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close this bookCERES No. 116 (FAO Ceres, 1987, 50 p.)
close this folderCerescope
View the documentPeruvian project brings vicuna back from the brink
View the documentIn Africa, weed control takes aim at parasitic striga
View the documentNew technique aids in estimating age of fishery stocks
View the documentGoal of stability proves elusive in olive oil accord
View the documentEcuador battles problems of deforestation
View the documentNew kiln offers more and better charcoal and employment
View the documentResettlement project on Dominica focuses on land distribution
View the documentSri Lanka seeks to control pesticide use to prevent poisonings

Peruvian project brings vicuna back from the brink

Eighty per cent of Peru's livestock is raised in the puna, or arid tableland, which comprises 6.5 million hectares of natural mountain pastures. But the zone's low temperatures mean that plants there grow only four or five months of the year and a few hours a day, and that frosts are frequent. Overgrazing, which these conditions aggravate, further destroys this already fragile environment. The solution could lie in an indigenous wild animal, the graceful vicuna.

The vicuna is an American cameloid, of small stature, like a deer. It can run long distances at 47 km/h at altitudes of 4 500 metres above sea level without tiring. Unlike sheep hooves, which cut the hard soil and contribute to erosion, the foot of the vicuna is covered with soft pads, which allow it to hold fast on the rocky surfaces and which prevent damage to the soil. Moreover, while sheep or goats uproot the plants they eat, which causes the land to crumble and turn to dust, which then blows away, the vicuna cuts them with its lower incisors that grow continually and are covered with hard enamel. Finally, its adaptation to the environment of the Andean altiplano is such that the newborn vicuna can run soon after birth and weighs 15 per cent of the mother's weight.

The Incas knew how to exploit wild resources. In the year 1500, the vicuna population was estimated at 2 million head. The indigenous people joined by the thousands to form a sort of human fence to corral the chaco - wild vicunas and huanacos, which they caught and sheared or slaughtered. According to the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, the brilliant mestizo historian of his lost culture, they did not believe that the Sun God or Earth Goddess created wild animals to be useless, and the vicuna and the other cameloids, the llama and alpaca, were useful indeed.

It was its coat that brought the vicuna to the brink of extinction, in spite of the king of Spain and his viceroys, Simon Bolivar, the governments of independence, and, in this century, international treaties (the vicuna is also found on the altiplanos of Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile). The king of Spain signed a royal mandate in 1577, shortly after the conquest, prohibiting hunting the vicuna; Bolivar, in 1825, repeated that prohibition, and over the decades there have been more than 15 decrees and conventions. Nevertheless, the vicuna continued to be hunted for its fleece. If we calculate that in 1500 there were 2 million, in 1957, 250 000 head were counted, and ten years later in 1967, there were only 10 000, which declined to only 2 647 in 1969. In 1965, the creation of the Pampa Galera National vicuna Reserve fortunately allowed the trend to reverse itself in Peru and in 1982 the vicuna population had risen to 20 893.

Building on the above-mentioned reserve, a project has been under way since 1980 - the Project for the Rational Utilization of the vicuna - involving 963 peasant communities and 48 150 families. The basic idea is to make better use of the Andean pastures by having vicunas graze together with domestic animals, or allocating them for grazing of vicunas and other wild animals. The vicunas would be captured every two years, in a chaco, to register them, mark them, shear them, and set them free again. The aims of the project have been to repopulate the puna with 3 million vicunas (on 15 million hectares), to develop a technology adequate to the ecological and socio-economic situation of the region, to increase profitability of marginal mountain lands by means of vicuna-raising, to advise and financially support the peasant communities by means of Government action, in the utilisation the vicuna on the lands, to promote the domestic processing and the exportation of vicuna products, and, once guaranteed the survival of the species is secure, to develop a model for the utilization of national wildlife. The experience of the Pampa Galeras Reserve proves that those objectives are possible, since, although the vicuna is still threatened in the rest of the country, the Reserve is today facing the problem of overpopulation, since the animals are reproducing.

Evidently, the main concern of the proponents of the project is preservation of the species, which still has not been universally assured, more than the industrialization of the resource. But they also work for the future, studying the characteristics of fleece, hide and meat of the vicuna, with a view to its possible exportation.

Peruvian sheep can yield up to eight kilos of meat and 4.5 of wool per year, but in the puna the yield is only half the meat and half a kilo of wool. The cameloids - the competition - comprise not only the vicuna, the llama, and the alpaca but also the hybrids. The cross between a female alpaca and a male llama is the huarizo, which has a heavier fleece, and that of female alpaca and male vicuna, or vice versa, is the pacovicuna, with a very fine fibre, superior to that of the alpaca. A vicuna in its useful life can be sheared five times and its coat has a value 20 times that of the wool of a good sheep and 10 times that of alpaca wool. Moreover, there are the hide and the meat.

