|CERES No. 097 - January - February 1984 (FAO Ceres, 1984, 50 p.)|
Brazil launched its national fuel alcohol programme in November 1975, in response to the global petroleum crisis. The declared objectives were fourfold:
- to replace petroleum imports;
- to reduce regional income disparities;
- to use both land and labour more intensively;
- to encourage production of capital goods to enlarge and modernize sugar plants and refineries.
Between December 1975 and March 1979, the state of Sao Paulo received almost half of all related proposals or the installation of refinery capacity. It now accounts for 40 per cent of the nation's total sugar production and for almost three quarters of the fuel alcohol output. The state's sugar industry is concentrated chiefly in the Ribeirao Preto zone, which produces 1.025 billion litres of fuel aIcohol annually, one-seventh of all national production. Only in recent years have there been attempts to assess the impact of this agricultural transformation on the rural labour force in general and on workers in the sugar industry in particular. Now studies and statistics have begun to appear, revealing the social costs of a measure initially intended to ease the country's balance of payments problems. Research findings in Ribeirao Preto should not be generalized on a nation scale, but it is in one of Brazil's most economically and socially advanced states. Given the importance of local cane production and the conditions prevailing there, the recent studies have thrown a harsh light upon the reality that is already disturbing Brazilian authorities as well as public opinion. One research group that analysed social and nutritional conditions among itinerant rural workers (called boias fries, "cold meat", because their self-prepared meals are always eaten cold) confirmed the existence of serious malnutrition among those engaged in the rugged labour of the canefields. The group was directed by Prof. Jose Eduardo Dutra de Oliveira, director of the Medical Faculty in Ribeirao Preto, Titular Professor of the Medical Clinic and Chief of Nutrition. The results of the research have been published as a book under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences of the State of Sao Paulo.
The cane workers have now left the plantations, where they once lived, and have moved to the outskirts of the cities. They work on the plantations by day or by piece work, without being registered, with neither holidays nor annual bonus, without labour assistance, with none of the rights of urban workers. Moreover, 40 per cent of the workers covered by the study came not from the rural zones, but from urban centres. They were unemployed or underemployed who contracted their labour out to los gatos, truck-owning entrepreneurs who come by each morning to pick up the workers and transport them to plantations with which they have contracted to provide field labour. The trucks arrive at 5:30 in the morning, which means that the canecutter's day begins even earlier, when he prepares food to take to the field. Half the workers, the study revealed, leave for work in the morning without eating or drinking anything. Always tiring, the truck trips can also be dangerous as witnessed by many accidents.
The workers have a chance to eat their cold food at 9 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. Lunch consists of rice, beans, and bread, and occasionally a sausage, a sardine, or an egg. Average calory consumption is 800 calories, or 33 per cent below energy requirements. There is, however, abundant consumption of alcohol, averaging 110 ml per day among the male workers. It results in frequent hospitalizations for alcoholism as well as serious disturbances in the group living quarters and billets where the workers, generally single men separated from their families, are crowded together.
The research project also studied 400 sons of canecutters divided into three groups: preschool (two to six years); school age (seven to 12 years); and youths from 12 to 18 years. The weight, height, and mental and physical capacities of these youngsters were found to be far below the level of other children of the same age. For example, according to Prof. Dutra, there was an average difference of 20 cm in height between 15-year-old boys from cane cutter families and the norm for their age group.
"They are absent a lot," said one manager, "more than 50 per cent of the time on Mondays as a result of the weekend drinking. In general, they work only five days a week."
Efficiency is continually declining. "The work that one man used to be able to do now requires three," is one employer's complaint. Employers complain also that cane cutters learn with great difficulty, cannot endure continuous work, must rest frequently, and catch fevers and chills, testimony to their weakened condition.
"They are malnourished in the first degree," says Prof. Dutra.
The research team studied a group of cane cutters with the average age of 29 years. The men measured, on average, 1.65 metres, and weighed 57 kg. Women, on the other hand, measured 1.51 metres and weighed 52 kilos.
"The problem," says Prof. Dutra, "is not a lack of protein or of food quality but rather a lack of food. They are hungry, pure and simple."
Cane cutters are paid on a piecework basis and generally receive 90 cruzeiros for each ton cut, although a model plantation, such as at Sao Marinho de Pradis pays 625 cruzeiros per ton, or 2 000 cruzeiros per day for men and 1 700 for women. (Official exchange rate, about 900 cr. equal $1.) Workers get an account of the production they have achieved only on the following day. They do not work when it rains and accordingly are not paid. If they get sick, that is their bad luck.
