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Title: Alleviating poverty, intensifying agriculture, and effectively managing natural resources
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Title: Alleviating poverty, intensifying agriculture, and effectively managing natural resources
Alternate Title: Food, Agriculture, and the Environment Discussion Paper 1
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Pinstrup-Anderson, Per
Pandya-Lorch, Rajul
Publisher: International Food Policy Research Institute
Place of Publication: Washington, D. C.
Publication Date: August, 1994
Copyright Date: 1994
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Front Matter
        Page i
    Title Page
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Page iii
    List of Tables
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
    Back Cover
        Page 22
        Page 23
Full Text

Alleviating Poverty,
Intensifying Agriculture,
and Effectively Managing
Natural Resources

Per Pinstrup-Andersen
and Rajul Pandya-Lorch


"A 2020 Vision for Food, Agriculture, and the Environment" is an initiative of
the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to develop a
shared vision and a consensus for action on how to meet future world food
needs while reducing poverty and protecting the environment. It g re'\ out
of a concern that the international community is letting priorities for
addressing these problems based on incomplete information. Through the
2020 Vision initiative, IFPRI is bringing together divergent schools of
thought on these issues, generating research. and identify\ ing recommendations.

This discussion paper series presents technical research results that encom-
pass a wide ra.ne of subjects drawn from research on police. -relevant
aspects of agriculture, poverty, nutrition, and the environment. The discus-
sion papers contain material that IFPRI believes is of key interest to 'hcol e
involved in addressing emerging Third World food and development prob-
lems. These discussion papers undergo review but typically do not present
final research results and should be considered as work in progress.

Food, Agriculture, and the Environment Discussion Paper 1

Alleviating Poverty,

Intensifying Agriculture,

and Effectively Managing
Natural Resources

Per Pinstrup-Andersen
Rajul Pandya-Lorch

International Food Policy Research Institute
1200 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036-3006 U.S.A.
August 1994


Introduction 1
Developing-Country Trends 2
The Link between Poverty and Environmental Degradation 8
The Link between Agricultural Intensification and Environmental
Degradation 11
Policies to Encourage Sustainable Agricultural Development and to
Alleviate Poverty 15
Meeting the Challenge 18
References 19


1. Prevalence of poverty in the developing world, 1990-2000 3
2. Distribution of the poorest of the poor within low- and high-potential
areas, mid-1980s 3
3. Prevalence of underweight children in the developing world, 1975-2000 4
4. Extent of human-induced soil degradation since 1945 5
5. Causes of soil degradation since 1945 6
6. Growth rate of irrigated area, 1961-90 7
7. Average fertilizer consumption per hectare, 1961-63 and 1988-90 8


1. Population, 1990 and 2020 2
2. Number of people below the poverty line in the developing world, 1990
and 2000 3
3. Prevalence of underfed people in the developing world, 1969-71 to 1988-90 4
4. The extent of deforestation annually in the developing world, 1981-90 5
5. Maize, rice, and wheat yields in developing countries, 1961-92 6
6. Contribution of increase in area and yields to growth in cereal production,
1961-90 7


Actions that the international community, national governments, and nongovernmental
organizations take-or do not take-to address integral challenges of poverty, food insecurity,
and degraded environments will influence the well-being of current and future generations.
For some, including many of the 1 billion poor people, the consequences of inappropriate
action or inaction may be more misery or death. The degree of success of our actions will
depend on our understanding not only of the nature and causes of the problems we must solve,
but also of the linkages between them. These fundamental problems do not exist in compart-
ments waiting to be solved sequentially. They are linked. Attempting to solve one problem in
isolation may be inappropriate. For example, exclusive attention to meeting food needs can
exert a very high, perhaps irreversible, toll on the environment and can make it more difficult
to meet food needs in the future. Similarly, a sole focus on preserving the natural resource
base can condemn millions to hunger and poverty. Linkages and synergies between problems
and solutions must be creatively exploited for the world to be a better place.
This is the first paper in the Food, Agriculture, and the Environment Discussion Paper
series, a product of IFPRI's 2020 Vision initiative, which seeks to develop an international
consensus on how to meet future world food needs while reducing poverty and protecting the
environment. It shows that poverty and environmental degradation in the developing world are
inextricably linked with inadequate agricultural intensification. Lack of access to appropriate
technology by small-scale farmers and rural poverty are major contributors to environ-
mental degradation. Poverty is a significant force behind lack of access to technology and
inputs for agricultural intensification. And environmental degradation and poverty feed on
each other. Accelerated investment in appropriate agricultural intensification and poverty
alleviation are essential for preventing further resource degradation and for meeting future
food needs in a sustainable manner. While inappropriate agricultural intensification is a
source of natural resource degradation in some areas, lack of access to appropriate technol-
ogy and modern inputs is a much more serious cause of environmental degradation than
excessive intensification.

Per Pinstrup-Andersen
Director General


We thank Neil Byron (Center for International Forestry Research), Reed Hertford (inde-
pendent consultant), Amir Kassam (Technical Advisory Committee), Abbas M. Kesseba
(International Fund for Agricultural Development), M. Hosny El-Lakany (Desert Develop-
ment Center), Philippe Mahler (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations),
A. W. Mukhebi (International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases) as well as our
IFPRI colleagues Peter Hazell, Sohail Malik, Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Sara Scherr, Mark
Svendsen, Stephen Vosti, and Patrick Webb for their suggestions or comments on an earlier
draft of this paper. Of course, all interpretations and errors remain ours.


As we look toward 2020 and beyond, the world
must confront three central, intertwined chal-
lenges: alleviating widespread poverty, meeting
current and future food needs, and managing the
natural resource base to assure sustainability. Com-
pounding the difficulty of meeting these challenges
is the expected addition of almost 100 million peo-
ple to the world's population every year for the
next 30 years, and the limited availability of new
land for cultivation in much of the world.
Agricultural intensification-production of
more food on land already under cultivation-is
the key to effectively addressing all three chal-
lenges. Increased food production will have to
come from increased yields. In Asia, North Africa,
and Central America, most cultivable land has al-
ready been brought under production, while in Sub-
Saharan Africa and South America, physical and
technological constraints are likely to restrain
large-scale conversion of potentially cultivable
land (Oram and Hojjati 1994). Agricultural intensi-
fication addresses the root causes of poverty in
many low-income developing countries: agricul-
ture is the most viable lead sector for generating
incomes and employment in both farm and non-
farm economies in most developing countries. Pov-
erty, combined with population pressures, land
constraints, and lack of appropriate production
technology to intensify agriculture, is a major
source of environmental degradation in low-
income developing countries, as people are forced
to use available natural resources in unsustainable
ways to survive. Thus, agricultural intensification
holds great promise as an instrument to simultane-
ously alleviate poverty, meet food needs, and avoid
exploitation of the natural resources.
However, there are growing concerns that the
agricultural intensification process leads to degra-
dation of natural resources. Increased deforesta-
tion, soil erosion, desertification, waterlogging and
salinization of soils, contamination of surface and

groundwater, and other forms of natural resource
degradation in recent decades have been attributed
to more intensive use of fertilizers, pesticides, irri-
gation, high-yielding crop varieties, and mechani-
cal technology, as well as excessive animal stock-
ing rates on pasture lands. There is increasing
anxiety that the goal of meeting current and future
food needs may be in conflict with the goal of
protecting the productive capacity of the natural
resource base.
This paper argues that these concerns are valid
but somewhat misplaced. Agricultural intensifica-
tion, per se, need not degrade the environment, but
inappropriate or mismanaged agricultural intensifi-
cation, such as excessive use of water, overgrazing,
or insufficient or untimely applications of fertilizer,
can lead to environmental degradation. However, the
most serious environmental problem in developing
countries is not inappropriate technological change
in agriculture, but the many millions of people who
live in absolute poverty. Rural poverty, pressured by
increasing population densities and inadequate agri-
cultural intensification, is responsible for much of
the forced exploitation and consequent degradation
of environmentally fragile lands, such as steep hill-
sides and marginal lands, and resulting soil erosion,
flooding, and loss of vegetative cover observed in
many parts of the developing world. Such degrada-
tion will not be prevented by reducing agricultural
intensification but rather by a strategy hinged on
alleviation of poverty, a strategy that in turn is likely
to require accelerated intensification. Making it
more difficult for poor rural households to gain ac-
cess to technology needed to intensify agricultural
production will have negative rather than positive
effects on the environment. Thus, the question is not
whether but how to intensify agricultural production.
The linkages between environment, poverty, and
agricultural activities must be better understood to
guide future action. Agricultural activities, whether
intensive or extensive, affect the environment. Envi-
ronmental degradation, in turn, can compromise cur-
rent agricultural productivity, undermine future pro-

duction, and perpetuate poverty. Thus, while poverty
accelerates environmental degradation, environmental
degradation causes poverty. Such a self-perpetuating
negative spiral is not an uncommon occurrence.
Since increased food production will have to come
from more intensive use of existing farmland, the
increasing production capacity must be sustainable.
We must sustain future agricultural development,
not because it is fashionable, but because if we do
not, we undermine the welfare and survival of our
own species.
This paper discusses the main linkages be-
tween poverty, agricultural intensification, and en-
vironmental degradation within the context of
long-term sustainable food security and poverty
alleviation. The paper describes trends in poverty,
environmental degradation, agricultural intensifi-
cation, and population growth. The focus is on why
and how the poor degrade the resource base as well
as on how and when chemical fertilizers and pesti-
cides and irrigation technology-the three major
components of agricultural intensification-can
lead to degradation of natural resources. The paper
concludes with a comprehensive set of policies to
encourage and facilitate long-term sustainable ag-
ricultural development while alleviating poverty
and conserving natural resources.


