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Water problems affecting agricultural development

84. The Conference discussed document C 73/14 regarding water and expressed agreement with the principles outlined in it. The Conference agreed that FAO's work in the field of water should receive high priority and should be strengthened considerably. It was felt that a subject of such importance to member countries as water should regularly be discussed and reviewed by the FAO Conference. Furthermore, it suggested that the analysis of water problems which was presented in document C 73/14 should be followed up by the Secretariat with a detailed survey of water problems to be submitted to the Committee on Agriculture which would present the results of its discussions to the Council for decision on necessary action.

85. The need for and the importance of training and education of those engaged in water development and management in developing countries at all levels was stressed. It was pointed out that training should not be limited to engineering and technical personnel and that further emphasis should be placed on training those directly concerned with farmers, and on farmers themselves. Such training programmes would encourage group action of farmers towards the rational use and conservation of water. Delegates stressed that FAO should step up training activities in the field of water development and use through organizing seminars and training courses. Delegates drew the attention of FAO to the fact that training activities through pilot/demonstration schemes should be strengthened.

86. The need for more efficient use of water in relation to crop production was repeatedly stressed. This applied equally to better use and conservation of rain water, to the optimum management of available surface and groundwater resources, and improved water utilization at the farmer's field. FAO was asked to place major emphasis on these aspects and to provide member countries with the necessary technical guidance and to develop the necessary criteria for use in project design and operation for multiple use.

87. The Conference expressed concern at the increasing demands for the use of finite resources of water and, accordingly, stressed the need for water resources conservation, not negatively but to make the maximum amounts and qualities available for use. Proper management of such resources to maintain their ability to meet increasing demands was stressed. In particular it was felt that the allocation of water to agriculture should not be reduced in quantity or quality due to competition from other users.

88. Most delegates urged FAO to use its global experience and expertise in studying and planning drainage schemes to reclaim lands, remove excess rain water, combat soil erosion and overcome salinity. Delegates pointed out that, although irrigation water losses during conveyance and on the farm should be reduced as much as possible, it would not he possible to prevent them altogether. It was recognized that inefficient use of water caused widespread environmental deterioration through waterlogging and soil salinity. The need was stressed to introduce drainage systems to restore and maintain favourable soil water and salinity conditions.

89. The importance of proper institutions to deal with efficient administration of water development and the proper operation and maintenance of water facilities was cited by a number of delegates. It was stressed that coordination and integration of different authorities responsible for water and agriculture was the key to the successful implementation and the realization of benefits of water development schemes. It was urged that FAO should increase its activities in helping its member countries develop appropriate institutions placing special emphasis on the organization of farmers who were the ultimate beneficiaries of water development schemes. It was also stressed that currently prevailing low irrigation efficiency could be substantially increased through proper operation and maintenance of irrigation systems by setting up or strengthening institutions thoroughly responsible for the subject. In this connexion a number of delegates urged that FAO should conduct particular studies on irrigation system management and operation in particular with a view to assessing better the extent of water losses inherent in different water use systems as well as legal and technical functions of irrigation organizations.

90. The Conference stressed that more attention should be devoted to the determination and development of surface and underground water resources in relation to agricultural uses and needs. In this connexion, there must be a close interconnexion between the utilization of soil resources and water resources, so that the two were combined to provide the basis for improved agriculture and increased food production.

91. It was stressed that timely development of irrigation and food control schemes greatly depended on the availability of adequate funds at the right time. Concern was also expressed as to the shortage of local currency as well as food for labourers enraged in projects and it was urged that FAO should encourage financing agencies and WFP to cope with the situation. In connexion with the rising cost of irrigation development, it was pointed out that efficient use of expensive water in conjunction with other agricultural inputs and practices should receive increasing attention by FAO and Member Countries. The Conference felt that increasing attention should be placed by FAO and other development agencies on simple and low cost irrigation development, particularly at the farm level, which could be dealt with by farmers without involving massive capital investment. This was especially important in cases of transmigration in settlement schemes.

92. The attention of the Conference was drawn to the incidence and effects of both floods and drought, and to the huge losses of food which these caused. It was pointed out that floods and droughts often occurred in semi-arid regions, afflicted either by too much or too little water at any one time. It was hoped that FAO in cooperation with other concerned organizations would work towards a better understanding of the occurrence of floods and droughts, and in particular of the management of river basins in regions liable to floods and droughts; this would help to reduce the losses and enable the waters to be kept under control and used beneficially.

93. With reference to the important role which FAO had to play as the focal point for international activities on water in relation to agriculture, it was felt that the Organization should take the initiative to coordinate its work with other UN agencies and to actively seek the cooperation of non-governmental organizations concerned with water such as the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID)

94. In many instances water development programmes for agriculture were dependent on the availability of foreign aid for investment. It was, therefore, suggested that collaboration between FAO and bilateral aid agencies be strengthened and expanded in order to make use of experience and information which had been accumulated by FAO in the water sector.

