SCIENCE AND THE THIRD WORLD (Kettering paper) March 1982
We have been treated to some good news recently about population
growth. In the Third World, the rate of population growth was expected
to rise to about 2.5 percent by the early l970s from 2.3 percent in
1960. Instead, the rate appears to have declined to 2.2 percent in the
early 1970s. (Agenda 1980, p.
74) How good is this news? Does it mean we can stop worrying about
population growth, or is it an irrelevant aberration?
The decline of 0.1 percent in the growth rate means the Third
World’s doubling time will extend to thirty—one years instead of
thirty, not a significant difference. Yet the decline may be of great
significance if it indicates that the world has turned the corner on
rates of increase and is beginning the trend toward a stable population.
This change would not affect the size of the world’s population in the
year 2000 by very much, but it would make a large difference in the
number of persons at which it levels off. The decline is also
significant evidence that the family planning efforts of past years are
beginning to pay off.
Before discussing the effects of science and technology on the
population problem, let us review some of the projections of world
population for the year 2000 and projections for the leveling off point,
which probably will occur sometime in the twenty—first century.
The world’s population now stands at approximately 4.5 billion;
it was only 2 billion in 1930. By year 2000, most estimates indicate
that the population will exceed 6 billion. (Facing
the Future, the OECD Interfutures study, contains high and low
estimates of 5.84 and 6.64 billion (p. 12); North—South,
6 and 6.5 billion (p. 105); the Global
2000 Report, Vol. 2, 5.922
and 6.798 billion from Census Bureau figures (p. 26—28); and 5.752 and
5.973 from University of Chicago projections.) All concur that over 90
percent of the population growth will be in developing countries. The
proportion of the world’s population living in the OECD countries will
fall from 20 percent in 1975 to 15 percent in 2000.
Of more significance is the divergence in estimates of the
maximum world population. North-South
finds the range of possibilities to spread from eight to fifteen
billion. Interfutures guesses twelve billion. The Overseas Development
Council estimates eleven billion if the replacement fertility rate is
reached by 2020, but notes Robert McNamara’s calculations that if the
replacement rate could be reached by 2000, the population would
eventually level off at eight billion, a difference in outcomes equal to
the total population of the earth around 1950!
The vast differences in these estimates result from differing
assumptions about human fertility behavior over the next twenty to forty
years. The rate of population growth is, rather obviously, the
difference between the birth rate and the death rate. Rising birth rates
did not cause the rapid increase in the world’s population. Falling
death rates did, particularly rapidly-falling rates of infant mortality.
The lag time between the drop in mortality rates and the subsequent drop
in fertility rates makes our era a transition period, from high
birth/high death to low birth/low death rates.
After mortality rates have declined, people begin to reduce their
fertility rates when it is actually in their interest to do so, when
they perceive it to be in their interest, and when they have the
knowledge and the means for contraception. How rapidly this will happen
in particular societies is uncertain; couples make their own decisions,
and they alone can carry them out. They make them in the context of
traditions and religious beliefs as well as in the context of economic,
social, and political factors.
Various measures can be taken to influence the decisions of
couples of childbearing age to decrease the gap between lower mortality
and lower fertility. Examples below are grouped under policy,
organization, and technology to conform to our paradigm:
individual norms regarding childbearing and sexual behavior through
education, exhortation, propaganda, raising the legal age of marriage.
the direct and indirect cost of children by charging school fees,
taxation measures, improving women’s education and employment
opportunities, and enacting child labor laws.
the social utility of large families by providing for old-age security
and by lowering infant mortality to reduce the number of births needed
to reach a desired number of children.
the costs of practicing birth planning by subsidizing contraceptives and
offering easier and more dignified access to services. (4)
voluntary planning associations, maternal and child health clinics,
commercial delivery systems for contraceptives, information and
education programs, sterilization and abortion facilities, and training
programs for paramedical personnel.
