Cover Image
close this bookCERES No. 072 (FAO Ceres, 1979, 50 p.)
close this folderCerescope
View the documentA new weapon for wheat growers fighting rust
View the documentThe hidden costs of meeting charcoal demand
View the documentTobacco output, demand shilling to Third World
View the documentAnother look at potato's potential in infant diets
View the documentBrazil raising production of tropical fruits
View the documentIsland economies: do they merit special support?
View the documentDiseases reveal lack of planning in water schemes
View the documentThe price of a nuclear submarine
View the documentHealth hazards reduced for crews of smaller boats
View the documentBreeding shortcut brightens future for valued tree

A new weapon for wheat growers fighting rust

- multilines in India

An alternative approach to providing farmers with a means of stabilized resistance against the perennial threat of rust has reached field level in major wheat-growing areas of India. A year ago, the Punjab Department of Agriculture and Punjab Agricultural University released for distribution to farmers about 4 000 small packets of the seed of a new multiline variety of wheat expected to provide durable resistance to yellow and brown rusts. From this seed-multiplication programme, large quantities of seed are available for the 1978/79 crop year.

As in many other parts of the world, wheat growers in India have adopted semidwarf varieties on an extensive scale because of their high yield potential as compared with the old, tall varieties. One result has been the tendency to monoculture of a few varieties, creating a situation in which virulent forms of plant disease pathogens may multiply to epidemic proportions. A striking example is the Kalyasona variety developed from a Mexican cross, 8156 from CIMMYT. Kalyasona was very popular in India for a few years until it became susceptible to yellow and brown rusts.

In view of this, work was initiated at the Punjab Agricultural University to develop multiline varieties within the genetic background of Kalyasona. The concept of multiline varieties is based on the diversification of component lines with respect to disease resistance. At crop level this concept is an old one. Under natural conditions different crop species were normally mixed, which helped to maintain a balance between host plants and pathogens. With the beginning of civilized cultivation, this interspecific diversification was reduced and the phase of intraspecific diversification started, during which farmers grew mixtures of different varieties of the same crop. The development of pure line varieties in the modem agricultural era considerably reduced this diversification at crop level and obliged breeders to seek disease-resistant characteristics through other breeding techniques.

The technique for the deliberate development of multiline varieties was first postulated by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug of the International Centre for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat (CIMMYT) in Mexico. Two multiline varieties, Miramar 63 and Miramar 65, were developed and released in Colombia to control yellow rust. However, as new semidwarf pure line varieties began to display their potential, not many efforts were made for the further development of multiline varieties.

The new multiline released in India, Kalyasona Multiline 3 (KSML 3), consists of six genetically different lines of wheat mixed mechanically in equal proportions. The six lines have the same agronomic characteristics, so that they are uniform in plant height, grain colour, grain type and maturity. But each line has different genetic background for resistance to yellow and brown rusts.

In tests conducted throughout the entire Northwestern Plains zone of India, which comprises the States of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and parts of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, KSML 3 outyielded Kalyasona by an average margin of about 9 percent. On the basis of its good yield performance, rust resistance and uniformity in plant type, it has been recommended for minikit trials on farmers' fields throughout the zone.

The hidden costs of meeting charcoal demand

- forest destruction

In the past few years, there has been a growing realization that charcoal is a much more important source of energy than generally acknowledged. Until recently, estimates of global consumption were never higher than 5 million tons a year; now FAO experts say roughly 30 million tons of charcoal are used a year in both the domestic and industrial fields. The fact that charcoal is a favoured urban domestic fuel suggests that charcoal use is rising much faster than fuelwood use, since population growth is much higher in urban areas than rural areas.

Charcoal is in many respects a highquality fuel. It has twice the heat value per unit weight as wood, and it is much more energy efficient in application. Therefore, it can be transported economically over longer distances. It produces no smoke or tar and it cannot deteriorate in storage.

In addition, charcoal has a wide range of use as an industrial fuel. Colossal amounts are utilized in Brazil and Argentina for steel making, while in northeast Uganda charcoal is used in lime and cement manufacture. Other uses occur in drying, water purification and sewage works. Large numbers of rural families depend on commercial production and marketing of charcoal as a source of income.

