|CERES No. 105/109 - October 1985 (FAO Ceres, 1985, 50 p.)|
The FAO Review:
A continuing challenge: World leaders address the hunger issue
(a special number for FAOs 40th anniversary)
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations was founded at Quebec City, Canada, on 16 October 1945. Among other activities designed to mark the 40th anniversary of that occasion, the Director-General of FAO, Edouard Saouma, invited a number of world leaders to participate in the presentation of authoritative viewpoints on the global problems of hunger, poverty and underdevelopment. Nine heads of state or government responded to specific questions prepared by the editors of Ceres. This special number of our review is devoted to their replies, which we are publishing in English alphabetical order of the countries represented. We are pleased to share these authoritative statements with our readers. - The Editors.
Edouard Saouma, Director-General of FAO: Rediscovering a sense of urgency
The fusion of ideas and action that led to the creation of the Food and Agriculture Organization 40 years ago is well recorded. In the decade before the Second World War, dedicated individuals like Walter Aykroyd, Frank McDougall and Sir John Boyd Orr assembled impressive evidence to support their argument that hunger could be eliminated through the collective efforts of national governments. The League of Nations, though frustrated and enfeebled, roused itself to produce a study on the relationship of nutrition to health, agriculture and economic policy. If no immediately tangible results emerged, at least more thought was given to the absurdity of a state of affairs in which farmers went bankrupt and their unmarketable produce was destroyed, while millions of impoverished workers and their families suffered hunger and malnutrition.
The story of how these perceptions percolated upward to a point of political decision carries its own touch of drama. The intervention of Eleanor Roosevelt in bringing Frank McDougall's ideas to the attention of the President of the United States is a cherished tidbit of FAO pre-history. It is not necessary to try to assess the importance, in historical terms, of that luncheon meeting between the First Lady of the United States and the Australian economist who happened to be in Washington negotiating a wheat agreement. But it is worthwhile to contemplate that from that meeting in September of 1942, little more than three years elapsed before 42 nations had signed the Constitution that established FAO as the first of a new generation of international agencies. In the midst of the most destructive and widespread war in human history, the political support and needed resources were made available to establish a framework for action designed to benefit people everywhere. Political will has long been acknowledged as the primary element in international cooperation. Today the same imperatives for political decisiveness in matters of food and agriculture remain with us. Hunger persists anti its victims increase each year in absolute if not proportionate terms. At the same time unmarketable surpluses of foodstuffs, and underutilized resources for food production, continue to embarrass governments and burden their treasuries.
Such evident parallels between the 1930s and the 1980s should not lead us to despair. There have been remarkable achievements as well as disappointments. Through much of South and East Asia-the world's most populous regions -agricultural productivity has advanced significantly to reach the level of a precarious self-sufficiency in basic cereals. A balanced view is essential if the record of four decades of agricultural development is to be judged fairly.
The initial mandate. For a start, it would be useful to recall that the patterns of hunger portrayed for the League of Nations half a century ago were drawn almost exclusively from data pertaining to what we now call the industrialized world, including countries, such as Australia and Canada, whose economies were then still dependent primarily on agricultural export. Initial political support for the FAO mandate centred upon the need to resolve the agricultural and nutritional problems in nations whose independent economic and social development had been underway for decades if not for centuries. Development of agriculture in vast colonial regions was not then of paramount concern.
It is, however, to the credit of those who drafted the FAO Constitution that its terms of reference were sufficiently broad in scope to permit its resources to be applied under a wide range of conditions in a rapidly changing world. In 40 years the Organization's membership has very nearly quadrupled. The centre of gravity of its governing bodies, at least in terms of simple voting power, has shifted accordingly. And so, in a certain sense, has the nature of the problems needing to be addressed by governments at different levels of development.
One of the primary lessons to be learned by newly formed sovereign states was that political independence held little meaning without a matching degree of economic viability. The quality and quantity of natural resource endowments enclosed within these new political boundaries varied greatly. Cultural and historical backgrounds were equally diverse. Even so, there were certain common elements that confronted governments of developing countries as they emerged from the colonial era. Most of their economies were heavily dependent upon primary production, with agriculture in most cases the dominant sector, usually divided between a relatively modern sub-system geared to export crops and a traditional subsistence agriculture producing some surplus food for domestic consumption. Finally, as improved post-war health services dramatically reduced crude death rates, most countries experienced a corresponding surge in population growth rates.
Thus it was not unnatural that many developing countries found in the patterns of economic growth exhibited by the industrialized countries an attractive model for their own future development. If Europe and North America had been able to draw upon surplus labour from their agricultural sectors to man burgeoning industries and services, even while achieving remarkable gains in agricultural productivity, was this not a reasonable target for Third World nations as well? Massive unemployment and underemployment in many developing countries argue persuasively for this approach. There is also the lure of diversifying a national economy so that its viability within the global economic order is less dependent upon a few primary commodities whose values on international markets have so often been erratic. Finally, there is a psychological factor: that understandable human urge of the twentieth century to be considered "modern".
The rural-urban gap. Far too often, this tempting rationale has outweighed other considerations that would counsel a more gradual shift toward modern, industrially based economies. The industrial growth of Europe and North America, after all, was achieved over not one generation, but many. It was accompanied, and in some instances preceded, by significant advances in the agricultural sector. In both agriculture and industry growth depended in turn upon the development of an ever more complex web of supporting structures: universal schooling, research institutes, extension services, banking and credit systems, producer and trade associations, communication, transportation and marketing facilities. If farm incomes and living conditions often lagged significantly behind those of other sectors, agrarian interests were able to organize effectively, penetrating markets through their cooperatives and influencing legislative processes through their associations, ironically gaining both economic and political strength even while their proportionate share of the labour force was declining sharply.
Few of these conditions obtained in the developing countries. Basic infrastructures were lacking. Agricultural research and technology had focussed principally on export crops. Capitals and major cities were often more closely linked to former colonial powers than to their own hinterlands. Even with the best of intent, interaction between new urban bureaucracies and rural populations was difficult. Even though the latter represented overwhelming majorities of the population, their participation in national political processes has been feeble and their share in the material benefits of national economic growth disproportionately small. Millions upon millions of the Third World's rural youth saw little incentive for staying on the land and joined the swelling urban masses seeking a more promising lifestyle.
With significant proportions of their populations marginalized within their own economies, many Third World countries face an analogous situation within the global economy of nations. An abundance of low-cost labour has not proven to be of significant advantage in efforts to promote industrial growth, given the political strength that labour organizations in developed countries have been able to exercise in protecting domestic jobs. And abundance in the harvest of major export crops has not ensured increased returns to producers, given the volatile nature of world markets and the absence, for the most part, of truly effective commodity agreements. Where domestic food production has been concerned, there has been the temptation to use food aid available on a bilateral government-to-government basis as a means of providing cheap food to urban consumers rather than as a tool for supporting development programmes and projects that would enhance domestic productive capacity.
With a ready-made palliative applied to the problem of provisioning politically volatile urban populations, it was much easier to accord agriculture a lower priority in the national budget. When financing could be found for the development of food and agricultural production, it was often more convenient to channel it to highly visible projects in the modern sector, such as major irrigation works, rather than to devise ways of reaching smallholders practicing rainfed agriculture.
An invaluable resource. Persistence of these conditions underscores the strategic importance of a vigorous collective effort by governments to discover and apply enduring remedies. The basic mechanism required for such an effort has been in place for 40 years. Through the deliberations of its governing and statutory bodies, the Food and Agriculture Organization has been able to define clearly many of the causal factors of hunger, poverty and underdevelopment. Through the experience and expertise accumulated from thousands of missions and field projects undertaken at the request of its member governments, the FAO Secretariat has been able to test and refine solutions to many fundamental problems of rural development. This blending of a continuing inter-governmental dialogue with pragmatic problem-solving in the field represents an invaluable resource for development initiatives undertaken in either the national or the international context.
To achieve its maximum utility, however, the resource requires a properly supportive environment. It needs a high degree of political commitment from governments in both North and South. Such commitment cannot be measured only in terms of the material resources.. | Its ultimate value will derive more from the degrees of willingness demonstrated by all parties concerned to address problems with a minimum of cultural and political bias and to support bold and innovative solutions. The urgency of the hunger issue demands nothing less.
There is no particular magic in 40- or in any other number. The majority of FAO's member states attained sovereignty after the Organization had completed its first decade. The vast majority of the poor within their borders were not yet born when FAO was founded. Depending on the weather, levels of inflation, rates of interest and world commodity prices-influences over which they have little control -their lives in the next year may be marginally better, or depressingly worse, than in the present one. If there is any message of hope for these people to be extracted from the many achievements of the Organization's first four decades, it must be framed within a clear demonstration that governments have not weakened in their resolve to act together to overcome hunger nor lost that sense of urgency with which the Organization's mandate was created 40 years ago.
I believe that this special number of Ceres, in publishing the comments of heads of state and government on a wide range of questions involving hunger, poverty and underdevelopment, testifies to a rising level of political concern over these issues and will contribute substantively to the continuing dialogue. FAO and Ceres have been signally honoured by such prestigious participation in this initiative. We commend its results to all our readers.
"Unless the domestic policy framework is supportive, aid efforts can be largely nullified."
A predecessor in your office, the Late Hon. L.B. Pearson, earlier in his life, played a major role in the drafting of FAO's constitution and chaired the founding Conference at Quebec City 40 years ago. Canadian participation in this, and other multilateral efforts, has continued to be strong. As a head of government probably regarded as representative of a new generation of political leaders, what prospects do you see for multilateral cooperation over the rest of this century, especially with regard to world food problems?
Canada is proud to have hosted the FAO Founding Conference in Quebec City 40 years ago. This country took an active part in launching the new international organization described by Lester B. Pearson as one "which sets out with so bold an aim as that of helping nations to achieve freedom from want". Throughout the years since 1945, as FAO expanded and confronted increasingly more complex tasks, Canada has maintained the same interest in and commitment to its objectives.
Canada remains a staunch supporter of the United Nations system. My Government is deeply concerned by the current "crisis of multilateralism" which we believe is sapping the effectiveness of key elements of it. During this year of the 40th anniversary of the UN, Canada has been encouraging the international community to find ways of revitalizing and strengthening the UN system. This requires, fundamentally, a renewed sense of common cause among all its members. At the recent UN Conference in Geneva on the Emergency Situation in Africa, Canada took a lead in encouraging a strong coordinating role for the UN and its system in providing relief to victims of the African famine. Canada has been similarly supportive of the World Bank's role in mobilizing support for the longer-term rehabilitation of African economies and has contributed to the Bank's recently constituted special facility for Africa.
I am convinced that multilateralism offers great potential for action on the world food problem and the other great challenges of our time. But to realize this potential the international community will need a strong and efficient UN system, one which is constantly improving its own effectiveness. Canada will look to the UN system to demonstrate its ability to act as a forum for responsible debate, to carry out sound, realistic development programmes and to ensure coordination among all agencies to achieve the best use of resources available. For their part, Canadians remain willing to do their share in this global effort.
Your government was elected last year with a very comfortable Parliamentary majority. Do you consider that this mandate reflected, among other things, a Canadian consensus supporting stronger programmes of international cooperation? And, specifically, 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP) as a target for official development assistance?
What Canadians want in their development assistance programme is maximum effectiveness -a sharper focus on key development issues, better management and coordination of international assistance funds, greater attention to the policy and institutional constraints on development-in short, more impact from our bilateral and multilateral cooperation. This will be an important objective for my Government.