During the next 26 years, it is likely that the
world's population will grow by 2.3 billion to
reach 8 billion in 2020 (UN 1993). Ninety-three
percent of the population increase will take place
in the developing world, whose share of global
population is projected to increase from 78 percent
in 1995 to 83 percent in 2020. Over this period, the
absolute population increase will be highest in
Asia, 1.6 billion, but the relative increase will be
greatest in Africa, where the population will more
than double from 0.6 billion to 1.4 billion (Figure
1). The 40 percent increase in world population
will require more than a 40 percent increase in
world food production to meet growing demands
for livestock products and other high-value foods
brought about by rising incomes, urbanization, and
changing lifestyles. Efforts to improve food secu-
rity for the poor and the children born between
now and the year 2020 will further increase food

Figure 1-Population, 1990 and 2020


4 -



Asia Africa Latin

Source: United Nations, World Population
Revisions (New York: UN, 1993).

0.352 0.336

Europe North Former
America U.S.S.R.

Prospects: The 1992

Poverty is a significant and persistent problem in
developing countries. Over 1.1 billion people live
in households that earn a dollar a day or less per
person (Figure 2). Fifty percent of these absolutely
poor people live in South Asia, 19 percent in Sub-
Saharan Africa, 15 percent in East Asia, and 10
percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. Al-
most half of the population of South Asia and Sub-
Saharan Africa lives in absolute poverty; only East
Asia has managed to substantially reduce the pro-
portion of its population that is absolutely poor
(Table 1).
Poverty in the developing world is not expected
to diminish much in the near future. The total num-
ber of poor people is projected to remain around 1.1
billion in 2000, but regional shifts in the distribu-
tion of total poverty are anticipated (Figure 2).
Sub-Saharan Africa will increasingly become a
new locus of poverty: the number of poor is ex-
pected to increase by 40 percent between 1990 and
2000, and the region's share of the developing
world's poor is expected to increase from 19 per-
cent to 27 percent over this period. In East Asia, the
number of poor is expected to continue to decline
substantially, so that their share of the region's total
population will be less than 5 percent by 2000.
Empirical information on the dimensions and
characteristics of poverty in environmentally

Figure 2-Number of people below the poverty
line in the developing world, 1990
and 2000




216 Middle East and North A:

Sub-Saharan Africa

East Ass

Source: World Bank, World Development Report 1992 (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1992).
Note: The poverty line is $370 annual income per capital in 1985
purchasing power parity dollars.

threatened or degraded areas is scarce. Leonard
(1989) estimates that of the 780 million identified
as the poorest of the poor in the developing world,'
60 percent-or 470 million-live in rural or urban
areas of high ecological vulnerability, that is, "areas
where ecological destruction or severe environ-
mental hazards threaten their well-being." Leonard
considers those rural areas judged to be of low
agricultural potential-"areas where limited soil
fertility, adverse climatic conditions, or other natu-
ral factors inhibit success of modern agricul-
ture"-to be areas of high ecological vulnerabil-

Table 1-Prevalence of poverty in the developing
world, 1990-2000

Population Below
the Poverty Linea
Region 1990 2000
South Asia 49.0 36.9
East Asia 11.3 4.2
Sub-Saharan Africa 47.8 49.7
Middle East and North Africa 33.1 30.6
Latin America and the Caribbean 25.5 24.9
All developing countries 29.7 24.1

Source: World Bank, World Development Report 1992 (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1992).
aThe poverty line is $370 annual income per capital in 1985 purchasing
power parity dollars.

ity.2 Following this classification, 370 million peo-
ple live in low-potential agricultural areas: 70 per-
cent in Asia, 20 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa, and
the remainder in Latin America (Table 2).3
A major consequence of poverty is hunger: in
the late 1980s, about 786 million people, 20 percent
of the developing world's population, did not have

Table 2-Distribution of the poorest of the poor
within low- and high-potential areas,

Rural Areas
Low- High- Urban
Region Potential Potential Areas
Asia 265 198 83
Sub-Saharan Africa 71 69 16
Latin America 35 12 31
All developing countries 370 277 131

Source: H. J. Leonard, "Overview-Environment and the Poor: De-
velopment Strategies for a Common Agenda," in Environ-
ment and the Poor: Development Strategiesfor a Common
Agenda, ed. H. J. Leonard and contributors (New Brunswick
and Oxford: Transaction Books, 1989).
Note: The poorest of the poor are defined as the poorest 20 percent
among the total population of all developing countries.

1Leonard defines this group as the poorest 20 percent of the population of developing countries.
2This is somewhat problematic, since areas of low agricultural potential are not always more vulnerable to erosion, desertification,
deforestation, and flooding than areas of high agricultural potential, which may also be vulnerable to erosion and flooding as well
as to waterlogging, salinization, and contamination of surface and groundwater by pesticides and fertilizers.
3Note that following this classification, about 180 million of the poorest of the poor live in areas of high agricultural potential: to
alleviate their poverty and prevent their migration into low-potential areas, their agricultural potential must be harnessed, but without
creating conditions for long-term environmental degradation.

access to enough food for healthy, productive lives,
and more than 180 million children under five
years of age were underweight (UN ACC/SCN
1992). While great progress has been achieved in
reducing the number of underfed people (Figure 3),
the number of underweight children has risen (Ta-
ble 3). Projections based on historical trends sug-
gest that the number of underweight children
worldwide will decline only marginally to 175 mil-
lion under optimistic scenarios and will increase to
over 200 million under pessimistic scenarios. In
Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of underweight
children is expected to increase regardless of the
scenario employed. In South Asia, too, the number
of underweight children is not expected to decline
significantly during the 1990s.
In sum, many hundreds of millions of people
worldwide live in abject poverty. While many of the
poor have crossed over the poverty line, an unac-
ceptably high number of people, as many as three-
quarters of a billion people, still go hungry. Their
numbers are not expected to decline significantly in

coming years unless
South Asia and Sub-
ervoirs of poverty,
successfully broken
the poor live in areas

Figure 3-Prevale




0 200

m Africa
0 Asia

Source: World Resources
ford, U.K.: Oxford

Table 3-Prevalence of underweight children
in the developing world, 1975-2000

Pessimistic Optimistic
Region 1975 1990 Scenario Scenario
Sub-Saharan Africa 19 28 38 30
Near East/North Africa 5 5 5 3
South Asia 91 101 110 100
Southeast Asia 24 20 17 15
China 21 24 30 24
Latin America 8 6 6 3

Source: UN ACC/SCN (United Nations Administrative Committee on
Coordination-Sub-Committee on Nutrition), Second Report
on the World Nutrition Situation, Vol. 1, Global and Re-
gional Results (Geneva: UN ACC/SCN, 1992).
Note: Underweight children are those children under five years of
age with weight below -2 standard deviations from the mean

Environmental Degradation

s a concerted effort is made. Almost 2 billion hectares of land worldwide have
Saharan Africa will remain res- been degraded in the past 45 years, equivalent to
vhile East Asia appears to have about 17 percent of vegetated soils (Table 4).
out of the poverty trap. Many of About 300 million hectares of this land have suf-
s vulnerable to degradation, fered strong-to-extreme degradation, so that their
original biotic functions are damaged and reclama-
tion may be costly if not impossible. Two-thirds of
nce of underfed people in the the world's degraded lands are found in Asia and
ing world, 1969-71 to 1988-90 Africa, but human-induced degradation as a pro-
portion of total agricultural land is most severe in
Central America and Mexico, where one-quarter of
9 i l the vegetated land is degraded.
941 million About 17 million hectares of forests (mainly
tropical) are cut down each year, of which 8 million
*% hectares are in Latin America4 (Figure 4). Two-
844 million thirds of the land clearance is for conversion to
agricultural use by farmers. Deforestation is most
rapid in Asia (1.2 percent per year), followed by
786 million Latin America (0.9 percent per year), and Africa
(0.8 percent per year). The annual rate of global
460 660 800 1,000 million deforestation has accelerated by almost 50 percent,
from 0.6 percent in 1976-80 to 0.9 percent in the
SLatin America 1980s. Deforestation can cause soil erosion many
f Middle East times higher than "natural" levels, siltation of
water bodies, and flooding downstream. Deforesta-
Institute, World Resources 1994-95 (Ox- tion leads to loss of forest products used directly by
University Press, 1994). the poor for nutrition or as a source of livelihoods.

