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Science, Agriculture and Research
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Science, Agriculture and Research: A compromised participation?

By William Buhler, Stephen Morse, Eddie Arthur, Susannah Bolton and Judy Mann
Published by Earthscan,
120 Pentonville Road, London, N1 9JN, UK
Email: earthinfo@earthscan.co.uk
Website: www.earthscan.co.uk
2002, 174pp, ISBN 1 85383 691 5 (Pb), £17.95

'Science, Agriculture and Research' is essentially a collection of mini-histories covering the early and recent development of agricultural research in the UK, the changing nature of agricultural research in a developing country, Nigeria, and the origins and elaboration of participatory appraisal methods in rural development since the 1970s. These histories are used to explore the forces that have directed agricultural research, and to show how farmers have often been largely divorced from the research process. The authors, a group of research scientists, are keen to give their perspective on the pressures that direct and constrain the work they do, in the context of the polarised 'debate' that currently rages between agribusiness and those who oppose its high-tech, intensive blueprint for the future of agriculture.

The authors set out their stall with a strong introduction but then risk losing their audience completely in chapter one: their intention is to show the complexity of issues that lie behind research agendas. The result is an off-putting series of unanswered questions that do more than enough to convince the reader that the subject is a complex one. Thankfully the subsequent chapters, are much more straight-forward and reader-friendly, and if at times the writing becomes somewhat opaque, several 'summaries of the story so far' are provided to keep the reader focussed.

The account of early developments in the UK starts with Jethro Tull and the time when land-owners were the driving forces behind farming improvements. The story is brought right up to date, to the current situation when the producers of food are much less powerful than the retailers of food, and agribusiness has replaced agriculture. No wonder that as a result, the needs of farmers, such as maintaining the long-term health of their land, have been sacrificed to 'the profit-god'.

The path of agricultural research in Nigeria is used to illustrate the experience of many developing countries. Initially research work was directed entirely at cash crop production, and thereby almost entirely divorced from the needs of subsistence farmers. Even when, after Independence, the scientists began to pay more attention to food crops, their approach continued to be the one that had always been adopted for cash crops - intensive monoculture, focussing on single crops, rather than the intercropping that characterised African farming systems. Not surprisingly their outputs seemed largely irrelevant to African farmers, and the African 'Green Revolution' failed. From this disappointment were born the participatory methods that were supposed to tell the scientists what African farmers really wanted.

As the title suggests, while participatory methods have been widely adopted as a tool for writing development plans, the authors believe the participatory movement may be losing its momentum. There are growing doubts about the approach: simply helping people to identify their livelihood constraints, for example, does not necessarily give them greater opportunities for overcoming them. Poor people may come to resent spending time on participatory activities which do nothing to change the inequalities of power that keep them in poverty. And what influence do their views have on donors and aid agencies? They will, it is argued, be swept into the maelstrom of different influences and agendas that guide donors and their funding decisions, and their priorities will inevitably be compromised. Participation has its limitations.

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Trees on the farm
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Trees on the Farm: Assessing the adoption potential of agroforestry practices in Africa

Edited by S. Franzel and S.J. Scherr
Published by CABI Publishing,
Wallingford, Oxon, OX10 8DE, UK
Email: cabi@cabi.org
Website: www.cabi-publishing.org
2002, 207pp, ISBN 0 85199 561 6 (Hb), £35/US$60

Agroforestry technologies can offer a wide range of benefits, improving soils and crop yields, and often providing other resources like fuelwood or livestock fodder. Despite this, adoption of the new techniques is complex. Unlike some agricultural technologies, such as a new seed variety, the benefits of agroforestry can take several years to be realised. They can also demand significant changes in farming practices and new labour inputs, and produce benefits that may be difficult to evaluate in economic terms. This study is based on five agroforestry projects in Zambia and Kenya, analysing the extent of their adoption, and the reasons for it, focussing on their feasibility for farmers, their profitability and their acceptability. Thus the assessment is social and economic, as well as technical. The concluding lessons which are drawn out of this process will be relevant to researchers, in highlighting which approaches merit further attention, to funders and policy-makers, in terms of how limited financial or institutional resources can be best targeted, and ultimately to farmers themselves.

