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A viable livestock sector is an essential prerequisite to achieving optimum sustainable agriculture in the majority of developing countries. Animals contribute to farming systems through the provision of protein and animal products, the provision of manure, as a source of wealth, and perhaps most importantly as draught animal power.
Infectious and parasitic diseases of livestock are especially relevant in developing countries where they influence agricultural settlement and farming practices, often to the detriment of the environment. To counter this influence, FAO's work in animal health concentrates on two main areas: alleviation of emergency disease epidemics; and development of long-term prevention and control programmes. The latter activity forms an integral part of any national development towards conservation-based and sustainable agricultural production.
Control measures, particularly for parasitic and vector-borne diseases, have in the past depended on the use of pesticides which, if improperly used, have adverse affects on the environment and on non-target species. In recent years, FAO has emphasized the development of strategies and technologies that minimize dependency on chemical control without reducing the efficiency of animal health activities. Three examples are the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) to eradicate screwworm, the development of attractive bait systems for tsetse fly control and eradication, and strategic dipping to control ticks and tick-borne diseases.
The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT)is both highly effective and environmentally benign. An area is saturated with sterile males, whose mating with fertile females produces no live eggs, disrupting the life cycle of the pest. After about 12 life cycles, eradication is achieved.
Starting with a trial on the island of Curacao in 1952, SIT has been used progressively to clear the United States and Mexico of the New World screwworm, a damaging pest to livestock and also a threat to humans and wildlife. The technique involves the saturation of infested areas with sterile males. After about twelve life cycles, eradication is achieved. Screwworm was discovered in Libya in 1988, and by 1990 had infested an area almost as large as the Netherlands. An internationally-funded programme of eradication was undertaken in 1990 by FAO, and within one season it had accomplished its purpose, thus averting the threat of screwworm spreading through Africa and the possible decimation of the continent's livestock and wildlife. While the technique is costly, it has been shown to be highly effective and advantageous from the environmental point of view. No chemicals are involved, and so no residues are left in the-environment. Furthermore, because of the biology involved and the aim to achieve eradication, no problems of evolving resistance occur.
Tsetse flies, of which there are some 23 species, are the vectors of trypanosomiasis, a disease that is a major cause of death and sickness in both humans and livestock throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Large sections of the continent remain uninhabitable as a result of their presence, with consequent overstocking and degradation of tsetse-free areas. Traditional methods of control involve the use of insecticide spraying to eliminate the vector, and regular chemotherapy of livestock. Research in recent years, much of it pioneered and supported by FAO, has led to the development of environmentally benign methods of tsetse eradication and control. The development of these methods has necessitated a comprehensive investigation into the stimuli that attract the fly to its host, and this has led to the construction of odour-baited devices sufficiently attractive to entice a considerable proportion of the population to an insecticide-treated surface. Progress has been such that most economically important species can be reduced by more than 90 percent in less than six months using 4-25 devices per square kilometre. FAO is involved in an important UNDP-funded project to promote the use of trypanotolerant livestock in 19 countries of West and Central Africa. The wider use and further improvement of livestock breeds able to tolerate infection is a useful and environmentally-sound method of helping to resolve the problem. Strategic plans have therefore been developed for several countries, and breed improvement programmes for cattle and sheep are being undertaken.
Ticks and tick-borne diseases are a significant constraint on livestock production throughout the developing countries. FAO's regular and field programmes have achieved a better understanding of the population dynamics of the pests and this has resulted in improved control strategies and a marked reduction in the use of acaricides. Studies on tick ecology in East, Central and Southern Africa have confirmed that in many climatic zones the frequency of application can be reduced from once or twice weekly to 12-18 treatments per year. In some areas, the use of acaricide has been reduced by between 60 and 70 percent, thus minimizing the risk. of environmental contamination and the possibility of residues persisting in meat and milk. this approach, while suppressing and controlling tick populations, also ensures that livestock can develop and maintain endemic stability.