4Forest regeneration is taking place in some regions, but consistent, comparable data are lacking.

Table 4-Extent of human-induced soil degradation since 1945
Degraded Areas' Share
Degraded Area of Vegetated Land
Moderate, Severe, Moderate, Severe,
Region and Extreme Light and Extreme Light
(million hectares) (percent)
Europe 158 61 16.7 6.4
Africa 321 174 14.4 7.8
Asia 453 295 12.0 7.8
Oceania 6 97 0.8 12.3
North America 79 17 4.4 0.9
Central America and Mexico 61 2 24.1 0.7
South America 139 105 8.0 6.0
World 1,215 749 10.5 6.5

Source: L. R. Oldeman, V. W. P. van Engelen, and J. H. M. Pulles, "The Extent of Human-Induced Soil Degradation," in World Map of the Status
ofHuman-InducedSoil Degradation: An Explanatory Note, ed. L. R. Oldeman, R. T. A. Hakkeling, and W. G. Sombroek (Wageningen,
The Netherlands: International Soil Reference and Information Centre, 1990).
Note: These results are from a three-year study sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme that asked more than 250 soil scientists
and regional coordinators for their estimates of human-induced soil degradation since World War II.

Overgrazing and deforestation are the cause of
almost two-thirds of the soil degradation world-
wide since 1945 (Table 5). Overexploitation for
fuelwood accounts for another 7 percent of de-
graded soils, while faulty agricultural practices are
responsible for 28 percent of soil degradation.
Overgrazing, deforestation, and overexploitation
for fuelwood result, to a large extent, from poverty

Figure 4-The extent of deforestation annually
in the developing world, 1981-90
Million Hectares

Latin America


Source: Forest Resources Assessment 1990 Project, Food and Agicul-
ture Organization of the United Nations "Second Interim
Report on the State of Tropical Forests," paper presented at
the Tenth World Forestry Congress, Paris, September 1991.

and lack of opportunities for agricultural intensifi-
cation. It would appear that, since 70 percent of soil
degradation worldwide is caused by these activi-
ties, there is a close relationship between poverty,
lack of agricultural intensification, and degrada-
tion. The practice of leaving land fallow for too
short a period to replace soil nutrients may also be
partly attributable to poverty.
There are great regional variations in the
causes of degradation. In Africa, overgrazing ex-
plains nearly half of the degraded soils, while faulty
agricultural practices account for about a quarter.
In Central America, faulty agricultural practices
are the cause of 45 percent of soil degradation,
while overgrazing is responsible for 15 percent.
Deforestation is the most important cause of degra-
dation in both Asia and South America, followed
by overgrazing and faulty agricultural practices.
Industrialization is a negligible cause of degrada-
tion in the developing world, unlike Europe where
it is the cause of 9 percent of the degradation.
Very little solid empirical information is avail-
able on the dimensions, causes, and location of
environmental degradation. It is essential that such
information be collected to enable informed debate
and decisionmaking.

Agricultural Intensification
Agricultural intensification is based on a combina-
tion of inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides,
plant-breeding technology to develop high-yielding
and pest- and disease-resistant varieties, irrigation
technology, and improved agricultural practices

Table 5-Causes of soil degradation since 1945

Over- Over- Agricultural Industrial-
Region Deforestation exploitation grazing Activities ization
Europe 38 ... 23 29 9
North America 4 ... 30 66
Africa 14 13 49 24
Central America 22 18 15 45
Oceania 12 ... 80 8
Asia 40 6 26 27
South America 41 5 28 26
World 30 7 35 28 1

Source: L. R. Oldeman, V. W. P. van Engelen, and J. H. M. Pulles, "The Extent of Human-Induced Soil Degradation," in World Map of the Status
ofHuman-Induced Soil Degradation: An Explanatory Note, ed. L. R. Oldeman, R. T. A. Hakkeling, and W. G. Sombroek (Wageningen,
The Netherlands: International Soil Reference and Information Centre, 1990).
Note: Numbers may not add to 100 due to rounding.

such as multiple cropping. The highly successful
Green Revolution was built on agricultural intensi-
fication, which dramatically raised crop yields and
production. For instance, yields of maize, rice, and
wheat have more than doubled in developing coun-
tries as a group since 1961 (Figure 5). Between
1961 and 1990, world cereal production doubled to

Figure 5-Maize, rice, and wheat yields in
developing countries, 1961-92
Metric Tons/


Source: FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Na-
tions), "FAO Agrostat-PC, Population, Production, and Food
Balance Sheets Domains," FAO, Rome, 1992 and 1993
(computer disks).

1.9 million tons. Ninety-two percent of the in-
creased production resulted from increased yields
and only 8 percent from area expansion (Figure 6).
Only in Sub-Saharan Africa has area expansion
contributed about as much as yield improvements
to cereal production.5 However, the option of area
expansion is rapidly disappearing, and even Africa
will have to rely on increased yields to expand food
Failure to maintain past levels of investment in
agricultural research, technology, and irrigation,
along with falling real agricultural prices and asso-
ciated decreases in the use of fertilizers, are con-
tributing to falling yield growth rates for the major
cereal crops of rice and wheat. The annual growth
rate of wheat yields in Asia declined from 6.2 per-
cent in the early 1960s to 2.7 percent in the 1980s
(Rosegrant and Svendsen 1993). In the case of rice
in Asia, the annual growth rate of yields has de-
clined from 2.9 percent in the mid- to late 1970s to
1.9 percent in the 1980s.
The three pillars of agricultural intensification
considered in this paper are irrigation, pesticides,
and fertilizers. Irrigated area expanded rapidly be-
ginning in the 1950s. Between 1961 and 1990, area
under irrigation increased by almost 100 million
hectares. The annual growth rate of irrigated area
exceeded 2 percent during the 1960s and 1970s
(Table 6). However, in recent years, investment in
irrigation projects has slowed, especially in Asia
(Rosegrant and Svendsen 1993), and, consequently,

5There are pockets of Sub-Saharan Africa that have experienced considerable increases in yields--the highland areas of eastern and
central Africa, for example. However, these regions are exceptions.

Figure 6-Contribution of increase in area and yields to growth in cereal production, 1961-90

1 Area M Yield


East Asia


IvNluulte ias
North Africa



Source: World Bank, World Development Report 1992 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

growth in irrigated area is slowing (Oram and Hojjati
1994). Today almost three-quarters of the world's
irrigated area is in developing countries, mainly the
Far East (FAO 1993c).

Region Area (1991)
(million hectares)

Latin America
Near East
Far East
Developing countries
Developed countries


Four countries-China, India, the United
States, and Pakistan-contain half of the world's
irrigated land. About 241 million hectares-17 per-
cent of the world's croplands-are irrigated (FAO
1993b), producing one-third of the world's food
and providing a livelihood to an estimated 1 billion
people, mainly in Asia. The share of cropland that
is irrigated is highest in Asia-33 percent (World
Resources Institute 1994). In contrast, only 6 per-
cent of Africa's croplands are irrigated. Irrigation
is the main source of food production for a number
of countries. Egypt, with virtually all of its crop-
land irrigated, is an extreme case of dependency on

irrigation, but 80 percent of Pakistan's cropland is
irrigated, 48 percent of China's, 36 percent of Indo-
nesia's, and 27 percent of India's (FAO 1993b).
More than US$20 billion of pesticides are con-
sumed each year, mainly in the United States and
Western Europe (Conway and Pretty 1991). Devel-
oping countries consume 20-25 percent of these pes-
ticides: the Asia-Pacific region is the largest con-
sumer, applying US$2.5 billion of pesticides each
year. Growth rates of pesticide consumption peaked
at 12 percent per year in the 1960s and have since

Table 6-Growth rate of irrigated area, 1961-90

Region 1961-71 1971-81 1981-90
Africa 1.81 3.96 2.22
Latin America 2.33 3.12 1.42
West Asia and North Africa 1.35 0.26 1.47
Far East 2.15 2.53 2.18
China 2.65 1.83 0.39
India 2.06 2.56 1.08
All developing countries 2.17 2.09 1.24
All developed countries 1.91 3.11 0.80
World 2.10 2.36 1.12

Source: P. A. Oram and B. Hojjati, "The Growth Potential of Existing
Agricultural Technology," paper presented at the Roundtable
Meeting on Population and Food in the Early 21st Century:
Meeting Future Food Needs of an Increasing World Popula-
tion, Washington, D.C., 14-16 February, 1994.