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Vital Signs 2002
Save 23%
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Vital Signs 2002: The trends that are shaping our future

Published by The Worldwatch Institute
1776 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington,DC 20036,USA
Website: www.worldwatch.com
2002, 215pp, ISBN 0 393 32315 3 (Pb), US$14.95

In this latest summary of global trends, aquaculture emerges as the fastest growing agricultural sector, providing 31% of the world's fish, and filling the gap left by stagnating marine catches. The sector has grown by 400% in the last fifteen years, much of this in Asia, but significant growth has also been seen in South America, for example salmon and trout farming in Chile. In energy production wind power continues to be the fastest growing sector, and Brazil, the newest player, could be the world's fourth largest market for wind power in the next two years, much of this development taking place in the economically poor, but wind rich states in the north east. The special features in this year's collection of trends include the deteriorating quality of farmland, the boost to the grain trade from water shortages, and the global impact of urban sprawl, such as loss of agricultural land, increased carbon emissions and poor health caused by pollution.

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From the Rural Heart of Latin America

From the Rural Heart of Latin America: Farmers, agricultural research and livelihoods

By Ebbe Schiøler
Published by Future Harvest
PMB 238, 2020 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20006-1846, USA
Copies available from Future Harvest-Latin America Book at above address.
Website: www.futureharvest.org/growth/rural_heart.shtml
2002, 80pp, ISBN 87 7964 201 2 (Pb), free ( $10 for postage)

Accessible, chatty and unashamedly promotional, Ebbe Schiøler tells eleven stories of farmer-researcher co-operation from seven Latin American countries. Not surprisingly, this being a Future Harvest publication, the researchers in question work for international research institutes in the Future Harvest group, such as the International Potato Centre (CIP), and the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Very much aimed at the layperson, and potentially a useful resource for schools, the case studies come from the perspective of individual farmers, recounting the difficulties they face, and how specific agricultural research projects have improved their lives. Nicely presented with numerous photographs, the book will be a useful promotional tool for the CG centres, particularly those based or operating in Latin America. Stories told include growing potatoes from True Potato Seed in Peru, recovering from Hurricane Mitch in Honduras and Nicaragua, and Integrated Pest Management for sweet-potato weevils in Cuba.

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A Trip Too Far: Ecotourism, politics and exploitation
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A Trip Too Far: Ecotourism, politics and exploitation

By Rosaleen Duffy
Published by Earthscan,
120 Pentonville Road, London, N1 9JN, UK
Email: earthinfo@earthscan.co.uk
Website: www.earthscan.co.uk
2002, 224pp, ISBN 1 85383 759 8 (Pb), £15.95

Advocates of ecotourism have marketed the industry as offering financial and social support to disadvantaged communities while at the same time providing incentives for conservation. In this sobering but important critique, based on interviews conducted in Belize with eco-tourism operators and the tourists themselves, Rosaleen Duffy offers a serious challenge to this view. She is particularly interested in the position of eco-tourism within the politics of business, globalisation and the environment. Her conclusion is that far from being a radical departure from a profit-driven capitalism, eco-tourism fits comfortably into the status quo: it continues to regard the environment primarily as an economic resource, and puts profit before conservation.

Beyond these philosophical questions, Duffy is also keen to show the limitations of the industry in supporting marginalised communities, both in terms of the impacts that eco-tourists, attracted to ever more remote and potentially fragile areas, inevitably have, and also at the national level for the host countries. Poor countries that wish to develop eco-tourism naturally emphasise the unspoiled, exotic, pristine, even primitive experience that they can offer. But the danger is, argues Duffy, that this feeds back into domestic politics, and becomes a barrier to policies that might threaten this picture with much needed development. In so doing eco-tourism may perpetuate the marginalisation of remote communities rather than reducing it. It can also strengthen the view of governments that conservation will only be possible where it is profitable. In so doing, it may leave environmentally valuable, but scenically unpopular areas, like mangroves, more vulnerable.

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Contracting for Agricultural Extension
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Contracting for Agricultural Extension: International Case Studies and Emerging Practices

Edited by W.M. Rivera and W. Zijp
Published by CABI Publishing,
Wallingford, Oxon, OX10 8DE, UK
Email: cabi@cabi.org
Website: www.cabi-publishing.org
2002, 224pp, ISBN 0 85199 571 3 (Hb), £40

In Madagascar, despite years of extension efforts the slashing and burning of trees continues; now only 20% of the country remains under forest. But in some places the burning has stopped. In these 'pilot' areas, local communities, assisted by a local NGO, have been given the chance to manage their forests, using plans agreed by the Ministry of Water and Forests. In effect the task of environmental protection has been contracted out to the communities and the NGO that assists them. This is just one of many excellent examples collected in this volume, of how extension services in both developed and developing world, are being increasingly and successfully contracted out to private companies and individuals. The case studies span different degrees of contracting, from the complete shift of funding and delivery of extension to a private company, to one-off use of private institutions for specific services. Other examples include supporting private vets in Mali, using private institutions for farmer training in Bangladesh, and the initial stages of contracting out to NGOs in Mozambique.