Sometimes the labour contractors provide the meals, usually poor and inadequate, which the workers must pay for, and they usually still owe something at the end of the harvest. One of these workers, Orozimbo Perriera Lima, 23 years of age, lodged with 60 others on the Matinha plantation near de Ribeirao, says that in one month he earned 30 000 cruzeiro and had to pay 16 000 for food. Another, Vicente Paula Santos, claimed that he earned 869 cruzeiros per day and had to pay 600 for food. Many workers prefer to suck raw cane in the fields rather than fall into debt and return to their villages with nothing. Some workers make a soybean soup which may temporarily alleviate hunger but does little to counter malnutrition.
To cap it all, the work is not permanent, and between harvests the workers have no income. Their dependence on labour contractors is thus so much the greater.
In 1970, workers who were registered or recognized by the plantation and therefore enjoyed some social and salary advantages, represented 83.49 per cent of the canefield workforce. By 1980, this figure had dropped to 61.90 per cent while the proportion of nonresident workers grew from 16.51 to 38.10 per cent the total.
Because it has been impossible to count upon a stable and efficient work-force to maintain production or plan the work of the plantations, some of the more advanced managers and enterprises with better levels of technology have, in recent years, gun to show concern about the workers' problems. They are trying to develop a skilled, productive, and dependable workforce, registering a lager number of workers and at the same time increasing mechanization the cane harvest.
To some extent, this surge of conscience has been prompted by the eat of workers to return to their native villages. Nevertheless, says prof. Dutra, "This relatively new problem, linked to sugar-cane monoculture, demands immediate measures once there is no state or federal agency responsible for the canecutters." It is necessary, he mention, to regularize the conditions of work and give workers the right medical assistance, holidays, and retirement with pensions. 'When one is past middle age and not as strong, then it becomes easy the machete to slip and to have an accident," said one worker. "The boss says that we ought to use gloves, but don't like gloves. We want a fair salary. A canecutter's hour is worth than in any other work." And a woman agreed. "If public employees can have four months of maternity leave, women who cut cane could have the same right." Behind the fuel alcohol that powers the cars of Brazil's, behind the statistics concerning import substitution, lies another energy problem, that of the human energy being consumed in a drudgery that offers no future.
Countries in the Near East and North African region have been spending about $12 billion annually on food imports, representing more than 50 per cent of their total food requirements. This is a disturbing turnabout for a region that once was a net exporter of food, even if some of the countries concerned have been able to finance the imports easily enough with petroleum earnings.
While rises in population and income account for much of this growing imbalance between food production and demand, the problem is made especially difficult, from an agronomic point of view, by constraints on land and water resources. Less than seven per cent of the total land area of the region is arable. Only three countries - Afghanistan, Iran, and the Sudan - have any appreciable land reserves where cultivation might be expanded. In a region noted for the instability of its yields, any efforts to push production further out into marginal areas can only add to this problem. Improvements in crop production technology suited to local conditions offer the only plausible strategy for reducing dependence on imported foodstuffs.
The need for developing such technology has long been recognized. Back in 1952, the Government of the Netherlands contributed $100 000 to help FAO launch a modest programme of technical cooperation between Iraq, Pakistan, and Turkey for the development of disease-resistant varieties of wheat and barley. The results were sufficiently impressive that the programme was expanded to the regional level a decade later with funding support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). By 1971, again with UNDP support, the programme was enlarged to include maize, sorghum, and millet; a couple of years later food legumes and oilseed crops were also introduced under the umbrella of a large-scale FAO/UNDP regional project for the improvement and production of field food crops in the Near East and North Africa. By the time UNDP funding was phased out at the end of 1980, 22 countries were participating in the programme.
With nearly three decades of experience behind it, the programme offers an unusual opportunity to assess the impact of a regional cooperative effort, and a recently published consultant's evaluation, "Field food crops in the Near East and North Africa", has undertaken to do just that. On balance, the report of the consultant, M. Bashir Choudhri, indicated "a very favourable assessment of its achievements". He was quick to point out, however, that the programme was so closely linked with other national, regional, and international programmes, as well as with the activities of FAO's Plant Production and Protection Division, that any separate evaluation of its impact was impossible. Indeed, he found that "the particular strength of the project lay in the close complimentary interaction... with other programmes and institutions rather than in the scope and quantity of its inputs in total national efforts." Thus while UNDP allocations of $2.2 million covered about 30 per cent of the total project cost, a major part of the activity was made possible through funds-in-trust mobilized by FAO from various donors, including Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish aid agencies, and the Governments of Bahrain, Iraq, Italy, and Saudi Arabia to a total of $5.2 million.
