|CERES No. 116 (FAO Ceres, 1987, 50 p.)|
THE FAO REVIEW: Organizing for change (who speaks for agrarian
Eighty per cent of Peru's livestock is raised in the puna, or arid tableland, which comprises 6.5 million hectares of natural mountain pastures. But the zone's low temperatures mean that plants there grow only four or five months of the year and a few hours a day, and that frosts are frequent. Overgrazing, which these conditions aggravate, further destroys this already fragile environment. The solution could lie in an indigenous wild animal, the graceful vicuna.
The vicuna is an American cameloid, of small stature, like a deer. It can run long distances at 47 km/h at altitudes of 4 500 metres above sea level without tiring. Unlike sheep hooves, which cut the hard soil and contribute to erosion, the foot of the vicuna is covered with soft pads, which allow it to hold fast on the rocky surfaces and which prevent damage to the soil. Moreover, while sheep or goats uproot the plants they eat, which causes the land to crumble and turn to dust, which then blows away, the vicuna cuts them with its lower incisors that grow continually and are covered with hard enamel. Finally, its adaptation to the environment of the Andean altiplano is such that the newborn vicuna can run soon after birth and weighs 15 per cent of the mother's weight.
The Incas knew how to exploit wild resources. In the year 1500, the vicuna population was estimated at 2 million head. The indigenous people joined by the thousands to form a sort of human fence to corral the chaco - wild vicunas and huanacos, which they caught and sheared or slaughtered. According to the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, the brilliant mestizo historian of his lost culture, they did not believe that the Sun God or Earth Goddess created wild animals to be useless, and the vicuna and the other cameloids, the llama and alpaca, were useful indeed.
It was its coat that brought the vicuna to the brink of extinction, in spite of the king of Spain and his viceroys, Simon Bolivar, the governments of independence, and, in this century, international treaties (the vicuna is also found on the altiplanos of Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile). The king of Spain signed a royal mandate in 1577, shortly after the conquest, prohibiting hunting the vicuna; Bolivar, in 1825, repeated that prohibition, and over the decades there have been more than 15 decrees and conventions. Nevertheless, the vicuna continued to be hunted for its fleece. If we calculate that in 1500 there were 2 million, in 1957, 250 000 head were counted, and ten years later in 1967, there were only 10 000, which declined to only 2 647 in 1969. In 1965, the creation of the Pampa Galera National vicuna Reserve fortunately allowed the trend to reverse itself in Peru and in 1982 the vicuna population had risen to 20 893.
Building on the above-mentioned reserve, a project has been under way since 1980 - the Project for the Rational Utilization of the vicuna - involving 963 peasant communities and 48 150 families. The basic idea is to make better use of the Andean pastures by having vicunas graze together with domestic animals, or allocating them for grazing of vicunas and other wild animals. The vicunas would be captured every two years, in a chaco, to register them, mark them, shear them, and set them free again. The aims of the project have been to repopulate the puna with 3 million vicunas (on 15 million hectares), to develop a technology adequate to the ecological and socio-economic situation of the region, to increase profitability of marginal mountain lands by means of vicuna-raising, to advise and financially support the peasant communities by means of Government action, in the utilisation the vicuna on the lands, to promote the domestic processing and the exportation of vicuna products, and, once guaranteed the survival of the species is secure, to develop a model for the utilization of national wildlife. The experience of the Pampa Galeras Reserve proves that those objectives are possible, since, although the vicuna is still threatened in the rest of the country, the Reserve is today facing the problem of overpopulation, since the animals are reproducing.
Evidently, the main concern of the proponents of the project is preservation of the species, which still has not been universally assured, more than the industrialization of the resource. But they also work for the future, studying the characteristics of fleece, hide and meat of the vicuna, with a view to its possible exportation.
Peruvian sheep can yield up to eight kilos of meat and 4.5 of wool per year, but in the puna the yield is only half the meat and half a kilo of wool. The cameloids - the competition - comprise not only the vicuna, the llama, and the alpaca but also the hybrids. The cross between a female alpaca and a male llama is the huarizo, which has a heavier fleece, and that of female alpaca and male vicuna, or vice versa, is the pacovicuna, with a very fine fibre, superior to that of the alpaca. A vicuna in its useful life can be sheared five times and its coat has a value 20 times that of the wool of a good sheep and 10 times that of alpaca wool. Moreover, there are the hide and the meat.
The meat, like that of all wild herbivores, is excellent. The vicuna is a great runner and its muscles are red and succulent. Insofar as its population is increasing, the vicuna can be a high-quality food for the local inhabitants or offered to foreign palates in search of exotic foods to make them forget the usual animals stuffed with hormones and artificial fodders. As for the hide, it is very small Just one square metre) and covered with scars, as is normal for wild animals, and it is too thin for shoes, gloves, or coats.
But it has great resistance to tearing and a very smooth grain; tanned with chrome or with vegetal processes, dyed, and finished, it could be used to manufacture purses or high-quality morocco products.
But the essential advantage of the vicuna lies in its wool. Its fleece is composed of a mixture of fine fibres, lower down, and thicker and coarser in the upper coat, vicuna wool is composed exclusively of the fine fibres of the lower layer of the fleece, which, with a thickness of 12.1 microns, are like those of the angora rabbit (that of the cashmere goat has a diameter of 15-16 microns and of the merino sheep 17-18). This permits weaving garments of vicuna that are far softer and more workable than those made with other famous fibres.
Moreover, the yield, or the percentage of washed fibre to the original weight before treatment, is 87 per cent, and far surpasses that of the sheep and the alpaca. The buyer pays for fleece and not impurities, but also intensive treatment with alkaline chemical substances, which damage the fibres during processing, can be avoided.
The project hopes to achieve a density of one vicuna per five hectares and a rate of growth of 20 per cent, similar to that obtained on the Pampa Galeras Reserve. It would mean - if means of control and conservation are applied - obtaining some 3 million head by the year 2000. Already some $30 million annually could be earned from the vicuna, and the project would be self-sufficient, since the processing of 375 000 vicunas a year could give 7.5 million kg of meat, at $1.00 each, 375 000 hides, at $30 each, and 75 000 kg of fibre, at the current price. Investment in the project, for its part, was calculated to establish goals (in 1977) of $4.4 million, half of which from abroad.
The multiple hazards confronting crop and livestock production in Africa sometimes seem almost to be vying with one another to create the greatest havoc. Drought, locusts, mealybugs, rinderpest, tsetse flies - all have been targeted as major impediments to the continent's efforts to achieve greater food security.
Now add to that list striga, a parasitic weed that attaches itself to the roots of several of Africa's most important food crops, siphoning off moisture and nutrients, inhibiting growth, and sometimes completely destroying the host plant, especially under the stress of drought. At serious risk to its depredations are about two thirds of the 73 million hectares devoted to cereal crop production in Africa. Heaviest losses occur in savannah zones stretching from Cape Verde on the west coast through western, central, eastern, and southern regions of the continent, a sweep that also embraces major food legume producing areas in most of the affected countries. Yields of cowpea, maize, millet, sorghum, rice and sugar cane have all been considerably reduced by striga infestations.
Quantifying the actual economic loss is extremely difficult, but its general scale of magnitude may be judged from the range of estimates that reach from around $500 million dollars annually to as high as $7 billion, this latter calculation arising from an eight-year-long survey involving a number of scientific institutes concerned with suppressing the weed.
Whatever may be the difference in estimates of damages attributable to striga, there appears to be general agreement that these food losses are increasing at an alarming rate. There are also other equally disturbing elements in the situation:
- Control of striga is extremely difficult because the plant produces myriads (as many as 40 000 per plant) of minuscule, powder-like seeds that may remain dormant - but viable in the soil for as long as 20 years, depending on climatic conditions, germinating only under the stimulus exuded from potential host plants, or, in some cases, from certain non-host plants. Since the initial parasitic growth generates from the roots of the host plant, considerable damage may already have been caused before farmers become aware of striga's presence above ground.
- Because they are least able to afford conventional methods of striga control, small farmers are most vulnerable to its infestations.
- While plant scientists do not claim to understand fully the causes of the present more rapid spread of striga, they now acknowledge that there is a possible link with continuous cereal cultivation and consequent decreases in soil fertility.
To tackle these problems, FAO and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) have proposed an intensive programme aimed especially at helping small-scale farmers to control the weed. Over the past couple of years this programme has sponsored a technical workshop and an all-Africa government consultation that have succeeded in collecting, and in exchanging among scientists, planners, and potential donor agencies, a considerable body of information about the nature of the striga problem and various experiences in attempting to control it. The recently released report of the FAO/OAU Government Consultation on Striga Control, held in Maroua (Cameroon) last October, remarked that "Yield losses attributed to striga damage cannot be over-emphasized in view of the importance of the host crop in the daily diet of the people affected. The small-scale farmer, who must grow cereals to feed his family, is helpless since, in the past, there were no effective striga control methods available to him. In most African countries, the small scale farmer practice of hoeing to control weeds is not only ineffective for controlling striga, but it is also labour-intensive and results in further depletion of nutrients and moisture in the already impoverished soil. Until recently, governments and international agencies have failed to recognize the economic impact of striga let alone help the small-scale farmer in his predicament."
More practical help may, however, be on the way. Dr L. J. Matthews, a weed specialist with FAO for the past ten years, is optimistic about the potential of a package of cultural practices recently developed and field tested in the Gambia as a measure that could be adopted by small-scale farmers to control the weed. Funded by the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) this research programme identified a number of control "packages" that were effective for both sorghum and millet. These included: the use of striga-tolerant varieties, side dressing of urea fertilizer four weeks after planting, spot spraying of emerging striga shoots with contact herbicide using a hand sprayer, and tethering cattle in the fields after harvest whenever possible. For millet, strip cropping has proved an additional useful practice.
The important point, in Dr Matthews' view, is that weed control measures should be compatible with sound soil conservation practices. He cites the results from comparisons of four differing sets of weed-control practices tested in the Gambia, two of which depended on minimum tillage techniques; the other two involved much greater amounts of cultivation by both humans and animals. Using a jab planter for seeding and restricting weed control to a 20-cm band on either side row reduced labour requirements by about 50 per cent in the case where the band was hand weeded, or roughly 90 per cent if a herbicide was used. And yields were from 25 to 50 per cent higher than in the more traditional cultivation methods that involved shifting some 500 to 1000 tons of soil per hectare.
The Government Consultation was sufficiently impressed by these results that it recommended that the applicability of these packages should be verified in various national programmes. Since CILSS funding for the Gambia programme ran out early this year, the Consultation also recommended a meeting of donors as a matter of urgency.
