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close this bookCERES No. 119 (FAO Ceres, 1987, 50 p.)
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FAO in action


Impressive changes in livestock production in Pakistan, especially in feeding and nutrition practices, have been achieved during the past six years with technical assistance provided by FAO/UNDP. A highlight of the work has been the development of new rural and industrial technologies for using crop residues and other agro-industrial wastes as animal fodder. In the Northwest Frontier Province, some 200 000 tons of sugar-beet pulp, formerly discarded as a nuisance, is now being fully utilized by smallholders to feed their dairy animals. In monetary terms, this recovery is estimated to be worth Rs 20 million annually. More important, its socio-economic contribution is considered to be much greater. Other significant savings have been obtained through the development of a milk replacer for weaning buffalo calves. Tests with some 7 000 buffalo calves during the past two years have indicated weaning cost savings of 50 per cent, while mortality rates among calves were reduced from 50 to 10 per cent. The average body weights of yearling calves more than doubled, and heifers conceived at between 18 and 24 months of age, substantially sooner than the four years of age expected under the traditional feeding systems. Other activities initiated by the project have included the setting up of integrated dairy and poultry farms, development of package technology for new feeding systems, establishment of commercial straw-processing plants and processing plants for conversion of sugar-cane by-products, and the utilization of slaughterhouse wastes for animal protein recovery.


The fourth and final link in a worldwide communication network providing marketing information, trade promotion, and technical advice to the fishing industry has been forged with the establishment of INFOSAMAK, a Bahrain-based Arabic-language service for importers and exporters of fish in the Arab world. Supported by an FAO/UNDP project launched in March, 1986, INFOSAMAK is already being used by some 500 firms or individuals in the region as a dependable and up-to-date source of information on markets, prices, and technology. Its modern communication system is capable of putting a fish-exporting firm in Morocco in touch with a potential importer in Kuwait in a matter of minutes. Thirteen of 21 member states in the Arab League are already participating. The Bahrain project parallels three earlier similar regional services: INFOPESCA, established in Panama in 1977 for Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America; INFOFISH, launched in 1981 for Asia and the Pacific; and INFOPECHE, started two years ago for African countries. All four projects are closely linked to GLOBEFISH, the Rome-based data bank and electronic library operated by FAO's Fisheries Department.


Against a background of considerable frustration and disappointment experienced in similar undertakings, an FAO/UNDP project is confronting the challenging task of increased livestock production and improving the quality of life in the pastoral communities of North Africa and the Near East. This three-year regional project, funded at $2.7 million, involves six countries (Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia) with a regional coordinating team based in Tunis. "Given the amount of knowledge provided by past experience and the level of awareness of the governments concerned," remarks a project official, "the time has come to stop the process of desert encroachment and to take full advantage of the untapped rangeland potential in arid regions." The project aims to avoid what has now come to be regarded as one of the major reasons for unsatisfactory performance in previous rangeland management projects - lack of participation of the communities involved. This time, pastoral communities are being encouraged to organize either by strengthening existing local organizations or by creating new ones. The national steering committees that have been designated as the key institutions in achieving the project's goals include representatives of pastoral communities as well as of all government institutions involved. Strategies for planning and training within the project are based on participative, practical, "learn-by-doing" programmes that will focus on teams rather than on individuals. Formal lectures are kept to a minimum, with the emphasis on small groups for discussion, problem-solving, and decision- making. Expatriate consultants are called in only when needed technical skills and experience are not already available in the project areas. Thus far, four regional action planning workshops have been conducted to establish the project's objectives, strategies, and work plan. In each country a pilot area of from 20 000 to 100 000 hectares has been selected for study under the project guidelines.


Field experts, scientists, and research or documentation centres seeking agronomic data concerning promising varieties of horticultural crops can now avail themselves of a crop performance information system established by FAO's Horticultural Crops Group. The new system covers fruits, vegetables, and roots and tubers and employs a retrieval method which can extract selected data according to either geographical area (by latitude, longitude, and altitude) or name of crop or cultivar. The data base includes both permanent material and seasonal data on crop performance.


On densely populated Ndzwani Island in the Comoros, local farmers, most of them women, are being helped to develop new techniques to control soil and water erosion on the steep slopes they cultivate. The activities are part of a $10.5 million integrated rural development project funded by the African Development Bank and being carried out by FAO. The project has been introducing within a complex land tenure system more rational use of lands based on their suitability for various crops and is adapting farming systems for these purposes. Among the practices promoted are terracing and gully plugging, the use of legumes and cover crops, and the planting of fruit, fodder, and firewood trees. Also included in the project is a seed multiplication scheme to encourage introduction of improved varieties of maize, bananas, groundnuts, mung beans, yams, and pigeon peas. Some 40 extension officers, including a number of women, have been assigned to the 210 km2 area, where the population density is about 350 persons per km2.


Small-scale and commercial farmers in Zambia are obtaining yield increases of as much as 30 per cent in their maize crops as the result of the introduction of a number of new varieties resistant to maize streak virus, which has traditionally been a serious problem for maize growers. The new varieties - three hybrids and one open-pollinated - were developed as part of a $800 000 four-year FAO project, funded by NORAD, to conduct research on pest and disease problems and to develop control measures, mostly through host plant resistance.


Rapid growth in the international market for seaweed and seaweed products has recently begun to provide an alternative source of livelihood for fishermen in the South China Sea region, but the volatility of seaweed prices and a lack of reliable market data have made it an unpredictable, if not risky, enterprise. A recent study conducted under FAO's Technical Cooperation Programme has concluded that until much more research is undertaken into the variability of yields and profits among seaweed farms - and within individual farms from year to year - the future role for small farms in this subsector will remain a matter of conjecture. Seaweed culture in the South China Sea region is a relatively recent development, reflecting the over exploitation of wild stocks resulting from increased world demand for products derived from seaweed. China, the world's leading producer accounting for about 40 per cent of global production, consumes most of its own output. The development in the South China Sea region has been largely based on the efforts of small farms of a hectare or less, usually family run. Although many such operations produce less per hectare than the potential indicated by experimental or commercial farms, it appears that quite high rates of return, relative to other alternatives, can be earned from seaweed farming. One calculation indicated a 24 per cent return on sales and a 35 per cent return on investment. However, seaweed prices have not kept pace with rising costs.