Since the lack of trained manpower was regarded as one of the main reasons for slow progress in improving crop productivity in the region, training of personnel was given a high priority in the programme. During the period 1960 to 1980 more than 300 middle-level research workers and university graduates from all participating countries were trained at a cost of $5.9 million. "For several countries, "Choudhri reported," this trained manpower now constitutes the backbone of national programmes on field food crops."
The project's impact is easier to assess with regard to individual crops at the country level. In Egypt, for example, the project played a major role in the introduction and improvement of soybeans. During the period 1973 to 1981, soybean yields more than tripled, from 0.75 to 2.50 tons per hectare, while the total planted area multiplied 40-fold from 1 200 hectares to 48 000 hectares over the same period. The project also introduced new sunflower varieties to Egypt, with the aim of reducing importation of cooking oil. Results from 12 000 hectares of plantings have encouraged the Government to plan for increasing the area sown to 100 000 hectares.
In Syria, largely through assistance of the project, there has been notable progress in maize cultivation, with average yields increasing from 1.33 to 2.20 tons per hectare between 1973 and 1978 and total production climbing from 15 000 to 56 000 tons during the same period. The Government is now aiming at an annual output of 100 000 tons.
But there are also problems and frustrations. In Jordan, adoption of high-yielding dwarf varieties of wheat has been negligible, mainly because of low rainfall. Under these conditions, local improved varieties perform much more satisfactorily. In several countries there was evidence that while expertise was being strengthened and better technologies developed, there was a serious lag in the transfer of this technology to farmers. Some officials in poorer countries, acknowledging that they were unable to contribute much toward cooperative regional research programmes, said they felt their countries were being neglected by the project in favour of relative more advanced countries that were able to take a lead in contributing to the programme.
Clearly, many gaps remain to be filled and the last FAO Regional Conference for the Near East approved a follow-up regional project to continue the work begun. Mr Choudhri's report has suggested a number of guidelines including the diversification of training programmes to include the advanced specialist and research management level, more emphasis crop varieties for low rainfall areas improvement of seed multiplication and certification facilities, closer link between research and extension. On concern expressed by Choudhri is that there is no institution in the region with both the technical and manage ability to assume responsibility for regional technical cooperation, and therefore urged that FAO continue in this role. "Despite limited arable land resources and difficult environmental conditions," he concluded "there is still tremendous scope for increasing food production in the region."
The rinderpest situation in Africa remains serious. New outbreaks were still being reported at the end of the year. Tens of thousands of cattle have been lost in western, central, and eastern regions of the continent. Indeed, recognition is growing that rinderpest is becoming a pan-African problem threatening livestock production in almost the whole of Africa. The disease has already spread from the African continent the Near East. Without effective control measures it could reach rope.
A sustained effort to intensify control measures aimed at the ultimate eradication of rinderpest from the African continent has been launched trough an internationally coordinated vaccination campaign and follow-up programme. A major proposal for an African Rinderpest Campaign (ARC) has been prepared jointly FAO, the European Community, Organization of African States, the International Office of Episotics. If and when it becomes operational, PARC will cover 28 countries for a period of 10 years, involving some 120 million cattle an estimated cost of $83 million. At present, however, funding remains a serious problem. While the posed campaign drew general support from a meeting of donors in Brussels last June, most national government agencies represented option for a bilateral approach to the bleary. Only the European Community and FAO agreed on multilateral action. A progress report on the campaign made to the FAO Council last November stated flatly: "There is no immediate prospect of a general campaign fund for disbursement throughout the affected area. "
Rinderpest was brought under a high degree of control in the 1960s as a result of a multi-donor campaign. The disease was not, however, eradicated, and because of a number of constraints facing African governments there was a significant resurgence in 1980. Then, with funding and technical assistance provided by FAO in 1981, the situation improved markedly in a number of countries, but it continued to deteriorate in others, particularly early last year, due to the lack of follow-up measures
The proposed Pan African Campaign provides for a long-term plan of action and follow-up measures and is designed to be implemented on a continuing basis. Thus, after a one-year preparatory phase, mass vaccinations would be carried out over a four-year period in countries where rinderpest is enzootic or likely to occur. Buffer zones would be established in neighbouring countries where the disease might spread. A five-year consolidation phase would then be undertaken in order to locate any remaining disease foci and eliminate them by slaughtering diseased animals.
