|CERES No. 111 (FAO Ceres, 1986, 50 p.)|
by Pran Chopra
The tourist literature rightly describes Bhutan as "A Kingdom in the Sky...a paradise in the real sense...unmarred by modern highways, railroads, and industrial plants". At the same time, from its seclusion in the fastness of the Himalayas, Bhutan is beginning to look out on the modern world, carefully choosing such pieces of our times as it thinks will fit its own timeless world, but the choice is not easy. The need for change pulls one way, the cultural enchantment of Bhutan's colourful past pulls the other. Now that China's modern-minded rulers are opening up its contiguous neighbour, Tibet, Bhutan is probably the most closed country in the world. It is closed by its geography as well as by its strongly conservationist monarchy, a religious and cultural child of Tibet. Nevertheless, Bhutan has begun to put a foot out the door.
The quickest and most modern way of reaching Bhutan is by a 90-minute flight from Calcutta in one of Bhutan's two 16-passenger planes. The aircraft lands at Paro, itself a gem, at the country's only airstrip, then follows an equally lovely one-hour drive to the capital, Thimpu, nearly 2 500 metres above sea level. The alternative is a 14-hour drive to Thimpu from Baggdogra, the largest air services junction in northeastern India.
Either journey gives you a good view of two of the three distinguishing features of Bhutan's topography. One is the forest cover over half the country's 46 500 km2. The other is the dragon's-tooth pattern of narrow valleys, most of them running north to south, which appear abruptly above the Indian plains. The third feature is the snow-covered peaks of the Himalayan barrier in the north and the bleak glacial wastes that lie at their feet. If you fly to Thimpu on a clear day, you see some of the snow ranges, if you go by road, you can rest by the banks of the many beautiful snow-fed rivers and streams, which are one of Bhutan's outlets to the changing times.
South of the Himalayan watershed, which separates India from China, and moving further south to the Indo-Gangetic plains, lie the 360 000 km2 of the Himalayan region. This area is an enormous water trap. All the great rivers that water the 4.5 million km2 of South Asia are indebted to this catchment. Some-the greatest of the rivers of Pakistan, northern India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh-are indebted directly, because much, if not most, of their water comes from the melting of the snows in the Himalayas or from the rains that fall on the Himalayan slopes. Others-the more distant rivers of South India and Sri Lanka-are indebted to the Himalayas indirectly, because, with the Indian Ocean, this mountain barrier creates the monsoon cycle, the source of most of the water of South Asia, surface and underground, that does not come directly from melting snows.
A fragile ecology. These waters are the greatest economic asset of the billion people of South Asia, apart from their own labour and the farms to which they apply it. But acute problems have also arisen from the close juxtaposition between the Himalayan ecology and the enormous mass of the South Asian humanity, especially the Indo-Gangetic population. The Himalayan ecology is young and fragile. The pressure of humanity upon it is great. Even where the population is small in relation to the total area, it is very great in relation to the cultivable area, three or four times as great as in the plains. Therefore, cultivation keeps creeping further and further up on steeper and steeper slopes, first causing loss of precious forest, then loss of soil, and then flood havoc both in the hills and on the plains. In the Indian mid-Himalayas, the forest cover is generally estimated to have declined from over 25 per cent to below 10 per cent in the last decades. The drop in the man-land ratio has also been sharp: in parts of the Indian Himalayas it fell by almost half in the two decades between 1961 and 1981. Downstream silting has become devastating. According to studies of 21 river projects in India, the siltation is occurring more than two-and-a-half times faster than was estimated when the projects were drawn up. Since ill-considered siting of dams and inadequate reinforcing of their upstream ecology are themselves causing erosion and the resultant silting, many projects have turned out to be self-defeating. The average annual flood damage from these causes in India alone is estimated at about $135 million.
Awareness of this problem is far more acute now than it used to be, and the debate on it in India has become increasingly sharp. One healthy consequence has been that the cost of protecting the surrounding ecology, at site as well as upstream and down, is now included in the cost estimates of a project. This means that the downstream beneficiaries must pay for the protection of the ecological interests of the upstream local populations-and in the process, of course, they also fortify their own interests against loss through damage to the ecology of the project zone. But one kind of damage is proving difficult to overcome: a suspicion that has grown among the hill peoples about the motives of the people in the plains, which is retarding what could be a very healthy symbiosis between the Himalayan hills and the plains below.
One of the most important resources of the hill areas is gravity, which alone can convert their enormous water flows into cash. Water harnessed for downstream uses can be their most lucrative export. This can indeed mean some loss of their scarce and precious land. But few alternative uses of that land can yield as much income for the people who own it as the rent they would get if true rent for the land were fairly charged to the downstream user as part of the price of the project's benefits to him. And even with this fair rent, the downstream user would still find hydroelectric power cheaper than any other source of bulk power. The scope for this mutual benefit is enormous. But so far it has barely been touched. Recent Indian studies have estimated that between now and the year 2000 the demand for electrical energy will grow more than four times in Bangladesh and three times in India, Nepal, and Pakistan. That there is plenty of scope for hydroelectric power to meet that demand can be judged from the fact that, even taking into account hydroelectric power projects still under construction, India has developed only 16.9 per cent of its hydroelectric power potential, Pakistan 12 per cent, Bangladesh 3.5 per cent, and Nepal 0.23 per cent.
Counting the political cost. Here then is a vast untapped reservoir of wealth for all these countries, whether one looks at hydroelectric power as a product for direct sales or as an input into the economy with a strong multiplier effect. But because of past experience of long-term benefits of the people of the plains, the hill people have become very resentful of future hydroelectric projects. As a result, political costs have been added to the other costs of these projects.
While there is reluctance enough among a country's own hill people to have in their midst more projects for their own plains people, there is even greater reluctance, much more difficult to overcome, among hill countries like Nepal and Bhutan to accommodate more projects for the benefit of other countries. This affects India particularly because it is the main customer, and an insatiable one, for the hydroelectric potential of these two mountain kingdoms. And yet, Nepal and Bhutan cannot wish away the fact that sale of hydroelectric power to the growing industries of the Indo-Gangetic plain can be a richer source of income for them (and for India's own Himalayan area) than any other resources that they possess. Nor can India wish away the fact that on account of their proximity, suitable hydroelectric sites in the Himalayas can be the most economical source of power for the northern Indian industries.
This is the essence of the Himalayan symbiosis. But the past lies heavy upon it. This is the background against which the hesitant development of hydroelectric power in Bhutan should be viewed, though there are some other factors which explain the hesitation. Bhutan is even more conveniently located than Nepal as the source of hydroelectric power to the Bihar-West Bengal industrial belt, which has traditionally been the biggest in India. Bhutan's topography too makes it very suitable. Only short runs down from their snow sources, which are more steadily reliable than rain sources, the rivers of Bhutan reach convenient sites for the generation of hydroelectric power. Because their valleys are narrow and their gradients fast, with relatively small amounts of run-off, these rivers can build up high heads and deep drops for generating power. Because the valley floors are narrow, not much land is submerged, and such submersion as may be unavoidable would not affect many people because Bhutan is the most thinly populated of the South Asian states. Any loss of agricultural produce could easily be met from India as part of the costs of the project. In all respects Bhutan is distinctly better placed than Nepal. Yet Bhutan has some quite understandable objections to overcome in working out any mutually beneficial arrangement with India.
