0.3 Development potentials
The concept of rural development aims to meet the basic needs of
the majority of the population in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This direct
approach to basic needs has taken a variety of forms, project types and degrees
of integration of individual measures, ranging from infrastructure projects
(e.g. transport, energy and water supply), institution building (agricultural
and other extension services, assistance to self-help groups and cooperatives),
supply with credits and inputs and the promotion of local, small-scale
processing of agricultural products.
Agro-industrial development, defined as processing of
agricultural products on a larger scale, is of necessity, often located in
central places of the producing areas or the capital of the country. The basic
concept is rather a macro-economic approach of substituting imports of consumer
goods or earning foreign currency with exports. Agro-industrial projects, such
as the establishment of central oil mills, have often been successful in keeping
an additional value-adding processirig step in the hands of a developing country
and have thereby led to a more advantageous participation in the structure of
The other side of the coin is, however, that quite a number of
these projects have not proved to be viable due to insufficient or badly planned
rawmaterial supply, management problems and/or highly fluctuating market prices.
In macro-economic terms, the result of such projects has often been an increase
in foreign debts rather than any profit for the country.
Without unfair generalization, one might say that very few
agro-industrial plants have made a substantial direct contribution to the basic
needs of rural people. As far as oil mills are concerned, producer prices are
often kept artificially low in order to be competitive in international markets.
Additional employment opportunities are relatively few, and the improved supply
of vegetable oil is more often geared to the urban population. Producers of
vegetable oil in rural areas, especially women, often find it more difficult to
compete in local markets, since their traditional techniques are very
labour-intensive and relatively inefficient. Provided that the social context is
considered, as sketched below, the promotion of improved small-scale equipment
for oil processing could therefore close a technological gap, increase the
availability of oil for personal consumption and generate income in rural areas.
All societies in developing countries are characterized by a
specific division of tasks between men and women. Not only in developing
countries, but worldwide, the tasks of childrearing and housekeeping are
attributed to the female members of the economic unit; i.e. the nuclear family,
the extended family, the tribe. etc.
In most developing countries, especially in Africa, housekeeping
comprises all family-related activities, often without the possibilities
available in industrialized countries to make use of external services and
institutions. In rural areas, housekeeping includes a broad spectrum of time
consuming tasks, varying from the provision of water and fuel wood, the
preparation of meals, washing, cleaning, most handicraft, the cultivation of
vegetable gardens to the processing of basic food (such as the production of
In addition to childrearing, which is a particular stress
situation with every additional baby, the numerous tasks of women in rural
Africa amount to average work loads of 16 hours a day. This is a considerably
heavier burden than any man would normally carry, and is, in itself, a
convincing argument for regarding rural women as a target group which deserves
particular development efforts.
The disadvantageous division of responsibilities is, however,
not limited to the work load as such: In most African countries, rural women
have to take care for at least a part of the financial needs for housekeeping
(for food, clothing, medicine, schoolbooks, etc.). For this purpose, cash crops
have to be cultivated and marketed, handicraft articles produced and sold and
other services provided. In the West African context, the production of
vegetable oil plays an important role.
The necessity for independent financial resources for women also
stems from the fact that men often consider any additional income should be for
the head of the household as a contribution to his personal consumption (for
radios, bicycles, alcohol, etc.). Furthermore, migration away from rural areas
in Africa has already lead to 30% of female heads of households, who are more or
less solely responsible for all needs of the family.
The improvement of traditional techniques and the transfer of
appropriate technology (small scale) for the local production of vegetable oil
can therefore be seen as a contribution to improve the social and economic
living conditions of rural women. Depending on the social context, which varies
widely, the introduction of new processes might, however, also face problems.
Difficulties might arise from:
- the access to sources of finance, in particular credit, which
- for one reason or another
- is more freely given to men,
- the volume of
the necessary investment, in particular for power assisted technology, which
poses a considerable risk and is often intimidating to women,
- the financial
needs for production costs, in particular fuel for motor-driven versions which
may not always be readily available in rural areas,
- the dependence on
repair and maintenance services by workshops in the village or even the next
- the need for a minimum degree of organization beyond the family
level; i.e. in self-help groups, informal precooperatives or even cooperatives
with statutes and formal membership,
- the danger of men taking over after
the successful introduction of the new and attractive technology, either for
reasons of prestige or as a source of income.
The above mentioned potential difficulties might not be valid in
specific cultural settings; in others, even one of these points could well lead
to a complete failure of a project. In particular the last two points emphasize
the necessity of a detailed knowledge of the social background at the village
and even family level before starting to promote new technologies for local oil
In West Africa, project experience has shown rather stable
structures of women self-help groups. The transfer of this experience to, for
example, East African countries should, however, be handled with some caution.
The traditionally less autonomous status of women in this region might make more
formal structures of organization (cooperatives) necessary.
A simple transfer of appropriate technology, therefore, appears
to be insufficient to reach rural women as target groups of development efforts.
Rather, a social approach has to be chosen, which starts with a careful
identification of existing forms of organization, includes a training component
to strengthen these structures and thereby develops and secures independent
sources, of income for rural women.
Although the purpose of the present publication basically is to
provide technical information, the social approach - after the characterization
of the major oilcrops and vegetable oils in Chapter 1 - is reflected in the main
parts of the booklet. Chapter 2 first identifies socio-economic units (e.g.
family, village, district), then describes the technology which could be
considered for each of these units. Chapter 3 gives examples from project
experience introducing improved technology at the village level. In Chapter 4,
the economics for the case studies are analyzed and alternative technical
solutions evaluated. [Finally, the concluding chapters provide technical
details, addresses of institutions and companies, a look at current research,
guidelines for the identification of an oil processing project and a short list