The most serious problem facing African governments in their efforts to control the disease has been a lack of funds. This resulted in acute shortages of equipment and laboratory facilities for the manufacture of vaccines. The administrative and distributive capacities needed for successful campaigns are also limited. In fact, the need to put veterinary services on a firm financial footing is regarded as a key factor in the PARC campaign. In many countries, funds at the disposal of national veterinary services have declined steadily over the past 10 years even while staff has been growing Personnel have been hampered accordingly in trying to provide essential services.
Although multilateral funding remains in doubt, the project proposal for the campaign has been framed in such a way that bilateral projects could easily be identified according to the preferences of individual donor governments.
Meanwhile, emergency efforts continue. The EEC is concentrating on a programme in Tanzania to establish a buffer zone for southern Africa in collaboration with the Southern African Development Coordination Conference. In Mauritania, FAO, in collaboration with the Organization of African Unity and other agencies, is taking emergency measures to protect 1.2 million head of cattle from the disease. In Ethiopia, FAO's Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) has mounted a $245 000 project to set up six vaccination teams and monitor future outbreaks. To date, FAO has provided assistance through 23 national projects and one regional amounting to $4.881 million.
Unlike many other commodities, such as sugar and rice, that are widely traded within well-established markets, timber is usually traded in a few large transactions between governments and transnational companies. This situation makes it difficult for developing countries dependent on timber exports for foreign-exchange earnings to establish a value for the commodity and to obtain a fair price for it.
A recently published FAO study, "Forest Revenue Systems in Developing Countries", is designed to help governments of developing countries to overcome this problem. The comprehensive work discusses many complex issues affecting pricing policy and outlines some of the possible solutions. Above all, it seeks to make developing countries aware that the forest resources they possess are a valuable commodity not to be lightly traded away.
Developing countries have never received fair returns for their timber. In colonial times, only a nominal fee was paid for timber extracted, on the apparent reasoning that timber was of little or no value to local populations. Some residual effects of this attitude are still felt today.
The situation has been changing, however, and many developing countries are determined that the price of timber, an important and increasingly scarce commodity, should reflect that situation. The price of timber rose dramatically at the time of the petroleum crisis of the early 1970s, and since then timber prices have continued to fluctuate at higher levels than before, representing an increase, in real terms, of between 30 and 40 per cent. However, the higher timber prices have not always been reflected in increased stump age fees for standing timber.
The FAO study draws attention to the three basic components of any forest revenue system: annual ground rentals levied on forest concessions; volume-based charges on timber cut export charges and domestic processing incentives. These elements can be used as policy levers to achieve a controlled management and exploitation of the resource.
Domestic processing incentives are just one symptom of the increased awareness of the value of timber as a commodity. Countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia now specify in their concession agreements that only a small percent age of unprocessed timber can be exported. In this way they hope to ensure that they are not exporting potential for employment and value added earnings. Indonesia, for example, which had round wood exports of 20 million cubic metres in 1976, had reduced this flow to a mere three million cubic metres by 1982, while boosting exports of processed timber significantly.
An FAO forest economist, Philip Wardle, points out some of the difficulties involved in obtaining a proper price for timber. "Measuring timber is a highly intricate and technical matter, and there is an extraordinary variety of grades and quantities." What's more, forests are usually the property of governments which are dealing with the task on a vast scale, while the purchasing bodies with whom they must negotiate are generally multinational companies with much specific expertise in timber marketing arrangements.
Much forest is also being destroyed by people eager to get at the land. The value that they attach to land clearance inevitably reduces the value of the timber as a commodity. But he is optimistic about the future of the commodity in the long run. Increasing awareness of its scarcity should give it an added strength in the marketplace, a trend especially true for rare tropical timbers.
Improved processing techniques will allow the utilization of a greater number of species. "The forest has an increasingly valuable future and the real value of timber will increase," he maintains.
