|CERES No. 114 (FAO Ceres, 1986, 50 p.)|
by David Barkin and Blanca Suarez
For several decades the technology of seed genetics has progressed rapidly, attaining more and more recognized varieties and higher yields. Later, equally rapidly, problems began to arise from this green revolution technology. The most widespread of these was the erosion of the centres of genetic diversity, which means a process of displacement and elimination of local primitive varieties to the extent that traditional varieties are replaced by those obtained in plant research centres or the laboratories
Of transnational seed companies. Other problems derived from the control and privatization of seed technology at a global level by a growing number of transnational firms.
Improved seed is a strategic input for agriculture. Up to now it has been left mainly in the hands of genetic specialists under the direction of transnational corporations or the network of research centres of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). However, as a factor in food supply, seed becomes a subject of debate in both social and technical aspects. Thus the interest of some countries in seeking mechanisms for greater control over the use and management of seeds.
This debate is now reopening, in that the question of food requirements is assuming greater importance in the face of the difficulties encountered by Third World countries in food production and supply. Many issues related to food security converge at precisely the issue of the future of seed production and conservation, that is to say, the capacity of each country to conserve its resources and allocate basic foods.
Today, the selection and use of a specific seed variety involves more than the production of a commodity, since such decisions depend on such other factors as the yield levels attained by different varieties, size and quality type of market, relative prices, and demand. In other words, selection is governed mostly by the logic of economic viability, as shaped by world market trends, even in the case of individual farmers, as a result of the growing involvement of the rural sector in the capitalist system.
In this context, the role of the seed industry is significant. The evolution and development of the industry worldwide has witnessed important modifications in the management and appearance of new enterprises. There is also a strong tendency toward transnationalization, even when in some countries, such as Mexico, laws and regulatory mechanisms have been introduced to develop this activity. The presence of transnationals in the seed industry of Mexico plays a major role both in the performance of the industry itself and in the appearance of some new cultivation trends.
The purpose of this article is to examine the structure and functioning of the Mexican industry as well as the problems it encounters in the protection of genetic resources. It will also be important to look at both the extent to which the Mexican Government has intervened in the regulation of seed industry activities and the prevailing place that transnational firms have come to occupy in the industrial structure.
The seed industry and official agencies. Agricultural research in Mexico goes back to the first years of this century, with the founding of the Experimental Station at San Jacinto in 1907. From that time on, the Government displayed constant attention to improving yields and agricultural practices in the Mexican countryside. The history of these efforts constitutes the base of the present seed industry, which has always relied upon strong government support. In fact, a law passed in December 1960 established the National System for the Production, Certification, and Marketing of Seed.
The intent of this law was to increase the availability of good quality seeds, which were to be produced from the genetic materials that had been improved by scientists in the national research programmes. Twenty-five years later it is interesting to find a state commitment to oversee the growth of the industry and to participate in the production of seeds for basic crops. Even today, the Mexican agreement to consider all activities related to research, grading, production, yield, and certification, as well as the distribution, sale, and use of certified seeds as a public utility (even if not a state monopoly) is unique in the world.
The new system is integrated with the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INIA), the National Seed Producer (PRONASE), producers' associations, and other agencies involved in the registration, grading, and inspection of seeds. The legislation of 1960 opened the possibility that a group of institutions could confront, with power of decision and a broad field for action, the requirements of Mexican agriculture for seeds, including the problems encountered by campesinos in the modernization of agriculture. The law represented a legal and institutional framework sufficiently broad for the development of an improved seed industry in Mexico. It constituted a solid base over which the public sector could operate and control the development of the industry without disregarding the active participation of the private sector in research, production, and marketing of high-yielding seeds.
But any standard system simply establishes some guidelines for its functioning. Its impact on society is the result of its interaction with the actual production establishment and with economic pressures.
Organization and functioning of the industry. At present the functioning of the seed industry depends to a great extent upon the activities of INIA and PRONASE. INIA is concerned with research on genetic materials for the improvement and breeding of new varieties and the conservation of existing varieties; PRONASE, together with some producers associations, receives the results of research, the basic and registered seed. Also participating in this framework are the national private sector, which imports seeds for multiplication in the country, and the certification for distribution to rural producers. Then there are the transnational enterprises that import genetic material directly from their parent companies.
The productive and structural results of INIA's work are shaped by the performance of the agricultural sector and its present crisis. This does not mean that INIA must assume all the problems of agriculture; but the twists imposed by the market and by agricultural policies come to be reinforced by the lack of a basic research effort in appropriate agricultural technology for rainfed production and of basic crops for mass consumption.
This productive turn and the debates regarding the orientation of research that influenced the creation of INIA in 1961 are not isolated cases. In fact, it follows the prevailing conflict between the professionals who advocated the production of hybrid seeds and those who worked to improve the selection of native and other open-pollinated varieties. These debates are reopening today between those who defend private rights to genetic material in favour of the transnational system of seed production and marketing and those who are concerned for the preservation of genetic diversity, the increased availability of open pollinated seed varieties, and the strengthening of peasant production systems.
Like INIA, PRONASE was conceived as a cornerstone of the new seed policy. Maize and wheat have had priority in its programmes. During the 1970s a substantial part of its limited resources were designated for increasing the production of seed for such basic crops as rice, beans, maize, and wheat. This concentration in basic crops gave way suddenly to a policy of diversification in response to important structural changes. The principle of a new phase for the private sector was recognized in 1968 with the creation of the Mexican Seed Association (AMSAC). This reflected the enormous growth in the numbers of foreign and national firms and the consequent increase in the availability of improved seeds. But INIA was also able to supply new crops and varieties in sufficient quantities to permit the launching of a certified seed multiplication programme for general use. Beginning in 1970, PRONASE linked its expansion and diversification programmes to the necessity of regulating the basic market to ensure that it had a larger role in the production of the different seed varieties required by farmers.
This meant that new areas were contracted for the production of these seeds and the yield potential of more crops and varieties was increased. However, despite the great diversification efforts of PRONASE, its relative share in the other markets did not reach any spectacular growth. In some crops, such as the traditional ones, it maintained a high degree of participation. But in maize, its share of the market began to drop in the face of competition from the transnationals. All this necessitated reconsideration of its role in the improved seed industry.
Transnational enterprises in the industry. The transnationals were beginning to establish themselves at the beginning of the 1960s, confining their activities almost exclusively to the importing and distribution of seeds in the domestic market. Meanwhile, construction was beginning of the first installation for improvement of seeds produced in Mexico under the direction of private capital. In 1961, three subsidiaries of North American enterprises began operations in an effort to penetrate the Mexican market: As grow, Northrup King, and Semillas Hibridas (Dekalb). These enterprises were concerned with carrying out their own research to adapt basic genetic materials to Mexican conditions in order to generate new varieties in different types of crops to facilitate the rapid penetration of the market.
In parallel with the burgeoning of these enterprises (between 1960 and 1965), other smaller nationally financed firms began to appear. These initiated their activities with the importation of seeds from seed companies in the United States, giving birth to a private sector which would eventually dominate importation and distribution of vegetable seeds and of sorghum and maize hybrids. Over the 1960s the number of enterprises increased to 25, of which more than half were transnationals. At present, 30 firms are operating, and although the number of national firms (13) is high, it is transnationals, 17 in all, that have determined the guidelines and behaviour of the industry as a whole.
