Tropical farming economics

Tropical farming economics

62 instance, for the price puts it well beyond the reach of most students even in overdeveloped countries. In one chapter, on ‘Universities and Leader...

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62 instance, for the price puts it well beyond the reach of most students even in overdeveloped countries. In one chapter, on ‘Universities and Leadership in Africa’, the author goes beyond the conventional wisdom of the sixties. He looks at the possibility of breaking the cycle by which education sustams. and is sustained bv. the power ilite. This might be done, he suggests, by a strenuous development of post-school educational and training opportunities and by opening sufficient access and promotion points in the civil and educational services to allow for at least some promotions according to adult achievement. The idea is important and has been advocated for Tanzania; but the problem and the proposed solution need much closer examination than they receive here. The chapter on ‘Nationalism and Higher Education in Ghana’ is an interesting record of the events leading to Nkrumah’s take-over of the University. Even in these chapters, however, an underlying view is taken as being self-evident ‘that education produces the skills or many of the skills necessary to development’. Yet most of our biggest problems are hidden by this too comforting and copious maxim. These essays fail to penetrate real and contemporary problems for three main reasons. First, timing: most of the chapters were written, apparently, in the early sixties when, as the author warns, ‘the prospects for development seemed better than they do today’. This should have led to a high degree of consciousness of these shifting Western perspectives and some analysis of them. But one is often not even clear whether the viewpoint is 1963 or though bibliographical and 1973, other evidence generally suggest the former. Secondly, there is a failure to come to grips with the difficult, underlying problems of how development and education are related and this becomes most apparent when, as in the final chapter, a 1973 view is being taken. was the manpower Why planning illusion so alluring and why has it cracked? What substantial problems and possibilities lie behind the rhetoric of Illich and Freire or the triumphs claimed for China? ‘And thirdly, too often the argument is lost in a morass of high sentiment and For example, verbiage. in the following passage the author has-rightly-just stressed that quite economic and political ends for education are not enough. But then, brand-


ishing uplift and multiple negatives, charges into the quicksands:



fundamentally, a gift to a unique human being. something to help h’im become what he has it in him to become. The educationist would not be wrong in asserting that no worthwhile goals can be attained at all unless very many individsupremely

is, personal

uals are thus educated.

This is not to

deny that the common-sense economist’s approach should not be taken into account along with the realistic sides of political idealism. Both should be subordinated, however, to what the educator has to say about his craft and his children, the life-blood of every nation, with whom he exercises it. One cannot help wondering whether we-citizens of the world-are not undisqualified from denying ourselves the exercise of such life-blood between blue buckram covers at seven pounds a time-or not, and whether it would be good for us anyway. Robin Hodgkin Department of Educational Studies, Oxford.


R. Haswell.

London: Longman, 174. f4.50.



This short book is about the evolution of farming systems, particularly in south-east Asia, in response essentially to rising demographic pressure. The influence of Ester Boserup’s writing’ is evident, although the examples and statistical material are derived from the author’s work in the field, especially in the Philippines. The book is easy to read, unmarred by jargon, and Iiberally endowed with plates (40) and tables (44). Miss Haswell views tropical agriculture as passing through a series of stages, which she calls the ‘six hands of farming’. In the earliest stage the land-man ratio is very high and shifting cultivation predominates. Next, as population size increases, some of the land is partially cleared, although major obstacles such as large trees, stumps and ant-hills may remain. Only in stage three are draft animals introduced. The scarce factors of production during these early stages are labour and power, not land. Under these circumstances the peasantry will not adopt yield-increasing innovations, especially if they require greater human


effort, but will seek instead to lighten their physical work, e.g., by substituting carabao power for manpower. Rising population density compels farmers to engage in more intensive methods of cultivation, and it is in the fourth stage that relatively simple systems of water management and control are introduced. This stage, of course, is the predominant one in the countries she has studied. Agricultural chemicals are not introduced until the fifth stage and heavy machinery not until the last. The technological sequence, then, is from fire to the hoe, followed by bullocks and then irrigation, culminating in the use of fertilizer and ultimately in tractors and harvesters. The technological evolution is partially a response to growing population and land scarcity. Indeed Miss Haswell shows that in Mindanao, Philippines, the price of land rose more than 39 times in 17 years as the farming system evolved from shifting cultivation to gravity flow irrigation. Not only do technology and relative factor prices vary from one stage to another, the composition of output also is likely to vary. For instance, during the early stages of agricultural transformation production consists largely of root crops and cereals, but as productivity rises livestock production becomes possible. A subsistence minimum is the equivalent of about 300 kg per person per year of unmilled grain; systematic feeding of livestock with cultivated grain requires that productivity should be around 750 kg of unmilled grain equivalent. The transition from a lower to a higher stage is neither automatic nor smooth. Rapid demographic increase may not lead to hunger, but it can easily result in growing poverty and unemployment. Miss Haswell stresses that each stage constitutes a discontinuity. ‘The very nature of the problem of low productivity agricultures . . . lies in the inability of governments and their peoples to escape from that point of discontinuity which occurs at the “fourth hand of farming”-the point at which some use is made of water resources but cultivation remains largely either by hand hoe or assisted by draft animals without the aid of industrial inputs.’ Assertions about how to overcome 1. The Conditions of Agricuitural Growth: The Economics of Agrarian Change Under Population Pressure (London: Allen and Unwin, 1965).