But because between 50 and 70 per cent of the heat value is lost during conversion from wood to charcoal, it may be more efficient to use fuelwood where transport distances are short and costs are low. The balance between fuelwood and charcoal, and the limits of economic supply for the latter, depend on production costs, transport costs and market prices of charcoal and alternative fuels. In a recent study in East Africa, it was found that fuelwood was more attractive up to a road distance of 82 km, and charcoal beyond that distance.

Since up to 8 kg of wood are needed to produce 1 kg of charcoal, often the effect of charcoal production is to extend greatly the area of forest destruction. The damage has been worst around large towns in Africa and Asia.

Yet charcoal manufacture remains a logical way of using wood that otherwise would be too costly to transport. "There's no escape," says Mike Arnold, an FAO senior forestry planning officer. "There's no other economical alternative. Countries simply have to control the situation and produce charcoal in a less destructive way."

The bulk of the charcoal produced in the world is made in ovens called kilns, which are inefficient in their use of wood. Kilns have evolved from the earliest means of making charcoal known to man, i.e., by covering burning wood with turf or by firing the wood in a hole in the ground. Although earth or pit kilns require very little investment, yield and quality of the charcoal
are uncertain.

A variety of designs for brick and steel kilns have been developed, which not only have the advantages of simplicity, small scale, low costs and even portability, but also improve the conversion rate. An even higher conversion rate can be obtained using retorts, containers in which wood is heated externally until carbonization occurs. Since the capital cost of retorts is relatively high, they are generally used only in large-scale industry. However, retorts permit the capture of gas and distillable by-products, which can offset the costs of transporting the wood over long distances, thus providing employment for rural populations living near plants.

A small portable retort developed in Western Australia with a production capacity of 1 ton/day offers a technology both intermediate and appropriate for developing countries. At first sight, the capital required for retort operations, large or small, appears to be
a barrier to their use in the developing world. A closer look shows that the initial high capital sum is usually compensated for by considerable savings in other directions. This becomes more important as labour costs increase.

There is a trend toward using eucalyptus plantations to provide wood for large-scale charcoal production, particularly in Brazil. Slower growing species of proportionately higher basic density can produce as much weight of charcoal per hectare/year as the faster, lighter species now used, while the resulting denser charcoal has distinct advantages in industry.

But since virtually all species of wood can be converted to charcoal, production can be based on the large volumes of wood other than commercial timber species, which are otherwise destroyed in land clearing or left unused in forests. Such a programme is under way in Uganda, where 20 000 tons of charcoal are made each year using only waste wood. Similar projects exist in Zambia and Ghana.

Such programmes and other efficiency measures must be implemented elsewhere, since there is often preference for charcoal even when wood or other fuels are cheaper. Burning wood for cooking purposes can make an already warm house intolerable, whereas efficient charcoal stoves, which can be made for as little as $1, generate very little heat. In addition, the smokeless fuel provides a solution to the pollution problems of some of the larger cities of the tropics. The benefits of using charcoal over smoky fuels in cities are not yet fully appreciated in developing countries but this factor could be important at a later stage, e.g., if clean air legislation were introduced.

In developing countries, it is often a lack of entrepreneurial skills that inhibits the development of more efficient means of charcoal production. The help of the government or aid agency is often missing in the early stages. But according to Arnold, at least an awareness of the problem of charcoal production inefficiency has grown rapidly over the past few years.

Tobacco output, demand shilling to Third World

- income a factor

Most of the increase in tobacco production projected for the next five years will take place in the developing countries. According to FAO projections to 1985, world tobacco output is expected to increase more rapidly than in the previous decade when reduced growth rates reflected producer adjustments to low prices. The overall expansion in supplies is likely to meet global demand requirements which are expected to continue to rise at about the long-term rate. However, a marked change is indicated in developed countries, where demand is expected to increase at about half the rate of the past decade. In developing countries, however, the growth of demand is expected to accelerate and consumption levels to rise accordingly.

