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THE FAO REVIEW: Where does agricultural support stop and protectionism start
ISSN 0009-0379

Breeding better vegetables at Beijing Centre

Before agricultural reform began to sweep rural China, fresh vegetables at reasonable prices were hard to find, especially for the country's 200 million city dwellers.

Today, farmers who used to grow grains and vegetables according to central plans created by government bureaucrats are free to choose what to grow and where to market it. Increasingly, rural entrepreneurs are shuttling between villages and cities to bargain at wholesale and retail markets. Crop diversification - away from basic grains - and a liberalization of marketing controls are making the Chinese rural economy boom.

At the Beijing Vegetable Research Centre, on the outskirts of the capital, dozens of China's leading botanical scientists work to ensure that the vegetables reaching urban rice bowls are the freshest, most nutritious, palatable, and attractive that nature can provide. As with many other aspects of applied plant research and technology in China today, outside experience and scientific expertise are needed to help achieve this goal.

Staff members of Beijing Research Centre carefully monitor the growth of more than 100 varieties of hybrid vegetables

Picking her way carefully through a field of almost 100 varieties of broccoli from around the world, Chen Hang, the Centre's Director, explains, "Before the reforms and the launching of our research programme, vegetable crop losses were often as high as 50 per cent and quality was inconsistent. Here we concentrate on developing varieties that are disease and weather resistant, on ensuring good seed and improving post-harvest storage, and on basic extension and training for a growing number of farmers throughout China."

Government agencies in charge of vegetable production used to issue orders to communal organizations, but new they provide individual farmers and cooperatives with suggestions, loans, and economic and technical information based, in large part, on what is being tried at the Centre. As a result, the total area planted in vegetables around 33 big cities is growing at almost 10 per cent a year. The vegetable trade volume at the country's urban free markets now surpasses that in government-run retail shops.

The Centre's researchers are giving top priority to developing vegetables that withstand higher and lower temperatures and that are disease- and pest-resistant. They are now breeding new types of tomatoes resistant to virosis and late blight; cucumbers

resistant to downy mildew and soft rot; and eggplants resistant to verticillium wilt and parasitica Dast. Work is also under way on cold-resistant spinach and cucumber, and on heat-resistant and non-waterlogging tomatoes.

Such experiments require more than simple introduction of other varieties from China or abroad. It is essential, instead, to apply plant breeding experiences from abroad to local conditions throughout the country. Such international technical transfer of on-site research and development is being sponsored through a $680 000 grant from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the world's largest multilateral source of grants for technical aid to the developing world.

Under an arrangement worked out in 1979 between UNDP and the Beijing Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the Vegetable Research Centre is being strengthened in

China's top botanists are aiming for disease- and weather resistance, good seeds, and improved post-harvest storage several different ways. For example, Chinese researchers were sent to Europe and the United States for a period of ten months to study breeding and post-harvest physiology. A 40 per cent increase in output of Chinese cabbage, a mainstay of the country's diet, is attributed to the knowledge acquired by one of the Centre's researchers during a stay of several months in California, and 60 per cent of total production is now in the improved variety."

Foreign experts also come directly to the Centre to provide technical training and consultation on equipment purchasing for new laboratories. One eminent vegetable breeder came to help set up facilities for analyzing post-harvest physiology. Another brought expertise in the use of climate chambers and physiological analysis of the soil. Foreign exchange provided by UNDP goes to purchase new foreign-made equipment, and the Government provides the local funds to purchase land for experimental plots.

The four-hectare breeding farm surrounding the Centre is like a garden of Eden. Almost 100 types of fruits and vegetables and a wide variety of flowers are carefully nurtured under China's powerful summer son. Under protection of plastic covered greenhouses, special breeds of green peppers and eggplants are cross-bred to develop the variety best suited to a certain growing season in some particular part of China.

The Centre also invites cooperative- and county-level extension people to visit and learn about its innovations, and some 24 000 people have already trained there.

The application of modern technology and the introduction of free markets is serving to boost rural incomes in rural China and, at the same time, to serve better the needs of an increasingly consumer-oriented urban population. But the process of Chinese agricultural modernization is only beginning. "We love and respect nature," says Chen, "but now we're beginning to work hard on frozen vegetables."

David Kinley

Making paper from cotton stalks

Mali, like most African countries, imports 100 per cent of its paper, but it is one of the world's poorest countries. These imports drain a large portion of its very limited foreign currency reserves and thus constitute a serious handicap for the country's schools, literacy training, and publishing.

But how can Mali possibly produce its own paper? In other African countries, such as Nigeria and Cameroon, paper-making from wood pulp devours energy, is a tremendous water and air pollutant, and has devastated the countries' forests. In view of these disastrous consequences in humid equatorial regions, a paper industry in a Sahelian country overcome by drought and desertification seems inconceivable.

Against all odds, the National Research Institute for Stockraising, Forestry, and Hydrobiology at Bamako, the capital city, has a "paper workshop" where engineers are experimenting with paper-making from alternative raw materials, trying different technologies.

Non-woody plant matter, such as gumbo, "dah" (or kenaf), banana tree, jute, bagasse, or cotton stalks, offer interesting possibilities. In a country whose largest export crop is cotton, cotton stalks, considered plant residue, could represent an additional source of income for producers. Every year, Malian farmers burn or bury more than 200 000 metric tons of cotton stalks; unlike millet or maize stalks, cotton stalks cannot be used for animal feed.

Mr Ousmane Samassu, a member of the Forestry Commission who for many years has been taking part in the research, tried to grind millet stalks in two experimental workshops at Zangasso and Fonfana in the cotton-producing regions of Su and Sikasso, but the process proved too long, too difficult, and too unprofitable.

He was not discouraged. As a member of AMADE, a Malian NGO for development with close links to CIMADE, he turned to the North-South Foundation in Paris where he obtained a grant which enabled him to continue his research on paper making from plant residues and non woody matter at the Tropical Forestry Technical Centre (CTFT) at Nogent sur Marne, in France.

A trip to India offered promise for South-South cooperation. Indeed, India's numerous small-scale paper mills are using non-woody products as raw materials: jute stalks, sugar cane fibre, and rags, requiring simple techniques and abundant unskilled labour. Five per cent of the country's paper consumption is produced in this way. A small mill can produce 200-1 500 kg of paper a day.

The manufacture of paper from cotton stalks has the advantage of causing hardly any pollution and requiring very little water. This is important in a country like Mali, where the climate is uncertain.

The paper-making process is semi-mechanized: operations such as crushing and pressing can be done manually. The basic equipment is a hydraulic press, which may be accompanied by a shredder, a digester, and a grinder.

The paper thus produced is stronger than that obtained from wood pulp. Its only drawback is its rather less clean appearance.

Since June 1987, Mr Samassu, with the support of AMADE and the Implementation and Technological Exchange Group, Paris, has been applying the results of his research in Mali. His new paper workshop at Bamako will initially be used for demonstration purposes, aiming at producing 50 tons of paper a year. A small-scale project, this experiment will be used as an incentive to develop small decentralized paper-manufacturing units.

In parallel with paper production and marketing, Mr Samassu insists on continuing his research on high-yield methano-chemical paper pulps, using soda, lime potash, and ammonia. So far, although soda and lime are the most efficient, potash and ammonia leave residues that can be used as fertilisers. And potash, which is almost completely assimilated, causes no pollution. Before making a final choice, a consumption record will be compiled for each chemical used.

Naturally, important financial investments are required for the equipment. The EEC, the World Bank, and UNIDO have already been contacted. Mr Samassu also favours cooperation between India and Mali. With this in view, an agreement has been signed by AMADE and a New Delhi NGO, the Society for Development Alternatives, marking the beginning of South-South cooperation for small-scale paper production units.

However, Mr Samassu is aware of the difficulties of his project, particularly with regard to marketing and distribution. In its first year the workshop will produce cartons, cardboard boxes, and cardboard folders. The market already exists: from 1963 to 1980 paper and cardboard box consumption increased by 70 per cent. Since then, the industry has been seeking reliable clients: the Government; EDIM (Mali's largest printers), SOMOPAC (the major packaging industry), and joint ventures. It must also diversify its production and become flexible enough to meet new demands for writing paper, egg cartons, fruit containers, thick cardboard doors, and partitions.

Once it has been proved that the creation of a small paper industry is a viable proposition in a Sahelian country, the experiment will bring new hope to the Sahel and even to the whole of West Africa, where, as yet, there is no paper industry.

Anne Kraft

Fish ladies of Dakar practise development' in the feminine

In the Dalifort quarter on the outskirts of Dakar, one of the city's most precarious neighbourhoods, a shantytown with a very mixed population, a group of women have gone into the fish business. They retail fresh fish which they have bought in other markets farther away. A French sociologist, Mireille Lecarme, followed the progress of this experiment and studied the mobile and lively milieu in which old peasant women or vegetable vendors have come in from the country to become retailers of carp, mullet, morays, and sardines.

Even if, as they say, "the sea of Dakar is not for them," the rural women who no longer live on the land their ancestors left them deploy prodigious organization to exploit the sea's wealth as they do. They spare the neighbourhood customer at least three kilometres of travel to the nearest market, that at Hann, and longer trips to other markets. They women shuttle back and forth, sometimes on foot, carrying their full baskets on their heads, but more often they make deals with a number of drivers and go by bus.

The best off among them go to the large market at la Gueule Tap which, though farther from Dalifort than Hann, offers a larger choice of fish. There they follow their purchases with an almost ritual daily breakfast, and in this they follow the example of their male "colleagues".

Lecarme stresses the special features of the women's market of Dalifort: brutal price fluctuations that make prediction impossible and the exigencies of a clientele with very little money to spend. The latter forces the women retailers to lower their profit margin considerably. "More than one of them", she says, "feels relieved when she merely breaks even."

She also insists upon the preeminence of the social factor over the economic factor: "The objective competition present is attenuated by a cluster of daily social practices: gestures, gifts, words, laughs, care of children, dances." The market thus constitutes "a paradoxical place where two social modalities meet: the older goes back to a system of barter, to the "teranga" essential value based on the sense of collectivity, exchanges of gifts which has stayed with the women; the second, the product of colonization and of monetization, poses the primacy of the individual and subordinates the social to the quest for individual gain. Marketing plays on these two modalities: the vendor will lower her prices only by steps, in function of the market and not because of the customer's bargaining skill. On the contrary, she will simply give away fish to a relative or woman friend."

Ethnic differences govern choice of vendor and choice of fish: "Women customers prefer to go to a vendor of their own ethnic group for the pleasure of speaking their own language and choosing fish that are to their own taste; for the Kiola that means ouass and quiss, carp and mullet, for the Toucouleurs it is sompet, which carp, and pageots."