A perpetual resource. In the absence of any systematic survey, an authoritative guess, cited by the World Bank among others, is that Bhutan's hydroelectric potential is about 20 000 megawatts. As a resource it exceeds the country's forest wealth, great though that is, not only in absolute terms. If the forests were to be exploited as a competing resource, they would very soon go into diminishing returns, whereas a hydroelectric resource perpetually renews itself as soon as it is tapped, if its exploitation is well planned. Yet, Bhutan so far generates only three-and-a-half megawatts of hydroelectric power. It imports about half that amount from India, and meets most of the rest of its energy needs by burning wood, of which an average Bhutanese consumes about one-third more than an average Sri Lankan and half again as much as an average Nepalese, even though Sri Lanka and even Nepal have a much wider per caput energy consumption than Bhutan.
Power generation has been given a big boost in Bhutan's current development plan, in which it gets 16.5 per cent of the total outlay and 22 per cent of the investment in development, as against 17.4 per cent and 22.7 per cent for industry, mining, commerce, and trade put together. But a better example of the possible is a project which does not figure in the plan at all. It is the Chukha hydroelectric project, being built by India. Unfortunately, this project is also a good example of the impediments to the possible. This project on the Wangchu in southwestern Bhutan involves no storage and little denial of land to other uses. Yet it will have a peak generating capacity of 336 megawatts, or about a hundred times the entire hydroelectric generating capacity installed at present. Even its lean season firm power will be 100 megawatts. It will divert the waters of the Wangchu through an underground channel into an underground drop of 465 metres to work four generators of 84 megawatts each, all of them housed entirely underground in one of the largest manmade cavities ever dug into a mountain anywhere in the world. The first two generators were scheduled to go into production by the spring of 1986 and the remaining two by the end of the year. The project has been financed, designed, and executed entirely by India, 60 per cent as an outright grant and 40 per cent as a 5 per cent loan. But the project will be owned by Bhutan and run by a joint Indo-Bhutanese management authority. Bhutan will have the first and unlimited right to the power for its own present and future needs; India will buy the rest at a negotiated rate. Bhutan gets three things from the project: power for its needs, income from the sale of a big bulk of power to India, and ownership of a project which, on the scale of Bhutan, is so large that by now it accounts for more than 15 per cent of the gross domestic product. The outlays upon it in the current plan are, according to the World Bank, equal to all the other outlays put together. The net return to Bhutan from the project will be equal to about 70 per cent of the total government receipts from all sources in 1982-83. What India gets out of it is the right to buy power that is surplus to Bhutan's needs for eastern India's industries, which could be as much as 300 megawatts.
Bhutan's priorities. And yet, further development of the hydroelectric potential of the Wangchu, even on such favourable terms, encounters Bhutanese hesitation. Downstream from Chukha, additional projects with a capacity of 2 000 megawatts have been identified, but there is some reluctance to go ahead with them. While reluctance may seem strange to downstream users, it makes some sense in terms of Bhutanese priorities, though it is open to doubt whether all aspects thereof have received due consideration.
The first hesitation, and one which is openly articulated, is the most understandable. Chukha represents a quantum jump in project development in Bhutan. It is 15 times the size of the next largest project, a 300-tons-per-day cement plant at Penden, in western Bhutan, which was also built by India and is working at nearly 100 per tent capacity. (The use pattern here is also the same: it meets Bhutan's entire domestic needs and India buys the rest.) Experiencing such a sudden stepping up of scale for the first time, Bhutan wants to see how well the present Chukha phase works for it before committing itself to further phases-and not just how well it works as a power plant, but what happens when a stone of this size is thrown into the quiet of the secluded cultural and ecological pond of Bhutan. The resistance of India's own hill people to projects meant for India reverberates in Bhutan as well. As Bhutan sees it, more projects mean more imported workers at all levels, because Bhutan has so few of its own to contribute. The projects would mean more money for Bhutan. But Bhutan wonders what more money would do to the habits of the Bhutanese.
It is precisely for these hesitations that, so far, Bhutan has also kept at bay foreign tourism developers who have been pressing hard to come in. Bhutan prefers to raise its tourism income by charging more per tourist than by letting in more of them. Power projects themselves may be culturally more neutral than foreign tourists are, but they do tend to open up the country more rapidly than the rulers in Thimpu are willing to see happen yet. Anxiety on this score appears frequently in the King's speeches. The current five-year plan also says that "the satisfaction of rising expectations must be consistent with the framework of the traditional institutions that characterize Bhutan as a unique national and cultural entity.... The government is clear that education must also serve another fundamental end, viz. that of preserving the traditional values and rich culture of the country."
Hesitations about a more rapid pace of development have another dimension too. Over 90 per cent of Bhutan's imports and exports are with India. Even without counting Chukha and another important Indian-aided item, the development of roads, about 50 per cent of Bhutan's expenditure on development comes in the form of assistance from India. Bhutan sees this as a kind of single-country relationship which will only grow deeper unless Bhutan has a choice of customers for the fruits of its development. This choice is not yet visible. Sources of aid to Bhutan have grown, but not sources of supply and markets for produce. So Bhutan thinks it may be better to wait and to let development proceed at a slower pace.
But in the midst of these priorities, most of them not only understandable but sensible too, Bhutan has given less thought to the idea that it is better to depend upon a customer than upon a donor. Most of the aid it gets from India today comes in the form of direct or indirect grants and near-grants. What it will get from Chukha, however, will be in the form of sale of what is made in Bhutan. Once it gets going, this will be a buyer-seller relationship, despite the fact that Chukha itself is also a product of the same system of grants and near-grants. If further development of its river waters takes Bhutan further into that buyer seller relationship, perhaps with Bhutan diverting some of its earnings from Chukha into buying a real ownership share in future projects, Thimpu might be able to buy at quite a low price a relationship with India which would be more satisfying for it.
by Anna P. Obura
Enough has been observed, documented and written on the limited access of women in the Third World to modem agricultural technology and to participation in the significant incomeearning spheres of agriculture. This goes some way toward explaining the relatively low rate of progress in national development. The acclaimed development process has largely passed women by in agriculture and has even caused the deterioration of overall living standards and working conditions of most women in most parts of the Third World.
The explanation of this phenomenon in Africa lies in understanding the recent history of the continent. Such was the impact of colonialism on African societies that it is customary to divide the history of the continent into three broad categories: pre-colonial times, colonial times, and the era of independence. Methods of food production changed significantly during these three periods, and, simultaneously, the status of women in farming underwent important transformation.
In traditional societies in Africa, the contributions of both men and women to agriculture were recognized and valued. During colonial times, however, the image of woman the homemaker, the child-bearer, "the domestic", crept into Africa along with the alien images from the West. These images reflected the specific historical perspectives of industrialized societies but had little relevance for Africa, where, under colonialism, the process of food production was being forcibly modified under the impact of new constraints: the restrictions on pastoralists' movement; forced labour on plantations; and entry into the cash economy through compulsory payment of taxes. The era of independence brought new opportunities (for example, the freedom to plant cash crops) and insights (the importance of subsistence farming), but the stereotyped image of man the farmer and woman his wife and helper -unremunerated and unvalidated-lingers on and is in danger of becoming more and more entrenched in post colonial societies. That this is so can be confirmed by a cursory reading of any primary school textbook in Kenya today.