Canada is committed to the international target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for Official Development Assistance. Domestic constraints and priorities have required that achievement of this target be postponed somewhat, but I believe that this need not lessen the impact of our development cooperation. The Canadian public is convinced, as I am, that we can achieve much more with current resources. As your question seems to imply, international assistance needs to be stronger, not merely larger.
This means that we shall be seeking development partners who are willing to work with Canada to ensure that our resources are used to maximum effect. For example, we shall expect to participate in a regular and constructive policy dialogue with the major recipients -whether with individual governments or through international forums-so that we may understand each other's perspectives and problems, work within a framework of shared priorities, and ensure that our mutual efforts are not thwarted by inappropriate policies.
There are development partners in the private sector as well, and I believe that it is time to utilize their knowledge and initiative as fully as possible. They can play a crucial role not only in providing investment and consumer goods but also in expanding the transportation, distribution and marketing networks that economic growth requires, particularly in rural areas. My Government intends to encourage closer linkages between the Canadian private sector and those of Third World countries in order to draw upon their energy and creativity for the development process.
My Government will also seek opportunities to achieve a greater complementarily and coordination of development assistance from various donors under the leadership of each recipient country. It has been heartening to observe the recent efforts of the UN system and those of the international financial institutions to coordinate their response to the African food crisis, but I believe that still better cooperation within the multilateral and bilateral donor community will enable us to respond better to the needs and challenges which face us all. There can be no exception to this more integrated approach. These are the measures that can maintain and strengthen a Canadian consensus in support of international cooperation.
Canada has been noted for generous contributions to food aid programmes, both for emergencies and for development purposes. In view of questions that have been raised regarding the impact of certain types of food aid on the agricultural production of recipient count tries, are you contemplating any reformulation of policies in this respect?
Food aid is a resource for development, and it is Canada's policy to use it as effectively as possible to contribute to long-term food security. This is not a new objective, or one unique to Canada, but it is one which my Government will pursue very seriously.
Certainly, food aid must support and complement the recipient's own agricultural strategy, not undermine the efforts of local farmers. Before making significant commitments of bilateral food aid, therefore, my Government will consider carefully its probable impact and the policy context within which it will be used. This may result in greater concentration of our food aid resources on those countries which are most willing to continue or introduce sound food and agriculture policies and programmes. We are prepared to work with other donors to assist, in a coordinated way, countries making a determined effort to reduce their "food gap" and stimulate their rural sector. As for our multilateral food aid, we shall be looking for good management, well-designed projects, and programming approaches which reflect the development concerns I have just mentioned.
My Government intends to emphasize the use of Canadian food aid to serve long-term development objectives. At the same time, I realize that emergency food aid also will be needed from time to time, although we all hope there will never be another food crisis as devastating as the one Africa has faced in recent months. Canada will do its part in providing emergency food aid, as it has in the past. But our focus will be on the long term, on using food aid in ways which will stimulate agricultural production and reduce the likelihood of future crises.
What do you consider to be the principal obstacles to renewal of meaningful multilateral negotiations on North-South issues I do not believe that ongoing North-South discussions have at any time ceased to be meaningful. We must recall that in the 1970s, the so-called North-South dialogue was characterized by a great deal of confrontation between opposing blocs. Today the dialogue is following a more pragmatic course.
My own perception is that relations between developed and developing countries are part and parcel of the international economic environment and therefore subject to its fluctuations. The economic crisis has had a very deleterious effect on the economies of all countries. The consequences have been manifold: severe hardship in many developing countries, with falling commodity prices and shrinking markets; growing debt-servicing obligations; a stagnation of aid budgets; a rise in protectionism and high levels of unemployment. The economic realities of the early 1980s were not conducive to major breakthroughs, although the recognition of interdependence grew under these adverse conditions. Both developed and developing countries are now much more aware of the extent to which their economic fortunes are interlinked, and they have begun to act on the basis of this new awareness.
I think it fair to say that the international community has reacted quickly and creatively to recent problems confronting it. This can be said of the debt crisis; it can also be said of the food crisis in Africa. On debt, clearly all problems have not been solved, but through stringent adjustment and supportive international measures on a case-by-case basis, the situations facing major debtors have been managed rather successfully over recent years. The roles of the IMF and IBRD have adapted to meet the needs of countries seriously affected by the recession. Attention is currently being focussed on the serious financial constraints of lower-middle-income countries. Canada put forward proposals at the recent Bonn Summit for a World Bank "third window" as one means of providing more concessional financing to these countries.
In response to the African crisis, we have witnessed an impressive mobilization of the international community. Canada takes satisfaction that the response of its citizens has been prompt and generous.
Another important forum for North-South discussion will be the launching within the GATT of a new trade round. We are seeking wide developing-country participation in a new round of multilateral trade negotiations because we believe that this is the best way of meeting the concerns of both developed and developing countries with respect to trade liberalization.
Multilateral institutions have a key role to play in forging a dynamic consensus on mediating economic relations between North and South. We shall spare no effort to improve their efficiency and to strengthen their role. This applies to traditional North-South forums, such as the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly, ECOSOC and UNCTAD, but it also applies to financial institutions, such as the World Bank, which need to be given the resources to play their roles effectively.
As you know, negotiations for a new international Wheat Trade Convention have been stalled for a number of years. Its importance as a component of world food security has been reiterated in a number of international forums. From Canada's point of view, as a leading cereal exporter, what are the major barriers to achieving an agreement that would include substantial economic provisions that would safeguard the interests of both exporters and importers?
In my view, the International Wheat Agreement represents a laudable example of multilateral cooperation on grain matters. It provides an extremely useful forum for examination of national policies affecting grain production and trade, and through its Food Aid Convention it makes a significant contribution to world food security. Canada has been a strong supporter of successive International Wheat Agreements, and we had the honour to host the 100th Session of the International Wheat Council in 1984.
My Government considers it important to maintain the contribution of the International Wheat Agreement to world food security and, if possible, to strengthen the Agreement in ways which would foster increased cooperation among wheat producing and consuming countries. But it is only realistic to acknowledge the difficulty of negotiating substantial economic provisions. Our experience in the late 1970s underscored the difficulty in reaching agreement on provisions such as prices and stock carrying. Since then, important changes have taken place in production and trade patterns in grains, and in the policies of governments in response to these developments. Most countries acknowledge that they must make continuous adjustments to policies if we are to achieve a balance between supply and demand and ensure that conditions for production and trade are favourable. Canada believes that efforts currently underway in the International Wheat Council, aimed at strengthening the agreement, are constructive and should foster increased cooperation and complement the important work of the Food and Agriculture Organization with respect to world food security.
Some controversy has become attached to the concept of conditionality in development assistance lending and to the prospect that financing agencies and donor governments may increasingly require recipient governments to adhere to stringent monetary and fiscal policies, including those related to agricultural prices. What is your Government's stance in this respect?
It has become increasingly clear after several decades of development activities that the policy environment in developing countries plays a critical part in the success or failure of the efforts undertaken. Unless the domestic policy framework is supportive, aid efforts can be largely nullified or wasted. At a time when aid budgets are under increasing scrutiny from the public, the Canadian Government must be able to demonstrate that its aid is being effectively used. Accordingly, Canada believes that the question is not whether recipient governments with serious structural problems will initiate adjustment programmes-but rather what is the best way of doing so. Developing countries recognize this and realize that it is in their best interest to lead this process.
Multilateral financial institutions and agencies can and should play a key role in formulating policy advice and coordinating donor approval. We do not see this so much as conditionality but as mutually agreed undertakings on the respective actions to be carried out by each of the development partners involved in a particular agreement.
In many developing countries where agriculture is by far the most important area of economic activity, policy reforms in the agricultural sector may well be critical in ensuring that agricultural productivity is enhanced and that development efforts bear fruit. However, we would echo recent FAO conclusions that "getting the prices right" is only one of the conditions for improved agricultural performance. Supporting activities such as improved distribution/marketing/credit systems, and better research and extension work, may also be required.
"We can only proceed... from the realities of our country..."
For years, many developing countries have looked toward China for ideas and inspiration in combatting the problems of poverty and underdevelopment. Does your awareness of being this kind of model influence the way you make adjustments and changes in your economy and your society?
The great challenge New China has faced since its founding is the fight against poverty and underdevelopment, thereby changing the backwardness left behind by Old China. We have made great efforts to accomplish this task for more than three decades. Particularly since 1979, we have carried out major reforms in our rural economic system, by implementing various forms of contracted responsibility systems for production with remuneration linked to output. As a result, the farmers' initiative for production has been stimulated and agricultural production has effectively advanced. Generally speaking, we are now able to provide one billion Chinese people with adequate food and clothing. But owing to uneven economic development, the peasants in a few areas of the country still live in relatively difficult conditions.
In the countryside, while upholding public ownership of the basic means of production, such as land, we continue to perfect the household responsibility system for production, to reform the policy of mandatory procurement of farmers' agricultural produce, and to restructure the rural economy vigorously. Our approach is to pursue the development of a diversified rural economy without letting up on our efforts to produce more foodgrains, gradually to form a rural economy in which there will be a well balanced development of crop farming, forestry, animal husbandry, fishery and sideline occupations and an integrated management of agriculture, industry and commerce, making possible the rational use of rich natural resources and manpower in the rural areas. In so doing, we encourage the farmers to develop various forms of cooperation and joint ventures on a voluntary basis in production, processing, transportation, marketing, etc., so 'es to bring gradually the cooperative economy in the countryside to perfection. We shall continue to explore the road to socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Each country has its own particular features, different from those of others, and therefore should not copy the experience of any one foreign country. We wish to increase contacts and exchanges with countries all over the world, especially those of the Third World, in order to enhance mutual understanding, to learn from one another and to be complementary in our efforts to develop the rural economy and improve the living standards of the farmers.
The introduction of new economic policies in China's agricultural sector over the past six years-what has been called the responsibility system-has attracted worldwide attention. Is this a form of evolution that has now run its course, or can we expect to see further changes and adjustments in the years ahead? If the latter, what form are they likely to take?
The contracted responsibility system with remuneration linked to output was a creation of the farmers themselves in practice. It succeeded first in the economically backward areas of the countryside, then was extended to economically intermediate and more developed areas. It consisted in a new form of management now generally practiced in the rural areas. It has been able to gain such wide acceptance in the countryside throughout China mainly because it eliminated the drawbacks of too rigid and excessive control in management and administration and the egalitarian distribution of income. This new form not only can embody the guidance of state plans through contracts, but also is consistent with the need for decentralized management in rural areas. It allows farmers to learn and use advanced agricultural science and technology, adopt better management methods for increasing production and improve cost-effectiveness. It also better embodies the socialist principle of distribution - "From each according to his ability, to each according to his work" - and allows the farmers' initiative for developing production to come into full play, making it possible for them to increase their incomes in a relatively short time. This policy is therefore in the interest of the farmers, and is acceptable to them and will continue to be pursued. It is only natural that the contracted responsibility system should be further perfected and that some adjustments may have to be made. From now on, we shall give priority to developing various services for agricultural production, setting up joint enterprises in a variety of forms, gradually shaping a system of socialized and specialized division of work, exerting great efforts to raise productivity in agriculture, so as to promote the development of a commodity economy in rural areas and the modernization of agriculture.
