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The Near East

The total area of the Near East region is estimated at 6 million square miles, with a population of about 100 million people. The proportion of the rural to the total population is very high and varies from 60 to 85 percent, hut although the average density is low because of the existence of large, dry-land and desert areas, it is much higher if related to cultivated areas, and very high in some parts of the region. Egypt, and to some extent Lebanon, for example, suffer from overpopulation with only little space for expansion, while Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey would be considered underpopulated if all land resources were developed. The climate in the region varies between the extremes of rainless desert and copiously watered hill forests.

In parts of the region where rainfall is scarce or nonexistent and where the soil is extremely fertile; there is an adequate water supply for irrigation purposes, giving vast possibilities for agricultural expansion and development. Marshalling of these water resources is, consequently, of major importance. But water acts not only as the source of life to rural populations, but also as a limiting factor for future agricultural development. And though abundant water sup plies appear available in some countries, nevertheless the present and future requirements of the rapidly increasing populations in the region, and the need for a corresponding expansion in agricultural production, make it essential to utilize the existing water supplies in the best and most economical way.

Agriculture is the principal occupation and main source of income for the people in the region; without exception, it is the basis of each country's national economy. All stages of agricultural development can be found, from the nomadic pastoral to the most advanced irrigation farming. Even modern mechanized farming is practiced on some larger holdings.

According to geological examinations, extensive natural resources in the form of mineral deposits suitable for industrial use are not likely to be found in the region. But a more thorough geological survey should be carried out. The existing large supplies of oil can provide a cheap source of power for the development of industries, such as, for example, the processing of various agricultural products, the making of fertilizer, and the manufacture of agricultural machinery and implements.

Improved Farming Practices

Since it is recognized that the best and rapid means of achieving increased production can be obtained from improved farm practice on land already under cultivation,

The Conference -

- Recommends that Near East: governments, through widespread propaganda and agricultural services, make agriculturists acquainted with modern agricultural practices, the latest scientific research results, and means of combating plant and animal pests and diseases, in order to increase yields per unit of area; and expects governments to do their best to make the requisite fertilizers, farm machinery, pesticides, improved seeds, storage machinery and equipment, processing machinery and equipment, etc., available to farmers.

In order to do this effectively, governments will need all available data on improved agricultural practices and research work, and information as to where and on what terms production requisites can be obtained. The aid of technical experts to assist in the planning and application of many of these measures may also be required. FAO, through its technical divisions and the information at its disposal, can be called upon to render any possible assistance in the carrying out of this program. The Conference realizes the magnitude of the task involved in achieving so widespread an improvement of agricultural practices; it is also aware that in many countries of the region campaigns to teach farmers modern farming practices an) assist them in their application, have already improved conditions considerably. In view of these factors, the Conference suggests that the following recommendation, promising quick results for improving farm practices and increasing production, be given immediate attention by Near East governments.

The Conference

- Recommends

(1) that-governments co-operate in dealing with the plagues of desert and Moroccan locusts in the Near East; the intended conference on Moroccan locusts sponsored. by FAO; may show how to approach this important problem;

(2) that governments make available to farmers at reasonable prices and terms, controlled seeds which, through local experiments, have proved highest yielding under existing conditions, and at the same time urges Near East governments to facilitate the exchange of seeds between countries in the region;

(3) that governments work out a just distribution of available fertilizers and advise upon the proper and most effective application of this currently scarce commodity;

(4) that governments co-operate financially and otherwise in the establishment of fertilizer plants within the region, with a view to making the area self-supporting so far as fertilizers are concerned:

(5) that governments, through FAO's Near East Regional Office, exchange all information in the fields of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries that is of special interest to that area, and also assist in the exchange of students occupied in these fields and of men who are experts on problems of special interest or importance in individual territories;

(6) that governments co-operate in co-ordinated action to control rinderpest (cattle plague);

(7) that, in view of. the extent to which fertilizer, machinery, and other modern farm requirements help to shape any sound development program, governments needing financial and especially hard-currency support for obtaining these requirements, submit full information concerning their development programs and requirements to the International Bank or International Monetary Fund; FAO may then be called upon, through its technical specialists, to support the application;

(8) that governments pursue a plan of selection and outstationing of male animals from . government centers; to: improve the milting yields of buffaloes; cattle, and goats;

(9) that FAO, should it be practically possible, attach to the Near East Regional Office on a permanent basis such technical experts as Near East governments, after due consideration, may deem important to have close at hand for work in the region.