Recently it has been demonstrated that insecticide-treated cattle are also effective in the control of tsetse populations. Plans are being formulated for an integrated approach to tsetse and tick control using this method as this would further reduce the already low levels of pesticides being used.
In collaboration with other organizations, FAO has also supported investigations into-the development and testing of vaccines against tick-borne diseases. This has reduced dependency on insecticides still further, as dipping needs to be undertaken only during the season of peak challenge in order to minimize losses from high tick burdens.
Animal health programmes inevitably result in an increase in livestock populations which may, in certain areas, increase the negative environmental effect of overgrazing. To counteract this, sustainable conservation-based activities must be integrated into national and regional development programmes
Energy for rural development
Industrialized and developing countries alike have energy supply and demand structures that are unsustainable, volatile and environmentally dangerous. Developing countries, still lacking the energy inputs necessary to achieve their development goals, are faced with high-paced and unreliable energy supplies. Industrialized countries, with only 20 percent of the world's population, consume more than 80 percent of the fossil fuels produced, and are facing even worse air pollution problems. Developing countries are facing the difficult challenge of increasing energy demands at a time of increased environmental consciousness. This challenge is particularly difficult in rural areas where the majority of people rely on firewood, agricultural residues, and animal and human power to cover the* subsistence energy needs, and where only meagre amounts of energy are available for income-generating activities.
The dual role of rural areas as producers and consumers of energy demands an approach that integrates economic, social, financial and technological issues.
The inter-relationships between energy, development and environment are complex when dealing with subsistence-level energy consumption. The dual role of the rural areas as producers and consumers of energy demands an approach that integrates economic, social, financial and technological issues. As rural energy is in many cases the main source of energy for the urban sector as well, it is vital that its sustainability is maintained. However, energy policies, infrastructure and technologies are largely non-existent in the rural areas of developing countries. While the transport, industrial and urban sectors have relatively well-developed energy data bases, management skills and institutions, the rural areas continue to be isolated from the main energy development efforts. Their energy data are poor and unreliable, and energy pricing policies are non-existent: usually no single institution is responsible for energy decision-making, and the prevailing low level of economic activity makes public and private financing difficult.
Small-scale technologiesutilizing renewable energy can contribute to a more diversified and sustainable energy base, while reducing reliance on wood that frequently leads to deforestation and erosion. An Ethiopian woman turns on the gas at a biogas digester that fuels the kitchens of 10 households.
FAO is working towards a new approach to rural energy problems that will take into account the small-scale nature of energy requirements, the lack of any systematic approach to energy management, and the absence of institutional infrastructure that characterizes the rural sector. Whilst in industrialized countries and in the 'modern' sectors of many developing countries, the energy-environment relationship is well understood, policies and taxes are being set in place to reduce CO2 and other emissions, and high-tech options are becoming available, the situation is drastically different in the rural areas of developing countries. Here, the low level of economic activity and the present energy supply and demand patterns require completely different approaches. Under present trends, the development gap between the modern and rural sectors will undoubtedly grow, largely due to energy-related issues.
In response, FAO is helping countries to integrate their rural and agricultural sectors into the modern development thrust of national energy development, which includes incorporating environmental considerations of both local and global scale. Activities are geared to developing methodologies, formulating strategies and promoting field activities that will improve energy management and energy investment decisions and lead to environmentally sound development. In collaboration with national energy and agricultural authorities, FAO has promoted programmes geared to the more effective utilization of wood energy, agricultural residues, biogas, solar energy and biomass energy conversion while a number of technical cooperation networks on wood energy, rice-husk gasification, biogas, renewable energy and energy efficiency in agriculture promote the exchange of experience and the transfer of technology among countries. Publications and training activities complement these field programmes.
The activities promoted by FAO are leading to a more systematic assessment and management of energy for rural development and to better-coordinated energy, agriculture and environmental plans. They take advantage of decentralized energy technologies based on a mix of conventional and renewable energy sources, and of small-scale technologies utilizing biomass, solar, wind and other renewable energy. Through these activities FAO is working towards a transition from the present reliance on wood, and animal and human power, to a more diversified and sustainable energy base. An Interdepartmental Working Group on Energy, with members drawn from the Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, and Economic and Social Policy departments draws together the multidisciplinary expertise of the Organization and guides its work.