Recent estimates indicate that about 650 000 persons are engaged in Brazil's fishing industry. About 400 000 of these live and work in northeastern Brazil, mainly in some 300 isolated fishing settlements located along the beautiful sweeping beaches and in the mangrove swamps on the coast of Maranhao State. This coast is belie, to offer the best prospects for increasing the country's fish production but at present the fishing gear used rudimentary and modern marketing methods almost unknown. Most of the fishing is done with traps, set out to take advantage of the tides, because there are not enough fishing boat and most, in any case, are inefficient Some of the credit funds earmarked for improving the fishing fleet hay' been diverted to the construction geleiras, sailboats used to navigate the coastline in order to buy fish that can be sold at increased prices in Sao Luis, the state capital.
Elsewhere, there are another 250 000 artisanal fishermen who work independently of the settlements, a matter of some concern to the federal government which decree almost a decade ago that all artisan' fishermen should be affiliated with fishing settlement. The government is now allocating considerably more resources to develop a more ration fisheries programme and to assist artisanal fishermen to upgrade the productivity and incomes.
This initiative will eventually involve an investment of $130 million under direction of the Brazilian Superintendency for Fishery Development (SUDEPE) with financing from the Inter-American Development Ban (IDB) and technical assistance provided by FAO. A preliminary FAO/IC study, carried out at the request of Brazilian authorities, recommend three areas of activity for the programme: the provision of an over; line of credit for private enterprise fishing; the construction of a fishing terminal in Maranhao State; the suport of fishing activities, including restructure, technical assistance, training. It is within this last year that an FAO/IDB/SUDEPE project for assistance to artisanal fishermen was formulated. Based at Sao Jose do Ribamar, kilometres from Sao Luis, the project is intended to develop improved fishing and boatbuilding technologies, its expatriate and national counterpart specialists working closely with local extension personnel who are expected to become "multiplication elements". Project technicians have signed a small wooden fishing boat, e metres in length, equipped for both sail and engine propulsion is boat, being constructed in Sao is, will be capable of operating safely off the Maranhao coast, as 11 as in its bays and those of neighbouring states. It will be compatible with both fishing gear now in use I new types of gear that will be manufactured and demonstrated during the project. To provide for documentation for in future training work, all stages the boatbuilding are being photographed. After its construction the boat will be tested and technical data regarding stability, safety, displacement, etc., will be recorded. When the boat has been approved, the project will furnish a detailed technical bulletin, stating materials and construction techniques used, and results of the various tests, to fishermen and boatbuilders in the region. In each settlement where the boat is demonstrated, extension workers will select fishermen to participate in the demonstrations and will contact those interested in building this type of boat.
The project will also study possible improvements to sailboats presently being used. One of the region's most commonly used types of sailboats, known as "Bastardo", is undergoing many modifications intended to improve its performance. Another project priority is the introduction of new types of fishing gear and the improvement of present gear. Initially, four types of routinely used gear have been selected for modification by the experts: the longline, the gill net, the fykenet, and the beach seine. This last type has since been shelved owing to new environmental protection regulations decreed by SUDEPE. The new models are being made by local fishermen and net makers under the project team's guidance. As these prototypes become available, they are demonstrated by the technicians, with the assistance of extension workers who have become familiar with their manufacture and use.
The first demonstration of a modified longline was held at the Sao Jose and Cururupu settlements during late 1982 when it was tested by local fishermen together with a traditional longline. Although the modified version was equipped with 10 per cent fewer hooks than the traditional one, it caught about three times the weight of fish. Each municipality along the coast will now receive a complete set of modified fishing gear. At a later stage, fishermen will be instructed in techniques of making their own gear.
Practical farmers have long recognized the value of cow dung as a fertilizer, but they likely have also observed some of its drawbacks. If not well mixed with the soil, cattle droppings linger on the surface, smothering forage growth and offering an ideal breeding ground to flies and intestinal worms that can exact a heavy toll on domestic livestock, wildlife, and humans. Some US studies have indicated that cattle will not graze close to droppings if they can avoid it. Australian research has shown that 80 per cent of the nitrogen in cattle manure escapes into the air when droppings are left on the surface until dry. Someone else, presumably a mathematician, has calculated that the annual droppings from 25 cattle would cover a full hectare.
With about 25 million head of cattle, mostly on the range, Australian farmers obviously have some interest in dung management and they are now getting help from Australian scientists in this respect. The Australian solution has been to turn to dung" eating beetles - the scarabs once so revered in ancient Egypt - which they began to import from Africa in the late 1960s.
