What is appropriate technology?
characteristics and requirements, farmers were assured of a return to their labour. The Green
Revolution, on the other hand, introduced a small number of varieties, which flourished only
in closely controlled conditions, and were susceptible to a wide range of diseases. The
introduction of 'advanced' farming technologies has actually had the effect of reducing
farmers' options. They are slaves to the technology, rather than its masters and mistresses.
The Imposition of advanced technologies may not only be inappropriate to the conditions in
which they are introduced; it can also have the effect of devaluing traditional technologies
and disenfranchising their users. As with the Green Revolution, the genetic diversity of many
other crops is threatened by the increasingly widespread use of a small number of genetically
engineered varieties, sponsored by transnational corporations. In response to this trend,
Intermediate Technology has joined forces with other development agencies in a campaign to
promote the concept of biodiversity: the maintenance of traditional crop varieties which are
suited to widely differing circumstances, and help to ensure the maintenance of farmers'
User must be choosers
Economic progress is dependent upon the development of technologies, and technology
choice is crucial to this process. The process of choice is rational. Given the opportunity, an
individual will choose a course of action, which suits his or her particular purposes in the
light of a particular set of circumstances. In this sense, 'appropriate' and 'rational' are
synonymous: a technology that is appropriate is one which has been developed or adopted as
the result of a rational process of decision-making.
What is appropriate in one set of circumstances, or from one point of view, may not be so
from another, and this raises the question of who chooses. People are not passive recipients
of a technology. Any technological development makes demands upon its users, and so it is
the users -the intended beneficiaries of a technology who should decide whether or not it is
appropriate for their circumstances and needs. Users must be choosers, and users'
participation in the decision-making process is vital if choice is to be appropriate.
Technology choice begins with information. An informed decision demands an
understanding of the needs a technology is intended to serve, knowledge of the options
available, and of the techniques; skills and resources which are entailed in their adoption.
Choice of technology also implies access to the tools, the techniques, the resources,
knowledge and organisational capacity required for a technology to be adopted successfully.
Livestock plays a vital role in the lives of pastoral peoples. It provides nutrition, represents
wealth and security and is an important part of cultural heritage. In Kenya, huge herds of
cattle have been wiped out by epidemics of rinderpest and other diseases, Traditional
medicines have proved ineffective against these, and modern veterinary services are generally
inaccessible. Intermediate Technology has worked with the pastoralists of Samburu and
Turkana districts, providing them with training in simple veterinary techniques and helping
them to gain access to basic supplies of medicine, which enable them to treat their animals
cheaply and effectively. Appropriate technology choice has come about through a process of
consultation, identification of needs, exploration of options and the provision of access to
tools and techniques which build upon established skills and knowledge.
Denial of Choice
Given the opportunity, anyone can make a rational choice. However, people do not always have
that opportunity. There are many ways in which choice is denied: sometimes unwittingly, at
other times intentionally. The process of development is a reflection of established patterns of
power and control. Users are not given the opportunity of becoming choosers, because their
opinions are not sought, because they do not have access to information, or because it is in the
interests of those in power to maintain the subordinate position of other sectors of society. The
ultimate effect of these courses of action is to hinder development rather than stimulate it.