Methodological and Technological issues in Technology Transfer

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11.4.2 Programmes and Policies to Encourage Technology Transfer

New mechanisms based on existing technology transfer trends. Adaptation to climate variability and change can be autonomous or planned. Planned adaptation, when it concerns transfer, requires strategic actions, based on an awareness that climate is changing and that action is needed to better respond to such change. In spite of the current uncertainty, a range of adaptation options can be employed to increase the flexibility and adaptability of vulnerable systems, and reverse trends that increase vulnerability. Many technologies that can be used to adapt to climate change are already in use in some places. In order to extend them, technology needs and technology transfer mechanisms should be more fully assessed and reported to increase the role of technology transfer in climate adaptation (IPCC Workshop, 1998).

The transferred technology will focus on key issues. Food security in the 21st century is a major concern of every country. Changes in temperature and precipitation levels may impose a negative impact on that security, especially for the arid regions where water resources are limited and drought is the major risk facing agricultural production. Development, introduction, and adoption of technologies and management systems that enhance water use efficiency represent high priorities. The design of technologies and institutions to complete a successful technology transfer will become increasingly important. During the next century water resources will become an increasingly serious constraint on agricultural production. Irrigation is already playing a critically important role in agricultural production for many countries. See Box 11.1. Weather information, a soft technology, can be very important for managers and producers. In the USA, there are excellent examples of the use of this technology( See Box 11.2).

Box 11.1 Irrigation Technology Transfer within a Country

The diffusion of irrigation technologies within a country facing water shortage problems can increase that country's adaptability to climate change. The biggest barrier for irrigation technology transfer within a country may be the shortage of financial capital. Usually, the adoption of new technologies imposes additional costs when compared to conventional practices. Technology transfer will be more difficult where the recipients, who are usually farmers, cannot afford the additional costs. Subsidised inputs from governments or international organisations can accelerate technology transfer in these situations.

The second barrier occurs when farmers are not knowledgeable enough to select the most suitable combination of irrigation technology, equipment, crop varieties, and management techniques to obtain the maximum returns in their situation. Technical assistance, such as educational programmes, training, and design aids from the government and other related organisations can help to overcome this obstacle (Ribaudo, 1997).

The third barrier encountered by irrigation technology transfer may result from public attitudes toward the technologies involved. In some regions, the necessity of irrigation to increase agricultural productivity and improve the adaptability of agricultural production to climate change has not been recognised by local governments and farmers. Education, training, demonstration projects and advertising can help create a more positive public attitude toward irrigation, thus eliminating this barrier.

New irrigation technologies require higher levels of management. Limited management knowledge and experience may prevent farmers from realising maximum profits from introduced irrigation technologies. This may slow the adoption of the introduced technologies and require further technology transfer interventions. This barrier can be addressed by training farmers in new irrigation management techniques as an integral part of the planning and installation of new systems, so that proper management is integrated into the initial technology adoption process.

Box 11.2 Furnishing Weather Measurements to Assist in Agricultural Decision Making
An automated weather data network (AWDN) was established in Nebraska, USA, in 1981. This network, and associated user interfaces, provides timely access to weather variables known to cause variations in agricultural production (Neue and Boonjawat, 1998).

The role of the government in this case is both to support a weather data collection and dissemination system, and to educate potential climate data users from the various sectors of the economy.

End-user recipients receive information that allows them to reduce their operating costs while maintaining optimal production. This increases net profit while conserving water resources and the energy involved in water delivery to the fields. Technology recipients receive the tools needed to provide timely information that is vital to decision processes in agriculture.

Applications programmes require user friendly interfaces with on-line help. In addition, education is a vital link in the chain from monitoring to application of data. The U.S. system has been replicated in Mexico, Brazil, and India. National and international organisations are recommended to adopt policies that promote near-real time monitoring efforts, and interagency committees should coordinate the needs for near-real time data.

Commodity programmes.
Commodity programmes that are crafted with care can assist the production of crops or crop varieties that have been bred for wider climate adaptation. Introduction of new varieties can be assisted by information provided by commodity programmes.