The spontaneous and improvised nature of the vendors' organization in this shantytown has not stood in the way of the development of a hierarchy. Lecarme distinguishes between the "bigs" who benefit at the outset from greater capital and do their best to procure fine fish for a clientele that can provide secure profits, and the "smalls" who buy mostly "yabol" (sardines) on the beach at Hann and need supplementary activities (such as the sale of fruit or the clandestine sale of drink), "which presupposes the access to credit at usury rates, a rotation of debts, the help of the husband or of a relative of her own." Savings clubs permit daily saving, and this system too closely unites the local and the economic sides of life.

To conclude her report, Lecarme recalls "the need to think of development in the feminine, as well as in the masculine, in its social implications as well as in its economic". In her opinion, it would be disastrous, for example, to implement a project that has been proposed by the CAPAS (Senegalese centre for assistance to artisanal fisheries) which addresses only fishermen members of cooperatives of provisioning the marketing of their fish, in suppressing "external intervenors" as the women of Dalifort. ''If this project were implemented across the board," she says, "it is probable that a good number of families would see their standard of living fall below the tolerable level.

Guillemette Roy

Oil and water mix for a more self-sufficient Yemen

Around 650 B.C. one Ali Yanouf is believed to have built a dam, some twelve metres high, at Marib in Yemen. Today, just 3 km upstream stands a wall 38 metres high, 227 metres long at the bottom, and 763 metres at the top, barring the course of Wadi Abida at the exit of the gorges of the Djebel Bilak. Ali Yanouf would be proud that the modern behemoth was merely bringing up to date one of his ideas, considered quite daring in their own day.

At some 120 km from San 'a, capital of the Yemen Arab Republic, Marib is situated in a region of high plateau. This is the heart of what, in the first millennium B.C., was the opulent, and already irrigated, land of Sheba, whose queen took King Solomon a gift of "an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones", and asked him "hard questions".

But such wealth is, well, ancient history. Yemen today is one of the poorest countries in the world and was long one of the most stagnant. Its economic situation may be described succinctly with the aid of some indicators of its poverty. Its population growth is too rapid (a rate of 2.8 per cent has brought the population to more than 9 million in 1986, and this rate is expected to exceed 3 per cent between 1980 and 1990); the concept of hygiene is still in its infancy; teaching could be more developed; inflation is galloping; emigrant workers supply labour to all the Gulf States and support their families with their remittances; the balance of payments deficit is astronomical, the amount of imports of food products alone being more than eight times higher than the total value of the country's exports.

Measures to allow the country to attain a degree of self-sufficiency in food were urgently needed. Agriculture was, accordingly, promoted energetically, and the keystone of the new agricultural policy established by the 1987-91 Plan is the development of irrigation.

The Marib dam, begun in 1984, was inaugurated in 1987. Financing of $75 million supplied by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Arab Economic Development covers the building of the dam proper plus the deepening of a 40-km main canal and 10 km of primary canals. Construction was done by a Turkish company. The dam holds back the waters of an artificial lake with a volume of 398 million m3 and a surface of 30.5 km2 the product of flooding the valley of a catchment basin of 10 000 km2. In a first phase, irrigation will extend to 6 340 hectares. In a second phase, still under study, the construction of new works of drainage will double the present area and bring the irrigated surface to 12 000 hectares. Costs are estimated at $30 million.

The new lands thus acquired by irrigation will grow wheat, citrus fruit, green vegetables and vines for table grapes, all for the domestic market. Some "hard questions" still remain, and their solution requires the wisdom of a Solomon. The price of the water and its mode of recovery, for example, are not yet known and nobody is saying anything about how the irrigated areas will be farmed. There are appalling problems of land tenure, since Colonel Saleh's government has not chosen virgin lands to make more productive but territories possessed by rather restless tribes and already being farmed by small producers who have practised irrigation for generations - small-scale artisanal irrigation, of course, by extending the floods (a practice called seil locally) or boreholes or both. This is how 3 301 hectares are still irrigated, since the dam is not yet operational. The farms are intensively cultivated with wheat, barley, sesame, maize, lucerne, legumes, and fruit trees.

Animal husbandry also occupies an important place in the current farming systems and represents an important contribution to income for farms irrigated by boreholes or by a combination of boreholes and seil, and accounts for most of the incomes of those farms irrigated only by seil.

The hydrologists who have studied the zone estimate that these farm level irrigation methods are satisfactory given the present state of affairs. And indeed the possibility of simply continuing as in the past has been considered. But those methods have their limits. The first is the unpredictability of the harvests, the second the damage caused by flooding, the third the accelerated progression of boreholes: recharging the ground water could bring problems in the not too distant future. Finally, the fourth and most compelling limit is that the irrigation systems used till now permits neither increasing productivity nor putting more land under cultivation.

The system should permit six irrigations per growing season, which will involve significant changes in the present situation. Cultivation of sorghum, for example, will be effectively eliminated; this grain needs only one irrigation per season, and continuing to grow it would involve a waste of very costly water. Not only will growing systems be upset, but newly irrigated lands will have to be redistributed. And a number of legal battles over property lines are already in progress.

As attractive as the prospect of not having to import 600 000-650 000 metric tons of wheat and wheat flour every year from Australia, the US, the EEC, Canada, and even Saudi Arabia (imports of 16 000 tons from these countries is foreseen for 1988) may be, the Arab Republic of Yemen needs more than self-sufficiency in food to offset its trade balance deficit. It must reduce imports but also step up exports. In the very near future, Yemen counts on taking advantage of a new resource and joining the oil-exporting countries. One of the many sites surveyed, Alif, is ready to be exploited. The figures advanced on the petroleum reserves of the country are still rough and fluctuate between 300 and 500 million barrels. New prospecting is being done in the Red Sea and in the centre of the country. Exports will begin when construction of the 430 kilometre oil pipeline to link Alif to Salif, on the coast, has been completed, probably in November. Oil revenues which, according to some estimates, could rise to $2.5 billion, would be, for the first time in the world, absorbed in large part into agriculture.

Armelle Braun

Avocados build red blood

"Four or five tortillas, an avocado, and a cup of coffee - that's a good meal." So say the Indians of Guatemala. And they're right. The dark-green pear-shaped fruit, the avocado, is a popular food in Central America and an extremely nutritious one. Not to mention appetizing; cheap, and available throughout most of the year.

It contains between 9 and 30 per cent oil similar in composition to olive oil, as well as high quantities of vitamin B. Experiments at the University of California have shown that the digestibility of avocado fat is equal to that of butter fat and not below that of beef fat. Since avocados are rich in oil, they also provide calories, 123 to 387 per 100 grams of avocado pulp.

But they are low in sugar - only about I per cent - which means that the fruit is recommended as a high energy food for diabetics.

The avocado gives a relatively high content (1.0-1.4 per cent) of iron-rich ash. Experiments have demonstrated that anaemic rats formed haemoglobin when fed diets supplemented with 1-5 grams of avocado pulp. Since avocado iron is physiologically available, it should be a valuable dietary factor in the prevention or cure of anaemia.

The total dry matter in the edible portion of the avocado is, at 30 per cent, greater than in any other fresh fruit. (The nearest contender, the banana, contains only 25 per cent.) The avocado also outdoes other fresh fruits in content of mineral matter. Soda, potash, magnesium, and lime account for more than half the ash or mineral matter. For protein and ash, the avocado surpasses any other fruit, and it contains on average fully 50 per cent of the carbohydrates contained in many fresh fruits.

For many Central Americans, the avocado takes the place of meat in the diet. When meat is scarce, the fact that an acre of land will yield a larger amount of food if planted to avocados than it will with any other tree crop assures the continued importance of the avocado industry in Latin American and Caribbean countries. That region's regular suppliers of the international market include the French overseas department of Martinique, Mexico, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and Peru. Demand is increasing significantly as a result of the development of new domestic and export markets. In the USA alone, the volume of avocados sold on the domestic market has increased tremendously. In Western Europe, imports of the fruit have also increased remarkably. France is by far the leading importer followed at a long distance by the United Kingdom. The two countries account for about 70 per cent of the total imports and are also largely responsible for the rapid rise in imports in recent years. Other European importers include Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Austria, and Switzerland.

The major suppliers to the Western European countries have so far been Israel and the Republic of South Africa. However, future exports from these countries will be facing tough competition not only from the Latin American and Caribbean countries but also from African countries, especially Kenya, Cameroon, and Cd'Ivoire.

Recipes for tasty avocado dishes abound. A purof avocado, lime juice, salad dressing, and salt is suitable for freezing. An avocado salad base can be prepared by blending 100 parts avocado with five parts lemon juice, four parts chopped onion, and one part salt.

In Brazil, where the avocado is regarded more as a dessert than as a staple foodstuff, it is made into a delicious ice cream. Avocado cookbooks have been published in Cuba, and in the avocado-growing states of Florida, California, and Hawaii in the USA.

Avocado trees, broad-leaved evergreens of the family Lauraceae, genus Persea, can be grown in all tropical and subtropical areas. In general they require the same growing conditions as citrus fruit but need more water. There are three recognized races of avocados based on their ecological origin - Mexican, Guatemalan, and West Indian. The Mexican race is native to the mountains of Mexico and Central America. The Guatamalan originated from the highlands of Central America. The West Indian race is native to the lowlands of Central America and northern South America. Many cultivars of commercial importance are hybrids of these three races.

The primary means of transporting avocados to the various markets is by truck within the country of origin and by ship for export. Only a small proportion of the avocados in international trade travel by air. Kenya is one exception that air-freights its avocados, but supplies from most other countries go by sea. For long distance shipments controlled-atmosphere containers are used which allow fruit to arrive in excellent condition, even after long sea voyages.

The fruits are picked and shipped when they are mature but firm and thus require ripening prior to consumption. The temperature at which an avocado is ripened has a pronounced effect on the rate of ripening and the quality of the ripened fruit in terms of flavour, texture, and appearance.

The avocado fruit is unusual in that it need not be picked as soon as it reaches maturity. In California, some cultivars can remain on the tree for six months or longer after maturing. Florida-grown cultivars can remain on the tree for as little as three weeks or for as long as three months after maturing. Generally, fruit of the summer cultivars belonging to the West Indian race remain attached to the tree for shorter periods of time than the later maturing cultivars. Shipping of fruits which have reached maximum maturity is not recommended because their shelf-life is reduced and their large seeds may sprout.

Nick Kesi

Taking the chill off the sun

To make cold using heat: that is the challenge that a French company has accepted. It has perfected and manufactured a refrigerator with no moving parts, which needs no maintenance, and which makes ice using the heat of the sun as its only source of energy.