The situation in the world tobacco economy was reversed in the early 1970s. Following several years of surpluses and depressed prices, gradually increasing demand and stagnant production resulted in tight supplies, especially of light cigarette leaf. Stocks in both producing and consuming countries were drawn down and prices increased sharply. The full impact of this situation became evident in the mid-1970s when world tobacco production expanded to more than 5.5 million tons compared with an average level of about 4.5 million tons at the beginning of the decade. Although prices subsequently weakened temporarily the long-term upward trend in demand for tobacco resumed in 1977, indicating favourable earnings prospects to growers, particularly in developing countries.

World tobacco output is now projected to rise to 6.3 million tons (farm sales weight) by 1985, representing an annual growth rate of 2.0 percent, or nearly double the actual yearly increase between 1962-64 and 1972-74. In the developing countries, production growth is projected to increase by 2.8 percent annually compared with 2.1 percent in the previous decade, whereas in developed countries moderate growth, about 1.0 percent annually, would reverse the slight downward trend since the early 1960s.

On this basis, developing countries will be producing by 1985 nearly 4.0 million tons of tobacco annually, or 63 percent of the total world output compared with 52 percent in 1962-64. Rising labour costs in high-income countries and the policies of such countries to maintain leaf prices at remunerative levels will continue to encourage expansion of production in developing countries. Especially rapid growth, exceeding 4 percent annually, is expected in Latin America and Africa, but increases would also be large in the Near East and the Far East. Production is also projected to rise in China, though somewhat less rapidly than during the previous decade, during which the country surpassed the United States as the largest tobacco producer in the world.

Demand is also projected to rise more rapidly in the developing countries than in the industrialized world, at 2.8 percent annually compared with 1.8 percent for the latter. The increase is attributed to rising income levels, and increased availability of tobacco products in countries where production expansion programmes have been launched. Even so, per caput consumption in the developing world at the projected figure of 0.84 kg annually would still be well below the 1.17 kg per caput average of the rich world.

Another look at potato's potential in infant diets

- attractive but bulky

Down-to-earth experiments in child nutrition in Peru have brought to light, once
again, the potentialities of the potato.

A team of doctors at the Nutrition Research Institute in Lima (a private, non-profit organization) has been testing and evaluating the use of potatoes in feeding malnourished children. Led by Dr. George Graham, Head of the Human Nutrition Division of Johns Hopkins University, and by Dr. William MacLean, the Lima researchers have evolved potato formulas that achieve their revitalizing purpose at a cost considerably lower than milk. The researchers hope that their efforts will interest other nutrition specialists and be of use in a wider field.

Nearly 50 percent of Peruvian children suffer from some form of malnutrition, an illustratively large group among the world's approximately 100 million children who are underfed.

Recovery of a malnourished child takes at least one to three months. Undernutrition or malnutrition may result from inadequate total intake of food, from lack of appropriate food or from infection, which may make the child unable to use the food consumed. In the latter cases, the result may be deficiencies of protein and essential amino acids.

According to MacLean, the most common cause of malnutrition in young children is early weaning from the breast to the use of inadequate substitutes. The two basic types of malnutrition are marasmus and kwashiorkor. Children with marasmus have received a reasonably balanced diet but in too small quantities. With kwashiorkor (which is frequently preceded by measles), the child may have had almost adequate calories, but protein is deficient.

Institute patients are the subjects of three types of nutritional studies. There is the initial evaluation to determine damage and necessary action. Next, a comparative study is conducted and the researchers measure the amount of nitrogen absorbed and how the patient is using the nitrogen. Finally, in a longterm study, blood tests are made, and measurements of changes in the skin, growth of the patient, the quality of protein in the diet and abnormal digestion.

Malnourished children often do not have adequately developed digestive systems, so they must be fed easily digestible foods when they enter the Institute, says Dr. Guillermo Lopez de Romana in his survey of the role of the potato in child nutrition, presented to scientists of the International Potato Centre (CIP), with whom the Institute researchers work closely.

The small patients, usually between three months and one year old, are fed diets in which 25, 50 and 75 percent of the calorie intake and up to 100 percent of the protein come from potatoes. Blenderizing reduces the bulk of the potatoes. Additional fat, carbohydrates and a vitamin-and-mineral mixture are awed.

The potato formula has been tested for the amount a child can consume, fat absorption, maintenance of adequate serum proteins, acceptability and tolerance. "The potato is favourable in all these factors and the nitrogen retention from the potato is better than for rice or wheat," says MacLean. The quality of the protein of the potato is very high, he noted.