No, an otolith is not an eight-sided monolith or a newly discovered mineral. It is a calcareous concretion found in the otocyst of an invertebrate or in the internal ear of a vertebrate, and it is of interest because it helps to determine the age of fish.
Ageing fish is of vital importance to the assessment and management of stocks. Specifically, it helps to measure mortality from natural causes as well as from fishing activity, and thus to estimate whether a stock is fully exploited or overexploited. It also helps to set the best time to begin and to end the fishing effort on a stock, allowing the stock to renew itself by reproduction or growth, thus remaining an economically viable enterprise. Almost every skeletal structure has been used in the attempt to age fish, including bones, vertebrae, and spines. But scales and otoliths are the most popular because they are easy to collect and to store. Fish have three pairs of otoliths, which appear as small shiny bodies somewhat lateral to the brain. These can usually be extracted fairly easily under a dissecting microscope with fine needles.
Either in transparency or through the grinding down of a cross-section, the three-dimensional structure will show a pattern composed of a number of concentric rings, very much like the rings of a tree trunk. Each ring is made up of a light or hyaline zone and of a darker or opaque zone.
Scientists consider the rings to be a response to changes is environmental conditions, such as temperature, light, and feeding. Indeed, any major change in he environment in which a fish lives is likely to produce a ring. In the temperate zones, where differences between summer and winter are marked by changes in both water temperature and amounts of available food, age determination of most species is relatively easy. But other events, such as plankton blooms, sudden unseasonal changes in temperature, accidental discharge of pollutants, or any stress, such as reproduction or a sustained lack of food, may also produce rings identical to annual ones.
In the tropics, the changes from one season to another are less regular and marked, which made ageing fish from the reading of otoliths more difficult. In the early 1970s, however, it was discovered that the otoliths of some fish contained primary growth increments that seemed to be formed on a daily basis, presumably as a result of the light/dark cycle and probably reflecting periods of feeding activity. This provided the basis for the development of a new technique that holds particular promise for ageing young or short-lived tropical or subtropical species for which the annual ring technique does not provide satisfactory results.
In any case, reading otoliths is not like reading a calendar, says Jorge Csirke-Barcelli, senior Fishery resources Officer at FAO. "It is a code, established for convenience, our convenience." Thus, otoliths must be read over a certain period so as to establish the time-scale over which the rings are laid down, and each reading has to be confirmed by a later reading or by another person.
Further confirmation can be sought by various means. Fish in tanks can be injected with tetracycline, which is readily absorbed and deposited in bony structures where calcification is taking place, and checked at regular intervals. In the field, fish must also be tagged and then later retrieved which can become an expensive process. Once a definite time pattern for ring formation has been established, the age of the fish can be determined.
Because the technique is costly in equipment and time-consuming when it involves daily rings, it is used in developing countries mostly for purely biological purposes. But, according to FAO, it has potential as a tool to be used in support of stock assessment in tropical and subtropical areas, particularly to age highly valuable species, and to provide reliable age estimates to be used in conjunction with other methods, including length/ frequency analysis.
The first International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives was signed in 1959. The International Olive Oil Council is responsible for the application of the Agreement, the objectives of which are to issue information on demand and supply, provide member countries with technical assistance aimed at improving production, manage promotion funds, and, in accordance with the Codex Alimentarius Commission, standardize technical specifications.
The negotiation of international agreements for staple products is usually an extremely laborious procedure, full of obstacles, and very trying on the patience and good intentions of the parties concerned. Despite the active participation of international bodies which, for decades, have endeavoured to promote international trade and stabilize the prices of raw materials, the results are disappointing. The parties concerned rarely succeed in overcoming their differences, and discussions often come to nothing.
These observations are confirmed in a report published by the UNCTAD Secretariat in 1985. The report acknowledges that staple-product agreements have tailed in a number of areas and stresses that in developing countries virtually no progress has been made toward such long-term objectives as increasing export revenues, providing stiffer competition, and setting up systems to cope with slumps in demand.
Therefore, the fact that the International Agreement on Olive Oil has been in effect for so long is somewhat surprising. Moreover, the Fourth, and current, Agreement, signed in 1986, was negotiated in a very short time, as opposed to, say, the Cocoa Agreement, which was signed in extremis in July 1986, after five attempts at negotiations.
The difficulty is due mainly to the absence of economic clauses and to the fact that olive oil is produced and consumed in a limited geographic area. It has long been the conviction of the parties concerned that quota restrictions and price regulation on the international market make it difficult to solve the problems, particularly since olive harvests are extremely variable: a good harvest is often followed by one or more years of moderate or poor harvests; and in some cases - roughly once every five years - there is either an exceptionally good or an exceptionally bad harvest. These fluctuations affect oil prices, revenues, and trade considerably. It is in the interest of producer and consumer countries to keep well informed on market trends so they can act accordingly.
Recently, neo-liberal economists have questioned both the economic clauses contained in the agreements and the concept of market stabilization, and have advised compensatory mechanisms (STABEX, the IMF compensatory facilities). Some of them, including Michel Rocard, the former French Minister of Agriculture, consider that measures should be taken to increase the supply and regulate production, and that temporary aid should be given to countries where export revenues have witnessed a sharp drop.
The salient feature of the olive oil market is that it is geographically limited to the Mediterranean region, where most of the production is also consumed. The parties to the Agreement (Algeria, EEC-in its members' names, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Yugoslavia) provide almost 95 per cent of the world's olive oil production. Moreover, the EEC alone produces 83 per cent of the olive oil coming from the member countries of the International Olive Oil Council. Since January 1986 (when Spain and Portugal entered the EEC), the world's olive oil production has been even more concentrated in a single economically integrated regional entity. This is reflected in the share of member countries in the Council's budget, which is based on the net average annual production and imports of olive oil and table olives during recent campaigns. The EEC, signatory to the present Agreement on behalf of its 12 member countries, is the principal producer and importer, covering approximately three-quarters of the Council's financial resources and promotion funds.
The volume of exports and imports among Council member countries is minimal compared with trade within the Community. The risk of imbalance between the EEC and the other parties to the Agreement therefore does exist and, according to Alister MacIntyre, Deputy Secretary General of UNCTAD, efforts must be made to harmonize the interests of all parties to the Agreement.
The current International Olive Oil Agreement has succeeded in adapting to the changes in international olive oil economics by taking into account the geographic and economic change that has taken place within the EEC following the entry of Spain and Portugal. The title, "The 1986 International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives", reflects the extension of the area in question, since it contains provisions on olive products other than oil. As stressed by Mohammed Tazi (Morocco), who presided over the last United Nations conference on olive oil, this is a "dynamic and evolutive" agreement.
Marie Annie Bousquet
The determination with which Ecuador is conducting its national reforestation programme is virtually unrivalled in Latin America.
Approved by the Ecuadorian parliament in 1983 84, and launched in 1985, the Plan Bosque (Forest Plan) is the Government's latest effort to solve a problem that has concerned several national groups for almost 20 years. At first glance, it might appear strange to speak of reforestation in a country where almost halt the land is covered by an impenetrable jungle. It is a fact, however, that the country's other two wooded regions, the Andean altiplano (the Sierra) and the coastal area, are witnessing the rapid disappearance of their forest cover (about 200 000 hectarea a year), particularly as a result of the sharp increase in the demand for agricultural land and pastures, and in response to the domestic demand for timber and coal. Denuded of 90 per cent of its trees, the southwestern area of the country resembles a desert.
In the late 1970s, industrialists in this sector voiced their alarm clearly: rapid deforestation is a threat to the survival of an industry which already shows a considerable deficit; in 1981 the losses caused mainly by wood pulp, cardboard, and paper imports amounted to almost $34 million annually. And they were not the only ones to request government intervention. In 1980 the Fundaciatura, a private non-profit organization, joined forces with them to attract public attention to the risk of erosion and degradation threatening the country's richest land.
With only $180 000 initially, Fundaciatura launched its awareness campaign by contacting all ministers and issuing daily press releases to the media on environmental themes. Its second enterprise, phased over a period of four years, consisted in sending educational material to 60000 teachers nationwide, for a total cost of $660 000.
Fundaciatura also initiated a reforestation programme in the region of Cotopaxi, in northern Ecuador. Densely populated and intensely cultivated, this altiplano region is also very poor. In three years the peasants have planted 2.5 million trees there and have learned to protect the seedlings against damage by domestic animals. The areas reforested (always with native species) are often communal land. In other areas, special attention has been given to improving small family farms.
Government action is geared to more strictly economic objectives. The first is to ensure a sufficient timber production to cover the country's household and industrial requirements. The second is to rehabilitate land bordering the farms and abandoned fishing areas, and reintegrate them into the country's economy.
Totally financed by petroleum revenues and with an initial budget of $12 million, the Plan Bosque is also addressed to inhabitants of the coastal area and Sierra region, but it mainly benefits the richer farmers and large landowners. Half the funds allocated by the Government are entrusted to the Ministry of Agriculture - under which comes the National Forestry Service - the other half being earmarked for the creation of a line of credit with the Banco Nacional de Fomento.
The only requirement for obtaining a loan, with a fixed interest rate of 9 per cent, is that one must own no more than 900 hectares of cultivable land. The farmer can use his loan to purchase local and foreign seed and start up production; he also receives agricultural advice during the various phases of development. If after two years 70 to 80 per cent of his trees are still alive, he can choose either to pay back his loan immediately or to sign a contract with the Ministry of Agriculture whereby he undertakes to maintain and cultivate his forest until the tress reach maturity. In the latter case, it is the Ministry that pays back the loan; when it is time to fell the tress, 10 to 20 years later, the farmer will repay the Ministry with no interest. The programme is so popular that in the first year requests under the Plan Bosque totalled 38 000 hectares, but the programme is geared to finance only up to 20 000 hectares annually.
This is a laudable project, but it has raised some criticism. In particular, the Government has been accused of reforesting the country in a disorganized manner, without considering either the subsequent phases of exploitation or that the domestic timber yards have to be supplied with timber from different areas of the country, some of which are of extremely difficult access. In this respect, however, it appears that after the initial phase, the Government project envisages that its reforestation programme will be oriented more strictly toward meeting the country's timber and coal requirements.
Another problem is the absence of local know-how in forest management and maintenance. This problem must be solved if the wooded areas are to maintain an optimum growth rate. In a recent interview, Roque Sevilla, Director of the National Forestry Service, stressed the importance of arousing "forestry awareness" in a country where half the land area is covered by jungle: part of the Service's annual $1.8 million budget is devoted to educating and training forestry experts.
