AG: Agriculture Department
AGA: Animal production/health
AGE: FAO/IAEA Joint Division
AGN: Nutrition and consumer protection
AGP: Plant production/protection
AGS: Infrastructure, agro-industries
COAG: Committee on Agriculture
Genetic resources for food and agriculture
Government delegations and observers from more than 150 countries met in Rome, Italy in April for the eighth session of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA). A key item on the agenda was the continuation of inter-governmental negotiations for revision of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources. There was wide consensus among governments that the undertaking should take the form of a legally-binding instrument, closely linked to FAO and the Convention on Biodiversity. It is hoped that the revised undertaking - the first international instrument to regulate access to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the sharing of benefits derived from them - will be ready for adoption by the FAO Conference in November 1999. Full session documentation is
available here in English, French and Spanish
Alarm over virus outbreak in Malaysia
Animal Health and Production Division
(AGA) is following closely an outbreak of encephalitis in Malaysia, where the government has ordered the destruction of thousands of pigs suspected of harbouring the virus. While Malaysian health authorities are dealing effectively with the outbreak, AGA is concerned about its implications for other Asian countries - such as Laos and Vietnam - where livestock veterinary systems are less well developed. AGA says the drive in Southeast Asia to satisfy increasing demand for animal protein has led to intensification of livestock production, with a consequent risk of serious disease outbreaks (for background, see
Livestock issues in Asia
World soil maps available on-line
FAO's Land and Water Development Division (AGL) has published on-line the
World Reference Base for Soil Resources
, including full-colour maps showing the global distribution of 29 dominant soil groups. Work on the the WRB began in 1980 with the aim of harmonizing various approaches to soil classification and, ultimately, reaching international agreement on the major soil groups to be recognized at global level. Eventually, the Revised Legend of the FAO-Unesco Soil Map of the World, published in 1988, was adopted as the framework for the WRB, which was finalized in 1997 and presented at the World Congress of Soil Science in Montpellier, France in August 1998. The World Reference Base contains the
global WRB soil map
and individual maps of all the reference soil groups, from Acrisols to Vertisols, with the exception of Anthrosols (which are considered "widespread but, at the same time, very localized").
Guide to maize marketing
As control of grain marketing in Eastern and Southern Africa moves rapidly from parastatals to the private sector, many farmers are unsure about what crops to grow, how to store them and when and where to sell. A new book from FAO's
Marketing and Rural Finance Service
(AGSM) helps extensionists and farmers understand how the private sector works.
Guide to maize marketing for extension officers,
by Andrew Shepherd, gives tips on more efficient maize marketing - e.g. assembling it at one location to attract a trader - and explains why prices go up and down and vary from place to place. It includes a detailed chapter on drying and storing maize and looks briefly at crop diversification and financing for production inputs. It illustrates its most important points with cartoons (example at right) by the Zambia-based artist "Yuss". Order copies from
; more details
Plant nutrients and food security to the year 2020...
If you have the bandwidth, download now the pdf version (990K) of
Plant nutrient management, food security, and sustainable agriculture: the future through 2020
, a major study of prospects for intensifying world agriculture production without degrading the environment. The study, sponsored by FAO's
Land and Water Development Division
(AGL) and the International Food Policy Research Institute, carries nine papers that reflect the latest thinking on the role of fertilizers and other plant nutrient sources in contributing to food security in developing countries. It recommends measures to "return nutrients to the soil", particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where soil structure is often poor and fertilizer use is low, and in parts of Asia where nutrient imbalances and deficiencies are beginning to affect yields. The key is judicious use of organic and inorganic fertilizer, soil conservation measures and integrated plant nutrition management. For a printed copy, contact:
...and initiatives on degraded soils
Meanwhile, AGL has launched two initiatives to help restore soil productivity in regions as far apart as Southern Africa and Eastern Europe. Under a project started in August 1998, it is helping Romania identify and apply the most economic and rapid method for cleansing and rehabilitating agricultural land polluted by oil residues, mining activities, heavy metals, municipal wastes and salinity. Among planned project activities is a July 1999 workshop to promote similar approaches in neighbouring countries with soil pollution problems. Meanwhile, AGL is supporting a recently created Network on Management of Degraded Soil in Southern and East Africa, which comprises eight countries of the subregion.
