AN APPROACH TO DEVELOPMENT PROBLEMS IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA 1982 p 2 of 2

3. Technology

a). The problem

The technology on which to build a science-based peasant agriculture in Africa is not yet available. Lele points to the more dynamic development strategy, oriented toward small-farmer productivity, which is now pursued in much of India, but acknowledges that the strategy gained currency only in the mid-1960s when the new high-yielding cereal varieties became available. A comparable technological breakthrough for African food crops has not been made, and does not appear to be on the horizon. Substantial technological progress is likely to require large investments in scientific research at national and regional levels to develop profitable production practices that can raise yields without undue risk for the low-income farmers.

The S&T Bureau of AID has plans for a major project involving farming systems research and extension, which will concentrate on adapting existing knowledge and known technologies to the needs of small farmers. This should improve the effectiveness of research and extension efforts in Africa, but it will not address the need for more basic research.

          R & D on low-cost farm implements is also needed in Africa. There has been a tendency in Africa to leap from the hoe to the tractor when resources were available. The result is a dual agricultural system, with the heavily capitalized modern farms commanding the lion's share of resources and of the attentions of policy-makers, to the neglect of the traditional farmers. Less costly, intermediate technology could be developed which would benefit the poor farmers.

African requirements for science and technology are not limited to agriculture. A high-level US scientific delegation, headed by the President's science advisor, Dr. Frank Press, visited four countries in Africa in September 1980. They received requests for assistance and cooperation that far exceeded their ability to respond. One area of particular interest to African leaders was the application of advanced technologies to survey resources. Activities suggested included a seismic survey of offshore areas of Kenya in search of oil, geothermal mapping of the Rift Valley for energy potential, assessing coal resources in Zimbabwe, evaluating technical reports on an offshore heavy crude field in Senegal, and remote sensing for resources in Nigeria.

      Another type of request could be categorized as technological rule-making and organizational innovation. Examples include energy policy formulation in Senegal, environmental laws and regulations in Kenya, regulation of off-shore oil leasing and production in Kenya, environmental impact studies in Nigeria, oil spill contingency planning in Nigeria, quality control procedures for pharmaceuticals in Zimbabwe, and the organization of research institutions in Zimbabwe.

African governments were also interested in collaborative research on a variety of problems, including infectious diseases, agricultural crops, energy and fisheries; in technical advice and training; and in modern scientific research equipment. (The trip is discussed in more detail in a paper prepared for OSTP in November 1980, "Science, Technology and Developing Countries," by C. Nelson; Appendix D.)

b). Discussion

The US has a considerable comparative advantage in science and technology in terms of our own resources and abilities, and in terms of applicability to Africa. S&T involves few of the political sensitivities inherent in policy formation, and requires less cultural and social knowledge of the area than does work on organization and management. Our scientific knowledge and technologies are often not directly transferable to Africa, but more of our R & D capacities could be focused on African problems and much more could be done to strengthen African R & D capacities.

AID has not made full use of US scientific capacities, in part because of the immediacy implied in the New Directions mandate, and in part due to structural factors in our own government. (This question is the subject of "American Science and the Third World," by C. Nelson, to be published.)

c). Program response

Science and technology have a longer time horizon than most program activities, and AID may find it difficult to invest a higher proportion of its resources in this area. The scope for such investments is, however, vast. Some of the activities that warrant consideration include the following:

-- Assessing agricultural research priorities. Lele points out that the challenges to agricultural research systems in Africa are by far the greatest in the world, combining constraints posed by ecological, demographic, technical and institutional factors. (She cites H. Ruthenberg, Farming Systems in the Tropics, for more details.)  The relative scarcity of African scientists and the level of research institutional development add importance to the process of priority setting. AID could contribute to this process on a regional basis by organizing a study akin to the World Food and Nutrition Study of the National Academy of Sciences, but on a smaller scale. The study could involve African and US scientists who would seek to identify the research priorities for each of the major agro-climatic zones in Africa, and identify key institutions in Africa with the potential for conducting the research. Much has already been done by IITA, ILRADT, ICIPE, and the Club du Sahel on research needs, so it would not be necessary to start from scratch.