The meat, like that of all wild herbivores, is excellent. The vicuna is a great runner and its muscles are red and succulent. Insofar as its population is increasing, the vicuna can be a high-quality food for the local inhabitants or offered to foreign palates in search of exotic foods to make them forget the usual animals stuffed with hormones and artificial fodders. As for the hide, it is very small Just one square metre) and covered with scars, as is normal for wild animals, and it is too thin for shoes, gloves, or coats.

But it has great resistance to tearing and a very smooth grain; tanned with chrome or with vegetal processes, dyed, and finished, it could be used to manufacture purses or high-quality morocco products.

But the essential advantage of the vicuna lies in its wool. Its fleece is composed of a mixture of fine fibres, lower down, and thicker and coarser in the upper coat, vicuna wool is composed exclusively of the fine fibres of the lower layer of the fleece, which, with a thickness of 12.1 microns, are like those of the angora rabbit (that of the cashmere goat has a diameter of 15-16 microns and of the merino sheep 17-18). This permits weaving garments of vicuna that are far softer and more workable than those made with other famous fibres.

Moreover, the yield, or the percentage of washed fibre to the original weight before treatment, is 87 per cent, and far surpasses that of the sheep and the alpaca. The buyer pays for fleece and not impurities, but also intensive treatment with alkaline chemical substances, which damage the fibres during processing, can be avoided.

The project hopes to achieve a density of one vicuna per five hectares and a rate of growth of 20 per cent, similar to that obtained on the Pampa Galeras Reserve. It would mean - if means of control and conservation are applied - obtaining some 3 million head by the year 2000. Already some $30 million annually could be earned from the vicuna, and the project would be self-sufficient, since the processing of 375 000 vicunas a year could give 7.5 million kg of meat, at $1.00 each, 375 000 hides, at $30 each, and 75 000 kg of fibre, at the current price. Investment in the project, for its part, was calculated to establish goals (in 1977) of $4.4 million, half of which from abroad.

Guillermo Almeyra

In Africa, weed control takes aim at parasitic striga

The multiple hazards confronting crop and livestock production in Africa sometimes seem almost to be vying with one another to create the greatest havoc. Drought, locusts, mealybugs, rinderpest, tsetse flies - all have been targeted as major impediments to the continent's efforts to achieve greater food security.

Now add to that list striga, a parasitic weed that attaches itself to the roots of several of Africa's most important food crops, siphoning off moisture and nutrients, inhibiting growth, and sometimes completely destroying the host plant, especially under the stress of drought. At serious risk to its depredations are about two thirds of the 73 million hectares devoted to cereal crop production in Africa. Heaviest losses occur in savannah zones stretching from Cape Verde on the west coast through western, central, eastern, and southern regions of the continent, a sweep that also embraces major food legume producing areas in most of the affected countries. Yields of cowpea, maize, millet, sorghum, rice and sugar cane have all been considerably reduced by striga infestations.

Quantifying the actual economic loss is extremely difficult, but its general scale of magnitude may be judged from the range of estimates that reach from around $500 million dollars annually to as high as $7 billion, this latter calculation arising from an eight-year-long survey involving a number of scientific institutes concerned with suppressing the weed.

Whatever may be the difference in estimates of damages attributable to striga, there appears to be general agreement that these food losses are increasing at an alarming rate. There are also other equally disturbing elements in the situation:

- Control of striga is extremely difficult because the plant produces myriads (as many as 40 000 per plant) of minuscule, powder-like seeds that may remain dormant - but viable in the soil for as long as 20 years, depending on climatic conditions, germinating only under the stimulus exuded from potential host plants, or, in some cases, from certain non-host plants. Since the initial parasitic growth generates from the roots of the host plant, considerable damage may already have been caused before farmers become aware of striga's presence above ground.

- Because they are least able to afford conventional methods of striga control, small farmers are most vulnerable to its infestations.

- While plant scientists do not claim to understand fully the causes of the present more rapid spread of striga, they now acknowledge that there is a possible link with continuous cereal cultivation and consequent decreases in soil fertility.

To tackle these problems, FAO and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) have proposed an intensive programme aimed especially at helping small-scale farmers to control the weed. Over the past couple of years this programme has sponsored a technical workshop and an all-Africa government consultation that have succeeded in collecting, and in exchanging among scientists, planners, and potential donor agencies, a considerable body of information about the nature of the striga problem and various experiences in attempting to control it. The recently released report of the FAO/OAU Government Consultation on Striga Control, held in Maroua (Cameroon) last October, remarked that "Yield losses attributed to striga damage cannot be over-emphasized in view of the importance of the host crop in the daily diet of the people affected. The small-scale farmer, who must grow cereals to feed his family, is helpless since, in the past, there were no effective striga control methods available to him. In most African countries, the small scale farmer practice of hoeing to control weeds is not only ineffective for controlling striga, but it is also labour-intensive and results in further depletion of nutrients and moisture in the already impoverished soil. Until recently, governments and international agencies have failed to recognize the economic impact of striga let alone help the small-scale farmer in his predicament."

