jo b is t o recognise local
skills and innovations — and organise their testing so tha t they can be adapted and
spread as necessary.
case box B and laid them. The total cost per well was 448/5 0 (£32.50 )
case box B
them. The total
cost per well
448/5 0
(£32.50 ) -
block-line d wells
person using the well.
In many parts of the world it is traditional
to line wells with brick or stone. A few
years ago some missionaries introduced t o
an area near Tabora, an old slaving post
in Central Tanzania, a method of lining
wells with cement blocks. The blocks
were a standard rectangular shape, with
the exception of the ends, which were
angled inwards, so that when placed in a
line they easily formed a circle, capable
of resisting pressure from the outside
in the same way that an arch does. But
only 12 of these wells were built.
The Regional Water Engineer has
recommended that as a result of his tests,
block-lined wells should be used wherever
the soil is suitable. He estimates that in
Tabora Region alone 42 0 wells could be
lined in (his way, at a saving to the
government (and thus the people) of
£175,000 . The hope is that other Regions
in Tanzania will follow suit; if they do,
the saving could well be over £1 million.
Instead, another technology was taken
up by the Government Water Department
concrete rings. These have the advantage
of safety (the well-diggers can work
inside them, gradually digging away the
ground to allow them to sink), and they
can be used under a wide range of condi-
tions (in sandy soil, for example, and to
a greater depth). But they had disadvan-
tages too . They cost exactly
twenty times
as much as the blocks, and although the
skills needed to make them are not that
high-level, they are beyond the villagers'
capabilities; the rings are made at the dis-
trict headquarters, transported two at a
time in lorries over bad roads, and then
lowered into place by government trained
o£ well .
staff. The local people are scarcely in-
volved, beyond being recruited to dig the
hole for the "government well".
In 1976, Oxfam gave the block tech-
nology a push. It financed 20 demonstra-
tion wells and it funded the Regional
Water Engineer to construct and test a
specimen block-lined well. The demon-
stration wells were almost entirely con-
structed by the villagers — they decided
the site, dug the hole, made the blocks,
The idea of block-lined wells looks a
good one, but it is still at an early stage
of acceptability. We don't know why it
didn't catch on originally, nor how
widely it would be used today without
government or mission backing. It illus-
trates how one technology (concrete
rings) can sap the villager's confidence
in their own ability, making them depen-
dent on outside help, while another
(block-well linings) can enable them to
do almost the whole job themselves.
Oxfam contribution
Oxfam files
TAN 92 and TAN 102
what Britain can do The help which th e rich world can provide is limited —
what Britain can do
The help which th e rich world can provide is limited — most o f th e changes needed
must b e made b y th e Third World itself. But there are some ways
of helping from
outside. This section looks a t how Britain, one still relatively rich country , could
help . Much of it could b e applied with little alteration t o an y othe r rich country or
t o th e UN Agencies, o r t o
th e European Community.
building up traditional technology and research capability
Britain can help t o finance teams of researchers t o identify traditional skills and
local needs with th e help of the local people. I t can help t o develop new technolo-
gies either based o n local ones, o r adapted from ones from elsewhere. Each tech-
nique o r
device needs t o b e developed i n several forms, so tha t th e local
have th e chance t o test ou t different versions and t o see which one suits them best ,
and t o develop th e
vital social and institutional arrangements t o go with
them .
It can help t o set u p
rural or slum-based research centres, t o pay for th e travel and
living costs (modest, no t luxury) of scientists living in poor areas, or for visits of
othe r Third World people t o teach and/or learn ; it can help with appropriate test-
rigs and prototypes , pilot production plants, field tests, and evaluations. Case-box
14 gives an example of th e kind o f work tha t is needed.
Traditional technology alone is no t enough; th e very poor need appropriate modern
technologies as well. Britain can help t o build u p Third World research capability
— this a major aim o f th e present British aid programme.
Help o f this kind is importan t because i t can ti p th e balance in favour of th e poor in
cases where other forces would otherwise win. Local civil servants, politicians,
businessmen o r scientists can sway th e use of local resources t o ensure tha t the y
benefit from
them . Britain's
help , tied t o th e use o f technology b y th e
poor , is
much less easy t o influence. So i t can play a crucial part in stimulating develop-
ments which have a low local priority for political and economic reasons.
reducing th e lack of interest
Britain is an importan t part of th e international scientific establishment; th e Royal
Society and a host of professional and othe r learned societies have an international
prestige. They could use this t o give greater weight t o science and technology tha t
benefits th e very poor — withou t abandoning their task of safeguarding professional
scientific standards.
Britain can make available funds for research and development which are specifically
directed t o work tha t benefits th e very poor . Since th e aim here is t o bui d u p th e
research capabilities of th e Third World, such funds would be spent entirely (o r
very nearly) in th e Third World itself, b y Third World scientists and technologists.
They could d o something t o counter th e pressures towards modern technology