          The study would provide a basis for research investment by AID and other donors. It will be necessary to plan a fairly long process of capacity building -- training scientists, improving research station management, and arranging collaborative research projects involving US institutions. The study would not be worthwhile unless there was the possibility of increased US funding for such activities.

          In addition, the study could indicate research problems that could best be undertaken by institutions in the US where a critical mass of trained people and equipment may already be available. Funding for this type of more basic research should at least be shared by the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Agriculture. World food problems have been recognized as a national concern by our government, and should command resources from all appropriate national research institutions, but this has yet to happen.

          It may be possible to conduct the proposed study under the auspices of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) or the new development program at the National Academy of Sciences. In any case, the CGIAR institutions in Africa, and ICIPE, should be directly involved.

-- Follow-up on the Press visit. The Africa Bureau allocated funds from its budget to support some of the activities which were proposed as a result of the Press visit, after OSTP proved unable to gain OMB approval for a special allocation of $10 million which it requested. It may be timely to review what has happened and identify gaps in the US response to the needs expressed by the African governments. Many of the activities proposed could best be undertaken by a Federal agency other than AID, but these agencies were unable to justify them in terms of their congressional mandates.

          The requests made by African governments for cooperation in the energy field, particularly for surveying potential resources, warrant special attention. Increased energy costs have added a staggering burden to most African governments. The Department of Energy, even if it survives, is unable to devote attention to the energy requirements of the small nations of Africa. AID could play a special, if unfamiliar, role in helping African nations to accelerate the development of their own energy resources, oil, gas, coal and wood.

--Research on contraceptives. Internationally, funding for research on reproductive biology and contraceptive development reached a peak, in constant dollars, in 1973. Since then the drop has been particularly sharp in funding for contraceptive development. Although it cannot be asserted that improved contraceptives will automatically reduce fertility rates, particularly where infant mortality rates are high, it is clear that better contraceptives can speed the rate of fertility decline when people do decide they want fewer children. The main reason to stress contraceptive research here is that it represents the dimension of the population problem where the US has a clear comparative advantage, and a concomitant responsibility.

          Appendix E is an article that appeared in Family Planning Perspectives in 1980, which describes the state of the art of contraceptive research. ("Prospects for Improved Contraception," by Linda Atkinson, S. Bruce Shearer, Oscar Harkavy, and Richard Lincoln.)   Of the more than two dozen potential new contraceptive methods currently receiving attention by research and development organizations, the authors chose five to illustrate the problems and potential of such research: nonsurgical female sterilization, a reversible sterilization for men, an antipregnancy vaccine, a self-administered menses inducer, and a postpartum IUD. They conclude that under favorable conditions, some of these methods could be available for public use within a decade; funding limitations make it unlikely that any will be in use before the end of the century.

--Medical research. Although the US is the world leader in medical research, our efforts directed against the scourges of Africa are meager. Tremendous strides in the health field are possible, according to Dr. D. A. Henderson, Dean of the School of Hygiene and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and leader of the successful campaign against smallpox. Technological adaptation and the development of more effective delivery systems are possible and promising, but the health field is starved for funds relative to the amounts going into other development fields, particularly agriculture. To quote from a recent personal communication from Dr. Henderson:  “The amounts of money being made available for research in tropical diseases represents a pittance. Much has been made of the problem of schistosomiasis but malaria is far and away a more important problem and now with drug-resistant malaria, insecticide-resistant mosquitoes and an absolute dearth of vector biologists to deal with the problem, malaria morbidity and mortality is assuming alarming proportions. At the same time, we are now documenting drug resistance to dapsone, the only really effective drug for the treatment of leprosy. Recent studies suggest that the BCG vaccine against tuberculosis, now used in many areas, is of perhaps no efficacy whatsoever. All of this is, of course, compounded by the fact that health organization and management in the developing countries probably is as bad or worse than that in any other government sector. In brief, (by comparison) such initiatives as we are now taking in agriculture are on a scale and of a degree of sophistication which to the health professional is all but mind-boggling.”