The value of the dung beetle, of which more than 4 500 species have been identified worldwide, lies in its habit of aggressively searching for fresh manure. They will fly several miles to find it and once it is located they fight fiercely among themselves for the most succulent morsels.
After feeding on the fluids, they break off small balls of dung and push them down tiny tunnels they dig in the soil beneath the droppings. Female beetles then lay an egg in each dung ball. Not only does this activity help to remove the offending dung heap, providing perhaps as much as five per cent more pasture, but it also disrupts the reproductive cycles of internal cattle parasites who also lay their eggs in dung - but require an above-ground environment for their survival.
The first batches of African beetles were set loose in Australia's Northern Territory and in Western Australia in 1967. Finding few natural enemies they established themselves quickly and went to work. Since then some 20 species have been introduced and many are becoming acclimatized. Today, tens of millions of African beetles are busily burying Australian cow manure.
In the United States, Department of Agriculture entomologists have also been working with dung beetles for the past 15 years and have been introducing new species from Africa, Pakistan, and Argentina. One entomologist worked out detailed economic benefits that would accrue to cattle producers if dung beetles could promptly bury all the cattle droppings on US grazing lands; he reached the figure of $2 billion annually
Although the establishment of new colonies of dung beetles takes time, scientists appear optimistic about their potential. The fact is that cattle are alien species on many of the world's grazing lands and their droppings are only slowly destroyed by native organisms. Australia's native dung beetles, for instance, successfully remove kangaroo and koala dung in the woodlands, but rarely venture out on the range to attack cattle droppings.
Most scientists agree that the dung beetles are unlikely to become pests. Adults have no jaws and feed only on the fluids of the dung. They live three quarters of their lives in the dark, under dung, or underground. The larvae cannot survive outside the dung ball.
The serious problems being encountered by many African countries with regard to both balance of pay meets and food production have on, again underscored the question of wheat and flour imports made in response to the growing demand for white bread. The influence of consumer habits in rich countries combined with failure to develop domes agriculture has placed these fragile economies in an extremely difficult position. Between 1970 and 1980 African imports of wheat increased at an average rate of 13 per cent annually in terms of volume and 24 per cent in terms of value, reaching in 1980, the level of 15 million metric tons worth US$3.1 billion. Paradoxically, while swelling urban populations create a much larger demand for cereals, especially wheat, the number of domestic primary producers declines, even where demand exceeds local output. To confront the dilemma of importing ever large quantities of food for which they are unable to pay, African countries must increase agricultural productivity, responding both to the social changes produced by urbanization a to the need to find substitutes for cereal imports.
Bread, however, cannot continue definitely to be made from import' wheat, or, for that matter, even from domestic wheat, since, of 375 million people in Africa south of the Sahara 210 million live in areas where wheat is extremely difficult to grow. Eve in other areas where it is possible to grow wheat, production costs would be prohibitive and would involve the importation of expensive inputs.
For this reason interest in composite flours is growing. These are flours produced by mixing different cereals, such as wheat, millet, maize, or sorghum, or mixing cereals with roots tubers, such as cassava, or with legumes, such as soybeans. Obviously e bread that can be made from these flours varies greatly in flavour, four, and consistency, depending on e techniques used and on the proportion of each ingredient. These flours, again, can be used in the preparation of many other foods, such as gari, foufou, or kokonte, cording to the food customs of different countries.
Flour from wheat has a higher protein content than most other flours, 11 per cent as against one per cent for cassava, or eight per cent for maize, millet, sorghum, and rice. Soya flour, on the other hand, contains 50 per cent protein. The protein quality of wheat flour, however, limited by a lack of lysine content. The enrichment of wheat flour with soya, which contains a much greater entity of lysine, makes a much more nutritious bread. Even diluting wheat flour with other flours lacking lysine would not affect the value the product so long as it was not the only basic foodstuff. FAO has been working in association the a number of African, Asian, and tin American countries to promote use of composite flours in baking. Senegal, for example, the Food Technology Institute (Institut de technologie alimentaire), with assistance m FAO, has already produced a ad containing 30 per cent millet is 70 per cent wheat, although in response to consumer tastes the proportion of millet was reduced to 15 cent. Unfortunately, too, persistent drought resulted in poor let harvests and forced suspension of production of this bread. There have also been experiments in Brazil, not yet advanced to the commercial stage, with flours that include maize, soya, wheat, and cassava, in which a three per cent proportion of soya compensates for the protein-content loss occasioned by substituting cassava for 15 per cent of the wheat content. But in this case as well, the price of soya and the necessity of adapting the product to consumer tastes also enforced a delay in development.
