In rural areas - don't touch roller mills!
by Peter Baz
It would be absurd to propagate the hammer mill for its own sake, without taking the conditions in which, it is unsed into account. This technology is not suited to urban structures, and under such conditions - whether the techniques involved are supported or not - the roller mill will prove to be more suitable. The question under discussion here, however, is an entirely different one: should roller mill techniques also be propagated in rural districts? Even more to the point: should rural development be forced into a direction that will permit, or even inevitably lead to the ever-increasing consumption of superfine flour produced under factory-like conditions?
The reality of this "rural modernisation" can already be observed in many developing countries. As part of the process whereby subsistence economies are being increasingly permeated by free-market methods, this "modernization" implies a drastic wave of change in rural households, particularly as regards the extent and content of women's work. To give just one example of this transformation: land shortage has, to a large extent, made the once traditional move from cultivated areas to fallow land impossible, while simultaneously making it necessary to fertilize the land more intensively. This meant that the man's traditional task of digging and ploughing up the fallow land has diminished, while the work of fertilizing the ground - traditionally done by the women - has increased. If more and more families are going over to selling their homeproduced maize to dealers supplying large mills, and buying the much more expensive "factory" flour for their own consumption, it is, in the final analysis, this kind of far-reaching socio-economic reorganization that has produced this change in behaviour. The increased work burden placed on the women prevents them from making frequent trips to the posho mill. The storability and easy, quick processing offered by "white" flour become more important than freshness and high nutrient content. Thus the spread of factory-produced flour in country districts is both an element and an indication of a comprehensive process of modernisation which includes, finally, paid lab our in the large flour mills that will follow the product into rural areas.
Support for the hammer mill means, in the final analysis, the rejection of this direction in rural development. It is founded on the hope shared by many people involved in development policies that, as Schumacher once said "things can be done differently" illustrated hereby the concrete example of the hammer mill. The development of living and working conditions in rural areas characterized by the hammer mill is based not on a complete upheaval in the given socio-economic, cultural and technical backgrounds but on a step-by-step progression on the basis of existing conditions and resources with equipment that can be made, operated and maintained with local resources. The productive impulses of this technology (workplaces, income etc.) would benefit the region involved instead of being drawn away from it. The many advantages of the hammer mill over the roller mill in country districts - its demonstrably higher productivity, its low energy and work requirements, the more nutritive product and its particular suitability as a focal point for social communication - only illustrate the general claim made of it: that the hammer mill really represents the "better" way as far as rural development is concerned. Better because it is more efficient, and because its products, and by-products, are on a more human and ecological level.
These are, in brief, the reasons why, in our opinion, preference should definitely be given to a foodsupply system based on the hammer mill insofar as development strategies for rural areas are concerned.