The private sector firms are grouped in AMSAC, through which they have sought to structure and organize the many groups working in the industry, as well as to help face the problems that frequently arise with government agencies concerning permits for import, export, or research.
The promoters of this organization were the transnationals. They probably conceived it as a mechanism that would in the future permit them to negotiate on matters of interest to them, and at the same time as a pressure group, since its members include most of the firms producing and distributing seeds.
Recently the Association managed to gain membership in the Committee for Grading Plant Varieties. Its presence on the Committee obviously allows it to negotiate and defend better the positions and interests of its associates. Thus, AMSAC is an effective instrument for the industry in its efforts to shape a structure able to secure the objectives of the industry.
Despite some examples of managerial innovation and production with which Mexican firms have responded to necessity, the real situation in which these firms operate is determined by their access to North American genetic material. In 20 years of gradual expansion, these firms have achieved a certain influence in the national market for oilseeds, vegetables, and, some of them, sorghum. They have also been most successful in competing with their foreign counterparts, since the technology and systems of production and distribution which they use differ very little. The private sector as a whole, maintains a high level of participation in oleaginous, industrial, and vegetable seeds. Although of minor importance, an increase was achieved in basic crops as well.
The majority of the transnationals involved in seed production are based in the United States and only seven have been authorized to undertake their own research, while others have had to wait for permission. These privileges are granted directly by the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources. Subsequently, the other agencies of the National Seed System (Comitalificador de Variedad de Plantas y el Servicio Nacional de Inspecci Certificacie Semillas) had the responsibility to evaluate, grade, and approve the registration of new varieties. In this sense, the transnationals' research included concrete measures to cover an agreement on the technical standard set by these agencies. However, the criteria for authorizing the research permits have till now been subject to the decisions of the incumbent minister rather than to more specific rules. Nevertheless, some national forums have examined the possibility of increasing soon the number of research permits, which would stimulate availability of varieties and volumes of seeds, but under criteria previously defined by the National System.
Under these conditions, the transnationals have been in a favourable situation, having the capacity to develop or adapt their own varieties and to adapt the requirements of the national market to suit their interests. However, some executives in the private sector estimate that the majority of the seed firms are working with 70 per cent imported seeds and only 30 per cent Mexican. Transnationals do encounter problems with importation now and then, but these are often only bureaucratic procedures that hamper the delivery of permits or the like and do not constitute real obstacles to their operations.
The majority of the firms interviewed declared that they intended to reduce imports to the extent that it was possible to increase production capacity. This intention seems real, considering that expansion plans appear to respond to the enlargement of the market created by national policy. However, it seems that dependency upon seeds imported from transnationals will continue.
Seed marketing. The distribution and marketing of improved seeds involves a variety of channels through which transnational and national firms as well as PRONASE distribute them to agricultural producers, once a variety has passed yield trials. Most of the seed moves through commercial channels. The amount that firms sell directly to producers is reduced. The most usual distribution channels for Mexican seed firms are the National Rural Credit Bank (BANRURAL) and private distributors. Seed producers associations, which operate mainly in the northwestern part of the country, are also an important means of distribution, especially for wheat, in both national and international markets.
BANRURAL buys seed principally from PRONASE on behalf of those producers for whom it is providing financing. Seventy per cent of the certified seed that PRONASE produces is sold in this way. Private firms sell most of their seed production through an extensive network of distributing houses located through the country. Since these distributors are obliged to offer a full range of varieties in order to cover their regional markets, exclusive representation is rare. Thus, distribution is not an activity integrated within the seed firms, but is managed independently of the proprietor of the brand name and of the yield trials. In this way, farmers usually resort to these outlets to acquire certified seed.
One of the major problems that arises in seed marketing concerns BANRURAL. The bank issues contracts specifying that it will buy "up to a certain quantity" but promises to take only that amount which effectively qualifies for credit. The informality and uncertainty of this procedure causes numerous problems for the firms, substantially increasing their costs. However, the problem of ensuring an adequate supply of seeds is really linked more closely to the general fragmentation of the industry than to the difficulties of any one particular sector in the chain of distribution. This reflects the lack of harmony between the requirements for basic foods and what the seed industry produces for national agriculture.
Some final comments. The fragmentation of growth in the seed industry in the recent past appears clearly. Although it has been able to rely on the legal and institutional base conferred upon it by the national seed legislation, which permitted its development, today it does not present a common effort to enable an adequate supply of seeds. Even more, it is well known that the conduct of each of the participating sectors is not governed by the same strategy. Let us consider that in 1961 PRONASE emerged through political necessity immediately after serious conflicts within the agricultural community that were resolved in favour of modern technology. The same legislation that created the National Seed System also allowed for the emergence of numerous private enterprises for seed production and marketing, although this development received considerable official surveillance. The fragmentation to which we refer results from the absence of a clear policy regarding the respective roles that the public and private sectors should play in seed production. The original intentions of PRONASE to regulate the market and ensure the production of seeds for staple food crops encountered problems accordingly as private firms specialized in working for commercial farmers whose production was oriented toward sorghum and high-priced export crops. PRONASE responded to the growth in the less private seed sector by diversifying its activities and giving priority to commercial products. In the 1960s the institution was operating under the general guidelines of an economic policy then in vogue that favoured the growth of the modern sector of agriculture, implicitly leaving behind the majority of farmers practising the cultivation of staple food crops with traditional methods.
The present structure of Mexico's seed industry does not respond to the needs of the country. It is not capable of guaranteeing a regular supply of high-yielding seeds (either hybrids or selected native varieties) for staple food crops. Even in the seed market covering commercial and export crops, the supply of hybrid and improved seeds is inadequate and frequently inappropriate. For example, in the private sector the anarchical organization of the market and the duplication of effort among firms has led to overproduction of sorghum seed while large volumes of seeds for other crops continue to be imported.
To these problems of private initiative is added the lack of a sensible strategy in the public sector for intervening in the regulation and strengthening of the market.
Investment in basic research reflects contradictory criteria, motivated, on the one hand, by the evaluations of specialists as to the number of varieties that could be released and their desired level of production; and, on the other hand, the policy decisions regarding the immediate priorities of the agricultural sector.
There is a deep conflict in the public sector in regard to industry. The dominant current would convert it into a pillar of support for the transformation and modernization of agriculture, accelerating its orientation toward export markets and the support of cattle raising. In this scenario, PRONASE would produce seeds for commercial lines and gradually reduce the programmes that currently represent a subsidy to the campesino sector. INIA would also move in this direction, expanding its research in horticulture, sorghum, and forage crops.
On their side, members of AMSAC would enjoy another privileged moment in its history. The boom in demand for improved seeds has probably scarcely begun. Real restrictions on research and production activities have diminished, even though there have been no modifications to legislation. At present it is being advocated that the country subscribe to the industrial code for patents in order to protect its innovations; however, there is the inconvenience that this would also permit the acquisition as private property of varieties that are now in the public domain.
The opposite tendency to this scenario would be to place major emphasis on the campesino economy. This points toward the incapacity of society to continue its dependence on imported food and reflects the lack of alternatives for many of the resources that peasant societies possess. Besides the social cost implied in allowing the campesinos sector to underutilize its resources: the development model does not offer the campesinos productive employment alternatives in other sectors of the economy, and they are obliged to defend their social and even material existence.