This simple-looking "product" is actually the result of several years of work on the phenomenon of adsorption, the principle, in physics, of the taking up of a gas or a liquid at the surface of a solid. The refrigerator has been nicknamed "Gaspard", which stands for (in French) Solar Adsorption Generator for the Independent Production of Soft Refrigeration.

Seen from outside, Gaspard resembles an ordinary refrigerator with a solar heat collector on top. But there is nothing ordinary about its innards. There is no electric motor or compressor to produce the cycle of alternating liquid and gas phases of a fluid that produces cold by evaporation. Instead the sun does all the work. The alternation of evaporation and condensation follows the rhythm of day and night between a condenser placed under the solar collector and an evaporator in the body of the refrigerator

The condenser contains activated carbon, that is, grains of carbon whose microscopic pores have been created by thermal shock, by heating them to 500-600 degrees centigrade, so that the grains become riddled with microscopic pores. A gram of carbon thus acquires a contact surface of about 1 000 m2 and exercises a strong surface attraction to methanol, something like capillary action. During the night, although the compartment containing this activated carbon is not heated, the activated carbon attracts and adsorbs the molecules of methanol contained in the evaporator. The liquid methanol is evaporated, producing cold. The water around the evaporator turns to ice.

During the day, the active carbon saturated with methanol is reheated by the sun's rays. The force of adsorption diminishes in proportion as the heat increases, and the molecules of methanol are expelled by the pores of active carbon by desorption, as by boiling. The methanol condenses and runs into the evaporator. No chemical reaction is produced between the methanol and the carbon, adsorption being a physical, not chemical, phenomenon. Condenser and evaporator are joined by a tube, forming a tight assembly which keeps the surrounding air out and the methanol in so that its quantity does not change.

The system requires no moving parts and the cycles alternate in absolute silence. It is not necessary to change the position of the solar panel, which always points toward the sun at its zenith.

In a sunny climate, a solar collector with a surface of one square metre produces in 24 hours some 5 kg of ice, whose temperature is between -4 and -7 degrees centigrade. This ice is not even as cold as that which the ice compartment of an ordinary refrigerator can produce (-10 to -15°C), and a freezer can make even colder ice, but at least it allows food and, even more important, medicines and vaccines to be stored. According to WHO, these must be kept between 4 and 8 degrees. Gaspard prototypes, utilized in Senegal, French Polynesia, Guyana, and India have allowed the maintenance inside a compartment of 200 litres of a temperature of 4 degrees.

Despite its apparent simplicity, the system has demanded several years of research at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in the laboratory of thermodynamics of fluids directed at Orsay (France) by Professor Francis Meunier. The CNRS patent has been developed by the engineers of Brissoneau and Lotz Marine (BLM), a subsidiary of Jeumont-Schneider.

Grd Paeye, service chief of research and development of the company, stresses that the apparent simplicity of Gaspard conceals a series of sophisticated and advanced techniques, notably for the manufacture of non-deteriorating compartments and vacuum assemblies, and the degassing to obtain the purest carbon possible, without gaseous residues which reduce the yield of the adsorption-desorption cycle.

Thermal shock permits nearly cylindrical carbon particles to be obtained from 2 to 3 micrometres (millionths of metres) long and 2 micrometres in diameter. On this cylinder, the pores form irregular orifices of 2.5 A diameter and a few in depth. These particles, with their numerous pores, constitute a "thermal sponge" which is saturated with methanol during the night.

The standard model manufactured till now looks like an isothermal box about a cubic metre in volume with a solar collector of about one square metre. The refrigeration compartment has a volume of 200 litres. The tests made in tropical countries have established that the adsorbent material is very stable and does not decompose and that the installation does not require either adjustment or maintenance. The refrigerator is guaranteed for ten years.

If the cold obtained is largely sufficient for keeping vaccines and small quantities of food, the ice is not cold enough to be commercially usable for preservation and transport of large quantities of meat and fish. The company envisages the manufacture of cold rooms of several dozen cubic metres with a view to adapting the same system for refrigerated transport vehicles and fishing boats. The gas exhaust of internal combustion engines could serve as a supplementary source of heat, which would make the transport of refrigeration machines or tons of ice to preserve shipped food unnecessary.

Alexandre Dorozynski

FAO in action


A recent FAO publication entitled "Feasibility Study on Expanding the Provision of Agricultural Inputs as Aid-in-Kind" shows that in 1995, sub-Saharan Africa will probably need over US$700 million in mineral fertilizers, agricultural machinery, pesticides, improved seeds, veterinary supplies, and farm implements if donor countries do not substantially increase their aid in this sector. However, in order to speed up agricultural development in subSaharan Africa even slightly, not $700 million but $2 billion must be found.

"Without these inputs", states Director-General Edouard Saouma in his foreword, "Africa is destined to remain underdeveloped, trapped in a deteriorating spiral of poverty as farmers are forced to over-exploit their land to survive. Fallow periods are being dangerously reduced, and increases in production are being achieved at a heavy cost in terms of soil degradation. Short-term gains are opening the way for medium and longer-term environmental disaster."

After examining possible options, the study points out that local agricultural input production currently covers only a minimal part of Africa's requirements and that African countries will continue to depend on overseas imports. But heavy external debt, low foreign exchange earnings, and insufficient development assistance are now preventing them from importing all the inputs required.

The study concludes that given these limitations in Africa, foreign aid must increase, not in cash, but directly in the form of agricultural production inputs. This would enable African countries to save foreign exchange and through the sale of these inputs, would provide government budgetary support. Moreover, input aid-in-kind is guaranteed to reach the agricultural sector.


A 1987 updated edition of FAO's pioneering study Agriculture: Toward 2000 has recently been published. The study emphasizes the scandal of hunger that persists in vast regions of the world even though overall agricultural production is beginning to slow down - except in Africa, where these problems seem more difficult to solve than in any other part of the globe.

All in all, we can boast the fact that the percentage of undernourished worldwide (i.e., those with food intakes less than 40 per cent above the basal metabolic rate) is declining. But unfortunately the number of seriously undernourished in the world will probably rise from the present 510 million to 530 million in the year 2000. And unforeseen natural or man-made calamities could push this figure much higher.

The study recommends that national planners of long term agricultural development treat industrialization in its economic entirety, with particular consideration for its complex links with agriculture. To this effect, the Director-General of FAO stresses in the foreword that in rural areas there is great scope for the expansion of agro-industries. This will be the theme of the July-August 1988 issue of Ceres.


A multidisciplinary project for the production of subtropical fruits, cereals, and legumes under irrigation to feed peasants in the Wadi Gizan region of Saudi Arabia is faced with a very peculiar problem: a disease of watermelons called "yellowing". The leaves of affected plants become yellow, the flowers shed their petals, and the fruits are small, mottled, and deformed.

Sowing dates appear to be a decisive factor: all varieties tested were susceptible to the disease except those sowed around 15 July. However, recent experiments show that greenhouse plants remained free from infection throughout the eight-week trial period. In comparison, the plants grown in the open atmosphere were all infected during the seventh week.

These results indicate a relationship between insects and watermelon yellowing. Other tests show that the disease is caused by a complex of at least two viruses.

This ongoing project has a budget of US$11.31 million from a Saudi trust fund, and has been instrumental in the introduction of such subtropical fruits such as mango, guava, papaya, bananas, and pineapple in the Wadi Gizen valley.


In Egypt, the organization CATGO tests the quality of cotton fibres. But the 100 ovens it uses to dry the fibres and determine their moisture content are now 50 years old. Replacing them is the objective of the UNDP/FAO project known as "Assistance to CATGO (Phase 11)".

By 1982, CATGO had received through FAO five different types of ovens for testing to determine which would be the most efficient. From 1983 to 1986, Egyptian specialists carried out a series of successful tests and more specific trials were entrusted to a consultant from FAO. The selected prototype was finally manufactured, installed, and commissioned on the project site in 1986.

Each drying oven is linked directly to an electronic balance, which, is in turn, attached to a microcomputer. Each drying unit forms part of a Cotton Weight Collection System (CVCS), also computerized, which can be enlarged to accommodate additional drying units.


More than 30 per cent of the cultivated soils in Paraguay are threatened by erosion, particularly in areas of recent, highly mechanized, expansion. The problem is that far too few soil development and conservation experts are available. A national $850 000 programme financed by the Interamerican Development Bank, UNDP, and the Government of Paraguay, is aimed at solving the problem with the technical assistance of FAO.

During the initial phase of the project, a national conservation plan was prepared and a soil conservation unit was set up. In October 1987, the first two courses trained 15 cartography and soil conservation experts. In 1988, another 13 courses will be organized in regional centres to train 210 extension workers and 90 para-technicians. A dozen trainees will be granted scholarships enabling them to train abroad.

An interesting aspect of these courses is that they follow the "multiplication" principle, designed to speed up the training process. Those who graduate from the second level, with the assistance of international experts, are responsible for training the first level, and so on.


The pilot project of the Pnco District, in Benin, is aimed at integrated rural development, with the active participation of the population. The final objective is to increase incomes of small farmers and to achieve food self-sufficiency. Seventy per cent of the almost $3 million project is financed by the United Nations Capital Development Fund, the rest by UNDP, UNICEF, and the Government of Benin. The project relies on FAO for the preliminary socio-economic studies and for the technical assistance required for its efficient execution.

The basic objectives are: to increase agricultural output and animal production (ground nuts, maize, sorghum, small and large ruminants), to improve storage and marketing conditions; to construct roads and tracks, schools and health centres; to drill wells; to set up a capita, investment fund at village level so as to grant credit to support production and development activities; to promote the people's participation and self-management, and finally to perfect an institutional rural development mechanism that can gradually be extended first at regional level and then nationwide.

The project will last three years, from autumn 1987 to autumn 1990, and will ensure the participation of the population through a guidance and planning committee, three municipal committees, and 26 village committees for development. The village capital investment fund is to be partly financed by the people who will contribute a lump sum, a portion of which goes to health, educational, and hydraulic infrastructures to be set up under the project.

A loan to a woman... a direct way to address poverty

by Farhana Haque

Sharifa lives in a small hut at the edge of her elderly parents' courtyard. She is about 36 but looks much older and has been a widow for six years. Her father, who owns only the tiny plot of land which holds his hut and yard, makes baskets; her mother works in the home of rich peasants They are too poor to feed their daughter and her two children. And far too poor to afford a dowry which would enable her to remarry. At first, Sharifa supported herself by working, like her mother, in other homes, sweeping and clay-plastering courtyards and floors, fetching water, grinding spices, and helping with paddy husking. When she worked for a well-to-do family, she was paid a "seer" (less than a kilo) of rice a day worth around Tk 6 ($0.30); when she worked for a relative, she got half a seer. In the best of times, she could feed her family twice a day: rice, salt, and water for breakfast, rice and greens or lentils for dinner; to have meat was rare and usually the greens were gathered in the form of weeds from the edges of paths and paddy fields.