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The Future of Food
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The Future of Food: Biotechnology markets and policies in an international setting

Edited by Philip G. Pardey
Published by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC
Distributed by Johns Hopkins University Press 2715 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, Maryland, 21218-4319, USA
Website: www.jhupbooks.com
2002, 329pp, ISBN 0 89629 709 8 (Pb), £13.50

Should developing countries be committing scarce research resources to costly bio-technologies? What are the likely future benefits for countries who go down the bio-tech path? Will intellectual property rights lock poor countries out of the technology, and what significance will stricter regulations on the trade in GM products have? Normally policy-makers would aim to make decisions by weighing up costs and benefits, but with bio-technology in its infancy, the economic and technical information they need is in short supply. This IFPRI book offers help, with contributions from a wide range of authors and fields. They include assessment of the global economic gains that are likely to result from growing GM grain and oilseed crops, and the costs to countries who choose to ban GM imports; the future potential of bio-science, and the perspective this gives on current developments such as Bt cotton; the role that public research agencies may have, and their ability to take advantage of privately developed technologies; and an analysis of the trade-offs between higher costs and faster results in marker-assisted maize breeding. This pithy collection of papers arises from a shared conviction that decisions made now will have profound consequences in the long term. Of primary interest to policy-makers, it offers a useful appraisal of the economic dimension to the bio-tech debate.

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Seeding Solutions volume 2
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Seeding Solutions: Volume 2. Options for national laws governing control over genetic resources and biological innovations

By The Crucible II Group
Published by the International Development Research Centre, the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute and the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation
Copies available from the International Development Resource Centre PO Box 8500, Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1G 3H9
Website: www.idrc.ca/booktique
2001, 259pp., ISBN 0 88936 958 5 (Pb), US$35

How can a country create legal protection for its plant genetic resources? Can it also protect indigenous knowledge, or new biological innovations? Will bilateral access agreements to germplasm bring greater benefits than losses? National policy-makers who find themselves faced with these questions may be daunted by the complexity and deep disagreements which they provoke, but this second volume of Seeding Solutions does offer some encouragement. It focuses on three areas of law - access to genetic material, protection of indigenous and local plants and knowledge, and protection of biological innovations - and sets out a legal framework for each, listing the options that policy-makers will need to choose between. Some commentary is given on the importance or merits of one option against another, but the volume does not pretend to be able offer comprehensive recommendations of which options to take. Rather, readers are advised that they be considered in the light of the scientific, political and environmental issues raised in volume one.

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Seed Provision and Agricultural Development
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Seed Provision and Agricultural Development

By Robert Tripp
Published by Overseas Development Institute,
111 Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7JD, UK
Email: odi@odi.org.uk
Website: www.odi.org.uk
2001, 182pp., ISBN 0 85255 420 6 (Pb), £14.95

Writing for students and practitioners of agricultural and development economics, Tripp offers a detailed look at the mechanisms that govern seed supply systems in developing countries. What, for example, are the rules, customs and structures that ensure there are adequate incentives for the different actors in seed provision, that control exchange of information and limit transaction costs? Tripp believes that understanding how seed systems work can shed much needed light on the broader picture of the process of agricultural change, particularly in helping to see the roles that farmers, commercial companies, government agencies and external donors each play, and how these can be enhanced. However, it is clear that the operating structures that govern seed provision develop only slowly, through negotiation, and in response to changing circumstances, and this will have important implications for those who would try to impose 'better' systems from outside.

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Gender, Land and Livelihoods in East Africa
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Gender, Land and Livelihoods in East Africa: Through farmers' eyes

By Ritu Verma
Published by the International Development Resource Centre
PO Box 8500, Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1G 3H9
Website: www.idrc.ca/booktique
2001, 278pp., ISBN 0 88936 929 1 (Pb), £19.38/US$35

In Maragoli, western Kenya, political and economic processes are drawing rural men away from their farms. They continue to be regarded as 'providers', but the growing influence of the cash economy is changing the pattern of their contribution. As a result, women find themselves under greater pressure, and are increasingly driven to engage in unsustainable farming practices, leading to soil degradation. The situation in Maragoli represents, of course, a much wider pattern, and Verma has a strong case for arguing that effective agricultural and rural development policies demand a detailed appreciation of gender roles. Her book however, is largely written in the language of the social-anthropologist, favouring students in that field more than agricultural development workers. The personal accounts from the women of Maragoli that she includes do, however, bring the book alive, and are certainly a warning against an over-simplified view of gender roles. A common theme in the women's stories is the need for perseverance; non-anthropologist would-be readers take note.

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