Increase of Cultivable Area

The Near East largely an area of deserts and dry lands where approximately only 4 percent of the total area is under crops. In view of the rapid growth of population in many Near Eastern countries, it is essential soon to make a thorough investigation of the extent to which areas under crops can be increased by land (desert) reclamation measures, irrigation projects, or soil conservation. In some Near Eastern countries, e.g. Egypt, it is doubtful whether the areas planned for reclamation or intensive development will match the population growth; it is clear that a general change in the economic and occupational structure of the country, ensuring the people a satisfactory standard of living, must go hand in hand with agricultural development: Possibilities of increasing the crop area are limited by the amount of water available when and where it is most needed. Nearly all developments involve irrigation or conservation and utilization of the scarce water supplies on hand.

Through soil conservation measures much valuable land in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Ethiopia can be saved and incorporated in the productive area either for crops, horticulture, grazing, or forestry, and in sonic parts of the region where grain-farming is possible, big-scale mechanized farming could be further developed.

As, however, no exact information exists concerning the extent to which the area under crops in the Near East could be increased by irrigation, soil conservation, and other development measures,

The Conference -

- Considers it would be useful if a general survey, perhaps sponsored by FAO, were taken in each country, in! order to obtain exact figures relating to the size of areas reclaimable on a sound economical basis, the cost involved, the equipment needed, the amount of labor necessary, and the time required for such development, and

- Requests government to take an active part in this survey and give it every kind of support, jointly considering ways and means of meeting part of the cost of such a survey.

The Conference recognizes that this is a comparatively long-term problem, but brings it to the attention of the Near East governments at this time.

As regards more immediate measures which could be undertaken in order to bring more land under cultivation, the Conference has had before it the report and resolutions of the Regional Conference for the Near East, which met at Cairo in February 1948, and has especially studied the conclusions and recommendations concerning irrigation and drainage. In addition to these), other projects of land reclamation have befell discussed. As a result,

The Conference -

- Recommends

(1) that the governments of Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon follows up as soon as possible the recommendations of the Cairo Conference concerning

(a) Egypt: conversion of 250,000 acres of Basin land in Upper Egypt to a combination of Basin irrigation supplemented by pumping from deep wells, to be undertaken as a ten-year plan at the rate of converting 25,000 acres each year; drainage of 500,000 acres in Lower and Upper Egypt;

(b) Iraq: initiation of the prepared five year program for irrigation and drainage of an area of about 600,000 acres;

(c) Syria: initiation of the existing project for irrigation by pumping plants of 250,000 acres of the valley of the Euphrates;

(d) Lebanon: continuation of work in connection with the irrigation of areas in the plains of Baalbek, Tyr, Saida, Kaa, South Bekka, and Akkar, which would increase the irrigated area by about 97,000 acres;

(2) that governments in the Near East cooperate in the development and utilization of common water resources; and urges governments to acknowledge the regional significance of certain, streams and rivers in an effort to reach permanent agreements concerning these water resources;

(3) that, where soil erosion is extreme, governments take step. tot conserve the land in connection with reforestation; measures;

(4) that governments take steps to prevent overgrazing resulting in serious soil erosion and deterioration of the Soil and, through legislation and other measures, establish control over grazing; intergovernmental exchange of information on related conditions and experience would be advantageous;

(5) that governments, in co-operation with FAO, organize regional conferences to study matters in relation to irrigation problems.