The Government is not alone in its efforts to develop Ecuador's forests: a joint proposal by the Banco Nacional de Fomento and the Ministry of Agriculture led to the creation, in 1981, of EMDEFOR - Empresa Mista de Desarrollo Forestal - whose objectives are to develop forests in collaboration with more than 200 farmer organizations and to promote research with the help of students from the Chimborazo Polytechnic. This mixed enterprise has an initial budget of $2.5 million. It proposes to plant fastgrowing species (such as eucalyptus and Pinus radiata) and use the timber for industrial purposes.
Sixteen years ago the Uganda Forest Department decided to fund a research project to develop a more efficient and commercially viable method of producing charcoal, upon which both rural and urban populations depend as a reliable fuel that can be produced economically and simply for domestic purposes. Production methods had remained fundamentally the same for centuries, so improved production techniques were considered of great importance.
The result of that project is the Katugo charcoal kiln, which carbonizes under controlled conditions in a chamber with limited air supply. The kiln, built of locally produced bricks, consists of a rectangular carbonizing chamber with four chimneys set in a domed metal roof. The wood is reduced to carbon while the impurities are released in the form of smoke and gases. The kiln is capable of producing two to three tons of charcoal every six days and has a conversion efficiency of 35 per cent on dry weight basis.
The kiln has rationalized traditional production methods, resulting in a higher yield of better-quality charcoal, and thus helping to balance fuel supplies with increased demand. The improved commercial viability of the kiln has been accompanied by the creation of a more skilled work-force and greater employment possibilities for those concerned.
The purer charcoal produced has a number of positive features: it produces very little smoke, yields two and a half times as much heat as the same weight of dried wood, is very easy to ignite, has a fixed carbon content of over 70 per cent, and leaves ashes which do not exceed five per cent of the kiln weight load.
The most widely used traditional production methods are the "earth pit" and "clamp", both of which require minimal investment, equipment, and skill. The earth pit method involves carbonizing wood in a covered pit. While digging a pit is an arduous task in the dry season in Uganda, problems also arise in the wet season: collapsing earth cover for examples. The clamp method entails piling up the wood and covering it with earth before firing. Both methods are labour-intensive and inefficient: only 8 to 12 per cent conversion efficiency on a dry weight basis is achieved. Due to the inadequacies of these traditional methods, the charcoal produced is of poor quality, with a high level of impurities and an unnecessarily large amount of unmarketable "fines", the residue of charcoal production.
The inefficiencies of the production process are compounded by problems of supply and transport of raw materials and storage of the finished product. The methods used are laborious - trees are simply cut down with axes and carried to the pit. The storage system employed is ineffective - the best charcoal, is raked and sorted out and then simply piled in an open place and covered with leaves. There it becomes damp and hard to ignite. It produces much smoke and becomes progressively more unsuitable for either domestic or industrial purposes.
The new methods do not alter the basic principle of carbonization, but rationalize the use of heat during the process and modernize the production and transportation of the raw material. This is what happened in Uganda.
The carbonization stage is, of course, only one step in the production of charcoal. Harvesting and transportation of the raw material and the distribution of the finished product are also of great importance. These processes have also been rationalized and modernized by the Katugo scheme. Bow saws, power saws, and sledge hammers have been introduced to replace more arduous methods. Mechanized transportation of the wood to the kiln also helps accelerate the pace of the production process. Constant productivity ensures daily delivery to markets: supply now equals demand. By-products that were previously wasted, or "fines", have now found an application in a briquetting machine designed for small-scale industry.
The new method has had a number of beneficial effects on local inhabitants. It has led to the development of skills in the local work-force, which has received training in the use and maintenance of modern hand tools. Personnel at all levels have been instructed in aspects of construction and maintenance of the kilns, receiving full training in kilning techniques. As a result, a skilled work-force has been created with greater future employment opportunities.
The results of a survey on use of the new kiln method were strongly in favour of permanent charcoal kilns, principally for creation of employment in rural areas. Increased prosperity and employment prospects attract the inhabitants of neighbouring districts, and educational and medical facilities receive more emphasis. Local markets for agricultural produce expand, in turn increasing the general level of prosperity. In more abstract terms, the importance of contributing to the country's store of technical know-how is not to be underestimated.
The Katugo method has been introduced throughout Uganda and, as a result, many large-scale commercial kilns have been constructed. Many small industries have adopted the Katugo design and technology and now, with the assistance of experts, provide practical training programmes for employees. The Katugo design may also have wider-ranging application and importance: the Ugandan Forest Department is now prepared to provide the relevant technical detail to other developing countries.
A. C. Kawanguzi with Patricia Merrikim
Some 1400 rural households, representing about 10 per cent of all farm households or 9 per cent of the total population of the Caribbean island commonwealth of Dominica, expect to benefit from a $1.5 million loan made last year by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for an integrated rural development project. The project's aim is to ensure increased incomes, better living standards and improved nutrition for about 7 000 people, formerly tenant and squatter families, through a resettlement project on two former government estates where land was often idle or undercultivated. Some 70 per cent of these potential estate settlers were earning less than the national annual per caput income of $970 and many were, in fact, on the borderline of absolute rural poverty at a level of $180 a year.
The five-year "repeater" project was designed specifically to address a difficult problem of land distribution identified as a major development constraint during the implementation of an earlier IFAD project begun in 1981. The largest of the Windward Islands, Dominica is considered one of the least-developed countries in the Caribbean area. Despite a rugged, jungle-covered terrain and a lack of fertile soil, agriculture is the dominant productive sector of the island, the principal source of income for about 60 per cent of the population as well as of the nation's export earnings. About 11 000 of the island's 14 000 farmers continue to cultivate bananas; they use 60 per cent of the total agricultural land, but contribute only 40 per cent of the export earnings. That contribution was 60 per cent before 1979, when Hurricane David left three-quarters of the population homeless and destroyed the entire banana and citrus crops and 80 per cent of the coconut trees. Crop losses alone exceeded $5.6 million.
Yet even with allowances made for the hurricane's devastation, banana yields are usually very low due to poor husbandry, erratic use of fertilizers, and the impossibility of using aerial spraying over about half the crop area. The overdependence on low-yielding banana production aggravated the balance-of-payments problems that Dominica was facing. A net dependency on food imports, reflecting an almost total neglect of domestic food crops, made further inroads upon scarce foreign exchange. This seemingly irreversible trend was reason for grave concern.
In 1980, about 60 per cent of ail children under five years of age were suffering from various degrees of malnutrition. A large part of the population was obliged to spend from 60 to 90 per cent of their incomes on basic food purchases. It was with the aim of growing more food locally that the original $1.7 million loan was negotiated with IFAD, as part of a $2.2 million development project intended to rehabilitate the long-neglected agricultural sector by providing individual loans to small farmers, herdsmen, and fishermen. Farmers, usually subsisting on less than fourfifths of a hectare of land, were urged to grow more fruits, vegetables, and root crops such as tannias, dasheen, and yams.
Farmers were also encouraged and provided with credit to engage in more backyard rearing of small livestock including pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, and chickens. Ten breeding centres to service local sows were established and maintained by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Credit was also extended to about 150 of the island's artisanal fishermen, whose output in 1979 represented about 5.5 per cent of sectoral GDP. The Dominican Fisheries Cooperative Society, which had been operating at a net loss, received a $20 000 loan from the Dominican Agricultural Industrial Development Bank to use as working capital and within a year was operating at a net profit. About $40 000 was also spent to improve beaching sites where fish could be landed more safely and boats protected from hurricane gales. An independent evaluation mission visiting the island in mid-1983 concluded that about 30 per cent more boats and 60 per cent more fishermen were using these improved sites.
Within three years of the project's implementation, there was a marked increase in local food availability.
There were substantial increases in output of vegetables, root crops and formerly uncultivated fruits resulting in surpluses for export to neighbouring islands.
"It might be difficult to document just when that turnaround started," remarks Prime Minister Eugenia Charles, "but you can see for yourself by going to our local market and seeing just how many varieties of locally grown fruits and vegetables are available. Pork and eggs, too. Before, if a farmer had an egg, he would take it to the market to sell. Today, he and his family can afford to eat eggs. They are no longer a luxury."
But despite a marked increase in food availability, there remained major obstacles to improved agricultural production.
Farm incomes were seriously affected by prevailing patterns of land distribution. Farms of 20 hectares or more accounted for only 2 per cent of all holdings, but occupied 61 per cent of the land. At the other extreme, 90 per cent of all holdings were less than four hectares, but occupied only 22.8 per cent of agricultural land. This skewed distribution resulted in extensive landlessness, an underlying cause for the extensive civil unrest that prompted the government between 1972 and 1983 to intervene and acquire seven privately owned estates. Subsequently, it asked the Organization of American States (OAS) to draw up a resettlement schedule for the allocation of plots on three of these estates - Geneva in the southeast, Castle Bruce-Carib in the east, and Sourfriere in the south - and to formulate a development programme for improved land use.
The resulting project, formulated by FAO's Investment Centre and appraised by the Caribbean Development Bank, is meant to complement and continue the previous successful project. According to the project design, crop production on the Geneva Estate would be extended from 172 to 228 hectares and that of Castle Bruce from 188 to 380 hectares. This extended area would be used both for basic food and for export crops: bananas, copra, root crops, and vegetables. An additional 56 hectares will be used as pasture to increase output of milk, beef, and mutton.
The project also includes a variety of badly needy infrastructural improvements, such as farm and feeder roads, grading stations, and produce storage. Women, who account for 35 per cent of the labour force, were poorly represented among the first beneficiary group. This time it is estimated that 28 per cent of the beneficiaries will be women. Thanks to improved transportation facilities, hucksters and traders - 90 per cent of whom are women - will find it easier to get their produce to market.
Farmers will also be encouraged to organize themselves into informal or formal groups to participate in extension and marketing services. A farmers' advisory group will represent producer interests as part of the project management.
Although it is clearly too soon for any evaluation of performance, emphasis on better methods of cultivation coupled with infrastructural improvements is expected to increase farmers' incomes by 70 per cent by the time the project is completed. Increased exports would annually earn foreign exchange amounting to about $700 000 and save about $1 million in foreign exchange through import substitution.
A matter of grave concern in Sri Lanka is the number of people who are poisoned each year by pesticides. In fact, fatalities from pesticide poisoning are believed to be among the highest in the world. In 1983, there were 2 010 deaths among 16 649 recorded cases of pesticide poisonings. In 1984 there were 16 085 cases and 2 250 persons died, a very high figure for a population of 16 million. Pesticide poisonings, in tact, rank third among causes of death in Sri Lanka, after heart ailments and accidents.
These figures were compiled from hospital records. But, says Dr Ravindra Fernando, director-designate of the proposed National Poisons Information Centre, there may be a further 1000 to 2000 pesticide fatalities each year not recorded by hospitals. In addition, he says, many more people who are poisoned by pesticides do not even seek hospital treatment. One of the responsibilities of the Poisons Centre, when it has been established, will be to collect more precise data on the number of pesticide poisoning cases on the island.