and develop more effective, convenient, and safe contraceptive
Viewed from a global perspective, it would be difficult to argue
that highest priority should be assigned to the development of improved
contraceptive technology, although technology development may be what we
can do best. National policies that induce lower fertility rates and the
spread of family planning services may be more effective, at least in
the short run, in slowing the rate of growth of the world’ s
Policy and organizational measures are taken in a national
context; the diversity of problems and the social and cultural
circumstances of each country require homemade solutions. Besides, the
intrusion of an outsider, particularly another nation, in such intimate
national affairs is often viewed with suspicion or hostility. The role
of international participation in the policymaking process should
properly be limited to the promotion of a better understanding of
alternative choices that are available.(5) Even that limited function
may best be performed by international agencies such as the UN Fund for
Population Activities, or private bodies such as the Population Council
of New York.
However, the role of the U.S. Government in technology
development is not only welcome, it is very nearly indispensable.
Twenty years ago the discoveries of the oral contraceptive and of
the intrauterine devices (IUDs) led many people to believe that the
technological dimension of the population problem was solved. Few would
hold that view now. The pill, the IUD, and sterilization are the main
methods used in service delivery programs around the world, but none is
The pill is considered unsafe for older women who smoke, are
obese, or have high blood pressure; IUDs can lead in some cases to
infections; and sterilizations are generally irreversible. The defects
of each method are often exaggerated, particularly in developing
countries, causing women to go back to less effective methods or none at
all. The World Fertility Survey found that in most developing countries
more than half the women of reproductive age want no more children, but
two—thirds of them are not using any means to prevent childbirth.(6)
Many of these women may be without financial or physical access to
services. The development of reversible, less intrusive and simpler
means of contraception or sterilization could improve both the
acceptability of birth control and access to services.
The World Bank’s WDR, 1980 estimates that of the people who use some form of birth
control, two—thirds of whom are in developed and one—third in
developing countries, roughly a third are sterilized, about 20 percent
use the pill, 15 percent the IUD, and 13 percent the condom. Most of the
remaining 19 percent use rhythm, abstinence, the diaphragm,
contraceptive injections, various types of spermicide, and such
traditional methods as withdrawal, postcoital douching, and prolonged
An excellent review of the state of the art of contraceptive
technology, entitled “Prospects for Improved Contraception,” by
Linda Atkinson, S. Bruce Schearer, Oscar Harkavy, and Richard Lincoln,
appeared in the July/August 1980 edition of Family
Planning Perspectives. The article states that some important new
birth control methods have been discovered since the pill and the IUD,
but efforts to use current knowledge to make major advances have been
frustrated by shrinking budgets for research, inadequate planning and
coordination by donors, and costly and complex regulatory requirements
governing the introduction of new processes.
Less than 2 percent of total government spending on medical
research in the mid—1970s was devoted to research in the reproductive
sciences and on contraception. Since then, public funds for applied
contraceptive research have fallen by about 50 percent.(7) Data on
pharmaceutical company spending is less easily obtained, but
“Prospects for Improved Contraception” states that not a single new
contraceptive chemical entity has reached the marketplace since the
introduction of the synthetic steroid, norgestrel, in 1968.
Public funding for biomedical research on reproduction began
slowly in the United States due to traditional taboos and political
timidity. Until 1959, the National Institute of Health was prohibited
from supporting research explicitly tied to birth control. The private
foundations, mainly and Rockefeller, funded most of the research in the
Rising concern over rapid population growth broke the public
funding barrier in the l960s. In 1967, an Office of Population was
established in AID, although only 3.5 percent of its budget has gone for
research related to contraceptive development since then. At NIH, the
Center for Population Research was set up as part of the National
Institute of Child Health
and Human Development in 1968. The center has become the major source of
funds worldwide for reproductive and contraceptive research.
In 1974, an extensive Ford Foundation study of ongoing and needed
contraceptive research estimated that funds for applied contraceptive
research and development would have to be tripled to take advantage of
leads developed through basic research.(8) Ironically, funding for
reproductive biology and contraceptive development already peaked, in
constant dollars, in 1973, and the drop in expenditures for
contraceptive development has been sharper since then than for research
as a whole.