In the Sudan, baguettes containing 15 per cent sorghum along with wheat have been produced in a pilot bakery operated by the Food Research Centre with assistance from FAO, and these are already being sold at the rate of 2 000 a day. In other countries, including Gabon, Upper Volta, Niger, Togo, Tanzania, and the Gambia, tests in the production and marketing of bread with different proportions of maize, sorghum, and cassava are being undertaken. Centres have been established at Dakar and Khartoum to provide training in composite flour development for west, central, and northern Africa in the first instance, and for eastern and southern Africa in the second.
However, various technical problems and, even more so, political ones, are hindering the establishment of commercial operations and the spread of a milling and baking industry based on local cereals that would substitute for wheat imports. The first, and perhaps most important, of these is that neither domestic growers, nor wheat importers, nor millers, nor even in some instances the concerned ministries, are inclined to look with favour upon the introduction of other raw materials, especially when these, at times, cost more than imported cereals, even if the accounts are payable in local currency. Moreover, there are cases, such as in Nigeria, where there are no mills that can process other flours. These other flours, in practice, are ground by the peasants themselves in the traditional manner. They lack the quality required for baking and are seldom produced with sufficient regularity or in adequate quantities to permit full-scale commercial production.
Moreover, the price of flour produced from imported wheat is about half the price of flour from cassava, maize, corn, or millet. Even allowing for the burden that imported wheat places on foreign exchange transactions, it is usually consistent in quantity and quality. In order to replace just 10 per cent of the 1.5 million tons of wheat Nigeria imports to make bread, it would be necessary to develop consistent production from 75 000 hectares of land worked in a capital-intensive manner, or 150 000 hectares cultivated in the traditional way.
In other cases, such as Sierra Leone, overvaluation of the national currency artificially lowered the cost of imported wheat in relation to local products and increased the dependence on imported cereals and urban demand for white bread. (Nor has such demand always been restricted to the urban centres.) Although this lowered the cost of bread to urban consumers, it favoured above all else the private importers of wheat, who were not always under government control.
In order to have local flours included in bread on a massive scale, it would be necessary to make the cereals and flours preferred by the rich much more costly than the local products, either through the creation of an import tax or through subsidies on domestic products destined for the food industry. This could be combined with the establishment of higher prices as incentives to domestic producers with premiums granted for uniform quality. Undoubtedly this would temporarily increase the price of a staple product and could have political consequences.
Another important problem is the difficulty of marketing a local product when producers are scattered throughout a large country that is lacking in adequate transportation and the same is true of retail outlets. A special administration would be needed to organize the collection, transport, storage, grading, and sale of the products in order to avoid sudden changes in the quality of raw material, which could be disastrous for the baking industry. At the same time there would have to be an intense publicity campaign to present the new bread as modern and prestigious. This would need to be accompanied by wide distribution with adequate margins to gain the support of merchants.
Other considerations: priced too low, a product may be considered inferior. If it is not given adequate publicity, a product that looks and tastes different might not be able to supplant "French" bread, traditionally, in consumers' minds, the bread c quality. Cultural problems are thus linked with political ones in the exigencies of overall planning for the substitution of imported wheat with the political will and tenacity, required to change popular tastes as much as the actual system for the production and distribution of bread.
It is possible, nonetheless, to introduce and maintain local products in a manner similar to imported one and it would bring great advantage to Africa. If imported wheat could be partially replaced, at least where technically possible, the continent would have to produce an addition three million tons of domestic cereals. This would require much effort to overcome problems created by drought, lack of transport, inadequate distribution of land, and deficient marketing networks. However, it would open up a great potential market for African farmers, if they could be assured that their output would bring a good return and in the same time frame that growers of other commercial crops are paid for sales to domestic and foreign industries. In this case, not only would the balance of payments situation of African countries improve, but there would also be long-term improvements in the general agriculture situation and the standard of living of the rural population. The tempo of forced urbanization would be reduced.
The imprecation in many religion to "give us our daily bread" does not specify kind, colour, or form. And the quest for this bread, synonymous with food, is always a quest for independence. It is a problem con fronting many countries today.