What is already known, however, is that the vast majority of deaths caused by pesticide poisoning are not due to agricultural activities or other occupational hazards. Dr Fernando reports that 74 per cent of all pesticide fatalities are suicides, only 18 per cent are in the agricultural field, and 8 per cent are due to accidental poisoning. The suicides are mainly young people, 77 per cent of them under 30. They are the lovelorn, the frustrated, the depressed and neurotic' the failures and the dropouts, the disappointed and angry young people.
For the most trivial reasons, these young people impulsively reach out for the container of pesticide that is found in most village homes. Newspapers record such incidents as a matter of course, but they happen so frequently that it is no longer news. One of the main reasons for the high rate of poisoning is the easy availability of insecticides. Until recently, almost anyone could buy any pesticide over the counter.
The Control of Pesticides Act of 1980 attempted to bring availability, import, local formulation, transport, distribution, storage, and use of pesticides under strict supervision. In reality, however, there has been little control; some of the most hazardous of toxic chemicals were imported or formulated in the country and sold through aggressive advertising campaigns. Some unscrupulous manufacturers have mixed classes of chemicals, like organophosphates, organochlorines, and caromates, with the result that doctors find it nearly impossible to save the lives of the poisoned because the antidotes for one class of chemicals could be fatal for the other.
Dr Nalino de Alwis, the newly appointed Registrar of Pesticides under the Act, says that the country has made a beginning in the control of the use and abuse of pesticides. But her unit, which functions under the Ministry of Agriculture, needs a much wider infrastructure for policing, monitoring, research, analysing quality, testing for residues, registering of dealers, and other tasks. One of the circumstances that have led to the sharp increase in severe poisoning and fatalities, she says, apart from easy availability, is the fact that the Government has banned the agricultural use of relatively less toxic chemicals like malathion and frenothion, setting these aside for vector control, on the premise that widespread use of the same pesticide in both agriculture and vector control over long periods will contribute to the development of pest resistance to pesticides. As a result, the pesticides now reserved for agricultural uses are of the more toxic variety.
The Registrar of Pesticides has now begun to register all dealers, who must record all stocks and sales, and sell only to bona fide farmers. Dealers are being invited by agricultural officials to participate in training courses; if they don't cooperate, their licences may be cancelled and supply firms may be requested to strike their names from the customer lists. The firms are very cooperative, says Dr de Alwis.
An approved list of agro-chemicals has been gazetted. Imports of these compounds can be made only with the written approval of the Registrar of Pesticides. Imports of such very toxic chemicals as parathion, aldrin, heptachlor, BHC, and dieldrin are no longer permitted. Other highly toxic or carcinogenic compounds, such as methonyl, moncrotophos, or paraquat, have been placed on a severely restricted list and are banned for agricultural uses. They are used only by trained personnel in the Department of Agriculture, in the research institutes, forestry, the Ports Authority, and pest control services.
Dr de Alwis maintains that Sri Lankan pesticide legislation is comprehensive, but acknowledges that there is a need for more infrastructure and financial support. However, the biggest problem, in her view, is to educate farmers. Sri Lanka farmers seem to believe that if they soak their crops with insecticides they will get better results. A survey by the Central Agricultural Research Institute revealed that 60 per cent of all farmers used more than the recommended dosages for pesticides. Many also ignore regulations under the Act stipulating the minimum interval allowed between last spraying and harvesting. According to Dr J. Jeyaratnam, who undertook research into pesticide poisonings in the early 1980s for the Department of Community Medicine at the University of Colombo, farmers do not take the simplest precautions. They were found to use leaking knapsacks; sometimes they sprayed bare-bodied and often against the wind. They did not change their clothes or wash themselves properly after spraying.
Realizing that education is a key weapon for control and management of pesticide use in agricultural applications, the Department of Agriculture's Education Division provides training for both staff and farmers. Sri Lanka is also participating with six other South and Southeast Asian countries in FAO's intercountry programme for integrated pest control in rice.
NEARLY $200 MILLION FOR AFRICAN RECOVERY PLAN
A recovery programme for African agriculture, launched two years ago to fill the gap between emergency operations responding to one of the continent's worst-ever famines and longer term development, has received financing totalling US$189 million. In a statement issued on the second anniversary of FAO's Agricultural Rehabilitation Programme for Africa (ARPA), Director-General Edouard Saouma said that "the financing achieved so far is heartening and the results are satisfactory." ARPA was designed as a recovery package consisting of quick action projects tailored to the specific needs of individual countries with the intent of restoring food production rapidly to pre-drought levels. The programme has supplied a wide range of basic agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, small tools, minor irrigation equipment, vaccines, livestock feed and training in various fields. To date, donors have financed 267 projects or parts of them amounting to $189 million, including $15 million from FAO's resources. In addition, Mr Saouma reported, donors have expressed interest in another 69 projects, worth $64 million, while 34 projects, with a cost of $34 million, remain uncovered.
AWARD PAYS TRIBUTE TO CARABAO PROJECT
The potential for upgrading the Philippines' native swamp buffalo, or carabao, into a stronger draught animal producing more meat and milk has been demonstrated in a fiveyear pilot project initiated by the Philippine Government in collaboration with FAO/UNDP (see FAO in Action, May-June 1985). Results thus far from the $1.8 million project for strengthening of the Philippine Carabao Research and Development Centre have indicated that F1 crosses from native carabao and exotic breeds from India, Pakistan, and Thailand achieve 42 per cent greater growth at 24 months of age and produce about two and one half times as much milk as native stock. On the basis of these results, the Philippine Government has prepared a 10-year National Carabao Development Project with the goal of producing about 700 000 crossbreds utilizing induced artificial breeding technology generated by the earlier project. Meanwhile, the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Resources Research and Development has bestowed on the FAO/UNDP project the 1986 Tanglaw Award, a recognition made each year to agencies and institutions which "have made significant contributions to the advance of agriculture and natural resources research in the Philippines".
CUTTING RICE LOSSES WITH LESS MANUAL WORK
Recently resettled smallholders in rice-growing areas of the Dominican Republic are being helped to reduce harvest and post-harvest losses while at the same time gaining greater control over processing and marketing of their crops. Launched in the fall of 1983 with $720 000 financing from an Italian government trust fund, this FAO-executed project has introduced new threshing equipment that has significantly reduced both the manual labour and the losses involved in rice harvesting and has supported the establishment of a campesino-controlled collection and milling centre. Due mainly to water management problems, it was not possible to use combine harvesters in many of the holdings allotted to campesinos under recent agrarian reform legislation, thus entailing arduous manual harvesting and threshing, with losses estimated in the range of 10 to 15 per cent, depending upon the rice variety grown. With the adoption of a portable mechanized thresher, originally introduced into the country through a bilateral Netherlands project, the number of operations required between cutting and milling has been reduced from 11 to 6, with a consequent improvement in the quality of the final product. For example, it is not necessary to wait several days between cutting and transport of the sacked rice to the mill, a period in which losses in the pilot project have been reduced to less than 0.5 per cent, an achievement equivalent to a yield increase of about 700 kg/ha. Another innovation has been the construction of a rice collection centre and mill for the Santa Clara Smallholders Association in the central Cibao Valley. Made possible through a loan of US$100 000 from the Agricultural Bank and the donation of $150 000 worth of drying and milling equipment from the pilot project, the centre has sufficient capacity to process the harvest of its 88 compassion members - some 2 400 tons per year - plus some additional capacity to allow for processing of rice from neighbouring associations. This development has allowed producers to retain a much higher proportion of their crops' market value than was the case in the traditional practice of marketing the crop as paddy rice as soon as it was harvested. On the basis of the positive results achieved with the pilot project, the Dominican Government has now begun a much more extensive programme to install new equipment or transfer existing rice mills to various organized groups of smallholders in different rice-growing areas of the country.
MORE TRAINED MANPOWER FOR TSETSE CONTROL
Critical shortages of skilled manpower needed for tsetse and trypanosomiasis control have spurred the development of a regional training programme to serve English-speaking countries of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC). A regional training centre for middle level control personnel was established two years ago in Zambia with funding of approximately US$1.9 million shared among UNDP, the Norwegian Government, and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), with FAO as the executing agency. The project accepts trainees from a wide range of anglophone countries in tsetse-infested Africa, and, as well, from other countries in the region able to send trainees with a satisfactory command of English. The principal activity is an annual six and one half month course based in Lusaka, but with long field trips; for much of the course, trainees live under canvas. Each August, the class visits Zimbabwe to witness control activities and experimental trials there, moving about as a self-sufficient unit complete with camping gear, food, transport, and equipment. The project is also designed to set up shorter, tailor-made courses, according to the needs of particular governments.
PARAGUAY TO STRENGTHEN AGRONOMIC RESEARCH
A major reshaping of the agricultural faculty of the National University of Asuncion has been undertaken with the support of a two-year US$285 000 FAO/UNDP project scheduled for completion later this year. In order to develop a greater role for the Faculty in national research programmes (at present practically non-existent) and at the same time to strengthen the training of senior level agronomists, the project will focus on three particular aspects of the Faculty's situation. It will seek to foster closer personal relations between graduate students and faculty; it will encourage an academic approach in which students would participate in proposing curriculum revisions, departmental orientation, and training requirements for teaching staff; it would establish an organic system for research designed to combine the relative strengths of teaching staff in various departments with those of senior students. Other state organizations and producer associations will participate and foreign universities and research centres will have a supporting role.
FUNDING FOR AGRICULTURE RECOVERS MOMENTUM
A brighter picture for multilateral funding for capital investment projects in agriculture has emerged from the annual summary of FAO's Investment Centre activities for 1986. During the year, a total of 40 investment projects prepared earlier with Investment Centre assistance were approved for financing for a total of US$2 985 million. Of this amount $1 674 million was in external loans with the balance committed by 31 recipient governments. In 1985, total investments had dropped to $1 847 million, of which the loan element was $1 031 million. The Investment Centre report noted that the figures for 1986 are exceptionally high due to several very large projects approved by the World Bank and one large programme loan by the Asian Development Bank. The figure for 1985, on the other hand, had been unusually low, with investments falling below $2 billion for the first time in many years. Forty-five per cent of the funding went for 18 projects in sub-Saharan Africa. During the year, the Investment Centre continued to be involved in ongoing project work, identifying or preparing 149 projects in 68 countries. A total of 207 missions were mounted under direct technical responsibility of the Centre. A feature of the 1986 programme was the Centre's increased involvement in subsector studies, mainly in Africa, involving policy dialogue with governments in order to establish a policy framework for future investment.
by Winthrop P. Carty
The diverse nations of the Americas have united to check a growing dependence of their peoples on illegal drugs: their use, cultivation and traffic. At a series of regional and international meetings, representatives have sounded the alarm.
