|CERES No. 104 - March - April 1985 (FAO Ceres, 1985, 50 p.)|
Two fundamental principles of conservation the proper use of marginal lands and the use of buffer zones around protected wildlife areas - are at stake in a controversy surrounding efforts by Zimbabwe's Government and livestock industry to comply with import regulations governing access to the European Community's lucrative market for beef.
The more immediate debate has centred on the slaughter of about 1.000 of Zimbabwe's wild buffalo (Synverus caffer), which have been implicated in all but one of 32 out-breaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the country during the last 25 years. EEC veterinary regulations prescribe that all regions of an exporting country must be free of the disease for at least 12 months before exports of beef to community members can begin. Moreover, cattle in the major beef-producing areas must be totally isolated from any possible contact with buffalo.
Although buffalo, and most other large indigenous mammals, have long-since withdrawn from the central Zimbabwean plateau, which will provide most of the beef for export, some buffalo remain outside the national park areas of Hwange in the west and Gonarezhou in the south and are regarded as a potential source of infection, even through located well away from beef producing areas. Accordingly, Hwage and Gonarezhou have sealed off with game fences. Outside each park a vaccination zone has been established within which all cattle will be compulsorily vaccinated against FMD and all buffalo will be slaughtered. Buffalo will also be slaughtered within an additional buffer zone beyond the vaccination zone. (See adjoining map.)
For Zimbabwe's beef industry, plagued with low domestic prices, the prospective EEC contract of 8.100 tons annually could provide much needed impetus. For the country as a whole it represents, at present prices, $60 million annually in desperately needed foreign exchange. But wild buffalo have also been bringing in foreign exchange by attracting lucrative hunting safaris to the former tribal areas where they roamed and to a number of established game ranches. It is estimated that the removal of buffalo could reduce these earnings by half.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), which has taken a particular interest in the case, points out that the slaughter of 1 000 buffalo is not in itself the most serious aspect of the matter. Far greater numbers are reported to have died during the recent prolonged drought without noticeable impact on the overall buffalo population, estimated to total about 50 000. On the other hand, the IUCN points out that almost all the land inside the buffalo eradication zone is marginal, with erratic rainfall and poor soils. It is ideally suited to indigenous wildlife, but very little else Some ecologists argue that a wide range of herbivores are needed to utilize available vegetation efficiently and accordingly advocate multi-species game ranching. Thus, elimination of the buffalo from this region is seen as negating sound conservation principles that have been developed with great care over many years.
A second concern noted by IUCN is that the new game fences around Hwange and Gonarezhou parks and the elimination of buffalo outside these fences demolishes the long-cherished dream of establishing buffer zones of gradually decreasing conservation status around major- wildlife areas. In the view of many ecologists the new arrangement is "too sharp-edged".
There remains a possibility that the cleared zones may eventually be restocked with FMD-free buffalo. Dr John Condy, a leading Zimbabwe veterinarian, has been developing a herd of buffalo calves caught before they were old enough to become carriers of FMD viruses. The Department of National Parks is also considering a capture exercise to increase its own FMD-free herd. The EEC may help to fund the development of this herd, currently at about 100 head, but release of these animals into the cleared zones is not expected for several years and would, in any case, depend on the opinion of the EEC veterinary committee.
Some critics are linking the situation in Zimbabwe to that in Botswana which has been exporting beef to Europe for- a number of years. Although there was no deliberate eradication programme in Botswana, the game fences established there to protect domestic livestock from FMD are said to have had a serious effect on migratory wildlife, especially wildebeest. NOW, a new fence being planned by the Botswana Ministry of Agriculture is causing concern in both countries. It would run northwest along the boundary of Hwange National Park, which coincides with the international border, then west for a short distance before turning southwest and finally south past the Nxai Pan National Park. Such a fence, says IUCN, would halt the present movement of large mammals to salt pans and water sources located south of the fence line, and would also complete the near- encapsulation of Hwange National Park. The real principle at stake, according to IUCN, is the proper use of marginal lands suited to indigenous wildlife.