More practical help may, however, be on the way. Dr L. J. Matthews, a weed specialist with FAO for the past ten years, is optimistic about the potential of a package of cultural practices recently developed and field tested in the Gambia as a measure that could be adopted by small-scale farmers to control the weed. Funded by the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) this research programme identified a number of control "packages" that were effective for both sorghum and millet. These included: the use of striga-tolerant varieties, side dressing of urea fertilizer four weeks after planting, spot spraying of emerging striga shoots with contact herbicide using a hand sprayer, and tethering cattle in the fields after harvest whenever possible. For millet, strip cropping has proved an additional useful practice.

The important point, in Dr Matthews' view, is that weed control measures should be compatible with sound soil conservation practices. He cites the results from comparisons of four differing sets of weed-control practices tested in the Gambia, two of which depended on minimum tillage techniques; the other two involved much greater amounts of cultivation by both humans and animals. Using a jab planter for seeding and restricting weed control to a 20-cm band on either side row reduced labour requirements by about 50 per cent in the case where the band was hand weeded, or roughly 90 per cent if a herbicide was used. And yields were from 25 to 50 per cent higher than in the more traditional cultivation methods that involved shifting some 500 to 1000 tons of soil per hectare.

The Government Consultation was sufficiently impressed by these results that it recommended that the applicability of these packages should be verified in various national programmes. Since CILSS funding for the Gambia programme ran out early this year, the Consultation also recommended a meeting of donors as a matter of urgency.

Peter Hendry

New technique aids in estimating age of fishery stocks

No, an otolith is not an eight-sided monolith or a newly discovered mineral. It is a calcareous concretion found in the otocyst of an invertebrate or in the internal ear of a vertebrate, and it is of interest because it helps to determine the age of fish.

Ageing fish is of vital importance to the assessment and management of stocks. Specifically, it helps to measure mortality from natural causes as well as from fishing activity, and thus to estimate whether a stock is fully exploited or overexploited. It also helps to set the best time to begin and to end the fishing effort on a stock, allowing the stock to renew itself by reproduction or growth, thus remaining an economically viable enterprise. Almost every skeletal structure has been used in the attempt to age fish, including bones, vertebrae, and spines. But scales and otoliths are the most popular because they are easy to collect and to store. Fish have three pairs of otoliths, which appear as small shiny bodies somewhat lateral to the brain. These can usually be extracted fairly easily under a dissecting microscope with fine needles.

Either in transparency or through the grinding down of a cross-section, the three-dimensional structure will show a pattern composed of a number of concentric rings, very much like the rings of a tree trunk. Each ring is made up of a light or hyaline zone and of a darker or opaque zone.

Scientists consider the rings to be a response to changes is environmental conditions, such as temperature, light, and feeding. Indeed, any major change in he environment in which a fish lives is likely to produce a ring. In the temperate zones, where differences between summer and winter are marked by changes in both water temperature and amounts of available food, age determination of most species is relatively easy. But other events, such as plankton blooms, sudden unseasonal changes in temperature, accidental discharge of pollutants, or any stress, such as reproduction or a sustained lack of food, may also produce rings identical to annual ones.

In the tropics, the changes from one season to another are less regular and marked, which made ageing fish from the reading of otoliths more difficult. In the early 1970s, however, it was discovered that the otoliths of some fish contained primary growth increments that seemed to be formed on a daily basis, presumably as a result of the light/dark cycle and probably reflecting periods of feeding activity. This provided the basis for the development of a new technique that holds particular promise for ageing young or short-lived tropical or subtropical species for which the annual ring technique does not provide satisfactory results.

In any case, reading otoliths is not like reading a calendar, says Jorge Csirke-Barcelli, senior Fishery resources Officer at FAO. "It is a code, established for convenience, our convenience." Thus, otoliths must be read over a certain period so as to establish the time-scale over which the rings are laid down, and each reading has to be confirmed by a later reading or by another person.

Further confirmation can be sought by various means. Fish in tanks can be injected with tetracycline, which is readily absorbed and deposited in bony structures where calcification is taking place, and checked at regular intervals. In the field, fish must also be tagged and then later retrieved which can become an expensive process. Once a definite time pattern for ring formation has been established, the age of the fish can be determined.