According to Dr. Sidki Sadik, Head of the Physiology Department at CIP, scientists are attempting to overcome the bulk problem by processing potatoes with simple machinery that could be constructed at village level. This has been made possible through a grant from the International Development Research Centre in Canada. Considering the use of such processed food in a wider field, he said, "If you feed more potatoes to poor people, you have to make potatoes more available."

To experts of the Food Policy and Nutrition Division at FAO, the availability of an additional tool for rehabilitation of undernourished children is always welcome. There are a number of these already in existence, but in some places potato may be a better base material. However, the experts said, it is another matter to try to extend the use of the product to villages. According to them, the key to getting enough protein out of a starchy food is reduction of bulkiness. Ordinarily, too much water is needed to prepare an acceptable pap and the baby cannot eat enough to get the needed amount of protein in his daily feedings. In the hospital, the problem can be solved with blenders and perhaps even enzymes, but in the village this will not be possible. A prepared food, manufactured even with simple equipment, would cost more money than potatoes and might therefore not reach the most vulnerable groups, unless heavily subsidized by the government.

However, the FAO nutrition specialists agreed that, if organizations like the International Potato Centre and the Nutrition Research Institute of Lima were behind it, some workable solution might well be found.

This would not appear impossible. Since the potato first travelled from the high Andes around 1585, it has blossomed into over a thousand varieties with amazing adaptability to climates, altitudes and seasons.

Finding it contained essentials they lacked in their diet and was simple to grow, scurvy-plagued seafarers promoted its cultivation at their ports of call. A continuous spectacular spread carried it to New Zealand in 1773, Sweden in 1775, Africa in 1776, Tibet in 1800, Persia in 1844,the East Indies in 1882.

In Europe, the potato took hold shortly after its arrival, resisting the damp cold that frequently destroyed staple crops of rye, wheat, oats and barley. Also, potatoes remained ready to harvest from She earth when standing crops were devastated by political unrest and local warfare. Frederick the Great of Prussia enforced potato growing on a large scale in 1744, as did Catherine the Great of Russia shortly afterwards.

It was found that potatoes yielded more per hectare than cereals and, despite the high water content, the food value was greater. The Irish economy, based on small farms, became dependent on the potato crop. A typical Irish peasant family consumed 3.5 kg of potatoes per person per day. This diet, according to a nutrition expert of the 1800s, more than equalled in nourishment the customary bread and cheese of English and continental workers "and filled the Irishman's belly." When disaster struck with a blight in the 1840s, 1 million Irish died of hunger, and 2 million emigrated.

The annual world production of potatoes is about 290 million tons. About 30 percent of this is grown in the USSR, 15 percent in Poland, 10 percent in Germany (FR), 5 percent in Germany (DR), France and the United States. Production per caput is greatest in Poland at about 1 200 kg.

Now again, when crops in many small needy countries are devastated and multitudes are hungry, the success of the low-priced formula for undernourished children evolved in Lima may well draw attention and result in further research into the potentialities of the common potato.

Brazil raising production of tropical fruits

- a brilliant future

Names like graviola, araticum-ape, pitanga, mangostao and maracuja sound just as unintelligible to a great number of Brazilians as they do to foreigners. If we substitute these picturesque Indian names with their corresponding scientific terms of Anona muricata, Anona reticulata, Eugenia uniflora, Garcinia mangostana and Passiglora edulis, understanding becomes the privilege of botanists and Latinists. However, they are simply tropical fruits - soursop, custard apple, Surinam cherry, mangosteen and passion fruit - delicate and delicious, rich in nutrients and easy to cultivate. But, little is known beyond traditional techniques, which do not always lead to steady, abundant and economical production.

One of the objectives of the project being developed by FAO at the Research Centre for the Development of Bahia (CEPED) is the inclusion of these fruits in every Brazilian's daily diet as well as in foreign diets.

This is the results of studies by UNCTAD/GATT, the Tropical Products Institute of London, and export promotional offices of several countries which revealed a growing demand in Europe and the United States for tropical fruits, both fresh and processed, due to their therapeutic and dietary values, and excellent taste and aroma. This applies not only to the above-mentioned more exotic and little-known fruits, but also to the popular and familiar species being exported by
African and Near East countries.