Previous policies in China have placed emphasis on ensuring that certain basic needs, including food, were provided to all. How have the new economic policies affected food security at the household level?
Grain production in China has recorded a significant increase in recent years. Per caput output of grain has reached approximately 400 kg, nearing the world average. But compared to the level attained by developed countries, there is still a considerable gap. With the development of the food processing industry, livestock and fish raising, the requirements for grain will increase. Therefore, the problem of increasing grain production still calls for great efforts.
In the past we followed a policy of mandatory state procurement and monopolized marketing of major agricultural products, including grains. That policy played a positive role, in ditions of inadequate supplies, in ensuring-the livelihood of the people. Now the situation has changed and more grain is available. Therefore, starting from this year, we have discarded the old system and adopted the policy of placing orders by way of contracts and procuring on the market. The State signs contracts with farmers to purchase fixed amounts of their produce at favourable prices. After fulfilling their contracts, farmers are free to sell their remaining products on the market. If the market prices are too low, the State guarantees purchase at prices originally fixed for mandatory procurement, so as to protect the incentives for farmers to grow grain crops. After introducing these reforms, the policy of supplying urban consumers with food rations at subsidized prices remains in force. The State will continue to guarantee the supply of food rations to the farmers and herdsmen who do not grow foodcrops. As for victims of natural calamities, the State will continue to provide them with emergency relief. Through all these measures, the State guarantees the supply of foodgrains to the entire population.
One of the tasks that has been indicated for China in the years ahead is the shifting of very large numbers of workers from the agricultural sector into other industries. Do you believe that this can be achieved without creating many of the problems of urbanization that have beset other developing countries? How do you propose to go about this?
Following the adoption of the household responsibility system across the country, about one third of the labour force in the countryside became redundant. In order to absorb the surplus labour in appropriate activities and avoid their migration to urban areas in large numbers, we are energetically developing cottage industries and the tertiary sector apart from crop farming and livestock raising. Farmers engaged in these industries will quit tilling but remain in the rural areas. In this way' we can both accelerate the development of agriculture and promote the building up of villages and small towns through infusion of capital, technology and expertise, in order to bring about the synchronized prosperity of the cities and the countryside and gradually narrow the gap in living standards between them. In 1984, the total number of cottage enterprises in China (including joint ventures and industrial enterprises operated by individuals) reached over 6 million with more than 50 million employees, accounting for 14 per cent of the total labour force in the countryside. It is expected that by the turn of the century, those engaged in farming will not exceed one third of the total rural labour force while those engaged in cottage enterprises, forestry, animal husbandry, fishery and the tertiary sector will increase to over two thirds.
How serious a problem is environmental degradation in relation to the productivity of Chinese agriculture?
The problem of environmental degradation in agriculture does exist in China. For example, we have soil erosion, degradation of pastures resulting from overstocking and overgrazing and pollution of the agricultural environment caused by industrial development, etc.
The Government gives serious attention to this problem. We emphasize the rational development and integrated use of agricultural resources in guiding the restructuring of rural economy. At the same time, we have taken effective measures to control and prevent the pollution of the agricultural environment caused by various industries. Steady progress is being made. From now on, we shall go a step further and adopt and perfect laws and regulations for the preservation of the natural environment. In short, we shall persist in our efforts to preserve and improve the ecological environment of China.
Do you have a target figure at which you would want China's population to stabilize and when do you expect that objective would be reached?
China carried out a population census in 1982 which indicated the total population to be 1.030 billion, accounting for more than 22 per cent of the world population. The population problem is a big one in China. Thus, family planning to control the rapid growth of population is a fundamental policy during the period of socialist construction. The birthrate of China has markedly decreased in recent years. The birthrate and natural increase rate dropped from 3.07 per cent and 2.34 per cent in 1971 to 1.79 per cent and 1.17 per cent in 1979. In 1984, they were 1.75 per cent and 1.08 per cent respectively. I believe the planned target of keeping the total population of China within the limit of 1.2 billion by the end of this century can be achieved.
A number of intergovernmental agencies, FAO among them, are now collaborating with your Government in seeking solutions to specific Chinese problems. As far as issues of food and agriculture are concerned, what are the principal benefits you have obtained or hope to obtain from such international cooperation?
China is a developing socialist country. It is in the process of socialist modernization and therefore needs capital, advanced technology and expertise. We are ready to cooperate with foreign countries on the basis of equality and mutual benefit to promote the process of modernization in China. In developing the agriculture of China, we can only proceed from the realities of our country and thus sum up our own experience. But we also would like to draw from the experience of other countries.
In the area of food and agriculture, we maintain good cooperation with FAO, WFP, the World Food Council and IFAD. These organizations have extended various kinds of assistance, and this is helpful for the progress of agricultural science and technology and for the development of agricultural production in China, including food production. I wish to express my appreciation for this assistance on behalf of the Chinese Government and hope such cooperation will further develop in future.
"The green revolution did not always have a beneficial effect in the traditional food producing sectors."
What is your evaluation of FAO's activities in Latin America during the past 40 years?
FAO's assistance during its 40 years has been characterized by its adaptation to the changing reality of the countries that make up the region.
Essentially, FAO's strategy, which used to be simple lending to those countries, has become a true catalyst of national efforts and policies for the agricultural, livestock, forestry and fisheries sectors; this active role has led with ever greater intensity to the promotion of horizontal exchanges among countries and to a greater font of experiences and understanding from outside the region. The policy goes back to the Buenos Aires Declaration on Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries.
One result of this policy has been the growing number of Latin American technical cooperation activities, several of which are being led by Colombia. One can also observe in the region the impact of the general FAO policy of following the recommendations of the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD), which give priority in its Latin American and Caribbean programmes to the attainment of food self-sufficiency, greater utilization of a country's own resources, and access to goods and services by the least favoured rural populations.
FAO, by means of its representatives in the countries, continues to fulfil its traditional mission of technical assistance, transferring of technology and information and aiding governments to identify projects that will help achieve previously identified objectives.
What were the productive, economic, social and ecological results of the green revolution?
In Latin America, the green revolution has resulted mostly in great increases in production and productivity of maize, sorghum and soya, among others. Some countries with deficits in these products have achieved self-sufficiency and even exportable surpluses.
Nevertheless, the limitations of the strategy called the green revolution are clear. The emphasis was on the increase of physical yields rather than on economic profitability.
Implicitly, it was considered that advanced technology was neutral in terms of the production scales in which it was applied. This fact ignored the structural differences in the rural sector of Latin America in types of farms, tenancy, size of holding and access to complementary inputs needed with this technology.
The final result was that the green revolution did not always manage to have a beneficial effect in the more traditional food producing sectors.
In some cases, it brought capital-intensive technologies; this meant that much manpower, the most abundant resource of our countries, went unused. In other cases, like that of the Colombian coffee sector, the generation of employment and the productivity of the land did in fact increase.
Additionally, the excessive use of inputs in very delicate ecosystems led to a notable deterioration of the physical environment in some areas.
It should also be noted in this connection that the misuse of inputs in such crops as rice, sorghum and cotton also led to high levels of birth defects and sometimes fatal food poisoning.
Nevertheless, the modifications to this strategy, which were introduced later, were much better adapted to the characteristics of farming in this type of country. Such is the case in China today, where the introduction of appropriate technological packages has transformed the country into one of the world's largest producers of grain.
What, in opinion, are the continent's greatest problems in the areas of food, agriculture and rural development?
The first problem, without doubt, is development strategy, which is oriented essentially toward promoting industrial growth at the expense of the agricultural sector Food import policies to ensure low prices for the urban populations have meant that agricultural activities have been left relatively unprotected, exposing them to the fluctuations and the unfair competition of subsidized exports from developed countries. To redirect this strategy involves, in the short term, political costs which our countries must today assume.
A second problem is the dichotomy, in the agricultural sector, between commercial production (associated with raw materials and export products) and the traditional production of basic foods. Both the power structure of these countries and the administrative and operative capacity of the states make the instruments of policy more suitable to a development based on commercial rather than on traditional production.
These facts result in a division of society in that the rural population, tied to small production, continues to lag behind the economy as a whole. The social tensions generated by this division can, in some countries, lead to armed conflicts, which introduce still more elements of instability and backwardness.
Do you believe that there is adequate cooperation in the struggle for food security? What will be its expression and eventual advantages or defects?
In Latin America, the problem of food security is different from that faced by some regions of Africa. In our case, food security policy does not seek to resolve an imminent threat of famine, but rather to develop self-sufficiency and raise the nutritional level of the poorest strata of the population.
This difference in the nature of the problem also raises basic differences in the role that international organizations, such as FAO developed countries and the affected countries themselves can play. In the case of Latin America, support in rationalization and coordination of agricultural and nutritional policies at the regional and subregional levels are more important to achieve food security than external economic cooperation with such conventional mechanisms as food donations.
This distinction has not been entirely understood by the international organizations, which have hindered the development of programmes of this type in the various regions. It is necessary, therefore, to reorient international cooperation toward the specific inter and intracontinental circumstances to find an efficient food security system.
The Andes Group, in particular, is trying to develop a subregional system for food security which, by restricting food imports from third countries, achieves an adequate supply through regional exchanges and especially through increases of production and productivity by the rural sectors in the respective nations.
To encourage this effort and to try to extend it to other regions constitutes, for us, an excellent mechanism for gaining ground in the fight for a functional food security programme.
What is the state of the peasant movement and of rural cooperatives in the principal zones of the continent? What development do you foresee for such organizations.
The peasant movements in Latin America had a great boom in past decades, which led governments to support the emergent organizations and to regard participation of the peasant communities as a basic element of rural development. The processes of agrarian reform have caught the dynamism of the peasant movements and are bolstering their consolidation.
Nevertheless, even with the great differences in the political processes of the region, it can be stated that mechanisms guaranteeing full participation of the rural population in the design and making of policy and programme decisions have not always been found.
In countries like Colombia, there is today a resurgence of peasant organizations after a period of stagnation, and the importance of the cooperative sector is recognized as a basic element of cohesion for development of the least developed regions.
On the other hand, a new approach appears to be emerging at present in some organizations, which are moving from general claims to much more specific ones linked to the solution of regional problems and the formation of associative production groups. This situation can be favourable and respond to the needs of economic development, facilitating more effective and direct dialogue between these organizations and the governments, which are joining forces to reactivate traditional production in the field.
How do you see the situation of the rural woman in Latin America? What basic problems does she face as producer and as citizen?
In recent years the rural woman has shown a dynamic growth of participation in agricultural production, especially in the small units most affected by poverty. The contribution of women to the production of food in the region is being recognized in countries such as Mexico, Colombia and Paraguay, to cite just a few. At the same time, there are changes in the family structure that reflect the natural adaptation this process of greater economic integration requires.
The basic problem is that these changes are still not fully recognized by society and governments and therefore the dichotomy between men, as producer agents, and women, as exclusively domestic agents, remains; as a consequence, the peasant woman does not get adequate support for her work, and this critically lengthens her already long workday and her condition of backwardness.
FAO has played an important role in the discussion of these problems in our countries and has supported efforts which, in the case of Colombia, have led to the execution of policies and programmes expressly directed by rural women.
What is your opinion of the various agrarian reforms, some quite far-reaching, seen in recent years in Latin America? What have been their principal results, limits and lessons?