Plant genetic resources
Forest genetic resources
Animal genetic resources
Plant genetic resources
World interest in plant genetic resources has grown rapidly in recent years because they represent both the raw material used in the production of new cultivars-either through traditional plant breeding or the use of biotechnology and a reservoir of genetic adaptability that acts as a buffer against harmful environmental change. It is recognized that the erosion of these resources severely threatens world food security and that there is an urgent need to conserve and utilize plant genetic resources as a safeguard against an unpredictable future. (See panel, below.)
|THE GREEN REVOLUTION
The 'green revolution' started in the early 1960s with the development of new varieties of rice and wheat, and the concurrent promotion of irrigation, pest control and plant nutrition contributed to the impressively high yields obtained with the improved seeds. Predictions of unprecedented world famine were confounded. Instead, food production in Asia, not including China, increased by an average of 3 percent per year between 1961 and 1985.
The main benefit of the green revolution was the hugely increased availability of the two major staple cereals: more than half the developing world's area of rice and wheat cultivation is now sown with the new varieties. However, when the implications of the green revolution were analysed, a variety of opinions merged. Some highlighted the spectacular increases in production and the possibility of double cropping in favourable environments with early maturing varieties. In the 1960s and 1970s, the area sown to wheat increased by 25 percent, but production doubled. Both South and Southeast Asia doubled rice production over a 20-year period, since the 1960s.
Other analysts voiced concern about the way the benefits of the revolution were being distributed. It was argued that larger farms and better endowed environments benefited more than small farmers, and that the new varieties required levels of external inputs that small farmers could not afford. Impact studies have shown that there were differential adoption rates but that overall, both large and small-scale farmers benefited from the new high-yielding wheats and rices. Obviously, attaining the genetic yield potential required a proportionally higher supply of plant nutrients. It should be realized, however, that long-standing economic and social discrepancies can hardly be solved through the introduction of an agricultural technology. It is the responsibility of decision-makers, through public policy, to help farmers irrespective of the size of their holdings to benefit from improved farming practices and to ensure access to the necessary inputs.
In 1990, India's wheat harvest was 50 million tonnes from 23 million hectares; at 1960 yield levels, the country would have required about 40 million hectares of additional arable land. In countries with high population pressure, such as India, increasing production through horizontal expansion is no longer possible. Even in countries where land reserves are still available, the expansion of cultivation is often at the expense of forested areas or marginal lands.
The wide distribution of selected semi-dwarf varieties has resulted in a narrowing of the germplasm base of the rice and wheat crop, and in response FAO actively promotes the collection, conservation and use of primitive cultivars and landraces. Its activities in this field are well recognized and the effectiveness of ongoing programmes should ensure the preservation of biological diversity.
Plant germplasm must be protected for the use of future generations, and its availability for scientific purposes ensured through equitable agreements at international level. Since its inception, FAO has been actively concerned with the conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources. Between 1961 and 1981, four technical meetings were held on this subject and an Expert Panel on Plant Exploration and Introduction, established in 1965, held six meetings up to 1974 when the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR) was set up. A crop genetic resources unit was established in 1968.
As the number of activities related to plant genetic resources increased, the need was recognized to establish ways of coordinating intergovernmental action at the global level. It was also recognized that to be successful, any system to be developed should benefit all participants and take fully into account the rights of the donors of germplasm, funds and technology and the obligations of the recipients. As a result, in 1983 FAO developed a Global System on Plant Genetic Resources, with a mandate to ensure the safe conservation of plant genetic resources, and to promote their unrestricted availability and sustainable utilization. The system covers the conservation (ex situ and in situ) and utilization of plant genetic resources - genes, genotypes and genepools - at molecular, population, species and ecosystem levels. To date, 128 countries are formally part of the Global System, either as members of the Commission or adhering to the International Undertaking, or both.
