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J. HECQ & F. DUGAUQUIER- Pmes irriquvillageois en Afrique sahenne (Irrigated village plots in the Sahel) 1990, Petite hydraulique agricole adagascar (Small-scale agricultural water engineering in Madagascar)-1990- CTA, Wageningen, Netherlands

In the foreword to the first of these two books, CTA Director, Daniel Assoummou Mba, says that ‘many projects have achieved success, although this is not widely known, perhaps because the promoters, who sometimes perform their tasks with the utmost discretion, had other things than publicity to think about. It is to break through the silence in the media that the CTA, whose job it is to relay and disseminate information on agricultural development, is publishing an analysis of development projects which have had moments of obvious success and can be used as models of progress. The CTA aims not only to make them known, but, above all, to describe the conditions of their success.

The authors point to the obvious impasse in river-fed agriculture in all the arid and semi-arid regions of Africa and suggest that the only way of getting them to evolve, or even just to survive, is to develop the vast river basins for irrigation. More than 300 000 ha of the Sahel is under irrigation today and a sixth of the land under crop provides a third of production. The technique here is the ‘small village plot’, i.e. any piece of agricultural water engineering of a size that can be exploited and managed by a rural community (be it a traditional one or the outcome of new land arrangements).

The first of the two works analyses the conditions of success and the reproducibility of small village plots in the Sahel, namely:

-N’Dombo-Thiago at Guia in Senegal; -Kaedi-Gorgol in Mauritania; -Korioumnd Toya in Mali; -Tillaka, Toula, Koutoukule and Namardoungou in Niger.

The reader pressed for time can bypass the individual features of each plot and confine his attention to the common factors of success, i.e.:

-a good location;
-simple techniques;
-a demand from the grass-roots; -human-scale working units;
-autonomy of the socio-economic structures;
-secure markets and a coherent price policy.

In Madagascar, the slogan of the micro-hydraulic operation run more than 10 years ago was to ‘impose nothing and allow needs to be expressed’ and the Director of the CTA gives this as a fine example of a project which is small in terms of costs, means and works, but which, given its more human scale, bears the seeds of success which can be sown elsewhere.

The fact that Madagascar has the biggest per capita consumption of rice in the world is a special reason for the EDF’s financing of more than 1500 schemes since 1977 and for the constantly expanding demand from the peasants.

There again, the authors suggest that the micro-irrigation operation was a success for the following reasons.

-It is based on a traditional situation so that progress can be made without any upheavals.

-It involves the peasants making an actual physical contribution.

-It is the archetype of the one-off scheme-the opposite of the all-purpose, universal operation.

-It has brought in competent staff who are aware of the realities of the situation in the field.

-It has had the support of a confident funding agency which has always maintained its faith in the programme, on the grounds that the financing of an agricultural operation is not a passing phase and that constancy is also a condition of success.

-It has produced simple things, which have been properly made to last and cheap to instal and maintain. The project is within the scope of operators, executives and peasants. Piece-work contracts with local craftsmen mean that money paid can be recycled in the local rural society immediately, that many local craftsmen can be trained and work carried out at low cost.


Bertrand DELPEUCH-L’enjeu alimentaire Nord-Sud - 55 schs pour comprendre (The North-South food problem-What is at stake-55 charts) -Preface by Edgard Pisani-Editions Syros-Alternatives, 6 rue Montmartre,

Paris, 75001-2nd edition-1990- 160 pages-FF 59

The EEC is the world’s biggest exporter. Brazil, whose soya feeds Western herds, has 40 million people below the bread line. The USSR, the leading producer of wheat, pays ludicrously low prices for European grain surpluses to feed its cattle. And while Asia is approaching self sufficiency in food, Sub-Saharan Africa is counting more and more on imported grain to feed its population.

Drought and flooding explain some cases, but it really takes a proper grasp of North-South agricultural relations to see why one person out of every four in the world today is hungry. Delpeuch explains it all very clearly, using a double page for each key item, with a chart on the left-hand page and a short explanation and some examples on the right-a method of presentation, based on plentiful resource material, which is the fruit of years of work in the training sector.

The author, an agricultural engineer and former editor of the Solagral Newsletter, works in an international organisation and he does more than just make statements in this book. The major trends in the world food and agriculture industry are analysed and the role of the states, the international commodity agreements, the influence of transnationals, the impact of the debt burden, the growth of urban development and the consequences for the environment are all discussed. And the last section outlines possible action, for Delpeuch believes that winning the hunger battle means acting in both the South (to redistribute land, diversify production models and so on) and the North (to lighten the South’s debt burden, encourage marketing codes, reshape the common agricultural policy and so on).

