| Programming and Training for Small Farm Grain Storage |
|Part II. Grain storage project training|
Major Subject Areas
- Concept of Appropriate Technology
- Guidelines for design of appropriate improved storage technologies
- Guidelines for field research trials
- Volunteer will be able to make recommendations for basic design improvements of local postharvest methods and structures
- Volunteer will be able to set up and monitor field research trials
- Volunteer will be able to select farmers . respected in the village who will be cooperative for field research trials
- Peace Corps Information Collection and Exchange References on Appropriate Technology
- Peace Corps/VITA Small Farm Grain Storage Manual, Sections 4, 5, 6, 7; Appendices D, E
- L.I.F.E./AACC Post Harvest Grain Loss Assessment Manual, available on request from L.I.F.E. , 1126 - 16th Street, N. W., Washington, D. C. 20036
- Small is Beautiful, Economics as If People Mattered, E. Schumacher, available through the Office of Programming and Training Coordination, Peace Corps, 806 Connecticut Avenue, N. W., Washington, D. C. 20525
- Reports of or visits to local or regional storage design and research trials
Suggested Training Exercises
- Plan field research trials with three different improvements and one traditional control with three duplications of each example. Plan all materials necessary, their delivery, tools required, agreements necessary with farmers, and time and type of observations to be made.
Successful change or local-storage methods will depend large on the degree to which the program or effort relies and builds on local skills and knowledge, utilizes local resources, and responds to local needs and goals As one of the countless examples of locally adapted technology, American prairie farmers used sod to build their homes, even though masonry bricks would have been more durable. But bricks were either not easily available or more expensive, so The sod houses were cheaper and easier to guild and maintain. Closer to our subject, although subsistence farmers might get better results from chemical insecticides, mixing sand with stored grain may be preferable as it is simpler and less expensive.
This general approach to technological innovation has recently been given a popularly accepted name by the late Ernest Schumacher of Britain. It is called Appropriate Technology (A.T.). A.T. is defined in many, and sometimes conflicting ways, though for the purposes of this Handbook, A.T. refers to technologies which are derived from the needs, goals, knowledge, and resources of the client population. (in this case, the small subsistence farmer). Because labor is often more plentiful and cheaper than mechanization, labor-intensive solutions are common to A.T. Schumacher's book, Small is Beautiful, Economics as If People Mattered, is a useful information resource for this section of the Handbook.
Peace Corps Volunteers working in poor or isolated rural areas should quickly recognize the logic of client-oriented technology and employ the basic concepts of A.T. in their work, even with-out a formal understanding of it. Large storage development projects in the past too often have not used the A.T. approach. Inappropriateness explains the numerous examples of massive, imported, modern storage bins which have been abandoned or never us-cd. The question of large centralized storage installations as opposed to on-farm storage should be examined from the A.T. viewpoint in determining whether expertise and cash resources presently exist to use and maintain, large, modern installations. Railroad and transport infrastructures must exist to bring large quantities of grain to central storage locations. In fact, farmers may be able to store and handle grain themselves at a lower cost, higher efficiency, and with lower losses.
Under any climatic conditions, the major dangers to safe storage can be controlled by employing a variety of often highly mechanized and sophisticated, though not necessarily appropriate, technologies. However, farmers' non-acceptance of "modern'' storage bins or grain dryers results in no improvement in grain storage conditions. Among the most common reasons for farmer non-acceptance of new storage technologies are that the new methods a simply do not function properly in the local climate, are too expensive, too difficult to repair and use or are in conflict with local cultural practices.
Education and extension can change cultural values and practices and teach farmers how to adopt and use new storage methods although this may be a long and slow process. However, before education and extension can begin effectively, the basic design and feasibility of the new method must be carefully examined. The important point here is the development project planner and extension worker have the responsibility to recognize and effectively deal with these technology design and transfer problems.
Before a new storage method can be advocated for farmer adoption, its technical, economic and cultural viability must be verified along with the ability of the extension/educational system to successfully introduce it. To increase the likelihood of successful adoption, careful, systematic, applied research is required to explore all possible approaches. But research in the lahoratory or on the research farm cannot replace actual on-farm trials. Such field trials, however, must be repeat-c if the multitude of social, technical, economic, and cultural factors are to be clearly understood and dealt with. They are not necessarily complex nor do they necessarily require advanced technical expertise. In fact, available resources may dictate that they make do with meager technical support and resources. The following guidelines are recommended for improved storage method design and for the conduct of field research trials.
Guidelines for the Design of Improved Storage Technologies
Above all other considerations, improved storage technologies must function properly under local conditions. Guarantees from foreign manufacturers may have no relationship to the reality of a farmer's environmental conditions of intense heat, torrential rains, dust storms, etc. If field tests are properly conducted, technical viability should be readily apparent. For example, airtight storage is not an approximate technology. Unless the container is and stays airtight, insect control just will not happen. Does grain actually dry or stay dry? Does the insecticide lose its effectiveness over time? Does the rat guard actually stop rats? Is the plastic liner easily, pierced by sharp objects or rodents? Does moisture seep up through the "moisture-proof" barrier? These situations may sound unlikely; yet they are not.