Because the technique is costly in equipment and time-consuming when it involves daily rings, it is used in developing countries mostly for purely biological purposes. But, according to FAO, it has potential as a tool to be used in support of stock assessment in tropical and subtropical areas, particularly to age highly valuable species, and to provide reliable age estimates to be used in conjunction with other methods, including length/ frequency analysis.

Marie-Christine Comte

Goal of stability proves elusive in olive oil accord

The first International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives was signed in 1959. The International Olive Oil Council is responsible for the application of the Agreement, the objectives of which are to issue information on demand and supply, provide member countries with technical assistance aimed at improving production, manage promotion funds, and, in accordance with the Codex Alimentarius Commission, standardize technical specifications.

The negotiation of international agreements for staple products is usually an extremely laborious procedure, full of obstacles, and very trying on the patience and good intentions of the parties concerned. Despite the active participation of international bodies which, for decades, have endeavoured to promote international trade and stabilize the prices of raw materials, the results are disappointing. The parties concerned rarely succeed in overcoming their differences, and discussions often come to nothing.

These observations are confirmed in a report published by the UNCTAD Secretariat in 1985. The report acknowledges that staple-product agreements have tailed in a number of areas and stresses that in developing countries virtually no progress has been made toward such long-term objectives as increasing export revenues, providing stiffer competition, and setting up systems to cope with slumps in demand.

Therefore, the fact that the International Agreement on Olive Oil has been in effect for so long is somewhat surprising. Moreover, the Fourth, and current, Agreement, signed in 1986, was negotiated in a very short time, as opposed to, say, the Cocoa Agreement, which was signed in extremis in July 1986, after five attempts at negotiations.

The difficulty is due mainly to the absence of economic clauses and to the fact that olive oil is produced and consumed in a limited geographic area. It has long been the conviction of the parties concerned that quota restrictions and price regulation on the international market make it difficult to solve the problems, particularly since olive harvests are extremely variable: a good harvest is often followed by one or more years of moderate or poor harvests; and in some cases - roughly once every five years - there is either an exceptionally good or an exceptionally bad harvest. These fluctuations affect oil prices, revenues, and trade considerably. It is in the interest of producer and consumer countries to keep well informed on market trends so they can act accordingly.

Recently, neo-liberal economists have questioned both the economic clauses contained in the agreements and the concept of market stabilization, and have advised compensatory mechanisms (STABEX, the IMF compensatory facilities). Some of them, including Michel Rocard, the former French Minister of Agriculture, consider that measures should be taken to increase the supply and regulate production, and that temporary aid should be given to countries where export revenues have witnessed a sharp drop.

The salient feature of the olive oil market is that it is geographically limited to the Mediterranean region, where most of the production is also consumed. The parties to the Agreement (Algeria, EEC-in its members' names, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Yugoslavia) provide almost 95 per cent of the world's olive oil production. Moreover, the EEC alone produces 83 per cent of the olive oil coming from the member countries of the International Olive Oil Council. Since January 1986 (when Spain and Portugal entered the EEC), the world's olive oil production has been even more concentrated in a single economically integrated regional entity. This is reflected in the share of member countries in the Council's budget, which is based on the net average annual production and imports of olive oil and table olives during recent campaigns. The EEC, signatory to the present Agreement on behalf of its 12 member countries, is the principal producer and importer, covering approximately three-quarters of the Council's financial resources and promotion funds.

The volume of exports and imports among Council member countries is minimal compared with trade within the Community. The risk of imbalance between the EEC and the other parties to the Agreement therefore does exist and, according to Alister MacIntyre, Deputy Secretary General of UNCTAD, efforts must be made to harmonize the interests of all parties to the Agreement.

The current International Olive Oil Agreement has succeeded in adapting to the changes in international olive oil economics by taking into account the geographic and economic change that has taken place within the EEC following the entry of Spain and Portugal. The title, "The 1986 International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives", reflects the extension of the area in question, since it contains provisions on olive products other than oil. As stressed by Mohammed Tazi (Morocco), who presided over the last United Nations conference on olive oil, this is a "dynamic and evolutive" agreement.

Marie Annie Bousquet

Ecuador battles problems of deforestation

The determination with which Ecuador is conducting its national reforestation programme is virtually unrivalled in Latin America.

Approved by the Ecuadorian parliament in 1983 84, and launched in 1985, the Plan Bosque (Forest Plan) is the Government's latest effort to solve a problem that has concerned several national groups for almost 20 years. At first glance, it might appear strange to speak of reforestation in a country where almost halt the land is covered by an impenetrable jungle. It is a fact, however, that the country's other two wooded regions, the Andean altiplano (the Sierra) and the coastal area, are witnessing the rapid disappearance of their forest cover (about 200 000 hectarea a year), particularly as a result of the sharp increase in the demand for agricultural land and pastures, and in response to the domestic demand for timber and coal. Denuded of 90 per cent of its trees, the southwestern area of the country resembles a desert.