The first four sessions of the Commission reached consensus on a number of issues which are likely to influence for many years to come the policies, programmes and activities of FAO and other organizations dealing with plant genetic resources. A major breakthrough was the resolution on farmers' rights (see panel, below) and an agreed interpretation of the International Undertaking that recognized the rights of both donors of technology and donors of germplasm to be compensated for their contribution through the simultaneous recognition of the rights of both plant breeders and farmers. Other components of the Global System include the development of international agreements and arrangements to facilitate the conservation and use of plant genetic resources, and the preparation of two codes of conduct: a code for collection and transfer of plant germplasm, submitted to the Twenty-Sixth Session of the FAO Conference; and elements for a code of conduct on biotechnology as it affects the conservation and use of plant genetic resources.
Within the context of the Global System, FAO is establishing:
- a network of ex situ base collections;
- a network of in situ conservation areas with emphasis on wild relatives of cultivated plants;
- a Global Information and Early Warning System on Plant Genetic Resources:
- a periodic report on the state of the world's plant genetic resources; and
- a Global Plan of Action on Plant Genetic Resources.
Following approval by the Twenty-Sixth Session of the FAO Conference in November 1991, it is proposed to convene the Fourth International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources in late 1993 or early 1994. The draft of the first State of the World report and a global plan of action on plant genetic resources will be prepared within the framework of this conference and will also take into consideration UNCED's resolutions and recommendations on this subject. The Global Plan of Action will include a general budget as well as priority programmes and projects for local, national, regional and international activities, and projects to be implemented by appropriate agencies and organizations, including FAO and IBPGR. The financing of these projects and activities through an International Fund on Plan Genetic Resources will permit the implementation of farmers' rights.
Plant genetic resources, particularly those endemic to centres of origin and diversity, are a common heritage of humankind, to be preserved and made freely available for use.
The philosophy of FAO's programme on crop genetic resources is based on a 'farmer-to-farmer' approach. It starts with the collection of landraces and primitive cultivars which have been domesticated and developed by farming communities over millennia, and continues through conservation, genetic improvement and seed production. This germplasm is used to develop new and improved varieties which are returned to farmers with a view to increasing their production potential.
Considering that most plant genetic resources, in the form of wild plants and old landraces are to be found in developing countries, the contribution of their farmers should be duly recognized and rewarded. The FAO Conference in 1989 therefore adopted a resolution endorsing the concept of farmers' rights, assuring them of full benefits and supporting the continuation of their contributions. These rights are vested in the international community as trustees for the benefit of present and future generations.
FAO considers that conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources should be closely linked. It is therefore a basic objective to strengthen the human, technical and economic capabilities in developing countries to utilize germplasm through plant breeding and seed production, including the use of up-to-date biotechnologies.
Forest genetic resources
Work on forest genetic resources in FAO was intensified after the establishment in 1969 of a Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources. As the living tree is generally longer-lived than seed or pollen, and as regeneration of collections when germination or storability drops presents enormous practical problems, conservation of genetic resources of forest trees and shrubs is generally done through living collections (in situ and ex situ conservation stands). Thus, seeds and other propagating materials are generally stored in the country of origin or by the country using the materials, on a short- or medium-term basis only.
Among the studies currently being coordinated by FAO are those on the compatibility of in situ conservation of forest genetic resources and forest management for the production of goods and services; and on the possibility of a global network for the conservation in situ of forest and plant genetic resources. A complementary study deals with new possibilities in the use of ex situ conservation in forestry, with special reference to recent developments in biotechnology. Ongoing collaboration with national institutes in some twenty developing countries covers all aspects of genetic resource work, with some bias in the past few years towards the collection of dry-zone woody species for conservation and evaluation purposes, and the development of methodologies of in situ conservation in developing countries.
Animal genetic resources
Animal genetic diversity is part of the earth's natural heritage, and there are troth scientific and economic arguments for the conservation of the resource.