Considering the specific characteristics of each of the Latin American countries, one can state that the agrarian reforms of the last decade responded to general policies for facing situations of land pressure.
The equitable distribution of land and the development of a network of integrated services for the advancement of the peasant population were the basic principles of the strategies for agrarian reform. But these goals are not always reached in practice, among other reasons because of the political tensions caused by the prevailing structure of land tenure. Nevertheless, in many countries, the average farm size is today less than it was 30 years ago, which reflects the appearance of numerous mediumsize units and the gradual disappearance of the large, unproductive latifundium.
It has been recognized, at least in the case of Colombia, that the most important indirect effect of agrarian reform was the process of modernization it produced in some sectors of traditional agriculture. A more capital- and technology-intensive farm appeared and this led to greater dynamics in production.
What, in your judgement, is the cure for rural migration and the process of acute urban concentration that characterizes many countries in Latin America?
In the first place, it must be recognized that, although the rural-urban migration process has slowed down in recent years and the migratory flows have changed in terms of age and sex, the phenomenon continues in the majority of countries of the region.
But, more than rural-urban migration in itself, the object of concern in Latin America today is the combination of a structural problem of urban unemployment with the existence of a reserve army of minifundistas and peasant daily workers who, if they do not receive the attention they should, can exert excessive pressure on the urban labour market.
Therefore, the strategy of focussing on the agricultural sector is not only essential to guarantee an adequate food supply and equal social development, but must also be an essential component of a policy of employment.
"Agricultural mechanization is imperative... it concerns the entire future of the Egyptian economy."
Your country was one of the founders and active members of the non-aligned movement. Is it appropriate, in your view, to consider the possibility of convening a summit conference to focus primarily on promoting cooperation among countries of the South for confronting common urgent problems in development and achieving food security?
From a position of neutrality toward all states, including those involved in global conflicts, the non-aligned countries have a great and effective role to play in all spheres. There can be no doubt that the acceleration of development and the achievement of food security for many countries of the world, especially those of the South, constitute an urgent need -particularly as millions of people are in the grip of drought, starvation and death. For positive, effective action to be taken in these spheres, there is no need for the usual summit conferences: many ways of exchanging views and discussing current issues are available. Indeed, many meetings are held from time to time to this end. Of the more conspicuous instances, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India has visited Egypt. Naturally, during such visits and meetings many subjects are discussed, but development issues, being of common interest, predominate.
We naturally welcome conferences on the promotion of cooperation among countries of the South for confronting their urgent, common problems, especially those related to development. However, until the time is ripe for such conferences, we shall not sit idly by or stint in our efforts; indeed, we do work now at all levels and make use of every possible means of action.
Along with Arab and Third World countries in general, Egypt has been facing the phenomenon of relatively high population growth rates, while continuing to rely on a limited cultivated area. It is well known that your country has adopted a demographic policy designed to slow down population growth rates, as well as plans and programmes for agrarian reform and for making the best possible use of the cultivated area available-apart from expanding this area. What are the results of these policies, and what are your plans for the future?
The demographic policies have had some tangible results in reducing the population growth rates. At the same time, however, the health policies applied by the State regarding both prevention and treatment have reduced both the death rate, from 40 to 15 per thousand, and the infant mortality rate. Consequently the reduction in the rates of natural population growth has been slight, hardly perceptible. It must be noted, nevertheless, that while the policy of "guidance and orientation" designed to reduce birthrates has had positive results among the highly educated and low-income sectors of the population, it produced no results at all among the less-educated and higher-income groups. The recently established National Population Council is formulating a national strategy involving a number of plans to ensure a more successful application of effective demographic policies in Egypt.
With a steady population growth, a drastic change in consumption patterns not offset by increase in the area under cultivation, a widening gap between production and consumption which made the Government resort to imports, greatly burdening the state trade balance and balance of payments, it was imperative to concentrate on investment in land reclamation. While the area reclaimed or made arable from 1952 to the present was nearly 853 000 feddans (approximately 36 million hectares), the area reclaimed in the period 1978-80 was about 211 000 feddans (nearly 9 million hectares). Vast areas of desert land were rented, with a view to ownership, to the private sector (to societies, companies and individuals) for reclamation and cultivation. To avert the recession of cultivable land in the face of urban expansion-whether in the form of human dwellings, industrial establishments, administrative centres or public utilities-the Government has passed a number of laws banning the use of cultivable land as construction plots and the scraping off of soil used in the red brick industry. The latter law is designed to preserve the most precious element of Egypt's natural resources, agricultural land. The Government is formulating a policy of support for the production and distribution of red brick substitutes. As for banning construction on cultivable land, a substitute has been provided by the Government at attractive prices for businesses and investors - namely desert plots that are being developed, provided with utilities and infrastructure services. With businessmen thus encouraged to have their establishments on developed desert land, the cultivated area will not be put to non-agricultural uses.
In this respect, we intend in future, through the 1982/83-1986187 five-year plan, to devote certain investments to the implementation of vertical expansion programmes and projects totaling ceE64 million, for improving and maintaining cultivated land, the protection of plants, and giving more attention to the storage of crops. Another ceE 40 are earmarked in the plan for animal husbandry programmes and projects. Poultry production projects are also given prominence in the plan with a view to achieving self-sufficiency. The plan allocates ceE 60.7 million for investment in fisheries programmes and projects, apart from another ceE 83.3 million, approximately, for the consolidation of the overseas fishing fleet. Investments in the development of agricultural mechanization projects are estimated at about ceE 36 million, specifically for the development of mechanical service stations. Other investments have been directed to horizontal expansion: suspended reclamation work would be resumed for a certain area to be cultivated. Work would be resumed for a cumulative area of about 370 000 feddans (156 million ha), so that they would soon start to show a profit. Attention has been given in the plan to the allocation of adequate resources, namely ceE 1.37 billion, to essential support projects, particularly those concerning irrigation and drainage, essential for both vertical and horizontal agricultural development.
Still within this context, your country has witnessed a wave of internal migration which had an effect on the geography of population distribution in Egypt. What, precisely, was the effect of this phenomenon on the state of agriculture and food production in Egypt, and what measures is your country taking to deal with the arising problems?
Viewed at the national level, that is within the context of Egyptian society as a whole, the phenomenon has been interpreted in various ways but often as accounting for the scarcity of agricultural labour. A few, mostly academicians believe that it constitutes an absolute scarcity of agricultural labour less than it creates a pressure on the job market leading to a rise in wages in real terms. According to this view, it is mainly farmers who see the crisis as one of rising labour costs. On the other hand, most experts, both local and foreign, believe that what we have here is indeed an absolute scarcity of agricultural labour, primarily due to the migration of agricultural labourers, and that the adverse effects on Egyptian agriculture are caused by the inordinate proportions of such migration. The solution proposed, therefore, is to accelerate mechanization-a line currently adopted by the Egyptian Government in the hope that by the end of the century the cultivation of major crops will be fully mechanized.
The relatively high education rates in rural areas, coupled with an ambitious industrialization plan in the 1960s, meant that a wide section of rural children turned away from agricultural work in favour of urban jobs, whether in the public services sector or in the new industries. In the 1970s, the second largest urban migration in modern Egyptian history took place (the first was under Muhammad Ali, back in the nineteenth century). Consequently it may be stated that agricultural mechanization is imperative, that it concerns the entire future of the Egyptian economy.
Although the present annual population growth rate is 45 per cent higher than in 1965 the annual agricultural production growth rate for 1980 was only 0.04 per cent above the 1965 figure. Reduced agricultural production means a reduced per caput share of that production. The individual's food requirements supplied by the agricultural sector has greatly diminished. While the imports of agricultural commodities needed to satisfy local needs have mounted, agricultural exports have decreased. The deteriorating situation of agricultural production may be blamed on other factors than the migration of agricultural labour, such as the increasingly diminishing rate of investment in the agricultural sector. This indicates that expected margins of profit from work in this sector have gone down and have driven investment away to other sectors. Price inflexibility in the agricultural sector does not encourage the farmer or the investor to embark on expansion or even to continue his production of many crops and agricultural commodities.
To solve these problems and increase production, the State is working on an amendment of the laws governing the ownership of agricultural land, so as to allow more freedom of ownership. This would ensure adequate returns for the introduction of modern agricultural methods, for the improvement of production, and, consequently, for the suspension or reduction of the increasing rate of splitting up of agricultural holdings.
The State is also working on an amendment of the crop pricing system, especially those crops most needed by the people, such as wheat, and export crops, such as cotton. Work is also in progress for the amendment of agricultural land lease laws, for a more clearly defined investment policy, and for project evaluation by using a rationally based Comprehensive Evaluation System.
Fish is one of the food resources that assumes an increasing importance for the achievement of food security. In this respect, your country has an advantageous position, as it borders both the Mediterranean and the Red Seas, in addition to having fish resources in the Nile and in Lake Nasser. Does Egypt have any new projects for the development of the fisheries sector to help the food security effort?
To ensure food security for all citizens in Egypt, the Government is making great efforts to develop the fish production sector, which provides cheaper alternatives to both red and white meat. To create the right conditions for work, a number of laws, rules and regulations have been issued for the organization of work in such a way as to bypass all bureaucratic obstacles and adopt management by objectives to achieve high performance rates. These laws dead with Fish Cooperatives, as well as those concerning fisheries and marine wealth and the organization and management of fish farms.
Through its fisheries institutions and bodies, the State has studied the current situation in Egypt by identifying the fish reserve. This is done through the Fish Statistical Project, jointly undertaken by the State Authority for the Development of Marine Wealth and the Scientific Research Academy, and through joint projects with FAO for the development of some lakes in Egypt and fishing in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, as well as a joint project with Italy, the Mediterranean Reserve Survey.
There are feasibility studies already under way for a number of projects in Egypt, among them the fishing net factory, the new fishing vessels, modern fishing equipment and intensive fish farms. And a study has begun on the fish feed industry.
Many world economic experts point out that one of the reasons which may account for the lack of complete success in the efforts made for cooperation among countries of the South is their adoption of models and patterns that are inappropriate to their social structures and economic capabilities. Would you subscribe to this view? What could Egypt propose to Third World countries in general, and to the Arab world in particular, for establishing a basis for successful cooperation among countries of the South?
It is our view that the efforts for cooperation among countries of the South are achieving an interim, gradual success, that no full, speedy success is to be expected. For all their ideological differences, private needs, and the geographical distances separating them, these countries must endeavour to lower their global barriers to promote trade among themselves which should maintain a relatively satisfactory economic growth rate. They should also strengthen their negotiating position by establishing global economic links among countries of the South.
The cooperative efforts among countries of the South are primarily based on sharing their technical expertise and science, on the transfer of modern technology, on the implementation of joint marketing projects which should help to create a major economic bloc capable of dealing more effectively with the major industrial countries and their economic blocs, and on promoting trade both among countries of the South and between them and the industrial countries.
Successful South-South cooperation should be based on a comprehensive strategy for food self-sufficiency. This should begin with an inventory of the resources and an identification of the expertise available, the relative advantages and the kind of specialization of each Third World country, particularly the Arab countries. This is designed to ensure, as far as possible, mutual profit from the economic potential of each. Systems should be developed for maximizing the benefit reaped from external aid through negotiations held prior to the signing of aid agreements which determine to a great extent how the agreement is put to use. The beneficiaries should always bear in mind, at these negotiations, the general strategy of Third World countries to ensure the greatest possible benefit.
