• Short Summary

    Representatives of 39 African countries are meeting in Tanzania this week, to see if they can work out how Africa can feed itself.

  • Description

    Representatives of 39 African countries are meeting in Tanzania this week, to see if they can work out how Africa can feed itself. More than 200 of them are taking part in the conference, which is being held in Arusha, under the auspices of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

    SYNOPSIS: The conference will consider a report setting out all the difficulties which hold back food production in Africa. Severe droughts have played a major part. Five years of abnormally low rain-fall reduced the Sahel region in West Africa to an arid desert, which could barely sustain either crops or livestock.

    In the 1970s, the population has increased faster than food production. This has been a serious problem, particularly in the drought-stricken countries of the Sahel-- but it is a situation that exists throughout Africa.

    The last regional F.A.O. conference, in 1976, hoped to see Africa self-sufficient within ten years. The latest report says this will be extremely difficult, if not impossible. But it hopes that, if governments take the right measures, Africa might achieve 94 percent self-sufficiency by 1985.

    With the drought over, cattle did well in Niger -- and end-of-season round-up promised prosperity for owners and herdsmen. But some seven million more square kilometres of savannah land in Africa could be used for cattle grazing if the disease-bearing tsetse fly could be eliminated. This would produce about 1/????-million more tons of beef a year.

    Mozambique: a state farm developing new techniques as the country changes over from a colonial economy to an independent one. The government brought in Chinese farming instructors: that is one, with his st raw hat on his back. Radical changes in the political structure of a country, and even more, the disruptive effect of civil war, are also factors that have interrupted the increase of agricultural production in Africa.

    Chinese experts have also been helping Mozambique to develop its irrigation system. Speakers at the conference have stressed that Africa should be looking for technical expertise from abroad, so that it can help itself, rather than direct food aid.

    A farm in Chad-- showing what can be done with drainage and irrigation. Land reclaimed from Lake Chad is producing twice the yield of cereals and vegetables produced by traditional methods. The F.A.O. report says that higher yields from existing farmland should be a first priority; then expansion into land not yet cultivated, but capable of cultivations with improved technology. This, it says, is a reserve for the future. Finally, it wants to see what it calls "collective self-reliance" among African countries: better transport and storage and credit facilities, so that they can increase their trade, and help one another in times of special need.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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