Yet-and here lies the irony-of all the five continents it is in Africa that women contribute most to agricultural output. There is growing recognition in the world today of the significance of the fact that Africa's major food producers are women and that women are the least schooled social group in Africa. It is therefore important to examine the impact of education on females as a group.
Education is considered to be a powerful agent of development and the World Bank now has evidence that schooled farmers produce 10 per cent more than unschooled farmers. Primary education in particular appears to have an important pay-off rate. One question remains: is a 10 per cent increase in production enough? Enough in relation to what? In relation to the financial input into education? In relation to the as yet unsatisfactorily measured female energy input? "Enough" by whose standards?
African countries have spent scarce financial resources on reforming their school systems in order to make education more relevant. They generally spend more than 30 per cent of their national budgets on formal education and borrow heavily at high interest rates from external donors. These educational reforms come in response to continued calls from national and international leaders and institutions for more food, for better nutrition and health, for reduced population, for better living conditions, and for economic development through improved agricultural practices. The current Kenyan educational reform (referred to simply as the "8-4-4 system", to signify a primary eight-year, a secondary four-year, and a tertiary four-year education cycle) is a case in point. It is the purpose of this article to examine one of the factors involved in agricultural education and to determine the likely outcome of the course viewed from this perspective.
A costly exercise. Given the low rate of female enrolment in schools in Africa, the new recognition of women's vital role in the development process and the major recent finding that women are the critical producers of food in Africa, it is imperative to reexamine the participation of women in the schooling system and in the agricultural curriculum in particular, since formal schooling is such a costly exercise in Africa, since agricultural education is more costly than general academic education, and since women are most involved in life-supporting activities in the community.
First, it has been found that girls ''access to schooling is restricted. Second, once in school, girls repeat more often; their drop-out rate is higher and their achievement rates are lower than boys". We have evidence that even when they stay in school, girls select themselves out of science-based and practical courses leading to technical careers that are more highly paid and which enjoy more prestige in society. Since 1974 their numbers have even decreased in science-oriented faculties in the University of Nairobi, which demonstrates that national expansion of education per se does not automatically enhance the opportunities and skills of women.10 And by avoiding science-based and practical or technical courses, girls opt prematurely out of vocational and tertiary agricultural training.
Of the heavily subsidized technical secondary schools in Kenya one was established for girls with a femaleoriented curriculum (home science, secretarial, and dress-making options). While three other schools admitted girls, only one of these involved them in a standard curriculum for both sexes.[l1 Kenya has since terminated the costly technical school programme (estimated to have cost three times as much as academic secondary schools) and has now infused a technical/practical element, or a pre-vocational element, into all schools, primary and secondary, under the new 8-4-4 system.
Studies that examine the determinants of girls' lower rates of staying-in and of achievement in the education system have pointed to a number of variables that are thought to be significant. Among them is curriculum orientation. School curriculum, however, is a Western package that has had difficulty Africanizing itself even after approximately 25 years of independence. In the West agricultural studies are a traditionally male-dominated field. Second, agricultural studies include science and machine technology, both associated with modern agriculture, with large-scale agriculture, and with cash-crop production, three domains which have been male-dominated in Africa since colonial times.
A drive for relevancy. In describing the recent formal introduction of agriculture into Kenya's primary curriculum, two factors should be explained. First, the reform is an outcome of the increasing demand in the 1970s that education become more relevant to the nation. It was assumed at that time that the teaching of technical and practical subjects in school leads to in creased employment in the technical craft, agricultural, and self-employement sectors. Until recently, children in secondary schools were gender- selected in these areas of the curriculum home-economics courses for girls and technical courses for boys. Second, an argument now being put forward is that exposure to the pre-vocational subjects is good for everyone, boys and girls alike. Since 1985 boys must sew and study home craft alongside girls in primary school, and girls must thatch houses and do woodwork alongside boys. It is interesting to note that the wheel has turned full circle for as Kenyatta noted of Gikuyu traditional and pre-colonial education: "The girl's training in agriculture is the same as that of the boy.''
To return to the current 844 educational reform in Kenya, it is not clear yet whether the children will learn useful skills in these subject areas given the limited allocation of time to practical subjects (this is probably why we retain the term "pre-vocational subjects" with regard to them), but we are likely to see a transformation of social attitudes as a result of these activities. The formation of socially desirable attitudes is being regarded with more seriousness these days and it is interesting to note that the majority of the educational objectives for primary schools are stated in attitudinal terms, for example: "To grow toward maturity and self-fulfilment as useful and well adjusted members of society. To appreciate one's own and other people's cultural heritage, develop aesthetic values.... To develop desirable social standards and attitudes. To develop awareness and understanding of the immediate environment and foster positive attitudes towards other countries...." (Syllabuses for Kenya Primary Schools, Kenya Institute of Education 1984). They also include some skill-oriented goals: "...acquisition of literacy, numeracy and manipulative skills." It is therefore possible to argue that merely a change of attitude toward formerly gender-specific work activities will be an important and worthy outcome of the current education reform.
The declared objectives of the primary school science and agriculture course are: "1. That children acquire and preserve certain useful attitudes about themselves and their relationship with the environment. 2. That children acquire certain manual and thinking skills which are useful in solving practical problems. 3. That children acquire ways of seeking further knowledge and using this knowledge to solve the problems they meet in modern life."
As an exercise in formative evaluation of the ongoing reform it is important to examine whether the new curriculum stresses the necessary involvement of women in modern farming and whether it is likely to have a positive effect on the future agricultural activities of women. As a first step in this direction the textbooks currently in use in the agriculture course have been analyzed. Despite the theoretical exposure of teacher-trainees to varied resources and methodologies, once in the classroom teachers tend to fall back on the textbooks available in their school as their only teaching resource. The textbook comes to assume great importance in the curriculum. Books are image-forming. And the constant, daily use of one textbook throughout one whole school year is particularly compelling. Many adults have clear images of the textbooks they used in school twenty, thirty, forty, and fifty years ago.
In Kenya two main series of agricultural textbooks are in use: the Macmillan "Beginning Agriculture" series published between 1978 and 1983 and reprinted in 1984; and the Longman "Agriculture for Primary Schools" series of 1979-84. Both are designed for Standards IV-VIII and comprise three pupils' and three teachers' books each. Reference and revision books for the examination (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education: KCPE) year, the eighth year, are now appearing in the bookshops: for example, "Science and Agriculture for Standard 8" by Malkiat Singh 1985 and "Standard 8 Science and Agriculture" by N.M. Patel and S.K. Vasishta 1984. I am indebted to Odenyo's forthcoming preliminary analyses of these books for the following section.
A striking absence. The first book in the Longman series is indicative of authors' approach to writing science and social science textbooks. The first unit ("Agriculture in Early Times") opens with the expressions "people found food...people gathered...with simple tools people...". On the first page one picture shows men gathering fruit and digging up roots while the other picture bears the caption "Stone tool used by early man"; the four diagrams on the second page depict men making tools. Pupils are asked what people are doing. The textbook goes on to describe how people discovered metals and how people made tools from them; how people found land and how people grew their food plants. The three pictures on the third page of the book show four men clearing bush, three men building houses and three men tending cattle and carrying water pots. Women and children are totally absent from these three introductory pages to agricultural studies.