All the while, the tendency exists to safeguard the most efficient and to leave traditional producers to defend their own resources. This implies strengthening still more the production of improved seeds, since the best producers are identified by going modern and are rewarded with credit and technical assistance. The campesinos, who are now adrift, will have to respond energetically to this situation in order to survive. The form and consequences of this response remains to be seen. However, there is a danger that the natural and social phenomena that have so greatly eroded the native seed stock in recent years will seriously restrict the options for this social group in particular and for the country in general, when food self-sufficiency is restored again as the order of the day.
by Tu Nan
Agriculture in China has made impressive progress in the past five years. Gross product value of agriculture increased at an average rate of 10 per cent per annum while in the 28 years from 1953 through 1980, it averaged only 3.5 per cent. In the Sixth Five Year Plan per caput net income of farmers more than doubled, from 190 yuan to about 400 yuan, surpassing the total gain of net income in the previous 28 years.
New policies and strategy, accumulated investment, and more input, coupled with more advanced science and technology all played an important part in the process. In the policy field, the contracted responsibility system combined with better pricing and marketing policies and decentralization all contributed to better results.
Yet in recent years, a new star is rising rapidly on the horizon and fast gaining central stage - rural industry. In the five years from 1979 to 1983, its gross product value increased an average of 17 per cent a year, surpassing the annual growth rate of national industrial development of 14 per cent. In 1984 and 1985, rural industry advanced at the astounding rate of 40 per cent and 45 per cent respectively. It is estimated that the total value of its output, at 330 billion yuan in 1986, surpassed that of agriculture, at 304 billion yuan, for the first time in history. This marked a significant new phase in China's rural development.
The background. The conspicuous features of the environment for China's development and modernization are the country's huge population, limited agricultural resources and a rather low starting base. China is far below world average in the use of some essential agricultural inputs. Arable land per caput is less than a third of world average. Per caput water and forest resources are only one-quarter and one-fifth of the world average respectively. Yet such limited resources have to support a huge rural population of over 800 million, 95 per cent of which is crowded into the southeastern half of continental China. Chinese peasants had long been seeking an opportunity to break out of their poverty and take part in the process of development and modernization. The family farming system introduced some eight years ago released the long pent-up enthusiasm of Chinese peasants for production and prosperity. Agricultural efficiency was thereby enormously improved, but redundant labour, that which agriculture could not absorb quickly, became common in the countryside and now accounts for about half the rural labour force. It is only natural that these workers are eager for new undertakings. As the policy of invigorating the domestic economy got under way, the surplus labour force in the countryside immediately seized new opportunities to launch all kinds of rural enterprises. On the other hand, inadequate infrastructure, especially the transport bottleneck, also makes it necessary to process large amounts of additional agro-products on-site in the countryside. Rising living standards also create demand for more diversified consumer goods that the public sector cannot fully meet.
In some countries modernization has more or less followed the pattern of advanced industrial cities and backward agricultural countryside accompanied by the migration of population from the latter into the former. For a huge country like China, this is neither possible nor desirable, in either financial or physical terms. Since the founding of the People's Republic, the bulk of state investment went to cities, industry, and transport. The result has been impressive but far from satisfactory. Until eight years ago differences between the cities and the countryside were actually widening. Under the old economic system one might say that the cities and the countryside of China had been running on separate tracks. In encouraging the development of rural industry and achieving admirable results, China seems to have found its own particular road to industrialization, modernization, and urbanization suited to its specific conditions.
The miracle. There are now 22 big cities with non-agricultural populations exceeding one million and 28 medium cities with populations between half a million and a million. The 22 megacities alone account for some 40 per cent of the urban population of China and the bulk of the country's industrial capacity, revenue base, and institutions of higher learning. On the other hand, there are over 90 000 rural towns and townships, each with a population of several thousand. It is in these towns and townships that the miracle of rural industry has taken place. The range of enterprises covers almost every trade. There are now about 370 million labourers in rural China. About 300 million of them work in agriculture at least part of their time. About 40 million are in secondary industries, mainly in manufacturing, building, and mining, representing a 74 per cent increase over 1980. About 30 million are in tertiary industries, mainly in transport, commerce, catering, and other services. Rural industry now employs about 20 per cent of the labour force of the Chinese countryside and accounts for some 25 per cent of the total industrial output value of China. In some sectors, rural enterprises have become a sizeable force in the national economy. They now produce over 80 per cent of all iron farm tools, 53 per cent of building material, around 50 per cent of garments and shoes, 43 per cent of sulphate of iron, about 25 per cent of textiles, and some 20 per cent of coal. Their products not only sell throughout the country, but have begun to enter the international market. In 1985, they contributed US$4 billion worth of goods and services on the international market. Now over 8000 rural enterprises are engaged in export production of some 1 500 varieties of products. Nearly 900 of them are joint enterprises with foreign capital. Their 8 million building workers represent more than 60 per cent of the national construction force. Seasonal migrant skilled workers are another feature. For instance, the province of Jiangsu alone sends 35 000 building workers to Sinjiang, in extreme west China, to work for some 10 months of the year and come home every winter. In short, rural industry is now playing an indispensable role in supplementing the deficiencies of state industries and is filling considerable gaps of every conceivable kind.
The pace of expansion of rural industry in China is really remarkable. In the six years between 1980 and 1986, the number of enterprises increased 214 times, from some 56 000 to over 12 million. Gross product value quadrupled, from 65.6 billion yuan to 330 billion yuan. The taxes paid to the state annually quintupled. In the fourth largest city of China, Shenyang, tax paid by rural enterprises accounted for 70 per cent of all local government revenue in 1985 (all Chinese cities have a number of agricultural counties under their jurisdiction). Their total profit approximately tripled in the four years from 1980 to 1984, from 6.6 billion yuan to 18.7 billion yuan. In the past five years, more than half the income increment of the rural population came from rural industry. It is now safe to say that rural industry has become the most dynamic part of the Chinese economy.
The merits. Rural industry in China has been developing under difficult conditions, but there are a number of positive factors that contribute to its vitality, among them:
High flexibility. There are various forms of partnership at varying levels below the county. Enterprises of the county level and higher are mostly state-owned. The most popular and fastest expanding form is the family household undertaking and its alliance with some sort of collective or cooperative enterprise. These are usually centred around certain products, some kind of technology or a line of service. They are inevitably small-scale, permitting quick management decisions in fast-changing market conditions as well as specialization in the production and marketing of thousands of small commodities. About half of all the buttons in China nowadays come from a tiny township in Wenzhou in east China that has developed into the button centre of the whole country for both manufacturing and marketing. Its turnover in button trade exceeded 100 million yuan last year.
Low cost. Rural industry needs no investment from the state. There are no managerial staff assigned by the state with their cradle-to-grave social security cover. An elastic wage system mostly linked to performance is also highly cost saving. Where some investment is inevitable, it is much less than in a state enterprise. For instance, while large state coal pits need 200 yuan of investment to create the capacity to produce one ton of coal, small rural pits need only 20-30 yuan. Thus the 200 million tons of coal produced by rural enterprises annually saved government investment to the tune of some 3.5 billion yuan. Generally speaking, to give employment to one person in a city requires over 15 000 yuan of investment from the state, but rural enterprises need only about 10 per cent of that amount to create one job. Their circumstances dictate that their overheads have to be very small. A great many rural manufacturing enterprises subcontract the making of parts to family workshops where there might be only one or two small lathes using spare space in the family home. They are able to make optimum use of manpower; often they use marginal material or even scrap rejected by state enterprises.