Small farmer finance
Officials from rural financial institutions throughout the developing world met in Abuja, Nigeria, in March 1999 to discuss ways of broadening access to agricultural credit for small-scale farmers. Organized by FAO's
Rural Finance Group
, the eighth consultation of the FAO Scheme for Agricultural Credit Development focused on two key themes: appropriate sources of funding for agricultural lending and better practices for agricultural finance. Participants, who included members of
regional agricultural credit associations
and representatives from development and donor agencies, provided country-specific examples for two forthcoming
. The meeting was hosted by the Africa Rural and Agricultural Credit Association (AFRACA) and the Central Bank of Nigeria. Established in 1976, SACRED helps co-ordinate rural financial institutions in developing countries and organizations and agencies in the developed world.
Swift action to block foot-and-mouth disease in North Africa
FAO's animal disease surveillance and control systems have swung into action to help North African countries contain an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) among beef cattle. The debilitating viral disease was first reported in Algeria in February, and has since flared up in Morocco and Tunisia. While the joint FAO/IFAD
disseminated information on the outbreak to the affected countries and international organizations, the FAO/OIE World Reference Laboratory for FMD in Pirbright, UK identified the virus strain responsible. FAO's
programme and the
European Commission for the Control of FMD
, hosted at FAO headquarters in Rome, have provided support for control measures. In March, FAO and OIE organized in Tunis a meeting of national veterinary services and representatives of the European Community to review the current situation and coordinate action at regional level.
Near East network on plant germplasm
Countries of West Asia and North Africa have created a regional network to collect and process information for the FAO
World Information and Early Warning System on Plant Genetic Resources
(PGR). Meeting in Rabat, Morocco in February, representatives of nine countries recognized that large gaps in information on genebank collections posed a threat to PGR and called for well organized national programmes to ensure its widespread use for food and agriculture. The new network, dubbed WANA/WIEWS, aims at contributing to implementation of the Global Plan of Action on Plant Genetic Resources, strengthening country capacity to provide information, developing methodologies for the monitoring and early warning system, and helping to design WIEWS databases. WANA/WIEWS will consist of a regional coordinator and national correspondents, who will report on the status of
PGR collections as well as on indicators of genetic erosion.
Agricultural Engineering Branch
Soil Resources Management and Conservation Service
(AGLS) have launched a joint Web site dedicated to
, a farming system that conserves soil, water, energy and labour while maintaining profitability and enhancing the environment. Perhaps the best known component of conservation agriculture is "zero tillage", in which crops are planted directly under the previous season's crop residues. The new site features activities of the
Latin American Conservation Agriculture Network
(RELACO) and the complete proceedings of an
international workshop on conservation tillage for sustainable agriculture
held in Harare, Zimbabwe, in June 1998. The proceedings cover concepts, policy recommendations and action plans, and include technical papers on conservation tillage experiences in Africa and other regions.
Participatory community planning in North Ghana
A participatory planning approach pioneered by FAO in Asia is being used in Ghana to help encourage settlement and development of vast areas of fertile land recently freed of the onchocerciasis ("river blindness"). FAO's
Farm Management and Production Economics Service
(AGSP) tested the approach - dubbed Participatory Community Planning (PCP) - in West Gonja District, North Ghana, in February 1999: it helped train 24 village planning facilitators, who then conducted a community learning and planning exercise involving more than 200 people. The result was eight village plans and a general consensus that PCP is a potentially powerful tool for community participation in decision-making. The challenge now, says AGSP, is to ground the approach effectively in the pilot area and scale-up PCP exercises throughout the district and in other oncho-freed areas in Ghana. For more details, email
Electronic library on animal feed resources
of the FAO
Feed Resources Group
totals more than 250 documents following the recent addition of three publications (in .pdf).
Draught animal power: a training manual for extension agents
which was produced jointly with FAO's
Agricultural Engineering Branch
, includes modules on animal care, harnessing and training, seedbed preparation, crop husbandry and transport equipment.
Sustainable animal production from small farm systems in South-East Asia
stresses the importance of mixed crop-livestock production in the region and provides a detailed framework for developing more integrated systems. Finally,
Tree foliages in ruminant nutrition
seeks to fill a dearth of information on the benefits of fodder from trees and shrubs. The publication describes the potential of forages, seeds and pods in areas with scarce nitrogen or protein resources, and identifies key issues for research.
© FAO, 1999