case tax Vt

the programme Arusha appropriate technology


There are onl y


fe w

o f

th e

many so -

called "appropriate technology " organisa-

tion s in th e world which systematicall y


t o


th e poo r

t o

analyse then-

ow n need s and devise solution s t o them .

One such


th e

Arusha Appropriate

Technolog y Programme (AATP ) in northern Tanzania.


a Village

decide s t o



the AATP , an advisory Committe e is

se t up , consisting o f seven people , three o f who m are women , tw o o f who m are craftsmen, and onl y on e o f who m is a council member. The members are taken from each geographical part o f the Village, all members must be over 20 , and

all must be committe d

t o


develop -

the Village (s o far, on e

has bee n

ment o f sacked ment) .

for failing

t o

mee t

this require-

Th e Committee's task is t o carry ou t th e bulk o f th e work o f surveying Village problems and resources, and t o implemen t any constructio n o f hardware. Tw o members g o o n tw o four-day courses — on e o n ho w t o conduc t surveys o f need s and resources (based o n Paulo Friere's methods) , and on e o n planning projects and timetables . Training is carried ou t i n th e Villages, no t i n Arusha.

In order t o demonstrat e th e possibl e

outsid e technologie s


set s u p

t o



Villages, th e AATP


it calls

"resource centres " at th e rate o f on e

per 10-1 5 Villages. Thes e are manned b y

a part-time th e various

person trained t o demonstrat e devices and t o promot e know -

ledg e abou t the m wit h th e hel p o f a pedal-

powered tape-recorder and slide projector whic h fit o n th e back o f a bicycle .

Finally , th e AATP help s t o se t up small


co-operative s

t o


th e modifie d device s fo r loca l consump -

tion .

Th e technologie s are "small and social- ist , eas y t o duplicat e and hard t o mano -

polise" , as th e Project Director put s it

. The y includ e cemen t wate r jars, various

type s o f pumps, windmills , gobar (methane ) gas plants, latrine squatting plate s and soil/cemen t block-making. But

th e

adoptio n rate is

slow ; thoug h 2 6 o f

th e

2 8 technologie s looke d "promising"

at first, in tw o years, onl y nine have proved appropriate in the Villagers'

terms, despit e th e fact that all 2 6 looke d


t o

outsiders. Even thos e

adopte d are ofte n considerably changed b y th e Villagers.

A rope-washer pump — as illustrated in one of th e AATP's leaflets


Th e


an exampl e

o f



temp t

AATP t o start


where peopl e are —

t o

hel p the m

t o analyse and solve their

ow n

problems , and t o select , adapt and


outsid e

technologies .



no t

ye t

clear ho w



ho w

cheapl y


don e

o n

a wid e

scale , bu t

this coul d s o far th e

results are encouraging.




Oxfam contribution

Oxfam file TAN 138

£12,000 over 2% years.


