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In print

The Economist's Tale: A consultant encounters hunger and the World Bank The Economist's Tale: A consultant encounters hunger and the World Bank

By Peter Griffiths
Published by ZED Books
2003, 252pp, ISBN 1 84277 185 X(Pb), £15.95

It is individuals who cause poverty, under-development and famine, by their actions, failure to act and failure to speak up, says Peter Griffiths, an economic consultant who witnessed food crises in Sierra Leone first hand. Griffiths was contracted by the country's Ministry of Agriculture to carry out an economic analysis of its food policy but, from the outset, was up against corruption, and individuals and organisations with their own agendas.

Under scrutiny are the World Bank's official and unofficial policies at the time (1986) which, it believed, would lead to its idealist goal of the 'free market'. In Griffiths' eyes, these policies were putting the government, economy and people's lives at risk. During his time in Sierra Leone, Griffiths refused to toe the World Bank line. He challenged policy and, endangering his own career, spoke out against what he saw as injustices in the system. "Workers in the aid industry have to bow to pressures from clients, consultancy firms, donor organisations and the whole aid system," writes Griffiths. "Unless the aid industry tackles this problem, it will achieve as little in the future as it has in the past."

This book is a diary-style and highly readable account of his experiences in Sierra Leone. It presents economics theory in practice while also highlighting the constraints that consultants and development workers face on the ground. It is passionately written and backed up by knowledge and experience.

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The Atlas of Food: Who eats what, where and whyThe Atlas of Food: Who eats what, where and why

By Erik Millstone and Tim Lang
Published by Earthscan
2003, 128pp, ISBN 1 85383 965 5 (Pb), £11.99

The world needs more food justice, say the authors of The Atlas of Food: "More food is produced on this planet than would be needed to feed everyone adequately, but political, economic, environmental and social forces result in inequitable production, distribution and consumption."

A third of the world's population is affected by poor nutrition, yet this is not a problem of supply, but one of access. Advocates of new technology such as genetic modification, claim it will increase food production, but is it safe? How do markets work and whose vested interests are at stake? What are the impacts of different forms of farming, processing, transportation, retailing and changing eating habits?

This colourful book addresses those questions, presenting an impressive amount of information in maps and graphics. In Part One, it covers contemporary challenges - the environment, water, under and over nutrition and food aid. Part Two tackles farming including BSE, farm mechanisation, genetic modification and pesticides. Trade is under scrutiny in the third part, with information and analysis of trade flows, food miles, fair trade and subsidies. Finally, the topics of Part Four are processing, retailing and consumption. This covers changing diets, retail power, organic food, alcohol consumption and advertising. At the back of the book there are some useful data tables covering agricultural production and consumption in over 160 countries.

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Engineering the farmEngineering the farm: Ethical and social aspects of agricultural biotechnology

Edited by Britt Bailey and Marc Lappé
Published by Island Press
Distributed in Europe and Africa by Eurospan
2002, 202pp, ISBN 1 55963 947 4(Pb), £19.95

Can genetic engineering end hunger? To what extent are scientists obliged to meet the social needs of agriculture as well as the commercial ones? What role should society have in assessing the safety of bioengineered foods, and do people have a right to 'opt out' of a GM-based food system? These are the kind of questions explored in this collection of essays. Most come from a US perspective, and will appeal more to anti-GM activists and academics than agro-biotechnologists. But the writing is personal, accessible and interesting, making an excellent introduction to the ethical and social dimensions of the GM debate.

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Improving agricultural research at universities in sub-Saharan AfricaImproving agricultural research at universities in sub-Saharan Africa: A study guide

By Heike Michelsen, Larry Zuidema, Christian Hoste and David Shapiro
Published by ISNAR
PDF version available from:
2003, 101pp, ISBN 92 9118 056 4(Pb), $25

Universities in sub-Saharan Africa are widely criticised for failing to address the needs of the countries and communities they are intended to serve. With the trend of falling funding for agricultural research generally in the region, the criticism is particularly pertinent for agriculture departments. For agricultural research leaders and policy-makers who are keen to change this situation, and are further ready to adopt a 'learning process' in order to identify weaknesses and design a way forward, this study guide will prove valuable. Based on the experience of universities in six countries - Benin, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Cote D'Ivoire, Uganda and Zimbabwe - which took part in a 'review-and-change' exercise co-ordinated by ISNAR, the study guide sets out a series of analytical and decision-making tools that can be used by a review committee to evaluate their current situation, and plan how to make their research activities better meet the needs of farming communities.

