ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security
Environmental constraints, such as droughts, floods, pests, crop and animal diseases, water scarcity, land degradation, soil, forest and biodiversity loss, and chemical pollution may be slowing down agricultural productivity gains. Yields may not increase as significantly as in the past in relation to input and technology innovations. The difficulties may be particularly pronounced in low potential areas and on small scale farms where food insecurity tends to be common.
Experts agree that most of the increase in food production which is needed to reduce by half, by the year 2015, the number of the world's undernourished has to come from more intensive cultivation of existing arable land. There is little scope to extend farmland, except in the acid soils of Brazilian cerrado, the Llanos of Colombia and Venezuela, and acid soil areas of central and southern Africa. Further, molecular genetics and biotechnology may not increase agricultural yields in food-deficit low income countries in the near future .
Thus the role of sound NREM is vital in the face of: a) growing demand for food from larger populations and resource-intensive consumption patterns (e.g. animal protein); b) growing scarcity of arable land and freshwater, depleting fisheries and forests, land degradation, and rising costs of irrigation; and c) harmful environmental impacts (e.g. pests, soil and water pollution, nutrient loss) of some past high-input technology applications.
Since the late '80s and early '90s many developing countries have implemented macroeconomic and agricultural policy reforms including: exchange rate adjustments; reducing public expenditure; reforming taxation; removing price controls; reducing price subsidies for pesticides, fertilizer, irrigation water; reducing the role of parastatals and promoting the private sector in agricultural marketing; clarifying property and tenurial rights, and encouraging land markets. Policy reform is an ongoing process, involving learning by doing. Nonetheless several countries have made gains in food security as a result of such reforms . The sensitivity of the reform process to the needs of vulnerable groups has been an important factor in such successes.
The Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture which partly brought agricultural trade under multilateral discipline, converting non-tariff barriers to tariffs and establishing new rules on market access, export subsidies and on domestic support, should liberalize agricultural trade. In the long run this should help improve NREM, agricultural production and food security in the developing countries. In the short run, however, it may raise food prices in food-deficit countries. The Agreement's Decision on Measures Concerning Possible Negative Effects of the Reform Program on Least Developed and Food-Importing Countries addresses these concerns .
The main constraints that need to be addressed to improve NREM practices to enhance food security include the following:
The following case studies offer some insights into achieving a resolution of some of these issues involved in improving NREM and food security in tandem.
Secondly, the country allocates one-third of its gasoline and fossil fuel tax revenue to forest activities to secure global and local environmental benefits, including carbon sequestration and watershed protection. A Forest Financing Fund channels resources directly to small and medium size farmers to compensate them for reforesting the land and managing forest lands.
Thirdly, with an IFC loan Costa Rica has created a timber futures market to enable small and medium size landholders to receive the fruits of their labour, without having to wait for 15 years. This promises to make sustainable forestry a bankable business even for smallholders.
The Costa Rican experience illustrates how sound NREM backed up by discerning government policies and programmes as well as private sector partnership, can enhance food security and well-being of the small farmer. It also demonstrates the feasibility of linking global environmental benefits with NREM, sustainable agricultural development, and food security, and of mobilizing external resources in support of that process.
Since 1994 the Rajiv Gandhi Mission for Watershed Development has worked with the local community and various government programmes, such as Drought Prone Areas Programme, Employment Assurance Scheme, Jawahar Rozgar Yojana, and Integrated Watershed Development Programme, to restore vegetation cover and reclaim degraded land. The programme's success led to revision in 1996 of its initial target of restoring productivity on 1.2 million hectares to 2.8 million hectares, covering some 6700 villages and over 5000 watersheds. Livelihoods, incomes and food security in the region have markedly improved, reversing previous out-migration.