In northeastern Brazil, the climate is hot and humid during the major part of the year, with a mean temperature favourable to the cultivation of practically all tropical fruits. In this region, encompassing one fifth of Brazil's territory and one fourth of its population, grows an infinite variety of native fruits. By far the most important is pineapple; also significant are bananas, cashews and passion fruit, as well as papaws, persimmons, mangoes and many other varieties.

A few kilometres from the littoral is the Sertao, a large semiarid area which, with irrigation, will become more suitable for fruit growing than the humid coastal zone where many plant diseases prevail. Research has shown, for example, that the mangoes from Juazeiro are relatively free from anthracnose, which severely attacks those from San Salvador. FAO experts believe that the newly irrigated areas along the Sao Francisco river will become an important production area for high-quality fruits in the next decade.

There is no doubt that a very important role is reserved for these fruits; however, there are some contradictions in this region. For example, during 1976, in only nine northeastern States, banana production was of the order of 180000 clusters, but per caput consumption was equivalent to two bananas per week. Although up-to-date statistics regarding papaws only cover the southern region, it appears that Brazil is the largest producer in the world (more because of excellent ecological conditions than skilled production techniques). Despite this fact, the quantity of papaws consumed in the northeastern region of the country would be equivalent to one slice per person... per month! Brazil is also the second largest producer in the world of pineapples, after the United States. In 1975, Brazilian pineapple production was of the order of 584 000 tons, the major part from the State of Paraiba, in the heart of the northeastern region. Even so, inhabitants of that area are not eating more than one single, medium-sized pineapple per year.

The project is nearing its sixth year, with a respectable compilation of achievements. In just a few years, the CEPED Food Section has grown from picturesque headquarters in the tourist district of Montserrat to modern installations in Camacari, with well-equipped laboratories, a library, pilot plants and, more importantly, a highly competent staff. Although a state institution, CEPED has the efficient collaboration - both technical and economic - of several Brazilian credit, research and rural extension institutes, in addition to the support of private companies.

The CEPED team, with FAO's technical collaboration, has produced numerous studies and technical publications during these years, resulting from completed experiments and tests. Among such results can be mentioned the adaptation of sun-drying techniques for the production of raisins in the Sao Francisco valley; the perfecting of storage of pineapples, mangoes, onions, and other tropical fruits; the compilation of data, covering the entire cycle of marketing of fresh as well as processed fruits.

All this laboratory and desk labour begins with lengthy, careful and patient field work on the Centre's own land, at private properties and, principally, in the Experimental Station for Tropical Fruit Culture, located 180 km from El Salvador, which pertains to the agricultural research services of the local Secretariat of Agriculture, and has become a sort of United Nations orchard, with fruit from all over the world. The research programme of the station is carried out by the Federal Agricultural Research Services and the National Research Centre for Cassava and Fruits.

There are no exact and updated statistics on the number of people working in fruit growing in this part of the country. It is known that a great part of the fruit is produced or picked in the forest by small farmers, but there is also a big pineapple plantation in Bahia which produces about 20000 tons and employs about 500 workers (and more during harvest).

The fruit-processing industry in the area employed 6600 workers in 1975; 55 percent of these were permanently employed. This figure is growing steadily thanks to the production of processed fruit, mainly doces (marmalade, jam, jelly, etc.) and juices. The average processing units are small and can hardly be called industries, but total production was 20.2 thousand tons in 1969, increasing to 51.2 thousand tons in 1975. It is estimated that production was 62 000 tons in 1977.

In a 1976 report to the United Nations, FAO technician Saeed A. Chaudri stated: "In view of observed facts, it can very safely be said that the future of the production and processing of tropical fruits in northeastern Brazil is brilliant." To help to transform that future into the present is CEPED's task.

Island economies: do they merit special support?

- incomes above average

Among the many resolutions adopted by UNCTAD V at Manila was one calling for special assistance to islands, because of their special problems. It asks that exports, particularly, be prompted, to counterbalance limited national outlets.