The cost of improvements must be compared to:
1. The realistic grain value saved as a direct result of the improved technology, and
2. The cost of the old technology and the realistic value of the losses inherent in that technology.
A very basic calculation of the cost of any technology includes the initial materials cost, projected repair expenses, projected total depreciation, and labor costs by the farmer or hired help. Labor costs may-be difficult to evaluate if the farmer does the work him/herself. In this case, the most useful evaluation of tine required labor may come directly from the farmer who has had actual experience with both technologies in question. He/she will likely consider not only the time and effort required, but the competing labor demands, the storage quality outcome, and the labor requirements for repair and use.
Some technologies may be viable in terms of the value of grain saved, but inappropriate for the average farmer. At times, projects may opt to deal with above-average income farmers for the simple reason that little significant improvement can be brought to the level of the average farmer. Such projects should be very carefully reviewed as they may have long-range ramifications on the economics of a whole area, possibly increasing land ownership by the wealthy, increasing the number of landless poor, and encouraging their immigration to urban areas.
The access and dependability of material supplies need careful examination. For example, what happens during fuel shortage if dryer fuel is needed to avoid a mold problem? The increased dependence on imported materials and resultant foreign cash flow may not be advantageous to a developing nation. However, imports may have their own unique problems in regularity of supply.
New skills required in the construction, use, and maintenance of a technology may have a major effect on its practicality. In the time you will be available, can farmers or skilled trades persons learn the necessary skills, enabling independent, unsupervised operation? If not, increasing acceptance or the technology will create greater and greater demands or extension support. Can farmers or skilled tradespersons read and understand printed instructions for construction, operation, and maintenance?
Established labor patterns--If men tend to harvest while women and children transport, dry, shell, grind, and store grain, labor patterns (and potential changes in ownership) need to be known and accounted for in the design of new technologies. If women score, the bins need to be designed so that women can use them, including special design factors for height and weight considerations. Labor requirements during construction. and use need to be accounted for. Specifically, how much and whose actual labor is required? What else must be accomplished at the same time? What will take priority?
Cultural and religious beliefs--These can be very complex and difficult to learn and appreciate by an outsider who may have very different belief systems. The following general areas need attention:
- Status--Does grain, its visibility, quantity, quality, or manner of storage add or detract from a farmer's status?
- Religion--Does grain or its products play a role in the farmer's religion? Is it sacred, or is its possession considered to be a temporary condition bestowed by a divine force? Are losses to rodents, birds, etc., considered as the farmer's contribution to the life around him?
- Family--Is grain needed as gifts to needy family or friends, for weddings, funerals, and the like? Does a visible grain bin invite less fortunate to request aid? Will this influence how much the farmer will want to store or the desired visibility of the bin?
- Theft--Is it a problem? Will new storage methods help to prevent it? Will they encourage it?
- Food taste and texture--Do improved technologies, which cause changes in grain and grain product texture and coned. taste, cause it to be unacceptable? Some insecticides may cause problems, as may new drying processes. Field testing will reveal such dietary acceptance problems.
Guidelines for Conducting Field Research Trials
Insure minimal farmer risk--Farmers should be asked to test only new methods which are reasonably certain of success. Abysmal failures set very bad precedents and make poor advertising for a new project. If new methods under consideration have a very uncertain chance of success, the trials should be conducted in the Volunteer's backyard or on a research farm, where failure will not risk heavy losses by the farmer or give bad publicity to the project. However, this sheltered testing environment can never replace actual farm trials. Farmers should be insured against unforeseen losses due to possible failure of the new technology either by replacing the lost grain or paying its cash value. Any costs of the trial technology should be paid partly or in full by the farmer. Caution needs to be exercised, to assure that farmers in the area do no' come to think that the new silo, dryer, etc., is always going to be handed out as a gift.
Repeat--A single design trial is seldom enough even though trial extension efforts may begin while design trials continue. Climatic conditions, as well as insect and rodent infestations, may vary from year to year. One farmer may be have very differently from others, making it necessary to run trials with a variety of farmers: old and young, wealthy and poor, those located near cities, etc.
Run trials in the real farm milieu--Research farms and Volunteers' yards are not typical farm conditions. The sooner farmers learn and perform certain tasks involved with the technology in the context of the trials, the more likely the results are going to reflect real problems or shortfalls.
Compare with traditional methods--Ideally this should be done by observing both technologies in operation by the same farmer. Compare weight losses from the beginning of the storage period to the end. Volume losses are much more difficult to assign meaningful values to.
Assign cash values--Assign a realistic value to the cost of each technology and its components! to the grain losses or savings due to each.
Be aware of cultural variables--Farmers who are chosen to participate in research trials must be cooperative and follow instructions . Furthermore, they should be representative or the average farmer population. This may be difficult to achieve if only the most innovative farmers are willing to cooperate. Ideally, trial farmers should be well-respected in their village or area so that results will be trusted by neighboring farmers and so that their example and recommendations will be respected and followed. Trial farmers may be so eager to cooperate that they cover up problems just to please the Volunteer or trial supervisor .