Conservation and Marketing

The need is great not only for better machinery that will limit waste at the sowing and threshing stages, but also for improved storage, conservation, and transport facilities for the finished products.

Modern refrigeration plants and processing techniques are little known outside the larger cities, and the distribution of agricultural and fisheries products is consequently difficult and unsatisfactory.

The Conference -

- Recommends that governments make a survey of the conservation, storage, processing, and transportation problems in the legion, urging them, through a well-planned campaign and by making available the necessary machinery and pesticides, to limit the waste of foodstuffs caused by infestation and improper handling. Plans for constructing modern processing, storage, refrigeration, and conservation plants should be made; these should include both the estimated expenditures and the estimated need for imported equipment. Special importance is attached to the need for action to limit west age of cereals in transit from the producer to the consumer.

Consumption and Nutrition

Improving nutrition in the Near-East has in a few instances been considered on a national scale. But very little is actually known concerning nutrition and consumption levels of the various social and income groups. This is partly be" cause there are few nutrition specialists in the area. Many factors must be taken into account, not the least of which are poverty, poor food habits, and inadequate modern facilities and education. A great part of the poorer classes in the towns and amongst the rural population are undoubtedly underfed, and undernutrition and malnutrition are manifest in the frequent occurrence of deficiency diseases associated with parasitic-intestinal and other aliments.

The Conference

- Recommends

(1) that governments participate in an FAO sponsored training course in nutrition, which would teach some basic facts about food and nutrition and some relatively simple ways of making dietary investigations; it would be useful if a sufficient number of students could be trained in primary nutrition work to ensure the later establishment of national nutrition committees in the various Near Eastern countries;

(2) that government if possible establish feeding programs for vulnerable classes of the population;

(3) that governments where possible introduce school lunches in public schools.

The Conference realizes that, basically, the best method of improving nutrition and increasing consumption is to raise the real output and income of the countries, and suggests that governments should fully explore all possibilities of achieving this fundamental goal.

Problems of Rural Welfare

Agriculture is the foundation of Near Eastern national economies. It is the main industry of the countries concerned, engaging some 65 to 85 percent of the population. The prevailing living and working conditions are far from satisfactory, affecting both the well-being of the people in general and the productivity of the agricultural industry. Since human effort will al ways be the most important single element in production, raising the standard of living in this area is considered a major factor not only in ameliorating the living conditions of the majority of the population but also in increasing the output of agriculture.

In order to raise the standard of living amongst the people oft the Near East numerous factors must necessarily be considered, and many - problems requiring fairly long-range programs present themselves. Consequently, the Conference must limit itself. to making a few specific suggestions for dealing with immediate needs.

The Conference -

- Recommends

(1) that governments establish health (or agricultural) with visiting and permanent medical specialists and teachers in health services and sanitation. Special attention should be given to such prevalent diseases as bilharziasis, ankylostomiasis, and malaria.

(2) that governments, through agricultural centers or benevolent societies, train the rural population in various kinds of small handicrafts, art, and small industries in order to increase the family income. The marketing or sale of the finished products should be organized in such a way as will ensure to the producer the highest possible profit.

It must be emphasized that to instruct peasants in improved methods of farming in order to [increase agricultural production, while they continue to suffer and die of various intestinal or infectious diseases, is a doubtful progress. It is essential that greet efforts be exercised in order to improve the existing conditions in this area. Before there can be hope of real progress, however, those who are responsible for national affairs and the people who are to assist in the work of improvement must reach a truly sympathetic understanding of rural groups and must be able to appreciate the relationship of the rural factor to the total economy of the state.

Government and Other Services

In order to carry through a well-planned economic program in the vital fields of production and consumption-to increase the area of cultivation and to improve existing agricultural practices it is often essential for underdeveloped countries to seek the assistance of foreign technical experts in the fields of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, nutrition, etc. Therefore, the Conference stresses the importance of making experts available, either through FAO and other international agencies or through member governments equipped with facilities for training the type of experts needed. The Conference realizes the present difficulty in-obtaining a sufficient number of experts in various fields, but thinks that every consideration should be given to the requirements of underdeveloped countries, whose economic development schemes should be initiated as soon as possible.