Nearly four years after the alarm was first sounded by a group of farmers in the Tanzanian village of Itunda, a solution to the problem of how to deal with the invasion of the larger grain borer- a predator of the family Bostrychidae whose main tar gets are maize and cassava stocks an her-vests (see Ceres, Nov. Dec. 1982) is still far off. But while the dumunzi, as the Tanzanians call it, cannot yet be eradicated, measures are being taken to curb the havoc it causes an to stop it from spreading to other regions of the country and across the borders.
It is the vastness of the problem that poses the greatest challenge: the latest research findings indicate that this insect, which was unknown in Africa until a few years ago, has now become firmly established in the northern half of Tanzania. By August 1984, it had been reported in the border zones of Burundi and the extreme south of Kenya, and in earl 1985, it was found in West Africa, in the LomTogo) region. Although i is a winged insect, the data collected on it so far suggests that it is mainly propagated by being transported in maize and dried cassava, and probably in contaminated sacks.
No one is certain where the dumuzi originally came from, even though it is known in Central America, Mexico and the southern United States. But from the findings of the first surveys conducted in Tanzania by a team from the British Tropical Development Research Institute, we now know that it can cause grain losses of over 10 per cent, which means 10 per cent less grain available for consumption and sowing. Tanzania's aggregate annual potential maize loss in 1982 has bee put at 543 000 tons, worth several million dollars, working in conjunction with the programme officials, has shown that the most effective weapon against the dumuzi so far discovered is 0.5 per cent permethrin powder, of which 50 grams is enough to protect 90 kilos of matzo for about 10 months. But it is only effective if the farmers are prepared to break with tradition and husk them maize before storing it. This method not only requires them to adopt new storage techniques, but it also takes time, having to husk manually the 500 kilos that the average household farm produces imposes a heavy burden on all the members of the family, at precisely the time when they have to harvest tobacco and cotton, whose cropping cycle follows on the heels of maize. To overcome this problem, the far-mere have to use manual huskers so that the operation can be completed in a matter of days Research is being conducted to produce a husking machine that will meet their needs, and which can be manufactured locally.
After the 1984 harvest in the Tabora region, in the north of the country, it was found that dumuzi infestation was about half that in previous years. The experts felt that this decline was due to the fact that the 1983 stocks, which might have been a potential source of infestation, had been almost entirely disposed of. Many farmers have therefore decided to wait and see whether the insect reappears before husking their maize and buying permethrin. Yet in some of the villages, about half the small farmers who still vividly recall the disastrous situation they experienced in previous years have agreed to test out the new methods being proposed.
One of the main reasons for the success of this first campaign, apart from the fact that it has made inputs (sacks, insecticides) readily available, is the hard work put in by the extension workers, rural development officials, and agricultural produce inspectors at local and regional level. Just before the campaign started, about 900 of them went on crash courses lasting several days, run by regional supervisors and district storage officials, who had previously been given appropriate training. This programme is scheduled to be repeated over the next few months, and teaching aids (folders, posters, films, and videos on husking and storage techniques) are now being produced, and will be made available to the extension workers.
However, despite these encouraging results, there arc still a great many hurdles to overcome if the dumuzi is to be beaten. The sheer size of the region creates serious logistical problems (roads and vehicles), particularly the transport of materials and extension workers and stock supervision officials both on the farms and at the market. There is no immediate problem with supplying 0.5 per cent permethrin. In 1984, the Tanzanian Government bought 160 tons of insecticide that was re-packed in 30- and 50-gram packets The new maize storage techniques involve the use of sacks or woven baskets which can be produced locally, but if the new techniques are to catch on quickly, over a million more sacks will have to be made immediately available. A further problem is the fact that the dumuzi also attacks cassava when it has been dried and stored on the farm, and the researchers have not yet come up with a fully satisfactory method of protecting it.
While work is moving ahead in Tanzania, the bordering countries have to set about tackling the problem, now that they are aware of it. Just after the larger grain borer had been discovered in the border areas, a cooperation project was prepared in Burundi to initiate a campaign to control and combat this parasite. In Kenya and Togo, similar programmes have been set up with technical assistance supplied by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany under its bilateral aid programmes.
Tropical crop specialists are convinced that a $30 million investment in a biological pest control system over the next five years could rapidly and significantly reduce the numbers of the two major insect pests currently causing an estimated $2 billion damage annually to Africa's cassava harvest. Governments of a score of countries in western, central, and eastern Africa have signaled their confidence in the system by requesting trial releases of natural enemies of the two pests - the cassava mealybug and the cassava green spider mite.