In the Arab world in particular, what, in your opinion, are the aspects of success and the possible reasons for failure in the fields of economic and social cooperation and integration?
Due to its geographical features, common history, spiritual values and traditions, the Arab world is integrally united and shares the same destiny. These elements should ensure success in social and economic cooperation and integration, apart from the common language of all countries of the Arab world. The difference in the geographic and climatic conditions of vast areas of the Arab world-which extends east and west, north and south-is reflected in the great diversity of agricultural production, in both plants and animals. Clearly, various grain crops are grown in different parts of the Arab world; the same is true of animals. Each Arab country has a relative advantage in producing a given product or crop; a commodity can be produced, that is, with the highest possible economic efficiency by one country and not another. These countries ultimately complement one another within a single framework of economic integration. Naturally, this should increase economic relations and cooperation among countries of the Arab world.
The reasons for failure in economic and social cooperation and integration are to be l traced to disagreements among Arab countries, regional disputes, ideological differences among Arab regimes, and the specific interests of their political parties.
As you know, FAO is marking its 40th anniversary. What is your assessment of the role played the Organization in its effort to realize its objectives? How much has your country benefitted from its activities, especially as Egypt was one of its founding states?
As is well known, FAO was established to help developing countries to improve their agricultural production by offering technical and advisory assistance, training, scholarships, and studies to aid agricultural development. Though there is no shortage of Egyptian scientists in any field, technical and scientific cooperation and exchange between Egypt and FAO are indispensable.
FAO has played an important role in Egypt. It has contributed technical assistance and consultants and established training centres, such as the Dairy Technology Training Centre and the Rice Technology Training Centre in Alexandria. It has also offered consultancies, equipment and machinery to the Cotton Grading and Testing Authority; it offered seeds and fertilizers needed for the purposes of agricultural development in Egypt.
Over the last three years, the Organization has carried out 21 projects in the sphere of agricultural technical cooperation, four other projects financed by foreign organizations, and eight projects financed by UNDP. The value of these projects was about ceE20 million over the last three years.
"Growth cannot be true development if it entails environmental degradation."
India is often held up as one of the countries where green revolution technology has had a significant impact, although there is some debate as to whether its benefits have been distributed fairly. On the basis of the Indian experience, how do you rate green revolution technology as an instrument for reducing rural poverty?
For several decades before freedom, Indian agriculture was stagnant. Even after India gained political independence, the economic consequences of colonialism continued. India had to import food to feed its people. In the mid- 1960s, Indira Gandhi took a decision that this dependence should end. The green revolution strategy was adopted. Its objective was to achieve self-sufficiency in agriculture, especially grain, in the shortest possible time. Obviously, the green revolution technology had to concentrate on areas and crops where all the supporting services and inputs were available and which offered the maximum scope for increasing output.
The green revolution closed the gap between demand and production. It enabled the country to become self-sufficient within a decade. Thanks to it, India was able to withstand the severe droughts of 1972 and 1980, which were among the worst in a century, without recourse to concessional imports. Between 1951 and 1984, annual grain production has gone up from 51 million tons to 152 million tons. The increase since 1966 has been of the order of 62 million tons. We today have large buffer stocks-of the order of 28 million tons- which enable us to cope with any possible setbacks. These stocks have also enabled us to create greater rural employment, using grain to pay a part of the wages.
However, right from the beginning, our planners and political leaders knew that the strategy of the green revolution could widen the disparities between the prosperous and the indigent farmers and also between the advanced and backward regions. What its actual impact on the distribution of incomes has been is a much debated subject. But, by and large, the Indian experience has shown that agricultural growth and incidence of rural poverty are inversely related. Concretely, wages have gone up. There has also been an increased demand for labour, and landless rural people have greater employment opportunities. Side by side with the green revolution technology, we initiated other complementary programmes for growth of agricultural output-new methods in dry farming, support to marginal farmers, encouragement to dairying and so on.
Our seventh five-year plan, on which we have just embarked, continues to emphasize intensive agriculture as a major plank of poverty alleviation. The earlier phase of the green revolution concentrated on wheat-growing areas. We have now taken up programmes also for rice, coarse grains, oilseeds and pulses. Scientific farming is being extended to the rural poor in the backward areas of the eastern region, where agriculture has remained stagnant for decades.
How critical are institutional and social factors in inhibiting progress toward more equitable income distribution in rural India?
The colonial agrarian structure inhibited growth. Lifting the burdens of the rural masses was one of the strong motivating factors of our freedom movement. On achieving independence, the country embarked on an extensive programme of land reforms. Intermediaries were abolished for over 20 million tenants. Besides, a countrywide extension service was built up.
The agrarian economy has made a particularly impressive advance wherever local institutions are fully developed. Cooperatives, particularly in the field of milk, sugar and oilseeds, are examples of what the "uneducated and low-skilled" Indian farmer can achieve.
On the social side, some inhibiting factors are low levels of education, which affect the capacity to seek and absorb modem technology, and caste handicaps, which retard mobility and initiative.
In spite of these handicaps, our rural people have shown that they can adjust to changes technology once its profitability is demonstrated. In recent years the growth of radio and television has enlarged the villager's access to information. This should also stimulate the emergence of a new leadership at the village level and adapt newer
Much of India's increased food production has been associated with the extension of irrigation. However, more than two thirds of all agricultural land is totally dependent on rainfall. What are the prospects, first, for extending irrigation, and second, for developing improved rainfed agricultural systems?
A good part of the increase in grain production is no doubt attributable to the expansion of irrigation. But it would be wrong to minimize the role played by other factors. Among these are the development of high yielding seed varieties and the establishment of credit facilities, a marketing infrastructure and an extension service. It would by no means be right to think that all these automatically accompany the expansion of irrigation. A mere enlargement of the irrigated area, without the development of the other components of the technological and economic infrastructure, would not have led to increases of the same order in production.
India is administratively divided into a little over 400 Districts. Nearly 75 per cent of these could be categorized as backward. Virtually all of them are in areas dependent wholly on rain. Not all these areas can be reached through irrigation. This means that the basic problem of removal of poverty requires the development of a scientific package of practices designed primarily for increasing per-hectare yields in rainfed areas. This is the reason why very great emphasis is being placed on the development of dry farming. The endeavour to bring more areas under irrigation will also continue, as will steps to ensure that irrigated areas are properly drained and will not turn into saline lands. Ultimately we have to propagate better water management practices.
India has particular reason to be conscious of environmental hazards that can be associated with providing modern inputs for agriculture. In a more general sense, do you consider that environmental hazards and degradation are an inevitable result of agricultural modernization? Is development of "softer" technologies for Indian agriculture necessary-or even possible?
Growth cannot be true development if it entails environmental degradation. The early stages of industrialization everywhere produced serious dislocations. Some of the damage was repaired with the acquisition of new scientific insights. The developing countries, by the very fact that they have started some of these hazards.
Poverty itself is pollution, as Indira Gandhi often remarked. Removal of poverty is essential if the environment is to improve. Planned growth helps to mitigate environmental degradation by balancing immediate and long-term considerations. We have in recent years enforced strict environmental criteria before industrial and other projects have been approved.
Increase in the population, the drive for higher food production and the growth of forest-based industries have unfortunately led to deforestation. Pesticides have also been used indiscriminately. We have now taken up a massive programme of tree planting. Our scientists are working on methods to meet the fuel needs of rural people and on alternatives to chemical pesticides.
There is one other danger from commercialization of agriculture that is not often recognized. In most advanced countries, it has led to a reduction in genetic diversity. It is said that in France there were more than 200 varieties of apples at the turn of the century, whereas now there are barely half a dozen. Such depletion of diversity is a costly price to pay for "development". India is a treasure house of plant varieties. Our scientists, I am glad to say, are making special efforts to ensure that this wealth is not lost. They have also been doing considerable work on the evolution and propagation of species which are resistant to various kinds of plant diseases and blights.
India has the world's ninth largest industrial economy, yet about three quarters of its population still lives on the land, and unemployment and underemployment are serious problems in many rural areas. What are the prospects for improving industry's absorption of surplus labour from the agricultural sector?
I doubt whether we should expect industry to absorb all the additions to the labour force, which, in India, are of no small order. Even in the advanced countries, industry is proving incapable of doing so. A challenge before our scientists is to create jobs through advanced technologies, which require less investment than conventional industrial jobs do.
We have rightly laid emphasis on the preservation of rural crafts along with the introduction of small industries in rural areas. It has been found that intensive agriculture itself creates greater job opportunities at a lesser cost than industry would.
In the past, India has been a major recipient of food aid. In recent years self-sufficiency in cereals has been attained. In view of the criticisms occasionally directed at food aid programmes as a form of disincentive to domestic food production, could you comment on the role food aid has played in the development of India's agriculture?
We should distinguish here between emergency food aid and long-term food aid. It would be perverse to argue that countries which require emergency food aid should be denied food in order to spur them to grow more.
The experience of India has shown that long-term aid stimulates greater production of foodgrains. Concessional food aid at a particular stage of development enabled India to make investments in agriculture which led to self sufficiency. In fact we are today providing aid to African countries in our own modest way.
With respect to other forms of development assistance, what have been the major lessons learned from Indian experience? What do you see as India's major needs for external assistance over the rest of this century?
The main lesson that I would draw from India's experience is that external assistance can play a valuable role in promoting development provided it is dovetailed with a well-designed and well-implemented development strategy. These strategies may vary from country to country, but, essentially, they should stress self reliance. External assistance can play a supportive role. This is our experience. India's recourse to development assistance has been very limited, much less than that of most other countries at similar levels of per caput income. In fact, over 90 per cent of our investment has been financed from domestic savings. Nevertheless, the development assistance we have received has been extremely important. It has supported our investment programme in many critical sectors, such as agriculture, irrigation, transport and energy. The availability of external assistance helped to ensure easier access to imports than would otherwise have been possible. We were also able to follow a comparatively liberal trade policy.
India will continue to require external assistance in the immediate future, as we shall undertake ambitious investment and modernization programmes over large sectors of our economy. Our domestic savings rate is high and will rise further. But domestic resources are not all that are required for investment. Foreign exchange is also needed. Some of this can be obtained through commercial borrowing, but much of it has to be in the form of external assistance for some time still. This is necessary if we are to avoid serious debt-service problems.
"The issue of food can offer our world an area of constructive collaboration."
Of the many forms development assistance can assume, which have you found to be most effective for promoting agricultural development in Indonesia?
Those projects that stimulate growth of indigenous capability to carry on further development efforts, based on domestic resources, are the most effective. Assistance that raises the productivity of the rural poor is essential.
In the early stages of development, countries find their infrastructures, trained manpower, technical capabilities or their ability to provide counterpart resources severely limited. Grant types of assistance are appropriate. Gradually, as domestic capability is strengthened, more sophisticated projects can be developed using external aid as a complementary resource.
Indonesia's ultimate objective, as spelled out in our national plans, is to see industry emerge as the backbone of our economy. This is possible only if agriculture-which remains the dominant sector, aside from oil and natural gas - is simultaneously supported and reinforced.
Agriculture is a source of renewable wealth. It provides sustenance and employment to the rural majority and purchasing power, which supports industry. It meets basic human needs for food. Looking back over the past 15 years, we see Indonesia applied about 20 per cent of the foreign assistance it received to agriculture, giving high priority to the food subsector.