\\\0E _,"q

aouurn /sia

slowed to about 3-4 percent per year. In the devel-
oped countries and some developing countries, pes-
ticide consumption is leveling off and even decreas-
ing. However, in most developing countries,
pesticide use has multiplied in recent years with the
introduction of high-yielding varieties and the
spread of irrigation technology and fertilizer appli-
cation. In India, agricultural use of pesticides in-
creased from 2,000 tons to 72,000 tons, while food
production doubled between 1960 and 1985; in Co-
lombia, sales of pesticides have increased by 86
percent since 1980 (Pesticides Trust 1989). Pesticide
consumption increased by more than 10 percent in
Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines between
1980 and 1985 (World Bank 1992). Pesticide use is
concentrated on a few crops: globally, over 30 per-
cent of pesticides is applied to the three main crops
of maize, rice, and wheat, while another 20 percent
is applied to cotton and soybeans.
Worldwide, fertilizer consumption per hec-
tare quadrupled between 1961-63 and 1988-90,
rising from 26 to 98 kilograms (Table 7). Much of
the increased consumption was driven by devel-
oping countries; fertilizer consumption in the de-
veloping world increased by 14.6 percent per year
in the 1960s, 9.9 percent in the 1970s, and 5.8
percent in the 1980s (Rustagi and Desai 1993).
Developing countries as a group increased fertil-
izer consumption twelvefold between 1961-63
and 1988-90 from 7 to 82 kilograms per hectare.6
Their share of consumption of the world's fertil-
izers increased from 7 to 53 percent from the early
1950s to the early 1990s (Rustagi and Desai
1993). Fertilizers are undoubtedly one of the ma-
jor factors behind increased food production in
developing countries.

The Link between Poverty and
Environmental Degradation

The relationship between poverty and environ-
mental degradation is close and complicated, with
a built-in potential for escalation. It is driven first
by poverty itself, but also by loss of entitlement or

Table 7-Average fertilizer consumption per
hectare, 1961-63 and 1988-90

Fertilizer Consumption
Region 1961-63 1988-90
(kilograms ofNPK/hectare)
Africa (maize) 5.25 19.14
Africa (rice) 1.10 2.47
Central America (maize) 9.76 63.45
South America (rice) 13.16 94.29
South America (maize) 11.29 54.19
South Asia (rice) 8.18 73.28
West Asia, South Asia,
and North Africa 5.49 62.43
East Asia (rice) 8.59 77.78
China 9.41 268.71
India 2.75 69.47
All developing countries 6.51 82.14
All developed countries 44.80 116.19
World 25.65 98.08

Source: P. A. Oram and B. Hojjati, "The Growth Potential of Existing
Agricultural Technology," paper presented at the Roundtable
Meeting on Population and Food in the Early 21st Century:
Meeting Future Food Needs of an Increasing World Popula-
tion, Washington, D.C., 14-16 February, 1994.
Note: NPK is nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium.

by loss of capacity of the poor to sustainably sup-
port themselves. Poor people often lack sufficient
incomes or access to credit to purchase appropriate
tools and materials, inputs such as fertilizer, and
intensive technologies in order to practice environ-
mentally sustainable techniques, to protect natural
resources against degradation, or to rehabilitate de-
graded resources. In many instances they do not
own the resources or do not reap the benefits of
conservation practices and thus have few or no
incentives to conserve soil, harbor groundwater, or
preserve trees.
The existence of externalities, that is, situ-
ations where costs and benefits of a particular be-
havior or action are not borne by the same person
or persons, is a major reason why poverty results in
environmental damage. Property rights are particu-
larly prone to externalities. There are four major
types of property rights to land, water, and forests:
open access, communal property, private property,
and state property. Resources with open access are

6However, there is a wide range in fertilizer consumption among the developing regions. For example, in Africa fertilizer
application to rice is less than 3 kilograms per hectare compared with 138 kilograms in Central America, 94 kilograms in South
America, 73 kilograms in South Asia, and 78 kilograms in East Asia (Oram and Hojjati 1994).

particularly prone to exploitation because exploit-
ers may benefit without paying the costs associated
with reduced future productive capacity. Indige-
nous institutions for managing common property
resources are breaking down, partly through mis-
guided efforts by governments and international
institutions to privatize common property without a
thorough understanding of these common property
rights. It is difficult to privatize property rights
where people depend on key spatially concentrated
resources, such as waterholes, or when it could lead
to "parcelization" of resources. So, while private
land ownership may be most effective in achieving
food security, income, and sustainability goals in
many cases, it should not be assumed that it is
always superior to common ownership. Another
misconception is that state ownership of natural
resources assures their appropriate use. Some of the
worst cases of environmental degradation have re-
sulted from inappropriate use of natural resources
owned and controlled by the state.
Poverty may force people to use available re-
sources to the limit and beyond. When survival is at
stake, it may be perfectly rational to consume capi-
tal, that is, future productive capacity. Extreme
hunger leads to desperate strategies for survival,
and attempts to survive or meet basic needs take
precedence in the short run over longer-term sus-
tainability. Poor people are quite dependent on the
natural resource base for their day-to-day needs
such as food, fuelwood, and water and often for
income generation as well; therefore, they do not
enter lightly into activities that lead to degradation
of natural resources. It is only when they have
exhausted their arsenal of coping strategies and
mechanisms, often at the cost of their own health,
that they are left with no option but to tamper with
their resource base. At that point, conservation of
natural resources for future generations takes on a
lesser importance, particularly when the poor can-
not assure that their children will in fact benefit
from such conservation.
The poor tend to lose their capacity to sustain-
ably support themselves when their access to re-
sources is diminished or available resources are
reduced. Poor people may lose traditional access to
resources if they are displaced by population pres-

sure that reduces their access to land; by misappro-
priation of common resources by other claimants;
and by activities such as construction of dams,
establishment of plantation forests, and creation of
wildlife preserves that take land out of use by the
poor. In response, the poor may be forced to mi-
grate to marginal lands.7 They may move higher
and higher up hillsides, cultivating steep slopes, or
into drylands. They may cut down forests for agri-
cultural land and fuelwood. These actions can lead
to soil degradation, loss of soil nutrients, flooding,
sinking of groundwater levels, siltation of rivers
and lakes, and other ecological problems, thus initi-
ating a vicious spiral of environmental degradation
and poverty.
Population growth is a key catalyst of poverty-
led environmental degradation, especially in mar-
ginal lands. Rapid population growth diminishes
farm sizes and ultimately pushes people off the
land to search for land and employment opportuni-
ties elsewhere. Landlessness is a growing problem
in developing countries: an estimated 13 percent of
rural households in developing countries are land-
less and 60 percent are near-landless, that is, they
have too little land for subsistence (Leonard 1989).
An estimated 1 billion people live in households
with not enough land to meet their minimum food
and fuel needs (FAO 1987). As people move into
marginal areas in ever-increasing numbers, they
displace indigenous inhabitants of these areas who
may have developed sustainable resource-use tech-
niques. In Kenya, for instance, increasing popula-
tion pressure in the highly fertile highlands has
forced people to move into drier areas to settle near
dependable water sources and to farm land that is
more suited for pastoralism. Pastoralists in turn
have been displaced and forced to compete for land
and water, which has led to overuse and degrada-
tion of resources (Kates and Haarmann 1991).
Expansion of cultivation onto hillsides is esti-
mated to have seriously eroded about 160 million
hectares of upland watersheds, including the high-
lands of Ethiopia, the uplands of the Andean re-
gion, the upper Himalayan watersheds, and the cen-
tral highlands of much of Central America (World
Food Council 1988). About 500 million people are
estimated to be living in these severely degraded

7Marginal lands are lands not suited for continuous tillage or for economic use of inputs such as chemical fertilizers, pesticides,
tools, and machinery (Scherr and Hazell 1993).