We are told that "many people live on small farms" and the notion is illustrated by the introduction of "Mr Majani who lives on a plot with his wife and five sons", implying that the plot belongs to Mr Majani alone, who will, as the text points out, divide his land between his sons at his death. "Many people are being given land," the text continues, but it is unlikely that pupils will read the notion of male female into the term "people" in this instance. Indeed the freeholder and the leaseholder are exemplified in the text by Mr Simba, the coffee farmer, and Mr Tumbo, the sugar farmer. It is explained that a man needs workers, money, and tools to develop his land. In Mr Simba's case his "wives and children" act as workers, whereas Mr Tumbo needs government loans for his two male workers, the hire of a lorry, etc. Men are thus both the owners of land and the decision-makers and planners, they have at their disposal the unpaid labour of their wives and children.
The text is silent on how such a situation comes about and remains silent as to the desirability of maintaining these conditions in the future. In view of the tacit acceptance in the text, the reader, especially the young, impressionable reader, will be led to acquiesce in such a social order, and this has major implications for the nature of women's future participation, or the lack of it, in the modern agricultural sector.
Margaret and Jane, in addition to capturing merely 15 per cent of the attention in the textbook, are younger and therefore of lower status than the six named adult men - who are farmers, owners of land, hirers of lorries, and active developers. In contrast, the images of adult women in the book are muted and sparse. Unnamed women are depicted as nurses, pregnant women (which is irrelevant to agriculture), as traditional poultry farmers, as selling their husband's produce in the market, and as workers for their husbands. One woman, still unnamed, is shown receiving money for her cotton harvest and others are portrayed in food processing, sticking labels on tins in a factory. But the most significant aspect is the conspicuous relative absence of women and girls from the agricultural text.
Masculinity emphasized. The more popular series, "Beginning Agriculture", is characterized by similar factors. Book 1 mainly describes animals and plants, but it introduces the farmer as masculine as early as the fourth page of the book by referring to his land and his crops, thus associating the notions of maleness and ownership. This is emphasized later in the unit "Visit to a Farm"' which multiplies the use of the masculine pronoun in connection with transport owned, the farmer's tools and machinery, insect control, etc.; associating farming with modern technology; associating, in turn, maleness with modern technology, and, by implication, indicating the non-participation of women in this enterprise. Finally, the extension officer also turns out to be male and to represent knowledge, science, and experience. The Teacher's Book I is a significant teaching resource: it emphasizes the masculinity of the teacher and the farmer. It has an extensive unit on early man: "he gathered his food...; man...thought about keeping animals; from the many animal products man uses..." and "man...had invented the wheel". No female characters appear anywhere in the pupils' book but the teachers' book notes that the extension officer can be "a man or a woman" and that a farmer may notice "his sons or daughters using improved practices on his or her own farm". But these are the only two references to females in the teachers' book.
Book 2 increases the number of male characters: the veterinary officer and doctor, the provincial director of veterinary services, the livestock officer, the agriculture teacher, and the -the "good farmer" being typified by Mr Kamau. Mr Kamau is confident, knowledgeable, hard-working, and successful, but he is patronizing, supercilious, and mocking toward his lazy, ignorant, incompetent wife.
We are told that "the good farmer...puts his environment to the best possible use... always tries to protect his environment". It is becoming an invidious comparison between Mr and Mrs Kamau at this point. Later Mr Mvivu, the lazy farmer, enters the scene to add to the maleness of the ensuing agricultural discussion. Mrs Kamau, the embarassingly incompetent amateur, disappears from the text.
The pictures in the textbook show mainly males. For example, there is a series of six pictures:
a) 10 boys (1 girl) digging
b) a small picture of 6 girls planting
c) a boy recording observations carefully
d) 2 boys transplanting
e) Juma's meticulous record book
f) 7 boys working at the cabbage patch
A total of 21 boys and seven girls and one out of six pictures featuring females. The remaining pictures show other males, and plants, and animals. There are three pictures of Mary and her husband, depicting Mary the disgruntled, reluctant but finally happy pupil compost-maker, with her accompanying confident, mocking, and angry husband. This is not the image of the typical Rwandan woman so meticulously described ten years ago who worked 15 hours to a man's seven and who was ready and eager for change in agricultural activities.4 It is no nearer to the real Kenyan women either.
The most widely used agriculture textbook of all is Book 3 of the 'Beginning Agriculture" series. The first unit introduces "man and his environment" and continues: "Man uses all these things (water, crops, animals, etc.)...to stay alive", describing "man's surrounding or natural home"; Tom and Harry illustrated on the first page typify "man" in the rural area and in the city "Both men had a good education.... Does Tom's education help him in his environment? Does Harry's?". On the second page of the textbook Mr Kamau (the good farmer) and Mr Mvivu (the lazy farmer) are introduced and stay with us all through the book. By the end of the fourth page there are a total of 129 genderspecific words of which 128 (99.2 per cent) are male. Mr Mvivu remarks that his friend will "send (his) wife out into the bush to find some firewood". Thus the remarkable and distinctive image between male participation and female non-participation in agriculture is established.
The next mention of a female character is in connection with assistance to the husband, as an afterthought on his part, and after calling attention to the assistance of the son, a boy still in primary school: young Juma, here, helped me, and my wife, Anna, helped too. This image is strengthened by a second, more explicit comment: "There are usually many things to be done on a farm. The farmer by himself cannot always manage to do all the things necessary. Sometimes the farmer's wife, and his sons and daughters (when they are not at school) can help. This is called family labour." Juma often joins in the men's discussions on agricultural theory and practice in the book but the wives of Kamau and Mvivu are never present, as if to underscore the future importance of Juma and the unimportance of the women. Mrs Mvivu does have a vegetable shamba (field) which her husband succeeds in flooding. There is one significant picture of women near an irrigation scheme carrying pots of water, presumably for domestic purposes, and carrying babies on their backs. No relevance can be found between the presence of women in the picture and agriculture.
An erroneous picture. The farmer in the textbook is always male, and so are the extension officer, the agricultural loan/bank official, the big buyer of agricultural produce. The meaning is enhanced by big half-page illustrations of these men. It is not difficult to interpret that the other farming services and organizations listed must all be run by men. In reality this is not the case in Kenya today and therefore even in terms of reflecting reality the textbook gives an erroneous picture of the present state of women's occupations and role in agriculture; there are women large-scale farmers; there are women agricultural extension officers, financiers, agricultural researchers, institution managers; and above all there are women subsistence farmers. In failing to portray women in real roles, the textbook deprives schoolgirls of role models, falsifies the picture of the real world for teachers and pupils alike, and conditions boys to expect men in these roles, which is not conducive to facilitating the social change envisaged by the national education objectives cited above. Worse still, the message becomes a constant and forceful instruction for girls to keep out of agriculture. The role for women preferred by this textbook is as unremunerated, unvalidated helper to the husband, at a lower status than her young son; and her characteristics are unobtrusiveness and mindlessness, implying lack of education, intelligence, and initiative. Males have a monopoly on these attributes in the textbook. The authors make an interesting statement at the end of the book: "What you have learned in this primary course should be the beginning of making you a good farmer in the future."