World Develoomenr


1 No.

12 December

the discontinuities occupy much of the book. Urbanization and the growth of small towns, ‘far from supplying an industrial base generating employment, are no more than trading centres generating debt. The hard core of these towns feeds on a subsistence agriculture sector which it enslaves in a perpetual cycle of borrowing to fill a “hungry” season gap between harvest and harvest.’ Not all of the borrowing is short term, however. Much debt is incurred to finance education. In fact Miss Haswell supplies figures from the Philippines which show that the expenditure elasticity for education in rural areas exceeds that of all other categories by a considerable margin. This expenditure, none the less, is dismissed as luxury consumption. An alternative hypothesis, which she does not test, is that the private returns from investing in education do not coincide with net social benefits. Clearly she is not opposed to education in general, since in her final chapter she writes of the need for ‘a virtual army of semiskilled personnel’. Much emphasis is placed on the urgency of improving the transport system in rural areas. Roads have an even higher priority than irrigation, she claims, especially the surfacing of earth roads with bitumen, because the



high cost of transport by dirt roads makes it uneconomic for farmers to increase production for sale in markets beyond a radius of 8 km. This may well be true in Mindanao-one senses the frustration and discomfort she encountered while travelling through that region-but the reverse may be true in, say, Bangladesh, where river transport is relatively efficient and are water management systems woefully inadequate. The issue of investment in roads vs. irrigation could best be resolved, one would have thought, within a benefit-cost framework. One of the most distinctive features of Miss Haswell’s book is the importance she attributes to expenditure on health in overcoming obstacles to agricultural expansion. The provision of medical services is a much neglected aspect of development policy and one should be grateful to the author for stressing it. Low standards of health and their effects on the efficiency of agricultural production, the lack of stamina caused by malnutrition and disease, and the resulting induced apathy are described as ‘gravely insidious problems’. The solution preferred by the author is, however, unclear. Should one concentrate on providing clean water to villages

World Development Current Awareness Service and Food


Anderson, C. Milton, ‘Ecuador imports breeding stock to increase meat production’, Foreign Agriculture, 23 July 1973, 8-9. Loftas, Tony, ‘Boat building and fishing on Lake Malawi’. World Fishing, Sept. 1973, 73-6. ‘South American fisheries’, World Fishing. Sept. 1973, 50-67. Agriculture. ‘Agricultural

Kaur, Rajbans, ‘Farm planning under imperfect knowledge: the programming approach’, Indian Journal of Economics, Jan. 1973, 269-84.

Singh, Hardev, ‘Farming in Sri Lanka’, Eastern Economist, 24, Aug. 1973, 365. Gulf countries’, Arab Economist, 54, July 1973, 14-21.


de Janvry, Alain, ‘A socioeconomic model of induced innovations for Argentine agricultural development’, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 87, Aug. 1973,410-35.

Maitha, J. K., ‘Demand for tractors in Kenya agriculture’, Journal of Eastern African Research and Development, 3 (l), 1973, 31-8.

ARTICLES Agriculture,

(perhaps as part of investment in water management and control schemes)? Should one concentrate on training ‘barefoot’ doctors? Or should one invest in more roads so that villagers can reach The medical services in the towns more easily? The answer depends in part on the relative cost of alternative ways of improving health and in part on the distribution of benefits among the various members of the rural community. Distributive issues, unfortunately, receive almost no attention in Miss Haswell’s book. The author apparently believes that demands for larger shares can best be resolved by increasing output. Distinctions between landowners, tenants and agricultural labourers find no place in the analysis; hers is virtually a classless society. Land reform is mentioned only once, and no importance is attached to it. Political conflict appears fleetingly and is related only tenuously to agrarian change. This is a pity because the distribution of land and income, and the resulting political alignments, could be incorporated rather easily into her framework of ‘six hands’. Keith Griffin Magdalen College, Oxford.

Land and Forestry development in Arabian

Clark, Colin and Turner, John Boyd, ‘Agricultural productivity and urban employment; imperatives in agricultural productivity’, Indian institute of Public Opinion, Quartet-l-vEconomic Report, 19, Mar./Apr. 1913, 10-S. Cunningham, J. H., ‘Pesticides and the economy of the developing world’, Span, 16 (2), 1973,54-5. Gwyer, G. culture Journal 11 (3),

D., ‘Trends in Kenyan agriin relation to employment’, of Modern African Studies, 1973,393-403.

Banking ‘Banking in Kenya’, Banker, Sept. 1973, 1059-63. Datta, B., ‘Commercial banks: four years after nationalisation’, Economic and Political Weekly, 2 1 July 1973, 1286-90. Singh, Manmohan, ‘Why regional development banks?‘, Development Digest, July 1973, 90-S. Commodities Abu-Zeid, M. Osman, ‘Problems of sugarcane production in the Sudan’, World Crops, 25, May/June 1973, 132-5.