We must face facts when it comes to foreign trade: rich countries, in relation to their population, corner a large share of the world's trade, while the poorer countries participate to a very limited degree. But how do non-island countries compare here? For example, if Cape Verde, with 0.75 per 10000 of the world's population, has only 0.36% of imports and 0.02 of exports, Guinea-Bissau, its continental neighbour, has 2.24 for its population figure, 0.37 for imports and 0.05 for exports. Here, all we can deduce is that since both countries attained independence only very recently, they are not, as yet, greatly interested in world trade. For development takes time, in these sectors as well as in others. The fact that one country consists of a group of islands, while the other forms part of a continent, does not seem to have made a great deal of difference.

Taking a look at the right-hand column, however, we can see immediately that the biggest balances belong to two major oil-producing countries (Bahrain and Indonesia), while all the rest are, to varying degrees, importers. Island countries are obviously not the only countries to fall into the latter category. Commodity balances, we find, are all very similar to those listed here.

Finally, if we compare column totals with world averages, we see that an islander earns $2430 per annum, compared to the average world figure of $1 696.5 per caput per annum, and that with 10.3 percent of the world's population, island countries account for 16.1 percent of world imports and 15.7 percent of exports. The total balance, which shows a slight deficit, only reflects a geographical fact; none of the major oil-exporting countries, with these two exceptions, is an island.

What we are trying to point out, of course, is not that island countries should be refused aid, but simply that continental countries do not seem to have been more favoured by nature, in terms of income and foreign trade.

Diseases reveal lack of planning in water schemes

- health safeguards lacking

Irrigated agriculture represents only 13 percent of global arable land surface but the value of crop production from irrigated lands is 34 percent of the world total. The proportion of development investment that has been channelled into irrigation schemes is therefore understandable.

Yet, against the undeniable benefits that have accrued from these investments, there must be counted the health problems that have resulted from inadequate planning of the irrigation works. In most developing countries safe water is still to be provided, and waterborne or water-related diseases are endemic over wide areas. Increased human contact with water increases the hazard of infection.

Yet it is only recently, urged by national and international authorities, that the technical planners of irrigation schemes have begun to take these factors into consideration. (Many villagers near the Aswan dam still walk a mile for potable water.) The recommendations of health authorities for the actual zoning of the new agricultural workers' villages have frequently been disregarded at the planning stage. For example, health authorities advise leaving 300 metres between irrigation water courses and inhabited areas, but these spaces are often filled with schools, public buildings and even housing. Schoolchildren,- most prone to infection, use the canals for swimming and relief from the heat.

The borderline between water-borne and food-borne infections is often indeterminable, food being contaminated by water containing pathogens and in its turn serving as a vehicle for infection. Lack of sufficient safe water to dean cooking and eating utensils can obviously play its part in spreading diseases.

The responsibility for bringing elementary health education to this level has generally been left to local health and agricultural authorities. As yet, there appears to have been no development of a general health education system that would inform workers on new irrigation development schemes, and their families living nearby, of the dangers that come with water. In developing countries where increased output of crops has been considered of primary importance, health considerations are too often secondary and water-borne diseases are apt to be considered as part of a local way of life, or death.

The most prevalent water-related afflictions are malaria, spread by 60 varieties of the anopheles mosquito; schistosomiasis, carried by snails; filariasis, propagated by mosquitoes and horseflies; and onchocerciasis, or river blindness, transmitted by small blackflies.

Among these, malaria has been the leading affliction, accounting for as many as 3 million deaths annually. There have been a number of successful malaria eradication programmes over the years, including the global campaign of the World Health Organization. Unfortunately, some of this effort has been negated by the impact of large irrigation and water resource development schemes that provide an ideal habitat for malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. One example of what can happen is to be found in the Cukur and Antakya plains of Turkey where a formerly swampy area was developed through irrigation and drainage schemes for intensive production of cereals, cotton, rice, vegetables and citrus crops. Combined with rapid industrial growth in textiles, cement and engineering, the agricultural development resulted in a large population influx into the region, comprising both seasonal farm workers and a permanent industrial labour force. Throughout the 1960s, a malaria eradication campaign had succeeded in reducing parasite incidence (API) from 10.3 to 0.002 per thousand inhabitants. The localities affected represented only 0.3 percent of the total. In 1970, however, as a result of the growing influx of workers from eastern provinces where eradication programmes were less advanced, a gradual resumption and spread of malaria transmissions became apparent. The proportion of affected localities rose to 18.4 percent in 1972 and 60.0 percent in 1976.