In the late 1970s, industrialists in this sector voiced their alarm clearly: rapid deforestation is a threat to the survival of an industry which already shows a considerable deficit; in 1981 the losses caused mainly by wood pulp, cardboard, and paper imports amounted to almost $34 million annually. And they were not the only ones to request government intervention. In 1980 the Fundaciatura, a private non-profit organization, joined forces with them to attract public attention to the risk of erosion and degradation threatening the country's richest land.

With only $180 000 initially, Fundaciatura launched its awareness campaign by contacting all ministers and issuing daily press releases to the media on environmental themes. Its second enterprise, phased over a period of four years, consisted in sending educational material to 60000 teachers nationwide, for a total cost of $660 000.

Fundaciatura also initiated a reforestation programme in the region of Cotopaxi, in northern Ecuador. Densely populated and intensely cultivated, this altiplano region is also very poor. In three years the peasants have planted 2.5 million trees there and have learned to protect the seedlings against damage by domestic animals. The areas reforested (always with native species) are often communal land. In other areas, special attention has been given to improving small family farms.

Government action is geared to more strictly economic objectives. The first is to ensure a sufficient timber production to cover the country's household and industrial requirements. The second is to rehabilitate land bordering the farms and abandoned fishing areas, and reintegrate them into the country's economy.

Totally financed by petroleum revenues and with an initial budget of $12 million, the Plan Bosque is also addressed to inhabitants of the coastal area and Sierra region, but it mainly benefits the richer farmers and large landowners. Half the funds allocated by the Government are entrusted to the Ministry of Agriculture - under which comes the National Forestry Service - the other half being earmarked for the creation of a line of credit with the Banco Nacional de Fomento.

The only requirement for obtaining a loan, with a fixed interest rate of 9 per cent, is that one must own no more than 900 hectares of cultivable land. The farmer can use his loan to purchase local and foreign seed and start up production; he also receives agricultural advice during the various phases of development. If after two years 70 to 80 per cent of his trees are still alive, he can choose either to pay back his loan immediately or to sign a contract with the Ministry of Agriculture whereby he undertakes to maintain and cultivate his forest until the tress reach maturity. In the latter case, it is the Ministry that pays back the loan; when it is time to fell the tress, 10 to 20 years later, the farmer will repay the Ministry with no interest. The programme is so popular that in the first year requests under the Plan Bosque totalled 38 000 hectares, but the programme is geared to finance only up to 20 000 hectares annually.

This is a laudable project, but it has raised some criticism. In particular, the Government has been accused of reforesting the country in a disorganized manner, without considering either the subsequent phases of exploitation or that the domestic timber yards have to be supplied with timber from different areas of the country, some of which are of extremely difficult access. In this respect, however, it appears that after the initial phase, the Government project envisages that its reforestation programme will be oriented more strictly toward meeting the country's timber and coal requirements.

Another problem is the absence of local know-how in forest management and maintenance. This problem must be solved if the wooded areas are to maintain an optimum growth rate. In a recent interview, Roque Sevilla, Director of the National Forestry Service, stressed the importance of arousing "forestry awareness" in a country where half the land area is covered by jungle: part of the Service's annual $1.8 million budget is devoted to educating and training forestry experts.

The Government is not alone in its efforts to develop Ecuador's forests: a joint proposal by the Banco Nacional de Fomento and the Ministry of Agriculture led to the creation, in 1981, of EMDEFOR - Empresa Mista de Desarrollo Forestal - whose objectives are to develop forests in collaboration with more than 200 farmer organizations and to promote research with the help of students from the Chimborazo Polytechnic. This mixed enterprise has an initial budget of $2.5 million. It proposes to plant fastgrowing species (such as eucalyptus and Pinus radiata) and use the timber for industrial purposes.

Dani Blain

New kiln offers more and better charcoal and employment

Sixteen years ago the Uganda Forest Department decided to fund a research project to develop a more efficient and commercially viable method of producing charcoal, upon which both rural and urban populations depend as a reliable fuel that can be produced economically and simply for domestic purposes. Production methods had remained fundamentally the same for centuries, so improved production techniques were considered of great importance.

The result of that project is the Katugo charcoal kiln, which carbonizes under controlled conditions in a chamber with limited air supply. The kiln, built of locally produced bricks, consists of a rectangular carbonizing chamber with four chimneys set in a domed metal roof. The wood is reduced to carbon while the impurities are released in the form of smoke and gases. The kiln is capable of producing two to three tons of charcoal every six days and has a conversion efficiency of 35 per cent on dry weight basis.