"The drug trafficker is a new conquistador of our people and has become a domestic and foreign enemy of our countries," proclaimed one Venezuelan delegate to a meeting of the Organization of American States. Former Colombian President Belisario Betancur went so far as to state that drugs now represent "the most serious problem that Colombia has faced in its history." Bolivian President Victor Paz Estenssoro has declared a "war to the death, a holy war against the drug industry".
The Americas, then, have heartily concurred with United Nations Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar's assertion that "drug abuse presents as destructive a threat to this generation and coming generations as the plagues which swept many parts of the world in earlier centuries. Unless controlled, its effect will be more insidious and devastating." Perez de Cuellar called for a world conference at the ministerial level to deal with all aspects of drug abuse. The Western Hemisphere roundly supported the Peruvian diplomat's proposal, and the meeting will be held this year in Vienna.
However, despite such sincere declarations and unanimity of purpose, the path leading from the cultivator of the raw product in the South to the drug user in the North is difficult to block. The United States imports $110 billion (retail value) a year in illegal drugs, principally cocaine, marijuana and heroin. (A word of caution: virtually all figures on the vast and illegal drug trade are necessarily estimates and of questionable accuracy.)
In dollar value, the United States is by far the world's most lucrative market, and Bolivia, Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico, and Peru have the lion's share of it. Bolivia and Peru grow most of the coca leaf that is converted into cocaine. Colombia produces marijuana and is the way station for cocaine moving north. Jamaica is a main supplier of marijuana. And Mexico exports both marijuana and heroin across the border. One US agency estimated that Latin America supplies all the cocaine, 80 per cent of the marijuana and 30 per cent of the heroin imported annually into the United States.
Although the administration of President Ronald Reagan opened an ambitious campaign to interdict illegal drug imports and curb the internal traffic, most drugs are readily available on the streets of American cities. US Attorney General Edwin Meese has acknowledged that "the gap between the amount of drugs seized and the amount imported and consumed is growing annually. There are signs, however, that growing public awareness, in part stimulated by the Government, is beginning to reduce domestic consumption of cocaine and heroin, the most addictive of the drugs.
Only in the last few years have North and South America been so united on the drug issue. "It is important to point out that Bolivia is not the cause of the (drug) problem," says Jorge Dandler, a La Paz anthropologist. "It was not part of any kind of internal decision... to stimulate coca production. It was part of a wider problem, and peasants reacted to market forces, to prices." Dandler and some other observers see a parallel with the cultivation of tobacco in the US, where growers are aware of a health problem but respond to demand for their traditional crop.
Fighting the monster. Nevertheless Latin American leaders find themselves increasingly challenged by the Frankenstein monster that illegal demand creates: an expanding drug mafia, growing domestic use of drugs, a "second economy" of illicit income that cannot be taxed for public programmes. Some farmers have shifted from food crops to coca or marijuana, thereby increasing the need for food imports. "The tremendous profits made by the drug traffickers have been used to destabilize both the political and economic systems in a number of countries,', notes a report of the Organization of American States.
The number of Latin Americans who now use drugs can only be guessed at. "Basuco", a potent mix of cocaine base, marijuana and often tobacco, has become a fashionable smoke for many Latin American youngsters.
A former Colombian Minister of Health estimated in 1983 that more than 600 000 persons under age 18 regularly smoked basuco. Various estimates suggest that 50 000 Bolivians and 150 000 Peruvians may use coca derivatives, and that 300 000 Mexican students are "seriously" addicted to mood-altering substances. US experts calculate that Jamaicans consume as much as 500 metric tons of marijuana annually (roughly one-fifth of the island country's total production).
The Latin American governments are literally fighting wars with the drug mafia. Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla and other Colombian opponents of the drug traffic have been assassinated on the streets of Bogota.
"Another aspect of the fight for freedom from drug dependence is the enslavement of the producer," observes the Vienna-based United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control (UNFDAC). "some of the most abused narcotic drugs - opium, heroin, cocaine - are derived from plants which are cultivated by the poorest farmers in underdeveloped areas of the world." In the long run, most experts agree, the Western Hemisphere's battle against drugs will be decided not only by the users' ability to kick the habit but also in the minds and pocketbooks of the campesinos who cultivate coca and marijuana, two hardy plants that grow easily in the marginal and remote lands of Latin America.
An age-old tradition. Coca has a special place in the lives of the Indians who inhabit the Andean fastness. The native peoples of the continent have chewed the leaves in a process called acullico for perhaps 3 000 years: it is documented in preColumbian ceramics. Acullico, it should be noted, is legal in Andean countries and is so widespread that a corruption of the word - aculli - has come to mean a short work break. One Peruvian study estimates, for instance, that three million nationals chew an average of 40 grams daily.
Acullico provides a stimulant, creating a mild feeling of wellbeing - but in no way to the same degree as cocaine. It also depresses hunger and fatigue. The indigenous people value coca as a medicine, especially for dysentery, indigestion, diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal aliments. It is also applied as a poultice and is ingested for a variety of common problems, much as aspirin is taken as a cure-all in industrial societies.
Further, acullico maintains significance as a religious and social ritual in the Andes, and is a symbol of the Indians' heritage. "Upon arriving in Peru," notes a Peruvian study, "the Spaniards discovered an advanced civilization with substantial knowledge of flora, both wild and domesticated. Much of this knowledge was subsequently transmitted to the Old World, where it transformed the diet of Europeans. Maize, green beans, squash, and sweet potatoes were readily received, and today are basic elements in European and North American diets. One American drug, tobacco, was widely accepted as pleasurable and harmless." Europeans, however, rejected acullico.
A debate raged in colonial times over the Indians' use of the coca leaf. Many Spanish officials wanted to ban the plant as injurious. But the supply of the product to miners at Potosi, Bolivia, then the largest city in the hemisphere, created such a good business that middlemen were able to save the plant from eradication. Thereafter coca was grown for domestic consumption, although coca production was limited by international agreement, the Single Convention on Narcotics of 1961.
Coca was accepted abroad only at the turn of this century in the form of a medicine and the basis of cola drinks. In the early 1970s, the great epidemic of drug abuse broke out in North America and to a lesser degree in Europe. Suddenly a plant that had long been scorned as the source of the Indians' unseemly practice became the fashionable, albeit illegal, habit of northern tes in the potent form of cocaine hydrochloride.
The US National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 22 million Americans have tried cocaine and roughly 5.7 million are regular users. The social and economic toll of the drug traffic has been enormous. Roughly 20 per cent of all US prisoners are serving time for drug related crimes, and over the past 15 years marijuana users have been arrested at the rate of one every two minutes.
US drug authorities trace the following dollar trail of the coca plant to the North American user: the South American farmers sell 500 kilos of coca leaves for about $250; the coca leaves are converted into approximately 2.5 kilos of coca paste, which sells for $1 000-$2 000; the 2.5 kilos of coca paste is processed into one kilo of cocaine base, which is sold for $5 000-$10 000; the one kilo of cocaine base is converted into one kilo of cocaine hydrochloride, which sells for $8 000-$15 000; smuggled to the East Coast of the United States, that same kilo of cocaine nets $36000-$38000; East Coast wholesalers cut (dilute) the cocaine by half. The original kilo of pure cocaine thus yields $72 000-$76 000. By the time it reaches the street, the average kilo of 100 per cent cocaine has been cut to 12 per cent purity and brings its seller $800 000.
The coca bush. The coca bush itself is a neutral agent. It can be found from Central America to Argentina. Like everything else about it, the plant's botany, distribution, and chemistry are the source of some controversy. But for the purpose of producing cocaine, Huanuco, a variety of the species Erythroxylum coca, is recognized as the most potent and profitable. The shrub grows one to three metres tall and is found at elevations between 500 and 2 000 metres, mainly along the eastern slopes of the Andes and in moist inter-Andean valleys from Ecuador to Bolivia.
Professor Timothy Plowman, a world authority on the subject, reports that "Huanoco coca is always grown from seeds, which are germinated in special nurseries or planted directly into the field under the shade of manioc. Once established, a plantation of Huanuco will yield its first harvest in one or two years and reach maximum productivity in about five years."
The coca plant, in common with cannabis, has become a poor farmer's wonder plant. It is a cash crop that is highly disease-resistant, requires little attention, and grows in poor soils and on precipitous mountainsides. The plant is harvested four times a year by stripping the leaves. Some growers are townspeople who go to the hills to plant coca and return for the harvest. Plantings now dominate many non-traditional coca areas of Bolivia and Peru and are earmarked strictly for the export market.
The yields of Huanuco vary greatly according to region,
techniques employed, and crop year. But Plow man reports yields as high as 1 200
kilograms per hectare in Peru and 851 kilograms per hectare in the Chapare
region of Bolivia. More speculative estimates suggest some yields in Ecuador
reach 3 000 kilograms per hectare. Other forms of coca cannot compete naturally
with Huanuco in the cocaine trade, although production is increasing in the
remote upper Amazon areas of Colombia, Brazil, and Peru, where growers have
greater protection from the authorities.
The processing of the leaves, not unlike that of sugar cane and the wine grapes of some areas, can add a semi-industrial activity to a region traditionally remote from modern commerce. Crude refineries now dot the Andean backlands. They convert coca leaves, the traditional commodity, into coca paste, the intermediate step to cocaine powder. The paste will be turned into pure cocaine at a more sophisticated plant along the pipeline to the US market.
Profits for the campesino. The price Latin American campesinos receive for the raw product (coca leaves, cannabis, or poppy), it is often noted, is a mere pittance compared with the eventual retail value. But the fact remains that the campesino still prospers. In 1984 a High Level OAS Commission found in Bolivia's Chapare that a farmer "cultivating coca could net up to US$9 000 per hectare per year. The next most profitable crop... was citrus, which could net about $500 per year starting in the fifth year after planting when the trees begin to bear fruit. Income from coca could be 19 times greater than the return for citrus. Based on all available studies, there is no crop from coffee to cacao that could be grown in these regions which compares with the net return of coca under present conditions."
Similarly, marijuana and poppy offer the same kind of advantages over possible alternative crops. After 22 policemen were murdered by narcotraficantes in the Mexican state of Veracruz, a spokesman for the Attorney General's office in Mexico City lamented, "The problem is economic, and the peasants are the last people we should blame. It is a depressed area, and the traffickers are able to pay them $20 for a little crop of marijuana when they would earn maybe $2 for the same amount of maize."
In addition to the obvious advantage of economic return, campesinos are "paid at the farmgate", without having to worry about storage and transport. And for a decade, until very recently, all the wonder plants maintained a good and predictable price.