The proposed project, a collaborative effort of a number of national and international agencies, would involve the establishment of a centre for mass production of the pests' natural enemies and their release, by millions, from both ground-level and low flying aircraft. Preliminary trial releases over the past four years have already established the effectiveness of certain parasitic species in reducing mealybug populations - and damage.
Although much of the funding for the project remains to be committed, its organizers have decided to step up the pace of research and development in order to be prepared for a continent-wide campaign. To be established under the auspices of the Scientific, Technical and Research Commission of the Organization for African Unity (OAU/STRC), the project would have two components: a research programme that would be the responsibility of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), which has played a leading role in the project's development thus far, and an operational programme that will be managed by a board representing FAO, IITA, OAU/STRC, and both donor and participating governments.
Research already carried out has yielded promising results. After investigating other potential methods for control, including pesticides, cultural practices, and the breeding of resistant cassava varieties, IITA opted for biological control as the safest, simplest, speediest, and most economical means, and the one most likely to be acceptable to farmers. Research then centred on the original South American habitats of the two pests (they have been found in Africa only during the past dozen years) in order to identify effective natural enemies. With the collaboration of a number of other research institutions including the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) at Cali, Colombia, and the Brazilian Government's research institute, EMBRAPA, a total of 17 species of the mealybug's natural enemies and one predator of the green spider mite have been located. Six of these species have already been brought to IITA at Ibadan, Nigeria, having first cleared rigorous quarantine procedures at the Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control in London to ensure that they attack only the insect pests and that they will not themselves become pests.
The most promising of these introductions is a parasitic wasp, Epidimocarsis lopezi, which has been field tested over the past three years in Nigeria and Zaire, and which is credited with reducing mealybug populations and the damage caused to cassava crops in the release area. A later survey indicated that the wasp had spread outward over more than a 100-km radius from the farm where it was originally released.
With 20 countries in Africa's cassava belt now asking for trial releases of these beneficial insects, the question of an adequate supply of parasites becomes critical. IITA has investigated a number of options for mass production systems and has drawn up preliminary specifications or a unit that could produce 15 million beneficial insects per day. As insects emerge from the production unit, they are transferred to a packaging room where parasites-as many as 1 500, depending on the species - are placed in small plastic capsules which are put in turn into cassettes at are kept in specially designed containers with their own cooling system. These are loaded into aircraft which fly over cassava fields at speeds of 250 to 330 km/hr releasing about one capsule per second. Specially designed wind tunnel tests carried out in Austria have shown that the resulting accelerations and air currents do not harm the released insects.
If the proposed project can be successfully mounted on a continent wide basis, it would offer some prospect of helping to overcome the chronic problem of low yields in Africa's cassava fields. Although the African area planted to cassava, considerably more than half of the global total, output is only about 40 per cent of world production, reflecting yields that averaged about six metric tons per hectare, compared with an average of more than 11 tons per hectare attained in Asia and South America. Researchers at IITA had made significant progress during the 1970s in developing improved cassava ones that were resistant to such diseases as cassava mosaic and bacterial blight that often combined to cut yields by as much as 90 per cent, only to have the sudden invasion of the mealybug and green spider mite pose a new menace.
In the socio-spiritual matrix of India, both rats and snakes have traditionally enjoyed a venerable status, the landscape abounds with temples dedicated in their honour. In more recent times, however, another kind of veneration, the worship by affluent westerners of bags, belts, and valises made from snake skins has led to massive decimation of snake populations and the consequent proliferation of the rats on whom they once preyed. A further result of this ecological upheaval has been an acute shortage of snake venom, a vital ingredient in the production of life-saving drugs. Playing a central role both in the original disruption and in subsequent efforts to redress the balance has been a relatively small aboriginal group that has found a way to utilize traditional skills within a rapidly changing social environment.
For centuries, the Irula tribals in the Nilgiri and Chingelput districts of southern India had eked out a livelihood by killing snakes and selling their skins, an occupation they evidently preferred to the employment on tea or coffee plantations that sustained other tribal groups. Expertise in catching deadly reptiles without any protective devices was handed down from one generation to the next. But material rewards to the Irulas were meagre. A snake skin that might eventually fetch as much as Rs. 100 would normally bring an Irula snake catcher Rs. 2.
