| Animal-Drawn Wheeled Toolcarriers: Perfected yet Rejected |
|6. Experience in Latin America: 1979-1986|
While the lessons from Africa and India appear clear, there is much less positive or negative evidence from Latin America. There have been small numbers of wheeled toolcarriers in several South and Central American countries for many years, but few projects have progressed beyond the on-station evaluation stage. This may itself be highly significant, but without major attempts at encouraging adoption there have been neither notable successes nor failures where it matters most - at farm level.
At present there seem to be two major promotional initiatives under way that may provide useful evidence in Brazil and in Mexico. Both have been supported by external technical assistance and both have the somewhat dubious advantage of a relatively high profile of political support. In some respects the stage reached is similar to that of Gambia and Senegal in the 1960s, Botswana in the 1970s or India in the 1980s. In such cases a euphoric combination of encouraging on-station research, official support for the new technical "solution" and subsidised production, promotion and credit were leading to (temporary) farmer adoption. The question in Mexico and Brazil is whether the adoption curve will crash, as in Africa and India, or whether it will continue to rise in the ideal exponential curve, as has always been hoped for by toolcarrier protagonists.
Compared with Africa and Asia there are two factors that may favour adoption: high ratios of land to labour and large animals. Some people might suggest that the apparent great importance attached to a farmer's "image" should also assist adoption.
On the cautionary side it should be noted that both Mexican and Brazilian initiatives were beset by early problems in producing high quality implements at a reasonable price. In both countries some professionals actually involved in implementing the externally financed projects have expressed serious doubts about the economic viability and technical desirability of the wheeled toolcarrier programmes. In both Mexico and Brazil it has been demonstrated that all the operations performed by a toolcarrier can be performed easily, and more cheaply using simpler implements.
Time will tell, but while those strongly advocating the use of toolcarriers are now having to turn from Africa and Asia to Latin America in search of a possible practical use for their technology, the prospects are by no means full of promise. It is interesting to note that in both Mexico and Brazil the projects are spreading their risks (and those of the farmers) by promoting ranges of equipment that include simple toolbars. This seems a very sensible approach from all points of view. The farmers can opt for what they perceive as most appropriate (under much less pressure than when one technology is being heavily promoted) and the projects themselves may rightly be able to claim "success" even if the wheeled toolcarrier option is rejected by the farmers.