110 | Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) Report

is becoming more knowledge and information intensive. The challenges here require global efforts to reach agreements on access for the poor to proprietary information and technologies. In addition, a modernizing agricultural sector requires harnessing new skills and capacities to use modern science and technology (World Bank, 2007, a formidable task ahead for CWANA countries.

To summarize, considerable advances in Internet and electronic commerce and their application to the needs of CWANA countries present great opportunities to provide new cost-effective knowledge systems. They offer much potential to make agricultural growth more pro-poor, but at the same time they are often controversial. The challenge will be how to use these new advances together with developments in biotechnology and other agricultural technologies to make the complex agricultural systems of CWANA more productive and sustainable.

4.2.4 Social factors

Market and trade. Competitive global markets in the past years have favored corporate farming to the detriment of small-scale economies, diversity in agricultural products and farming systems. Small-scale farmers, semi-, low-skilled or informal laborers are likely to suffer most from purely market- oriented agricultural production. Women, who constitute the majority in these categories, are likely to suffer more from liberalization policies in agriculture (Baden, 1998).

Since “markets are not abstract, neutral entities but are real processes of exchange embedded in social institutions, including gender relations” (Baden, 1998) a number of policies can be adopted to balance their negative effects. These include providing credit to initiate new businesses, information on new market possibilities and requirements, and training on compliance with new production standards. Also, constructing infrastructures to facilitate movement between rural areas and the markets, and storing, transporting and preserving agricultural produce could be effective ways to integrate farmers from the most remote areas and enhance female participation in the market. This would increase the control by farmers over the returns for their agricultural work and eventually empower them, particularly the female farmers. This might also positively affect the general economy of many rural households.

Agricultural market liberalization has generally reduced state intervention. A different approach might assign a new positive role to the state to support fair globalization of the market. Alternative systems of agricultural production that favor locally produced and organic products of quality can support small economies, help preserve local systems of agronomic management and benefit the environment. They can also help diminish the marginalization of the most vulnerable rural sectors.

Climate change. Addressing climate change has recently become an urgent concern. Pollution and unsustainable development megaprojects in the past have mostly affected dwellers of marginalized areas, which are, for example, often chosen as sites for dams (McCully, 1996). Displacement, worsening health standards and general impoverishment are among the related consequences. Unpredictable changes in the ecosystem can cause droughts and other ecological


disasters that will affect the most vulnerable people—mainly poor women, children and the old.

Some see paid ecosystem services as the solution to pollution. These, however, like other market-based solutions to environmental degradation, could have a negative effect on the poor, who, unable to pay for these services, will have to cope with increasing pollution that negatively affects their health. Development of ecofriendly technology, on the contrary, such as less harmful substitutes for pesticides and fertilizers, and alternative sources of energy, will partially limit environmental pollution and will primarily benefit rural users.

Agricultural policies and AKST development. Focusing AKST development on discovering alternative sources of energy, improving agricultural production and optimizing the use of available natural resources can be the first step toward sustainability. A sustainable approach to development of agricultural technology will not aim at agricultural production per se but will integrate a number of concerns such as environmental, sociocultural and economic ones. It will also include the needs of all stakeholders in establishing priority areas, research performance and technology development by adopting a gender-sensitive participatory approach.

For many years now, including end users in development intervention is considered a premise for sustainability (Zuger, 2005). This is because AKST developed with a top-down, non-participatory method is unlikely to address the diverse conditions, needs and preferences of end users. Technology developed under a purely market-driven system also is likely to focus on profitable topics, marginalizing the needs and interests of those who lack the financial means to support research or influence its development. Technology can become a tradable good available to the most affluent countries and people only.

The exclusion from technology development of the actual doers of agricultural duties leads to ineffective results. In CWANA countries women contribute significantly to agriculture and should participate in AKST development. A gender-blind approach to AKST can produce inefficient results, is likely to improve only the agricultural work of men and also can disempower the overlooked end users. Because men’s work is considered productive, as opposed to women’s domestic work, which is regarded as unproductive, it is generally considered more worthy of investment. As a result, research and social spending are directed to irrigation infrastructures more than to safe drinking water, with women and children usually being the ones to fetch water (WEDO, 2003). Cash crops, mainly cultivated by men, often receive more attention than subsistence crops, generally grown by women (Chambers, 1983). Agricultural machinery is mainly designed for male users and their needs. Because engagement with mechanized agriculture often corresponds to more powerful positions in intrahousehold or community dynamics (Boserup, 1970) a gender-blind AKST can disempower women.

In a truly participatory approach to agricultural technology, both men and women farmers will develop AKST and produce machinery with technical characteristics that make it easier for smaller and weaker persons to use. This