In the lap of Pacha Mama, Bhootalli, Mother Earth
Produced by Deccan Development Society Community Media Trust
Available from IIED
2005, 23 min, £15 (free to non-OECD member countries)
This short but encouraging film documents a journey made in 2002 by a group of smallholder farmers from India's Deccan plateau to the Peruvian Andes. In Peru they were welcomed by a Quechua community, people with whom they had much in common. In particular they learned about the biodiversity found in the Andean hill farms, and the central role this plays in the lives of the Quechua people, a role equally valued in their home communities in India. The 'serious work' of the trip was for the Indian farmers to pass on a method for cataloguing crop diversity, a method that allows all community members to participate without needing any literacy skills. The Peruvian farmers are instructed to make a huge grid - which they do using strands of wool - and are then guided in characterising their potato and maize plants according to a wide range of criteria. The results are recorded on paper and the community biodiversity register is signed or thumb printed by all. The film is full of positive images and messages about farmer-to-farmer communication, which in this case is achieved despite language barriers.
Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh: a three year
fraud... (a second film recently made available by IIED publications),
documents the experience of farmers growing Bt cotton in Warangal district
in south India. A team of women film makers spent three years visiting
farmers who had planted the Bt seeds, and who subsequently found their
pest problems unchanged and their yields considerably less than they had
been led to expect. Monsanto, the company behind the Bt variety sold,
comes in for heavy criticism from the farmers, whose anger is all too
apparent and understandable.
Back to top
Controlling crop pests and diseases
By Rosalyn Rappaport
Published by ITDG Publishing
2004, 112pp, ISBN 1 85339 600 1(Pb), £12.95
Aimed at agricultural extension workers in the tropics, this practical booklet covers most common threats to crops in the field, and appropriate, low-tech ways to deal with them. The aim is integrated pest and disease management, and among the control options there is an interesting section on insecticidal plants. The text is divided into units to facilitate training, and cheerful strip cartoons help communicate the message.
This text was first published in 1992. While the content is still relevant, it would have benefited from some structural revision before republishing. Nonetheless this is a useful booklet, although the price may exclude some of its target readers.
Back to top
Sugar-cane and sugar industry in Nigeria: The bitter-sweet lessons
By Abdul-Latif D. Busari
Published by Spectrum Books
Distributed by African Books Collective
2004, 302pp, ISBN 978 029 534 8(Pb), £12.95
This study of Nigeria's sugar industry offers an interesting illustration of a stagnant agricultural sector, that could, with appropriate support, make a significant contribution to rural livelihoods. Much of Nigeria is suited to growing sugar cane, but for the last forty years the country has only had two medium sized sugar mills in operation, and currently imports more than 90% of its domestic sugar requirement. While suggesting that Nigeria could learn from Sudan, in encouraging private investment in new mills, Busari also believes that India's sugar sector offers a valuable model. Over 40% of India's sugar is produced by cottage-level mills which, he writes, have the advantage of employing more than ten times the labour, and producing more than double the output of a large mill per unit of investment. The establishment of cane growing co-operatives to ensure consistent supply, the development of locally-adapted cane varieties, and a government support programme for 'mini-mills' could, Busari argues, allow Nigeria within a decade to be producing enough sugar to fulfil its domestic needs and create significant quantities of by-products for other industries.
Genetically modified crops: Their development, uses, and risks
Edited by G.H. Liang and D.Z. Skinner
Published by Food Products Press
2004, 412pp, ISBN 1 56022 281 6(Pb), $49.95
The application of biotechnology to genetically modify crop species is not a simple science. Hence the claim that this book is aimed not only at scientists and graduate students but also the general public is perhaps an optimistic one - the chapter heading 'Gene stacking through site-specific integration', for example, and indeed the contents of that chapter, would not enlighten most members of the public about genetically modified crops.
For the scientific reader, the book contains a lot of potentially useful information, written by mainly US-based molecular biologists. Most chapters adequately review their subject before presenting the latest methods and some discussion. Indeed, 'development' is the emphasis of this book, rather than 'uses and risks'. Chapters are mostly crop-based: wheat, alfalfa, sorghum, rice, cotton, soybean, vegetable crops, and turfgrass each provide a chapter focus. Others describe mechanisms of transgene locus formation, the aforementioned gene stacking, transgenics of plant hormones, and the insecticidal protein avidin, with the final chapter dedicated to risks associated with genetically modified crops. This latter chapter is the only one that might truly engage a non-specialist reader.
Back to top
Drainage basin management - Regional approaches for food and urban security
Proceedings of the 14th Stockholm Water Symposium, August 16-20, 2004
Published by IWA Publishing
Papers can be downloaded from www.iwaponline.com/wst/05108/08/default.htm
2005, 210pp, ISBN 1 84339 4944(Pb), available as part of annual subscription
£20 per paper for downloads
This year's World Water Week symposium in Stockholm, held from 21 -27
August, addressed the role of water and sanitation as key entry points
for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (see www.worldwaterweek.org).
Water and sanitation are undoubtedly a crucial starting point for poverty
alleviation, yet in many urban areas growing demand for water has led
to river basin supplies becoming over-committed, and new sources of water
need to be found, whether from reuse, rainwater or desalinisation. Focus
on Water and food (www.new-agri.co.uk/04-5/focuson.html),
featured some of the key issues from the 2004 symposium, and this edition
of the journal Water science and technology contains the complete
proceedings from that event. Topics include restoration of wetlands, sustainable
groundwater management, green/blue water management options for crop production
(see Deluge, disputes and drought
mitigation), and managing rivers for fisheries and livelihoods. However,
it is unfortunate that for non-subscribers, the cost of downloadable papers
should be so high.
1st September 2005
Back to top