Bolivia now has a large set of almost-ready technologies, which were developed under projects funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). Completing the technologies involves systematically gauging demand for them from farmers and other potential users, in an honest way that does not simply rubber-stamp the existing research programme. This is the main task of the INNOVA project (Strengthening technology innovation systems in potato-based agriculture in Bolivia) whose staff coined the notion of ‘implicit demand’ for the unspoken demand for research topics from smallholder communities. Project personnel adapted the sondeo (informal survey) method to learn about pilot communities in three regions and their explicit demands. They also created a new method, the ‘technology fair’, to present almost-ready technology to smallholders and get feedback from them. The technology fairs confirmed that INNOVA’s technology did meet many demands for research, and together with the sondeos improved understanding of demand. However, it was found that smallholder farmers did not necessarily respond to the technology that most closely addressed their explicit demands as identified in the sondeos but rather to the one that was most convincingly presented.
Jeffery Bentley, Graham Thiele, Rolando Oros and Claudio Velasco