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Books

The Price to Pay: a look at debt and development - International Development Research Centre (BP 8500, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, KIG 3H9), 1992, 48 pages (Quest for the Future) Also available in French

This booklet by the Canadian International Development Research Centre, one of the many works on debt, provides a clear, succinct, balanced picture of what is at stake. It is particularly interesting because of the input from research workers in the developing countries themselves.

The authors see the 1980s as a lost decade as far as development is concerned, first and foremost because of the debt crisis and the disastrous scenarios it produced. Repeated borrowing, absurd interest rates, multiple restructuring and a deterioration in the terms of trade to the point where there was a net transfer of funds from South to North meant negative growth and, one by one, the States found they were unable to pay up.

The countries of the North did nothing about this until their own banks felt the pinch of bad debts. And, even then, their only aim was to recoup their losses, which made the situation worse. It was not until the developed nations ultimately accepted their share of the responsibility for the financial depression in the South that the first encouraging signs appeared.

Most of the decade was wasted on sterile invective between North and South. It was not until the repeated calls for more development aid, better interest rates and new methods of borrowing were heard that countries in the Third World were able to find their way back to growth again. All kinds of cooperation are needed to solve the debt crisis and set up a new world order. In short, there is one thing planners and researchers can do- collaborate.

Raising and Sustaining Productivity of Smallholder Farming Systems in the Tropics - Handbook on Agricultural Development by Willem C. Beets, AgBe, 738 pp., 432 illustrations, 143 tables, 1990- Hardbound, ISBN: 974-85676-1-3

This book brings together, for the first time, most relevant knowledge on the various tropical farming systems. The approach is multi-disciplinary and emphasis is placed on the interactions between agro-technical, environmental, economic, sociological, institutional, and political aspects. Information on climate, soils, plant breeding, institutions, etc., is given when these factors are crucial in the context of overall development.

The purpose of the book is to provide a framework for agricultural development in the tropics with an emphasis on raising the overall productivity of farming systems in a sustainable manner.

The book advocates consideration of the farmer's point of view, and also development within existing systems, rather than recommending the adoption of Western-style systems heavily dependent on fossil energy, good communications, and institutions.

Self-reliance and self-sufficiency are recommended rather than dependence on external inputs, and export-oriented economies. Another philosophy is that farming systems should be environmentally balanced, even if only marginally economical in the short-run. Considering the limited scope for opening up new land and global environmental deterioration, medium and long-term considerations should weigh heavier than quick profits and spectacular production gains that cannot be sustained.

Special emphasis is placed on the limit imposed by natural and financial resources, and administrative or social structures. Those aspects of the agricultural production process that lend themselves to improvement are identified and the prerequisites and mechanisms of change discussed. In particular, the effects of land-tenure and land-use, fertilisers, irrigation, cultural practices, rational crop selection, timeliness of planting, extension programmes and infrastructure are emphasised.

This publication is expected to be useful to all those involved in agricultural development in the Third World, to students, research workers and professionals, and to government officials at every level of policy making and implementation.