Creating employment. The population of China, now greater than 1 billion, is expected to be between 1.2 and 1.3 billion around the turn of the century. Youngsters entering the labour market number more than 10 million a year and are expected to peak at 13 million before the year 2000. Providing jobs for them is perhaps the single most formidable task facing the Chinese Government. Rural industry, being labour intensive by necessity, appears to be a possible solution to this problem. It absorbed 12 million additional workers in 1985, a 22 per cent increase over 1984, and is bound to provide the main outlet for 10 million-plus fresh labourers coming on stream every year in coming decades.
Better management. Here the picture is certainly mixed. It is generally believed that only some 30 per cent of rural enterprises are well managed, some 40 per cent are of average management standard, some 20 percent are poorly managed, barely remaining in operation, and the remaining 10 per cent are facing closure or bankruptcy. However, in some aspects, they compare favourably with state-run enterprises. In 1984 for every 100 yuan fixed asset, the output value of rural industry is more than twice the average for state enterprises. Profit, at 34 yuan, is more than three times that of the state enterprises. Tax generated at 15 yuan is nearly one and a half times as much. In a country where the science of management was once deliberately ignored, it is difficult to imagine that undereducated peasants, some still illiterate, can properly manage rural enterprises. Here the very nature of the entities in a given situation makes all the difference. In contrast to state enterprises rural enterprises link remuneration directly to performance. The quality of their management and their ability to react immediately and correctly to shifting market conditions are a matter of survival for them. Generally, only better educated and more talented peasants venture to set up such enterprises.
Increasing revenue. As rural industry creates much more wealth
per caput than agriculture, it is fast becoming an ever more important source of
revenue for the Government. In 1985, it paid over 13.7 billion yuan of tax to
the state, representing 7.5 per cent of the total tax revenue and 20 per cent of
new added tax income during the year. In recent years, it has been increasing at
the rate of some 30 per cent a year, a rate much faster than that of other tax
revenues. Besides, it paid over 30 billion yuan in the five years between 1981
and 1985 to local governments and over 8 billion yuan a year to collective
welfare undertaking. Taxes paid by rural enterprises now account for over two
thirds of state revenue collected from the countryside. In Jiangsu province,
some 85.5 per cent of new increased revenue came from rural industry in the past
The problems. Like all new ventures, rural industry in China is fraught with problems. Chief among them:
Obsolete equipment and low technology. There are about 1.8 million technicians in some 400 000 enterprises at the county level and above in China, but rural enterprises have extremely few, if any. Serious environmental pollution is but one aspect of this vast problem.
Shoddy product quality. A considerable glut of many products of inferior quality has already appeared and is forcing many rural enterprises either to improve or to be driven out of existence. But the picture is far from uniform. Some rural enterprises are turning out products of excellent quality of international standard.
Low productivity. This obviously depends on the method of calculation. The comparison with state enterprises can only be relative and the picture extremely mixed. While its productivity is generally higher than agriculture and could compare favourably with the less efficient part of state enterprises, it certainly lags far behind the more modern and better managed ones. It is also generally more energy-consuming.
Shortage of raw material and energy. This is a common problem facing many industries, but an especially acute one for some rural enterprises. Now only about a quarter of them working under contract with state enterprises or having direct links with them receive allocations of raw material at official prices under state plans. The other three quarters have to buy their raw material on the market, where it can be several times more expensive. They get only about half their power supply from the regional grid. For the other half, they have to generate their own electricity in very expensive ways. The shortage of current compels some of them to operate only three or four days a week. A number of rural enterprises are criticized for competing with more efficient modern factories for a limited supply of certain materials.
Shortage of capital. Capital formation for rural enterprises relies mainly on the savings of peasants, the majority of whom are still far from prosperous. Banks and credit institutions gave some assistance, totalling nearly 48 billion yuan of loans of all kinds in 1984, but with the tightening of credit in an overheated economy, this has dwindled. Internal accumulation and the savings of employees totalled about 30 billion yuan in 1984.
Inadequate information. In China where commodity economy was officially recognized only recently, market information is bound to be inadequate. A few family undertakings specializing in the dissemination of market information have appeared and proved very popular, but they are far from adequate. Therefore, decisions to create new enterprises are occasionally taken on the basis of insufficient or inaccurate information.
Declining profit. High costs, low productivity, and excessive levies all cut into the profit margin of rural enterprises. In the five years between 1979 and 1983, their overall profit margin declined from slightly under 25 per cent to just over 15 per cent. When capital increment depends largely on the internal accumulation of on enterprise, this obviously weakens its ability to upgrade equipment and expand production.
Irregularity and disorder. It should not be surprising when large numbers of small enterprises based on profit incentive mushroom in an unruly manner in an underdeveloped rural society. The Government gives tax relief to new enterprises for a couple of years, but some of them change their name and brand frequently to prolong the privilege. They close down and open again too easily. In the absence of a sound land-use law, they tend to take up too much good land. Fakes and substandard products of every description have also appeared. But such practices are being subjected to regulation and are not the main stream of the development of rural industry.
Disincentive to agriculture. The prosperity of rural industry and the higher wages paid to its workers naturally reduces the interest of peasants in tilling the land, especially for lower-priced grain crops. The solution seems to lie in providing special favourable treatment to grain production and encouraging the development of the so-called vertically integrated farming and agroprocessing as a means to achieving better economy of scale and the more even distribution of wealth.
Polarization or equalization. Under the new economic policies, some families become rich sooner and faster than others. But a few enterprises have grown to a sizeable scale, employing several hundred workers. Credit institutions also tend to give more credit to bigger and more profitable enterprises as there is better assurance of repayment and fewer larger loans are obviously easier to handle. Whether private enterprises of such a scale, and even larger, should be allowed to develop further in a socialist society, and whether they should be limited, raises a policy issue as well as a practical problem that has yet to be answered. But the marvellous development of rural enterprises of partnership or ownership has so far definitely contributed to accelerate the growth of the economy and improve the living standard of the rural population.
Uneven regional development. As of 1984, eight relatively developed provinces and metropolitan areas along China's east coast accounted for over one-half of all the country's rural industry while eight least developed inland provinces had only some four per cent of the total. In the highly developed province of Jiangsu, rural enterprises now employ some 10 million people. Their product value of 2.25 billion yuan in 1984 already accounted for over half of the total product value of industry and agriculture. But such uneven development is being remedied, and the less developed areas are fast catching up.
Too much levy. In an ambience long wedded to poverty, it is not strange for many quarters to turn to the new "rich" for all sorts of need for help. In fact, their wealthiness has been overestimated. In an underdeveloped countryside, where casual customary manners rule far more widely than strict law and order, levies of all kinds have been imposed on rural enterprises by local authorities. But such excesses have caught the attention of higher authorities and efforts are being made to curb them to lighten the burden of rural industry....
