Methodological and Technological issues in Technology Transfer

Other reports in this collection

4.11 Rights to Productive Resources

In addition to the matter of intellectual property rights discussed in Chapter 3 - who owns (and benefits from the use of) the technologies to be transferred - there is a need to take into account the resource rights for the productive resources that would be used or affected by the transfer of any technology. These resources include land (certainly for agriculture and forestry), natural resources (forests, water, coastal areas), factories, and other productive resources.

The literature on technology transfer and development in agriculture, forestry, and coastal resources is rich with examples of the importance of resource rights. Certain programmes have failed because governments ignored resource rights, or ignored conflicts between legal resource rights and traditional or local resource systems. Other examples have shown how resource rights can affect the incentives to landowners to adopt new technologies.

If governments or others trying to introduce the technologies take into account the property relations of the land or resources affected by the technologies, they can adapt the technologies or take other measures that can ameliorate the potential disruptive social impacts of the new technologies. Better yet, technologies can be selected that are more appropriate to the particular property relations of the affected resources.

The distribution and control of property is a fundamental component of human relations: "property rights are but formal expressions of authority between persons and groups of persons." (Denman, 1978, p. 101). Property relations reflect the organisation of economic production and the allocation of wealth; property has traditionally been the foundation of political control and a key to social status (Agarwal, 1994).

The relation between technology transfer and property rights is multi-faceted. The adoption of a technology - by whom, and how extensive the adoption - is often contingent of the form of property relations. Forms of property rights can contribute to practices that degrade the environment (Thiesenhusen, 1991), and block the adoption of ameliorative practices or technologies.

Once a technology is adopted, the changes in production stimulated by the technology can often lead to shifts in property relations, and hence to shifts in economic and political power, from the household and local levels to the national level. If technologies are introduced that are more appropriate, more easily adopted, or otherwise appropriated by larger rather than smaller land owners, by owners rather than tenants, by men rather than women, or by one ethnic group rather than another, those introducing the technologies risk alienating and even further impoverishing already disadvantaged groups in the society (Agarwal, 1994; Carney and Watts, 1991).

Other reports in this collection