|Better Farming Series 43 - Feeding Animals on Straw (FAO, 1995, 30 p.)|
One critical factor in adoption can be dealt with. That is the grey area between research and large- scale extension, otherwise called the pilot project.
A pilot village trial requires the same systematic testing as research. It is important to be very sensitive to farmers' preferences and be prepared to listen to their ideas even when they go against conventional, professional thinking.
Two examples illustrate this point.
Anhydrous ammonia or urea in China?
In one UNDP/FAO- sponsored project in China, two different ammoniation technologies were tried. One was anhydrous ammonia involving a centralized supply of ammonia. Treatment had to be arranged at a fixed time for all farmers in the village, as it involved somewhat sophisticated and expensive equipment that was beyond the capacity of individual farmers.
In the other case, urea was used, which individual farmers could buy in the market at their convenience.
An analysis of the two cases over some years clearly revealed a stagnating trend in areas where anhydrous ammonia was used, while the number of farmers treating straw and the quantities they treated continued to expand in areas where urea was used. The use of urea was also very clearly the technology of greatest interest.
Small or big stacks in India?
In India, many on- farm pilot trials have been conducted with treated straw using urea as the source of ammonia. However, in the experience of the National Dairy Development Board, a breakthrough came only when it was realized that farmers found the treatment of small quantities too demanding in terms of labour. They preferred to treat large quantities - 1 tonne or more at a time - depending on the number of animals there were to feed.
Success in the application of the technologies presented in this booklet will depend to a large extent on the sensitivity of extension workers to farmers' preferences. When a technology has been adjusted to the conditions and satisfaction of some farmers, these farmers can then help explain the technology to their colleagues.