The spread of smaller engines and markets in machinery services in rural areas of South Asia
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This paper is concerned with the historical spread of small scale engines in Asian countries over the last 50 years. Small, mostly single cylinder internal combustion engines (up to 24 hp) that have been used to power pumpsets, boats, vehicles, threshers, ploughs, rotators and other tillage implements, hullers, etc. The paper argues that the spread of smaller scale tractors (power tillers), pumpsets etc. is a neglected topic in the literatures, in spite of the evidence that this equipment has often contributed a significant, if not the major, source of mechanical energy for agricultural production increases and rural economic development. The paper uses two analytical frameworks to position the analysis: firstly, conventional Leontief input output economics, which looks at the interrelationships between sectors in an economy where pumps, tractors, etc. are seen as rural capital goods, and secondly, the historical literature on Appropriate Technology. It is argued in this paper that in the last few years there has been a substantial resurgence in policy interest in appropriate technology, after many years of neglect. Brief illustrative examples are given of the spread of small scale equipment, (diesel engine irrigation pumpsets, two-wheel tractors, power tillers, mini tillers and shallow tube wells). The paper discusses: the diverse histories and patterns of rural mechanization between and within countries; markets in powered services from small engines; the importance of informal R&D in rural mechanization, as well as the past prevalence, recent interest in and problematic nature of South-South technology exchanges. The paper does not set out to enter into academic debates, but does refer to some of the data and analytical problems that characterize such analysis. It concludes by suggesting that the culture of local policy discourse between researchers and policy makers is a major determinant in understanding past changes, and hence is important for future policy purposes.
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