New technology for rural women: paradoxes of sustainability

This article discusses the difficulties of reaching relatively poor populations with labour saving technologies. Taking the case of milling and dehulling technologies in Senegal and The Gambia, it presents a simple analytic model that helps to explain why the vast majority of these labour saving machines are under-utilised in rural areas. Though donors continue to widely support such projects, in few cases do they provide significant benefits to the broad population in the short term, and neither are they sustainable in the longer term. The key constraint is the lack of effective demand due to rural women's limited income-generating opportunities. In the time saved using a machine to dehull or mill their coarse grains, they are unable to earn enough money even to pay the fees to use the machine, much less to gain a surplus.