As items of inter-American contraband, marijuana and heroin are losing some of their sales value on the US market. Although heroin, derived in part from poppy grown in Mexico, is highly addictive, the number of US abusers has stabilized in the last decade at roughly 500 000. Marijuana, a bulk export more easily interdicted, is giving way to cocaine, the more profitable commodity. Cannabis, many argue, is not truly addictive, but a number of experts contend that it is a 'gateway" to hard drugs.
In Jamaica, marijuana is given a mystique by the Rastafarians, a cult with perhaps 70 000 members who view the plant as the "tree of knowledge" and a "healing herb". Ganja, as the Rastafarians call it, is smoked in large cigarettes and water pipes. Jamaica, despite official crackdowns, has the basis for significant exports to the United States.
Marijuana cultivation is shifting from tropical America, where spraying, uprooting, and interdictions have reduced the profit margins, to North America. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), a Washington-based group lobbying for the legalization of the drug, states that most marijuana smoked in the US is homegrown. "Marijuana consumers", NORML avers, "are smoking less, consuming higher quality marijuana than in the past, and are paying higher prices far domestically grown marijuana." The potent US plants, mostly sinsemilla (seedless), are increasingly grown indoors for personal use.
US drug authorities consider NORM L's figures exaggerated, but concede that there is a trend toward more domestic cultivation. The US Park Service is discovering more and more marijuana on public lands. US officials, in common with their Latin American confreres, are finding out the social, economic, and political complexities of uprooting the problem at its source. On the Latin American front, an OAS report notes: "Interdiction requires methods which are often expensive, time-consuming and labor intensive - including manhunts through jungles, manual eradication of crops by pulling up or burning one plant at a time or intercepting small shipments to assembly centers. Due to high visibility of the field agents, be they civilian or military, the dangers and risks are great. They are often cast as enemies of the people who destroy the livelihood of the campesinos."
Various programmes have been tried, such as spraying, licensing crops, offering crop substitutions, interdicting chemicals needed for converting the raw product into a commercial product, police raids. None have been fully successful in isolation. And Latin American central governments, already burdened by the austerity dictated by foreign-debt obligations, find the anti-drug campaigns costly and often politically unpopular. InterAmerican experts, for the most part, see two main avenues of action:
- Reduce US consumption - something that seems to be happening, albeit in small measure compared with total demand;
- Balance police actions with regional economic development in Latin America's drug-growing areas.
The modernization of Andean backlands would be a complex and expensive undertaking. But as Irving Tragen, an OAS expert, observes, "No one crop, and probably no combination of crops, will fully match the income generated from the sale of illegal coca. Accordingly, a coca reduction and control effort that coincides chronologically and geographically - with development activities is the sine qua non for a successful crop substitution programme."
An interview with Donald L. Winkelmann
Ceres: CIMMYT recently marked its 20th anniversary and much
attention was drawn to the achievements of the last two decades. Do you think
that the Centre will be able to maintain this tempo of change? What are the
prospects for new developments over the next 15 or 20 years?
Winkelmann: Our best-known achievements of the past 20 years are the dwarf wheats. We think it is unlikely that we will have that kind of breakthrough over the space of the next two decades, but CIMMYT staff is pursuing work that could give us another such boost. Progress in maize has been less dramatic but notable even so and represents the kind of continuing improvement, useful for national programmes and farmers, that we count on for the future for both maize and wheat.
Q: Is it fair to say that the very success achieved in widespread adaptation of improved varieties of wheat and maize has also generated other problems of an economic and social nature?
A: Well, let's start with the recognition that all change has implications that run well beyond those initially envisioned, whether it involves dwarf wheats, the wheel, or the fermentation of yeast. If it is a significant change, the implications are almost inevitably wide ranging. There was substantial consternation early in the so-called green revolution that its implications for income distribution were detrimental, that it made the rich richer and the poor poorer. There was criticism of CIMMYT, and of the whole initiative in agricultural research, because of a sense that the gains had not fallen in a way initially expected. But it is my perception that these attitudes have changed dramatically over the past decade or so and that people now see that the poor of the world - poor customers and poor producers - were the major beneficiaries of those discoveries. The arguments for this are well known and well documented. This is not to say that one can be completely sanguine about what transpired on the income front. For example, we know that there are substantial areas of the world that have not yet benefited from improved agricultural technology. Indeed, that recognition now has a heavy influence on the orientation of our research. In an earlier day our concentration was on wheat for the well-watered regions of developing countries. And justifiably so, as it turns out that three-fourths of the spring bread wheats in developing countries are grown under well-watered circumstances.
Now, however, a substantial portion of the total effort of our spring bread wheat programme is focused on those more difficult environments characterized by drought, soil problems, and high heat. The work on disease resistance in well watered areas, of course, goes on.
Q: Will your efforts to help those harsher environments require major changes in your research system?
A: One thing we see is a need for sharper characterization of those regions. Through our associations with colleagues in national programmes we are developing a better sense of the high-priority problems that affect those environments. One should understand that the tailoring that is required for any specific environment is, with high probability, beyond our reach as an institution that makes its products available to many national programmes on a global basis. It would not be efficient for us to try to pursue such tailoring. Instead we develop materials that are generally useful for a major environment like lowland tropical maize, and make those available to national programme areas in that environment.
Q: That's where the fine tuning is done?
A: Yes. One of our functions is to ensure that national programmes have easy access to the materials from these international networks of plant breeders. This apparatus is really phenomenal. It brings together the energies of more plant breeders than have ever focused on a single problem in human history. And we're getting better at this. What we're coming on to now is an ever more precise delineation of major environments and ever closer association of individual experimental stations and plant breeders with such environments and hence an ever more efficient exchange between people in like environments in different countries or even on different continents. This means that an individual plant breeder associated with the network in, let's say, the coast of Guatemala, has easy access to material put together by a person in a similar environment, let's say, in Cd'Ivoire, or by another breeder in a like environment in the coastal areas of Ecuador. In this way the energies of a large group of people coalesce around a particular set of problems. This is not to suggest that the material that comes from Cd'Ivoire is going to fit neatly into the niche in Guatemala, but it puts the breeder there far ahead of where he might have been by himself. He is then able to make the refinements that his local circumstances require.
The second thing that we do is to offer training of various kinds which helps the national programme personnel on methods and techniques, on sensitivities to new issues and new themes in plant breeding. They acquire new inputs for their programmes and new ideas on how to push these ahead. This makes for sharper, more effective activity than 20, or even 10, years ago.
Q: CYMMIT is working on wheats for more tropical environments. The basic genetic material for such wheats must be much more limited than those suited to temperate or semi-tropical zones. Where are these genes coming from?
A: Well, it turns out that wheat has much greater plasticity than we initially suspected. A decade ago when we first started putting wheat down on the coast of Mexico, Helminthosporium sativum overwhelmed everything. From as many as 500 lines, perhaps only one or two would survive. Now the differences are really notable. There are materials that not only survive but produce. These are the result of the introduction of new genetic material over a number of years. We also see an increasing tolerance to late-season heat. These obviously are going to be useful in environments where, heretofore, wheat had not been an option. Having access to that late-season heat tolerance might change the production patterns of farmers in environments where wheat has long been a traditional crop, such as the southern part of Pakistan through the Punjab and over toward the Sind. The idea is to open up new options for farmers. We' ve seen maize move well north into Canada and well north into Europe as plant breeders have pursued materials more suited to those environments. I have no doubt that we are going to see wheats move into environments we thought were simply not destined to grow wheats. How prominent they will be in those areas, how large an extension we are talking about, I don't really know. Other people are providing better rice varieties, and these are also options. As I said, the idea is to open up more options to farmers, and wheat which accommodates the stresses of more tropical environments is one way to do that.
Q: At any stage of developing varieties likely to be widely adapted is there any input into the planning of centres such as CIMMYT on what the possible nutritional implications of a major shift in cropping patterns would be?
A: IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) has made a major effort on issues that relate to nutrition. What happens to calories and proteins? Ten years or so ago there was substantial anxiety because farmers were shifting away from pulses and into cereals. Our colleagues at ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) showed that the total production of proteins - and of calories - had increased dramatically in that particular case as a consequence of going into the higher-yielding cereals and going out of the pulses. There will be other cases in which they won't be increased. I think that the whole system is going to have to give more attention to such themes.
One of the major changes over the past 20 years has been a shift in emphasis from a production or output orientation in our work in agriculture and agricultural development to a productivity orientation - input oriented. So instead of asking questions about what we can do to increase production of, say, maize or wheat, the questions we are asking now are what we can do to increase the productivity of farmerheld resources that are committed to maize and to wheat. This is a more interesting, more profound conceptual framework for organizing our work.
Q: You have referred in some of your speeches to the importance - and the difficulty - of identifying comparative advantage. Are you talking about the comparative advantage between crops or about the comparative advantage among different regions for producing a particular crop? Does this refer to the problem of surplus production in some areas?
A: Comparative advantage is one principle for assigning resources. The idea is to use the resource endowment of a country to maximize, through trade, the total stock of goods and services available to its residents. But what has happened to us in the contemporary world is that real flows of goods and services tied to what resources can do - land, labour, and capital - are something on the order of one-twentieth of the financial flows in today's world. The financial flows often overwhelm whatever markets are trying to tell-us about the value in production of labour, land, and capital. If you are in a place like Mexico, wondering about which direction to go, where to put your own investments for a longrun payoff, do you put more research on wheat, or on cotton, or more on maize?
Q: Are you getting a distorted picture?
A: Let's call it kaleidoscopic. You see one thing today, another thing tomorrow and something else later.
Q: Would you cite, for example, the case of Saudi Arabia's venture in wheat production to demonstrate the impact of an excessive amount of capital?
A: No, the Saudi case relates to a different question. They were paying five times the world price for wheat. Look what happened. An incredible increase in production, which, again, just says that there are prices at which you could produce bananas in the Arctic. The financial flows and comparative advantage issue is a different one. In the past, when people had more stable prices, they could more easily make judgements about their comparative advantage. But today, the relative prices of currencies vary enormously because of financial flows, and these influence judgements about comparative advantage. What this means is that one is much less certain about where to orient domestic research resources than when prices were more stable.
Q: Are you saying, in effect, that both the scale and tempo of international financial transactions are having an impact on the direction and planning of agricultural research?
A: It clouds, it obscures, it makes it more difficult to divine the direction in which one should be moving. Imagine managing the national research programme of, say, Mexico. You have a series of options which are biologically feasible and you have limited resources to invest across that array of options. What you try to do is to choose the sorts of things that you think Mexico will want to place in the market ten years from now. Such decisions are now more difficult to make because of those enormous ebbs and flows on the financial side with their consequences for exchange rates.