But attainment of physical production targets is not enough. The most effective programmes are those that deliberately foster equity and social justice. More equitable participation of the rural poor in the benefits of growth provides the only solid foundation for national and regional, as well as global, stability.
Among the projects FAO has been executing in Indonesia, which have proved to be the most useful? What projects will be most pertinent to your future needs in agricultural development?
There has been a history of constructive cooperation since 1949, when Indonesia joined FAO. These collaborative ties were further strengthened with the establishment of the FAO Representation in 1979.
This cooperation is perhaps best seen in the 30 FAO technical assistance projects currently being implemented. They cover a wide range: crops, irrigation, livestock, fisheries, transmigration, cooperatives, forests, agricultural research, education, training. Indonesians work alongside 70 FAO specialists drawn from all over the world in achieving our national plan objectives.
A number of FAO projects have had a remarkable impact. The secondary crops intensification programme, for example, reinforced our efforts to broaden the income base of farmers. In the Eastern Islands, the strengthening of animal health services has cut down livestock losses. It stimulated the interest of other donors.
Work in fisheries, enhancement of our research in hybrid coconuts, rubber, and palm oil have been effective. Similar examples are: transmigration operational support, forestry, Upper Solo watershed management, soil survey and research, technical training, income-generating activities for women, and technical cooperation programmes of FAO.
Indonesia will remain a country of small farmers and fisherfolk into the next century. Hence, we welcome the adaptation of methodologies developed by FAO from its work in other countries. Its coverage ought to include: farming systems research and development, post-harvest technology and marketing, forest inventory and management, women, and environmental impact.
Underpinning all these is our shared commitment to ensure that people no longer live under the unacceptable conditions of "absolute poverty", which denies their full God-given human potential.
Petroleum exports have been a major factor in Indonesia's economic development. What has been the impact of the recent decline in petroleum earnings on agricultural development? What are the prospects for the future?
Oil and natural gas provide resources for our development. They accounted for 73 per cent of total export earnings over the last five years. We have used the income prudently, investing in agriculture and other productive activities.
Yet, oil and natural gas are limited sources of energy. They are not renewable. And world demand is weak.
To ensure that we do not become too reliant on oil and that the momentum of development is sustained, we have adopted policies to promote non-oil exports, including agricultural commodities, through programmes like replanting, rejuvenation, rehabilitation, and diversification of crops. Measures to increase the competitiveness of agricultural commodities in the export market have been launched. Appropriate monetary, credit, and fiscal policies have been adopted.
An indication of the way Indonesia successfully overcame the recession is the fact that stagnant GDP growth in 1982 has expanded to well over 4.5 per cent. Our 4th National Plan calls for growth of at least five per cent. This rate of growth is relatively high, compared with l that achieved by most developing countries.
Since 1981, the goal of self-sufficiency in rice has appeared to be within reach for Indonesia, though bad weather has perhaps delayed this achievement. Does this campaign for rice self sufficiency call for cutbacks in production of major export crops such as coffee, rubber, tea, and forest products? What is the relationship between the food and cash crop sectors?
Provision of adequate food and reduction of malnutrition are major priorities. Food security is at the core of development.
As in most Southeast Asian countries, rice constitutes the main staple for Indonesia. Rice produced in 1984 increased by 6.4 per cent over the 1983 level. Looking at the three national five-year plan periods, we find increases were: 4.7 per cent, 3.8 per cent, then 6.1 per cent. This is more than the still relatively high population growth rates of 2.3 per cent per annum, despite our successful population programmes. In rice we had reached a stage of self-sufficiency, but we would like to stabilize production and keep pace with population growth.
Development of the food and cash crop sectors are integral parts of agricultural development. Earnings from cash crop exports like rubber, palm oil, and coffee have been adversely affected by the recession. The development of our food sector is mostly financed from domestic sources. But cash crops are partly financed from external sources, i.e., loans from international financial institutions.
Food security will remain a major concern well into the next century, as the recent crisis in Africa shows. For these reasons, Indonesia collaborates with other nations, in ASEAN, or organizations like FAO, to improve food security.
You just spoke of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. Could you comment on ASEAN's work in food and agriculture?
The six ASEAN nations-Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand-believe that it is only through collective self-reliance at the national, subregional and regional levels that enduring solutions can be found to solve common problems, including those of food and agriculture. ASEAN has developed an emergency food reserve. We have an agreement on fisheries. Educational exchanges among agricultural schools have been facilitated.
We have common projects in forestry. ASEAN offers a model for practical effective technical cooperation among developing countries in such crucial fields as food security. I believe this underscores the relevance of multilateral ties for the future. ASEAN can share its experience with others.
At the thirtieth anniversary of the Bandung Conference, you spoke of the need for developing countries to intensify their dialogue with advanced nations on questions of food, market expansion, and promotion of science and technology. Would you like to comment on the scope of such a dialogue?
Being a universal concern, the issue of food can offer our world an area of constructive collaboration to restart the North-South dialogue. Provision of food for the hungry and alleviation of malnutrition and rural poverty can unite us and reduce the diversion of valuable resources to the increasingly dangerous arms race.
There is much that advanced nations and developing countries can do in the fields of food production, agrarian reform, enhancement of the roles of women and youth, agricultural research and training, or conserving the environment. Both North and South have a mutual interest in establishing stable systems of food production that meet human needs, diffuse tensions. Organizations like FAO can play an invaluable role in promoting such dialogues.
What are the major environmental problems that Indonesia has encountered within the agricultural sector? What steps have you taken to overcome these?
We are deeply concerned by the destruction of our forest cover and soil erosion, as well as by pollution due to industrial wastes.
This concern led Indonesia to host the 8th World Forestry Congress with its theme "Forests Are for People." This underscores our belief that forests will be conserved only if their benefits are not monopolized by a few but shared by the people. Indonesia supports FAO's initiative in marking 1985 as the International Year of the Forest to alert the world to the need for conservation.
To overcome these problems, Indonesia has adopted programmes for reforestation and soil and water conservation, through an integrated watershed management approach, for the rehabilitation of critical soils. All projects today include an environmental impact analysis. Those who share our environmental concerns are encouraged.
Indonesia is among the top ten fishing nations of the world, with the greater part of the catch being landed by artisanal fishermen. Are more modern fishing fleets and methods going to become essential for maintaining your place as a major fishing nation? If so, how will this affect the million or so artisanal fishermen involved?
The maximum sustainable yield from Indonesia's marine resources is estimated at 4.5 million metric tons from its archipelagic waters and 2.1 million tons from its Exclusive Economic Zone. From this tremendous potential, the rate of exploitation was only around 24 per cent in 1983. Modern methods are needed to provide more protein in our people's diets and increase incomes, especially those of artisanal fishermen. The Programme of Action, adopted at the World Conference on Fisheries, offers a useful framework for us.
Conflicts between artisanal and industrial fishermen can be avoided. We seek to allocate coastal fishing areas to individual small fishermen. Off-shore fishing and deep-sea or EEZ areas can be exploited by larger vessels.
Organization is the key to the development of small-scale artisanal fishermen. We support their efforts to organize themselves into smallscale modern entities. The private sector is encouraged to invest in the medium- and large-scale fishing organizations.
To what extent do you consider that Indonesia's transmigration policies have been successfully implemented? What do you regard as the major problems still to be faced in this respect?
One need only look at Indonesia's geographic features and population distribution to understand why transmigration is one of our most important programmes. Our 13 677 islands add up to a land area of 1.9 million km². But its total surface area, including the seas within our archipelagic boundaries, is over 4.8 million km².
Population and economic resources are very unevenly distributed. Java accounts for almost one half of Indonesia's GDP. Well over 62 per cent of our population live on the island, which has only seven per cent of its land area. Thus, density in Java is 700 per km².
To ensure that the sources and benefits of development are equitably spread, we have adopted a transmigration programme. It has multidimensional goals. In addition to seeking a more balanced population distribution and regional development, it promotes additional employment opportunities and improves farmers' welfare.
Transmigration is not simply physically shifting people from one region to another. It is a complex operation involving multifarious activities, including provision of infrastructure, housing, agricultural inputs, etc.
In such a complex project, success is hard to gauge. Valid criteria on its contribution to farmers' welfare, increases in productivity, promotion of regional activity have to be developed. Not all of these criteria can easily be measured. It takes years for results to be seen. Where perennial crops are planted, it takes years before the first harvest can be gathered.
Coordination in planning and implementation, better preparation with respect to land capability survey, location, housing facilities, faster issuance of land titles, the provision of sufficient infrastructure, and supporting services are needed.
In a real sense, it is a human development programme. The fact that over one million people have been moved under the programme speaks for itself.
Indonesia is a country of great diversity in language, ethnic groups and religion. What impact does such diversity have upon achieving national agricultural development objectives?
A country consisting of more than 13 000 islands, understandably, faces problems. Communication is one. For some islands, consumption centres are distant from the production areas. This gives rise to marketing problems. But these problems are not insurmountable.
More importantly, the great diversity in language, ethnic groups, and religion has not constrained our achieving national development objectives. Indonesia's emblem carries the motto "Unity through Diversity". This reflects the reality of Indonesia today-created as one country, one nation with one language.
"Today we are fighting another war, equally dramatic' that claims innocent victims every day."
On two occasions last year you showed your commitment to the World Food Security Pact on which the FAO Conference is to pass judgement. Why do you consider it an important initiative, and in what way do you think a moral commitment of this kind can influence both governments and the general public?
In the speech I made at the 86th Session of the FAO Council on 27 November 1984, my main purpose was to draw attention to the need for a new international commitment to solve the world's hunger problem. The World Food Security Pact is an efficient instrument in defining this task. I do not think we can be satisfied with the present interventions: to recall the frequency with which cases of under nutrition occur is sufficient to make us reflect upon their inadequacy.
The ultimate aim of international aid should, therefore, be to make the most of the food production potential of countries with food problems. For this, we must involve the overall responsibility of all nations and make each country aware of its obligations.
In recent years Italy has increased its budget allocations for aid to Third World development significantly. A conspicuous amount of these contributions are passed on to international organizations, including FAO. What are your objectives and hopes on this matter?
Italy is sensitive to the drama and needs of certain particularly critical regions and populations, and has considerably increased bilateral aid to certain countries with which it has traditional ties.
This does not mean that our country intends to neglect the channel of multilateral aid. On the contrary, I am convinced that international organizations such as FAO constitute an essential forum for assessing the requirements of beneficiary countries and the possibilities of donor nations. Moreover, by resorting to multilateral aid, it is possible both to mobilize greater financial contributions, thus permitting farther-reaching initiatives, and to make decisions based on well-proven experience.
For this reason Italy will continue to support the multilateral approach in aid to development and will certainly make its contribution to the competent organizations.
The agricultural policy of the EEC has at times been accused of hindering agricultural development in the Third World, of counteracting the aid provided by such means as the Lome Convention. What are your thoughts on this?
I feel these criticisms are unwarranted. The agricultural policy of the EEC has contributed above all to generally increasing agricultural production, and thereby passing on the benefit to developing countries. I do not think we can say that this has generated dangerous competition for Third World agriculture. EEC member countries are constantly concentrating their efforts on products that are either difficult to locate or available in insufficient quantity in developing countries. At the same time, the EEC has made decisions, obviously political, to reduce or even remove its protection of certain products so as not to compromise exports from developing countries. An example of this is the concessions granted to Mediterranean countries in the fruit and vegetables sector; these have entailed considerable sacrifice, especially for Italy. There are also cases in which the implementation of the EEC agricultural policy has allowed guaranteed purchase prices for typical products from Third World countries, 'thus considerably protecting farmers' incomes.