in th e Third and socially World - something t o promote work tha t is
in th e Third
and socially
World - something t o promote work tha t is intellectually demanding
useful, bu t unfortunately unfashionable.
Another approach is t o ensure tha t any training done in Britain on government
money is appropriate . In 1977 there were 14,615 people from th e Third World
undergoing training in agriculture, medicine, science and engineering etc. , at a cost
of £20m. A case can be made for some of this training; some sophisticated science
and technology is relevant t o th e needs of th e very poor , and in some cases training
would be more productive in Britain than in th e Third World.
But ther e are disadvantages; a visit t o Britain inevitably reinforces th e assumptions
of modern technology — assumptions which are a major cause of th e non-use of
technology b y th e poor . Trainees often develop a taste for expensive research
equipment which can only be bought at th e expense of denying th e poor more
immediate services. In addition
visitors tend t o acquire and carry home with them
th e lifestyles and aspirations of their middle-class counterparts in Britain — life-
styles and aspirations which can only be met in their own countries at th e cost
of th e continuing poverty of many others.
Another way of increasing th e interest in th e use of science and technology b y th e
very poo r would be t o create a prize , similar in standing t o th e Nobel Prize. It
would b e awarded t o th e person or group who had contributed
most during th e
previous five years t o th e greater use of technology by th e very poor . Since th e
award of any large sum of money t o a person or group on a personal basis would
b e rathe r inappropriate , th e prizewinner would no t get
all th e money personally,
bu t would have th e right instead t o decide how it should be spent on furthering
th e use of technology by th e poor .
speeding up the spread of ideas
Britain has only a little capability t o change th e systems which impede th e spread
of ideas — bu t it has some. The justified prestige of Britain's Third World oriented
science and technology, exemplified by such organisations as th e Tropical Products
Institute , th e Centre for Overseas Pest Research, or th e Transport and Road
Research Laboratory, means tha t advice and proposals from Britain are taken
seriously b y many Third World scientists and technologists and their governments.
So proposals for getting bot h staff and research results out of th e laboratories and
research stations int o th e countryside and slums may have some effect — th e more
so in tha t many individual research workers are desperately keen t o get their results
used b y th e poor . Such proposals could be backed b y funds t o cover travel and
living costs, th e establishment of local research stations, and resulting tests or
case box 15 Europeans had t o stand u p t o ge t it going
case box 15
Europeans had t o stand u p
t o
ge t
and coul d
o n th e pedals
no t maintain
pedal grain-grinder
anythin g abov e slo w speed for long . It
too k th e equivalent o f 3
mile s wort h o f
pedalling t o grind a family's weekl y
o f
4 0
o f
flour. That's a
Bicycl e technolog y i s well established and
relatively simple . Pedal power , s o efficient
for transporting human beings, coul d
lo t less than hand-grinding (20-2 5 hours)
bu t still a lo t o f hard pedalling. In additio n
surely b e readily adapted t o
othe r tasks
th e seat was very uncomfortable , th e
chain functione d badly , and th e mill
— such as grinding grain, a task whic h
take s up 3- 4 hours o f a woman's day i n
mos t parts o f the world .
go t
blocke d
tw o
Second ,
Roun d
Amadi ,
man y
me n
don' t
Th e Tropical Products Institut e (TPI -
wome n
don' t
on e o f th e Overseas Developmen t Admin -
istration's Special Units , see Case-box
16 ) develope d a pedal-powered null
bicycles . There were thus
convention s
t o
overcome .
designed t o grind millet , maize
grains. Oxfam helpe d wit h th e
at Amadi i n souther n Sudan.
and othe r
field test s
Subsequentl y th e TPI introduce d a
com e
o f modification s designed t o over-
th e initial faults. Had there bee n a
Som e
o f
bicycl e connecte d
t o
mill ,
bu t
this version consiste d o f a specially
constructe d woode n frame. There was
technicia n o n th e spo t t o introduc e the m
earlier, interest might have bee n main-
tained . But b y th e tim e the y were avail-
able , th e loca l peopl e had written of f this
approach. The y had no t bee n involved
onl y
on e
wheel , in front o f th e pedaller,
connecte d t o th e mill b y a small friction-
i n th e design o r
first plac e — and
th e modification s i n th e
the y were mor e interested
driven drive wheel .
in the possibilit y o f a diesel mill supplied
b y th e government. A s th e last entry o n
th e Oxfam file concludes : "Once th e
diesel mill is installed nobod y will b e in-
terested in th e cycl e mill. "
is an exampl e
o f
a standard
dono r approach; th e problem is no t
identified b y th e particular
peopl e wh o