Of the more than two dozen potential new contraceptive methods
currently receiving attention by research and development organizations
internationally, five were chosen by Atkinson and her co—authors to
illustrate both the problems and potentials of such research:
nonsurgical female sterilization, a reversible sterilization for men, an
antipregnancy vaccine, a self—administered menses inducer, and a
postpartum IUD. The authors concluded that under favorable conditions
some of these methods could be available for public use within a decade,
but funding limitations in particular make it likely that none will in
use before the end of the century.
The U.S. government, despite the decrease in expenditures since
1973, remains the source of 60 percent of worldwide funding for
reproductive research. Foundation funding peaked in 1971 and has
declined by four-fifths since then. The Ford Foundation is considering
abandoning the field entirely.
For institutional reasons, U.S. expenditures are less effective
than they might be. The NIH, the world’s largest funder, devotes under
2 percent of its research budget to contraceptive development. The NIH
program must emphasize the health of Americans rather than the needy
abroad, and its priorities are thus often in conflict with those of
international research and development organizations in the
AID, although dedicated to the needs of the poor in developing
countries, finds it difficult to invest significant funds in scientific
research in any field, and for many years its population program was
headed by a person who accorded such research a low priority.
This pattern recurs in virtually every problem
area we are concerned with here. The major research capacity of the U.S.
government is targeted too narrowly on domestic problems, while our
international agencies, mainly AID, have limited research possibilities.
We have yet to find a way to bring our scientific strengths to bear
fully on many international problems of major importance to the United
States, such as the growth of world population.
Predictions of world food shortages have moderated in recent
years. One no longer hears dire warnings of imminent famine or mass
starvation looming in the near future. Interfutures,
the study by the OECD, even concludes that there should be no physical
limitation to the world’s capacity to feed twelve billion persons -—
the projected population a century from now.
The new optimism is in part a cheerful reflection of a number of
good crop years in a row. Since 1974, world cereals production has
enjoyed a healthy rate of growth, rebuilding reserves to tolerable
levels. Reserves have fallen in the past year, however, from 231 million
metric tons in 1978—79 to an estimated 162 million in 1980-81. Despite
dangerous annual fluctuations, and the recommendations of the World Food
Conference of 1974, no world food reserve system has emerged.(9)
Hunger remains a serious world problem, although there is some
dispute over how much of one it is. The World Bank estimates that the
number of malnourished people in the world could rise from between 400
to 600 million in the mid—1970s to 1.3 billion in 2000.(10) Those who
believe that human food needs vary widely challenge these figures; many
people can live quite well on much less than the bank’s standard.(11)
The facts are difficult to establish because data are unreliable and
standards controversial, and conditions are subject to different
interpretations. On the one hand, the severely malnourished may be the
lowest percent of the world’s population in recorded history; on the
other hand, even at 2 percent the level is inexcusably high.
The Brandt Commission states that while no one can be sure of the
numbers of those who experience hunger and malnutrition, all estimates
are in the hundreds of millions. The study concludes that there are
about 800 million destitute people today, most of whom cannot afford an
adequate diet.(North—South, p. 90)
Policy and distribution problems create much of the current
suffering. Developing countries (like the U.S., Japan and others before
them) have sought to industrialize at the expense of agriculture and to
pacify urban dwellers by keeping food prices low. A lack of investment
in rural infrastructure and fixed low prices for output has retarded
food production. In other cases, people are simply too poor to compete
with animals for grain surpluses on the world market.
World food production rose by 2.5 percent annually in the quarter
century 1950—75, an unprecedented achievement. During this period, a
considerable share of the increase was achieved by expanding acreage. In
the future, acreage expansion will be both more expensive and
technically more difficult to achieve. Estimates of potential expansion
vary: the Global 2000 Report
projects an increase in land under cultivation by 2000 of only 4
percent; the World Food and
Nutrition Study of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that
increases in crop area will not exceed 1 percent per year over the next
twenty—five years, and could be appreciably less; Interfutures concludes that arable acreage could be expanded by 50
percent in developed countries and nearly 100 percent in developing
countries in the aggregate, but this could be accomplished only
partially by the year 2000. The World Bank estimates that no more than a
quarter of incremental food production in the 1980s can be expected from
acreage expansion (WDR, 1980,
The demand for food rises with income as well as population
growth in developing countries, and this has led to a precipitous rise
in their imports of cereals in the past thirty years, from relatively
low levels in the 1950s to twenty million tons in 1960, over fifty
million tons in the early 1970s, and nearly eighty million tons by
1978-79 (North—South, p.
