Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's there but you can't have it

"The seeds are a marvel, producing bountiful, aromatic rice crops resistant to drought, pests and disease. But a decade after their introduction, they have spread to only a tiny fraction of the land here in West Africa where they could help millions of farming families escape poverty.

Developed with financing from wealthy countries and private foundations, the New Rices for Africa, or Nericas, are unpatented and may be grown by anyone. Yet there is a severe shortage of them in a region where both the private and the agricultural sectors are woefully undeveloped.

“You have farmers who are very willing adopters of new technologies and want to raise yields,” he added, “but are not getting access to seed, fertilizer and small-scale irrigation.” Finding a sustainable way to supply them with seed, he said, “is emerging as the holy grail for agricultural development.”"
(thanks D.)

Infrastructure and communication are indeed the 2 missing ingredients in agricultural development. In Lebanon, while the National Center for Agricultural Research continues to run trial on the most appropriate wheat varieties for specific ecological conditions, farmers have no access to the results of the trials or to the selected seeds. I have tried to contact the center to obtain seeds from them for the Land and People mobile clinics about a year ago and I'm still waiting for them to call back. We have the same situation with respect to fruit tree varieties. It is totally incomprehensible to me, and I have been in this business 20 years. I still cannot understand the reason for the near total absence of communication between the research institutions and the bulk of the farmers. I mean Lebanon has got roads, cars, and there is a phone and a TV dish or a cable in most rural homes. While the private sector works very hard on the transfer of technologies aimed at capital intensive agriculture, very little permeates from the national research institutes that is aimed at marginal farmlands.

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