Tropical Products Institute
are going t o us e th e solution ; th e solutio n
is devised in Britain and th e loca l peopl e
are involved neithe r i n th e design , no r in
subsequent modifications ; loca l conven -
tion s are no t take n int o account ; and th e
technical design proves inadequate . Con-
trast this wit h th e Arusha Appropriate
A t first
th e novelt y
value o f
th e mill
Technolog y Programme (Case-box 14) .
le d
peopl e t o
it out . But the y soo n
gave up . First
technica l reasons. Th e
Oxfam contribution
was very hard t o pedal; even well-fed
Oxfam file SUD 21
Britain's technology programme The main agency in Britain concerned with th e use of science and
Britain's technology programme
The main agency in Britain concerned with th e use of science and technology b y
th e very poor is th e Overseas Development Administration (ODA), formerly th e
Ministry of Overseas Development.
In 1977/7 8 th e ODA spent abou t £12m o n research and development, £6m o n
recurrent costs of research establishments in Britain, and £20m (1977) o n students
and trainees in Britain — a tota l of £38m.
The programme began in colonial days and originally almost all th e work was
devoted t o th e cultivation, storage, and transport of export crops. During th e past
decade th e programme has increasingly taken account of th e needs of th e poor ,
bu t it still contains considerable remnants of th e earlier programme. Over half
(57% b y value) of its 1976/7 projects were based in th e Third World, although in
many cases th e project leaders were British scientists and much of th e work was
carried on in Britain. It is difficult t o estimate how much of th e research is likely
t o benefit th e poorest in th e foreseeable future — Oxfam's estimate is a half t o
As Case-box 16 shows, the programme appears quite substantial and effective when
viewed from Britain. But from th e slums and villages of th e Third World, from
where th e poorest are , i t hardly appears at all. One reason for this is simply scale;
th e numbers of people, farmers, workshops, villages, slums, or dispensaries are very
large in relation t o th e size of the ODA's programme. But even
th e programme has a number of limitations in terms of helping
allowing for this,
th e very poor ;
most of th e research is done for Third World people, no t b y them ; it is done
in Britain, or by British people in th e Third World. Technology is most
likely t o be useful when it is developed within th e society in which it is t o
be used (see Case-box 15).
Britain's aid goes through national governments — whose
priorities are no t
always t o help th e very poor . Only a small part can go t o non-government
agencies which do aim t o help th e poor .
th e programme consists largely of "tied " aid — which means tha t th e money
must be spent on British salaries and equipment; it is no t normally avail-
able for local salaries or local equipment . Which is no t th e most useful way
of helping local people t o develop local equipment made of local materials.
th e ODA lacks th e ability t o find, stimulate, finance and assess th e large
numbers of small-scale projects which are needed t o develop technology.
th e aid staff (3 2 full-time and 13 part-time in Embassies and High
Commissions, plus 4 8 advisers in Development Divisions) have neither
th e time nor th e desire no r th e qualifications (for example a knowledge
of th e local language) t o seek ou t village and slum-level projects.
case box 16 the British programme Britain training The ODA finances Third World people t o
case box 16
the British programme
training The ODA finances Third World people t o attend
courses in agriculture, medicine, science and technology,
etc ,
in Britain. In 1977 there were 14,615 such trainees and stu-
dents, at a cost t o th e ODA of £20m. The British Council
(which is funded by a number of Government Departments)
spent about £27m in 1977/78 o n science and technology
(but part of this was covered b y th e ODA's expenditure
on trainees in Britain). The Inter-University Council for
Higher Education Overseas, largely funded by th e ODA,
recruits British staff for 45 Third World universities. Finally
th e Technical Education and Training Organisation for Over-
seas Countries (more commonly known as TETOC), which is
b y
th e ODA,
helps Third World institutions t o
develop their staff, facilities and curricula.
research organisations The ODA finances five Special
Units — th e Tropical Products Institute , th e Centre for Overseas
Pest Research, the Land Resources Development Centre, the
Directorate of Overseas Surveys, and th e Population Bureau
and a further four Specialised Units attached t o other govern-
ment organisations whose main work is devoted t o British
problems; the Transport and Road Research Laboratory, the
Hydraulics Research Station, the Building Research Establish-
ment and the Institute of Geological Sciences.
research grants The ODA finances research projects carried
out at universities and th e like . Over half of these bas£s are