The trouble is that, throughout the book, "farmer" has consistently meant man. And when the authors ask: "You have now to ask yourself a very important question. That is, what have you learned?" the answer, for girls might be something like this: 1) I have learned that women do not farm; 2) I have learned that girls should not farm; 3)I have learned enough agricultural theory to pass my examination. Even the authors seem to sense a problem at the end for they introduce four schoolchildren into their revision questions: Peter, Anna, Juma, and Mary, the only girls in the whole book, and they are depicted on a school task of collecting pests, whereas Juma has been involved all along in family farming and, in Book 2, as an exemplary agricultural student.
The science and agriculture examination that the first cohort of 8-4-4 children sat in November 1985 included 12 mentions of boys or men in agriculture and one of a girl, Chebi, who studied the stars. There is no explicit instruction in the documents available to the teacher to encourage the deliberate inclusion of girls in the learning of agriculture. Yet an urgent compensatory/ affirmative programme is evidently needed to redress a situation which excludes girls from this learning area. The exclusion is not deliberate; in fact the situation is all the more serious because it is unrecognized and the behaviour of all of us concerned is unconscious. This indicates the need for a sensitization campaign among educators and parents to precede mounting curriculum changes within the educational system.
Educational reform must be backed up at every stage by careful implementation strategies. It is no good spending scarce financial resources on agricultural education in the formal sector which systematically and overtly excludes half of the school population from learning, thus wasting 50 per cent of the costly inputs. It is no good perpetuating the alien image of woman "the domestic" through the educative system when by all accounts Africa needs every intelligent and labouring person available for development, and when women appear to be more development-oriented than men. It negates the idea of sending girls to school if we then instruct them through curriculum mechanisms to opt out of development-oriented activities.
Fortunately there is hope that the present educational package for children can be turned around and be made to respond to the real and declared needs of national development, although such a course of action will be long and difficult to achieve. It will then make better sense for us to spend as much as we do on education and it will then make sense for us to send our daughters to school, for this has every" thing to do with the prioritization of development projects on national and international scales and it has everything to do with the allocation of scarce resources in our day-to-day lives in Africa. There is, finally, some hope that the proposed course of action may lead to discovering some of the determinants of development-effective education.
(Growing consumer demand for the temperate zone cereal poses some tricky choices about the advisability of import substitution)
by Derek Byerlee and Jim Longmire
In our article "Food pricing policy and the wheat import trap" (Ceres, Sept.-Dec. 1985), we highlighted increasing wheat imports by Third World countries. Growth of these imports has been especially rapid in the tropical countries lying entirely or largely between latitudes 23°S and 23°N, where wheat, a temperate crop, has not traditionally been grown except on elevated land. (In this article we consider only these countries; thus Brazil is included, but India is not.) The consumption of agricultural products, such as wheat, imported from the temperate (and largely industrialized) countries is to some extent to be expected with increasing interdependence through world trade and a natural desire to diversify diets. After all, many tropical foods, such as spices and beverages, have long been imported and widely consumed in countries. What is unique about wheat consumption in the tropics is that wheat products, usually bread, have become a basic food staple for many people. Consequently, many countries concerned about increasing dependence on imported wheat have shown interest in the possibilities of producing wheat to substitute for imports. Several of these countries, among them Nigeria, Ecuador, Thailand, and the Philippines already have well-established research and development programmes for local wheat production.
In this article, we offer a general overview of trends in wheat consumption in the tropics and examine the economic issues in establishing a domestic wheat industry. We want to address a number of questions. What factors are responsible for the rapid increase in wheat consumption in the tropics? How can we determine whether wheat production is an economic use of a country's scarce resources? Will domestic wheat production actually save foreign exchange by substituting for wheat imports? What other considerations should be included in the decision to embark on a local wheat industry?
Why consumption increases. The countries between 23°S and 23°N embrace most of sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America from Guatemala to Brazil. They produce less than 2 per cent of the wheat in the Third World (most of it in the more temperate southern part of Brazil and in eastern and southern Africa at higher elevations). In recent years, this group of countries has imported around 20 million tons of wheat, or more than 80 per cent of their requirements (see Table 1). Thirty-eight tropical countries consumed more than 100 000 tons of wheat each; nine of these countries consumed one million tons or more annually.
The growing importance of wheat as a staple food for different regions of the tropics is shown in Table 2. Per caput annual consumption of wheat varies from less than 5 kg in Thailand to more than 100 kg in Cuba. Although consumption is still relatively low in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical Asia, the growth rate of per caput consumption in these regions has averaged 4.5 per cent annually over the last two decades. Much of this increased consumption has occurred in urban areas where per caput consumption now exceeds 40 kg in several countries (e.g., Malaysia, Nigeria, and the Sudan).
A number of factors converge to promote wheat consumption in the tropics.
Incomes and urbanization. The most important factor in increased wheat consumption is rising per caput incomes and urbanization. Wheat consumption increases rapidly with income, but then appears to level off at about 50 kg per caput per year for countries, such as Venezuela, with an annual per caput income near $3 000. Wheat consumption in tropical countries began in urban areas, usually by middle- to high-income groups, but over time has spread to poorer groups and smaller towns. Increased wheat consumption in most cases has come about through substitution of wheat for coarse grains and roots and tubers. These changing consumption patterns reflect the preferences of urban consumers for bread as a convenience food to eliminate time and fuel in food preparation.
The concentration of wheat consumption in urban areas also reflects supply factors. With rapid growth of urban areas (often over 5 per cent a year in African countries), lagging domestic production and inadequate marketing infrastructure for local food staples, and plentiful supplies of wheat in world markets, there has been a natural tendency to import wheat to feed urban consumers. This is especially true in countries where large cities are located on the coast.
Low bread prices. Many countries in the tropics have maintained low prices of bread relative to local food staples. Consumer subsidies for bread and importation of wheat at overvalued exchange rates have led to declining real prices of bread and increasing wheat consumption (see our 1985 article).
Food aid. Most food aid to tropical countries is wheat, and although food aid has declined in importance relative to commercial food imports, it is still a major source of wheat imports in a number of tropical countries (e.g., Sudan and Sri Lanka). In addition, many countries that have historically received substantial amounts of food aid are now large commercial importers of wheat (e.g., the Andean countries). Food aid appears to have promoted wheat consumption through establishment of a local wheat-processing industry, development of consumer tastes for wheat products, and implementation of low consumer prices.
Policy alternatives. Interest in wheat production in the tropics reflects a desire by most countries to promote food self-sufficiency. Many governments have seen rapid increases in foreign exchange expenditures for wheat imports as an opportunity to save foreign exchange and at the same time promote domestic agricultural production. In our view, however, domestic wheat production should be analyzed as only one of a number of policy alternatives for reducing wheat import dependence. These include:
1. Food pricing policies In many tropical countries the most effective means of reducing wheat imports is correction of price policy distortions, especially those that lead to low prices of wheat relative to local staples.
2. Import policy and food aid. Food imports and food aid should give more attention to cereals other than wheat, especially maize, which are more compatible with local production potential.