95. The Conference stressed the close relationship which existed between the effective use of water and soil resources. Surveys of both these resources were essential for sound planning of agricultural development. The Soil Map of the World was commended as a global appraisal of the major soils of the world and it was stressed that a similar compilation of data be made with regard to water, including statistical data on areas actually cultivated under irrigation.

96. Although a certain discretion was advocated in expansion of basic research activities, several delegates stressed the importance of applied research to test available proven techniques under local conditions. The pertinence of regional cooperation was mentioned; in regional applied research programmes priorities had to be established with care to avoid duplication and the expense involved. It was stressed that FAO should play a major role in promoting such programmes.

97. The Conference agreed that the importance of water as a basic natural resource for agriculture could not be over-emphasized. Agriculture would become more and more dependent on the wise development and use of this resource and its conservation. It was also recognized that agriculture and the related activities of forestry had a dominating and increasing influence on the availability and quality of water as a whole. The establishment of thermal power plants fed by quick-yielding fuel trees would be helpful in areas where power supply based on hydro electricity suffered a set-back in years of low rainfall. FAO could play an important role in assisting countries in breeding such quick-yielding fuel trees. Therefore, agriculture, as the main user, should occupy the focal point for a comprehensive integration of all water resources development and use activities. In this connexion, reference was made to the planned UN conference on water in 1977 and it was stressed that FAO should participate in the conference.

98. The Conference expressed concern with the problem of pollution of the environment. In particular it paid attention to the question of water pollution resulting from agricultural, industrial, and other uses. Therefore the Conference requested that attention be paid to these matters in relation to planning, management and conservation of water resources.

99. The Conference also heard a statement by the representative of WMO on the successful cooperation of FAO and WMO in the field of agro-meteorology.

100. In replying to questions raised by delegates it was explained that FAO was actively participating in the work of the ACC Sub-Committee on Water Resources Development, the focal point of UN inter-agency coordination in the water field. It was further explained that FAO had established working agreements with Unesco and WMO. Close and fruitful collaboration had existed with ICID for many years end working relations had been established with other NGO's concerned with water such as IAHS (International Association of Hydrological Sciences) and COWAR (Scientific Committee on Water Research).

B. International agricultural adjustment

101. The Conference recalled that when two years earlier it chose International Agricultural Adjustment as one of the major themes for the present session the world agricultural background was one of surpluses which exerted pressures on international markets as compared with effective demand. The intervening period, however, had been characterized by fluctuations, falling stocks and, at least temporarily, shortages. Production had lagged in developing countries. To some delegates, these events suggested that international agricultural adjustment was not at the moment a high priority. Many delegates, however, emphasized that international agricultural adjustment should be interpreted in a broader sense as a framework for ensuring supplies to meet the requirements of all countries. The Conference therefore agreed that the present shortages should not lead to the postponement of the development of an approach to international adjustment because adjustment was a long-term and evolutionary process.

102. The Conference recognized that agricultural adjustment had for long been under way in all countries. However, these actions were undertaken primarily within a national context, with insufficient consideration being given to the possible harmful effect on the agricultural production and trade of other countries. The Conference agreed that an international approach was useful and must rest upon the political will of all countries to work towards a certain degree of harmonization of national policies bearing on agriculture, taking account of international as well as national objectives. Agricultural development could be separated from that of the economy as a whole. The agricultural policy of a country was an integral part of the overall economic policy. This defined the place and role of both agricultural production and trade.

103. The Conference based its discussion of this subject on the report that had been circulated by the Director-General. Account was also taken of the report on Agricultural Adjustment in Developed Countries which had been prepared by the Director-General under Resolution 1/69 of the Fifteenth Conference Session. The Conference took note that a series of supporting case studies on various aspects of the subject had been tabled, and that two more were being completed. The Conference appreciated that additional analyses were available in these case studies, which should be examined by governments and for the further work.

104. Adjustment in the agricultural sector was a continuing process consisting of interdependent changes at the farm level and at national and international levels. A number of delegates felt that the trade aspects of adjustment had been over-emphasized in the Secretariat report. While trade raised important adjustment issues, the structure of production and national policies influencing production were the more fundamental, and were among the main determinants of the levels of trade.

105. There was general agreement that international adjustment was the task of bringing and keeping the supply and demand for agricultural products, as well as the factors of production, into a more satisfactory relationship with each other both within and between countries. In doing so, account should be taken of other objectives accepted by governments, particularly those of DD2. The Conference reaffirmed its view that international agricultural adjustment should have as a primary objective the adoption of measures which would meet the special requirements of developing countries. Some delegates observed that in the agricultural development of the developing countries it was not only the technical and financial means of modern production such as veterinary, plant protection and nutrition methods which played an important role. A basic prerequisite of coordinating agricultural production policies was a harmonized production and development control. The problem of production control, however, could not be separated from that of the agricultural structure itself.