Three years ago, Sharifa considered borrowing a few hundred taka from the "mohajon", the local moneylender, to buy herself a sari and some clothes for her children, but when she discovered that he charged 10 per cent interest a month, she changed her mind. She then made an arrangement through her father with the local merchant to whom he sold his baskets: the merchant gave her credit in the form of materials from which she wove mats, mats she then had to sell back to him. Sharifa spends long hours every day squatting outside her hut weaving - and hoping that now she could earn enough to feed and clothe herself and her children decently. She soon found, however, that she was not much better off than before nor more independent, for not only did the merchant pay her very low prices for her mats, but he also charged 50 per cent interest on the value of the materials he gave her. She was surviving - just - but also facing a spiraling debt which threatened to trap her for the rest of her life.

The women's burden. Sharifa's situation, with variations, is shared by a vast majority of rural women in Bangladesh. Not all are functionally heads of households, though widowhood, divorce, desertion, and the migration of men to cities in search of work have left millions of women as the sole or chief breadwinners for their families - and the numbers are growing. Not all are landless, unable to grow some of their own food, although at least 30 million rural people in the nation are. Not all are in debt to local merchants, moneylenders, or relatives, but most either must borrow from the informal credit market at exorbitant rates of interest or go without. And only a small minority have tried to set themselves up in some kind of income generating business.

However, all women in rural Bangladesh live in a male-dominated, purdah society which severely restricts the opportunities and options open to them for gainful employment and some measure of self-reliance. They all face, to a greater or lesser extent, social pressures not to work at anything but accepted household tasks; to do any other work is to risk being shunned or mocked by one's neighbours. It is no accident that in 1984 only 7 per cent of the national rural labour force were women. Even when a woman, out of desire or desperation, seeks some form of income-producing employment, her choice is very limited, partly because the village economy may offer little scope but largely because of the demands of purdah. Under purdah, women rarely should have contact with men outside their family or with the society outside their bari, or household. If they must earn, they should work at home or, like Sharifa and her mother, in the homes of richer neighbours. Discouraged by training and custom from working in the fields or outside the bari, they have traditionally found employment in the tedious, time-consuming process of parboiling, drying, and husking rice in dhekis or wooden mortar and pestles operated by foot". And even this form of work is decreasing sharply through the introduction of mechanized rice mills. According to a 1983 World Bank report, "between 1.4 million and 2 million women have already been replaced by rural rice mills, [while] annually another 400,000 women are being displaced with the construction of 700 new rice mills each year."

The failure of credit. It is in this general context that institutional rural credit for women in Bangladesh has operated - or, more accurately, has largely failed to operate. The various loan schemes launched by several commercial banks and the Bangladesh Krishi Bank, for example, have been only marginally successful both from the point of view of

An women in rural Bangladesh live in a male-dominated society that limits their chances to work and earn financial viability in effectively reaching the most needy groups among the rural poor, particularly women. They have generally been plagued by the problems which so often hamper or undermine institutional rural credit programmes in developing countries. Management costs are high because regulations or habit may require as much paperwork for small loans as for large and because large staffs are needed to serve a widely dispersed clientele. When artificially low interest rates are charged as an inducement to borrow, they may fail to cover the cost of the loan. Default rates are also high.

Too often, better-off borrowers familiar with formal banking monopolize the loans; this is especially likely when the criteria established for credit require collateral and thus eliminate as poor risks those most in need. The very poor, and particularly women, normally lack banking experience; ignorant or suspicious of formal "outside" institutions and their complicated regulations, they are reluctant to become involved in what they do not understand. If the bank branch is operated, as it usually is, by men or if it is outside their para, or neighbourhood, women are doubly hesitant. The result is that few of the country's rural credit programmes have directly benefited women - with one notable exception.

A glimmer of hope. That exception is the Grameen Bank. A good deal has been written about this innovative project started in 1976 by Dr Muhammed Yunus, a professor of Economics at the University of Chittagong, as an experiment in a single village and with a handful of borrowers. From that modest beginning, the Grameen Bank has expanded, with the financial support of the government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), so that it is new a fully fledged bank whose almost 300 branches cover over 5 000 villages and gives loans to more than 200 000 desperately poor, functionally landless people - and with plans to reach close to a million borrowers by the end of 1989. The participation of women has grown dramatically over the years - from 30 per cent in 1980 to 69 per cent in 1986. In one district, over 85 percent of the loan recipients are women.

The number of women getting credit from the Grameen Bank is no accident but the result of a deliberate and sustained effort on the part of Dr Yunus and the Bank staff to reach this hitherto neglected segment of the rural destitute. Women in poor families, says Yunus, "live at the mercy of their men. They have all the obligations in the world but no rights, no security, no access to any activity that brings economic reward. They are treated as liabilities. But once a woman becomes an earning member of her family, her status in the family undergoes a positive change. She is less dependent on her husband and she is able to invest more in her children. They get clothes to wear or they start going to school. While acknowledging the strength of the socal forces which have kept rural Bangladesh women out of the marketplace, cut off from meaningful credit and dependent on men, Yunus believes that "a loan to a woman is the most effective kind of loan because you know that it goes directly to the children and the household. And that's the most direct way to address this problem of poverty."

The loans disbursed through the Grameen Bank are for any income generating activity, for they are designed to help borrowers become more economically self-sufficient, to allow them to substitute for the traditional vicious circle of "low income, low savings, low investment, low income" an expanding cycle of ´´low income, credit, investment, more income, more investment, more income." Any enterprise that seems to have a reasonable chance of success is acceptable, and women have chosen dozens of different activities.

The most popular by far are ventures involving livestock - raising milk cows, goats, and poultry - which account for a full 60 per cent of all loans to women. Almost a quarter of the credit taken by women goes toward setting themselves up in the business of paddy or pulse husking through the purchase of husking machines or raw materials. A wide variety of manufactures and trade make up the rest: handloom weaving; training. Not surprisingly, since they are generally landless and by custom discouraged from working in the fields, very few women use their loans for agricultural activities.

The difference credit can make. Sharifa is a typical example. Two years ago she bought a cow with her first loan. By the end of the year, she had paid off the loan and also owned a cow and a calf. She took out a second loan and bought another cow which by the end of the year also produced a calf. And sometime next year, the first calf will probably have its own calf. From having nothing, Sharifa now has an asset of four (soon five) cattle as well as being able to provide milk for her family - an enormous change. She has also used some of her credit to buy materials for her mats and is now no longer dependent on the merchant or trapped by his high interest rates. She has begun to sell her mats to others at going market prices, thus significantly increasing her income.

Momena Bewa is another Grameen Bank client. She lost her husband in the 1974 famine that swept through northwestern Bangladesh and since then has wandered from village to village doing whatever jobs she can find to keep herself and her two children alive. In the village of Chilmari she and some of her friends heard a young woman explaining the Grameen Bank system to an informal tailoring; making mats, rice products, fish nets, and an assortment of cane and bamboo items; trading in paddy, rice or flour; setting up home grocery or stationery shops; peddling saris, housewares, bangles, and other goods. Any activity will do as long as it shows a reasonable chance of success and requires no long, specialized gathering of local women and decided to join. She used her first loan of Tk 875 ($35) to buy housewares and set herself up as a door-to-door peddler. With the profits, she not only paid off the loan in 31 weeks but also was able to make a down payment on a family hut. She then took out a second loan for twice the amount and used it to expand her inventory of housewares. She has now promised her daughter in marriage, without the customary, dowry, to the son of a respected local family and has been elected the leader of a group of enterprising women like herself.

The way it works. The young woman who introduced Momena and her friends to the Grameen Bank was one of hundreds of bank workers who go from village to village in areas where the Bank has established branches. Travel is often difficult, along muddy paths or through waterlogged fields passable only on foot or perhaps by bicycle. These workers are putting into practice one of the Bank's central mottoes: "Bring the bank to the people, not the people to the bank." These workers, bath men and women, are given an intensive six month training course and then sent out into the countryside to inform the people about the Bank and to form groups of five men or five women, unrelated but with similar interest and attitudes, which will become the core of the credit programme. The criterion for group membership, and thus eligibility for loans, is ownership of less than half an acre of cultivated land or assets less than the value of one acre. Since a family of six needs at least three acres to maintain itself at subsistence level, these criteria exclude all but the most destitute.

Once the bank worker was satisfied that all five members understood and accepted what the Bank expects of them and what they must expect of themselves, the women became eligible for their first loans. No collateral was required. The maximum allowed is Tk 5 000, with the average for women being about half of that. (The average for men is a bit higher.)

Repayment is by 52 weekly instalments at 16 per cent interest, the going market rate. Initially, Momena and one other woman received credit; after six weeks, since their repayments were on schedule, two more members became eligible and six weeks later the fifth. A person can borrow again only after at least three-quarters of the previous loan has been repaid - and if the repayment record of the group is satisfactory. Thus each group member has a personal stake in the success of all the others; peer pressure encourages prompt repayment and a careful watch on each others' ventures.

When a member receives credit, she must immediately pay five per cent of the loan amount into a Group Fund against which members can draw, in emergencies, on terms decided by the group. These contributions to the Group Fund are not refundable to anyone who leaves the group, a regulation which has caused some grumbling. Each member is also expected to pay at least one taka a week into the Fund, and this becomes a refundable personal savings account. Finally, a sum equal to 25 per cent of the interest on each loan must be paid into an Emergency Fund which is used to cover defaults caused by accidents, illness, or other unavoidable events. Thus while Sharifa, Momena and their fellows pay an 'official" interest rate of 16 per cent, the effective interest charged is closer to 25 per cent. This is still significantly lower than the going rates in the informal credit market, plus which it includes the creation of group and individual savings which local moneylenders never provide - and the repayment record is almost perfect. Even with the accelerating expansion in the numbers of the Hank's borrowers, the default rate on loans after one year is about three per cent and even less after two years, technically the term of the credit. And women, in general, have an even better repayment record than men.

The repayment system is clearly one of the major reasons why the Grameen Bank has been able to avoid the poor recovery rates which have hurt so many rural credit programmes in Bangladesh and other developing countries, for each weekly payment is small enough so that it does not create the hardship imposed by the more traditional six-month or annual payments. Other factors come into play as well: the initial screening and discussions with prospective group members, reinforced by ongoing peer pressure and support; the close, effective supervision by bank workers bath before and after the loans are made; and the nature of the activities for which the credit is used. Weekly repayments, along with the regular savings feature, train members in the habit of regular payment, while the two Funds given them a valuable sense of security, as well as an essential pride in the knowledge that they are themselves contributing to the financial success of the programme.