(1976/7 ) in th e Third World (57% b y value), although th e
principal researcher is usually British.
international research grants.
work in organisations such as the International Potato centre.
country aid programmes
t o
each country may include some research and development
Th e Intermediate Technolog y Industrial Services Unit (ITIS )
is wholly financed by th e ODA.
how to do better The principles of a bette r programme are set ou t in
how to do better
The principles of a bette r programme are set ou t in Case-box 17 . The ODA's
present science and technology programme
for th e Third World
is no t like this . It
is no t designed specifically t o help th e very poor ; it is no t based on an under-
standing of th e need t o transform th e practice of technology; its funds are largely
tied t o British salaries and equipment; its funds are channelled through govern-
ments ; and neither its staff no r its procedures are geared t o handling many small-
scale village or slum level projects. It lacks no t so much money, as the ability t o
identify suitable projects — th e key t o increasing th e use of technology by th e very
poor. Here are four possible ways in which th e ODA could develop a bette r
the ODA
The ODA itself could undertake a programme like this . The new programme
would benefit from th e ODA's experience, and in time might influence th e whole
aid programme. But there would be quite serious policy and administrative difficul-
ties, and additions tagged on t o th e ODA might tur n ou t t o be little more than a
public relations exercise.
the ITIS and the TPI
Some of th e organisations funded b y th e ODA could extend their work t o develop
a bette r programme. Two obvious candidates are th e Intermediate Technology
Industrial Services Unit (ITIS) and th e Tropical Products Institut e (TPI). The ITIS
has untied aid funds, its own field staff and th e freedom t o deal with non-
government agencies in th e Third World. Its brief is at present confined t o industrial
development, bu t i t could be widened. The TPI lacks these advantages, bu t it has
wide and long-standing experience of pre- and post-harvest technologies, and good
contacts in th e Third World. It would b e possible t o give th e administrative
advantages t o th e TPI .
a new Council
It is easy t o suggest, and easy t o criticise th e establishment of any new bod y —
horses for courses o n one side, th e proliferation of bureaucracy o n th e other . I n
th e short run th e disadvantages usually seem decisive; it seems bette r t o cobble u p
or distort an existing body rather than create a new one . But a new Council, speci-
fically designed t o benefit th e very poor , would be more likely t o achieve its aim —
and tha t is what really matters .
A new Council on Overseas Research & Development (CORD) would be similar
in status t o a Research Council (like th e Medical Research Council). It would be
accountable t o Parliament through th e Minister responsible for Overseas Develop-
ment . Its budget would rise t o perhaps £20m/year in five years' time .
a ne w non-governmen t agenc y
Non-government agencies are in many ways bette r
suited t o handle this sort of
work ; their leading edge is their network of local contacts o r their own field staff,
the y are used t o dealing with many small-scale grants, and the y do no t need t o
work through national governments. Because existing agencies are wary of taking
to o much government money (lest the y become dependent on th e government), it
would b e necessary t o create a new agency. It could either b e a British, or an
international one .
case box 17 a better programme Britain aim s A bette r programme woul d specifically
case box 17
a better programme
aim s
A bette r programme woul d specifically aim t o increase th e use
o f technolog y b y th e very poor . It woul d be judge d b y its
success or failure t o achieve this. It woul d concentrat e o n
improving existin g loca l technology , helping the very poo r
t o selec t and adop t outsid e technology , and o n increasing
their self-confidence .
It woul d b e based o n th e understanding tha t whil e th e principles
o f scienc e and technolog y are universally valid,
and practice depen d o n people , and vary wit h each communit y
or society .
A bette r programme woul d have funds available for anythin g
necessary t o achieve its aims; basic research (preferably in th e
Third World, bu t ou t o f it if nee d be) , th e developmen t o f
ne w research technique s no t dependen t o n lavish laboratories,
modifications , field tests , pilo t productio n plants, data
collection , analysis o f traditional methods , salaries, equipment ,
travel, training, teaching (extension) .
The funds woul d no t be tie d t o British salaries or equipment ;
the y woul d
be available t o pa y for whatever wa s needed .
Th e funds woul d be available in small sums as well as large.
Th e programme woul d probably consist o f man y small grants
(say £2,000 ) as well as a fe w big one s (say £500,000) . The
Oxfam contribution s in th e
Case-boxes sho w th e variety o f