3. Convenience foods based on local food staples Little effort has been made to develop methods for preparation of coarse grains and roots and tubers to meet the preferences and convenience needs of urban consumers. Composite flours, which mix wheat flour with local food staples, also have much potential as long as price incentives favour the substitution of local staples for wheat. Wheat imports can also be reduced in the short run by using a higher flour extraction rate in the milling of wheat and promoting consumption of wholemeal bread.
4. Increasing domestic agricultural production. Alternatives include promoting export crops to generate foreign exchange for importing food, and increased production of local food staples to replace wheat imports. These alternatives can best be analyzed in a comparative advantage framework that measures the returns to the nation of each of these strategies.
Measuring comparative advantage. A simplified example of calculations of comparative advantage is shown in Table 3. In this example, using a standard measure of profitability of a crop based on prices paid and received by farmers, it is more profitable for farmers to produce wheat (an import-substitution crop) than cotton (an export crop). To measure comparative advantage, prices that reflect true costs and returns to the nation are used to calculate profitability.
The steps in this calculation are as follows:
1. The value of locally produced wheat to the nation is the cost of importing that wheat adjusted by costs of transporting local wheat to the consuming point. Farmers receive a higher price because of a tariff on imported wheat. Likewise, the value of cotton to the nation is computed using the export price of cotton. An export tax on cotton in the example is a benefit to the country although it is not included in the farm price.
2. The value of all inputs in wheat production which are normally treated in world markets (e.g., fertilizer and machinery) is the import price (export price if the country exports the input) plus transport costs from the port to the farm. In the example in Table 3, a subsidy of SO per cent on these inputs must be included in the costs to the nation of wheat and cotton production.
3. The returns to domestic resources (non-traded resources of labour, capital, land, and water) is the value of wheat at world equivalent prices less the value of inputs used in wheat production, again at world prices ($160/ ha in the example). To measure comparative advantage, these returns are compared with returns to the use of these resources in other production activities In the example, because the returns to the nation of allocating land to cotton are higher than for wheat, we can say that cotton has a comparative advantage. Hence while wheat is profitable to farmers, there will be a net loss of $140/ha in national income and in foreign exchange if wheat is grown in place of cotton. The objective of growing wheat domestically to save foreign exchange is therefore defeated.
A number of factors determine the comparative advantage of wheat in any given situation:
- The productivity of wheat. In the above example, wheat is more profitable to the nation than cotton at wheat yields over 2.8 ton/ha (assuming no change in costs). Planners interested in an efficient wheat industry must assess the probability of obtaining these yields.
- The productivity of alternative enterprises In the above example, if wheat is to be grown in place of fallow land (because scarcity of water does not allow other crops, such as cotton) then wheat can be profitable to the nation at yields of only 1.7 ton/ha.
- The technology used in wheat production. Use of capital-intensive technology, such as large-scale irrigation structures, tractors, and combine harvesters reduces wheat's comparative advantage in most tropical countries.. Subsidies such as cheap credit may, however, make wheat profitable to farmers.
- The location of wheat consumption and production in relation to the port In some countries (e.g., Thailand and Nigeria), areas with potential for domestic wheat production are located some 1 000 kilometres from the port, which is also the largest city and main wheat consumer. In this situation, local wheat production could have a comparative advantage in substituting for consumption of imported wheat in or near the producing area, but may be quite uneconomic for supplying the port city.
Obviously there is a great deal of variation in potential wheat-growing environments in the tropics. Nonetheless, it is useful to simplify these into four major environments, as shown in Table 4. In all cases the production of wheat is more favourable where the average temperature in January (in countries north of the equator) is below 20°C than in very hot environments where January temperatures average 25°C.
A number of studies of comparative advantage of wheat in these environments have been undertaken recently. These studies enable some preliminary insights into the prospects for domestic wheat production in the tropics.
Highland Ecuador: Ecuador has traditionally produced wheat in the central highlands In recent years, wheat production has declined from 100 000 ha in 1970 to less than 25 000 ha in 1984. Economic analysis shows that wheat in the highlands does have a comparative advantage.
However, the main competing enterprises, especially dairying, are more profitable to farmers because of import protection to dairy products and allocation of subsidized credit to this sector. These policies provide positive rice incentives for dairying, while importation of wheat at an overvalued exchange rate results in negative protection for wheat production. Hence price policy interventions do not encourage highland farmers to exploit their comparative advantage in wheat production.
Northern Thailand: Preliminary estimates show that wheat grown in the cool season after rice or maize, when land is normally left fallow, has a comparative advantage. Even at low yields of one ton/ha, wheat generates an increase in national income of $44/ha. Unlike the Ecuadorian case, price incentives, especially a substantial tariff on imported wheat, are favourable to domestic wheat production and provide incentives for farmers to produce wheat.
Northern Nigeria: A number of wheat production schemes are under way in Nigeria, where a primary objective has been to substitute for wheat imports, which now exceed 1.5 million tons annually. Reasonable yields are possible when wheat is grown in the dry cool season under irrigation. However, given the high cost of the irrigation infrastructure, combined with the capital-intensive nature of technology employed in wheat production, it is not economic for the country to produce wheat locally. Despite substantial price incentives to farmers (e.g., fertilizer and water subsidies and high wheat prices), wheat production has expanded very slowly. Similarly in Senegal, wheat will have potential only as a means of increasing cropping intensity after the high cost of irrigation infrastructure is written off. Even a small-scale labour-intensive wheat scheme in Mali has not been an economic success.
These studies suggest that the best prospects for wheat in tropical countries (outside the traditional highland areas) are in areas with a dry cool season where land is currently left fallow but where sufficient stored moisture is available to support a low-yielding crop of wheat with low levels of inputs. As genetic advances are made in disease resistance, heat stress, and earlines, the range of environments in which wheat can be economically produced in the tropics will slowly expand. It is unlikely, however, that wheat production requiring expensive irrigation infrastructure will ever be economic.
Marketing and utilization. Ironically, given the widespread consumption of wheat in the tropics, a large problem for potential wheat producers is the marketing and milling of the crop. Most mills have been established at coastal cities to process imported wheat, but it is inefficient to transport locally produced wheat long distances to coastal mills. Furthermore, large scale flour millers, accustomed to a well-developed infrastructure and marketing system for imported wheat, are generally not interested in small volumes of variable quality wheat that characterize the early phases of a domestic wheat industry. Hence a new wheat production programme should plan on a capacity for processing and consuming wheat locally. As the volume of local production increases, consideration should be given to establishing small-scale flour mills in the producing region. If the schemes are successful, wheat might eventually be substituted for imported wheat in coastal cities utilizing established large mills. However, wheat production schemes in the tropics that set ambitious short-run objectives of import substitutions are inevitably too ambitious.
The food security perspective. Comparative advantage is only one criterion for deciding on the feasibility of a domestic wheat industry. Many developing countries see dependence on imported wheat from industrialized countries, subject to variation in world prices and supplies, as a threat to their food security. We think this argument is usually not valid. First, we have noted that there may be more efficient ways to reduce dependence on food imports, such as removal of consumer subsidies on wheat, than establishing an inefficient local wheat industry.