In your opinion, what are the most important changes that have taken place between Lome II and Lome III? Do you think the EEC could have cooperated more than it has done with ACP countries?
We consider the Lome Conventions an efficient vehicle for reducing the divide between North and South and, therefore, in promoting greater stability and peaceful coexistence between all countries of the world.
The Third Lome Convention emphasized the concept of the equal merit of nations and more clearly identified the common objectives of cooperation, the most important being to make all nations self-sufficient in food production.
To answer the second part of the question, I can say that the negotiation was concluded only thanks to Italy's commitment to make an additional contribution of 150 million ECUs.
In his speech last October on World Food Day, President Pertini emphasized that we should recapture the "spirit of 1943-45", when intergovernmental cooperation succeeded in creating the United Nations. Do you think there is any hope of retrieving such a high degree of international cooperation?
Undoubtedly, the degree of international solidarity achieved during the war in the fight against Nazism and Fascism gave rise to a new spirit of cooperation which found its highest expression in the Charter of the United Nations.
Today we are fighting another war, equally dramatic which claims innocent victims every day. To win this fight we must build up a spirit of solidarity among the forces committed to pursuing the peaceful development of all nations for the benefit of mankind. We cannot isolate ourselves in narrow, selfish ambitions if our aim is for mankind to advance on the road to progress, justice, freedom and peace.
How do you see the future of collaboration between Italy and FAO in the short and longer term?
Italy has established constructive relations with FAO, which plays a fundamental role in improving the world food situation. In particular, Italy has contributed to 56 projects for a total value of US$135 million, and another 40 projects, totalling $140 million, are being considered. This is a tangible sign of the importance we attribute to an efficient collaboration with FAO, and we hope it will become even stronger in the future.
Italy occupies a privileged position in the heart of the Mediterranean Basin. Does this mean that Italy has special responsibilities in this geographic area, or do you think, rather, that it should distribute its aid more equally in all regions of the Third World?
One of the criteria followed by Italian aid policy is to give priority to the countries whose need is greatest. Naturally, we do have special historical ties and responsibilities, and these are taken into account in our overall foreign policy with regard to certain sensitive geographic regions. In this sense the Mediterranean, the Near East and Africa do enjoy a special position.
Our increasing allocation of funds for aid to countries in these geographic areas is proof of this attitude. But we certainly do not neglect countries in Asia and Latin America whose problems are equally urgent and dramatic.
It is necessary to make man the principal factor of development."
Has multilateral aid played a useful role in the support of your development plan, namely in the agriculture and food sectors? What role can it play today in the Sahel as a whole?
It has been said that multilateral aid is double-edged. It is the expression of solidarity among nations, to overcome the great challenges that besiege mankind. It is, for example, the basis of the specialized agencies of the United Nations, and of the many other development aid organizations that were created in the same conditions. Lofty motivations, therefore, and lofty goals. On the other hand, we must recognize that multilateralism suffers from a certain sluggishness, due either to a difference in approach as to ways and means-hence the delays and stagnation in negotiations-or to a tendency toward bureaucratization of procedures. Multilateral aid has nevertheless played a useful role, even a very important one, in the promotion of policies and strategies for development. It can do more if it applies itself to fighting this sluggishness so as to work resolutely toward the betterment and salvation of man.
In this connection, the case of the Sahel is edifying. There has been multi- and bilateral aid ever since sovereignty was recognized by the international community. The Sahel of 1985 scarcely resembles that of 1960. This is a fact. But in view of the difficulties the region is now facing, we are tempted to believe that we are on the wrong track. The models and strategies implemented have sinned by too much inconsistency and outward-oriented efforts. We wanted to change the structures without changing the man of the Sahel, without making him party to the change. Today, we say that it is necessary not only to make him participate but to make him the principal actor of development. In a word, to make him responsible. That is where success lies.
You are also president of CILSS. In that capacity, you recently asked (Geneva, 11-12 March 1985): "How can we explain, in the case of the Sahel for example, that our self sufficiency rate has gone from 98 per cent in 1960 to 65 per cent in 1973, to reach 86 per cent in 1980 and fall again, today, to 65 per cent?" How do you explain it?
The statistics in our possession do reflect this sawtooth evolution, the low points corresponding to the years of very low rainfall. How can we explain this evolution? Let us ask the question another way: why have rural development strategies essentially been based on rainfall instead of promoting models suited to freeing agriculture from the fluctuations of climate?
This fact involves the philosophy of cooperation. A reconversion is necessary to enable the Sahelians to control their environment, to rehabilitate it and to exploit it in all its potential at any season. A good rainy season in 1985 which we wish with all our heart-must not let us forget the lessons of the past. Such was unfortunately the case. And that has to change.
In the Niger, the rural sector accounts for nearly 70 per cent of employment. However, agricultural production is relatively weak. How do you plan to re-establish a well-balanced population/agricultural production ratio?
Of all Sahelian countries, the case of the Niger is one of the most characteristic examples of the consequences of agro-ecological imbalance. Only 12 per cent of our 1.267 million km² are suited to agriculture. Each year, 15 000 km² are threatened by desertification. The instinct for preservation often leads our population to tactical retreats toward the milder south-in some regions, population density can reach 200-250 inhabitants per km². There is an evident risk of overloading and of weakening of lands. We have to reverse this trend. And this is what we have done in two areas.
Control and utilization of surface and subsoil water for reforestation, agriculture and husbandry. Some programmes, associating food and fodder production with tree plantations for wind protection, dune stabilization and fruit production, have already been started. These micro projects are less burdened by recurrent operational costs and can be more easily mastered by the peasants, at the level of management and of dissemination of technical information.
The other area is undoubtedly more complex: the promotion of family health through information and awareness in the areas of mother and child care, family planning, education, and integration of young people into society. This is obviously a long-term action, whose objective is not to stop population growth but to reconcile it with the economic growth of the nation.
Does being a land-locked country present particular food supply problems?
We have the best of relations with our transit countries. Food products have even become objects of particular good will and vigilance on the part of these countries.
But there are problems linked to the capacity of the ports and the insufficiency and inadequacy of communication means (rails, roads, and infrastructures) and of transport means. Judge for yourself: Agadez is 2 000 km from Cotonou. N'guigmi, on the edge of Lake Chad, is 1500 km from the Nigerian ports of Lagos and Calabar. When you think that the 350 000 metric tons which the Niger is expecting from the international community are sent in 25- to 35-ton truck - you can understand the difficulties of being land-locked.
Do you think that the revenues from mining (notably uranium) can help the Niger to increase the productivity of its agriculture?
Such has been our policy and such it will remain as long as uranium is a source of income for the Niger. We have been proclaiming since 1974 that the Niger's resources are are will remain national resources and that they must serve the cause of national development. And if we have, very quickly, survived the drought of the 1970s, it is in large part due to our export revenue. Enormous sums of money-obtained from uranium, have been invested in rural development. We will pursue this path with the adjustments and the change of focus that our past experience imposes on US.
Water is without doubt what is needed most in the Sahel, at least usable water, since millions of cubic metres lie unused in the subsoil. Do you think that a large-scale coordinated water policy is possible and desirable in the Sahel?
The salvation of the Sahel lies in water management. Now, the Sahel has enormous potential: good or bad year, our rivers, lakes, and streams carry 130 billion cm. With proper management, the Sahel could obtain two million hectares of irrigated land: less than 200 000 are now cultivated, scarcely a tenth of the potential.
Groundwater represents some 3 500 trillion cm3. It has been shown that tapping 1 to 15 billion would not disturb the balance of the groundwater level and would cover, by means of wells and boreholes, human and pastoral needs.
But it is necessary, beyond isolated national programmes, for the states of the Sahel to coordinate their water management activities. Works upstream invariably have consequences farther down a watercourse. An over exploited groundwater can cause immeasurable damages to a river basin. Coordination helps preserve the balance. We have to achieve this. It is highly desirable, and it is possible. Last April, we held two consecutive summits, that of the riparian states of the Niger river and that of the riparian states of Lake Chad. In both cases, we can draw the same conclusion: with the drought threatening the water potential of the Sahel, only a large-scale water policy, well formulated, coordinated and articulated, can allow all the states of the region to benefit from the immense quantities of water that are being lost, jeopardizing the supply to our urban centres. The commitment to work jointly and effectively toward the management of the basins of the Niger river and of Lake Chad has been made. The same approach is valid for all the watercourses of Africa. The international community must be made aware of this and assist the governments and peoples of Africa who fight for food self-sufficiency and socio-economic progress.
The Niger has mobilized its youth in Samaria to plant trees, build schools, work toward mutual aid and solidarity. Do you think that this example (and the accumulated experience) can be transferred to other countries to help them mobilize their youth for development?
In the matter of mobilization, the example of the Niger is not unique, even if it has some specific characteristics. What we are saying is that Africa, in its diversity, is still looking for development models. None of the classic, universally known theories is transferable as is to Africa. Poor in infrastructure, Africa is rich in potential-rich also, fortunately, in its moral and social values, to whose depths it should delve and seek the development models that correspond to modern requirements and challenges.
Samaria, in the Niger, is the result of a profound return to the socio-cultural heritage of our people. It reconciles the citizen of the Niger, his past and his present with his aspirations. It is solidarity, a social value that has chosen to express itself as a force of progress, as a platform of mobilization and of unanimous and spontaneous participation in the work of national construction. Samaria represents today an essential element in our development strategy. My vow is to see African youth mobilize everywhere, to unite in action and in thought to construct Africa, to safeguard its moral and spiritual values and to translate into facts its most cherished ambitions of peace, dignity, and prosperity.
Such a plan involves African youth. But besides Africa, it involves all the nations of the world, if they care about peace and justice and are concerned about the fate of mankind. Because hunger threatens the very equilibrium of the world. The year 1985 has shown us that the war against hunger is far from being won. The 40th anniversary of FAO gives me the opportunity to restate the commitment of the Niger and of the peoples of the Sahel to the fundamental objectives which its founders assigned to it in 1945.
"An effective system of food security for Africa requires a more just international economic order."
What kinds of external help do African nations most need today to overcome hunger and to develop an effective system of food security?
Drought is not new in Africa, although the current one has been more widespread, and has lasted for more years, than any other in recorded history. But there were refugees from crop failure,- and even deaths from hunger, in traditional Africa; in my own extended family there are elderly women who were married into the tribe as children because their own parents from a different areas could no longer feed them. I mention these facts as there is a prevailing wisdom that the current famines arise only because of the failures of independent African governments, and we cannot deal with the current problems unless we attack the underlying causes. But in doing so I am not denying that the inevitable and necessary process of development and modernization has in some ways been disruptive of the traditional food supply and distribution chain, nor that the rapid population increase and the urbanization puts new strains on the traditional food production capacity, nor that the larger and more destructive nature of modern warfare does much longer-lasting damage to the lives of Africa's people and the production levels- of African societies.