In the early 1970s, driven by poverty and privation, many Irulas began flocking into Madras, which had established a reputation for large scale trafficking in snake skins. With foreign demand for snake skins reaching a new high (exports were running at about six million skins annually) the snake-slaughtering zeal of the Irulas reached almost frenzied proportions. Putrid heaps of snake skins along the roadsides and open spaces of suburban Madras testified to the onslaught Furthermore, as their natural enemy was being eliminated, rats multiplied enormously, posing a threat to human health.
In 1978, the state government imposed a complete ban on killing of snakes. Export of snake skins was also prohibited by the federal Government. In effect, the Irulas were suddenly deprived of their only means of livelihood. It was at this juncture that one man with a deep respect for India's traditions decided that the Irulas' heritage of expertise could still be usefully engaged both to maintain the snake population in the ecosystem and to provide improved incomes for the Irulas.
Romulus Whitakar was a well known natural historian and the founder of Madras Snake Park to which, for years, the Irulas had been supplying both snakes and the frogs to feed them. This relationship offered Whitakar ample opportunity to observe the Irulas' skills in dealing with the reptile world. It was his brainwave that these skills could be used to "milk" the snakes for venom instead of killing them for their skins. This was the beginning of the Irula Snake Catchers Industrial Cooperative Society, claimed to be the first of its kind in the world.
Soon after the Society's launching in early 1979, its 200 member families were initiated in the art of milking poisonous snakes - cobras, kraits, Russels vipers, and saw-scaled vipers - for their venom. Snakes caught by the Irulas were brought to the Society's premises where they were examined, weighed, and clipped with a code identification. An Irula would then hold the reptile in one hand, grasp its head from behind the mouth between the thumb and index finger and force the bared fangs through a rubberized sheet stretched over the mouth of a glass, in which the slowly dripping venom is collected. The venom is then dried by a vacuum pump and refrigerated for use when required. After two or three such extractions, the snake is fed with a glucose solution and returned to its natural habitat.
The Irulas are paid according to the variety of the reptile they have captured. To obtain just one gram of venom requires 100 krait or 200 saw-scaled vipers. But while one gram of krait venom fetches about US$50 on the international market, some other varieties can bring as much as $1 500 per gram. Venom is used in the manufacture of serum to protect humans against snake bites and in the preparation of painkillers for those afflicted with arthritis and spinal tuberculosis. It is also used in drugs for controlling hemophilia and to break open blood clots during dental surgery. Snakes, especially the poisonous types, are gaining importance in the field of medicine," says Dr Brian Groombridge, a herpetologist attached to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. "The venom has been used for certain significant breakthroughs in neurobiology."
The returns from the sale of venom have considerably changed the lifestyle of the Irulas. With better housing and educational opportunities they are gradually becoming integrated in the mainstream of national life. With profits earned from the sale of venom, the Society has set up a venom centre at Vadaneli, a hamlet near Madras. Wholly operated by the Irulas, it is claimed to be the first of its kind in the country. The Society has also branched out into the field of rodent control, guaranteeing to keep individual homes free of rats and termites for an annual fee equivalent to US$25. According to Whitakar, "Irulas are top class rodentologists." Certainly, their reputation in rodent control technology is sufficiently established that requests for assistance in eliminating rats have come from as far away as Bihar and Guiarat and from prestigious research centres like the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute in Kasaryod in India's western coast.
Chinese peasants are growing rice successfully in dry fields in areas where water is scarce.
The year 1984 saw 90 000 hectares of dry fields sown to rice along and north of the Yellow River, three times as much as in 1983, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, and Fishery.
Despite natural setbacks, per-hectare output averaged 4.725 tons. Tongxian county outside Beijing, with 2 300 hectares of dry rice, managed 6.75 tons per hectare, and some areas actually achieved greater per-hectare output from dry rice than from wet.
By doing away with seedling beds and flooding, dry cultivation of rice uses less water, manure, and manpower. In practice, one-third as much water and two-thirds as much manure are needed as with traditional methods. This cuts costs by $60 per hectare and facilitates mechanized farming.
