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

Training farmers

Informal training in understanding modern technology is necessary for farmers, local communities and the public to participate effectively in development programs. Extension services in CWANA are often weak in this respect, and knowledge in the labs often does not reach farmers or the beneficiaries of technologies (Gender Advisory Board, 2004). In addition, if rural people are to obtain relevant technical, entrepreneurial and management skills, they need adequate training. In an increasingly technical and communications- oriented world, specialized training schemes (in computing and accounting, for example) are needed, including programs for women, who dominate many service and trading activities (World Bank, undated).

Constraints to adoption

Modern technologies that increase agricultural productivity do exist, but many factors prevent farmers from adopting them. As researchers want to maximize production, this can lead to technologies that require a high degree of management and a high level of precision. But farmers tend to want robust technologies and are prepared for lower potential returns if their risk and vulnerability are reduced (CGIAR, 2002). Evidence so far suggests that technologies that are embodied in a seed, such as transgenic insect resistance, may be easier for small-scale, resource-poor farmers to use than more complicated crop technologies that require other inputs or complex management strategies. On the other hand, some biotechnology packages, particularly for livestock and fisheries, require a certain institutional and managerial environment to function properly and thus may not be effective for resource-poor smallholders (FAO, 2002). Farmers should assess the different management options available and adapt them to fit their own circumstances and production goals.

Given the technical and financial constraints that they face, many resource-poor farmers in CWANA countries are unable to adopt the very technology that is intended to reduce their poverty. An example is an agricultural technology designed to produce nontraditional crops that will expand nontraditional exports, which can result in agricultural growth and overall economic growth. However, the nontraditional export sector’s contribution to poverty reduction may be relatively small because nontraditional export growth is often concentrated around cities where there is greater access to transportation and other market facilities (World Bank, undated)

4.3.2 Options to improve AKST access and use

Access to natural, physical and financial resources. The world has the technology to feed a population of 10 billion people. However, access to such technology is not assured (FAO, 2002). New technologies—particularly biotechnology and information technologies—require new approaches to facilitate access to CWANA countries, especially for the poor (World Bank, 2007). The range of potential barriers includes issues related to civil society and governments accepting the technology; it includes financial, informational, educational and technical barriers that keep poor farmers marginalized and unable to adopt new, unaffordable technology; it includes intellectual property rights.


Farmers in developing countries experience a need for support services and resources such as access to credit, infrastructure, and services such as transportation and market facilities (Gender Advisory Board, 2004). The high cost of modern technologies is one of the most serious setbacks to their use, slowing adoption. High cost of a technology can be further exacerbated by poor investment of both public and private sectors (USAID, 2005).

The policy bias against agriculture in developing countries and the trade barriers put up by industrial countries is well known (USAID, 2005), and a situation that calls for reform in both camps. Particularly important are government policies to enhance access for smallholder producers and other agricultural and NRM entrepreneurs to regional and world markets (domestic and international trade policies), as well as to build the capacity of developing country governments in these areas. Improving national macroeconomic policies is critical (World Bank, 2003, in USAID, 2005) to support agricultural trade and market access as well as markets for agricultural inputs and services, and to facilitate entrepreneurship.

Information on agricultural technologies, markets and investors affects decisions on adopting the technology. Therefore, to boost production, it is crucial to improve access to this information using communication technologies (Gender Advisory Board, 2004). Policies that improve access to global knowledge and technology should be identified and introduced to reduce the gap between knowledge systems and technologies available to agronomists, plant breeders and farmers in developed and developing countries.

4.3.3 Options to activate enabling factors of AKST generation and application

In its report, the UN Task Force on Science, Technology, and Innovation concludes that to achieve the MDGs, developing countries must strategically embrace the role of science and technology in their development efforts. Then they must begin “improving the policy environment, redesigning infrastructure investment, fostering enterprise development, reforming higher education, supporting inventive activity, and managing technological innovation.” These components are part of the enabling environment that will encourage the generation, transfer and adaptation of agricultural technologies, leading to greater productivity and sustainable development (USAID, 2005).

CWANA countries will have many crucial decisions to make in meeting their sustainable agricultural goals. These decisions need to be made and implemented based on decision makers’ knowledge of the unique environmental, social and economic characteristics of their country. Those CWANA countries with strong research, health and education capacity will offer a supportive environment for technology development and investment (USDA, 2003). The role of the civil society (consumer groups and small-scale farmers’ societies) in technology assessment cannot be overemphasized.

The European Commission notes a growing recognition that technology development needs to be “meshed with social, economic and policy dimension to have impact on beneficiaries” (EIRAD, 2004, in USAID, 2005). Modern