Innovation is defined as the application of knowledge in production and consists of the process by which firms master and implement the design and production of goods and services that are new to them, irrespective of whether they are new to their competitors, their countries or the world (Mytelka, 2000). Throughout the ages inventions and innovations, driven by the application of science and technology, have underpinned human development scientifically, socially and economically. It is recognised that those states which invest more than 3% of GNP in science and technology, are likely to have the most productive and competitive economies. The observed slow progress towards global competitiveness of most African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states is due partly to their inability to innovate and/or access information in a timely manner and at an affordable cost to facilitate sound decision making (Francis, 2003).
Nevertheless, some level of innovations occurs at different levels of society in the ACP states. The problem, though, has been the lack of systematic documentation of such occurrences. This paper highlights some farmer innovations, principally in Jamaica.
The materials used for the paper were obtained from two main sources: From observations of the author and other staff members of CARDI Jamaica Unit on the farmers participating in the goat and sweet potato projects. Every year, the Organising Committee of the Denbigh Agricultural and Industrial Show announces prizes for 'champion farmers' who are selected based on predetermined criteria. One of the criteria is farmer innovation. To capture some of these innovations, the author visited some of the farmers with Mr Derrick Vermont, a member of the Champion Farmer Selection Sub-committee.
Innovations from four farming activities were documented. Discussions with the farmers showed that the innovations introduced were based on indigenous knowledge, a desire for greater efficiency, accumulated acquired knowledge or a desire to improvise and/or improve upon adopted technology. The four farming activities were sweet potato farming, goat production, layer poultry production and dryland farming.
Sweet potato farming
The sweet potato weevil is one of the major pests of the crop and one of the most successful management techniques for the pest is the use of pheromones (insect sex hormones) to lure the male weevils to a trap with soapy water. The universal trap is made of plastic, but a metal version ' Taleka trap' has been developed in Asia. CARDI scientists and local sweet potato farmers used the universal and Taleka traps as the basis to design local versions from recyclable 2- and 4-litre plastic bottles (Figure 1).
In the Caribbean small ruminants are usually managed under semi-intensive and intensive systems. True extensive systems where animals are left on the range for
extended periods of time are very rare. Mr Alexander Archer is an enterprising young goat producer. He has designed an innovative total extensive system for his breeding herd. The system comprises a solar-powered electric fence mechanism (Figure 2) which is used to ration segments of the range in rotation.
The system is augmented with dome-shaped movable shelters constructed of iron mesh and covered with aluminium sheeting or heavy-duty plastic (Figure 3). Mr Archer raises the grower stock under semi-intensive system and with the knowledge that in such a system feed is the major cost component, he has designed a unique hay/forage rack that ensures minimal feed wastage (Figure 4).
Layer poultry production
Poultry production worldwide is a fairly standardised operation; from equipment and technology to feed. In the layer bird (egg) business the most obvious piece of equipment, apart from feeders and waterers, is the cage or nest. In the battery/cage system the layers are maintained in cages and in the deep-litter system nest boxes are provided in the poultry house. The imported conventional cages and the nest boxes (Figure 5) are usually constructed of galvanised iron. Roslyn Farm is a layer bird business in St Mary owned by Mr Hansel Williams.
Mr Williams has learnt over the years that in our tropical environment the galvanised materials last no more than a couple of years because of the corrosion caused by the rapid vaporisation of the uric acid in the droppings of the birds. Therefore, he designed and constructed his own nest boxes from treated wood (Figure 6).
Broodiness is a management nightmare in every layer bird production; and Roslyn Farm is no exception. However, Mr Williams has designed an innovative system to break broodiness in his flock. The system involves isolation for about two weeks in a slatted-floor pen with supplementary light (Figure 7 a,b).
The shock from the discomfort on slatted floor, inability to 'sit' properly on the eggs lodged in the slots and the continuous lighting all combine to break effectively the habit of broodiness. Mr Williams acquired the property with a water catchment pond (Figure 8) which, with age, had developed breaches in the lower walls and the catchment was losing water at a rate of 1,200 litres per hour. Mr Williams has constructed 120,000-litre underground tanks (Figure 9) into which the seepage water is collected. The water is then pumped into 72,000-litre plastic tanks from which it is gravity fed to supply the poultry houses.
The most innovative water management system in Jamaica takes place within the dryland farming system in the parish of St Elizabeth, especially the southern part, is described as the 'bread basket' of Jamaica. The landscape (Figure 10) is dotted with relatively small parcels of land cultivated with various fruits and vegetables including, cabbage, escallion, lettuce, onion, peanut, pepper, pumpkin, tomatoes, thyme and water melon. The irony is that the annual rainfall for the region is only 750-1250 mm, but with dryland farming technology developed and perfected over the years the region has been able to uphold the 'bread basket' accolade. The traditional backbone of dryland farming is water conservation, which is achieved principally through grass mulching (Figure 11). In St Elizabeth, Guinea grass ( Panicum maximum) (Figure 12) is a sacred crop. It is cultivated as a cash crop for mulching purposes. Water, source and application, is the other major component of the dry land farming system. Traditionally, water for the crops has been supplied through water stored in drums in the field (Figure 13). Some farmers, however, have devised innovative water harvesting and application methods. One such farmer, Mr Errol Davidson, has constructed a concrete catchment area from which rainwater collects into an underground tank (Figure 14). A water pump suspended in the tank is used to deliver the water for the crops through a water hose (Figure 15). In further developments, Mr Denny Millington has interfaced the mulching tradition with the modern technology of drip irrigation to further enhance the efficiency of water usage (Figures 16 and 17).
The paper has highlighted some interesting innovative practices of especially Jamaican farmers. It is likely that other innovations have been developed by farmers in the other Caribbean islands, but most of these may be poorly documented. Therefore, it is suggested that efforts should be made to capture and document these innovations to assist in understanding better indigenous S&T capacity of the region.
By: Francis Asiedu, Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), University Campus, P.O. Box 113, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica
This paper was presented at the Caribbean Meeting on Science and Technology, Enhancing the Science and Technology Dialogue - Innovation for Development, Commonwealth of Dominica, 27-29 April 2004.
Francis Asiedu wishes to acknowledge the invaluable contribution of farmers, especially Messrs Alexander Archer, Hansel Williams, Errol Davidson and Denny Millington to the preparation of this paper. Mr Derrick Vermont, a member of the Champion Farmer Selection Sub-committee of the Organising Committee of the Denbigh Agricultural and Industrial Show visited with me to acquire the information and pictures from the farmers. I am thankful for his commitment. The assistance of the staff members of CARDI Jamaica Unit, particularly Mr Albert Fearon and Dr Kathy Dalip, is greatly appreciated.
Francis J. A. 2003. Proposal for CTA's science and technology strategies programme. Paper presented at the 2nd Meeting of ACP Informal Working Group on Science & Technology, Ede, The Netherlands, November 28-3 December 2004.
Mytelka L.K. 2000. Local systems of innovation in a globalised world economy. Industry and Innovation, 7(1), p. 18.