FAO, in cooperation with other organizations (e.g. UNEP and the European Association of Animal Production) has been developing methods aimed at preventing the loss of genetic diversity. A global data bank has been established and will be used to identify breeds at risk, and training programmes for both data bank and gene bank activities have been carried out.
Many countries throughout the developing world have placed their indigenous livestock populations at risk through programmes of exotic breed importation and/or crossbreeding. Rarely has adequate attention been given to determining realistic and optimum breeding objectives prior to embarking on breed improvement programmes. Objectives followed by breed improvement schemes are often totally inappropriate to the existing or available infrastructures. It is proposed therefore to assist selected Member States in the planning and initiation of realistic breeding strategies so as to avoid inappropriate breed replacement/dilution programmes. In addition, improvement programmes for selected indigenous breeds are planned. These will take place in the normal environment, and for some endangered breeds, where appropriate, in situ preservation will be developed. Cryogenic storage will be used to maintain diversity of some breeds, and it is envisaged that DNA libraries will be developed in the longer term.
Maintaining food quality
Improving food marketing
Food and feed safety are important issues in sustainable development. The hazards from environmental contamination have increased significantly in recent years because of accelerated industrialization and urbanization, intensification of agricultural production, increased use of storage and centralized processing, and distribution and handling methods. Microbiological contamination of food has always been recognized as a serious problem. Chemical contamination, on the other hand, is a more recent and growing phenomenon. It affects both food and feed products and may originate from industrial chemicals and wastes, pesticides used in agriculture, toxic metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury from processing and/or packaging, seed disinfectants and fungicides, and certain drugs and chemicals added to feed.
FAO assists countries in the prevention and control of food contamination through monitoring and surveillance programmes within the framework of national food quality control systems. Support is given in the development of improved food systems and in ensuring the safety and quality of food supplies.
Close collaboration is maintained with WHO in programmes to maintain food quality and safety. These programmes are regularly reviewed by the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission, an intergovernmental body of 138 Member Governments which develops international food standards and codes of practice and recommends maximum permissible levels of certain additives and contaminants. A similar service is provided by the FAO/WHO Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues which evaluates pesticides and recommends residue limits that are consistent with good agricultural practices and acceptable from a toxicological viewpoint.
A joint FAO/WHO/UNEP Food Contamination Monitoring Programme has designated collaborating centres in 39 countries to serve as focal points for national contamination monitoring programmes. The centres provide data on residues of selected pesticides and other organochlorine compounds, heavy metals and aflatoxins, which are stored in a computer system at the WHO centre in Geneva. Data reports by country and by contaminant are published regularly.
To maintain the physical and nutritional quality of food during shipment, storage and distribution, increasing use is being made of selected food additives. Concern about the safety of these chemicals led to the establishment in 1956 of the joint FAD/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, which evaluates substances used in food processing or present in food as a result of contamination. The Committee also provides specifications relating to the identity and purity of food additives, and establishes acceptable levels for their use in food.
The contamination of food by mycotoxins and other fungal toxins continues to be of international concern, especially in tropical and semi-tropical countries. Sustained storage of products such as grain, groundnuts, copra and cottonseed meal create ideal conditions for fungal attack. Many developing countries have suffered considerable financial losses through the refusal of importing nations to accept shipments of products affected by aflatoxins.
In response to this problem, FAO helps developing countries to implement regulatory measures governing the export of food products and to establish proper controls over their storage. It also recommends contamination limits for both imported and domestic food supplies. In Asia, Africa and Latin America, workshops have been held to discuss the extent of mycotoxin contamination, its implications for trade and economic recovery, and associated health considerations. Practical training in laboratory identification and estimation of aflatoxins has also been carried out, supported by publications such as Mycotoxin Surveillance and Training in Mycotoxins Analysis in the FAO series, Food and Nutrition Papers.