More than credit. Once groups like Sharifa's and Momena's are established, they join with several others in the village to form Centres. Each Centre then elects a Centre Chief who conducts the Centre's weekly meetings, makes recommendations on loans to the bank worker, and generally assists whenever needed. It is at these weekly meetings, attended by the bank worker and mandatory for all members, that loans are made and repayments and savings collected. It is also here that various potential credit ventures and the progress of ongoing enterprises are discussed; experiences are shared and suggestions for improvements (including Bank operations) are made. The women find these meetings extremely valuable, for they provide an opportunity to exchange ideas, to re-enforce and expand each other's efforts, and to become directly involved in planning their own futures. These discussions, too, play an essential role in keeping the Bank flexible and responsive to the expressed interests and needs of the people it serves.

The Centre meetings also serve a broader, more intangible but no less important purpose - that of encouraging an expanded individual and collective social consciousness. Over the years of the Bank's existence, this dimension has gradually taken a clearer, more structured form. Each group as it is being formed is introduced to a social programme called "Sixteen Decisions", 16 statements which stress, along with the importance of discipline, hard work and group solidarity, a code of conduct designed to improve their living conditions and those of their community. Members are urged to grow vegetables and fruit in home gardens, to use latrines and safe drinking water, to keep their houses clean and to invest in home improvements, to keep their families small and healthy, to refuse to give or receive marriage dowries for their children and to send their children - all of them, not just the boys -- to school. Although members are not technically required to follow this code to be eligible for loans, in practice most of the bank workers expect everyone to make a serious effort to observe them. It was with support of her group, and the influence they were beginning to exert on other villagers, for example, that made it possible to Momena to dispense with the dowry (which customarily runs between Tk 2 000 and 7 000) she would normally have had to pay to her future son-in-law's family.

Tangible results. But it is the credit which the women receive which has made the most direct and tangible change in their lives. Sometimes loans, wisely used, not only improve a family's standard of living but can also create an effective husband-and-wife partnership. For instance, Shankari and her husband Bharendra are both weavers, and together with a hired assistant they produce between 20 and 25 saris a week which Bharendra sells at the local market. They own a four-room hut and eat three meals a day. Their son and daughter are attending school. However, six years ago their lives were quite different. Each worked as a day labourer: Bharendra with a village blacksmith, Shankari helping weavers prepare their yarns. She earned from three to five taka a day, he not much more. They could afford only two slim meals a day, frequently only one. In 1980, the husband joined the Grameen Bank and took out a Tk 1 000 loan which he invested in tools to start up his own blacksmith shop. A year later, Shankari also joined and used her first loan of Tk 1 500 to buy equipment for preparing yarn in her own home. Even after paying her weekly loan instalments, she was earning more than twice what she had as a day labourer. Although Bharendra's blacksmith venture was earning him income, they decided to joint forces and with gradually larger and larger loans bought three looms costing Tk 3 500 each, built a separate room to house them and hired a helper to run the third loom.0

Nesatun Begum is another example. The mother of three children, her husband and son worked in the home of rich peasants until she joined the Bank in 1981. She started a business of buying and selling rice and flour with a Tk 2 000 loan. Now her husband and son buy the rice and flour from the market (and engage in casual day labour), while she sells the goods to neighbours from her home. Within a year, she had paid off the loan and made a Tk 5 000 net profit which she saved; she has invested subsequent loans in expanding her trade. The family now eats more regularly and better, and has visibly increased its assets: two rooms added to the one-room thatched hut, more hens and ducks, a cow, and a small but growing savings account.

The bulk of the Bank credit goes to such individual enterprises (96 per cent in 1986), but since 1982, when collective loans were first allowed, some loans have been given for joint ventures, most of them to men and over half to improve irrigation for crop production. But some women's groups - or even sometimes an entire Centre - have taken funds to start such activities as paddy husking, weaving, and pottery making. In 1985, just under 4 per cent of all loans to women were for collective efforts. Although some have been reasonably successful, a number have encountered problems of organization, fair sharing of work and profits, and timely loan repayment.

Much more is needed. A recent survey of the impact of the Grameen Bank indicates that by all measures - incidence of gainful employment, level of income, accumulation of working capital, level of indebtedness to local moneylenders and general standard of living - women who have taken out loans are, in general, significantly better off than those who have not.1 None have become wealthy or even, by most standards, comfortably secure, but the number living in absolute poverty has been notably reduced. In the villages surveyed, approximately a third of the Grameen Bank members had incomes which compelled them to live in extreme poverty, against almost twice that number among those who were not members.

The Grameen Bank has shown that rural credit can be effectively delivered to women and can help them make a meaningful improvement in their economic and social conditions. Although it is not a panacea for all the ills of poverty and despair, it can supply a means for women to become more self-reliant and self-confident, better able to provide for themselves and their families, better prepared to take an active hand in shaping their future. But it should be remembered that, for all its innovative approaches and rapid expansion, the Grameen Bank is able to serve only a tiny handful of all the country's women. Tens of millions still face the dark prospect of a life described with stark eloquence by one woman in the Rangpur district: "Today there is no food, no clothes. Because of the lack of things, women have lost their value. We have no worth left. What we need, we cannot have. What we want, we cannot get. There is nothing for us to live for."

Alpaca, a symbol and a source of hope in the andes

by Pino Cimo

According to an old legend handed down from generation to generation of shepherds on the Peruvian Altiplano, the alpaca came to the world from the streams, ponds, and springs of water, and will go back again if humans mistreat it. The day when the flocks of alpaca begin to diminish will be the beginning of the end of the world.

The legend's symbolism and beauty reveal the great importance that the people of the Andean countries - Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia - have always given to the existence and rearing of the alpaca, the most widely found members of the camel family found on the American continent.

For millennia the immense and desolate Altiplano which extends, at 3 000 to 5 000 metres above sea level, form the north of Ecuador past Lake Titicaca to the border of Peru with Bolivia in the south and has been the natural habitat of the alpaca. And today, as yesterday, the alpaca is the domestic animal without which the people of that hostile environment could not survive.

For Andean shepherds the alpaca is a source of milk, meat, leather, and bone for making shoes, musical instruments, and a variety of utensils, and - most important - it supplies a fine fibre from which they can manufacture clothing and blankets to protect themselves against the harsh temperatures (as low as 15 degrees below zero centigrade), frosts, hail, cruel winds, and drenching rains. They use even the dried dung as fuel for stoves and ovens in the particularly cold periods of the year, when it is more difficult to find firewood. The fleece of the alpaca has always been a valuable medium of exchange with which to procure foods and tools needed for everyday life.

The other three lamoids (see box), the llama, the vicuna, and the guanaco, which are relatives of the alpaca, have always been less important to the inhabitants of the Altiplano. The construction of roads and massive introduction of transport into the Altiplano have robbed the llama of its role as unique beast of burden, as it once was for the pre-Columbian civilizations, the Incas, and even the conquistadors. Unlike the llama and alpaca, the vicuna and guanaco are wild animals, and the utilization of their valuable hair and meat has never been particularly easy for the people of the Altiplano. In any case, the numbers of the two lamoids has been drastically reduced and today only a few tens of thousands of animals remain.

A source of income too. About the middle of the nineteenth century, the British, Italian, and Japanese textile industries discovered the softness, exceptional insulation value, resistance, and extraordinary richness of natural hues of the alpaca fibre and decided to cash in. Since then, the alpaca fleece sold on market days or at seasonal fairs has always been a precious, if modest, source of income for the Andean shepherds (see box).

Recently even the meat of the alpaca has acquired a commercial value in many parts of the Altiplano, an example being the region of Arequipa, in southern Peru, where the authorities now permit it to be butchered. Its sale used to be severely prohibited, as it was considered a carrier of disease, but now alpaca meat, especially the dried varieties, has assumed a place in the diet of the population of the Andean cities, to the benefit of shepherds forced to kill animals that are no longer good producers of fibre.

The alpaca rearers of the Andes are rediscovering that this funny animal with the thick coat, the typical long erect neck of the South American Camelidae, and the wary and frightened look is of irreplaceable value bath for the present and for the future of their children and of their communities. Today the alpaca offers more than just survival; it offers a first step out of poverty, under development, and extreme marginalization.

The Andean shepherds have not been the only ones to rediscover the alpaca. Over the last 20 years Ecuadoran, Peruvian, and Bolivian authorities, textile merchants and industrialists, and scholars and researchers have acquired new notions of the value and irreplaceability of the lamoid in bath economic and animal-breeding terms.

The alpaca was disparaged by both conquistadors and colonists, who did not eat the meat or value the fibre, and favoured the llama, which they needed for the transport of gold and silver. After independence the alpaca was neglected and given only token protection, and replacement of it by sheep and other European ovines was actually encouraged. Nevertheless, the alpaca has always been considered the domestic animal of greatest value and of most consistent economic potential of the Altiplano and the territory of the three countries - especially when the price of the fibre on the international markets rose spectacularly.

Censuses taken hastily and some what unreliably in the euphoria of the rediscovery, have shown a rise of the total of the alpaca population on the Andean Altiplano to over 4 million (of which 3 million in Peru, 800 000 in Bolivia, the remainder in Ecuador, Argentina, and Chile). Some breeders would hazard that the alpaca population could double or triple in only a few years, if sanitary conditions were improved; if the animal were assured a richer and more suitable diet; and if female alpaca received better assistance during the long gestation period (11.5 months) and during and after delivery to reduce the very high rate of neonatal mortality (50-60 per cent).

Peruvian merchants and textile industrialists have predicted that their country, uncontested top producer of alpaca fibre, could realize fabulous earnings on the order of tens and tens of millions of dollars. In order to reach these ambitious goals, it would be enough, they say, for the small and large rearers to increase the production (well beyond 2 000-2 500 tons a year) and improve the quality of the fibre offered for sale. To prevent the earnings of the textile industry from going abroad, the safest solution - according to Peruvian businessmen - was to take the working and marketing of the fibre away from the big European and US companies, which had formed a sort of monopoly, and give it to Peruvian managers, who would be more sensitive to the interests of the country and of the rearers of the Altiplano.

Some bitter surprises. But the rediscovery of the value and potential of the alpaca has held some bitter surprises both for the shepherds of the Altiplano and for governments, businessmen, technicians and university researchers who have placed great hopes on the future of mass rearing.

The shepherds realized very quickly that the compensation obtained for their fleeces from the fibre merchants - whether alcanzadores, who collected from house to house in individual communities; rescatistas, owners of warehouses in towns; or agentes, representatives of the big companies that buy raw materials - was, at $2-3 per kilo of unwashed fibre, much lower than it could and should have been if they had offered a higher-quality, more select product and if they had greater negotiating power. But the conditions were impossible. They were not technically able to produce a higherquality fibre; they had no idea of the price they could have obtained on the basis of the international market; and finally, very often the middleman was also their creditor.