The policies. China is now in a crucial stage of development, and economic reforms of historic significance are being implemented. The major components of a new set of more liberal policies may be summarized as: - invigorating the domestic economy and opening up to the outside world - reduced mandatory planning to be integrated with expanded guidance planning - macro-economic control to be combined with micro-economic decontrol - direct control by administrative means to be replaced by indirect control through economic leverage - vertically controlled management to be replaced by horizontal linkages between related enterprises - driving force of enterprises to come from within enterprises rather than from without - enterprises are to shift from a closed pattern to an open pattern where micro-economic decision-making is decentralized. In such a context, and in line with the official recognition of the economy as commodity-based and market-oriented, it is only logical that the main content of the Government's policy toward rural industry is to develop a sound market system in which support to the growth of rural industry is lent through such economic leverages as tax, credit, interest, subsidy, supply of raw material, and quality control. Such a market system should cover agroproducts and byproducts, agricultural inputs, consumer goods, technology, information, capital and financial services, labour and jobs, and building and construction. Two aspects are being given special attention: the collection and dissemination of market information and the gradual development of a sound legal system together with the provision of legal service, as these are obviously indispensable in any effective market system. In other words, government endorsement of the development of rural industry will come mainly in the form of policy guidance with the provision of relevant information and regulation through law enforcement in a favourable economic climate. Other policy measures worth mentioning include:
- Financial assistance and resources reallocation. It is generally believed that state enterprises still enjoy considerable advantages over rural enterprises in, for example, the supply of raw material, investment funds, planned production, marketing outlet, and energy provision. Hence it is considered necessary to give rural industry some special treatment in tax payment and credit as compensation and to ensure fair competition. It should be pointed out, however, that rural enterprises have generated as much as four times more revenue for the state than they received in favour and support from the state in recent years. But perhaps of even greater importance is the policy of using part of the revenue from rural industry to support agricultural development. It is estimated that modernization of agriculture in China at a moderate rate requires investment of 1 trillion yuan. The state would be hard-pressed to provide that amount. The bulk of it would have to come from the countryside itself. Rural industry already contributed over 10 billion yuan to agriculture accounting for 15-20 per cent of its total profit in the past five years and is destined to generate the overwhelming majority of investment capital needed by agriculture in the years to come.
- Encouraging horizontal links. In a vast country like China, great variety in natural resources and the extent of development is a distinctive feature. Generally speaking, the coastal areas are far more developed, with much more managerial talent and technical skill, than inland provinces, which are, however, generally endowed with more natural resources, but they are also much more densely populated with an acute land shortage. Voluntary association of all kinds of partnership based on the principle of mutual benefit enables them to compensate for one another's deficiencies and give full play to the different strengths of various localities. After a long period of excessively rigid control from the central Government, the benefit of such horizontal collaboration is especially pronounced and is giving a push to rural development. In one instance, about half the rural industry near Shanghai has become subcontractors, supplying parts to large enterprises in the metropolitan centre.
- Assisting better division of work. For historical reasons, the processing of agricultural products in China is located mostly in cities and towns rather than in the countryside. These industries are going to shift gradually back to where the raw material is produced. This would make processing much more economical. Furthermore, rural enterprises are encouraged to cover the whole line of such undertakings, including preproduction services, packaging, storage, transport, marketing, and other post-production services. In other words, rural industry, which by necessity is agriculture-based, should in turn provide a complete range of services to promote agricultural development, thus leading to the formation of local vertically integrated agro-industrial businesses. Industries not suitable for developing in cities will gradually be shifted out to the countryside.
- Technical assistance. The Government has formulated a programme, named SPARK, designed specifically to assist the technological upgrading of rural industry in the Seventh Five Year Plan period. It consists mainly of: developing 100 complete sets of relatively advanced equipment suited to the conditions of rural China and organizing their mass production; assisting the establishment of 500 model rural enterprises for demonstration purposes and providing them with complete sets of appropriate technology, management rules, product design, and quality-control methods; training 1 million young managers every year with knowledge of appropriate technology and modern management knowhow. Some 2.3 billion yuan of investment capital has been secured so far. Bank loans and government appropriation account for only some 16 per cent of the total amount. The bulk is generated by the enterprises themselves. It is expected that this programme will add over 10 billion yuan of annual output value to the rural enterprises in a couple of years' time with an input/output ratio of nearly 1: 5....
Prospects and implications. The extraordinary pace at which rural industry is developing in China is rapidly giving it predominance in the country's rural economy and pushing agriculture into second place in the more developed parts of the country. In less advanced areas, it is rapidly catching up. The size of its employment is expected to expand by 70 per cent by 1990 to reach 120 million and further to. 220 million by 1995 or shortly thereafter. Its pace of growth in recent years is two to three times faster than the average speed of industrial development in general. Its output value is expected to reach approximately 60 per cent of the gross product value of the Chinese countryside by the end of this century. In fact, the expansion of rural industry in China accounted for around half of the net increase of gross product value of her industry in the last couple of years. But even more important is the pivotal role it played in the improvement of the structure of the rural economy by introducing extensive diversification into the countryside. Taking all factors into consideration, its productivity is expected to improve by five per cent a year in the next decade. Its share in total export is expected to account for no less than 15 per cent.
But the significance of the development of rural industry in China goes far beyond its quantitative expansion. It has important implications in finding a solution to the huge population and employment problem, in supplementing the deficiencies of the state-run industries and m narrowing the wide gap between cities and countryside. In the past 36 years, urban population in China has roughly doubled, from 100 million to 200 million, with the additional 100 million divided equally between natural growth of urban population and controlled migration of rural inhabitants into cities at very high cost to the state. It is projected that the labour force of the Chinese countryside will reach 450 million by the year 2000, but agriculture will be able to absorb no more than 220 million of them. Rural industry, labour-intensive by nature, is poised to absorb the balance. In many countries, a clearly defined way to urbanize is a problem yet to be solved. In the case of China, by one key indicator, the annual output value of an industrial worker is, at 4 500 yuan, 7.5 times that of a farmer, at 600 yuan on average. It is difficult to imagine that a modern socialist state could be built with advanced cities but a very backward countryside. The development of rural industry offers a solution to the difficult problem of narrowing the rural-urban gap; this is the gradual industrialization and modernization of the huge intermediate area between the agricultural countryside and the metropolitan centres by building large numbers of small towns and townships (the number of townships increased over 150 per cent in the past five years). Such a network of small towns and townships would form a multitude of bridges between cities and countryside through which capital, technology, managerial talent, raw material, finished and semifinished products could flow back and forth. In another sense, it also enables China to avoid potentially dangerous antagonism between workers and peasants and between cities and the countryside which the widening differences between them would inevitably induce.
Another question of no less importance is the spiritual and cultural aspect of rural development. The significance of cultural and educational advancement and the gradual change of traditional values and social concepts cannot be overemphasized. For rural China to move ahead from a semi-subsistence, half closed farming society, with all its inertia and stagnation, to a modern commodity-oriented agro-industrial society, it needs all the impact of a cultural shock, which only the development of rural industry with its entrepreneurial spirit and managerial acumen can bring about. On the other hand, the material improvement of rural conditions would also contribute to the rural population's cultural advancement. Some 20-30 per cent of the after-tax profit of rural industry in recent years has already been devoted to the development of education, culture, public health, sports and local government administration in the Chinese countryside.