The kiln has rationalized traditional production methods, resulting in a higher yield of better-quality charcoal, and thus helping to balance fuel supplies with increased demand. The improved commercial viability of the kiln has been accompanied by the creation of a more skilled work-force and greater employment possibilities for those concerned.

The purer charcoal produced has a number of positive features: it produces very little smoke, yields two and a half times as much heat as the same weight of dried wood, is very easy to ignite, has a fixed carbon content of over 70 per cent, and leaves ashes which do not exceed five per cent of the kiln weight load.

The most widely used traditional production methods are the "earth pit" and "clamp", both of which require minimal investment, equipment, and skill. The earth pit method involves carbonizing wood in a covered pit. While digging a pit is an arduous task in the dry season in Uganda, problems also arise in the wet season: collapsing earth cover for examples. The clamp method entails piling up the wood and covering it with earth before firing. Both methods are labour-intensive and inefficient: only 8 to 12 per cent conversion efficiency on a dry weight basis is achieved. Due to the inadequacies of these traditional methods, the charcoal produced is of poor quality, with a high level of impurities and an unnecessarily large amount of unmarketable "fines", the residue of charcoal production.

The inefficiencies of the production process are compounded by problems of supply and transport of raw materials and storage of the finished product. The methods used are laborious - trees are simply cut down with axes and carried to the pit. The storage system employed is ineffective - the best charcoal, is raked and sorted out and then simply piled in an open place and covered with leaves. There it becomes damp and hard to ignite. It produces much smoke and becomes progressively more unsuitable for either domestic or industrial purposes.

The new methods do not alter the basic principle of carbonization, but rationalize the use of heat during the process and modernize the production and transportation of the raw material. This is what happened in Uganda.

The carbonization stage is, of course, only one step in the production of charcoal. Harvesting and transportation of the raw material and the distribution of the finished product are also of great importance. These processes have also been rationalized and modernized by the Katugo scheme. Bow saws, power saws, and sledge hammers have been introduced to replace more arduous methods. Mechanized transportation of the wood to the kiln also helps accelerate the pace of the production process. Constant productivity ensures daily delivery to markets: supply now equals demand. By-products that were previously wasted, or "fines", have now found an application in a briquetting machine designed for small-scale industry.

The new method has had a number of beneficial effects on local inhabitants. It has led to the development of skills in the local work-force, which has received training in the use and maintenance of modern hand tools. Personnel at all levels have been instructed in aspects of construction and maintenance of the kilns, receiving full training in kilning techniques. As a result, a skilled work-force has been created with greater future employment opportunities.

The results of a survey on use of the new kiln method were strongly in favour of permanent charcoal kilns, principally for creation of employment in rural areas. Increased prosperity and employment prospects attract the inhabitants of neighbouring districts, and educational and medical facilities receive more emphasis. Local markets for agricultural produce expand, in turn increasing the general level of prosperity. In more abstract terms, the importance of contributing to the country's store of technical know-how is not to be underestimated.

The Katugo method has been introduced throughout Uganda and, as a result, many large-scale commercial kilns have been constructed. Many small industries have adopted the Katugo design and technology and now, with the assistance of experts, provide practical training programmes for employees. The Katugo design may also have wider-ranging application and importance: the Ugandan Forest Department is now prepared to provide the relevant technical detail to other developing countries.

A. C. Kawanguzi with Patricia Merrikim

Resettlement project on Dominica focuses on land distribution

Some 1400 rural households, representing about 10 per cent of all farm households or 9 per cent of the total population of the Caribbean island commonwealth of Dominica, expect to benefit from a $1.5 million loan made last year by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for an integrated rural development project. The project's aim is to ensure increased incomes, better living standards and improved nutrition for about 7 000 people, formerly tenant and squatter families, through a resettlement project on two former government estates where land was often idle or undercultivated. Some 70 per cent of these potential estate settlers were earning less than the national annual per caput income of $970 and many were, in fact, on the borderline of absolute rural poverty at a level of $180 a year.

The five-year "repeater" project was designed specifically to address a difficult problem of land distribution identified as a major development constraint during the implementation of an earlier IFAD project begun in 1981. The largest of the Windward Islands, Dominica is considered one of the least-developed countries in the Caribbean area. Despite a rugged, jungle-covered terrain and a lack of fertile soil, agriculture is the dominant productive sector of the island, the principal source of income for about 60 per cent of the population as well as of the nation's export earnings. About 11 000 of the island's 14 000 farmers continue to cultivate bananas; they use 60 per cent of the total agricultural land, but contribute only 40 per cent of the export earnings. That contribution was 60 per cent before 1979, when Hurricane David left three-quarters of the population homeless and destroyed the entire banana and citrus crops and 80 per cent of the coconut trees. Crop losses alone exceeded $5.6 million.