The authorities, experts, and economists, for their part, have quickly grasped that the real situation - with respect to both the integrity of the alpaca wealth and its promised growth and the possibility of increasing and improving production of the alpaca fibre - was far less rosy than that which the quick censuses, guesstimates, and facile plans for massive interventions to change the techniques of selection and rearing had made them think.

According to a 1977 projection based on data then available, the total population of alpaca in Peru, which was then 3 020 240, should have risen in 1980 to 3 127 940. In actual fact, the statistics published at the time by the Ministry of Agriculture reported 2 385 350, with a decrease of 21 per cent. Production of fibre, which according to the same 1977 projection, should have been 3 348 tons, in reality in 1980 did not exceed 2 456.

The prospect of a more or less rigid increase in the alpaca wealth of the country, of an improvement in the animal's physical characteristics (size, strength, resistance) and of its productive capacity (quantity and quality of fibre) is reduced by the weakening of the breed, by the reduction and by the impoverishment of the pastures at its disposition, and by the crude and antiquated rearing techniques used by the greater part of the Altiplano shepherds.

Huscayo and sun. There are two alpaca subspecies. The huacayo, which is the sturdier and more robust, has a wavy or crimped fibre; the suri, which is more slender and delicate, has straight or widely waved hair. The suri seems to have suffered the more over recent centuries, for the lack of an adequate diet and for being forced to live in the highest and poorest sections of the Altiplano with their harsh temperatures and violent winds.

The suri's fragile constitution is one of the principal reasons for the very high mortality rate registered by the alpaca and against which, till now, top health experts have found no remedy. More than half of alpacas die before or during birth or, more often, a few days after.

The distribution of the flocks of alpaca in the various zones of the Altiplano seems capricious: that is, it corresponds neither to the exigencies of welfare or survival of the species nor to any sort of planned breeding. In Peru, for example, more than 1.1 million alpaca, or about 60 per cent of the total, are concentrated in the southern department of Puno, near the waters of Lake Titicaca and the Bolivian border. Here in the famous "Puna" region, largely flat and constantly whipped by freezing winds, the sun scorches during the day and frost falls at night. The cold, hard ground crunches like glass under foot, softening only where little streams of water form ponds and mini-swamps: the famous "bofedales" where the alpaca and other lamoids seek the short, sharp grass on which they like to feed.

The rest of Peru's alpaca population is distributed in the regions adjacent to the Puna - Arequipa, Cusco,Ayacucho, Huancavelica, and Apurimac or dispersed, in minimal numbers, in the north-central zones of the country, which, some think, would actually constitute an ideal habitat thanks to the abundance of natural pasture and milder climate.

Against all logic, then, a high presence of sheep, goats, horses, and bovines of European import is found in the same zones as a high concentration of alpaca. The consequence is all too obvious: overpopulation and scarcity of forage both for lamoids and for the imported species. In addition, the invasion by sheep and goats of the lamoids' traditional habitat causes deterioration of pasture: the ovines tend to uproot the tufts of grass when they are very hard and short, while the alpaca, llama, guanaco, and vicuna have specially developed canines that cut the grass practically to the soil level. The ovines' hooves cause damage to the alpacas' pasture. While the lamoids tread lightly on the Puna, the heavier footfall of sheep and goats leaves deep prints and erodes the ground where grass should grow.

Only a forced massive transfer-well-nigh impossible-of hundreds of thousands of alpaca, with their shepherds, to the north-central Peruvian Altiplano - might permit better distribution of the alpacas on the Altiplano for more abundant and suitable pasture. The less drastic, but slower, solution is already being tried in the northern department of Ancash - a gradual transplant of the animals in the new type of habitat to achieve a progressive and not traumatic acclimatization.

Within individual zones with high concentrations of alpaca, the alpaca is found on the small holdings of the Puna shepherd, a classic figure who owns a few dozen animals and usually some sheep or cattle as well; or on the farms of medium-scale rearers with a few hundred animals; or on one of the big cooperatives (SAIS or EPS) introduced with the agrarian reform of Valasco Alvarado at the end of the 1960s, with several thousand animals and hundreds of hectares of pasture land. Medium sized farms usually have sufficient land, but the small rearer can count only on very scarce pasture land which is almost always insufficient to feed the lamoid.

The non-functional, not to mention unjust, distribution of the land within individual zones with high concentrations of alpaca constitutes a severe handicap to the harmonious and balanced development of lamoid rearing in the Peruvian Altiplano, as well as on the highlands of Ecuador and Bolivia.

Antiquated techniques. An equally serious handicap for the future of the alpaca in the Andean Altiplano is the truly antiquated techniques used by the small rearers, the true Puna shepherds. Very poor, obliged to live almost always in mud huts perched on the top of a hill or on steep mountainsides from which they can watch the movements of the flocks in the valley below, the shepherds of the Puna have neither adequate means nor the knowledge to rear alpacas according to those criteria of selection - type, color of coat, and other characteristics - that guarantee a production of fibre and meat of superior quantity and quality. Their flocks live in conditions of practically non-existent hygiene and are thus exposed to all the possible diseases. The "sarna", an infection that brings fever, weakness, and fits of vomiting, periodically slaughters the flocks. Even shearing - the most important and delicate operation for obtaining an attractive fleece all in one piece - is done on the bare, dirty ground with primitive equipment, sometimes even with sharp pieces of glass instead of shears. The coexistence in the flock of alpaca and llama, in addition to ovines and bovines, results in continual bastardization of the species and renders impossible the production of pure fibre and meat.

The road to obtaining, in a short time, an increase in the number and quality of alpaca and a consequent jump in the amount and in the genuineness of the product - meat and fibre - appears all uphill. But it is possible, as demonstrated by the successes obtained by medium-sized rearers and cooperatives in the selection of animals and in the clear improvement of quality of fibre and meat obtained. Julio Barreda, a rearer of Macusani, in the department of Puno, owner of more than a thousand head of alpaca, has no difficulty selling at the price of $4 000-5 000 some magnificent specimens of "breeders" which he selected carefully and reared. The Cerro Grande cooperative, also in the department of Puno, has obtained for the fibre produced by his selected alpacas a price triple (nearly $10/kg) that normally paid by alcanzadores, rescatistas, and agentes of the big companies for shepherds' fleeces.

A positive sign in the same direction is supplied by the partial success achieved by the state agency Alpaca Peru which has been entrusted to be the buying agent (at fair prices, and in any case higher that those offered by local operators) of the fibre produced by the shepherds of the Altiplano and to offer technical and health assistance to all the small rearers. Spurred by the prospect of more consistent and guaranteed earnings, the shepherds have begun to stop soiling the fleeces with sand and urine to make them weigh more. Thus it has been possible to halt the systematic and absurd deterioration of the fibre by shepherds who were unable to give a fleece a value other than that of weight.

The stakes are too high for the problem to be shelved just because it is too difficult to deal with. A wealth of more than 3 million alpacas cannot be valued, especially since the Altiplano is the only part of the world where the animals are able to live and reproduce (attempts made so far to transplant the animal in Australia or the United States have been without result), and South America is the only producer of the precious fibre. In fact almost 100 per cent of the approximately 3 000 tons of fibre produced in the world come from the Peruvian factories of Arequipa, Lima, and Tana.

It is a question moreover of a genetic heritage with a theoretically unlimited potential for growth in quantity and quality. If the mortality rate is lowered and husbandry techniques are improved, the population of the lamoid in the whole Andean Altiplano could '´explode". There have already been moments - for example at the end of the 1940s - when production of fibre has been at the top of the list of foreign exchange earners for Peru.

Finally, we should not forget that alpaca rearing affects about a fifth of the population of Peru, or 4 million people, and large groups of people in the other Andean countries as well, and that the only way to make use of vast stretches of the Andean Altiplano is to use it as pasture land, especially for lamoids. Almost half the territory of Peru could usefully be invaded by flocks of alpaca: it would then no longer be an arid wasteland, a land cursed by God.

Equines pull their weight

by Denis Fielding

Most of the world's domestic equines - that is to say, horses, mules, and donkeys - are now to be found in developing countries, but equines are making a significant contribution to agricultural development in the majority of countries new regarded as developed as well. How many of them are there, and where? And is enough being done to exploit their potential in developing countries?

It can be assumed that the majority of mules and donkeys in the developing world are working animals involved in agriculture and/or rural transport. Many horses are used in military activities, racing, and other sports, so a lower proportion shows up in agricultural uses. The proportion of the different equines actually working effectively is not known, and equine statistics should be interpreted with caution, as, where numbers are low, present statistics are often based on estimates and extrapolations.

With this limitation in mind, let us look at Table 2, which shows the top 12 countries for horses, mules, and donkeys in the developing world and the entire world. The figures for mules and donkeys are the same for the developing and the entire world.

The countries that appear in all of the first three columns of Table 2 are China, Mexico, Brazil, Ethiopia, Turkey, and India. It is therefore in these countries that any investigation, extension, and promotion of equines for development purposes will have greatest impact.

The literature on equine development in developing countries is limited. For the most part it consists of breeding and veterinary work with horses. Donkeys have received virtually no attention despite the fact that in both Asia and Africa they are the most numerous species. Mules, which contributed so much to the development of American agriculture, have likewise received little or no attention in developing countries.

Any review of the data on equines shows that their numbers are rapidly decreasing. Does that mean that the introduction of mechanical power will be the end of the development of their use? In many areas and countries the answer to this question is presumably yes. But in remote rural areas equine power could have a continuing and perhaps even expanding role.

Equines in developed countries. It may be valuable to look briefly at the evolution of equine use in developed countries to see if there might be any lessons for developing countries. As in many developing countries at present, oxen were widely used in developed countries until they were replaced by horses.

The heavy horses that powered the European agricultural revolution had their origins in the war horses of the Middle Ages which were bred to carry heavily armoured soldiers into battle. This type of horse does not exist in developing countries although there is comparable widespread military use of horses for personnel transport in, for example, Mexico, Pakistan, and India.

In Europe, the ox had certain advantages over the horse. It was cheap and easy to feed. It was easy to train and its harness was cheap. It was less likely to be troubled by disease or physical problems, such as lameness. It had a steadier pull and was less likely to give up. Its meat is widely acceptable. The horse, for its part, offered the advantage that it was a faster and a more flexible source of power for the variety of transport and agricultural needs of the time.