90). Historically, a 10 percent rise in average incomes has led to a 7
percent rise in grain imports in developing countries (WDR,
1980, p. 23). Most of the imports have come from North America, where 20
percent of the world’s grain is grown, but where 80 percent of the
world’s grain trade originates.
Agriculture exports contributed $40.5 billion in foreign exchange
to the United States in 1980, a figure likely to rise by 20 percent in
1981. Howard Hjort, USDA director of economics, policy analysis, and
budget, estimates world demand for agricultural products will rise at
2.5—2.7 percent annually, and US exports are likely to take a larger
share of the market, rising by 6 to 8 percent per year.(12) Congress
and successive administrations have been enthusiastic about this trend,
but the USDA agricultural research administrator and groups opposed to
giant farms have warned that continued reliance on conventional
agriculture for massive production increases could exhaust our soils and
deplete our water resources.(13)
The largest rise in net imports since the early 1960s has taken
place in the middle—income developing countries, which now import 23
percent of their consumption of grains, up from 13 percent in 1960-63 (WDR,
1980, p. 23). Poor countries are also importing more, and their
demand would rise more sharply if they could afford it. Africa is the
region with the most serious problems. Per capita food production has
declined in fourteen sub—Saharan countries since 1960 (North—South,
p. 92), and The Global 2000
Report estimates the decline will accelerate in the next twenty
years, despite the large land reserves not now under cultivation.
The complexity of the world food situation defies so brief a
summary as that above, but the perspective which emerges from the
reports cited is that increases in food production in the past quarter
century have been impressive; that these increases must be matched in
the next quarter century; and that they can be matched, but with
How much should this concern the United States? Since Herbert
Hoover organized U.S. food support for our allies during the First World
War and famine relief after the war, the United States has been
responsive to hunger abroad. Freedom from hunger, one of FDR’s four
fundamental freedoms, has long had pride of place among humanitarian
concerns. Even if the United States were to abandon development
assistance, some means would surely be found to continue our efforts to
alleviate hunger, if only through emergency relief.
Malnutrition kills prematurely and it contributes to many
diseases around the world. In societies where as many as 40 percent of
the children die before age five, most would live if they were
adequately nourished.(14) Paradoxically, hunger contributes to high
fertility rates, because no population reduces its fertility while
infant mortality remains high.
Malnutrition saps energies, reduces work output, and handicaps
learning. Hunger causes unrest and threatens political stability in many
parts of the Third World. But perhaps the greater threat to stability is
fear of hunger, which prompts strong political reactions to increasing
food prices from Cairo to Warsaw. Food is of course an international
commodity with high inelasticity of demand; consequently world food
prices affect American consumers directly.
The United States can help solve food problems in many ways, but
it is uniquely equipped to contribute to the creation of the new
knowledge and techniques essential to enlarging global food production
on a sustainable basis. American farm productivity owes much to our
research system, by far the largest in the world. An estimated one-third
of the world’s agricultural research capacity is in the United States.
Research, as we know from our own experience, pays off, and the
payoff is even greater in the developing countries. Studies indicate
that research on wheat and rice returned thirty-one dollars for every
dollar invested in high-income countries after eight to ten years, and
eighty dollars for every dollar invested in developing countries. These
are not firm figures, but a National Academy of Sciences study concluded
that research on food production might yield annual returns as high as
60 to 89 percent in developing countries (WFNS, p. 46). No single set of activities or pattern of investments
will solve the problem for future generations, but more research will be
vital to the tasks of increasing acreage, slowing the loss of soils, and
raising yields. Research has the unique capacity to push back resource
limits. Virtually every analysis calls for greater research efforts:
breakthroughs in ‘dry’ farming would —- perhaps more than any
other feasible technical advance —— transform the prospects of a
large proportion of the world’s poor.”