One more lesson which China has learned in the past three decades is the limitations of state-run enterprises. The Government can take direct charge only of crucial lifelines of the economy and a limited number of key enterprises. It has to rely mainly on a whole set of policies and strategies to guide the rest of the vast economy. Rural enterprises will develop under such guidance and fill the innumerable gaps which the public sector cannot possibly take care of, especially the thousands of omnipresent small commodities.
The remarkable thing about rural industry is that it needs very little of what China is short of investment capital to make optimum use of what China has in surplus - manpower. By relying mainly on correct policies and strategy, it is able to tap the vast potential of the smallest economic cells of rural China in terms of both human and physical resources, thereby avoiding the biggest weakness of China in its industrialization, modernization, and urbanization and turning it to its best possible advantage. In a sense, it might be considered a sort of extension of the contracted responsibility system in agricultural production - both rely mainly on the catalytic role of policies to stimulate the initiative and enthusiasm of workers, peasants, and managers. In another sense, it might also be likened to the early stages of the industrial revolution in the West. The main difference lies in the presence or absence of firm state guidance and/or regulation in the context of the whole social system. Past lessons in the shortcomings of excessive rigidity in economic policies and over-centralized administration in China have been well learned. The emphasis of the new approach will be the ever improved use of a gradually more finely tuned regulated market mechanism and a measured flexibility to facilitate healthy development.
The full-fledged development of rural industry in China has only a short history. All kinds of problems and defects are inevitable in the initial stage, but these are by nature relative and transitory. The objective laws governing the development of rural industry will see to it that these would be rectified in the process. China should have learned enough lessons in the past decades to realize such historical rationale and logical necessity to be able to guide rural industry to maturity.
Viet Nam has been an agricultural country for thousands of years, and recently new trends have appeared in farming practices. This article proposes to examine both the structure of agricultural production and the technical and scientific efforts made in this sector of the economy.
The experience of other countries has shown that, generally speaking, a structural revolution in agriculture gives a boost to production. Viet Nam began by replacing spring rice crops by winter crops, thus increasing rice yields by two to three metric tons per hectare and making it possible to apply new cropping methods (azolla followed by spring rice, intensification of market garden crops and secondary cereals, promoting the cultivation of export crops). This radical change in food crop cultivation stems from the need to improve the nation's diet. At the present time, the daily food intake of our people consists of about 48 grams of protein and 23 grams of fats, amounting to a total of 2 000 calories. In the immediate future our efforts will be concentrated on the overall calorie intake (essential food intake) before diversifying the diet and integrating it with amino acids (rational food intake).
In recent years our country's annual food production has reached 16-17 million metric tons. In addition to rice and the other cereal products, efforts are being made to develop our bean production. In the past, the area under beans was much smaller than that of other food crops, but from now on this crop will be playing an important role in improving the people's diet.
It will take several five-year plans before we can reach the rational consumption level of meat, eggs, and milk. We are also counting on increasing fish production to improve the quality of our meals. In the long term, cereals will gradually be replaced by a rational proportion of vegetable and animal protein.
Plans for the development of industrial crops include improving the entire perennial and annual plant production. In dealing with annual industrial crops, a distinction must be made between those grown extensively (e.g., groundnuts, tobacco) and those cultivated on limited areas (e.g., jute, rushes). For perennials, priority is given to crops which are most appreciated on world markets, such as tea, coffee, or hevea. In the years to come our efforts will be concentrated on improving the production of annuals in order to obtain the capital required for expanding perennial crops.
Appropriate cropping techniques must be selected for each category of crops. For example, groundnut production must mainly be left to farm cooperatives and family concerns; hevea and coffee production, requiring fairly heavy investments, will be carried out on state farms and in farm cooperatives. The time it takes for development to become effective depends on our ability to solve both the population's food supply problem and that of our cooperation with other countries.
For animal husbandry to become more economically important, a reform must be undertaken in animal feeding. This reform will be speeded up as soon as we have solved the food problem for our people, in which maize will play an important role. For the time being, maize yields are still very low, about 1.2 tons per hectare. We expect to bring them up to three and even four tons over several successive five-year plans. We are also concentrating on the production of soya, which in recent years has reached between 60 000 and 70 000 tons. In future, after we have reached the target of several hundred thousand tons, we have reason to believe that the "white revolution" will begin with soya and that our people will be drinking more vegetable milk than animal milk.
Pig raising is developing fast in a densely populated rural world in areas where rice is grown. There were 10 million pigs in 1981,13 million in 1985, mainly raised on family farms. The cattle population was 4.15 million in 1981 and 5.2 million in 1985. Up to the year 2000, buffalo will continue to be an essential source of wealth.
Poultry breeding and pisciculture have been popularized. Fish breeding is practised in flooded rice fields and water courses and will be encouraged in our numerous ponds and pools.
Handicrafts are flourishing in several rural localities. In 1982, the sector included 1.6 million craftsmen with fixed funds of 1.6 billion dong. This sector contributes to the development of agricultural products and can supplement farmers' incomes. We hope it will gradually be possible to separate the handicrafts sector from agriculture and create artisans' cooperatives. For a certain number of important products (such as ones with a high export value), it will soon be possible to modernize production with a view to improving quality. In order to develop the handicrafts sector it is, of course, important to adopt judicious policies on investment, credit, farming techniques, and human diet.
In our country, these structural revolutions do not progress along separate roads but are closely coordinated in each region. Let us consider the example of the Red River delta. Since the early 1950s, the "brown revolution" has distributed the land to the farmers; it was followed by the "blue revolution", which brought irrigation and drainage to the rice fields. At the end of the 1950s the "red revolution" modified agriculture on the road to socialism; in the mid-1960s came the "green revolution", and in the early 1980s the "red revolution" was resumed with the adoption of a global agricultural contract. The scientific and technological revolution is aimed at arousing awareness and a sense of responsibility in farmers, while the purpose of the productive revolution is to improve their management ability and to form the social basis for the socialist revolution.
The scientific and technical revolution first of all calls for the mechanization of agricultural techniques. In a fairly densely populated country (180 inhabitants/km)... for an area of 32 536 000 hectares, and with a surplus labour force, the initial goal of the scientific and technical revolution must be to achieve efficient intensive farming.
Experience has shown that in the 1976-1980 plan, the rate of increase of food crop yields was low because our efforts were only aimed at increasing the cultivated area. But with the promotion of intensive farming in the 1981-1985 plan, the rate of increase was fairly high. In the coming period, we must both accelerate the green revolution for rice and such other crops as maize, beans, and industrial plants, and we must launch the biological revolution, which, in substance, will be the second green revolution. If this is to take place in the 1990s, now is the time to lay the foundations for the era of information technology, to apply the latest advances in this field and in micro-biology, so that we can create new seed varieties and new food products. In the immediate future our task is to distribute seed, set up a network to protect vegetable crops and domestic animals, ensure that farmers are provided with the equipment they need at the right time, and set up irrigation systems.
In parallel with the promotion of intensive farming, the cultivable area must be extended and new land cleared the question of farming machinery will be solved gradually. As a developing country we have had to pay a high price for our tractors (which numbered 39 400 in 1982).
In learning our lesson from our experience, by the year 2000 we will have achieved selective mechanization. For instance, there will be mechanized irrigation, drainage, tilling, transport, insecticide treatment, etc., for rice crops. But for all crops, mechanization must be combined with manual work. In regions where automation has partially been achieved, we shall reorganize tractor stations, consolidate labour groups, and improve management by giving priority to machinery repair and supplying spare parts.