Given the simultaneous development of lighter and more efficient equipment, the factors of speed and flexibility appear to have been sufficient in the then developing world to lead to the replacement of oxen by horses. Also at the same time there was growing interest in the specialization of cattle breeds for milk or beef and away from their traditional multipurpose role.

It could be argued that the same circumstances are increasingly found in many developing countries of today. Certainly specialized milk cattle breeds are increasing, and there is obviously a need for a low-cost flexible power source for both agricultural and transport purposes. In addition, equines have the general advantages of all draught animals they offer independence from foreign exchange requirements, they are self-perpetuating and employment-generating, unlike tractors. Perhaps of greater importance for the long term is that draught animals do not damage soil structure in the way that tractors do.

But there are some obvious reasons why equines are unlikely to have any great impact on the development of agriculture in many developing countries. These include their often very low numbers, susceptibility to disease and physical problems (in the case of horses), and the low socio-economic status associated with donkeys and mules.

However, there must be many situations in which equines could play a larger role, especially since donkeys and mules are so well suited to the tropical climate. Given these animals' past contribution to the development of agriculture in many countries, it would appear that there is a potentially valuable resource in many developing countries that is not getting the attention it deserves.

Wood gets the high-tech treatment

by Susan Riddle

Most people, unless manufacturers or carpenters by trade, could be forgiven for thinking that wood products have changed little over the years, or that, say, hardboard or plywood is made the same as it was twenty years ago. They would be surprised to discover that new uses for wood products are constantly being found even in an age abounding in steel, aluminium, and plastics. Wood-based panels can be produced in an almost unlimited variety of qualities, shapes, and sizes thanks to new processing improvements.

In fact, some solid wood products are becoming a thing of the past as science and technology continue to come up with new ways of fully exploiting wood as a means of extending the forest resource.

Many small-diameter logs of poor quality that used to be considered uneconomical to collect and were simply left to rot, can now be peeled for veneer thanks to sophisticated engineering designs and low-cost computerized systems. In the United States a newly developed spindleless lathe can peel these logs down to a core of just 50 mm. This means considerable savings and better utilization of wood for a country whose annual production of wood equals the total tonnage of plastics, cement, steel, and all other minerals combined.

Now that researchers are creating wood-based panels with improved durability, weatherability, increased mechanical properties, and reduction of creep under load, the construction industry can reduce its dependence on solid wood without reducing quality. John Youngquist of the Forest Products Laboratory of the US Department of Agriculture in Madison, Wisconsin, speaking about future potential uses for new products says, "We are likely to see more structural components made from wood composites: shaped structural sections; and thick composite products for windows and door components. New chemical treatments will make these products very resistant to decay, insect attack, and damage by fire. One great advantage of all these products is that they can be made in long, thick sections that have very uniform properties. The continuous production of many of these is now in the pilot stage and will soon be in full production."

It is not surprising therefore that world production of wood-based panels is expected to expand from a current 109 million m3 to more than 167 million m3 by the year 2 000 at an average growth of 3 per cent a year. Developing countries and centrally planned economies together will contribute half of that increase. From only 42 million m3 in 1965, total world production had already doubled by 1985, the developing market economies raising their output from 2.3 million m3 to 16.5 million m3. Indonesia alone expanded from less than 4 000 m3 to an incredible 4 million m3, becoming the country with the largest annual volume of exports of wood-based panels.

Veneer. The relationship of veneer to other raw materials composed of particle and fibre can be seen in the figure on page 45. Whereas fibres and particles are used to make wood composites, veneer is peeled directly from the log to a thickness of approximately 1.5 mm to be used for plywood or bonded sheets. New lathe systems allow logs to be stabilized during peeling to prevent "spin-out", and peeled to a lower diameter core of only 50 mm. First, however, the species to be used must be studied carefully to avoid peeling low-quality veneer from near the centre of the tree.

Laminated Veneer Lumber- a new technology. Rising costs and shortages of high-grade solid-sawn lumber for parallel-chord trusses and scaffolding planks inspired the development of Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) in the early 1980s. The processes and uses of this relative newcomer are still evolving. Thanks to great savings in weight and material on fabricated components, LVL is opening up new markets. Its consistency of mechanical and dimensional properties and the absence of defects which reduce strength make it an ideal product for light trusses and I-section beams for joints and rafters in light-frame construction. Other uses for this versatile product are: truck-decking, box beams, and door rails. LVL's success in scaffolding is due to its uniformity of properties and resistance to splitting. The industry new uses veneers 3.2 mm-2.5 mm in thickness, which are hot-pressed with phenol-formaldehyde adhesive into lengths from 2.4 m to 18 m or more. Joints between individual veneers are staggered along the LVL to avoid gross strength-reducing defects.

Plywood. With 3000 years of history behind it, plywood still interests researchers. Plywood shows more resistance to splitting than solid wood where large sheet applications are required and veneer can be peeled thinner to utilize as much of the wood as possible. These features make plywood very attractive to an industry concerned with reducing both its costs and its dependency on solid wood.

Plywood is made of veneer sheets bonded together, in the direction of the grain, in alternate plies generally at right angles. For certain types of board, one or more pairs of veneers may be laid with the grain parallel; the veneer sheets are usually placed symmetrically on both sides of a central ply or core which may or may not be veneer. This is called veneer plywood. Core plywood (so called because it has a core or central layer thicker than other plies) is solid and consists of narrow planks, blocks, or strips of wood placed side by side and often glued together. Blackboard, laminboard, and battenboard are all variations of core plywood. Other types of plywood include cellular beard, with a core of cellular construction, and composite plywood, for which core materials other than solid wood or veneers are used. Plywood can be flatpressed or moulded.

For construction and industrial application, softwoods such as Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga mensiesii) or pine (Pinus radiata or Pinus taeda) provide the needed characteristics where strength is of principal importance. But where appearance is more important than strength (for furniture or wall panels) different species of hardwoods are used.

The ancient craft of plywood production has recently been updated to cope with the need for improved softwood plywood products destined for the construction industry. Ultrasonic veneer block scanning, computerized X-Y peeler block chargers, powered back-up rolls, powered nose bars, and linear-positioned lathe knife carriages are just a few new technological innovations which enhance the efficiency of lathe systems. A further breakthrough has been the development of phenolic glues to cope with veneers with a moisture content as high as 20 per cent (the result of steam applications to soften the veneer). These glues give a better panel yield which permits enormous savings in production costs. For hardwood plywood panels, it has been necessary to change the composition of the traditional urea-formaldehyde resin to reduce formaldehyde emission meet recent standards. Replacing 5-20 per cent of the resin with polyvinyl acetate has eliminated problems arising from the change of property of the resin.

Blockboard - an old technology. Statisticians rarely appreciate the virtues of blockboard at the macro-economic planning level and often even ignore its existence and simply lump it in with plywood. But it costs a lot less than all-veneer plywood. And it offers a way to utilize poor wood resources. Thus it could be very interesting for developing countries. Blockboard can be produced relatively simply without enormous investments in production technology using the existing machinery of the plywood mill.

Sawlog and peeler-log waste are ideal for making blockboard cores. Indeed, the absence of board splitting or warping, and its large continuous surface, make blockboard a keen competitor of particle board in some countries. Interestingly enough, because blockboard is smoother on tools than is particle board, many carpenters and craftsmen find it easier to work with, but, perhaps as the result of a growing interest in particle board, its popularity in the developed world declined and it was relegated to the status of a minor product where it has remained ever since.

Particle-based panel materials. Particle board was invented in the 1950s as a way to make use of wood-waste and mill-waste. Many other new composition materials followed, all tailor-made to suit a wide variety purposes according to the properties acquired during processing. Since then, the development of new particle-generating machines, has resulted in better edge-profiling using smaller particles.

Other subgroups in the wood-base particles class were also introduced on the market. These were waferboard, oriented waferboard, oriented strandboard, and cement board.

Particle board as core stock for furniture and cabinet application or as floor underlay in light-frame construction ensures a smooth hard surface to which a finish of veneer, highdensity plastic, or ultraviolet-cured vinyl (in applications of 0.038 mm ultraviolet-cured vinyl, fine particles are applied to the surface to reduce show-through) may be applied.

Developed to utilize small-diameter logs, the waferboard and oriented strandboard have these advantages: lower wood costs; the possibility of producing large-size panels for mobile homes and prefabricated housing; and savings on labour costs because of high-automation of production lines. Now, in Canada and the United States, formaldehyde-free isocyanate-bonded waferboard for waferboard siding (house side-walls) is available which can be overlayed with an embossed resin-impregnated paper and its edges coated to prevent water absorption from rain. One disadvantage of these products, however, is that they require half again as much wood by weight as plywood does to produce the same usable volume or surface area of panel.

Cement board products have shown to be particularly suitable for buildings exposed to tropical and subtropical climates because they are resistant to fire, decay, and insect attack. This will be a big boon for Mexico, which, according to Gilberto Rosas-Solarzano of the Guadiana Group that produces prefabricated housing, will need 11 million dwellings by the year 2000.

Fibre-based panels. While developing countries and centrally planned economies are increasing production of fibreboard, the developed economies are curtailing theirs. This has led to a stagnation in world production over the last ten years. Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) can cope with a wide variety of tree species and readily available raw materials such as pulp chips, planer shavings, plywood trim, and sawdust. MDF is in fact beginning to replace particle board, solid wood, and plywood in some furniture applications because of its smooth surface which facilitates overlaying, routing, and moulding, and because its tight edges need not be edge-banded. Because of its versatility, manufacture of MDF is expected to expand significantly during the next decade.

The familiar product hardboard is now produced by wet or dry process using different types of adhesives depending on the process and intended use. Moulded hardboard siding and an embossed tile board - where the tile lines are embossed rather than cut - are the latest developments in wet-process hardboard production. Because insulation board serves a relatively constant market, no significant production innovations have been introduced in the past few years apart from tile-type panels commonly called "lay-in ceiling panels" that are currently being produced to be used in suspended ceiling systems. Unfortunately, insulation board has seen keen competition from insulating foam plastics and mineral fibres with dire consequences to the market.

Wood waste. The introduction of standards to curb formaldehyde emissions in boards destined for furniture, mobile homes, and prefabricated housing forced some centrally developed and developing countries to restructure their adhesive systems or else lose valuable trade. To reduce their dependency on expensive chemicals and oil, they found that considerable savings could be made by making more efficient use of wood waste.

Of economic importance are the condensable tannin resins "polyphenols" extracted from the bark of pine and mimosa and from the wood of quebracho, as well as tannin formaldehyde (tf) resin extracted from wattle, chestnut, spruce, larch, and pine. These resins offer good blending, fast curing, low formaldehyde emission, and low cost. And they do not pollute water either.

