Dr. Donald Mmari on (Frugal) Technology and Institutions project:

Dr. Donald Mmari on The Nexus Between (Frugal) Technology and Institutions project:

"This research aimed to examine the institutional processes underlying the introduction and adoption of power tillers in Tanzania as an example of potential application of the concept of frugal innovation. Frugal innovation is viewed as a process of transforming products from their technical complexities while retaining their basic functionality. This process is mainly targeted at reducing product costs or making them adaptive to operating conditions of marginal populations or relatively poorer consumers, those considered to be at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP).

The broader hypothesis of the research programme on frugal innovation is anchored on the important role played by embeddedness of local knowledge and technology networks in re-engineering of high-value products to make them affordable and useful by those in the BoP.  In contributing to the debate on frugal innovation, this research confirms the view that the absence of this embeddeness of local knowledge is likely to constrain successful re-engineering or even the adaptability of the products concerned. In this case, the lack of embeddedness of local knowledge in terms of needs and application of farm implements and relevance of agro-ecological conditions in the design of power tillers rendered power tillers generally ineffective in in many areas in Tanzania with dry clay soils.

The institutional limitations are also evident in the supply-driven approach, which was not conscious of agro-ecological differences and the importance of scaling up training on mechanization for users and its system for maintenance to achieve positive results. The demand of power tillers and the corresponding positive contribution to farm and livelihoods in Mbarali is not a reflective of routine institutional platform for promoting this innovation, as this is not the case in many other districts for which power tillers have been promoted. In addition, the manufacturing firms have not responded to the needs arising from this diversity in the agro-ecological conditions in Tanzania.

Unlike more conventional forms of frugal innovation, manufacturing firms have not engaged proactively in reengineering power tillers and to develop this market, Instead,  the research suggests that power tillers in Tanzania were introduced using top down, state–led induced innovation that was not adequately informed by technical and agro-ecological parameters."