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close this bookCERES No. 101 - Septembe r- October 1984 (FAO Ceres, 1984, 50 p.)
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FAO in action


All of the 150 families in Madoch parish in the Teso region of Uganda own cattle. Cattle arc a sign of wealth and are used for "bride price", but in reality they have been more of a banking system than a source of profit. The indigenous Zebu cows were never noted for their productivity in the best of times; during the annual dry season from December to April, when dry and unpalatable grass and foliage has little nutritional value, their already poor condition gets worse and milk production usually stops. When these families were given an opportunity to improve their lot, they responded with enthusiasm and a great deal of physical effort. Under an FAO/UNDP project launched early in 1981 with the aim of increasing milk supplies for urban areas as well as improving rural incomes and living conditions, all family heads were persuaded to form a cooperative. Working in collaboration with an FAO dairy production expert, the local district veterinary officer, and Uganda's Dairy Development Committee, the farmers undertook construction of four milking parlours, each with 20 stanchions and a holding yard for 200 head of cattle. The complex also includes a permanent cattle dip for prevention of ticks and East Coast Fever, a feed store, veterinary office, tool shed, and workers' room. The provision of water for the dairy was a major challenge, since people had for generations walked 5-10 kilometres for water, but eventually a spring was located in a nearby marshy area, which the farm families themselves converted into a 350 000 litre cement and rock-lined reservoir. With a pump and overhead tank contributed by the Dairy Development Committee and FAO, the parish was able to have running water under pressure for the first time in its history. To overcome dry-season feeding problems, farmers have been learning to make silage and prepare urea treated straw. As soon as electricity is brought in from a power line only a kilometre away, a chill tank will be installed and milk will be collected every two days. Significantly, this development project has not intruded on basic traditions. Farmers still own their own cattle and graze them on communal pasture. Their cows are still brought back to the home boma each evening. But they have access to feed supplements, forage water, and veterinary care. Not surprisingly, many nearby parishes want to imitate this success, and the Dairy Development Committee, with a view to future projects, has ordered a water drilling rig.


A growing number of developing countries are seeking assistance from FAO for the establishment or strengthening of information systems on the national food-supply situation. The inauguration of an early warning system in Bhutan last summer brought to six the number of such systems established under FAO's Food Security Assistance Scheme since the first one was begun in Tanzania in 1978 (see Ceres, Nov.-Dec.' 1978, p.4). Besides Bhutan and Tanzania, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Zambia have launched early warning systems with FAO assistance. Another project prepared for the Sudan is still awaiting funding. In the past two years more than 20 projects have been identified in response to government requests. The design of early warning systems varies from country to country according to the availability of data, infrastructure, and the level of self-sufficiency in staple foods. Generally, however, the assistance provided covers three broad areas: agrometeorology and crop production forecasting; market intelligence; and food-stock monitoring. In the Sahel, FAO has been collaborating with CILSS, UNDP, and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in a project to strengthen agro-meteorological and hydrological services for seven countries in that region.


A novel means for keeping farmers' ox and donkey carts in operation has been devised by engineers working with FAO's Small Farm Mechanization Programme in Kenya, where the supply of wheel and axle units has been unable to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for wheeled transport. Some preliminary research revealed that farmers would not accept metal wheels, but rubber tires were prone to punctures, except when new, and new tires were prohibitively expensive Eventually project engineers discovered that old tires filled with sawdust were not susceptible to puncture and provided almost the same ride characteristics as air-filled tires. The design was completed by the production of a rim with a flat cross section and bearings made from oil-soaked wood. The wheel and axle unit can be made in large quantities, and the bearings can easily be replaced by a village carpenter. The cart carries up to 500 kg and has been tested at speeds up to 15 km per hour. The unit costs about $100.


One of the most promising regions for horticultural production in Saudi Arabia is the Najran Valley in the southwestern part of the country. Given the Saudi Government's long-term agricultural strategy for the attainment of self-sufficiency in food production, the valley's potential, especially for citrus fruit production, has attracted considerable attention. In 1981, the Saudi Government asked FAO for technical assistance in the establishment, in the Najran Valley, of a national Centre for horticultural research and development, providing funds-in-trust of nearly 57.5 million plus more than 26 million riyal (3.56 riyal equal US$1.00) for the execution of the five-year project. Staffed by nine expatriate experts as well as national counterpart staff, the project has been propagating and distributing high-quality, disease-free stock of citrus and other fruit varieties to local farmers, establishing a demonstration orchard at the project site, conducting research into horticultural production, providing assistance to farmers in production of fruits and vegetables and training counterpart staff and local personnel.


More than 300 peasant women in Honduras have become involved in managing their own small-scale enterprises thanks to the availability of financing and technical assistance through an FAO/UNDP project undertaken in collaboration with the National Agrarian Institute. To date. 31 peasant groups have received financing equivalent to about $150 000 in order to carry out small-scale projects in horticulture, staple grain production, small livestock rearing, apiculture, and household enterprises such as baking and cheese-making. Moreover, no less than 50 other groups have been actively participating in generating ideas for projects, analysing, approving, executing, and evaluating them with the help of technical support staff. Besides involving women more directly in the productive process, the project aims at alleviating rural unemployment and under-employment, enhancing incomes and family unity, and consolidating peasant organizations involved in this country's programme of agrarian reform.


No nation's development plans are immune to cultural traditions. In Madagascar customary funeral rites call for the use of silk in shrouds and for other ceremonies. The outlay of foreign exchange required to import silk presented a problem. The solution selected was to attempt to turn the situation around, to become a net exporter rather than a net importer of silk. Through a two-year FAO/UNDP project scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, the Malagasy Government has sought to achieve a number of objectives: first, to revive sericulture in the island's high plateau region in order to satisfy national demand for silk; second, to encourage rapid improvement in sericultural practices and to establish research institutions that would lead to the adoption of production systems geared to the international market; third, to provide the training needed for medium-term staff requirements; and finally, to provide the necessary supporting infrastructures. In a year and a half a group of sericulture experts from China recruited for the project have succeeded in developing, from both local silkworm strains and imported ones, a hybrid strain that is much more productive than traditional ones and which provides a silk that meets the quality standards of the international market. Distribution of eggs from this strain to interested silk producers has begun and training and extension sessions for the benefit of private producers have been undertaken. The project has also partly restored production on a state silk farm.