106. The Conference noted the conclusions of the Eighth Regional Conference for Europe, and particularly endorsed the need for the development of a world-wide framework within which governments could work together towards greater consistency in their national and regional adjustment policies. The Conference also expressed appreciation of the conclusion of the same Regional Conference that the agricultural and trade policies of developed countries generally should pay attention, inter alia, to enlarging agricultural export opportunities, particularly for developing countries.

107. The Conference drew particular attention to the need for a faster growth of food production in developing countries. This should be their primary adjustment objective and agriculture should therefore receive a high priority in their national development plans and in international aid programmes. Several delegates stated that developing countries should in many cases pay greater attention than in the past to production and distribution of food for the satisfaction of their own domestic needs. In this connection, it was particularly important that adequate production inputs were available at prices which farmers in developing countries could afford. The Conference therefore stressed its view that adequate supplies of fertilizers and raw materials at reasonable prices were essential for food production and strongly urged Member Nations to take all measures necessary to overcome the present critical supply situation, particularly in the developing countries.

108. The Conference recognized that the achievement of a faster growth in food production in developing countries would provide a better base from which they could expand their agricultural exports, which was also a necessary component of international adjustment. The Conference considered the assurance of a stable and adequate supply of agricultural products of acceptable quality to be an essential element of international agricultural adjustment. For many countries, this assurance was a prerequisite to participation in an international approach to agricultural adjustment.

109. The Conference emphasized the interdependence of the agricultural adjustment process in different countries. The major link was trade since adjustment action in any one country usually affected its external trade and thus, in turn, the agricultural sectors of other countries. It was stressed that the expansion of exports from developing countries would require some adjustments within the agricultural and processing sectors of developed countries and the improvement of trading conditions, including better access to markets. Greater stability in prices and volumes of agricultural trade also required joint action by countries. The transfer of technology was another link. Moreover, developing countries could succeed in their adjustments if aid and technical assistance was appropriately related to their adjustment objectives. A corollary of interdependence was a shared responsibility of all countries for adjustment mechanisms and results.

110. The Conference recognized that, in view of this interdependence of national adjustments, the greater harmonization of policies called for a framework of consultations within which governments could formulate progress towards agreed objectives in terms of more balanced world agricultural development. Periodic reviews and appraisals of key development in world agriculture, in the light of the objectives, would facilitate such consultations and, when imbalances or shortfalls were foreseen, would enable corrective action to be taken sooner and more effectively. The Conference considered that such reviews and consultations should be carried out within the structure of FAO bodies, and should enable the Organization to make a contribution of value in the work of other Agencies.

111. The Conference noted the intention of the Director-General to continue the study of selected adjustment issues and experiences in the next biennium. Such studies might include several more country case studies, including centrally planned and developing countries; one or two in-depth commodity adjustment studies, possibly grains, exploring alternative patterns of adjustment; and possibly further work on agricultural protection and developments in self sufficiency. The Conference felt that such studies would help to base the evolution of the concept of international adjustment on real situations.

112. In order to provide a framework for considering the conciliation of national actions and policies, Conference agreed to initiate the preparation of a proposed international strategy for international agricultural adjustment along the lines suggested by the Director-General in his report C 73/15. As the first stage, the Conference established broad objectives as set out in Resolution 2/73.

113. A few delegates observed that the formulation of an adjustment strategy would be too rigid, and it would not be possible to take into account the political, economic and financial uncertainties of our time. They further stated that for the sake of efficiency, and in order to find opportunities of immediate action, all the principal producer and consumer countries should, in a practical way and in a regional and world-wide context, discuss together, in order to facilitate the harmonization of national agricultural policies.

114. The Director-General was requested to translate these general objectives into more specific draft guidelines and indicators of progress, taking account of the discussions at the present session and at the Forty-Eighth session of the CCP. The various case studies tabled at Conference would also be helpful. It was understood that the Director-General also had in mind to call a meeting of government experts to assist him. The draft materials should be submitted for comments to FAO Regional Conferences and to the next session of CCP. The contributions of FAO intergovernmental commodity groups and of interested international organizations should also be sought. As full as possible a draft statement of a proposed strategy of International Agricultural Adjustment should be examined by the CCP and by the Council in 1975 in readiness for submission to Conference in that year. This draft strategy should include: objectives, guidelines, indicators of progress, arrangements for periodic review and appraisal designed to assist parallel or subsequent intergovernmental consultations in various fore, and suggestions for possible solutions to major current adjustment issues. The Director-General should take full account of the conclusions of the proposed World Food Conference in preparing the draft strategy.

115. The Conference adopted the following resolution:

Resolution 2/73



Emphasizing the fundamental role of agricultural production and trade in the pursuance of the goals of DD2 and the need for a dynamic strategy for world agricultural development in the current and the next decade,

Requests the Council to review the draft strategy at its 1975 Summer session in the light of the comments of the CCP for submission to the Eighteenth session of the Conference, and after taking into account any views that the Committee on Agriculture may offer on this subject at its 1974 Spring session.

(Adopted 28 November 1973)

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