FAO provides 25 laboratories in developing countries with reference standards for aflatoxin and other contaminants in order to improve analytical performance and reliability. Suitable practices are recommended for the prevention of mycotoxins (especially aflatoxins) in standing crops, harvesting, storage, transport and processing. While these recommendations serve to minimize the risk of contamination, methods are also proposed to remove, inactivate and destroy mycotoxins so that some of the food may be salvaged.
Maintaining food quality
Street foods are ready-to-eat foods and beverages prepared and/or sold by vendors in streets and other public places. They often represent a major part of the diet of urban populations. Poor hygiene in the preparation and sale of street foods is a continuing problem: in fact, a recent cholera epidemic in Latin America was linked in part to street foods and the water used in their preparation. FAO has carried out a number of projects in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean to evaluate the problems associated with street foods and to assist governments in developing programmes to improve their quality and safety.
Food quality improvement must begin at farm level and must be regarded as an indispensable element of the global approach to improving the post-harvest system. Contrary to what is generally thought, action taken to improve grain storage and pest control is insufficient to prevent food loss and quality deterioration. To ensure optimum storability of food, attention must be paid to each link in the post-harvest system, from physiological maturity to marketing.
Quantitative and qualitative food losses occur at various stages, from harvesting through processing and marketing right up to consumption. FAO assistance to developing countries for the prevention of such losses aims at promoting a self-sustainable national post-harvest system. Institution-building activities, aimed at creating awareness and establishing a coherent institutional framework, complement training activities and aim to develop a cadre of qualified technicians at national level. FAO also provides assistance in the identification of key constraints in the post-harvest system, as well as in the development of appropriate technical solutions. Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC) is promoted to facilitate inter-country transfer of appropriate post-harvest solutions while support to the extension services ensures the effective delivery to the farming community of the technology packages developed. A major target for post-harvest assistance is the small farmer, responsible for most food production in developing countries, who most heavily depends on stored reserves. Emphasis here is placed on women, who play a key role in post-harvest activities.
Reducing post harvest losses can significantly increase effective agricultural production, without increasing external inputs or encroaching further on fragile ecosystems. In India, FAO's Action Programme for the Prevention of Food Losses works to improve storage cribs by raising them higher above the ground and ventilating them.
One of the major objectives of field activities in the post-production sector is to strengthen national capabilities to prevent unacceptable food crop losses caused by biological agents. Emphasis is placed on training in appropriate pest-control practices, storage, preventative measures, sanitation and disinfestation operations. Support is provided for the creation and management of village-level stocks and cereal banks. Also, technologies for improved storage, handling and drying of crops are introduced. Another important measure is the promotion of small-scale community processing centres to prevent post-harvest losses at village level and to provide processed food products for semi-urban and urban areas. Besides cereals, the latter two activities cover other food staples such as legumes, and perishables such as roots, tubers, plantains, fruits and vegetables. Preservation of these crops enhances the quality of diet for poor people and contributes to the stability of supply.
Irradiation techniques are a means of controlling insect infestation in grains, retarding deterioration in food quality, or destroying disease-producing microorganisms in some fruit. A joint FAO/IAEA/WHO Expert Committee issues safety clearances for low levels of irradiation and, under the auspices of an International Facility for Food Irradiation Technology, in cooperation with the Netherlands, conducts training courses in irradiation techniques for commodities of interest to developing countries.
Improving food marketing
Support in the areas of food marketing is provided through direct assistance to marketing boards aimed primarily at strengthening their management capacity and systems. This includes upgrading their planning and logistics organization and improving the storage arrangements for public foodgrain stocks. These often include food reserves, which contribute significantly to stability and hence to food security. As more responsibility for food marketing is taken on by the private sector, it is important that markets are as open as possible in order to maximize competition and facilitate the flow of food to areas experiencing shortages. Support is provided to government marketing departments, usually in ministries of agriculture, to help them develop their national capacity to determine appropriate marketing policy and infrastructure. FAO's field projects also support the development of rural marketing centres and the strengthening of the role of cooperatives. In attempting to improve financial services in rural areas, field projects aim at improving farmers' access to credit so as to give them the opportunity to purchase farm inputs which contribute directly to increased production.