The first edition of this book enjoyed well-deserved success-it was a rapid sell-out in France, it was translated into Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese and work is now being done on other international editions too. This second edition of course retains the clarity and precision of the original, but the data, charts and analyses have been updated.

Edgard Pisani, who wrote the preface to the second edition, introduces it with the words: ‘The world can feed everybody. But it doesn’t. But it has to. How? That is what this book is about’.

John MACPHERSON with Douglas PEARCE-Publishing Education Materials in Developing Countries A Guide to Policy and Practice-The Canadian Organization for Development through Education and the Harold Macmillan Trust, 48 pages, 1990. ISBN 09516288-0-1. Distributed by Intermediate Technology Publications, 103/105 Southampton Row, London WC1B 4HH, UK.

Although this short book is not, strictly speaking, a report of conference proceedings, the co-authors have based it on the themes and suggestions arising out of an international workshop on ‘Printed Educational Materials Development in the Third World’, which was held in the UK in February 1989.

The workshop was attended by more than 60 educationalists, publishers and aid personnel from both North and South, with considerable collective experience in the field. The purpose of the book, which the publishers describe as ‘deliberately concise’ is to put forward practical ideas which, if followed, could, they claim, ‘lead to a healthy increase in the number of books in Third World schools and colleges’.

There is certainly no unnecessary verbiage in this volume. Aimed primarily at senior government officials, decision makers in the field of educational publishing and relevant aid workers, the bock makes positive proposals for action and does not dwell on unnecessary theoretical analysis. The emphasis is on ‘home grown’ production of education materials and in this context, the authors deal with the relationship between curriculum development and educational publishing, approaches to writing, illustrating and designing the materials, and basic questions of editing, publishing and printing. There is also a useful bibliography drawn up with developing country policy makers and administrators in mind.

Education is a cornerstone of effective development and this publication, its concrete and practical recommendations aimed at facilitating educational publishing in developing countries, makes a helpful contribution

Jean-Louis GOMBEAUD, Corinne MOUTOUT and Stephen SMITH-La guerre du cacao-Histoire secr d’un embargo (The cocoa war-the secret story of an embargo)-Calman L 218 pages-Bfrs 614-1990.

This is the work of three journalists, specialists in cocoa and black Africa. The attractive title and sub-title are clues to their style; that of the detective novel or, to put it bluntly, the whodunnit, which makes what is a rather sad, but potentially difficult and boring story of the export problems of a major tropical commodity an easy read.

In the summer of 1988, Cd’Ivoire decided to stop selling its cocoa and other producers-Malaysia, for example- made the most of this to put their own product on the market. Cd’lvoire, which had not made any debt repayments since 1987, was watching its problems mount while a plentiful harvest was beginning to rot, when a French company, ‘Sucre et Denr’, suggested buying 400 000 t of the cocoa, half of the country’s output, and storing 200 000 t to push the prices up. Cd’lvoire accepted. The authors claim that the chairman of ‘Sucres et Denr’ got the French authorities through the CCCE to release FF 400 million as ‘support for Cd’lvoirets agriculture’ and pay it to ‘Sucres et Denrees’ for the 200 000 t storage operation. But, they suggest, there was no storage.

Yet all this time, ‘a merciless struggle’ was going on with the American giant Philipp Brothers, who ended up with a contract for 300 000 t of lvorian cocoa in the spring of 1989. Between the cocca-pod and the chocolate bar (of which cocoa accounts for only half the price) arriving on the supermarket shelf, there is commercial speculation and the difficult situation of the planters. But what does the peasant get out of it all?


Jean-Marie DOMENACH Europe: le d culturel (Europe - the cultural challenge)-Editions La Duverte, 1 place . Paul PainlevParis Veme

156 pages-Bets 518-1990.

Domenach, the French writer, was in charge of the review ‘Esprit’ for years before he went to teach at the Ecole Polytechnique. This little book, which sets out some of the ideas developed previously in a work entitled: ‘Ce qu’il faut enseigner’ (‘What you have to teach’), starts by pointing out that the nation ‘is no more the end of the story than the proletariat, nor can it be for a Europe which invented history’. There is no European culture, the author believes, so will Europe dismantle itself culturally when history is calling upon it to forge itself together politically?

Gone are the Middle Ages when students could go freely from one university to another, when there were two uniting factors-language (Latin) and religion (Catholicism). The development of nation states and nationalism had gradually shaped a different world, but, since the end of World War II, a common destiny has been found for Western Europe, and recently places further afield too. ‘Europe is a new idea’, Domenach maintains.