Yet even with allowances made for the hurricane's devastation, banana yields are usually very low due to poor husbandry, erratic use of fertilizers, and the impossibility of using aerial spraying over about half the crop area. The overdependence on low-yielding banana production aggravated the balance-of-payments problems that Dominica was facing. A net dependency on food imports, reflecting an almost total neglect of domestic food crops, made further inroads upon scarce foreign exchange. This seemingly irreversible trend was reason for grave concern.

In 1980, about 60 per cent of ail children under five years of age were suffering from various degrees of malnutrition. A large part of the population was obliged to spend from 60 to 90 per cent of their incomes on basic food purchases. It was with the aim of growing more food locally that the original $1.7 million loan was negotiated with IFAD, as part of a $2.2 million development project intended to rehabilitate the long-neglected agricultural sector by providing individual loans to small farmers, herdsmen, and fishermen. Farmers, usually subsisting on less than fourfifths of a hectare of land, were urged to grow more fruits, vegetables, and root crops such as tannias, dasheen, and yams.

Farmers were also encouraged and provided with credit to engage in more backyard rearing of small livestock including pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, and chickens. Ten breeding centres to service local sows were established and maintained by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Credit was also extended to about 150 of the island's artisanal fishermen, whose output in 1979 represented about 5.5 per cent of sectoral GDP. The Dominican Fisheries Cooperative Society, which had been operating at a net loss, received a $20 000 loan from the Dominican Agricultural Industrial Development Bank to use as working capital and within a year was operating at a net profit. About $40 000 was also spent to improve beaching sites where fish could be landed more safely and boats protected from hurricane gales. An independent evaluation mission visiting the island in mid-1983 concluded that about 30 per cent more boats and 60 per cent more fishermen were using these improved sites.

Within three years of the project's implementation, there was a marked increase in local food availability.

There were substantial increases in output of vegetables, root crops and formerly uncultivated fruits resulting in surpluses for export to neighbouring islands.

"It might be difficult to document just when that turnaround started," remarks Prime Minister Eugenia Charles, "but you can see for yourself by going to our local market and seeing just how many varieties of locally grown fruits and vegetables are available. Pork and eggs, too. Before, if a farmer had an egg, he would take it to the market to sell. Today, he and his family can afford to eat eggs. They are no longer a luxury."

But despite a marked increase in food availability, there remained major obstacles to improved agricultural production.

Farm incomes were seriously affected by prevailing patterns of land distribution. Farms of 20 hectares or more accounted for only 2 per cent of all holdings, but occupied 61 per cent of the land. At the other extreme, 90 per cent of all holdings were less than four hectares, but occupied only 22.8 per cent of agricultural land. This skewed distribution resulted in extensive landlessness, an underlying cause for the extensive civil unrest that prompted the government between 1972 and 1983 to intervene and acquire seven privately owned estates. Subsequently, it asked the Organization of American States (OAS) to draw up a resettlement schedule for the allocation of plots on three of these estates - Geneva in the southeast, Castle Bruce-Carib in the east, and Sourfriere in the south - and to formulate a development programme for improved land use.

The resulting project, formulated by FAO's Investment Centre and appraised by the Caribbean Development Bank, is meant to complement and continue the previous successful project. According to the project design, crop production on the Geneva Estate would be extended from 172 to 228 hectares and that of Castle Bruce from 188 to 380 hectares. This extended area would be used both for basic food and for export crops: bananas, copra, root crops, and vegetables. An additional 56 hectares will be used as pasture to increase output of milk, beef, and mutton.

The project also includes a variety of badly needy infrastructural improvements, such as farm and feeder roads, grading stations, and produce storage. Women, who account for 35 per cent of the labour force, were poorly represented among the first beneficiary group. This time it is estimated that 28 per cent of the beneficiaries will be women. Thanks to improved transportation facilities, hucksters and traders - 90 per cent of whom are women - will find it easier to get their produce to market.

Farmers will also be encouraged to organize themselves into informal or formal groups to participate in extension and marketing services. A farmers' advisory group will represent producer interests as part of the project management.

Although it is clearly too soon for any evaluation of performance, emphasis on better methods of cultivation coupled with infrastructural improvements is expected to increase farmers' incomes by 70 per cent by the time the project is completed. Increased exports would annually earn foreign exchange amounting to about $700 000 and save about $1 million in foreign exchange through import substitution.