Second only to malaria in its widespread effect on health is schistosomiasis (bilharziasis), a wearing and frequently fatal disease caused by minute worms that are transmitted by snails. It is estimated that 200 million people in 70 countries suffer from the infection, and the World Health Organization reports that it is on the increase.

The evident upsurge of these diseases in new development areas is finally beginning to attract some attention to the need for more careful and better coordinated planning of water resource projects. In the words of a pamphlet issued jointly a few years ago by FAO and the World Health Organization: "The awareness of the potential danger of water schemes is the first step toward protecting the health of the population for whose benefit finally all economic development is undertaken..."

The price of a nuclear submarine

How much does a nuclear submarine cost? According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the famous SIPRI, a little over $1.700.000.000. The mind boggles at such an order d magnitude, and it is not easy to make comparisons with anything tangible. Hence the table given below, which measures a certain number of economic aggregates, of great importance to the Third World, to agriculture, or to both, by a new standard, the Submarine Unit (SMU).

The figures speak for themselves. We might add that the GNP given are mere examples, and that in many developing countries the total goods and services produced over a year would not be sufficient to pay for even one nuclear submarine of this kind.

To bring the message home, SIPRI states that the first nuclear submarine became operational in 1960, and that today they number 278. With :the help of the UN Statistics Yearbook, we could continue measuring in SMU many world problems demanding urgent solution: worldwide eradication of some specific disease, the mounting of a world food security system, resettlement of all the world's refugees, and so on. What is astonishing is how few SMU are needed to accomplish all this.

Health hazards reduced for crews of smaller boats

- thinking safety

Although in developed countries the fishing industry has entered an era of spectacular technological change, many fishermen in the developing world still put out to sea in various types of small motor or sailing vessels. In the event of accident or illness, these vessels, usually containing no provision for medical care, have no option but to return to land. This takes time, and inclement weather conditions may further delay arrival, with serious consequences for the fishermen concerned. Although it is difficult to present a definite picture of the extent of the health problems of developing world fishermen, it has been estimated that the frequency of injuries and illnesses among fishermen in general is about twice as high as among miners and some 30 times as high as for workers in industry. In addition, fishermen are badly served in comparison with land workers respecting availability of medical care.

Few countries have considered it feasible to adopt standards requiring the engagement of medical personnel on board fishing vessels, in view of the usually limited number of crew members, the short distances between fishing grounds and the coast, and the usual time spent at sea without returning to land. Where this has been done, the relevant standards are such that the majority of fishing vessels are excluded. Only a limited number of very large boats, usually equipped with factory plants for processing of the catch, qualify for the permanent presence of a doctor. Several developed countries maintain "support" vessels appropriately staffed and equipped to manage a wide range of diseases and injuries, yet their numbers are very limited elsewhere.

The usual absence of a physician or any other category of medical personnel on board fishing vessels increases the need to train crew members in basic first aid and medical assistance. Yet there is considerable diversity in the standards of medical training for fishermen, and on many vessels, members of the crew have no training whatsoever, even in emergency care.

To be effective in providing medical care, crew members need two basic tools: an adequately equipped and updated medicine chest, and a corresponding medical guide. Referring to national law and practice, there are several countries, mainly but not exclusively developing ones, which have not as yet regulated in a statutory manner the question of the availability of such tools. Some other countries such as Argentina, Ghana and Nigeria have enacted rules requiring fishing vessels to carry medicine chests, but to date they continue to maintain an element of flexibility as regards the mandatory requirement of a medical guide. If required, the nature of the medical guide as a rule is coordinated with the contents of the medicine chest.

Conventions, codes, recommendations and guidelines produced over the years by international organizations have done much to promote the safety and medical care of fishermen. The International medical guide for ships, published jointly in 1967 by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), assembles basic information on the immediate and follow-up care of a wide variety of diseases, injuries and other biological contingencies; it also reproduces the medical section of the International code of signals. Perhaps most notable is the Code of safety for fishermen and fishing vessels published jointly by IMCO, ILO and FAO. Part A, for skippers and crews, was published in 1970; Part B, for fishing vessel builders and owners, was published in 1975. Both a guide and an educational medium, the Code has been quite widely used. A 1977 IMCO convention on fishing boat safety has yet to be ratified by the member countries.