hillside areas at risk of soil erosion because of lost
vegetative cover. Approximately 200 million peo-
ple who depend on agriculture-related activities are
believed to live in the world's tropical forests (In-
ternational Task Force on Forestry Research 1988).
Over 850 million people live in dry areas where
productivity is declining because of desertifica-
tion-230 million of these people are occupying
desertified lands (UNEP 1984).
Wars, social strife, and natural disasters such
as droughts force populations to become more mo-
bile. Consequently, the risk of environmental dam-
age increases, partly from the movement itself of
people on already fragile land and partly from the
choice of the final destination of the migrants, usu-
ally marginal lands that are not heavily settled (pre-
cisely because they are marginal). As populations
concentrate in areas not yet degraded, they invari-
ably speed up the degradation process. Large-scale
migration both within and between countries may
not only cause environmental degradation, it may
also result from it. Environmental refugees8 are
said to number as many as 10 million: a large share
are found in Africa (Jacobson 1993).
In several countries, for example, Brazil and
Indonesia, governments have attempted to relieve
population pressures by relocating people into for-
est areas or into "empty" lands. Land settlement
schemes in the Amazon forest area were particu-
larly popular until recently. One program alone, the
Polonoroeste program of regional development in
the Brazilian states of Rondonia and Mato Grosso,
led to such large-scale migration that the popula-
tion of Rondonia increased from 110,000 in 1970
to 1.5 million in 1988 (Browder 1989). The envi-
ronmental impacts of such population increases on
land are all too obvious.
Clearance of forests for agricultural purposes
is responsible for up to two-thirds of the tropical
deforestation taking place today. Unless the
cleared land is appropriately farmed, the benefits
of forest clearance are few and short-lived. Studies
show that a third to a half of the tropical forests
cleared for agricultural purposes experience de-
clines in fertility of more than 50 percent within
the first three years because soils are shallow and
subject to hardening and to leaching of nutrients

(UNEP n.d.). As soil fertility declines rapidly with
annual cropping, settlers often abandon their lands
and move further into forests, continuing the cycle
of deforestation and degradation. The conse-
quences of these actions are most evident in the
degraded lands now lying bare, stripped of nutri-
ents and unworthy of productive use. Many farm-
ers change over to perennial tree crops or cattle
production, but cattle production, as currently
practiced, has been found to be ecologically un-
sound in the Amazon region because of soil compac-
tion by grazing animals (Vosti and Loker 1990).
Moreover, evidence from the Peruvian Amazon
shows that reestablishment of forest cover in aban-
doned pastures takes longer than in slash-and-burn
plots (Vosti and Loker 1990).
The poorest often suffer most from the conse-
quences of environmental degradation because of
their immediate dependence on the natural re-
source base for their basic necessities (food, en-
ergy, water, and housing). Much of the income of
the rural poor is derived from natural resources and
environment-dependent agricultural activities. Sur-
veys from 13 developing countries show that the
rural poor depend on agriculture for 40-85 percent
of their income (von Braun and Pandya-Lorch
1991). Women in particular tend to suffer from
environmental degradation. In many parts of the
world, they are the main producers of food and
gatherers of fuelwood and water, activities that are
made much more difficult and time consuming by
degradation. In Nepal, the time required for collec-
tion of forest products increased by 45 percent in
areas of high deforestation as women had to travel
further afield (Kumar and Hotchkiss 1988). Conse-
quently, women's farm labor decreased by 50 per-
cent. Time spent in cooking and the amount of
fuelwood consumed also declined. These effects,
combined with reduced agricultural incomes, had
adverse effects on children's nutrition.
Fuelwood shortages are a significant conse-
quence of environmental degradation. There are
indicators that about 100 million people in rural
areas and 150 million in urban areas suffered from
acute shortages of fuelwood in the early 1980s due
to forest destruction, and it is estimated that by the
year 2000, 3 billion people will face an acute short-

8Environmental refugees are persons forced to abandon their homes or homelands as a result of human-induced environmental
conditions that threaten their livelihoods (Jacobson 1993).

age of fuelwood (FAO 1983). Fuelwood shortages
imply that more time will be needed to gather fuel-
wood, reducing time available for other activities
such as agricultural production. There will be
greater incursions into areas not yet exploited, such
as very steep hillsides, which would leave these
areas vulnerable to soil erosion and mudslides. And
there will be substitution of animal dung for fuel-
wood, which will rob the soil of potential nutrients,
further escalating degradation and poverty.
Poverty need not lead to environmental degra-
dation. It is the combination of poverty, popula-
tion increases, land constraints, and lack of appro-
priate production technology that results in
environmental degradation. Where population
pressures on the land base are not strong, poverty
may be compatible with appropriate natural re-
source management. There are plenty of examples
where poor people have adapted to and coexist
harmoniously with marginal environments. How-
ever, such examples are rapidly dwindling as
population pressures strain against the boundaries
of fragile lands. In fact, poverty is increasingly
becoming entrenched in marginal areas, and it is
acquiring gender-specificity as more poor house-
holds are headed by women, often because men
migrate to high-potential or urban areas in search
of employment.
If we are to prevent the children of the poor
from perpetuating the poverty-environmental deg-
radation cycle, we must confront poverty. The poor
are the stewards of much of the world's natural
resources, especially the fragile natural resources.
They are going to do their best to survive, even if it
means having to degrade their resource base and
compromise their future ability to survive. Policies
to prevent further degradation and to promote sus-
tainability must recognize this overriding goal and
the behavioral responses it generates, or they are
doomed to fail. The poor who erode the natural
resource base are not so much culprits as victims.
They must not be blamed or punished; their envi-
ronmentally degrading actions are the result of
their poverty, from which they are trying to escape.
To effectively manage natural resources and pre-
vent degradation, we must help the poor to over-
come their poverty-induced behavior rather than
deny them access to resources or bring to bear
punitive measures or regulations to control their
access to resources. These punitive measures may
be a panacea in the very short term but they do not
solve or address the underlying conditions that pro-
mote degradation.

The Link between
Agricultural Intensification
and Environmental

Agricultural intensification, if managed properly,
need not degrade the environment. In fact, compo-
nents of agricultural intensification such as fertil-
izer have an important role to play in conserving
the soil by replenishing nutrients and improving
soil fertility. Alternative technologies and farming
practices already exist that involve appropriate
crop rotations, mixed farming systems with crops
and livestock, agroforestry, biological pest control,
disease- and pest-resistant varieties, balanced ap-
plication and correct timing and placement of fer-
tilizer, and minimum or zero tillage. Yet, agricul-
tural intensification has in some cases disturbed the
ecological balance and led to waterlogging and
salinization of irrigated lands, pollution and con-
tamination of water and soils, sinking of groundwa-
ter levels, extinction of species, resurgence of
pests, increasing shortages of water, and destruc-
tion of wildlife and habitat. Mismanagement of the
intensification process and reliance on inappropri-
ate techniques and technology for intensification
are the major sources of degradation. For example,
while fertilizer use can replace soil nutrients and
inhibit environmental degradation, excessive use or
inappropriate application of fertilizers can result in
water contamination. Similarly, while expanded ir-
rigation has played an essential role in meeting
food demand during the last 30 years, excessive
water use has resulted in widespread waterlogging
and salinization.
So why would farmers sometimes mismanage
fertilizers and pesticides and overuse water in
ways that may be harmful to their own health and
to the environment? The primary reasons include
market and policy failures such as inappropriate
pricing and subsidies that distort costs to farmers
and consumers, externalities, lack of knowledge of
the hazards involved with some inputs, and lack of
knowledge of alternative techniques. Later in this
paper we will offer suggestions on how to mini-
mize or prevent adverse effects on the environ-
ment of agricultural intensification technologies
and inputs, but first we will review the linkage to
environmental degradation of three major compo-
nents of the intensification process: irrigation, pes-
ticides, and fertilizers.