In recent years, the concept of marketing extension has been introduced. Extension services often lack marketing skills and are rarely able to advise farmers on how best to market their products. Food security aims could therefore he better served if extension officers were more market-oriented.
Rural marketingcentres and cooperatives provide farmers with outlets for their crops. In an open air market in Ivory Coast, customers check for the best prices on locally grown produce.
Feed and grassland resources
In animal production, the focus is on increased and improved use of feed resources, particularly at the level of the smallholder and with special emphasis on feeds produced on the farm. FAO's programmes distinguish groups of countries having similar ecological conditions and production systems: the semiarid region of South America; the sub-humid regions of East Africa; the Magreb countries; the wet monsoon and humid tropics of Southeast Asia; the Highland Himalayan region; the Andean Altiplano; and the arid region of Patagonia. Nitrogen-fixing forage legumes, and fodder trees and shrubs are of prime importance in all these zones. Wherever-possible, emphasis is given to the adaptation of local management systems to changing conditions, and to the maximum exploitation of local technical knowledge.
In the semi-arid and arid zones, the emphasis is on improving fodder conservation, fodder trees and grazing systems. In the humid and sub-humid areas, the main emphasis is on providing high-quality feed adapted to local production systems, often in the form of nitrogen-fixing legumes, to complement the poor pasture and coarse roughage which form the basis of livestock feed. Forage seed production is a major aspect. Networks or regional working groups are used to ensure contact between national institutions and between countries with similar ecological systems.
The improvement of vast areas of natural grasslands requires considerable use of applied ecology.
The improvement of vast areas of natural grasslands, often in semi-arid areas, requires considerable use of applied ecology. The sowing of fodder and pasture within agricultural lands entails critical crop choices and requires considerable agronomic skills. Many attempts have been made to improve animal production from extensive grazing in the traditional areas of Africa and the Near East, but few have been successful and even fewer have had a positive effect on the vegetation cover of the grazing lands. Reseeding is costly and unless the management faults that brought about the degradation can be rectified, the results of this and other 'range rehabilitation' activities will be ephemeral. Production of fodder on adjacent agricultural land, while it may have positive effects on overall animal production, rarely reduces the grazing pressure on commonly-managed grazing land.
Fodder trees and shrubs are expensive to install and require careful management if they are to last. Their potential role in animal feeding in semi-arid lands should be positive but has not yet been proved in the context of traditional livestock husbandry. Various systems of enclosing grazing lands under group or other systems of ownership have been tried in many countries with the aim of limiting stock numbers as well as improving production. In the short term, they frequently reduce the problem in one area while intensifying it somewhere else. In the medium term they usually break down in times of stress when stock from outside are brought in to the area.
FAO has an established long-term programme based on the improvement of grazing resources in arid and semi-arid regions of the world, with major emphasis on Africa and the Near East. Strategies include an integrated approach to grazing-land development that involves all the components in the agricultural sector subject to periodic droughts, with emphasis on the participation of the local population.
The FAO programme on sown pasture and fodder is largely but not exclusively concentrated on the humid and sub-humid areas, the major emphasis being placed on the intensification of productivity leading to a more integrated livestock/cropping type of agriculture. This is becoming increasingly necessary with growing demographic pressure on arable land. In temperate regions, emphasis is given to the mountain regions of the Himalayas and Andes where improved grassland technology is needed not only to improve fodder supplies but also to protect the fragile watersheds. In the wet tropical region activities are concentrated on smallholder systems in Southeast Asia and Central America and the Caribbean.
In all these programmes much of the work is done by cooperating national institutions. Important themes are: the demonstration of improved grassland and fodder crops; the enhanced use of legumes, including trees and shrubs as fodder; the training of technical staff in applied techniques; and the use of fodder production in dairying. The use of nodulated legumes as a cheap and safe source of nitrogen for both the pasture and livestock is a mainstay of the work.
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