In the change from small- to large-scale production, we realize that we cannot simply rely on the revolutionary enthusiasm of the masses to achieve a hasty socialization of production by adopting administrative measures, and we know that we must choose the right forms of collectivization.
In 1982, the five million farmer families belonging to the country's 15 000 agricultural cooperatives account for 96.9 per cent of the population in the north and 24.4 per cent in the south, with varying forms and degrees of collectivization according to the level and type of productive forces prevailing in each locality. In addition to the cooperatives and mutual aid organizations, to stimulate production further, we are setting up a network of buying, selling, and credit cooperatives.
The sector of family economics is of fundamental importance since it provides the population with the majority of its foodstuffs. We must insist on the vast expansion of vegetable gardens, fish breeding, and animal husbandry with the help of the collective economy and under the protection of organizations responsible for technical services.
Farm cooperatives, state farms, and family farms constitute complementary economic sectors. The combination of all three makes it possible to obtain high yields.
In order to implement the aforementioned socio-economic strategy, several broad policies must be adopted. First of all an investment policy: in any economy, the percentage of finished products is an extremely important indicator. Given the predominant role of agriculture' we must invest in that sector. In the 1976-1980 plan, agricultural production accounted for 28 per cent of gross production, but investments in the agricultural sector represented only 21 per cent of the overall investments in the nation's economy.
This investment policy was applied during the period of transition to socialism: particularly in the initial phase in which the collective and private economy still represents a notable proportion and where state capital is still limited. That is why our policy will be backed by the slogan: "The State and the people work together. Central and local organizations work together." In agriculture this slogan has begun to yield positive results.
Investment policy in agriculture and in the economy in general is closely connected with the population growth policy. We all know that the investment funds are divided into three parts: one to maintain and repair existing structures, another to promote production, and the third concerns the population growth rate (food, housing, clothing, nursery schools, schools, health, vocational training). In recent years, our country's population growth rate has been high. From 1979 to 1983 it was 2.1 per cent, which had a negative effect on our economy. We must therefore take the necessary measures to promote family planning in order to reduce the investments envisaged to compensate for the population growth rate, and to increase the volume of capital injected into the economy.
by Mohammed Ennaji
In North Africa, Morocco can be taken as an example to illustrate the problem of farmers without land, since the proletarianization of the peasantry there is not new. Colonization had already cornered over 15 per cent of the useful agricultural land. Just before independence, a few thousand settlers and landlords owned 40 per cent of the cultivable land (reducing an ever-increasing number of peasants to destitution: the number of farmers owning no land rose from 33 per cent in 1932 to 60 per cent in 1952). In the 1970s, almost 75 per cent of farming families still either owned no land or possessed an area which, due to rapid population increase, had become insufficient to cover their needs....
Since most of the rural population no longer possess sufficient means of production, they are driven to sell their labour in order to survive. They subsist by resorting to paid occupations in several economic sectors and to such activities as gathering, handicrafts, and petty trade. This is how most members of the family make their living, leaving only a few to work on the farms which are too small to support the entire family. The women, who normally work in the home, occasionally resort to paid work outside. Children are taken out of school to look after the small family herds or to do odd jobs. When they reach adulthood they seek work elsewhere; thus the family breaks up. The changing rural world has completely disrupted the living conditions of the poorest members of the community.
The ancient tribal, feudal, or communal order consequently falls to pieces, and lineal solidarity weakens. The degeneration of traditional institutions has not yet been replaced by new structures such as centralized political parties, government services, and local authorities.
The economic difficulties of most farmers lie in this new social framework: the land is owned by a minority, and the high population growth rate has increased the imbalance between available resources and the needs of the population. The land has become so fragmented that the farms are now merely microholdings - too small to ensure for the new rural generations the same harvests as their forebears.
Monetarization of the peasant economy. Today, through numerous but in sufficient measures, the Government has aggravated the feeling of need in its aid to the poor (distribution of wheat or work camps for the unemployed). By acting as intermediary in a traditional society, the Government has often become an easy structure to resort to, thus confirming the inefficiency of the traditional order. The break-up of groups and of the traditional family drives individuals to distress, puts pressure on them to move to the towns to seek any kind of odd job and to accept precarious, hopeless employment. The situation is increasingly more stressful with the endless creation of new needs. For instance, a number of consumer goods unknown to the peasants or which would normally have been considered luxuries have already become necessities: sugar, tea, but also shoes, furnishing fabrics, petrol lamps, bicycles, and bed linen. These goods seem to have become more and more necessary and cost more and more. Hard cash has become the foundation for interpersonal relations, and bartering disappeared a long time ago from the markets and villages.
Diminishing stock and the new needs bring agricultural products on to the markets, even if the farmers have to buy them back for their own consumption. Also, contributions in kind (chickens, eggs, butter) have been replaced by bargaining. Nowadays services are exchanged only for payment in cash.
This state of affairs drives the poor farmers, left to their own devices, to a state of constant anxiety and despair, for they can no longer benefit from the redistribution process which was part of the traditional society. At the beginning of the century, the land was leased out against a symbolic loaf of bread, as the idea of paid labour was rare. Today it is normal to negotiate labour against half of the harvest. The price of land and increasing land rent are connected with the fact that the bulk of the land is in the hands of a few landlords and the number of landless farmers is on the increase. The development of leasing out land is another factor which makes the situation even more critical, for it assumes that the leaseholder disposes of sufficient liquidity and agricultural inputs even before he starts production.
Up to not so long ago, farm ownership and social mobility in the rural areas of Morocco were still attainable goals. The status of shepherd, sharecropper, labourer, smallholder were all steps up the ladder of progress in the life of the farmer who started out without any land. Of course, not all of them managed to reach the top of the ladder, but the efforts of enough of them were crowned with success to give hope to others.
Today the high population growth rate and the fact that less and less land is available at a time when traditional institutions are crumbling mean that the peasants at the bottom of the social ladder no longer benefit from even the tribal or feudal protection systems. They hold no recognized position; only the most tenacious and the most enterprising manage to escape from marginalization.
Instability is the rule. There can be no progress when the activities practised for survival are precarious and unstable. An example of this situation is afforded by agricultural wage-earners: permanent farm jobs have been reduced to the advantage of odd jobs or seasonal labour, and workers are not always paid the minimum legal wage. Trade unions are virtually non-existent outside the state farms.
Schooling does not make the situation any brighter: in 1982 only 27 per cent of rural children aged five to 19 attended school, which is no guarantee for success. The majority of them leave school very early to find a job. The youngsters are attracted to the towns, where, however, there is no guarantee of a future. There is no longer any hope in farming. The occupation of the farmer is gradually losing its meaning. This trend is accentuated by the division of labour on the big farms: employers prefer workers who are poorly paid and are willing to move around, who have no legal status and can easily be fired, rather than experts or technicians. The only permanent labour they have are a few keepers or herdsmen.
Increasing inequality. In order to combat the rural exodus, income in rural environments must improve substantially and a sustained effort must be made to make more investments in favour of depressed areas. But, in actual fact, inequality is increasing.
Land has been distributed to barely two per cent of the farmers. Out of one million hectares of land taken over by the Moroccan Government after independence, one-third has been passed on to the new rural te, another third is awaiting allocation, and the last third has been distributed among 24 000 peasants.