Most of the land reserves of Latin America and Africa “are
subject to significant ecological constraints and technologies have yet
to be developed to exploit them on a sustainable basis.”
“The continuing development and adaptation of new plant
varieties depends on a sustained effort of research at international,
regional, and national centers. Plant development has made great
progress, but there have been signs recently of flagging international
support. Much more effort should be put into both development and
research, where relatively modest sums can have a large and
well—demonstrated impact on production.”
--North-South: A Program
for Survival, p. 94.
A new federal/state research program to increase fertilizer—use
efficiency should be initiated. Techniques of special interest in LDCs
and the tropics international research programs should be stressed.
An expanded federal/state research program on biological nitrogen
fixation should be initiated, with mechanisms developed to enhance
international cooperation in this area of research.
In cooperation with such international institutions as CGIAR and FAO,
AID, the Department of Agriculture, and other interested U.S. agencies
should help develop an international program of on—site research into
farming techniques that are ecologically and economically sound,
[including] projects in the humid tropics, the tropical mountain areas,
--Global Futures: A
Time to Act, pp. 85—86.
Research needs were thoroughly and systematically studied by a
committee of the National Academy of Sciences from 1974-77. The
World Food and Nutrition Study: The Potential Contributions of Research,
which emerged from that effort in 1977, contained contributions from
1500 people, obtained by fourteen study teams, and winnowed by a
steering committee of fourteen leading agricultural strategists and
scientists. In addition to attempting to identify twenty-two top
priority research areas in the fields of nutrition, food production,
food marketing, and policies and organization, the study’s authors
analyzed the ways in which the work could best be done. They concluded
that three foci of effort should concern the United States:
large part of the research needed will have to be carried out in the
developing countries, where shortages are most acute; consequently the
capacity of developing countries for research and its application must
be substantially enlarged;
international food and nutrition research centers require continued
large part of the research needed will have to be carried out in
countries like the U.S. where most of the relevant scientific resources
are found; the United States should enlarge and reshape its research on
food and nutrition.” --WFNS,
The authors addressed their detailed recommendations primarily to
the Department of Agriculture, AID, the National Institute of Health,
and the National Science Foundation: all agencies substantially engaged
in research bearing on food and nutrition questions. The study
recognized that many other agencies play important roles affecting food
and nutrition issues, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the
Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior, and even the
Departments of Transportation, Commerce, and Defense.
To bring coherence to the array of government programs in
existence or proposed, the study recommended that the executive office
of the president design a U.S. strategy for dealing with world food and
nutrition problems, and facilitate coordination of U.S. and
international research activities on related issues. This recommendation
was ignored, and consequently the study had no systematic follow—up.
No agency alone was responsible for the broad range of issues dealt with
in the study, so none felt required to ensure a coherent response.
Organizational issues are not the stuff of which novels are made.
They are less challenging than policy, less exciting than technology.
People interested in the substance of a problem are generally content to
point the way in policy terms and explain how to get there in
technological terms without dwelling too long on the organizational
means for accomplishing the job. Authors of WFNS deserve credit for patiently working
out the organizational implications of their recommendations.
It is no surprise that this call for planning and coordination
from the executive office of the president went unheeded. It is a very
unpopular suggestion. All departments and agencies resist losing
autonomy to the executive office. Congress fears greater centralization
of power in the president’s hands, especially in the field of
agriculture, where the USDA often seems more responsible to Congress
than to the administration. Constituency groups who have learned how to
make their influence felt in the departments suspect they will lose sway
if matters are decided at a higher level. Even the president is unlikely
to welcome an enlargement of his executive staff, which he has usually
promised voters he would curtail.
