Based on distorted facts
The article "The counter-reform bloc" by Ernest Feder (ceres No.
68) is full of judgements based on incorrect or distorted facts. The most
striking example is his presentation of McNamara's statement on land reform.
Feder writes that McNamara in his Nairobi address (1973) gives to land reform
only "an ephemeral role" devoting to this problem not more than "10 lines, plus
a few ornamental comments, to this delicate subject..." In saying this, Feder
suppresses the core of the aforementioned Nairobi address, which in fact reads
"But there are other structural changes necessary as well. And
the most urgent among these is land and tenancy reform. Legislation dealing with
such reform has been passed - or at least been promised - in virtually every
developing country. But the rhetoric of these laws has far outdistanced their
results. They have produced little redistribution of land, little improvement in
the security of the tenant, and little consolidation of small holdings.
"That is extremely regrettable. No one can pretend that genuine
land and tenancy reform is easy. It is hardly surprising that members of the
political power structure, who own large holdings, should resist reform. But the
real issue is not whether land reform is politically easy. The real issue is
whether indefinite procrastination is politically prudent. An increasingly
inequitable situation will pose a growing threat to political stability.
"But land and tenancy reform programs - involving reasonable
land ceilings, just compensation, sensible tenancy security, and adequate
incentives for land consolidation - are possible. What they require are sound
policies, translated into strong laws which are neither enervated by exceptions
nor riddled by loopholes. And most important of all, the laws have to
incorporate effective sanctions, and be vigorously and impartially enforced.
"What we must recognize is that land reform is not exclusively
about land. It is about the uses - and abuses - of power, and the social
structure through which it is exercised."
Otto K. Matzke
Reflects broad ideas
My compliments to you on a very well-organized and widely
presented March-April issue. Your choice of opinions reflects broad ideas of the
More information needed
The article "Conventional crops imperil good protein" (ceres No.
68, p. 4) makes a very important point: we tend increasingly to restrict the
number of species on which we depend for food. There are, however, some defects
in the article that should be corrected, and some points that deserve fuller
The figures for the percentage of protein are said to be on the
dry matter. That is as it should be: many misapprehensions are caused when crops
that are normally weighed wet are compared with dry seed crops. The values given
for cassava and yam are reasonable, but no one ever grew a potato or a sweet
potato with only 2 percent protein on the dry matter. Wet weight figures must
have intruded here.
Many legume tubers are probably excellent sources of protein and
they should be more widely used. Nevertheless, we need more information about
the nature of the nitrogen in them. "Crude protein" figures may be misleading
because part of the nitrogen on which the "crude protein" figure is based is
non-protein nitrogen which may be useless, or even harmful. Until more is known
about the true protein content, it would be unwise to eat these tubers regularly
on as large a scale as is usual with potatoes.
Nearly four years ago, I had given up reading ceres because I
did not think the articles were informative, objective or useful. However,
recently I had an opportunity to read the last few issues, and I must say that
the magazine has improved tremendously.
l would like to congratulate you for the quality of the recent
issues. Keep up the good work!
Asit K. Biswas