But there is more than one form of inequality with regard to land ownership: government aid goes to the richest; only two per cent of landless farmers have access to farm credit, and subsidies for agricultural inputs are preferably granted to the big and middle-sized farms. Barely 18 per cent of the subsidies for consumption reach the poorest echelons of the population. Labour laws, which are already inadequate, are not respected by employers. And generally speaking, agricultural policy focused on "viable" farms does not concern the marginalized peasants.
The creation of non-agricultural jobs is limited and continues to give priority to the urban and not the rural areas. The Government tries to make up for this by creating work camps, but barely five per cent of the poorest families benefit from this operation (200 days of work per person a year). At this rate there is no hope of improving the destitution of much of the population.
Limited land resources. The most obvious solution in the fight against the impoverishment of the landless farmers would be to facilitate their access to land ownership and to the inputs of agro-pastoral production. But most of the land available to the Government has already been parcelled out. The easiest policies are adapted in order to avoid any unrest or social disturbance. It would have been a wise social measure, for instance, to take back the land from the foreign occupants as soon as independence was achieved and distribute it to the poor peasants. Of course, there is still some government-owned land that has not been distributed, but, by handing it out, it would be possible to satisfy only two per cent of the demand.
Other land resources could be mobilized by imposing a limit on the amount of land one is authorized to own: for the time being, this solution has not been envisaged.
Another consideration is that in Morocco, the total redistribution of cultivated land into 13-hectare plots would solve the problem for about 500 000 rural families, or one quarter of the demand. The remaining three-quarters could then not all find jobs since almost all the labour would be provided by the family. The creation of a government controlled farm credit organization could restore a balance in the unequal division of land, but it would probably produce only psychological and political effects. Finally, legislation covering the sharing of undivided inherited wealth could have a positive effect, particularly at the economic level.
Under the present socio-political trends, there is little hope of reducing the number of landless farmers by waiting for land to become available. Other measures should be sought to allow use of the land and other factors of production in conditions that would favour growth of productivity and income.
Reforming the status of sharecroppers, landlords, managers, and farmers would appear to be the more generous and useful measure. Unlike the reform of agrarian structures, reform of the status of tenant farmers would involve no political or social complications for the legislator: it is merely a technical operation that would basically satisfy all parties concerned. There would be no winners or losers. But efforts in this direction made in 1969 and 1973 have largely remained inoperative. The power system in rural areas can only very gradually accept seeing leaseholders improving their status with respect to that of the owners. The experience of the last 20 years shows, on the contrary, that the authority of the landowners appears to have been reinforced, probably because the power of the trade union and political organizations in the villages has diminished.
If all the programmes concerning access to land ownership cannot solve the crisis of rural life, solutions must be sought elsewhere.
Intensified farming. It would be possible to increase paid jobs in the agricultural sector by taking account of the fact that if the cultivable area cannot be extended on the surface it can certainly be extended in depth and in fertility. Increasing soil productivity means employing more people, better skilled and therefore better-paid labour.
Agriculture in Morocco is still largely extensive. Although much progress has been made in irrigated areas, much remains to be done; cropping methods tend to be simplified without necessarily increasing yields; the number of working days per hectare is very low, with a maximum of 40 days per year for rainfed crops, 200 in irrigated areas, and an average of barely 250 days for market-garden crops.
Since independence, 28 reservoirs have been built to bring almost 900 000 hectares under irrigation (so far 600 000 ha are irrigated) at an enormous cost, and the results have yet to be seen. At most, the intensification of production through irrigation will apply to only 12-15 per cent of the cultivable land. In rainfed areas, farmers are not yet familiar with the technical solutions and do not apply them extensively. Thus there are only 4 000 tractors for 5 million mechanically arable hectares of land, i.e., one for every 1 250 hectares. However, tractors are not necessarily a condition for intensive farming - sometimes quite the opposite could be true - but considering how much deep ploughing and early sowing increase both the cropping area and average yields, it is regrettable that so few machines are used.
Working the land by mechanical means would not require less manpower than annual crops do using draught animals, since the machines make it possible to sow much larger areas and, above all, to increase yields and thus also employment. However, the effects of mechanization are not all positive, particularly when it is used in extensive farming. In some regions the use of farm machinery leads to the elimination of those crops that are not easy to cultivate mechanically, such as pulses or certain industrial crops (flax, fenugreek), in favour of cereal monoculture. Agricultural development therefore implies polyculture and rotation cropping (necessary for maintaining soil fertility and for better distribution of labour throughout the year).
Training rural manpower. Every year, the lack of intensified farming to meet the needs of a rapidly increasing population leads to the departure-of masses of rural inhabitants to the towns. It is the young men who leave, often the strongest, the more innovative, the better educated. The rural areas are losing the only inhabitants able to change their way of life and who have the vitality and the will to succeed. Their reasons for leaving are numerous and obvious. Life is easier in the towns, and the opportunities and prospects for employment are greater there. The villages offer no cultural life but restraints and customs instead.
Because those workers who stay behind are the less skilled, problems of know-how on the farms arise. As a result, orchards have been reduced in size on the big farms, seed improvement has been delayed, cropping methods have been simplified, and several of the more specialized skills have disappeared (grafting, pruning, etc.). The opposite seems to have occurred, however, in the market gardens of the big towns and with the new industrial crops.
There is no point pleading for the cause of retraining farm labourers unless such a programme in accompanied by a number of related measures: intensified farming, greater crop variety, better markets, higher pay for labour, and technical training according to need.
But to achieve this, it is not sufficient to make rules, or pass legislation, or even provide purely financial or administrative measures. The problem is to make a global change in the economy, increase purchasing power in urban areas, and bring about a positive change in the demand for labour.
Improvements must be made in labour legislation, which is of no use if it is not backed by a strong social movement. The need for it must be voiced clearly by those concerned. Labour laws are no good on their own, but no progress can be made without them.
For instance, in the same way that it imposes taxes, the Government could impose on employers a wage scale, better protection for workers against industrial injuries, proper lodgings for them, recognition of their level of education, and a pension scheme. But all this implies a change in the relations between the Government and the land owners. The long-term interests of both parties cannot do without improving the conditions of farm labour.
Improving non-agricultural employment. If the smallest viable farm covers 13 hectares, half the rural population must find a living in non-agricultural activities. This is already happening: part-time work is no novelty, nor is it a Moroccan speciality, but it has become more and more typical of the labour situation in Morocco in the last 15 years or so.
Recent studies have shown that secondary activities, which in numerous cases have become the principal activity, are mainly in the services, transport, urban construction sites, and government work camps. Secondary productive industries and handicrafts are in a bad way in rural areas, except where the products are intended for the tourist market.
One solution would be to consider "proto-industrialization" by encouraging workers from areas with insufficient available land to move to the highly productive agricultural areas and work in the processing sector. The range of possible activities would include: processing dairy produce, wool, skins, horns, honey and wax, pottery and ceramics, stonework, oil; drying (dates, apricots, pulses), preserving (meat, jam), fibre (plaits, weaving, hide tanning), energy products (biogas, wind and solar energy), leisure industries and tourism.
In order to develop and expand these possibilities, serious investment programmes need to be devised and adapted to each single case, and these must consider continuous training for the labour force.