The main ingredients of the programme's success have been: a) creating institutions for co-ordination at various levels and departments of government administration; b) participatory planning, management, maintenance and monitoring of the land, water and forest resources and public works by the concerned communities; c) backstopping of local decision-making and management by technical expertise; d) implementing an integrated approach to land and water management, with watersheds serving as management units; e) the project's responsiveness to meeting the multiple (e.g. food, fodder, employment, income) needs of local communities; and f) the cohesiveness of the local tribal community and its capacity to work collectively for a common purpose.
The programme has raised productivity on small farms through construction of natural reservoirs fed by the Komadougou river, and through the rehabilitation of irrigation schemes that pump directly from it. It has fostered self-managed collective irrigation, provided small motor pumps to farmers for purchase on credit, and inculcated cost recovery and loan repayment disciplines. Favourable soil, availability of water, proximity to a large market, flexibility of project design, and trained staff have been among the factors instrumental in overcoming initial ecological and economic constraints.
MFS is an intensive relay and inter-cropping system based on raising sorghum, maize, beans, wheat and pumpkins; under the programme initiative two new crops, namely, potato and watermelon, were added for better nutrition and higher incomes. In Lesotho's highland agriculture MFS serves well in improving food security in view of: a) its reliance on organic sources to build up and maintain soil fertility; b) crop mixes ideally suited to the soil, climate and ecology; c) maintenance of perennial plant cover for soil and water conservation throughout the year; d) self-reliant use of household waste (manure and ash) by farm families; e) sufficient yields on intensively cultivated small farms for subsistence and income for families; f) lowering of risks through reduced yield fluctuations; and g) emphasis on learning by doing and self-reliance to improve NREM and food security.
The pilot success of MFS in Lesotho brings into clear relief the significance of securing economic, social and environmental viability of proposed NREM measures and their strong linkages to livelihoods and food security. It also highlights how communities in low-potential areas work hard to become self-reliant in improving NREM and food security when they receive the fruits of their labour by way of better diets and incomes in the short term.
The growing experience of ongoing programmes in this field provides useful insights some of which are touched upon in section V above. There is great promise in a continuing exchange of views and of lessons of experience among policy makers, analysts and practitioners involved in field projects. The ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security provides a practical vehicle to foster such an exchange. Its potential needs to be fully explored in the service of furthering rural development and food security.
2. FAO. "World Food Summit Follow-up: Draft Strategy for National Agricultural Development: Horizon 2010". Rome, 1997.
3. Norman Borlaug, 'Technological and Environmental Dimensions of Rural Well-Being' in "Rural Well-Being: From Vision to Action", op.cit., pp.43-46.
4. Alex F. McCalla and Wendy Ayers. 'Rural Development, Agriculture and Food Security', in "Finance and Development", December 1996. pp.8-11.
5. FAO, "World Food Summit Follow-up: Draft Strategy for National Agricultural Development: Horizon 2010". Rome, 1997.
6. Merlinda Ingco, Donald Mitchell, Alex F. McCalla. "Global Food Supply Prospects", World Bank, Washington D.C., 1996.
7. Jose M. Figueres. 'Political Dimensions of Rural Well-Being and How to Achieve Results on the Ground', in "Rural Well-Being: From Vision to Action", Proceedings of the Fourth Annual World Bank Conference on Environmentally Sustainable Development I. Serageldin and David Steeds, World Bank, Washington D.C., 1997, pp. 27-30.
8. Fawzi Al-Sultan. Reaching the Rural Poor, in "Rural Well-Being: From Vision to Action", op.cit, pp.53-62.
9. Anil Agarwal and Richard Mahapatra. 'When Olds Gods Died', "Down to Earth". February 1998, pp.33-43.
10. Fawzi Al-Sultan. 'Reaching the Rural Poor', in "Rural Well-Being: From Vision to Action", op.cit, pp.53-62.
11. M. Bishay, "IFAD Update" No. 3, January 1998, pp.11-12.
12. Gabino Lopez. 'How Ecological Agriculture Changed my Life', "Our Planet", UNEP, Vol. 8, No. 4, 1996, pp.34