Cereals, Oilseeds, and Other Crops

Figures available to the Conference show that the planned bread-grain production in Europe. in 1950/51 will remain 5 percent below prewar. Although . the prewar exporting countries of Eastern Europe expect again to become exporters of some consequence, they anticipate exports of grain in 1950/51 to be well below prewar level, and exports of meat, eggs, and sugar to rise to levels substantially above prewar. These forecasts reflect an intensification of agriculture. in Eastern European countries.

Discussions have raised such basic-questions as (a) the degree to which Europe can supply its own cereals from domestic production without unduly decreasing yields- or displacing crops for which the land can be used more economically; (b) the extent to which the: exchange of cereals between eastern and western countries of Europe might be restored (c) the necessity for a number of countries to treat wheat as a world commodity rather than exclusively on a regional basis.

The Conference notes that, although European break-grain requirements are increasing as population expands, bread-grain production in Europe will not, under present programs, exceed prewar levels. It also notes that per. caput supplies of animal products, oils, and fats in Europe ate stir! one-third below prewar levels. Therefore, recognizing the paramount need for increasing production and imports of bread grains, coarse grains, and oilseeds available for human consumption in Europe,

The Conference -

- Recommends that the Director-General report . to the Fifth Conference of FAO on present . "and prospective supplies of cereals and oilseeds in Europe, on the economic, agricultural, and other technical factors limiting European cereal and oilseed production and importation and, in particular, on the possibilities. of rebuilding trade in cereals and oilseeds between the eastern and western countries of Europe.

Having noted the report of the Director-General's Regional Representative for Europe concerning plans for European meetings on insect and plant disease control, including weed control, seeds, plant patents, and quarantine regulations,

The Conference -

- Endorses the FAO program looking toward appropriate European meetings for the exchange of technical information and for the increase of crop production by intergovernmental action in Europe.

Livestock and Livestock Products

The Conference has heard with interest the Regional Representative's report on technical activities planned for the coming year. These include a meeting of specialists on the feeding of livestock and on dairy technology; continuation of the study on milk and butter-fat recording a survey as to the need for a meeting dealing with artificial insemination; technical assistance to the planned grasslands conference; and a survey of the needs for veterinary supplies. The integration of European national plans and programs for livestock and livestock products should be an important part of the integration of plans and programs mentioned in the recommendation under "European Program Meeting". It is recognized that the livestock problem involves requirements for such industrial materials as fertilizers, steel and cement for grass drying and silos, and other agricultural production requisites.

Special interest is expressed in (a) the importance of making maximum use of grasslands and fodder crops; (b) developments in the use of potatoes for feeding livestock; (e) improvement of national breeds and the development of artificial insemination; and (d) requirements for vaccines for the control of certain diseases.

The Conference notes that per caput supplies of animal products in Europe are still one-third below prewar level, and emphasizes the importance of achieving a higher output of livestock products in Europe. Therefore,

The Conference -

- Endorses the FAO program for European activities directed toward increasing output of livestock) products in Europe, and,

- Recommends that each European country work toward the maximum use of resources available for livestock production and adjust the number and the nature of its livestock ace cording to the feed and other resources avail able to it from both domestic supplies and imports, taking into consideration both nutritional and economic points of view.

Fruits, Vegetables, Fish, and Other Perishable Products

A number of areas which before the war exported fruits and vegetables, particularly to Germany, are now faced with a surplus during the marketing season. Therefore,

The Conference -

- Recognizing the high nutritional value of many, of the products concerned,

- Recommends that the Organization continue to collect statistics on the availability of fruits and vegetables in Europe and explore methodic for dealing with the problem of surplus supplies of particular items; and

- Endorses the action being undertaken by FAO together with the Economic Commission for Europe to improve intra-European transport and storage of perishable products.

