Technology change for livelihood development

Learning note

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This Note relates to KSF3: Alignment of design features with IFAD Strategic Objectives and lessons learnt; analysis and results framework
Version: January 2008

Core issues

Project Formulation should result in:

  • a technical strategy for changes in crop/livestock production, farming systems, processing, post-harvest or storage technology that is fully consistent with the constraints and circumstances of the intended target group. This should take into account gender roles and social differences as well as ongoing trends in livelihoods and the role of agriculture in the local and national economy
  • evidence that adopting this strategy would benefit the target group, and
  • workable proposals to facilitate the adoption of agricultural and technological changes and ensure that benefits reach the target group.

Depending on circumstances, technical changes may involve more efficient use of existing resources, intensification using new inputs, diversification into new products or markets, or adoption of advanced technologies such as biotechnology. The poor may benefit directly by upgrading their subsistence or commercial production systems, or through changes by the less poor that create jobs for the poorer.

The Technical Strategy should be based on an analysis of the agro-ecological and socio-economic setting including technical potentials, precedents for change, trends, constraints and opportunities.

The Technical Strategy should also take account of relevant issues concerning input supplies and markets; infrastructure; the environment and policies for resource management; and the evolving role and importance of farming and agriculture-based employment in the livelihood strategies of the target group.

Benefits should be demonstrated using a few realistic, well-chosen, illustrative crop/farm models. Where the poor are to be reached indirectly through job creation, their share in benefits should be calculated.

Organisation of technology change will usually involve contributions from the potential adopters themselves, facilitated and supported by the best available sources from the public, private or voluntary sectors or via commercial associations, depending on circumstances. These aspects are covered in Learning Note 4.3 – Rural Technical Support Services.

Key tasks for design and review

  • Generate convincing descriptions and assumptions regarding the present situation in the project area – e.g. of the productive potentials/risks of the agro-ecological setting, the composition and circumstances of the target group, their farming systems, the dynamics of the evolving role of crops and livestock in household livelihood strategies, or changes in employment potentials for the poor.
  • Make a convincing and realistic analysis of opportunities and constraints for technology change and their ability to benefit resource-poor farmers, taking gender differences into account.
  • Ensure consistency of the technical strategy with the above – e.g. take advantage of potentials for crop:livestock integration to stabilise incomes, conserve plant nutrients or augment draught power; avoid assuming uptake of inputs that are unavailable/unaffordable/too risky; allow for gender, social education or health constraints that restrict options for technology change or employment for the poorest beneficiaries; do not over-estimate market accessibility/opportunities/returns for diversification products.
  • Ensure realism in expectations of project service providers – e.g. allocate sufficient resources to adapt public research and extension services accustomed to top down input-based intensification to promoting participatory NRM; provide NGOs or private sector contractors that are intended to take-over technical support roles with adequate project support and training; develop means to bring in new service providers if necessary and build their support capacities.
  • Avoid making over-optimistic and excessively time-consuming crop budgets and/or farm models. Assume uptake only of inputs that can be made available to the IFAD target group and that they could be expected to use; limit assumed increases in cash costs or commitments of family labour to levels that are compatible with the resources or strategies for risk avoidance of poor farmers; in the case of technical strategies expected to generate work for the poor, ensure these impacts are estimated.
  • Proposals for technology change and its technical support – see Learning Note 4.3 Rural technical support services - can be combined by the team Agronomist/Agriculturalist in a Working Paper, using the headings in the Reference Box.

An outline for the presentation by agriculturalists of proposals for technology change

A summary of the agro-ecological setting, stressing biophysical opportunities and constraints to agricultural progress in the project area (e.g. soils, climate, topography, vegetation etc.).

A description of the role of agriculture in the livelihoods and survival strategies of the target group. Show how farming and/or employment as farm-workers contribute towards their livelihoods. Describe trends.

A description of the main farming systems in the project area, especially those practised by the target group.  Show how current husbandry practices reflect their risk-avoidance strategies and explore opportunities for the project to exploit: e.g. to accelerate on-going changes in farming systems, crop diversification, and non-agricultural changes, or to exploit new roads, and/or marketing opportunities.

A summary of the main socio-economic opportunities/constraints relevant to the agricultural activities of the target group.  Issues may concern gender, age, social structure, access to land, water or markets, and inputs or services (e.g. seeds, agro-chemicals, extension) infrastructure, environment, health, nutrition, education, or the influence of government policies. Stress those constraints, opportunities and issues that the project could logically and feasibly address through investment.

A technical strategy that exploits the opportunities that are realistically achievable, whilst addressing constraints that can be realistically remedied (emerging from the previous analysis). Summarise changes in technology and production practices that might be advocated/facilitated/promoted for which categories of rural people, indicating how they would respond to current and future needs of the target group and why the proposed technologies would be adoptable.

A facilitation strategy that identifies measures needing investment support in order to achieve the technical strategy.  Include information on any need to generate and/or improve access to new technologies; test/disseminate improved technology.  Identify actions required to remove/reduce “upstream” constraints, (e.g. credit and inputs); and remove/reduce “downstream” constraints (e.g. market access). Include any capacity building and/or institutional-strengthening requirements.

An organisation and management proposal showing how the strategy would be implemented. Propose means of involving beneficiaries both in planning and implementation of change, to ensure relevance of new technologies and delivery arrangements. Focus on the allocation of organisational and individual responsibilities to promote and facilitate participatory technical change.  Indicate how capacity of managers and/or service providers would be enhanced or supported. Show how a focus on the needs of the target group would be ensured.

A list of investment vategories and physical quantities that includes the main items required to implement the proposed technical changes, (for use in calculating aggregate project costs).

Evidence of adoptability of technology changes of the sorts envisaged through a small number of illustrative crop budgets and farm models. Highlight changes in returns to labour (especially family labour) cash costs and cash flows for typical members of the target group that would realistically result from project interventions within an acceptable period.  The issue of marketing and prices for incremental production should also be taken into account. Where appropriate, estimate impacts on job creation.

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