A certain degree of healthy scepticism usually greets the work
of futurists. Little wonder that economists, whose profession occasionally
obliges them to assume the futurist's role, carefully underline the uncertainty
of the art with terms such as "normative scenario," etc.
Writing future scenarios for world agriculture has been
especially hazardous, as a comparison of production performance in the past
decade with the original aspirations for that period will testify.
The FAO study Agriculture: toward 2000 on which we focus our
report on page 14 is thus perhaps talking about possibilities rather than about
Since the production increases envisaged in this scenario are
based primarily on the assumption of improved yields, it is interesting to
consider whether the projected yield increases
appear attainable at the farm
level, which is, after all, where it happens.
Of five major crops we examined, we found that the study's
projected end-of-century yields for developing countries were still below
present world averages in two instances (barley and maize), were significantly
above present world averages for wheat and rice, and only slightly higher for
Whether, in 20 years, the normative scenario of Agriculture:
toward 2000 will bear some resemblance to reality, or be regarded as merely
another pious projection will depend to a great extent on whether farmers can
perceive such targets as attainable, given present circumstances.
... and next
The ability of planners to communicate their objectives to
primary producers - and to listen to primary producers' reactions to plans - is
an that is receiving, in the abstract at least, considerably more attention than
previously. Our first issue of 1980 will look at the practical aspects of
improved communication in the rural