Second, in a tropical environment, wheat yields are very sensitive to small deviations from optimal planting dates or high temperatures early in the season. Hence, domestic wheat production is subject to considerable yield fluctuations in the same way that imported wheat is subject to price fluctuations. Food security should be tackled from a broader perspective of stimulating local agricultural production, developing improved infrastructure to market this production, and, possibly, maintaining food reserves.
Investment in a local wheat industry may sometimes be justified by equity considerations. Where wheat has the potential to increase cropping intensity of food-deficit small farmers, food security fo these poorer groups will be improved. The rapid expansion of wheat in Bangladesh and the potential for wheat in highland Burma and Thailand represent this situation and help to justify wheat research and development efforts for poor farmers in these areas. In other cases, the poor may be adversely affected by diversion of resources away from rainfed farming into large-scale irrigation schemes to produce wheat.
An interview with Santiago Funes
Ceres: The humid tropics are the only agricultural frontier left for Mexico. What are the possibilities for developing them?
Funes: About 7.6 hectares of what are called the tropical coastal lowlands are not being used. When we speak of the country's most important agricultural frontier, we mean a large area of underutilized land which would be put to better use generating products for domestic consumption and export. There are great physical obstacles to the development of an agriculture based on the experiences of non-tropical zones. These are the type of soil, the uncontrolled excess of water, the presence of semi-permanent flooded areas, the amount of rainfall, and the presence of significant annual dry seasons.
Q.: In a word, the only technological option is to make use of the knowledge of the human resources in the zone.
A.: That is one factor among others that we must consider. The physical problems must be overcome and development of productive systems with a different orientation, appropriate to the specific conditions of each tropical area, must be stimulated.
Second, we are underutilizing the tropics in Mexico because there are technological deficits. Research has emphasized sustaining expansion and agricultural growth in non-tropical zones. As late as 1970, not even minimal facilities existed for agricultural research on the tropics.
There are also social and economic difficulties. In the case of
underutilization due to livestock farming, clearly there are benefits to be
reaped from the present extensive livestock breeding in the tropics, and clearly
the fact that those benefits are obtained in relation to the average rate of
profit in the system allows investment in extensive livestock breeding in the
tropics to continue.
On the other hand, the peasant economies in the tropics have in the last few decades found themselves with an increasing incapacity to reproduce themselves as the conditions of the initial viability, which lasted almost until the beginning of the 1950s, have changed.
These peasant economies (in the Tabascan lowlands, for example) used to be capable of producing three tons of maize per hectare with slash-and burn agriculture. They are now producing between 600 and 800 kilo grams per hectare, and are insisting on application of a technology which is no longer viable.
Q.: Why is this tropical region important for the future of the country?
A.: The historical growth of the national economy has caused the concentration of inhabitants in industries, and employment opportunities in a few very large urban-industrial centres, located principally on the central plateau, in Monterrey and Guadalajara. The vast and humid tropical lowlands, with great potential, but generally underutilized, could be an area for development, which, if well handled, could receive agricultural and livestock production advantageously.
Q.: Will the rural population disappear or migrate to the cities unless this frontier is developed?
A.: This is generally what has been happening in the Mexican tropics. As productive systems cease to be viable, people lose interest in continuing to live and work in the rural areas. In most cases, agriculture in the tropics demands much effort and human energy. The risks of farming have increased for two reasons, one being loss of diversity. It used to be both possible and desirable to utilize the soil differently: maize and other basic crops were planted; there were fruit trees and the possibility of capitalizing on timber production; people kept cattle on a small scale and even fished. In contrast, today we find a tendency toward specialization or the reduction of the variety of crops and productive options. The second reason is change in the natural resources, such as the increase in plant diseases due to certain environmental changes. We have found a deterioration in the quality of the peasant diet in the PRODERITH project areas since 1950. Protein is replaced by carbohydrates; rich and varied homegrown foods are replaced by less rich, less varied foods from outside.
Q.: How important is the loss of technical and cultural knowledge?
A.: Traditional knowledge is fundamental. Discouragement of a continuation of traditional productive systems in the tropics leads to a break in the transfer of knowledge. In PRODERITH it has always been said that peasant economies in the tropics can no longer continue as such, as conditions have changed. But a viable project could be defined based on what they were in the past and what they are today. For agricultural research, this knowledge is essential as it includes not only traditional theoretical knowledge, let's say experience passed on by oral tradition, but also the availability of genetic material and the knowledge of the characteristics of the soil, is fundamental. One of the main related issues must be the application of new knowledge which can be adapted and used by the peasants, by transforming it into productive systems and real employment options.
Q.: This leads us to one of the most important aspects of rural communication within PRODERITH: the capacity to make the peasant participate.
A.: We have developed a very interesting system of rural communication in PRODERITH. First, I must say that we were working within a very clearly defined programme. The starting point was establishment of a system of communication within the development process proposed by the Government in 1978. We developed a system related in the first instance to the institutional development required to support development in the tropics effectively.
Institutions can also be thought of as information networks which must be enriched with new material which then leads to institutional behaviour suitable for the needs of the tropics and the project, which requires them to act in a coordinated fashion in support of production. That is the first level of communication for development. Second, these institutions should see themselves as organic groups of people. Generally, the personnel recruited to serve rural producers and their organizations is not adequately trained to work in the tropics.
Q.: And agricultural personnel is generally the worst paid and least motivated?
A.: That's true of the personnel in direct contact with the producers. As a solution to this, the Mexican Government made the development of what we might call a professional civil service an official policy, but its introduction will be slow and costly. Only a good civil service scheme that ensures continuity and remuneration according to the professional development and work capacity of the technicians can the situation be corrected. In PRODERITH a very strong human resource policy has been chosen, consisting of short courses, training in long courses inside and outside the country, and field training. The horizontal transfer of experience between technicians involved in concrete rural development projects situated in very different tropical areas and with great distances between them is very important. The rural communication system was conceived and implemented to lend support to in-service training and to the exchange of experience among technicians involved in the process.
Q.: Moving away from the old scheme often found in various countries of a purely vertical transfer of knowledge and orders from top to bottom of...
A.: Exactly. It is surprising how an inservice training programme like that used in PRODERITH can benefit young technicians. We have had many cases of technicians who were hired at the lowest level of the bureaucratic scale but quickly acquired the capacity to take on medium-scale operations by applying the guidelines and knowledge acquired in PRODERITH. This is the second level: communication for the development of personnel working out their service in PRODERITH.
The third level has to do with the protagonists of rural development. Development in the tropics - as anywhere-cannot be achieved without the real support and active participation of the producers. But for this to be possible a framework for contacts between the rural population and the promoting institution needs to be created from the beginning of the development operation. It is very important that the institution be able to communicate directly with the producer.
Q.: To establish mutual trust.
A.: Yes. But, the peasants can't always speak their minds. There is a question of censorship. Sometimes they don't tell the truth because they have a standard response to questions from the outside. What also happens is that each peasant has his own perception, but the real problem is in understanding not so much the individual point of view but the consensus of the community.
Q.: Don't different groups establish different relations with the outside?
A.: From the beginning PRODERITH told the peasants what the programme was about, what its purpose was. At the same time that we carried out the evaluations needed to define the projects, we began the system of rural communication to stimulate what we have called "situations of internal debate" inside the community: debates about the past, present, and future. Just by stimulating existing networks, using efficient media like video, the peasants were able to rapidly articulate a structured and precise dialogue with the institutions.