Trade policies.
Trade is able to play a significant adaptive role in technology transfer, allowing farmers in countries less severely affected by climate change to profit by selling products to consumers in the more severely affected regions. In this way, markets act to pool the risk of locally severe effects. Even with highly uncertain scenarios, regionally differentiated effects are highly likely. Thus, continued strengthening of agriculture with GATT provides important flexibility for adapting to climate change (Reilly, 1995).

Mitigation options exist, but few have been widely adopted or transferred for reasons that are often of a social rather than a technical nature, and it is extremely difficult to gain a sense of their cumulative potential for improving productivity and sustainable natural resource management. For example, the conversion of low intensity agricultural systems to forest has been used as a method for absorbing CO2, but there are few similar land use change or management practices with a demonstrated impact on CH4 or N2O emissions. In the case of N2O, it is generally accepted that measures which improve the efficiency of nitrogen fertiliser applications may be of value in reducing emissions, but these measures are often difficult to adopt for farmers and their effectiveness is yet to be demonstrated, thus adversely influencing successful technology transfer.

Adoption subsidies.
Although farmers have been able to significantly reduce nitrogen use in certain cases, changes in nitrogen use and profitability of technology adoption are highly location specific. More widespread adoption of major changes in management practices may require considerably larger subsidies than are currently available. Adoption subsidies need to be very carefully specified, time limited, targeted and transparent. They need to be monitored and evaluated, and adapted to changing circumstances. See Box 11.3.

Box 11.3 Encourage Efficient Use of Nitrogen Fertilisers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers programmes providing education and technical and financial assistance to encourage more efficient use of nitrogen to control water pollution. Although control of GHG emissions is not an explicit goal, these programmes can reduce N2O emissions and may be considered to be part of a no-regrets strategy. Stakeholders include farmers as well as federal, state and local environmental and water resource management agencies.

Barriers preventing technology transfer include: lack of producer familiarity with new practices, lack of knowledge on how to integrate new practices into current management systems, need for additional educational support to interpret soil testing data, and lower profitability of some resource-conserving practices. Cost-sharing (adoption subsidies) could be used to overcome adoption barriers. Local environmental conditions play a greater role in the adoption of resource-conserving practices than do the existence of demonstration projects.

Benefits include reduced input costs and a potential for reducing N2O emission.

Compliance programmes.
Compliance programmes have been successfully implemented in the USA. Such programmes, including transferred mitigation technology, require farmers to adopt certain approved production or land use practices in order to receive income support payments and other USDA programme benefits (Osborn, 1997a). The Conservation Compliance Program encourages the adoption of conservation cropping sequences, crop residue use and conservation tillage on highly erodible land. Similar programmes have been adopted in EU member states in recent years.

Demonstration projects.
Technical opportunities exist to improve animal feed quality and can be applied both on natural pastures and in farming systems. Fortunately, improved feed quality results in the reduction of GHG (methane) emissions from ruminant animals. Box 11.4 describes a demonstration project and its results in technology transfer.

Box 11.4 The Programme of Using Treated Straw as Cattle Feed in China

Straw ammoniation technology can not only increase digestibility of animal feed and feed intake but also reduce 25-75 per cent of methane emissions per unit of animal produce-meat, milk, work, etc. (Sollod and Walters, 1992). This practice, which upgrades straw quality, can increase the digestibility of animal feed and lead to an increase of animal productivity.

Beef and milk production has been increased 230.7% and 38.7% in the past 5 years in China respectively, partly because of the transfer of straw ammoniation technology. The saved feed grain was 19.80 million tonnes in 1995. It can also increase organic fertiliser used and reduce biomass burning in crop lands.

The China State Council issued a document in 1992 about utilising crop straw to develop livestock in the farming region. There were a series of policies and measures to be adopted by different levels of governments and related departments to support the programme. One hundred and nineteen demonstration counties had been selected for activities that lasted until 1995.

Both the farmers and the government benefited from this programme.

The transfer of this technology is limited by the incremental investment (US$ 25 per ton) and by the lack of urea. Subsidisation, credit and assistance may be needed to overcome these financial barriers.

The national network is still weak with respect to animal feeding and nutritional management. Therefore, training should be given to livestock extension agents in the basics of practical ruminant nutrition, in feeding practices, and in the introduction of and on-farm support for key technologies.