Developing countries that wish to reduce their adhesive and energy costs must reduce their dependency on chemicals and oil. But for those industrialized countries such as Canada and the United States which are already using oil and natural gas for their production and energy needs, waste disposal has become a problem. Accumulation of waste may occur particularly when the amounts are not sufficient to make panel production profitable given that existing large-scale machinery costs a lot of money. Additionally, big-machine manufacturers may not be willing to produce smaller and economically viable machinery to suit small-scale production. Mr W. Caine, president of the Commonwealth Plywood Co. Ltd. of Quebec, says, "We are looking for a type of extruding machine that could take wood waste, such as sawdust, and glue it into narrow boards for moulding, which could then be wrapped with thin veneers, vinyls or other products. At present it means investing $50 million to make a 5 foot by 8 foot (1.52 cm x 2.43 cm) or larger panel that is then ripped into narrow strips and moulded."

But could it be possible to exploit waste without having to make enormous investments in expensive machinery? The question of waste disposal is a complex one and is influenced by economic constraints and problems related to transportation both in industrialized and developing countries. Some developing countries may find a small solution in attaching a local industry to an already existing plymill. John Youngquist says, "The allocation of raw materials within a given wood panel manufacturing facility is one of economics. Residues not used to produce composite wood products could, for example, be used to produce compressed fuelwood blocks. Poland already produces fuel briquettes from bark mixed with wax."

Perhaps science and technology will come up with some answers on how further to utilize wood waste as the search continues for new ways of fully exploiting wood as a means of extending the forest resource.

The problem of guaranteeing food supplies in Bolivia

Ansis integral de la estructura y funcionamiento del sistema agroalimentario en Bolivia (Integral study of the structure and functioning of Bolivia's food and agricultural system), by Jorge Dandler H., Joslanes J., Julio Prudencio B., Jorge A. Munoz, La Paz, Ediciones Ceres, 1987, 185 pp.

"Bolivia is a country with abundant natural and human resources which form a productive base capable of providing sufficient food for the whole population."

This is the starting point for a wide and exhaustive study carried out by a group of researchers from the La Paz-based Centre for Studies on Economic and Social Realities (CERES) on the structure and functioning of Bolivia's food-producing sector.

The claim is a daring one, especially in the light of the widely held idea of Bolivia as a country battling with the serious problems of malnutrition and insufficient foodstuffs, affecting a large part of the population.

The authors of the report are certain, however, that "the main problems of Bolivia's food-producing system do not stem entirely from low production, but can be blamed on the lack of suitable storage and selling facilities to ensure sufficient basic foodstuffs of a quality and at prices which correspond to the demands of the people."

The shortfalls in production of such vital foodstuffs as wheat, milk, and edible oils can be rectified either by stimulating domestic production or by encouraging the population to use traditional Andean cereal crops, the nutritional value of which is the same or even higher. This is considered preferable to stepping up imports and accepting gifts from other nations and international organizations.

The authors' claim that Bolivia is intrinsically capable of producing wheat and, therefore, of solving the problem of guaranteeing foodstuffs is based on an analysis of Bolivia's food-producing sector in this book (chapters 1-4) and in an earlier series of studies carried out for the CERES institute under the direction of Julio Prudencio.

The most important of these are "Produccigropecuaria y abastecimiento en Bolivia" (Agricultural production and food supply in Bolivia) by Julio Prudencio, 1981; "La situacilimentaria en Bolivia" (Bolivia's food situation) by the same author, 1984; and "Crisis de abastecimiento y estrategias de resistencia en Bolivia - El caso de La Paz" (Crisis in supply and strategies for action in Bolivia: the case of La Paz) by Monica Velasco L.

The year that the Nationalist Revolution began, 1952, is taken as the point of reference in all these works since it is considered to be the most important point in the development of modern-day Bolivia's food production system. It was then that the Government first faced the issue of self-sufficiency and began to leak for a solution.

The new democratic administration had three main aims. First, it wanted to put an end to the existing policy of importing huge quantities of foodstuffs, and to boost domestic agricultural production on the Altiplano, along the valleys of the southwest, and in the eastern "new frontier" area of the Santa Cruz and Beni regions. Second, it wanted to set up new large-scale farming ventures involving livestock, cotton, soya, and sugar-cane production. And third, it wanted to encourage development of the food industry.

These aims were sound, and, according to the authors, should not have been impossible to achieve. But not one was realized and today Bolivia's food situation is no better than it was 35 years ago and may even be worse.

Imports of foodstuffs such as wheat, milk, vegetable oil, and rice fell for a short period during the first years of the revolution, only to rise to their former levels, then skyrocket in the 1960s and '70s, and especially during the military regimes.

Similarly, new large-scale stock raising and intensive farming projects got off the ground in the east with some degree of success. However, much of the produce soon began to be exported, bath legally and illegally, and did not help to swell the domestic market as it should have done. The food industry never managed to shake itself free of its dependence on other countries for machinery and raw materials.

Peasants' role misunderstood. Moreover, the CERES researchers say, the Government made the serious mistake of not understanding the important, indeed essential, role which Bolivia's peasant community has always played in producing and trading in key foodstuffs for the rural and urban population.

The authors of the CERES report agree with United States researchers Wennergren and Whitaker, who maintain that the peasant sector not only feeds itself, it also provides a large percentage of the produce needed to feed the urban population and assert that the Bolivian peasant sector may be considered the first and most important link in the country's food-producing chain.

The failure to fulfil the aims established by post-revolutionary governments during the 1950s and '60s, and the lack of attention paid to the important role of the peasant sector, rendered the Bolivian food-production system highly vulnerable to foreign penetration, especially by such major exporters as the USA, the European nations, and Argentina.

Prudencio and his colleagues make a close study of import policy and the willingness of successive Bolivian governments to accept food aid from other nations and international organizations, as well as the consequences of this on the eating habits of the population and on Bolivia's food-producing system itself.

The Bolivian peasant farmer ends up by concentrating on the production of one or two more saleable goods in order to afford imported foodstuffs such as flour, vegetable oils, sugar, and biscuits. He is then obliged to do without foods with high protein and vitamin levels, such as eggs, meat, chicken, and Andean cereals, in order to buy less nutritious foods, such as flour and, even worse, biscuits.

As time passes, changing eating habits are resulting in an alarming increase in that large part of the population which suffers from insufficient food (under-feeding) and malnutrition.

Having analyzed the various and mainly unsuccessful measures adopted by governments to stimulate increased output in the national food-producing system (price controls, agricultural credits, subsidies, currency controls, tariff restrictions, investment in farming, creation of institutes to ensure a supply of basic food needs), the authors sketch an ambitious project for an alternative food-producing system, in which the peasant sector plays the fundamental role which it has performed with almost complete success throughout the history of the country.

Pino Cimo

Understanding the labour market in Kenya

Paul Collier and Deepak Lal, Labour and Poverty in Kenya 1900-1980, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1986, 296 pp., £27.50.

This book is part of a series of case studies on labour markets in developing countries. It supplies an enormous amount of historical and economic information on the labour market in Kenya, and at the same time applies a methodology to labour market analysis in developing countries with the aim of testing the neoclassical approach.

The first three chapters are on the historical development of the labour market in Kenya, which the authors divide into three different periods: coercion (1800-1948), compassion (1948- 1968), and competition (1968-1980).

During the coercion period Kenyan society was stratified along racial lines. The whites monopolized the export of agricultural commodities and the most important posts in the administration: the Asians were employed in the internal commerce and secondary roles in administration; and the Africans served as the unskilled labour both urban and rural.

The compassion period was characterized by the recognition of trade unions and the introduction of minimum wage laws and a protective labour code. In other words, the labour market was brought under institutional control, and a deliberate wage policy to modify income distribution was implemented.

The most recent period, competition, occurred during a period of rapid but uneven economic growth. Institutional control over the labour market was not abandoned, but the formal apparatus of regulation "gradually became a validation of market forces rather than a constraint upon them".

The historical background outlined, it is argued, not only allows a comparison to be made between different periods (i.e., comparative statistics), but also accounts for the dynamic forces relating one period to another. As followers of Sir John Hicks in methodology, the authors declare that their interest in economic history is confined to its implications for economic analysis.

The model presented starts from two assumptions about the "vital" processes for the development of Kenya. According to the authors, development is, first, connected to the efficient growth of smallholder agriculture, linked to investment and innovation rates. Second, it is connected to the efficient skill formation of the urban labour force. However, these two processes have been "attenuated" because of the wage policy implemented during the compassionate period. Wage policy has increased the urban-rural differentials, creating two main effects. While it has somewhat distorted urban wage structures, especially by reducing seniority premiums, it has also increased rural-urban migration.

While other studies on the Kenya labour market stress that this migration process involved an increase of urban poverty and unemployment, the authors underline that its main effect was to provide rural smallholders with the financial means to undertake the development process. Urban workers, thanks to the income shares they obtained because of the wage policy applied, were able to provide the resources for financing rural innovation, in the majority of cases on a family linkage basis. The flows of financial resources from urban workers to rural smallholders allowed innovation and investment in agriculture to take place.

In the latest period, the competitive rural-urban wage differentials were reduced. The returns from education fell, increasing the overall number of unskilled employees. However, the reduction in urban-rural wage differentials had a beneficial effect on skill formation at the firm level. While in the previous period the inter-urban wage differentials between senior and junior workers narrowed, reducing the incentive to acquire firm-specific skills, the reduction in wages for the urban unskilled workers again led to a seniority and skill differential, and therefore meant an incentive to acquire skills. Urban wage differentials, according to the authors, have proven to be a fundamental element in developing human capital.

The conclusions and policy implications of this analysis are direct. The authors believe in the functioning of the labour market as an equilibrating force. Wages are not considered rigid despite the imbalances in the demand and supply of different types of labour. The authors criticize alternative approaches: "The policy implications of the segmented labour market type view are grossly misleading. In this view these wage differentials do not serve any useful efficiency function, although they do determine the distribution of income. Hence, it is implied, public policy can and should squeeze these differentials, so that the resulting income distribution is made to conform to public preferences.... This conclusion would be as unwarranted as its premise. At least in Kenya, its post-war economic history provides an ample demonstration of the costs which are associated with the various wage policies aimed in part at affecting the income distribution."

Intervention in labour markets proved to be counterproductive. After their very detailed analysis, which includes recognition of the role of institutions (the authors argue that "trade unions serve an efficiency function, and to that extent would have to be invented if they did not already exist"), the policies they recommend do not differ from an ancient and well-known laissez-faire.

A last remark on the fact that the authors - who declare themselves to be new neo-classical economists - refer to the views of their opponents as "conventional wisdom". In present-day economics, it seems that "conventional wisdom" has become synonymous with "other school traditions" - whatever they are.

Daniele Archibugi