|CERES No. 058 (FAO Ceres, 1977, 50 p.)|
The terrible drought that raged from 1968 to 1972 showed how vulnerable the Sahelian region was to natural disasters. As a result, attempts are being made to reduce this vulnerability. First, a series of studies was carried Out by the United Nations, the World Bank and FAO, among others. To prepare the second or '´action" phase, an association was formed last year at the instigation of Maurice J. Williams, Chairman of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of OECD. It is called the Club of the Friends of the Sahel, and includes the Sahelian countries and some industrialized nations. Launched last March, the Club is losing no time: by the end of the year it had outlined a global strategy, taking into consideration previous studies on the region. Approved by the ministers of the Sahelian countries at a meeting last December in N'Djamena, Chad, this strategy aims to protect the region from famine and ensure its food self-sufficiency and autonomous growth by the year 2000. The main objectives are to double traditional foodgrain production between now and 2000, to increase rice production fivefold, and raise wheat production (almost nil today) to more than 500 000 tons a year.
A top priority win be the development of dry farming. To this end, it will be necessary to put more /and under cultivation, to increase yields (try the use of fertilizers, animal-drawn ploughs, etc.), and to guard against drought by introducing species with a short vegetal cycle. It is interesting to note that a sine qua non was approved by the Sahelian ministers to the effect that there should be a coherent price policy to ensure an adequate income for the producer. This was not always the case-far from it-in the past.
The Club of the Friends of the Sahel also envisages the development of irrigated agriculture. This will be secondary to the dry farming effort because of the problems of training men and financing the irrigation works.
The third aim will be animal husbandry. Production systems will have to be changed, breeding intensified, and specialization by zone introduced.
The Club of the Friends of the Sahel still has to organize the different programmes within this global strategy, and to obtain financial aid. A high-level session of the Club will discuss these matters in Ottawa at the end of May
Thinking in terms of the year 2000 does not mean forgetting the present. If the meager harvests envisaged in the Sahel are to be saved, precautions must be taken immediately. This is what the Office for Special Relief Operations in FAO intends to do, by building up a fund of $3.9 million to protect millet crops against locusts, rodents, birds and other pests.
However, FAO's participation does not stop there; at the creation of the Club in May 1976 in Dakar, FAO was represented by a delegation headed by its Director-Ceneral in person. Since then, it has been participating actively in the work of four groups on animal breeding, irrigation, rain-fed crops and fisheries. It is also lending its services in a consultative capacity to five sub-committees.
Finally, it may be noted that the study on agricultural development prospects for the Sahelian countries from 1975 to 1990, prepared by FAO as a simple working paper for the use of politicians and technicians in the zone and for nations and organisms willing to participate in one way or another in Sahelian development efforts, is now one of the basic documents used by technical groups in the Club of the Friends of the Sahel.