Q: Do you see biotechnology markedly affecting developments in maize and wheat breeding?
A: Wheat and maize varieties in the next decade will probably
emanate from conventional breeding practices. Bear in mind that even in Mexico,
where we get two crops a
year, it takes five years to develop a variety. So the crosses that are being made now will become the varieties five years on. But we are trying to monitor biotechnology closely, for two reasons. First, because developments in the new sciences have implications for us and our work. But beyond that they have potential implications for national programmes. We see it as one of our responsibilities to help keep national programmes apprised of what is available through biotechnology. So we are adding staff in that area. As well, we are seeking to develop working relationships with the most skilled practitioners of these arcane arts.
Q: Most of whom are in the private sector still?
A: It is really a mix of private and public sector. The Plant Breeding Institute in England, for example, has a gifted staff. The land grant system in the US, the public systems in France and Germany, also. But let's recognize that a very substantial proportion of the resources in biotechnology are accounted for by the private sector. Clearly, these people are optimistic about the future of biotechnology.
Q: There has been much controversy - and perhaps some confusion as well - over the question of plant genetic resources. How do you see CIMMYT's role in the conservation of germ-plasm as far as the crops for which you have a mandate are concerned?
A: With regard to conservation, this has been a sticky and contentious issue. We've spent a great deal of time talking past one another. Happily, over the past several months we have been able to get a far more precise sense of what the international community expects from us and of what it is that we can effectively offer. Wheat is easiest to talk about. The genetic resources of wheat are held in a variety of places. There is a major holding of the wild relatives of wheat in Japan; there are major holdings of wheats in the USSR, the German Democratic Republic, Italy, Ethiopia, Turkey, and the US. What we have agreed to is that, for spring bread wheats and spring durums, we will hold in our base collection the materials that have emerged from the dwarfing genes, those materials that are most closely associated with CIMMYT's own history. These are essentially first working collections, and second for intermediate storage - 25-year span. We have agreed to hold, in intermediate storage and working collections, all the spring triticales that have emerged. For maize, the custodial responsibilities are notably different. We have agreed to hold, in long term, over 50-year storage, a collection that represents all the land races of the Western Hemisphere, which make up something like 90 per cent of the world's land races of maize. We have also agreed to keep records on the land race materials that are being held in other parts of the world - significant numbers of land races are held in northern India, Thailand, and Japan. While we won't necessarily hold copies of these, we will know where all that material is and how it is characterized. We have entered into no formal agreements on this; we simply, in collaboration with IBPGR, have agreed that this be our current role within the CGIAR system on this particular issue. As well, we are seeking to facilitate the development of national germ-plasm facilities, especially in maize. The idea is to have the materials widely enough distributed so that simultaneous loss is unlikely. Even the fact that we are on the flight path coming into Mexico City airport may constitute the kind of threat that might induce us to think about having duplicate collections. Indeed, it has been recommended to us that copies of everything at El Batan be placed elsewhere in Mexico.
Q: Is there a case to be made for in situ preservation in the case of wheat or maize?
A: This is pretty much the strategy that we have come to with trypsicum and teozintle. But in situ in maize? Think of it: 12 000 accessions. That is a lot of material to tend. The other side of it is that you would get a constant genetic drift over time if you were simply to continue planting them out year after year after year. Another interesting side of conservation is the physiology of seed at very low temperatures, something that we don't completely understand. So we are initiating, as well, a modest research programme in conjunction with our germ-plasm storage effort, to get at some of these issues.
Q: Is there no base in past experience for knowing how long seed can be stored under different conditions?
A: The conventional wisdom is that seed stored at -4 and about 10 per cent moisture will be viable for 50 years. But it turns out that materials taken out of long-term storage and planted need special attention. They need a little bit of tender loving care when they come out of the box, before they go into the ground. We know of materials that were lost because they were planted in the same way fresh seed might have been planted. There was insufficient seedling vigour, and plants were lost. This raises questions about the viability of the seed per se. I don't think that this is scientific black magic. You just have to be more careful because vigour has diminished as a consequence of that long stay at low temperatures.
Q: What has happened to hybrid wheats? Is that an exercise that never got off the ground? Is there a future for hybrid wheats?
A: There are selected national programmes that are interested in hybrid wheats. There is a continuing effort in hybrid wheats among commercial companies in the US and in Europe. And there are surely environments where hybrid wheats will be profitable and will be employed by farmers. It's hard to believe, though, that hybrid wheats have much of a place in developing countries in the near future.
Q: Because of the cost of seed replacement?
A: Exactly. Take, for example, single cross hybrids. It turns out that the cost of production for such hybrids might well run to the equivalent of 12 to 15 kilos of commercial grain. So, if I were to buy one kilo of seed, single cross hybrid, I'd have to trade in 12 to 15 kilos of commercial grain. If I need 20 kilos per hectare for seed, my extra seeds costs for going to the hybrid would be in the order of 250 kilos per hectare; that's the extra grain that I have to get back just to pay for the seed. And for a farmer who's getting 1 500 to 2 000 kilograms with his current practices, it's not very likely that just changing seed will give him that kind of boost in yields.
Q: You mentioned earlier that production was no longer the main theme. Are you developing strains with the idea that these fit into lowyield agriculture?
A: Well, first, I don't want to leave the impression that production is not important. It's just that production frequently gives you the right answer to the question about varieties and technology, while productivity always gives you the right answer. That slight twist in perception can make a difference. Now, with respect to what kinds of materials we are developing, we're looking for a great deal of stability and robustness, materials that are well buffered so that they can readily accommodate the stresses that nature imposes during the growing season. As well, we want materials that are responsive to various kinds of inputs. But we certainly are not pursuing hothouse varieties that need to be almost manicured if they are to yield well. Robustness, stability, the capacity to accommodate the stresses of nature - these are important considerations for our work. By the same token we want things that are responsive to better management. Over time, one of the things that the farmer does when he finds robustness and stability in the face of nature's adversity is to cultivate more intensively. The evidence in India is clear on this, also in Bangladesh and other countries. Give the farmer the variety that is resistant to diseases, that accommodates the stress that nature imposes, and his confidence in those materials makes him willing to accept the risks associated with heavier investment in the plant - more fertilizer, better water control, more care in his weeding. So we want varieties that respond to that extra attention.
Q: Is there any role for what is known as horizontal breeding in developing lines that are suited to these harsher environments?
A: Well, Norman Borlaug was well on the way toward multilines when the dwarf varieties hit the market. The yield increases from the dwarf varieties were so high the multilines were just overwhelmed. Now, some of our colleagues, Khem Sing Gill in India in particular, have done good work on multilines and have multilines available. In the midwestern United States, the programme at Iowa State University has done phenomenal work with oats multilines. Our principal breeder in spring bread wheats is interested in multilines. And, of course, in maize you always have multilines because it is an outcrossed plant. I had always thought of the major advantage in multilines as being in protection against disease. But perhaps in those harsher environments there are other kinds of buffering that the multilines can offer. Diseases are usually less pressing in those environments.
Q: How much feedback do you get from farmers, either directly or through national programmes?
A: Our real link with farmers is through national programmes, and I want to emphasize that our clients are national programmes. What we do is serve up a set of intermediate goods that national programmes can use in their efforts to develop improved technology for farmers. To the extent that national programme researchers are themselves conscious of farmers' reactions, we get a great deal of feedback. To the extent that national programme researchers are isolated from farmers, then that cuts the thread.
Q: Do you see the national programmes ever becoming strong enough for there to be no need for CIMMYT?
A: Well, two points. The first and easiest is that I think there will always be great advantage in having an institution like CIMMYT to serve as the hub of an international network of breeders of wheat and maize. These know that they can share their best materials through us and receive the best of others in return. To the extent that you can build trust and confidence, this could be done by an individual national programme. The great advantage that CIMMYT and other international centres have - certainly one of our most valuable assets - is the trust of the national programmes, their faith in our evenhandedness at the hub of that network. Now we are pursuing the possibility of devolving certain activities in which we are currently engaged to some of the more advanced national programmes so that we, ourselves, can move toward more strategic research. It's really a process that has been going on for many years. For example, the kind of work that we do in agronomy today is really markedly different from what we were doing 20 years ago.
Q: Could you give some specific examples?
A: Certainly. Twenty years ago CIMMYT staff were working alongside Indian and Pakistani researchers developing technologies for Indian and Pakistani farmers. Those were new varieties; they had new requirements in husbandry. Our associates went out there to help. By now, national breeders and agronomists know how to handle those varieties; they are familiar with their growing habits, characteristics and needs, and they take care of those aspects. Meanwhile, CIMMYT staff are turning their attention to newer problems. One example relates to sustaining yields in agriculture. This is going to be an ever more challenging task over the coming decades because we are using our agricultural resources in a much more intensive way than ever before - for example, the wheat/rice rotations in the Punjab and across into Bangladesh, or the soya/wheat rotations in the pampas of Argentina. These represent an enormous intensification in land use.
How do we sustain those yields?
Q: Apropos of that, there seems to be some concern in the United States that it is going to become increasingly difficult, as well as more costly to maintain the very high level of yields that they have attained. In other words, there has been a deterioration in the basic resource.
A: I don't know whether there has been a deterioration, but the evidence suggests that something is happening that we need to know about. We have some data out of Pakistan, for example, that suggests, yes, yields are being maintained. But if you look at the input side, what you find are ever more experienced farmers using ever higher levels of inputs but not improving yields.
Q: From the farmer's point of view, are you past the point of optimum profitability?
A: Well, first, one point is that the farmer never got to the optimum level of profitability. He is pursuing it. But now what has happened is that the potential profits that are available to him are shrinking. My hypothesis is that will not only require the kind of agronomy that we were practising 20 years ago. It's going to be an agronomy that rests much more closely on underlying scientific disciplines. These are the paths that CIMMYT will be pursuing because of the staff we have, because of the horizons we have for research and the easy connections we have into the basic scientific community. We're locking for new ways to focus talents on problems of an international nature.
by B.A. Bishop
This article is intended to raise questions concerning the kind of published farm price information put out by most governments, whether of developed or developing countries. In the former, one purpose of providing such information is to give farmers an idea of the prices they might receive when they market their produce' thus enabling them to improve their marketing plans. I contend that the relationship between such published prices and those actually received by farmers is largely unknown, and that it is probably rather weak. If this is so, it raises questions concerning the manner in which farmers receive their price perceptions, in both developed and developing countries, and whether this affects their marketing practices. It also raises questions concerning the validity of the conclusions that can be drawn from price analyses. Finally, I will include some observations about the way in which the present state of affairs is changing.