grant sizes in the lowe r end o f this range whic h an aid dono r
might want t o contribute . The administrative cost s woul d
be worthwhile .
It woul d be able t o fund non-government organisations such
as universities, polytechnics , missions, and private
withou t going through the loca l national government.
A bette r programme woul d nee d its ow n field staff, able t o
specia l staf f
lo t
(perhaps all) o f
their tim e
in the Third World,
seeking ou t and stimulating worthwhil e projects - and moni-
toring their progress. Th e field staff woul d be the leading
edge o f th e programme: the research and developmen t element s
woul d follow , no t lead.
conclusion Oxfam is clear tha t Britain could do more t o help th e very
Oxfam is clear tha t Britain could do more t o help th e very poor t o make greater
use of science and technology. British learned societies and their journals could
their reputations t o boost th e prestige of
poverty-oriented science and tech-
nology, a new prize, perhaps attached t o th e Nobel system, could be set up , and a
hard look could be taken at th e value of training Third World people in Britain.
But th e main way forward is through th e development of an improved system
of project identification. This requires a Field Staff, capable of stimulating and
assessing village/slum level projects as well as laboratory and workshop ones, of
handling many small projects as well as large, and having access t o untied funds.
The organisation t o handle this improved system could be an extension of th e TPI
and/or ITIS , a new Council for Overseas Research and Development, or a new
non-government agency, perhaps an international one .
Until quit e recently it was possible t o explain poverty as an act of God . Now,
thanks largely t o science and technology, i t is not ; poverty only continues as an
act of man . In th e thousand weeks till th e end of th e century we have an oppor-
tunit y for changing tha t — for setting about th e end of poverty. If Britain is t o
help towards tha t end , it needs a new programme, capable of helping th e very poor
t o develop th e technology the y possess already, and t o "transform" th e
technology the y need . With such a programme we could at last put int o practice
th e 800-year-old advice of Moses Maimonides: "Anticipate charity by preventing
poverty" .
case box 18 the Technology Consultancy Centre Ghana Developing local technology and adapt- ing modern technology
case box 18
the Technology Consultancy Centre
Developing local technology and adapt-
ing modern technology for use by the
poor are not mutually exclusive. A group
which combines both approaches is the
Technology Consultancy Centre (TCC) at
the University of Science and Technology,
Kumasi, northern Ghana.
It was set up (in 1972) to develop
marketable products through local skills,
local materials, and adapted technology
from elsewhere. Here are some examples:
These (and more) are at varying
stages of development and adoption.
Since Ghana is a society favouring the
small-scale entrepreneur, the Centre
tends to set up small private businesses
rather than co-operative ones. Most of
the production units are in Kumasi
itself (pop lm) , fewer int he villages.
Some of the products the Centre develops
(scented soap, wigs, wooden shields, for
instance) are in no way essential ones.
The very poor benefit mainly indirectly,
(where the products are those that they
buy), through lower prices and additional
loca l skills and loca l material s
nuts and bolts - made from local re-
cycled steel
soap - made from caustic soda (made
from slaked lime)
ceramics - better firing kilns
weaving - better looms
glue - made from cassava starch
wigs - (non-flammable) made from sisal
wooden shields for Scottish coats-of-
arms - made from local hardwood
glass beads - made from broken bottles
shepherd's crooks - for local sheep far-
Within the University the Centre has
not been wholeheartedly or universally
welcomed; many staff see it as irrelevant,
even ridiculous. They remain unmoved
by the Vice-Chancellor's view: "It may
be that some critics will find it odd that
a university should concern itself with
such mundane things as the manufacture
of soap, glue, bricks and wigs. These
critics may frown on our actions and
dismiss them as unworthy of an institution
of higher learning. To such critics we have
a simple answer: that the teaching and
research in this Institution are meaning-
less unless they are linked with service
geared to the economic development of
the country".
adapte d technologie s
low-lift irrigation pump - from Vietnam
pryolitic converter — for making charcoal
The TCC is a good example of the
compatibility of the two approaches -
developing local technology, and adapting
modern. It is also a comparatively rare
example of a high-level research institution
interested in the problems of poverty.
and fuel-oil from
bee-hives - from Kenya
lemon-grass perfume distiller (for scenting
soap) - from Guatemala
solar-water heater - for the hospitals
and clinics.
Oxfam contribution