Yet the key to fishing safety is education, according to P. Gurtner, Chief, Fisheries Technology Service of FAO. "By enacting legislation, you don't change the situation, although all these standards certainly help," Gurtner says. "Improved boat and personal safety is really only available through a continuous process of upgrading the educational system that leads to better understanding of the operational hazards. You have to make people think in a safety-oriented way."

Fortunately, loss of life in most types of fishing is now much less frequent than a few generations ago, but primitive fishing in some areas is inherently dangerous. Furthermore, no technological advances can fully eliminate the forces of the sea and other natural dangers which the fisherman must face, nor is it possible to make the tools of his trade completely accident-proof. But Gurtner says most casualties are due to human failure - both accidental and intentional.

"Human greed is a big factor. A fisherman may be inclined to say to himself. 'If I can only hold out for another two hours might get the bumper crop and more money.' He risks his life simply to make some additional income."

Breeding shortcut brightens future for valued tree

- off the danger list

The obeche tree, the stricken green giant of West Africa, is to rise again across six countries of the region. In the long term, it may also be introduced to Asia and Latin America to help in the reversal of the relentless current degradation of tropical forests.

The success story of UK and Nigerian scientists whose collaboration has rescued the obeche tree (Triplochiton scleroxylon), a source of highly marketable timber, represents merely one small advance in a vast sphere beset by monumental disasters. Rapid population growth, land hunger and ill-conceived industrialization are blamed for the destruction of an estimated 6.5 million ha of forestland a year in the developing regions alone, leading to irreversible ecological damage. If the current trends are allowed to continue, many fear that the mighty tropical forests as we know them may disappear within three decades.

The West African research programme running counter to these trends, operated by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology near Edinburgh and the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria in Ibadan, began 20 years ago. It has led to a whole new range of propagation techniques applicable not just to the obeche but to most other tropical trees also. New plantations of obeche are now taking root in Nigeria. "Now that these techniques are tried," comments Dr. Roger Leakey, a senior scientific officer engaged in the project, "ifs just a matter of expanding the work to equally endangered species in other parts of the world."

Until recently, the obeche tree was one of the most prized species on the danger list. It takes up to 40 years to form a worthwhile tree that may ultimately reach 61 m. Its timber is suitable for furniture, for joinery as well as veneers. It can also be pulped. Over the years, the best trees were selectively cut down. The survivors available for natural regeneration consequently included the least desirable specimens. The decline of the obeche was dramatically illustrated by its drop within a short space of time from 60 percent of Nigeria's total timber exports to nil. The tree's erratic seed production made proper planting programmes impossible. Its seed-bearing fruits are formed unpredictably and few of them ever reach maturity because of pests and diseases.

So the scientists have had to learn to climb 72 selected trees to collect as well as dry and store what seeds they did find. The rescued seeds were used in a programme of multifaceted research exploring the differences between the trees in different locations. Unlike the progeny of wheat, those of many trees are highly variable, lending themselves to rapid programmes of improvement.

The scientists also developed methods of obtaining large numbers of plantlets by vegetative propagation from cuttings or through the grafting of shoots to rootstocks. Already, some of them have yielded viable seeds within four years - compared to the usual 40 years in the field.

Thus the project has made the versatile obeche a likely choice for upgrading threatened tropical forests. At present, it occurs in a narrow belt of humid tropical forest extending about 4 000 km and traversing six or more West African countries. It is also found in small groups in some of the drier savannas, possibly the remnants of larger stands that were cleared by semimigrant cultivators.

The UK Overseas Development Administration has announced a fresh research grant for the project. The next task, explains a spokesman there, is the development of methods to predict the form of mature trees from the characteristics of seedlings.

"In the course of time," he goes on, "we hope that the obeche can be introduced into parts of tropical Asia and America. A forthcoming screening trial of 20 other hardwood species may also indicate alternative sources of timber."