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World agriculture towards 2015/2030: An FAO perspective World agriculture towards 2015/2030: An FAO perspective

Edited by Jelle Bruinsma
Published by Earthscan
2003, 432pp, ISBN 1 84407 007 7 (Pb), £35

This follow up volume to the FAO's 1995 global study 'World agriculture: towards 2010' offers updated projections on the world's food supplies, nutrition and agriculture, and summarises current areas of concern and potential. Projections are made for all the major commodity crops, for livestock production and consumption, and for forestry and fisheries. Agricultural trade is expected to play a bigger role in securing the future food needs of developing countries; cereal imports by the developing world, for example, are expected to triple over the next 30 years; meat imports are likely to increase at an even faster rate. In terms of commodity exports, resource-rich but otherwise poor countries may, depending on trade negotiations, have greater development opportunities through export-oriented agriculture, but resource-poor countries are likely to face higher prices for imports, and lack the capacity to increase their domestic production. Other areas of discussion include the likely role of agriculture in poverty alleviation and economic development, developments in agricultural technology, including organic and bio-technology, the impact of climate change, and competition between agricultural and environmental interests. Essentially a reference book for agricultural organisations and ministries.

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Vital Signs 2003Vital Signs 2003

Published by Worldwatch Institute in co-operation with UNEP
1776 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036,USA
2003, 153pp, ISBN 0 393 32440 0(Pb), $14.95

Global instability resulting from the growing pressure on the world's poor, is a central theme of this year's 'Vital signs', the Worldwatch Institute's annual summary of 'the trends that are shaping our future'. That instability takes many forms: terrorism, conflict over natural resources, spread of contagious disease, growing numbers of displaced people. Each is being exacerbated by the growing divide between rich and poor nations, worsening environmental degradation and greater frequency of weather-related disasters. At the same time, continued farming subsidies in rich countries, and widespread corruption in much of the world continues to undermine agricultural and economic development. There are some positive signs: greater access to HIV/AIDS medicines in some countries, notably Botswana; a shrinking gap between the information have and have nots, thanks to the growth of mobile phone coverage; and the expansion in 'clean' energy sources, particularly wind power.

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Market Research for Agroprocessors Market Research for Agroprocessors

By Andrew W Shepherd
Published by Agricultural Marketing Group, FAO
2003, 114pp, ISSN 1020-7317(Pb), free

Before any agroprocessing venture is embarked upon, knowledge and understanding of the market is essential. Aimed at entrepreneurs and companies, who are planning to develop or expand medium-sized agroprocessing businesses, this book gives a guide to market research techniques, which could enable them to develop that market knowledge.

Dotted with amusing cartoons, it is a well-constructed reader, which tackles the four 'P's of marketing (product, place, price and promotion) by addressing the following questions: How much can be sold, where and when? What are consumers' attitudes to your product? How can your product be made attractive to consumers? How should it be distributed? And, will your business be profitable? Part of the Marketing Extension Guide series, Market Research for Agroprocessors is available free from the FAO, but is also downloadable in pdf format from the website address above.

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Goose ProductionGoose Production

Edited by Roger Buckland and Gérard Guy
Published by FAO
2002, 150pp, ISBN 92 5 104862 2 (Pb), $24

Geese are easy to manage, can be used to weed a variety of crops, have a rapid growth rate and offer valuable products including feathers and fatty liver as well as meat, according to this book from the FAO. Illustrated with black and white photographs throughout, Goose Production covers all aspects of keeping geese, from reproduction, behaviour, disease and flock management to killing and processing. A chapter on goose meat production covers brooding, feeding and growth rates and housing systems for those wanting to grow and fatten geese for meat. Other chapters include feather and down production and the production of fois gras (fatty liver) through the process of force-feeding. Finally, three papers published in Part Two give an interesting overview of production methods in South America, Asia and Eastern Europe.

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Ancient roots, new shoots: Endogenous development in practiceAncient roots, new shoots: Endogenous development in practice

Edited by Haverkort, Hooft and Hiemstra
Published by Zed books
2003, 264pp, ISBN 1 84277 335 6 (Pb), £15.95

For the last six years, the organisation 'Compas' has worked as a support network for endogenous ('growing from within') development activities throughout the world. Ancient roots, new shoots is a review of that work. Case studies from the Indian sub-continent, Africa, Latin America and Europe illustrate how communities are tapping their traditions of culture, science, worldview and technology to make better use of their resources. One example comes from Karnataka in India, where an organic farming group has put together a handbook of traditional recipes, identified productive local cattle varieties which are now being used in breeding programmes, and developed an organic dye for use in daily worship. All of these projects have raised considerable interest in the province, including among agricultural research communities. The philosophy of the group is based on building on farmers' own capacities and propensities for experimentation, the 'new shoots' of the title, through a combination of indigenous Indian science and western methods. It is currently in the middle of a five year experiment to test the efficacy of a locally-produced treatment for yellow leaf disease in arecanut. In addition to such case studies, a final chapter discusses how an enabling environment can be established for endogenous institutions and development activities.

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1st July 2003

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