           On US institutional capacity for dealing with developing countries, Dr. Henderson adds:  "The university reservoir of scientific and educational expertise is very rapidly drying up. Several schools, as a matter of policy, have simply decided that they could not afford to devote so much time and energy into the laborious and complex process of assuring sufficient funds for an international health effort and have abandoned these programs. Although Hopkins has perhaps the largest critical mass of faculty and students in international health, there is increasing feeling that we would be better served to focus on domestic issues and undertake the international as an adjunct rather than as a central, primary thrust.”

 It may be argued that it is not AID’s responsibility to undertake the basic research needed on tropical diseases, or to maintain the international capabilities of our best public health faculties, but surely it is a national responsibility to pursue these matters. If AID cannot afford the investments, perhaps the Secretary of State could request that the National Institutes of Health give tropical diseases higher priority in the interest of US foreign policy.

          In this field, as in energy and agriculture, the US has the world’s foremost assets for problem-solving research, yet they are under-utilized with respect to Africa because of structural defects in our system of budgeting and administration. This is a problem that the S&T Bureau should seek the Secretary’s assistance in placing before the National Security Council.

4. Human resources development

The development of human resources is of course the primary dimension of the interventions suggested in the above paragraphs. They are largely concerned with the shaping of better policy analysts, managers, scientists and technicians, and with designing improved environments for the effective utilization of these skills. In this section, we approach human resources not from the viewpoint of the skill requirements of development tasks, but from the broader perspective of the changes in attitude, values, and beliefs that are inherent to the modernization process.

          Human resources development is what the development process is all about. We have long understood why it was possible for the Marshall Plan to be such an immediate success in the rebuilding of Europe. The human capital was already in place. We also understand in a general way that the creation of the specific skills required to manipulate advanced technology is not sufficient; that is, more profound changes occur in a society during the development process than the mere acquisition of skills. Just what those changes are, and how they are brought about, and what form they will take in different cultures are much more difficult questions, for which we have no clear answers.

          We do know, however, that formal education has had a major role in the modernization of all the countries today considered to be developed, and that it is difficult to conceive of populations being able to participate in the struggle for development if they are not minimally equipped with primary level skills of literacy and numeracy. The sheer magnitudes of investments by poor countries in their education systems testify to the universality of the belief that education is the path to modernization. In Africa, a significant number of countries devote between 25 and 35 percent of their recurrent spending to education. On average, education claims about 16% of public expenditure, more than any other government function except general administration.

It is, I believe, generally accepted in AID that the efficiency and effectiveness of the education sector are a major concern of the Agency because of the size of the sector and the inherent value of its purposes. Much has been written about interventions in education planning, administration and research, and AID has experience in all these fields. Thus recognizing the primacy of these areas, and AID's expertise in them, we may pass on to issues that may be more speculative and perhaps controversial.

a). Science and mathematics education

This area is neither speculative nor should it be controversial. The US has initiated an unprecedented number of new approaches to the teaching of pre-college science and mathematics in the past two decades, and in earlier years AID took the lead in sharing the benefits of this work with developing countries. AID is still engaged in important innovative projects in this area, such as the radio math project in Nicaragua, but in recent years the overall effort has dwindled. Some of the curriculum centers established with US assistance have become isolated from science educators in the United States and from educational innovations in the rest of the world. There is a need and an opportunity to re-establish communication with these centers and to set up mechanisms for future collaborative efforts to improve science and mathematics education.

          Few areas of activity would appear to hold greater attractions for US assistance programs than science and mathematics education. It is profoundly modernizing in its educative impact, it provides essential preparation for later skill training, it is relatively transferable, and the US is well equipped institutionally to work in the field. The attached paper, "The Improvement of Science and Mathematics Education in Less Developed Countries" (Appendix F), was prepared by Douglas M. Lapp for the ISTC Planning Office. It contains a review of developments in science and math education in the US, an assessment of previous efforts to improve science and math education in developing countries, and recommendations for a program.