Europe has to take up three challenges if it is to be a success. First, there is the urgent matter of achieving a balance between our competitivity and social protection. Second, there is the natural environment confronted with the demands of production. And third, there is culture, because ‘the old humanism is crumbling and the new humanism hasn’t yet appeared’.

Domenach makes four main suggestions for bringing this European humanism into being. The essential thing, he feels, is the question of language and he comes down on the side of multilingualism. ‘Rather than wage pointless guerilla warfare against English, why not recognise its status as the vehicular language of some essential fields - science and technology - in the world today?... English should be taught in the primary school with this in mind-and another European language should be obligatory from the first year of the secondary school onwards’. Teaching must change, universities must change and literature, geography and history, for example, mu it be tackled differently. Thirdly, publishing, translation and distribution should be harmonised and, lastly, there should be more joint audio-visual productions. for ‘Europeans consume five or six times more American-made audiovisual products than European-made ones’.

These are just guidelines for tackling the cultural challenge. The author concludes, in the words of Paul Val, that ‘Europe has not had a policy for it i thinking’, hoping that things will be different in the future.

A L.

G. BUTTOUD-Les produits forestiers dans l’nomie africaine (Forestry products in the African economy)-Agence de Cooption Culturelle et Technique, Conseil International de la Langue Franse-Paris-Presses Universitaires de France-1989-321 pages-FF 160.

The author begins with a bird’s eye view of African forestry resources, highlighting the wide diversity of situations from the humid tropical forests to the wooded areas of ‘dry Africa’. Buttoud then looks at the firewood crisis (The Courier has often mentioned this) from the point of view of food security, desertification and energy supply and goes on to discuss the solutions offered by agro-forestry, which despecialises areas and involves the villagers, but assumes that the system of land ownership can be changed.

The next two chapters (on African countries and the trends in the international markets in wood and its byproducts and the development of Africa’s tropical forests) are the most innovative of the book. They deal with trends in the timber trade (expanding rapidly because of both the industrialised countries’ demand for paper, cardboard and housing materials and their North-North export trade due to the fact that ‘it takes a large build-up of capital to produce and above all to process wood’), the openness of the timber market, increasing African wood consumption and Asian competition, the forced industrialisation of African wood and the rationalisation of forestry.

The last chapter contains the author’s recommendations, in particular on setting up proper wood utilisation systems, rethinking industrialisation and gearing it more to company reorganisation and to seeking greater market diversification.

Each chapter has its statistics and bibliography and the whole thing is usefully completed by a ‘brief presentation of the forestry economy of the main countries of French-speaking Africa’.

M.W. BASSEY and O.G. SCHMIDT: Abrasivedisk dehullers in Africa-from research to dissemination (IDRC, Ottawa -Canada-, 12$ Can.), 1990 106 pages.

Recent droughts in the Sahel and in eastern and southern Africa have increased the urgency with which national policymakers are considering drought-resistant crops. National systems for agricultural research in many African countries have strengthened their programmes to improve sorghum and pearl millets.

A food crop, however, only becomes food when it is actually eaten. Efforts to increase food production must therefore be matched by corresponding post-harvest research. The absence of appropriate dehulling equipment, especially for small grains, has often been cited as a reason for past national neglect of these cereals.

This publication reviews the development of small-scale, inexpensive, versatile, abrasive-disk dehullers in Africa. The rural deployment of mechanical dehullers offers an opportunity to enhance national cereal self-sufficiency and to increase use of the productive capacity of the low-rainfall areas of Africa.

The topics discussed in detail include the need to understand traditional food habits and preferences; the scope for applying small dehullers in Africa; detailed technical descriptions of various dehuller designs and criteria to be considered in a design process; important grain characteristics as they relate to dehulling and the effect of the dehuller’s abrasive agent on the grain; installation and operation of some typical, rural, small-scale milling systems; and the process of introducing technology as one moves from applied research to applying the results.

Laurence COCKCROFT - Africa’s Way: A Journey From the Past-I.B. Tauris & Company Limited London- 1990-Pounds 14.95, 256 pages.

This provocative book suggests that aid packages for Africa have failed at least in part due to the lack of understanding of what was happening in Africa before the colonial powers took over the continent. It is the precolonial structures of society (described by three characteristics: ‘They were authoritarian; they concentrated loyalties within kinship groups; they had seldom evolved a conflict-free system of succession’) ‘and the persistence of traditional norms in the new political order’ which underlie Africa’s political and economic problems, and which are likely to shape the future.

This book takes a controversial new look at the problems faced by Africa in explaining why so much went wrong. In a frank and outspoken manner, Cockcroft tackles some of the issues which must be faced if African states are to survive and prosper.