|CERES No. 121 (FAO Ceres, 1988, 50 p.)|
AFRICA NEEDS AGRICULTURAL INPUTS
A recent FAO publication entitled "Feasibility Study on Expanding the Provision of Agricultural Inputs as Aid-in-Kind" shows that in 1995, sub-Saharan Africa will probably need over US$700 million in mineral fertilizers, agricultural machinery, pesticides, improved seeds, veterinary supplies, and farm implements if donor countries do not substantially increase their aid in this sector. However, in order to speed up agricultural development in subSaharan Africa even slightly, not $700 million but $2 billion must be found.
"Without these inputs", states Director-General Edouard Saouma in his foreword, "Africa is destined to remain underdeveloped, trapped in a deteriorating spiral of poverty as farmers are forced to over-exploit their land to survive. Fallow periods are being dangerously reduced, and increases in production are being achieved at a heavy cost in terms of soil degradation. Short-term gains are opening the way for medium and longer-term environmental disaster."
After examining possible options, the study points out that local agricultural input production currently covers only a minimal part of Africa's requirements and that African countries will continue to depend on overseas imports. But heavy external debt, low foreign exchange earnings, and insufficient development assistance are now preventing them from importing all the inputs required.
The study concludes that given these limitations in Africa, foreign aid must increase, not in cash, but directly in the form of agricultural production inputs. This would enable African countries to save foreign exchange and through the sale of these inputs, would provide government budgetary support. Moreover, input aid-in-kind is guaranteed to reach the agricultural sector.
AGRICULTURE: TOWARD 2000, 1987 EDITION
A 1987 updated edition of FAO's pioneering study Agriculture: Toward 2000 has recently been published. The study emphasizes the scandal of hunger that persists in vast regions of the world even though overall agricultural production is beginning to slow down - except in Africa, where these problems seem more difficult to solve than in any other part of the globe.
All in all, we can boast the fact that the percentage of undernourished worldwide (i.e., those with food intakes less than 40 per cent above the basal metabolic rate) is declining. But unfortunately the number of seriously undernourished in the world will probably rise from the present 510 million to 530 million in the year 2000. And unforeseen natural or man-made calamities could push this figure much higher.
The study recommends that national planners of long term agricultural development treat industrialization in its economic entirety, with particular consideration for its complex links with agriculture. To this effect, the Director-General of FAO stresses in the foreword that in rural areas there is great scope for the expansion of agro-industries. This will be the theme of the July-August 1988 issue of Ceres.
SAUDI ARABIA WATERMELON DISEASE
A multidisciplinary project for the production of subtropical fruits, cereals, and legumes under irrigation to feed peasants in the Wadi Gizan region of Saudi Arabia is faced with a very peculiar problem: a disease of watermelons called "yellowing". The leaves of affected plants become yellow, the flowers shed their petals, and the fruits are small, mottled, and deformed.
Sowing dates appear to be a decisive factor: all varieties tested were susceptible to the disease except those sowed around 15 July. However, recent experiments show that greenhouse plants remained free from infection throughout the eight-week trial period. In comparison, the plants grown in the open atmosphere were all infected during the seventh week.
These results indicate a relationship between insects and watermelon yellowing. Other tests show that the disease is caused by a complex of at least two viruses.
This ongoing project has a budget of US$11.31 million from a Saudi trust fund, and has been instrumental in the introduction of such subtropical fruits such as mango, guava, papaya, bananas, and pineapple in the Wadi Gizen valley.
DRIED COTTON IN EGYPT
In Egypt, the organization CATGO tests the quality of cotton fibres. But the 100 ovens it uses to dry the fibres and determine their moisture content are now 50 years old. Replacing them is the objective of the UNDP/FAO project known as "Assistance to CATGO (Phase 11)".
By 1982, CATGO had received through FAO five different types of ovens for testing to determine which would be the most efficient. From 1983 to 1986, Egyptian specialists carried out a series of successful tests and more specific trials were entrusted to a consultant from FAO. The selected prototype was finally manufactured, installed, and commissioned on the project site in 1986.
Each drying oven is linked directly to an electronic balance, which, is in turn, attached to a microcomputer. Each drying unit forms part of a Cotton Weight Collection System (CVCS), also computerized, which can be enlarged to accommodate additional drying units.
SOIL CONSERVATION IN PARAGUAY
More than 30 per cent of the cultivated soils in Paraguay are threatened by erosion, particularly in areas of recent, highly mechanized, expansion. The problem is that far too few soil development and conservation experts are available. A national $850 000 programme financed by the Interamerican Development Bank, UNDP, and the Government of Paraguay, is aimed at solving the problem with the technical assistance of FAO.
During the initial phase of the project, a national conservation plan was prepared and a soil conservation unit was set up. In October 1987, the first two courses trained 15 cartography and soil conservation experts. In 1988, another 13 courses will be organized in regional centres to train 210 extension workers and 90 para-technicians. A dozen trainees will be granted scholarships enabling them to train abroad.
An interesting aspect of these courses is that they follow the "multiplication" principle, designed to speed up the training process. Those who graduate from the second level, with the assistance of international experts, are responsible for training the first level, and so on.
INTEGRATED DEVELOPMENT IN BENIN
The pilot project of the Pnco District, in Benin, is aimed at integrated rural development, with the active participation of the population. The final objective is to increase incomes of small farmers and to achieve food self-sufficiency. Seventy per cent of the almost $3 million project is financed by the United Nations Capital Development Fund, the rest by UNDP, UNICEF, and the Government of Benin. The project relies on FAO for the preliminary socio-economic studies and for the technical assistance required for its efficient execution.
The basic objectives are: to increase agricultural output and animal production (ground nuts, maize, sorghum, small and large ruminants), to improve storage and marketing conditions; to construct roads and tracks, schools and health centres; to drill wells; to set up a capita, investment fund at village level so as to grant credit to support production and development activities; to promote the people's participation and self-management, and finally to perfect an institutional rural development mechanism that can gradually be extended first at regional level and then nationwide.
The project will last three years, from autumn 1987 to autumn 1990, and will ensure the participation of the population through a guidance and planning committee, three municipal committees, and 26 village committees for development. The village capital investment fund is to be partly financed by the people who will contribute a lump sum, a portion of which goes to health, educational, and hydraulic infrastructures to be set up under the project.