Forest Products

Wood pulp problems, especially those of supply and distribution, have particular importance in view of the uncertain outlook for productive capacity and supply of wood pulp in various parts of the world. It is proposed that a preparatory conference should attempt to survey the world situation and outlook, and should formulate a program of regular international statistics. The timber equipment program developed with regard to Europe will, it is hoped, constitute an important demonstration of the practical advantages to be gained from international co-operation.

The Conference -

- Notes the timber program undertaken in Europe through co-operation with the Economic Commission for Europe and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and believes that the experience gained in this instance should receive attention in Europe and should be considered when planning for similar action in other regions. It,

- Approves the organization in the near future of a preparatory conference world wood pulp problems.


The Conference -

- Recommends that the Organization continue to promote intergovernmental discussion and action looking towards an adequate and well distributed supply of fertilizers in Europe at reasonable prices, giving full consideration to the possibilities of increasing economic production in Europe.

Farm Machinery

Committee discussion has stressed the advisability of co-ordinating the production of farm machinery in different countries so as to accomplish appropriate specialization among European countries. Ways of achieving the fullest use of farm machinery, as, for instance, through co-operatives, should be explored.

The Conference -

- Recommends that the Organization (a) stimulate development of national centers, or other effective mechanisms, for research in and demonstration of farm machinery, and (b) coordinate action between the various national centers.


In a number of countries the manpower situation is a factor of importance in agricultural production. In some cases, lack of manpower is directly hampering agricultural production; in others, surplus of manpower is an important factor limiting agricultural mechanization. It is recognized that the International Labour Organisation has been interesting itself in the general field of manpower and that it has taken steps toward intergovernmental consideration of the problem. It is felt, however, that FAO should take an active interest in progress toward a solution of the manpower problems affecting agricultural production.

The Conference -

- Recommends that FAO should co-operate with the International Labour Organisation with reference to the problems both seasonal and regular of agricultural manpower in Europe.

Co-operation on Food Balance Sheets

The Conference draws the attention of governments to the value of food balance sheets in the formulation of national food and agricultural policies, and to the importance of having such balance sheets for as many countries as possible on a uniform basis for use in consultation among European governments on food and agricultural plans and programs.

European Program Meeting

The Director-General's program of work for 1949 calls for four regional conferences of government representatives and analysts in connection with the regional appraisal and coordination of national plans and programs. In order to be successful, these conferences will have to have wide participation. It has been pointed out in discussion that meetings of governments designed to further trade between European countries and to integrate programs, are of little value without some way being found to make the principal currencies in the world freely convertible.

The Conference -

- Recommends that the meeting of European countries provided for in the Director-General's program of work be held in Europe at a time when such a meeting would be best calculated to assist in the integration of European national agricultural plans and programs prior to the annual session of the FAO Conference. However, should it appear impossible to secure the participation of enough, governments to assure the wide coverage necessary for significant program integration, a meeting of European countries might instead be convened at the sited of the Conference session; immediately prior to the session

FAO Program for Europe for 1950

The Conference -

- Endorses the program of the Regional Representative of the Director-General to visit and correspond with as many European governments as possible, in order to ascertain their views regarding the draft program of FAO work in Europe in 1950, and authorizes him at his own discretion to call a meeting of such governments this purpose.

Co-operation with the Economic Commission for Europe

The Conference recognizes the primary responsibility of FAO in the field of food and agriculture, and recalls that the ad hoc committee on Agricultural Problems of Common Concern to FAO and ECE fisted the obstacles impeding the recovery of intra-European trade and, consequently, the full rehabilitation of agriculture in Europe. Believing that serious attention should be given to the removal of these obstacles,

The Conference -

- Endorses the arrangements made by the Director-General for co-operation with the Economic Commission for Europe as an example of a method of obtaining the best results while avoiding duplication of international personnel, at the same time minimizing expenses both to FAO and to member governments.

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