Poor management of irrigation has led to consider-
able degradation of this resource base. About 20-30
million hectares (or 10 percent of all irrigated land)
suffer from severe salinity, which, if not treated, can
ultimately destroy the land, while another 60-80 mil-
lion hectares experience some waterlogging and sa-
linity problems (FAO 1993c). In India, 7 million
hectares of land have been abandoned because of
excess salts, and productivity is reduced on another
20 million hectares due to salts; in Egypt, half of the
irrigated area suffers from salinity problems; and in
Mexico more than 50,000 hectares have been aban-
doned due to salinity (Yudelman 1989). The salinity
problem is growing: possibly as many as 1-1.5 mil-
lion hectares each year are lost to salinization,
equivalent to about half of the new land brought into
irrigation (Postel 1992).
Pakistan, for instance, has the world's largest con-
tiguous surface distribution system, consisting of the
Indus River and its tributaries, 3 large storage reser-
voirs, 19 barrages, and about 60,000 kilometers of
canals and 162,000 kilometers of watercourses
(Yudelman 1993). The introduction of perennial canal
irrigation has made water constantly available
throughout the year, more than can be handled by
evapotranspiration, leading to a rise of the water table.
Lack of proper flushing of soils and poor drainage
have led to an estimated 3.5 million hectares (about 25
percent of irrigated lands) being affected by waterlog-
ging and salinity (of which 8 percent is seriously
affected). Another 8 million hectares are vulnerable to
waterlogging because the water table is within 10 feet
of the surface (Khan 1991).
The detrimental effects on crop productivity
and profitability of waterlogging and salt buildup
can be devastating. In the Sharda Sahayak irriga-
tion project in India, yields of paddy fell 51 percent
and wheat 56 percent on salt-affected land, while
net incomes from high-yielding varieties of paddy
fell 54 percent on waterlogged soils and 87 percent
on salt-affected soils, and net incomes from wheat
fell 92 percent (Joshi and Jha 1991).9 Waterlogging
and salinity have led to 30 percent declines in
yields of major crops in Egypt and Pakistan
(Barghouti and Le Moigne 1991), while in Mexico

salinization removes about 1 million tons a year
from the grain harvest (Yudelman 1989).
Most of the problems arising from irrigation
have technical or management solutions. Waterlog-
ging and salinization can be prevented or minimized
by reducing overwatering and seepage from canals,
improving drainage to lower the high water table,
and adopting improved and appropriate water man-
agement practices, including use of tubewells. Yet,
in many irrigated areas, little effort is made to line
canals, engage in canal improvements, provide
drainage, and improve the efficiency of water use.
Even where efforts are made to provide drainage,
structures are not maintained properly. According to
one estimate, about 40-55 percent of irrigation water
in Pakistan is lost in the canal system and water-
courses due to seepage and evaporation before it
reaches the farmers' fields; once in the fields, more
may be lost depending on the method of irrigation
and the extent of land leveling (Afzal 1993).
Besides environmental consequences, the
spread of irrigation technology has had important
health and social consequences. The increased
prevalence of malaria and schistosomiasis in many
irrigated areas has been noted for some time (WHO
1980; WHO 1983). Near a large irrigation project
in Turkey, malaria cases increased dramatically be-
cause of poor drainage combined with substantial
migration of agricultural labor from malaria-en-
demic areas (Gratz 1987). In the Gezira project in
Sudan, the proportion of the population at risk of
bilharzia jumped from 5-10 percent before the irri-
gation project was developed to more than 80 per-
cent after the scheme was completed (Olivares
1990). Poor water control and drainage in irrigation
projects, combined with insufficient public health
measures, are responsible for much of the spread of
diseases in irrigation projects.
Irrigation projects displace people, voluntarily
or involuntarily, in areas where dams are being
constructed. Many of these people are forced to
migrate out of these areas and seek a living else-
where. Often they move into marginal areas, initi-
ating the cycle of degradation and desperation dis-
cussed earlier.
Well-managed irrigation systems have the po-
tential to produce more food than nonirrigated ar-

9Within 10 years of the inception of the canal network in this area, 34 percent of the sample farm area was salt-affected and 18
percent was waterlogged, even though these problems had not been experienced before. Farmers responded by decreasing land-use
intensity on degraded lands and in extreme cases withdrawing from cultivating degraded lands.

eas. Irrigation will remain an important part of the
food production equation in the future, and efforts
must be made to address the technological and
management problems that lead to waterlogging
and salinity. Maintenance is a key element of effi-
cient irrigation projects: funds must be allocated
and system users and operators must be given in-
centives, monetary and social, for maintenance. Ef-
ficiency of conveyance and timeliness of water de-
liveries to farmers must be improved, as must the
use of water by farmers. Other problems can be
handled by changes in policies, approaches, and
incentives for dealing with water-related issues.

Where biological or integrated pest management
(IPM) practices have not yet become a major fac-
tor, pesticide use is increasing in response to
greater needs associated with double-cropping and
shifts from mixed to monoculture cultivation. Dur-
ing the last 30 years, agricultural research has been
very successful in developing improved crop varie-
ties that are tolerant or resistant to pests. Such
resistance, whether alone or as a component of
IPM, has reduced the need for chemical pesticides.
This is reflected in recent recommendations and
technology packages made available to farmers.
During the early phases of the Green Revolution,
farmers were often encouraged to use excessive
pesticides as an insurance against pests. Many gov-
ernments promoted pesticide use by subsidizing,
explicitly or implicitly, pesticide prices:10 in the
early 1980s, pesticide subsidies as a proportion of
full retail costs were as high as 67 percent in
Ghana, 82 percent in Indonesia, 83 percent in
Egypt, and 89 percent in Senegal, costing these
governments up to several hundred million dollars
a year (Repetto 1985).
In Indonesia, price subsidies for pesticides
were very large until 1986 when a gradual phasing-
out was begun. By 1989, all subsidies had been
removed. The fiscal savings were over $100 mil-
lion per year. In response to the elimination of the
subsidies and accelerated access to IPM ap-
proaches, including host-plant resistance to some
pests and biological pest control, Indonesian farm-
ers reduced the use of chemical pesticides by 60

percent. Simultaneously with the beginning of the
removal of subsidies in 1986, the government
banned 57 highly toxic insecticides. The result was
virtual disappearance of the brown planthopper, a
very serious pest that had flourished because pesti-
cides had controlled its natural enemies (Pesticides
Trust 1989; Ruchijat and Sukmaraganda 1992).
Rice yields increased from 6.1 to 7.4 tons per hec-
tare in 1986 and a further 15 percent yield increase
has been recorded since 1986. It appears that a
large share of these yield increases are a result of
the change from almost total reliance on chemical
pesticides to an IPM strategy. The Indonesian ex-
perience implies great promise for other countries
wishing to move toward IPM.
Properly used pesticides have contributed to in-
creased yields and agricultural production and to
reduced labor costs. However, it is increasingly evi-
dent that improper pesticide use is common across
much of the world. Metcalf(1987) suggests that for
most insect pests, only small amounts of insecticides
are required, and that, in fact, a large share of the
insecticides applied is essentially wasted-that is, it
does not reach the target organism.
Inappropriate or excessive pesticide use has sig-
nificant environmental and social consequences. Ex-
cessive use of broad-spectrum or nonselective pesti-
cides damages ecosystems, sometimes irreversibly,
by exterminating target and nontarget species; leads
to pest resistance, pest resurgence, and development
of secondary pests; contaminates soils and surface
and groundwater as well as the food chain; and com-
promises the health and well-being of people.
Repeated application of broad-spectrum pesti-
cides has led to buildup of resistance in target species.
Due to long-term and nonselective use of pesti-
cides, over 1,600 insect species have developed
significant resistance to pesticides (FAO 1989),
over 100 weeds have developed resistance to herbi-
cides, and about 150 plant pathogens are exhibiting
resistance to fungicides (Hansen 1987; Weber 1992).
A number of common pests have developed almost
complete cross- and multiple resistance to the prin-
cipal classes of insecticides to the point that they
are "virtually uncontrollable by conventional in-
secticides" (Metcalf 1987). Pests whose populations
had initially been controlled by pesticide applica-
tions are rebounding to excessive levels as their

10Mechanisms such as access to foreign exchange on favorable terms, tax exemptions or reduced rates, easy credit, and sales below
cost were used to promote pesticide use (Repetto 1985).

natural enemies are destroyed and as their resis-
tance to pesticides makes them increasingly im-
mune to further applications of pesticides. In Indo-
nesia, the debilitating outbreaks of brown
planthoppers in the early 1980s are considered an
outcome of heavy and repeated insecticide spray-
ing of rice, which destroyed the planthoppers'
natural enemies. In fact, it has been suggested that
nearly every outbreak of brown planthoppers in the
tropics is associated with prior use of insecticides
(Kenmore 1980).
Besides the resurgence of known pests, secon-
dary pests are emerging from nontarget species not
originally pests but whose natural enemies are un-
wittingly destroyed by repeated applications of
pesticides to control other target species. For exam-
ple, in the United States, pesticide treatment for the
cotton boll weevil and the pink bollworm destroyed
the natural enemies of the Heliothis budworm,
which then caused as much if not more damage
than the original pests; efforts to control this secon-
dary pest led to insecticide treatments that cost
about half of the crop value (Metcalf 1987). In
Mexico, emergence of these budworms decimated
the cotton industry-acreage under cotton fell
from 300,000 hectares to 500 hectares during the
1960s, throwing cotton workers out of work and
forcing their migration (Hansen 1987).
Widespread and indiscriminate application of
pesticides contaminates soils and pollutes water, as
is evident in the United States, Western Europe,
and Japan, where a number of pesticides have been
detected in wells, herbicides have been found in
drinking water derived from surface water and
aquifers, and pesticides have been noticed in rain-
fall and fog (Conway and Pretty 1991). Pesticide
contamination of water takes place mainly through
runoff and leaching into groundwater. Aquatic life,
flora and fauna, is often harmed by pesticide resi-
dues. Pesticides can also destroy soil organisms.
While some pesticides break down easily in the
soil, others take decades to degrade. Pesticides
such as DDT have been found to persist in soils for
as long as four decades when they are mixed well
with the soil. Unfortunately, clear empirical infor-
mation on the extent of pesticide contamination of
the environment is lacking in developing countries.
Pesticide poisoning is a serious problem in de-
veloping countries: rates of pesticide poisoning are
more than 20 per 100,000 persons compared with
4-6 in the United Kingdom and about 18 in the
United States (Conway and Pretty 1991). Studies in
Malaysia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka in the early

