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Abstract

In this paper, we present and assess the results of a survey of the views of key people on the past, present, and future of public-sector agricultural engineering in developing countries. The survey found a general consensus that there was a need for agricultural engineers in international and national research and development (R&D) units to look at the methodological approach used for research, development, and transfer. Respondents believed that future funding could best be secured and enlarged by adopting an R&D protocol that placed agricultural engineers within a multidisciplinary team working closely with the private sector. The team would provide not only innovative prototype designs but also a whole package of other inputs to help manufacturers successfully commercialize the new technology, and help end-users learn how to use it. In addition, agricultural engineers should clarify the roles of the public versus private sector, clarify priorities, and communicate success stories more effectively. Most respondents thought that there had been a serious decline in funding for agricultural engineering in some areas because public-sector agricultural engineering has had, or has been perceived to have had, little impact in farmers' fields. One reason suggested was that these R&D units often have little contact with commercial companies and end-users and, as a result, have not been able to develop technologies that meet real needs. Agricultural engineers working for the public sector in developed countries, who have also faced serious declines in their profession, have for some time realized that their survival depends on close links to the private sector. They have had to learn new skills and to work within multidisciplinary teams. In developing countries, a very limited number of R&D units have been working closely with the private sector. This paper concludes that understanding why more R&D units have not adopted this multidisciplinary R&D approach, and then working to remove constraints, is critical for the future of public-sector agricultural engineering in developing countries.

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