With less than 500 mm of rain annually, northern and northeastern China have had no water to spare for flooded fields, so wheat, maize, and sorghum have been the traditional crops. But with the new system an estimated one million hectares are suitable for dry rice.
Rice hectarage around Beijing, for instance, reduced several years running because of industrial water consumption, is now rising again with the new technique. In 1984, dry fields accounted for about a quarter of the city's rice hectarage.
"Growing rice dry is very like growing wheat," said Ling Pengzhi, an agronomist at the Agricultural Science Research Institute in Daxing county, a major Beijing rice producer.
After the spring ploughing, each hectare is spread with 45-75 cu.m. of farmyard manure and 450 kg of calcium super-phosphate, then level led and irrigated with 750 cu.m. of water.
Seeds are sun-dried for two or three days to increase germination percentage, then screened to remove foreign substances and tipped into a brine of 10 kg of salt per 50 litres. The salt may be replaced with 15 kg of clay. Only the seeds that sink are used.
These are steeped in fresh water for six or seven days to absorb all they can, then one day before sowing are fed in the shade and sprayed with a 100 ml per litre of water solution of the insecticide chlordane E.C. (50 per cent).
"All this is to maximize seedlings, one key to an ideal yield," says Ling. The seeds are sown two to three centimeters deep, slightly shallower than wheat. Weeds flourish on the unflooded land. "They must be kept down with chemicals," says Ling, "or a good harvest is impossible." The seedlings are not irrigated until four to six leaves appear, when 750 cu.m. of water are used per hectare.
The five to seven irrigation's of 600-750 cu.m. per hectare each during the growing period take 3750-4500 cu.m. per hectare, one-third that in flooded fields, though slightly more than for wheat.
Ling explains that rice, unlike lotus or reeds, has no root air cells and can survive drought like other land plants.
"Intermittent irrigation gives the root enough air and water," he says. "Only at critical moments do the plants need much water."
By "critical moments" Ling means tillering, booting, heading, and the milk stage. "Under normal circumstances," he adds, "if the plants are watered plentifully at these times, good harvest is as sure as posting a letter."
For an ideal harvest, says Ling, 50 kg of ammonium bicarbonate per hectare should be applied at tillering and again at booting.
Serious drought in 1971 and 1972 reduced Daxing's rice hectarage from 7 000 to 5 000 and forced Ling and his colleagues to seek a new way to insure output.
Helped by the Academy of Agricultural Science, their dry rice cultivation experiments succeeded in 1973, and one-third of the county's rice was dry-grown by 1984.
The national dry-grown rice hectarage will be enlarged to 260 000 in 1985 and one million by 1990, according to the ministry.
A course of study in a foreign university has long been a recognized route to career advancement in developing countries, but the cost of following it is often prohibitive for all but the most affluent. Bilateral and multilateral aid programmes that allocate significant amounts of their budgets for training of national counterpart staff offer another channel for those who are selected, but there is evidence that such fellowships for study abroad may also involve frustration for their recipients since such courses are geared to the more immediate needs of the project concerned, rather than to the long-term career prospects of the individual selected. A comment from an FAO review of training programmes a number of years ago summarized this point as follows: "The conflict between very understandable personal aspirations and the actual type of training required for the implementation of development projects is very often one of the biggest problems to be overcome in formulating a training programme."
Now it appears that the search for more flexible and cost effective training systems may get a boost from the micro-computer and other modern communication technologies. The result is a growing interest in the potential of off-campus study or what is now being labeled in some quarters as "distance learning". Wye College of the University of London, to cite one example, will be launching, beginning with the 1986-87 academic year, a post-graduate programme in agrarian development, designed for external students and based on distance learning.
As described by Prof. Ian Carruthers, the Wye College course will be part time with no residential requirement and with registration open to suitably qualified candidates irrespective of nationality For candidates lacking degrees recognized by the University of London, a pre-registration examination will be required. "This is not an easy option for a master's course," says Prof. Carruthers.
Students will receive packages of course materials which will include textbooks, workbooks, and cassettes. Students will undertake a number of assignments for each course, which will be posted to Wye and returned with detailed comments and an assessment. "In the medium term," says Prof. Carruthers, "we plan to include micro-computer-based learning in some of the courses, this is becoming increasingly feasible with the falling costs of hardware." He estimates that taking into account travel, residence, and fees costs, the Wye course will be only about one quarter of the cost of full time residential study.
