|CERES No. 072 (FAO Ceres, 1979, 50 p.)|
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 probabilities.
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 pulses.
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 world.