1980s suggested that 12-15 percent of pesticide
users have been poisoned at least once in their
careers (Jeyaratnam, Lun, and Phoon 1987). One
indicator of the gravity of pesticide poisoning is
that in Sri Lanka the number of deaths from pesti-
cide poisoning-about 1,000-was almost twice
the number of deaths from five major diseases,
including malaria (Jeyaratnam 1990).
Improper pesticide use impairs farmers' health,
which, in turn, impairs farm household productiv-
ity. Exposure to pesticides, especially when pro-
longed, can lead to cardiopulmonary disorders,
neurological and hematological symptoms, and
skin diseases (Rola and Pingali 1993). Effects of
pesticide exposure can be passed on to infants
through poisoned breast milk: in cotton-growing
regions of Nicaragua, breast milk samples from
women contained some of the highest levels of
DDT ever measured in human beings (World Bank
1992). The effects of pesticides are not restricted to
human beings. Wildlife is also affected.
Unsafe techniques for transport, storage, appli-
cation, and disposal of pesticides is the major cause
of unintentional pesticide poisoning. Farmers' ig-
norance of the hazards involved in misuse of pesti-
cides, aerial spraying and wide-coverage methods
of applying pesticides, lack of protective clothing
and materials such as masks and gloves, impracti-
cality of available protective equipment in the heat
and humidity of the tropics, poor labeling of pesti-
cide containers, lack of information on the proper
use of pesticides, improper sanitation practices that
help spread pesticide poisoning to family members,
and even recycling of pesticide containers for use
within the house are some of the reasons pesticide
poisoning is so widespread. Horror stories abound
of how people have unknov ingly consumed poi-
soned seeds i.nd drunk pesticides under the impres-
sion that they were beverages. Efforts by pesticide
producers and distributors to reduce the risks asso-
ciated with pesticide use through better informa-
tion and improved packaging and handling have
been at best somewhat successful.
Integrated pest management (IPM) is consid-
ered the environmentally sound alternative to ex-
clusive reliance on pesticides for pest control. It is
a careful integration of a number of available pest
control techniques, and while it emphasizes non-
chemical controls such as host-plant resistance and
biological and cultural controls, it does utilize
chemical control when that is the best alternative
(NRI 1992). IPM has many important economic,
social, and environmental benefits, and it is being

successfully implemented for rice in Southeast
Asia, among other successes. There is considerable
scope for extending IPM strategies to other crops
and other regions.
Preliminary results from ongoing research in
several international agricultural research centers
sponsored by the Consultative Group on Interna-
tional Agricultural Research (CGIAR) are indeed
promising for enhancing the effectiveness of IPM.
Host-plant resistance or tolerance in many of the
crops of greatest importance for future food security
in the developing countries, improved biological
control measures, and use of selected nontoxic bio-
logical materials for spraying, such as liquefied
virus-infected hornworms for protection of cassava,
are examples of such promising research results.
As alternative pest control methods are tested
and made available to farmers, the reliance on
chemical pesticides can be reduced. However, at-
tempts to reduce pesticide use before appropriate
alternatives are accessible to farmers at reasonable
prices may result in large decreases in food produc-
tion and should be avoided.

Some application of fertilizer is necessary to replace
nutrients that are removed by crops and to stimulate
agricultural production. While organic manures can
play an important role, in many developing countries
a shortage of animal wastes and crop residues makes
chemical fertilizers necessary to support intensive
agriculture. Fertilizers can be used to correct envi-
ronmental damage resulting from soil erosion by
enabling a plant cover to be established. Fertilizers
also help protect soil organic matter.
Excessive fertilizer use can pollute groundwa-
ter through leaching of nutrients, mainly nitrates,
which are ordinarily not harmful to humans but in
sufficiently high quantities can be reduced to nitrite
which is harmful. Nitrate leaching is also a factor
of imbalance in fertilizer composition, wrong tim-
ing of application, and improper application meth-
ods-all of which can be easily corrected. Pollu-
tion of surface water mainly takes place through
eutrophication, which is the accumulation of nutri-
ents, primarily through soil erosion. Not all fertiliz-
ers have negative effects on the environment; po-
tassium, one of the three major nutrients supplied

through fertilizers, has no known adverse environ-
mental effects (Rustagi and Desai 1993). Balanced
application of nutrients provides maximum bene-
fits with minimum environmental consequences.
In some regions of the developing world, notably
areas in Asia with highly intensified rice and wheat
production, excessive fertilizer use poses serious
environmental risks. While these risks should be
dealt with effectively, it is important that they not
be confused with the situation on most developing-
country farms where the problem is insufficient
rather than excessive fertilizer use. A recent review
of fertilizers and environmental concerns con-
cluded that "In the developing countries, the prin-
cipal cause of environmental effects is unscientific
fertilizer practices and not excessively high rates of
application" (Rustagi and Desai 1993). Training for
farmers on appropriate application and combina-
tion of fertilizers would address this problem.
Fertilizer subsidies have been extensively used
to promote application of fertilizers by farmers. In
some places, they have achieved their objectives
and should be withdrawn. In Sub-Saharan Africa,
where application of fertilizers by small-scale
farmers is minuscule (largely because high trans-
portation costs translate to very high fertilizer
prices), subsidies may play a role in the short run
while efforts are made to bring down the unsubsi-
dized price of fertilizers to farmers."

Policies to Encourage Sustainable
Agricultural Development and to
Alleviate Poverty

In pursuing efforts to assure production of suffi-
cient food for future generations, to alleviate pov-
erty and hunger, and to protect natural resources,
policymakers are confronted with the fundamental
question of whether to focus their attention on
high-potential areas or low-potential vulnerable ar-
eas. Since the maximization of food production is
not the only goal, it is not intuitively obvious that
the focus should be on high-potential areas. A large
proportion of the world's poor live in low-potential
areas, and the risk of negative environmental ef-
fects of their survival strategies in the absence of
external support is high. Furthermore, many high-

11African farmers pay about double the price for fertilizer compared with Asian farmers (Pinstrup-Andersen 1993).

potential areas are now degraded or suffer from
environmental stress. There is also some doubt
whether high-potential areas have the capacity to
meet future food needs in a sustainable manner
(Scherr and Hazell 1993). Low-potential areas will
have to play their part in food provision. To
achieve the overriding goal of development-alle-
viation of poverty in an environmentally sustain-
able manner-policy will have to focus on where
poverty is, which, to a large extent, is in low-poten-
tial vulnerable areas.
Some argue that the best policy to pursue in low-
potential vulnerable areas is to relieve population
pressures by encouraging massive outmigration, as-
suming of course, that there is somewhere for these
people to migrate to without endangering the natural
resource base in those destination areas. Accelerating
the rapid increase in urban poverty in many countries
is not an acceptable solution to rural problems.
Others argue that everything possible should
be done to make low-potential, vulnerable areas
environmentally sustainable, because continuing to
neglect these areas will only make degradation
worse and perpetuate poverty. Experience from
Kenya shows that the Machakos District, which
was heavily degraded a few decades ago, has been
rehabilitated despite a fivefold increase in the
population, and it has even experienced a threefold
increase in per capital agricultural output (Mortimer
and Tiffen 1993). The "secret" of the transforma-
tion of the degraded area into a productive area was
agricultural intensification, encouraged by local
land-use innovations, infrastructural development,
institutional development, access to a high-income
market, and access to off-farm income that could
then be reinvested in land. Rehabilitation of re-
sources was triggered when degradation reached an
economically important level and the benefits from
resource rehabilitation began to exceed the costs.
While the Machakos experience is not generalizable
to all areas with degraded natural resources, it is
nevertheless an encouraging illustration of what
can be done under the right circumstances.
There is growing evidence that agricultural in-
tensification in fragile lands is possible and that
there is a capacity for rehabilitation of degraded
natural resources despite population growth
(Scherr and Hazell 1993). The key factors promot-
ing intensification include economic growth out-
side the region, which enables households in frag-
ile lands to earn off-farm incomes that can then be
reinvested into the land, local farmers' groups to
mobilize capital and labor for farm investment and