This technology was selected to be disseminated nationwide as one of ten key technologies in 1989. The technology of using straw as cattle feed was placed in the agricultural development programme in 1992. The government allocated special funds (US$ 1.2 million) to establish 10 demonstration counties at the beginning, after which the funds increased rapidly to reach US$ 2.5 and 4.3 million in 1993 and 1994, respectively.

An interesting example of improved technology through technology transfer to increase feed supplies is urea treatment, which improves the palatability and digestibility of straw in China, resulting in a reduction of the relative methane emissions from animals. The amount of straw treated has increased from almost 0 tonnes in 1995 to 4 million tonnes in 1999, and is projected to reach 30 million tonnes by 2000 (Hongmin et al., 1996; Tingshang, 1995).

Education/technical assistance.
Efforts in the areas of information technology and management are becoming increasingly important for in order to establish growth in crop and animal productivity in the face of climate change. Education programmes for youth, technical advisors, and technology recipients are important in improving technology transfer.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s the World Bank devoted very substantial resources to the support of an intensive training and visit (T&V) system of delivering information about practices and technology to farmers. The system involved a highly regimented schedule in which the field level worker is involved one day each week in intensive training about the information that he or she must convey to farmers (Benor and Harrison, 1977). New T&V programmes supported by international organisations for adaptation and mitigation of climate change are desirable.

Communication/outreach activities for technology transfer.
Modern modes of extension delivery could greatly reduce traditional face-to-face extension and improve the mobility of extension agents. Radio, television and video display can spread messages suitable for a general audience and leave more time for the agent to concentrate on individual farmers' needs. These methods are common practice in developed countries, and have gained acceptance in developing countries as, for example, agricultural information via state television in India and Brazil; videotaped messages in Brazil, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru; and satellite systems for spreading agricultural information over large areas in Indonesia, the Philippines and West Africa. Public information programmes aimed at demonstrating the benefits of new technologies may need to be coupled with cost-sharing to overcome barriers. In some cases, a technology information unit can be very useful to stimulate such public information programmes for technology transfer within a country (see Box 11.5).

Box 11.5 Conservation Technology Information Center

The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) was created in the United States by conservation organisations, universities, and private companies in the early 1980s. It was designed to gather and disseminate information to speed the adoption of conservation tillage technologies among American farmers. The Center's goal was to share information, and two early initiatives were launched to establish that capacity: carrying a national survey of tillage practices since 1982, and creating a national network of scientists and scientific information that could serve as a referral service.

Yield reduction and increased risk of failure were the most critical barrier for conservation tillage. Early field trials were needed on thousands of widely diverse soil and crop combinations to demonstrate that these risks could be managed. The CTIC encouraged conservation districts, USDA-SCS, and universities to conduct such trials, to hold field days for farmers and to communicate the results widely. The benefits to farmers include a reduction in labour, machine time, fuel, and associated costs. Yields are, in general, high enough to make net profits higher due to reduced cost.

Technology transfer that involves a complex system of new crop varieties, new machines, new methods, and unknown risks is a slow process that demands a long-term commitment to research, education, and adaptation. Lingering threats of increased federal regulation of farm practices to address water pollution from cropland erosion was a reason for farm businesses and leaders to promote new systems that could achieve water quality goals voluntarily.

The CTIC process can be adopted where both public and private benefits are adequate enough to encourage a long-term commitment. It requires a situation where communication and education hold a major key to technology transfer. It also requires a situation where communications are adequate enough to allow producers to easily reach the information centre.

Special considerations for agricultural technology transfer
Agriculture, in contrast to many other economic activities, is diffuse across diverse landscapes. Millions of individual decision-makers have to be motivated in order for climate change adaptation or mitigation technology to be transferred and adopted. Technology transfer depends on having good new technology that can provide concrete benefits to farmers and which yields those benefits relatively quickly. The technology also has to fit within the existing social and economic system.

Pilot projects and demonstration projects represent an especially cost effective approach. However, in order to meet the criteria for technology transfer to farmers, given that the impacts from climate change are slowly cumulative, there will have to be a prompt productivity pay-off to the farmer from the activity. The combination of the gradual accumulation of negative impacts that may come from climate change and the need for almost immediate pay-off required by farmers for technology transfer results in the requirement for subsidies or incentives from the public sector. The public costs of technology transfer to agriculture - especially in mitigation where there may not be clear benefit to the farmer from the new technology or activity - will be high.

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