The concept of distance training for rural development is also being promoted in Latin America both for technical cooperation within the region and for national training programmes. The FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean is planning to promote regional workshops on experiences in distance training activities and to collaborate with national institutions in defining methodology.
One Latin American country, Colombia, has already launched an off-campus programme in higher education which is integrated into the national university system. Its aim is to permit students to continue working while studying at home with specially designed materials. A network of regional centres offers examinations, tutorial assistance, laboratories, computers and other equipment. In effect, the traditional classroom instructor is in large part replaced by modern technology.
The Colombia programme has recently benefited from the award of a $37.5 million loan from the Inter American Development Bank which will be used to expand the system to handle an additional 30 000 students.
The feedback from an ambitious US project to test the applicability of telecommunications technology for stimulating public debate on the subject of global food security has convinced the project organizers that not only did the experiment prove the potential of a new educational approach, but that, as well, there is a wide consensus within the nation on many elements of national and international policies related to the hunger issue.
In its annual report for 1984, the US National Committee for World Food Day described as "remarkably successful" the nationwide three-hour satellite teleconference which last October 16 linked an international panel of experts in Washington, DC, with local community groups at more than 120 sites in all 50 states for what was termed "a national town meeting on food and hunger issues". In a much more detailed analysis of participants' reactions issued early this year, Elise Warns Stork, the teleconference project manager, noted that participants' recommendations "represent the views of a diverse national audience comprised of college students, faculty and administrators, religious leaders, local hunger activists, agricultural extension personnel, local government representatives, farmers and other food producers, consumer groups, international development coalitions and a variety of other concerned Americans. That such a cross section of individuals and groups agreed on specific ways in which to improve American and international policies should compel policy makers to give serious consideration to their views."
The teleconference was designed as the central component of a World Food Day educational package that included the advance distribution of college-level curriculum materials and follow-up reports and recommendations from the participating community groups The three-hour teleconference format provided for a one hour opening presentation by the Washington panel on pre-selected themes, including US food policies, African famine, the role of women in agriculture, and a review of the global food situation since the World Food Conference in 1974 A videotaped message from FAO Director-General Edouard Saouma calling for a continued commitment to multilateral cooperation led off the presentation from the panel, which included John R. Block, US Secretary of Agriculture. In the second hour the satellite transmission was halted while local groups conducted their own discussions on the issues, formulating questions which were then posed to the panel in Washington during the final hour of satellite transmission. After the transmission, participating groups were invited to submit recommendations for action in five areas: by the US Government, the international community, "food crisis" governments, US colleges and universities, and local groups.
An analysis of both the questions posed by local participating groups and their subsequent recommendations tended to emphasize certain issues, most notably the relationship of military spending to hunger, population growth, the depolitization of food aid, and the applicability of American agricultural methods and policies to the developing world. Many recommendations suggested that, in order to depoliticize food aid and development assistance, the US should attempt greater continuity of policies from one administration to the next, should reorient donor policies away from bilateral relations and toward more multilateral giving through UN agencies and the World Bank and should reject policies of "tied aid" and military assistance to developing countries. Respondents were unanimous in their support for US policies which encourage food crop rather than export crop production. Many questioned the applicability of American systems and procedures in the developing countries and faulted the US for being "overly ethnocentric" in its approach to development.
In addressing recommendations to the international community, the participating groups concentrated on such issues as the fundamental right to food, the need for preventive international action against hunger, the role of trade and of multinational corporations, the lack of concern for environmental degradation and the role and policies of the international monetary system. A number of groups urged an international policy of assessing all "able governments" for one per cent of gross national product to be directed toward food aid and development assistance. Man expressed their support for the UN system and other international bodies as vital to the search for solutions against hunger.
On the other hand, in making recommendations to governments facing food crises, participants often stresses their concern over continuing dependency relationships between beneficiaries and donors. They stressed that food crisis governments must take greater responsibility for feeding their own people, and suggested a number of lines of action including "food first" policies, improved food distribution, producer incentives, family planning, and education and training.