Frances Vieta

Sri Lanka seeks to control pesticide use to prevent poisonings

A matter of grave concern in Sri Lanka is the number of people who are poisoned each year by pesticides. In fact, fatalities from pesticide poisoning are believed to be among the highest in the world. In 1983, there were 2 010 deaths among 16 649 recorded cases of pesticide poisonings. In 1984 there were 16 085 cases and 2 250 persons died, a very high figure for a population of 16 million. Pesticide poisonings, in tact, rank third among causes of death in Sri Lanka, after heart ailments and accidents.

These figures were compiled from hospital records. But, says Dr Ravindra Fernando, director-designate of the proposed National Poisons Information Centre, there may be a further 1000 to 2000 pesticide fatalities each year not recorded by hospitals. In addition, he says, many more people who are poisoned by pesticides do not even seek hospital treatment. One of the responsibilities of the Poisons Centre, when it has been established, will be to collect more precise data on the number of pesticide poisoning cases on the island.

What is already known, however, is that the vast majority of deaths caused by pesticide poisoning are not due to agricultural activities or other occupational hazards. Dr Fernando reports that 74 per cent of all pesticide fatalities are suicides, only 18 per cent are in the agricultural field, and 8 per cent are due to accidental poisoning. The suicides are mainly young people, 77 per cent of them under 30. They are the lovelorn, the frustrated, the depressed and neurotic' the failures and the dropouts, the disappointed and angry young people.

For the most trivial reasons, these young people impulsively reach out for the container of pesticide that is found in most village homes. Newspapers record such incidents as a matter of course, but they happen so frequently that it is no longer news. One of the main reasons for the high rate of poisoning is the easy availability of insecticides. Until recently, almost anyone could buy any pesticide over the counter.

The Control of Pesticides Act of 1980 attempted to bring availability, import, local formulation, transport, distribution, storage, and use of pesticides under strict supervision. In reality, however, there has been little control; some of the most hazardous of toxic chemicals were imported or formulated in the country and sold through aggressive advertising campaigns. Some unscrupulous manufacturers have mixed classes of chemicals, like organophosphates, organochlorines, and caromates, with the result that doctors find it nearly impossible to save the lives of the poisoned because the antidotes for one class of chemicals could be fatal for the other.

Dr Nalino de Alwis, the newly appointed Registrar of Pesticides under the Act, says that the country has made a beginning in the control of the use and abuse of pesticides. But her unit, which functions under the Ministry of Agriculture, needs a much wider infrastructure for policing, monitoring, research, analysing quality, testing for residues, registering of dealers, and other tasks. One of the circumstances that have led to the sharp increase in severe poisoning and fatalities, she says, apart from easy availability, is the fact that the Government has banned the agricultural use of relatively less toxic chemicals like malathion and frenothion, setting these aside for vector control, on the premise that widespread use of the same pesticide in both agriculture and vector control over long periods will contribute to the development of pest resistance to pesticides. As a result, the pesticides now reserved for agricultural uses are of the more toxic variety.

The Registrar of Pesticides has now begun to register all dealers, who must record all stocks and sales, and sell only to bona fide farmers. Dealers are being invited by agricultural officials to participate in training courses; if they don't cooperate, their licences may be cancelled and supply firms may be requested to strike their names from the customer lists. The firms are very cooperative, says Dr de Alwis.

An approved list of agro-chemicals has been gazetted. Imports of these compounds can be made only with the written approval of the Registrar of Pesticides. Imports of such very toxic chemicals as parathion, aldrin, heptachlor, BHC, and dieldrin are no longer permitted. Other highly toxic or carcinogenic compounds, such as methonyl, moncrotophos, or paraquat, have been placed on a severely restricted list and are banned for agricultural uses. They are used only by trained personnel in the Department of Agriculture, in the research institutes, forestry, the Ports Authority, and pest control services.

Dr de Alwis maintains that Sri Lankan pesticide legislation is comprehensive, but acknowledges that there is a need for more infrastructure and financial support. However, the biggest problem, in her view, is to educate farmers. Sri Lanka farmers seem to believe that if they soak their crops with insecticides they will get better results. A survey by the Central Agricultural Research Institute revealed that 60 per cent of all farmers used more than the recommended dosages for pesticides. Many also ignore regulations under the Act stipulating the minimum interval allowed between last spraying and harvesting. According to Dr J. Jeyaratnam, who undertook research into pesticide poisonings in the early 1980s for the Department of Community Medicine at the University of Colombo, farmers do not take the simplest precautions. They were found to use leaking knapsacks; sometimes they sprayed bare-bodied and often against the wind. They did not change their clothes or wash themselves properly after spraying.

Realizing that education is a key weapon for control and management of pesticide use in agricultural applications, the Department of Agriculture's Education Division provides training for both staff and farmers. Sri Lanka is also participating with six other South and Southeast Asian countries in FAO's intercountry programme for integrated pest control in rice.

Mallika Wanigasundara