£20,324 over 7 years
recommended reading Appropriat e o r alternativ e technolog y is a very popula r subject
recommended reading
Appropriat e o r alternativ e technolog y is a very popula r subject at th e moment . It
easy t o find a great man y book s o n th e subject . I t is no t so easy t o sort ou t which
is good and which is no t so good . In th e following list w e have concentrate d o n
thos e book s which are relatively easy t o
read , which presen t thei r ideas coherentl y
and clearly , and which are comprehensive enoug h t o help answer man y of th e im-
portan t question s tha t w e hop e thi s pape r ha s posed . We have indicate d wher e yo u
can obtai n these book s if the y are difficult t o bu y at you r norma l bookshop .
Genera l Book s
Nicola s Jequier
(Ed) . Appropriate Technolog y : Problems and Promises. Develop -
men t Centre o f th e Organisation fo r Economi c Co-operation and Development ,
Paris, 1976 . (Available from OECD Publications, 2 rue Andre Pascal, 7577 5 Paris
16, France , price $12.50 )
This book is divided into two sections, one on policy and one on practice. The policy section
covers th e philosophy of appropriate technology, innovations, the dissemination of informa-
tion , appropriate technology in education and the organisation of new industries. The prac-
tice section concentrates on th e mobilising of this knowledge through descriptions of a number
of small-scale projects. A good general comprehensive work.
F . Schumacher. Small i s Beautiful : a Stud y o f Economic s as if Peopl e Mattered.
Abacus , 1973 . Price £1.7 5
An influential book, encapsulating the theory of appropriate technology, Small is Beautiful
helped t o popularise
th e concept both in th e developed and th e developing worlds. Its sub-
title defines its concern.
Ken Darrow and Rick Pam. Appropriate Technolog y Sourcebook , Fo r Tool s and
Technique s that us e Local Skills, Local
Energy : Volum e I. Volunteer s i n Asia,
Resources and Renewabl e
Source s o f
Stanford , California, 1978 . (Available from
Appropriate Technolog y Project, Volunteer s i n Asia , Bo x 4543 , Stanford , Cali-
fornia 94305 , U.S.A . price $4.50 )
This superb reference book reviews most of th e important literature on and organisations
associated with appropriate technology in all its manifestations, from the use of methane gas
to health care equipment.
J. Congdon (Ed) . Introductio n t o
Appropriate Technolog y : Toward a Simpler
Life-style . Rodal e Press, Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 1977 . (Available from Inter-
mediat e Technolog y Developmen t Group , 9 , King Street , London , WC2E 8HN ,
price £4.00 )
This book , a simple yet comprehensive introduction t o appropriate technology, has been written
by experts who have worked, at one time or another, with th e Intermediate Technology
Development Group in London. Most of these experts use their experience in developing
countries t o show how we, in developed countries, can pursue a simpler life style using people-
orientated technologies and embracing radical economic changes.
Brace Research Institute/Canadian Hunger Foundation . A Handbook o n Appro- priate Technology . Ottawa ,
Research Institute/Canadian Hunger Foundation . A Handbook o n Appro-
Technology . Ottawa , Canada, 1976 . (Available from
Canadian Hunger
Foundation,75 , Sparks Street , Ottawa , Ontario, KI P SAS , Canada, price $9.00 )
The handbook synthesizes th e theory and concepts of appropriate technology and describes
specific examples of existing projects which have been undertaken with these concepts in mind.
It introduces a variety of technologies and lists individuals and groups who are working in the
field of appropriate technology.
2. More Specific Books
George A. MacPherson. First Step s in Village Mechanisation. Tanzania Publishing
House , Dar-es-Salaam, 1975 . (Available from
Third World Publications, 151 ,
Stratford Road , Birmingham, B l 1 1RD , price £5.50 )
The author used to work at the Tanzania Machine Testing Unit and this book clearly and con-
cisely aims to assist village development workers to introduce mechanisation into Tanzanian
villages. With its emphasis on first steps rather than mechanisation, the book gives clear in-
structions on how to produce workshop equipment and tools, village transport and agricul-
tural equipment.
Melanesian Council o f Churches. Liklik Buk : a Rural Developmen t Handbook
Catalogue for Papua Ne w Guinea. Liklik Buk Information Centre, Lae , Papua Ne w
Guinea, 1977 . (Available from Third World Publications, 151 , Stratford Road ,
Birmingham, Bl l 1RD , price £4.50 )
This book is a splendid example of an appropriate technology handbook produced with one
country in mind. In its pages the grass roots rural development worker can find out every-
thing about all sorts of products and technologies related to development in Papua New Guinea
from food products through processing and design to health and th e animation of village
Volunteer s for International Technical Assistance (VITA) . Village Technolog y