It may be noted that the question of how published prices relate to actual prices is not often addressed' since it is commonly assumed that farm price information is clear and unequivocal' and that the greatest difficulty is one of definition: for example, what is the definition of "farmgate" prices and what adjustments have to be made to recorded or published prices to bring them into accordance with this definition? Typical of statements to this effect is this: "The prices at which goods change hands, and the total quantities at which they are traded, are relatively easy to discover." On the contrary, neither the prices at which goods change hands, nor the total quantities traded at any one price are known or easily ascertainable.
One may identity a number of "locations" where seller/buyer transactions take place, where prices are determined, and where ownership is transferred. Transactions may take place, for example, between:
- the producer and the wholesaler, who may be either a national or a regional wholesaler, in a central market
- in a regional market, between the producer and the regional wholesaler - locally, between the producer and the retailer
- or, again locally, between the producer and the consumer directly.
One may suppose that for each of these "locations" there is a characteristic set of prices which vary from location to location partly for such unavoidable reasons as transport costs, partly because of market imperfections. In addition, the manner of the sale may be such that prices are determined at the moment of sale by bargaining or by auction, or they may be determined by a previously agreed contract. It is clear that when a farmer enters a market location he does not know for certain what price he will receive, unless he has a previous contract, but in this context government price fixing is analogous to a contract. Nevertheless it is important for a farmer to know what prices are being established in the market location.
In the short term, he will need such information simply to be able to decide whether or not to sell his produce. If costs of production to the time of harvesting are considered "sunk" costs, he will need to know whether he can at least cover his marketing costs. In the longer term, he needs to know something about the general level of prices in the market, which will enable him to judge whether the prices he himself actually received in the past were acceptable in comparison with what other farmers were receiving and whether or not he can surpass prices previously received by improving his marketing practices. The important point is that the farmer needs to know the market price as a basis of comparison by which he can make management decisions.
The farmer's sources. But as far as the farmer is concerned, the definition of the market price is not really too significant so long as it bears a known relationship to his own prices. The market price may be the price received by a neighbour for a particular quality and quantity of crop, or it may be the price he received from a particular known merchant the last time he went to market. In fact, in market systems where the diffusion of price information is not much developed, these may be the two main sources of price information for an individual farmer. In other words, a farmer is not so much interested in generalized market prices as in an indicator price that he can relate to his own circumstances.
Even where there is government intervention in the market, it is rare that published price information indicates the actual price received by the farmers. There are so many variations on the theme of intervention - floor prices, ceiling prices, guide prices, fixed prices for a certain quality and/or quantity, to which are applied rebates, taxes, or subsidies - that the published price is only an indicator of what the farmer actually receives. In most cases, numerous adjustments are necessary to arrive at this figure. In principle the information for this should be available in government records.
Thus the case is somewhat different for these prices than for those where the basic data are not collected.
In fact, in Western Europe, generalizing on the basis of observations of the situation in five countries, namely the Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain, and (to a lesser extent) the UK, it seems that published data may be more fairly described as indicator prices than as anything else. The reasons for this may be understood by examining more closely the difficulties in the way of publishing price data which reflect better the general price situation in the markets, for instance weighted average prices. In order to be able to calculate these it would be necessary to know both the price and the amount involved in every single market transaction. Merely to state this requirement is to make obvious the difficulties in collecting comprehensive data on market prices. In the first place, if price data are to be collected, the transactions must be observed. In general only transactions taking place in organized wholesale markets can be easily observed. In Europe, on the whole, price data are only collected in such markets. One may suppose that direct producer/consumer sales are not important for most commodities in most European countries and such importance as they once had is tending to diminish. On the other hand, the prevalence of sales under contract, which escape the organized marketing system altogether, is tending to increase, and there is very little good information, for any commodities in any countries, about the proportion of total production which is disposed of in this way. The situation is somewhat paradoxical in the sense that in some cases the contract prices are based on the published prices, which themselves relate to only a small proportion of the total transactions and for this reason may be exceptional. Thus the exception becomes the rule by which prices are set.
In the second place, since price variations take place throughout a season at varying speeds, it follows that price and quantity observations must be made throughout the season, the intervals between observations being determined by the speed and/or irregularity of the price movements. In fact, since prices vary even during a single day, one might suppose that there would need to be several observations during a day.
Third, the existence of regional variations implies that there also need to be observations in various parts of a country, exposed to the same difficulties as just mentioned.
The Netherlands example. In general, it appears the price data in European countries do not match up to the problems posed above. In the first place, the observations are made where transactions are relatively easily observable, namely the national or regional wholesale markets. Second, they are mostly "on-off" observations, for a particular day, with seldom even the range of prices being given. Third, no attempt is made to associate the price observations with the quantities sold at those prices. More commonly, if weighted average prices are calculated, the weights depend on the total quantity of that particular commodity passing through the market in the course of a year. Finally, though it is difficult to be sure about this, the observations of prices do not seem to be made in a very scientific way, being more in the nature of an estimate of a "fair average price" made by an experienced merchant.
The cause of these shortcomings is presumably the cost of doing anything better, though one must admit that it is difficult to know what to suggest by way of improvement. In this connection it is perhaps relevant that the best data on prices of fruits' vegetables, and flowers are those produced in the Netherlands, where records of prices and quantities for all transactions are a by-product of the attempts to improve the institutional arrangements for marketing these products.
The question is whether any improvements which might be achieved in the price data would be commensurate with the extra cost involved. From the point of view of one of the more important groups of users of price data, namely the farmers, as has been noted, their purposes are probably adequately served by indicative prices, and they would not have a requirement for more soundly based general price data. Agricultural policy makers presumably are interested both in the dynamic effect of changes in agricultural prices on production and incomes, and in the relative level of incomes in the agricultural sector and other sectors. For the former, movements in indicative prices would perhaps be a sufficient basis for analysis, but for the latter what is required is to know the real level of agricultural prices. However, the required information about agricultural sector incomes can also be derived from national farm income surveys, and this is in fact done in the UK and other European countries.
In general, this article has suggested that if accurate farm price information were to be published, then many more items of price data would have to be collected and processed than is the case at present. This is now certainly within the bounds of technical and financial possibility for developed countries, through use of computers to record each and every market transaction as regards both price and quantity. Some steps have already been taken in this direction. The irony is that at the same time as the technical possibility is coming closer, the growing prevalence of direct contracts between farmer and processor, which fall outside the scope of organized markets, makes the achievement of this objective less and less reliable.
The Children and the Nations: The Story of UNICEF, by Maggie Black, UNICEF, Sidney, 1986, 502 p.
This is a heavy book, but the author lays the fascinating detail of UNICEF's history before the reader with crisp skill. What makes the book so gripping is the juxtaposition of the aims of those who direct the organization and the reality of the world in which it must operate. We read of strong-willed autocrats pushing their id fixes through the corridors of power to gain funds for the organization's programmes and the authority to act among the group targeted as its beneficiaries. We are carried along by their visions of the good that can be achieved. We are thrilled by the tactics with which they gain the money and status they seek. We see their evasions, the careful "laundering" of words, the alliances with disliked rivals forged by the need to retain a foothold in the institutional empire that aid had become by the end of the Second World War. We see the courting of politicians (divided into camps of those who were compliant and therefore "good" and those who were not, and therefore "bad" or "not able to understand"), and most difficult of all, the ruses and discretions necessary to avoid being tarred by one ideological warring leader or feathered by another.
First-rate accounts of internecine warfare are provided by the strategies to ensure that UNICEF first achieved legitimacy and autonomy as an organization, and then that it achieved status among all the other organizations that jostle for the international dollar; the satisfaction, in 1972, of a "formal recognition by the system that UNICEF was primarily a development rather than a humanitarian organisation"; and the tussle between Sweden and the United States for the leadership of UNICEF when long-time director Henry Labouisse retired.
The other side of the story. By revealing the environment within which the directors and planners of UNICEF's programmes work, the imperatives that drive them, the world they must woo for their organization's daily bread, and the criteria by which they judge the success or failure of programmes in the field, the author has provided the reader with an intelligible context in which to place the other side of the story: the partial successes and the many failures of development programmes, and in this particular case, those of UNICEF with its charter of aid to the poorest of the poor - mothers and their children.
The repetition of failure that is the fate of so many programmes planned to distribute a technical aid and that rely on the replication of an observed response for their success is a commonly observed phenomenon that flourishes in international aid programmes. One too often observes it in anger, and as the years pass and it continues to flourish, one wonders at the ignorance and stupidity of authorities who continue to approve and finance programmes that are obviously going to fail once they come face to face with the reality of the resources of poverty, village community mores, or climate.
Yet the author, by placing in such close propinquity the account of the imperatives of the organization per se and the operation of its programmes in the field, enables us to see how logical it must seem to those who give authoritative approval to seek solutions to difficulties by escaping from the local to the global and, these days, the galactic. Time and again a programme that begins by showing promise but then slows down is seized upon and dramatized into a "global approach". The dizzy delights of "projection" take over and the pencils fly - if vaccine X or a cup of milk for every poor child in country Y makes an advance in the war against poverty, then 1 million vaccines X and cups of milk galore in developing countries all over the world will perform miracles. Not content with merely providing the original product, the planners launch out into vast schemes - dairy plants where cows never were ("civilization follows the cow" was the rallying cry) and health schemes to support the vaccine supplies. Inevitably, given the scale envisaged - the global enormity of it all - discouragement follows. A scapegoat is sought and is found in a lack of infrastructure in the countries concerned, in ignorance, and, most baffling of all, in the idiosyncratic nature of humanity that defeats the well-meant ambitions and scrupulously planned programmes of those autocratic, strong-minded men who, fighting for the life of their organization and squeezing funds out of important and powerful people, seem never to understand that the small successes in matching need and service may in fact be their triumphs.
But drama is their life's blood, so the next chapter finds them judiciously describing the failure, developing strategies for change from it, holding conferences of experts to pool ideas, commissioning an exhaustive report to record the "mea culpas" and the fervently expressed new directions that must be taken to avoid past mistakes. The new policy is launched from the top and off we go again.
By 1986 a "planetary" approach had superseded the global goal and the newest hope, PHC (Primary Health Care), had begun the process of moving from rhetoric and lip service to becoming the recipient of actual funds to support its operation.
This flair for drama may well be a problem in long-term development, but when the "loud emergency" of the 1984 Ethiopian famine, or the horror of the Nigerian civil war, or the terrifying earthquake of Agadir strikes, it produces a response from UNICEF that is awesome in its efficiency and its practised expertise. The "loud" emergency of starving and misplaced children at the end of the Second World War provided the genesis of UNICEF. This account of its struggle to accommodate its expertise to the complex and, to Western minds, awkward and often incomprehensible lives of the women and children who suffer what many believe to be avoidable povery, bids fair to become something of a classic in the study of development organizations.