It is recognized that a sharing of experiences among peasants is an important prelude to development. We have used the rural communication system to stimulate this exchange not only at the local or project level but also as part of PRODERITH's exercise in communicating peasants' experiences between different areas of the Mexican tropics. To this end, several meetings have been organized, addressing subjects important from a production point of view, such as drainage systems and their exploitation at the parcel level, systems of water control and alternative means of using and conserving tropical soils. Women's issues have also been addressed. Interesting experiences have been shared-for example, the use of soya, home improvements, small-scale livestock farming, and family orchards.
Another aspect of the system is its use in the introduction of new technology. Let me try to explain this in some detail.
PRODERITH's greatest effort to bring in outside knowledge has been in water control. Infrastructure has been designed at the water-bed and subwater-bed levels and has included rivers, streams, unsilting works, and main and secondary drainage systems. Designs have been carried out with a view to use on parcels of land by means of work. The design requires participation by the producers, their communities, and peasant organizations at the community and project-area levels. The rural communication system encourages this kind of participation.
It's always kept in mind that the design phase as well as the construction phase are preliminary to the use of the infrastructure for productive purposes and its maintenance. The organization of the producers during the preparatory stages favours their permanent organization during the operative and maintenance stages. However, it is the impact of the infrastructure that gives meaning to the peasant organization, that motivates its organized participation, and that, in the final analysis, gives credence to the peasants' acceptance of the works and decision to renew their pact with the environment. Technical assistance services can't be removed from the debate surrounding infrastructure and its consequences. They interact with the peasant groups in the detection of the production-related problems. In this way, the community generates information that field technicians can transmit to other levels of institutional organization, particularly to the research centres that with PRODERITH's assistance address specific problems.
In PRODERITH, all these efforts are undertaken within the context of the peasant family and the rural community. Because of this, all the diagnostic exercises and information and training activities are carried out in the community with the participation of producers with similar interests and expectations in such a way as to encourage the suggestion and implementation of local initiatives in the development area.
Q.: Are these local projects oriented only to production?
A.: They couldn't be. Let's say that they attempt to take into consideration the whole spectrum of problems and possible solutions. Technological innovation has meaning if it contributes to an improvement in the general conditions of family economies. That's why the rural communication system takes into consideration almost all aspects of the rural community, not neglecting the groups of concerns conventionally called culture. For this reason, we have encouraged a tendency to transfer the design and control of the programmed materials to the local peasant organizations.
Q.: How about the results of this type of development interaction which offers technological, managerial, and cultural inputs to the peasants? Has it been possible to quantify its impact on production and living standards?
A.: Preliminary work with rural communication began in 1977. The first stage of the programme was the installation of the field components in 1979. This stage, now complete, covered 50 000 hectares in all in a new service of integral rural development support that includes technical assistance, family development and other components. It's too soon for a rigorous and definitive evaluation, but what we do know is that in all the PRODERITH projects output has increased as measured by volume or by value of production.
The process of technological innovation has begun. It is based on a more rational use of resources so that producers can exercise greater control over water by using a parcel-based drainage system. It has also highlighted soil conservation. Furthermore, well-developed and even struggling peasant organizations have established greater control over their relations with the external environment. This newly created control is, of course, only just becoming consolidated. I would say that the PRODERITH areas are much improved over what they were seven years ago. Producers have seen what they were like and how available resources have been used to create concrete improvements. In this context it is evident that the system of rural communication has made a significant contribution. The first and very difficult challenge was to assure that the communication system would be an integral part of the complex PRODERITH programme. This has been achieved. Furthermore, field technicians, peasants, and their organizations solicit and use the communication system's materials in accordance with a methodology that has been perfected through experience and a more extensive and intensive use.
The communication system has built into it a system of monitoring and evaluation. They form part of the programme's monitoring and evaluation system. We have just finished satisfactorily a study of the effect that this system has had in three of the six projects in their first stage.
Though the conclusions are satisfactory, they do not give us peace of mind. There is a lot still to be done. We must improve the basic components of communication for rural development day by day: methods, personnel, and equipment. We must work toward a real and enduring transfer of both the organization and control of the operation at community level to peasant organization. This is of course more than just the result of a bureaucratic decision; it means developing a new process and a new management of the instruments and contents of rural communication but at the same time implies consolidating the institutional commitment to dealing with the renewed demands which will spring from peasant management. We must also improve the training of technical staff, so that the system can become permanently self-sufficient. We must also perfect strategies so they are appropriate for the future development of the Mexican tropics. It is worth mentioning that the total cost of the system has been less than one per cent of the total investment and cost of the programme as a whole.
Q: What are the fundamental problems in this new phase that PRODERITH and the rural communication system are entering?
A.: This idea of a new phase must be explained. PRODERITH completed its first stage between 1979 and 1984. In each of the six intensive projects, a total solution applied to the problems found in the economies of peasants and other types of producers, generally with success. In this first stage, a strategy for approaching the problems was established; a planning system covering problems on both local and national levels. A methodology and the tools for dealing with institutional work, including the rural communication system, was also established. As a result of this we now have projects which can continue work carried out in intensive areas and begin to expand, principally by adding infrastructure to the technical support tasks which were carried out in the first stage. The second stage will mean expanding on what was done in the first stage. Operations will also begin in other areas of the Mexican tropics.
The Government has taken the political decision to initiate this second stage. PRODERITH forms part of the strategic project for the humid tropical region in the latest national integral rural development programme. PRODERITH can contribute trained and experienced personnel, then tried and tested strategies and methods, and above all, the social base in project zones willing to carry on with the development exercise.
There are, of course, questions still to be answered. The transition from the first to the second stage is not only quantitative but also qualitative. In development areas of around 100 000 hectares, there is no doubt that problems which fall outside of the agricultural sector arise. A greater responsibility and autonomy of institutional actions at a local and area level would appear to be indispensable. But this presents a challenge for the institutional organization, for coordination between the institutions and for the training and maintenance of technical personnel. In the second stage we should act in areas where peasant organization, not only those at community level but also second and third level organization, joint communes or groups of joint communes, can and should play a greater role. It is obvious that this would demand greater involvement of the theoretical and practical aspects of peasant organization. On the other hand, it must be recognized that attaining development goals always implies a certain number of contradictions in society. In the second stage these contradictions will doubtless be greater or at least more complex than those which PRODERITH had to face in the first stage.
Q.: Do you mean that peasant organizations should change from being productive organizations that manage their own production systems to organizations that can participate in planning on a project area scale, assume control and maintenance of infrastructure, and even play a different role in the political system?
A.: I think so. And this would be consistent with government policy, which gives priority to decentralization,-the establishment of a democratic planning system, and, in general, the democratization of national life. The producers must go on to participate in aspects that are very important at the level of development areas. Stimulating this idea of giving developing societies more responsibilities, interacting with the concrete aspects of this and adjusting them to national objectives, adapting them to a realistic rate of national development and to investment possibilities, would increasingly demand a higher standard of institutional interventions. This is, without a doubt, one of the main challenges facing PRODERITH in this second stage.