The first and most basic constraint on food production in Africa is the backwardness of its agricultural methods. It is not enough to recognize that the widespread traditional system of shifting agriculture was well adapted to the environmental hazards of tropical conditions; it was an adaptation at a low and insecure level. Output will remain at a very low level while the majority of the peasants cultivate with a hand-hoe, or even a digging stick, and rely upon natural rejuvenation of soil left fallow or upon the ashes from ´'slash and burn" methods of land clearance. Working with such primitive tools, and without any scientific knowledge, a fit and hard-working peasant family can cultivate no more than a few acres a year, and the productivity of their land will be low. As population pressure increases, and his children go to school during a period when they would otherwise be working with him, the net output will decrease still further.
These facts have implications for the kind of external help which African nations need. For as they increasingly recognize the need to give top priority to agricultural development, and in particular to raising the productive capacity of the peasants, they will quickly come up against the need for foreign exchange in order to provide better tools, transport, and other inputs.
This is not because they need massive quantities of tractors and other large and modern mechanized implements. Such things are needed by large commercial farms, or eventually by peasants producing cooperatively, but the real production breakthrough in the near future will come through the greatly extended use of simple animal, water, or hand-powered mechanical tools like ploughs, planters, carts, thereshers, and so on.
Yet the technical backwardness of most African states- and particularly those classified as "Least Developed" means that even these things cannot be produced, distributed, or used, without imported inputs. They have steel and rubber in them; the factories producing them are equipped with imported machines and need imported spare parts. The distribution of these implements, etc., needs lorries and fuel.
So African nations need to reassess their approach to agriculture, giving new priority to the development of the needs and productive capacity of the peasants who form the bulk of the producers (and who cannot be forced out or on to large commercial farms without a social and economic disaster). African governments need to work out a coherent and total economic strategy which directs the whole economy toward the service of the agricultural sector- and then to implement that strategy. They will need external assistance. Some may need help in working out the policy re-adjustment; if so, it will need to be help which recognizes that increased agricultural output does indeed involve the development, reorganization, or rehabilitation of some industrial capacity and a considerable extension of the transportation systems as well as direct investment on the land and improved seed production. But for the majority of countries, the real need for help will be in providing the resources (both material and managerial) with which to implement their plans. We in Tanzania, for example, have three factories which produce agricultural tools like hoes, axes, ploughs, harrows, carts, etc., as well as some rural workshops. All are working very much below capacity through lack of imported inputs, although the demand for the more advanced tools is steadily increasing.
Let me add that in the longer term, an effective system of food security for Africa also requires a more just international economic order. African states are sometimes criticized for producing and exporting agricultural commodities even at times of famine; yet they have no choice. They have to earn some foreign exchange in order to move agricultural inputs to the areas where they are needed, and to move food internally from surplus to deficit areas. Agricultural commodities are almost the only things they can export at their present level of development. Yet while the terms of trade move so consistently against primary commodities they have to produce and sell more and more of these exports even to maintain-much less develop-the most basic services for the peasants and other agricultural producers.
Very few African nations enjoyed sovereign status when FAO was founded 40 years ago. Today the continent accounts for about one third of the Organization's total membership. How would you characterize the role of FAO in Africa's agricultural and rural development?
It is important not to underestimate the contribution made by FAO in African countries, especially through the assistance its technical experts have made in helping African states to set up agricultural and forestry monitoring systems, research and training institutions, planning and production units. In all these and many other fields African states have had good help from experts provided by FAO; I think it is fair to say that some of the necessary institution building would not have been begun, and much would not have been sustainable, without FAO's prompting and assistance. Yet although it is not exciting to talk about institutions and systems- and FAO as well as African governments are criticized for creating bureaucracies when they are involved in their establishment-you have no basis for organized development or service to the peasants without them.
Having said that, and without in any way decreasing my admiration for the work of FAO, it is necessary to recognize that the FAO as well as African governments have been learning about the problems of developing African agriculture by trying to do it. It is appropriate that on its 40th anniversary, the FAO should ask itself-as we are asking ourselves-whether we have not made some serious mistakes which could be corrected in the next decades.
For example, FAO experts are always very highly qualified academically; not all of them have practical experience of farming or of being farmers-much less of being peasants. This colours their approach to the very real problems with which African states have to deal. What is more, their training has usually been in temperate agricultural zones, and they think in terms of Western-style development; even when they come from developing countries they have almost always been educated or trained in the Western tradition.
So FAO experts usually emphasize the development of high-yielding seeds, whereas the African peasant would probably put a higher priority on seed reliability in the face of uncertain climatic conditions and on reproducibility. Experts emphasize the use of chemical fertilizers and pay little or no attention to manuring systems. They tend to think in terms of big schemes rather than of small ones. They tend to think in terms of systems that depend upon reliable transport and the ready availability of inputs from outside the farm or village. In all these respects FAO experts encourage the predilection of most educated African agriculturalists instead of pushing their attention toward the peasants, who are the real producers. Yet it is increasingly obvious that what is needed is, firstly the maximum amount of attention to the needs of the peasant, and secondly of self-reliance within a village, then a district, and then a region.
I believe that some change in these matters has begun within FAO as well as within many African nations. We are all now more aware that the experiences of agricultural development, and the practices in developed countries of the temperate zone, are not necessarily transferable to African conditions. We must learn our lessons from our experience.
The Chinese experience in rural development has long been cited as an instructive model for centrally planned developing economies. Do you think that China's present shift toward a more market-oriented agricultural sector is likely to be copied by other socialist states?
Each country has to work out the organization best suited to its own conditions at a particular stage in its development. Poor socialist countries have a great deal to learn from Chinese experience of rural development. It could be argued that it is on the basis of their past success in upgrading the poorest areas and ending the worst excesses of peasant poverty, that China is now able to move to a new stage in which equality and communal work is given less emphasis than production figures. For increased production there is not now likely to lead to increased poverty for the majority, as it often does if the poorest peasants are left in their ignorance or denied access to land or credit.
I would say that all developing countries can learn a great deal from Chinese experience, and that the socialist ones will find a great deal in the past as well as in the present reorganization from which they can learn. But one country- and particularly when the culture and traditions are so different-can never successfully copy another. You can learn and adapt. And I still believe that Chinese post-revolutionary agricultural organization-past as well as present- is probably a better model from which African states can start adaptation than are the agricultural organizations of the developed states like USA, USSR, and Britain.
You have been in the front lines, so to speak, in the debate about conditionality as a factor in determining the level and nature of resource flows to developing countries. What is your present view regarding the appropriateness of Official Development Assistance grants and loans being linked to specific policy adjustments?
First let us be clear; ODA grants and loans have never been unconditional. Donor nations always consider projects and programmes put to them and make their own judgements about their viability, their appropriateness, as well as their own nation's ability to make a contribution in the particular area. We have never complained about that. Nor have we complained about the demand that accounts be kept properly and be open to inspection; on the contrary, many of us find this financial accountability very helpful to our own endeavours to run an honest administration.
Perhaps it is inevitable that donor countries will tend to direct most of their bilateral assistance toward countries in whose policies they find an echo of their own approach to ideological or economic questions. As long as assistance to the poor of the world remains on the basis of charitable decisions made by national governments, and not on that of an international taxing system, the concept of "the deserving poor" will have a strong influence over the distribution of bilateral aid. Only the definition of who is deserving will differ from donor to donor! But there is no excuse for multinational agencies of the United Nations family adopting similar practices; their allocations should be made strictly upon the basis of need and viability for the declared purposes.
Yet I believe it is fundamentally wrong even for bilateral ODA to be used as an instrument of political domination. And when one country says to another that it will take part in the attack on poverty only if policies of private enterprise dominate the economic strategy, or if an agreement is reached with the IMF, then that is what it is doing-trying to govern a country at second remove, and without responsibility for any social or economic results.
I may be shocked by the existence of hunger in the richest countries of the world; this does not give me the right to tell those governments to become socialist or to increase their welfare provision. They may think that my country should give priority to increasing its statistical GDP rather than to concerning itself with the ability of people to get access to food or education; that does not, as I see it, give them the right to contract out of the world attack on poverty-even the poverty in my own country which results from our technical backwardness and the workings of the existing international economic order.
The world is one, and there is one human race. Ordinary people recognize this, as is evident by their response to knowledge of the famines in Africa or disasters elsewhere. But the world will only move toward increased peace and harmony when we learn to respect our equality with each other, and -while we are still organized in nation states-the equal right of all nations to make their own sovereign decisions, at least within a generally accepted framework of human decency. We still have a long way to go in that respect.
Do you regard Africa's present population growth rates as a major impediment to achieving higher levels of regional food security?
They are quite obviously a major problem. While we are expanding our population at present rates, and when at the same time we aim at our children being better fed, better clothed, and better educated than previous generations in Africa, we are trying to swim against a swift current.
But I would add two points. First, we are in a stage of transition. In the past, a large family was a condition for human security-both economic and social; the high infant and child mortality rate meant that virility and fertility had a high social status. Over the centuries this experience has resulted in the building up of cultural attitudes and practices which cannot be quickly overcome-the more especially while child mortality rates remain as high as they are in African countries.
Yet families are now beginning-especially but not only in the urban areas - to realize that bringing up a large number of children is a big problem. So they are torn between their traditional culture, the economic problems of large families-and the lack of any social security for their old age except the children's traditional social responsibility for the aged and sick. In time, this social conflict will be resolved; it will happen the faster the lower is the child death rate and the quicker some alternative system of social security can be introduced.
In other words, development is itself a propagator of family planning! And this conforms to world experience; in Europe and America the population growth rates declined as they became more prosperous-not while they were still very poor. A high standard of living and a general decrease in the mortality rate always precedes any marked decrease in the birthrate.
Secondly, there is no quick and easy answer to the problem of population growth. The traditional African systems of family planning have been largely broken down by the impact of social and economic changes, but the widespread adoption of more scientific systems of contraception demands the dispersal of medical care and knowledge, and sometimes of pharmaceutical items. This is not easily attained at the required level. Social customs cannot be easily broken; a forcible attempt to do so can lead to social disaster.
Family size is one area where steady, consistent, and socially acceptable policies have to be applied over a long period; they have to he combined with- and seen to be combined with-other aspects of social and economic development.
Do you consider that environmental stress and degradation are an inevitable result of agricultural modernization under African conditions? Do you see any need-or prospect for the development of indigenous "soft" technologies for African agriculture?
It seems to me that environmental stress is inevitable, but degradation is not inevitable - although it is very likely in Africa unless we quickly recognize the dangers and do something about it. Until the last few years, Africa regarded environmental concern as an American and European matter; indeed there was a tendency to believe that talk of the environment was part of a conspiracy to prevent modern development in our continent! Now we have reached the stage of recognizing that environmental concern and development have to be linked together if the latter is to be real and permanent. The question is how to do this.
I do not claim to know all the answers, although I am confident that it can be done over time. The problem is that we need to act as fast on this aspect of development as we do on the introduction of new methods and tools of production. Indeed, we have some catching up to do.
Quite clearly reforestation, and great emphasis on the planting of trees, is part of dealing with the environmental question-and there is no reason why this cannot be pursued with success given time, public education and, therefore, resources. For again, reforestation must be based on the people's understanding and participation - it is not just a question of planting extensive areas with trees (although that may have its place too). And methods of appropriate improved agriculture which guard the long-term fertility of the soil must be developed and applied; in this we probably could learn something from a combination of (a) the peasants' experience of cultivating in a particular area for centuries and (b) careful research into the environmental impact of agricultural practices in tropical conditions.
We must, and we can, integrate care of the environment into our present planning to deal with the food problems of Africa If we do not, the problem will recur whatever else we do.