          Also attached (Appendix G) is an evaluation of the Ford Foundation's work in helping to build the Science and Mathematics Education Center at the American University of Beirut, in which a conference setting is proposed for the discussion of the interests of regional curricular development centers in linkages with one or more US institutions.

b). Child rearing

Here we are on less firm ground. We know from research in the United States that the best predictor of success in school is the quality of the child at the entry level. It seems that a very high percentage of both affective and cognitive attributes are formed by age six, when a child normally enters the education system. (See Benjamin Bloom, Stability and Change in Human Characteristics.)

 In developing countries, we know relatively little about the quality of the home environment in which children spend these critically formative first years. Some studies, such as a Child-Rearing Beliefs and Practices study conducted by the Ford Foundation and UNICEF in Oman, reveal a pervasive atmosphere of superstition in the home. The most limiting attitudes and beliefs concern the supernatural origin of disease and the notion that until school age a child is unteachable. These attitudes cannot help but affect the performance of a child when he or she reaches school age.

           Interventions from abroad in this area are inherently difficult, dealing as they do with the intimacy of the home environment. Governments are often sensitive about the presumption of less than wholesome traditional attitudes in their societies; the Omani Government, for example, was much impressed with the results of the study but refused permission for its publication. Nevertheless, small-scale interventions can be made and may have important long-range results.   

An example is a booklet, written in simplified Arabic by a Sunni Lebanese woman with a master’s degree in child development psychology, entitled "Your Child, Zero to Five."   Saniyah Othman, the author, interviewed health and psychology professionals in several Middle Eastern countries to identify the most important and pervasive child-rearing malpractices. Her book reinforces positive aspects of traditional child-rearing, such as breast-feeding and the warm atmosphere of the home, and gently chastises certain common errors such as using fear as a behavior control mechanism. Throughout, she stresses the importance of the early years to later personal development. The book is now in its fifth printing, a best seller.

AID's role in this field should be small, but could be important. Support for research and training of local professionals, and for the preparation of child-rearing materials for local voluntary agencies would be useful.

c). Leadership development

The first generation of African leaders is now approaching retirement in those countries where circumstances have permitted full careers. One suspects that many countries will in time, like the United States, look back in awe and wonder at the quality of the founders of their nations. In these days of egalitarian belief, it is sometimes forgotten that there were some remarkable educational institutions in the colonial era, few in number and elite in character, but extraordinary in quality. Two that come to mind are Alliance High School in Kenya and Bakht-er-Ruda in the Sudan.

Both of these institutions, but particularly the latter, had as part of their objectives character building. Bakht-er-Ruda was purposely located a hundred miles south of Khartoum, at a rather inaccessible point on the Nile, far from the bright lights. V. L. Griffiths, its founder and author of An Experiment in Education based on the experience, introduced a modified Outward Bound element in the curriculum. The school was designed to train rural intermediate school teachers, and to give them the self-reliance necessary to function effectively in remote areas. Today, its graduates are found throughout Sudanese society, often at the ministerial level or as senior diplomats.

They are a distinctive group of people. Something happened at Bakht-er-Ruda that sets them apart from others, as they themselves are aware. Several of them once attempted to induce the Ford Foundation to re-create the institution, with modern Sudanese values, but with emphasis on character- building. One of my personal regrets is that we in the Foundation found no feasible way to act upon that request.

          Unfortunately, no ready-made projects come now to mind. It may not be feasible, even if resources were available, to launch an elite educational stream, and many would find it objectionable to try. Yet the problem of leadership development remains, and one fears that advanced training in the techniques of economic policy analysis, while necessary and desirable, may not be sufficient.

IV. Conclusion

          This paper indulges the freedom of the outsider to make arguments and proposals without the nagging constraints of budget and manpower with which AID's planners and programmers must daily contend. But it is the function of yeast to make the bread expand to fill the pan it is in, and to bulge suggestively over the top. Even in times of severe budgetary stringency, AID must be considering the broader range of action which needs to be undertaken when funds are more abundant, or when the US accepts a different view of its international interests and responsibilities.


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