rehabilitation, income diversification, evolution of
property rights, and infrastructure investment to
extend economic linkages (Scherr and Hazell
1993). Strategies different from those employed in
high-potential areas may be required, such as more
diverse cropping systems instead of intensive
monoculture of annual crops, better integration of
livestock and green manures into farming systems,
and generation of reliable nonfarm sources of in-
come (Scherr and Hazell 1993).
While more attention must be paid to areas with
fragile ecosystems and large numbers of poor people,
further improvements must be pursued in agricultural
productivity of high-potential areas to expand food
production at reduced unit costs to meet the needs of
the rapidly increasing urban populations.
High-potential areas that have been degraded,
such as waterlogged and salinated areas, must be
rehabilitated and their productivity restored to the
extent feasible, physically and economically, if
they are to contribute fully to enhanced food pro-
duction in the future. Their rehabilitation may in-
volve further agricultural intensification.
In the remainder of this section, some of the
most important policies required to simultaneously
facilitate sustainable agricultural development, alle-
viate poverty, and protect the natural resource base
are highlighted. Of course, the weights placed on
individual policies will depend on circumstances
and conditions in specific countries and areas.

Investment in Agricultural Research
and Technology
Agricultural research and resulting technologies are
essential; they can serve dual objectives of increas-
ing food production and protecting the environment.
There does not have to be a trade-off between meet-
ing future food demands and maintaining the natural
resource base. Yield-enhancing technology is the
key to sustainable agricultural production. Agricul-
tural research has already successfully developed
yield-enhancing technology for many crops, includ-
ing the primary staples of rice, wheat, and maize.
Although research must continue on these vital
crops, it must also be intensified on regionally im-
portant crops, such as roots and tubers, which form a
large part of the diet of Sub-Saharan Africans. Re-
search can also build tolerance or resistance to ad-
verse production factors such as pests and droughts
and develop new varieties and hybrids better suited
to various ecological settings, thereby reducing the
risks and uncertainties faced by farmers. Higher

yields on less fragile lands can reduce pressures on
fragile lands. Research can also develop production
technologies and techniques for fragile lands, envi-
ronmentally threatened areas, or degraded areas that
would encourage sustainable agricultural develop-
ment for inhabitants of these areas. For example,
research has an important role to play in suggesting
and developing crop varieties for saline and water-
logged areas. Research is needed to facilitate transi-
tions to more sustainable agriculture. In sum, accel-
erated investment in agricultural research and
technological improvements is not only necessary
and urgent, it is the only viable option to assure
sufficient food to meet future food needs and de-
mands at reasonable prices without irreversible deg-
radation of the natural resource base.

Access to Modern Inputs
and Technology
While essential, research is not sufficient. Farmers
frequently lack access to technology resulting from
research and to modern inputs and knowledge. Ear-
lier it was noted that many small-scale farmers
were forced into degrading practices because they
did not know better or because they could not do
better, lacking resources as they did. Timely, rea-
sonably priced access by farmers to modern inputs
such as improved plant varieties, fertilizers, pest
control measures, tools, and water must be facili-
tated through improved rural infrastructure and in-
stitutions and through access to credit and technical
assistance. The knowledge base of farmers may
need to be extended through education and better
and more timely transfer of information. Indige-
nous practices for resource conservation could
benefit from research insights. Improved farm
management practices must be communicated to
farmers, male and female. Females, whether farm-
ers or not, have not been fully integrated into the
sustainable agricultural development process. Ne-
glecting them only makes it more difficult to break
the poverty-population-degradation links, because
in many instances it is they who are forced into
degradation practices and they who bear the brunt
of the consequences of degradation.

Removal of Market and
Policy Distortions
Distortions in input and output markets, asset
ownership, and other institutional and market dis-
tortions adverse to the poor must be minimized or

removed. In particular, water management poli-
cies, including appropriate allocation mecha-
nisms, are urgently needed to avoid inappropriate
water allocation including excessive use or mis-
use. Existing subsidies for inputs such as fertiliz-
ers and pesticides should also be reviewed for
their fiscal costs and their effects on production,
resource allocation, and the environment. When
withdrawing general subsidies, attention must be
paid to finding means to replace favorable social
effects of subsidies.
Access by the poor to productive resources
such as land and capital needs to be enhanced.
Improved human resources will also contribute to
reduced poverty and improved food security as
well as to higher economic growth. Policies that
will expand investment in rural infrastructure, pri-
mary health care, and education are needed to en-
hance income earnings and food security among
the rural poor. Besides policies to alleviate poverty,
policies such as targeted food and cash transfers of
various types, including labor-intensive public pro-
grams, may be needed to protect the poor from
economic and weather shocks. Access to off-farm
sources of employment and income is also impor-
tant to increase purchasing power as well as to
reinvest income back on the farms.

Controlling Population Growth
Population growth of the magnitudes expected in
the next three-to-four decades will place severe
demands on food production and distribution.
Risks of environmental degradation will increase,
and efforts to improve income and reduce poverty
will be hampered. Renewed emphasis must be
placed on efforts to reduce population growth in
developing countries. Universal access to family
planning information and technology must receive
due attention. Although the rate of population
growth is falling in developing countries as a
whole, the reductions are insufficient to counter
absolute increases. Failure to significantly reduce
the current high population growth rate in Sub-
Saharan Africa within the next two decades will
render all development efforts insufficient to avoid
poverty and human misery of much greater magni-
tude than experienced to date and to avoid degrada-
tion of land, forest, and water resources.
Intergenerational aspects of policies are diffi-
cult to deal with. Efforts to ensure conservation of
natural resources for future generations at the ex-
pense of the survival of part of the current genera-

tion are difficult to justify on moral grounds and
difficult to implement. The potential trade-offs be-
tween alleviation of current poverty and the needs
of future generations must be considered and at-
tempts made to identify policies and strategies that
achieve both goals.

Incentives and Regulatory Policies
Incentives and, where necessary, regulatory policies
must be strengthened to endogenize or compensate
for externalities related to natural resources. The
nature of such policies will vary across countries
and over time and may include appropriate water
pricing and watershed management, elimination of
exploitation of land and forests resulting from free
access, and a variety of other policy measures.
While usually preferable to regulatory measures,
subsidies, taxes, and other incentives should be
used selectively and carefully because of possible
unintended market distortions, opportunities for
rent-seeking, and high fiscal costs. Regulations that
contradict the survival strategies of the poor are
unlikely to be successful simply because they are
difficult or impossible to enforce. However, regu-
lations will be necessary where incentives are un-
likely to achieve social objectives.

Meeting the Challenge
Successful international and national agricultural
research that focused on increasing yields of wheat
and rice, together with rapid expansion in the use of
modern inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, and
improved crop varieties, as well as improved agri-
cultural practices and more appropriate agricultural
policies, removed the immediate threat of mass

starvation facing parts of Asia in the early 1960s.
The gains in productivity, total grain production,
and associated income gains to producers and con-
sumers resulting from the Green Revolution have
been and continue to be enormous.
While the challenge of feeding a rapidly expand-
ing world population is greater than ever, the Green
Revolution has bought us time to adjust the approach
to assure that it is sustainable in the longer run.
However, no adjustment will suffice unless existing
poverty and food insecurity and population growth
rates are significantly reduced.
While inappropriate technological change in
agriculture may cause natural resource degradation
and should be modified, the most serious environ-
mental threat in low-income developing countries
is poverty. It comes from the many millions of
people who live near the subsistence minimum and
who will exploit natural resources if necessary to
survive. We must not blame the victims. We must
seek to eradicate extreme poverty and associated
food insecurity and environmental degradation.
Accelerated investments in agricultural research
and technology-including international agricul-
tural research by the CGIAR, which provided the
foundation for the Green Revolution-rural infra-
structure, family planning, education, primary
health care, and a variety of other high-priority
areas combined with appropriate policies are ur-
gently needed. Ongoing structural adjustment and
policy reforms offer great promise if properly im-
plemented. However, recent cuts in financial sup-
port to agricultural development in developing
countries are a frightening indication that the inter-
national community is neither serious about deal-
ing with current food, poverty, and environmental
problems nor preparing to deal effectively with the
much larger future problems.


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Per Pinstrup-Andersen is the director general of the International Food Policy Research
Institute and Rajul Pandya-Lorch is special assistant to the director general.

I1R l 1-202/862-5600 FAX 1-202/467-4439 E-MAIL IFPRI@CGNET.COM

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