Handbook. Schenectady , Ne w York, 1970 . (Available from VITA , 370 6 Rhod e
Island, Mount Rainier, Maryland 20822 , U.S.A . price $9.00 )
Although quite old now, this book is still very relevant, describing as it does techniques and
devices which can be made and used in villages and covering such subjects as water, health,
sanitation, agriculture and construction. The Appropriate Technology Sourcebook mentioned
above, highly recommends it and says, "It always seems to have the information you're look-
ing for when you can't find it in another place."
OXFAM MATERIAL S ON APPROPRIAT E TECHNOLOGY 1. Intermediat e Technolog y Design Packs This pamphlet
Intermediat e Technolog y Design Packs
This pamphlet has emphasised th e importance of developing a technology within the society
in which it is to be used. But sometimes, it is possible to do part of the work in the rich coun-
tries where so much of the world's technological expertise exists. Oxfam's Appropriate Tech-
nology Design Problems scheme attempts to promote this. Oxfam feeds design problems
received from poor communities in the Third World to Polytechnics and Colleges of Techno-
logy in Britain t o be used as project work for final year students. The resulting ideas are re-
turned to th e people who originally asked for them. If acceptable, they can then be modified
and "transformed" as th e people wish.
An example of an idea that has been taken up
is a tablet counter for use in a hospital in the
Ivory Coast. The version in th e picture is rather
lavishly made of plastic bu t in th e Third World
it can be made of wood or other materials.
Oxfam does not expect a high success rate for
th e adoption of ideas produced in Britain bu t
there is an educational purpose too - they
illustrate the interest and the challenge of solv-
ing some of the problems of poverty.
Projects are provided in the form of a "Design Pack". The packs include: -
— technical specifications as received from overseas
information relating t o
the community, village or project from which design problems
have been received
— wider background information and reading lists about the country concerned
a reading list and information about Appropriate Technology
The projects usually involve th e designing of small pieces of agricultural, medical or industrial
equipment where no existing designs are available.
For details of th e packs and how t o use them please write t o Paul Sherlock, Edu-
cation Department, Oxfam, 27 4 Banbury Road , Oxford. 0X 2 7DZ. Price per pack
-90p .
2 . Books , Pamphlets and Other Materials a) from Oxfam's Education Department: Appropriate Technolog y
2 . Books , Pamphlets and Other Materials
a) from Oxfam's Education Department:
Appropriate Technolog y Pack. Put together b y a number of agencies, this illustrated pack
of materials investigates the many areas of appropriate technology that a school can take part
in (particularly th e upper school age range). CSV/Director y fo r
Social Change/Oxfam,
£2.75 .
What is Appropriate Technology ? This "Jigsaw" topic booklet considers how appro-
priate technology differs from other categories of technology and illustrates the application of
appropriate technology ideas to everyday tasks and activities using an Indian village as an
example. Teachers' notes are included, Suitable for younger children. Oxfam , 35p .
b)from Oxfam's Publications Office:
Hand Pump Maintenance in the Context o f Community Well Projects by Arnold
Pacey . This volume puts forward various strategies for overcoming th e social problems
associated with well projects, particularly the maintenance of hand pumps. It evaluates and
examines different types of pump and puts forward a recommended schedule of work for
those responsible for the
pump. Intermediate Technolog y Publications, £1.25 .
Gardening fo r Better Nutritio n b v Arnold
Pacey . This volume considers the tech-
nology of horticulture and vegetable growing as it applies mainly t o family gardens. In
particular, it describes alternative kinds of agricultural extension work related t o th e needs of
women who are mostly concerned with gardening and food production. Intermediate
Technolog y Publications, £1.60 .
Plastic Sheeting: Its use fo r Emergency Housing and Other Purposes b y Jim Howard
and Ro n Spice . The paper describes the details, advantages and problems associated with
these new sheeting materials. Oxfam Technical Guide , 25p .
Th e Oxfam Sanitation Unit . A leaflet which describes th e Unit, its uses, construction and
specifications. Oxfam , free.
When ordering these materials, please add a small amount t o cover postage & pack-
ing costs.
c) from your local bookshop:
Sanitation i n Developing Countries edite d b y Arnold Pacey . This book
is about
non-conventional techniques for providing sanitation and preventing the spread of excreta-
related diseases, including chapters on health, technology, the social factors and th e treatment
and re-use of wastes. The book was sponsored by Oxfam and th e Ross Institute of Tropical
Hygiene. Joh n Wiley and Sons , Chichester, £9.75 .