Yet, lacking a central strategy to which government agencies are
compelled to adhere, each agency interprets a problem in terms of its
interests, constituents, history, and congressional mandate. As a
result, our national effort on international problems is often
inconsistent, characterized by gaps and distortions, even, or
especially, when substantial national interests are at stake.
Such incoherent effort is well illustrated in the case of
research on food production. Here we have a vast agricultural research
system funded at over $1 billion per year by federal and state
governments. A Presidential Commission on World Hunger in 1980
recommended that overcoming hunger be placed at the top of our
priorities in dealing with developing countries, and that a far higher
share of America’s research capabilities and research budgets be
devoted to the task.
In practice, none of USDA’s $414 million will be earmarked for
research on food production in developing countries, although some
domestic results may be found applicable abroad. The USDA research
budget is divided in three ways. The largest share goes to in—house
research chiefly at six national USDA laboratories. Next in importance
is funding for fifty—six state agricultural experiment stations (SAES),
most of which are in land grant colleges and universities. A miniscule
remainder will go into a competitive grants program open to all public
and private researchers.
WFNS recommended that the competitive grants program,
then little more than an experiment, be allocated $60 million per year
for five years in order to attract scientists outside the agricultural
research establishment to work on food—related problems. This
recommendation was resisted by the USDA, the National Association of
State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC), and by Congressman
Jaimie Whitten, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. They
preferred increases in formula funding for SAES, which has no system of
quality control or focus on problems of national, as compared with
In 1978, the first year after the recommendations of the study
were made, USDA proposed $30 million for competitive grants, half what
was recommended, and when the 0MB and Congress completed their work, $15
million was authorized, of which $5 million was earmarked for nutrition
research. The unfortunate competition that has grown since then between
Hatch Act funding (SAES formula funds) and competitive grants is one in
which the latter are at a distinct disadvantage. SAES institutions are
well organized and politically powerful, while competitive grant
applicants are individual scientists.
Research conducted by USDA’s own laboratories can be directed
more readily toward national priorities, but no attempt has been made to
place the problems of food production in developing countries among
these priorities. In addition, the quality of these laboratories is
suspect. A committee of the National Research Council reporting in 1972
found not one of the nation’s leaders in photosynthesis at work in a
USDA laboratory, and none of the major advances in the past twenty years
in biological nitrogen fixation to have been made or funded by USDA.
Research for the benefit of foreign growers is considered the
province of AID. That may sound like a logical division of
responsibility, but it has drawbacks. First, it divorces research funded
for developing countries from the mainstream of the nation’s food
research. Second, in an operating agency charged with serving the basic
needs of the poor, research budgets are under constant pressures from
the regional bureaus, who see more immediate uses for funds. Centrally
funded research must be defended in terms of support for development
programs run by the agency in the field, and this produces a different
agenda from one shaped to meet the world food problem.
In FY 1980, centrally funded research on food and nutrition
totaled $49 million, of which nearly two—thirds consisted of the U.S.
contribution to the international agricultural research system of the
consultative group. This is an excellent use of funds, but it does not
involve a commitment of our national research capacity.
In all, one cannot escape the conclusion that a very small
proportion of the world’s largest agricultural research system is
engaged in improving production in the food—deficient areas of the
world where the problem is greatest and where anticipated returns to
research investments may be highest.
The wonder is that the world food situation isn’t worse than it
is, with so large a share of its scientific resources devoted solely to
the agriculture of the temperate zone. Massive imports from the
temperate zone have alleviated in part the food shortages of developing
countries, but also internationally organized research has resulted in
impressive gains in output in some countries.
The Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
is by now a world—famous enterprise, recipient of the King Baudoin
Prize for Development; it is the Establishment in the struggle against
hunger. Its creation ten years ago was a radical innovation in the
rather drab landscape of international cooperation.
The group is an informal association of funding organizations
--thirty—five governments, international agencies, and private
foundations -- which establishes and funds international research
centers on agricultural problems. There are now thirteen centers, with a
combined senior staff of more than 600 scientists from forty countries.
They work on improving the crops and livestock that comprise about
three—quarters of the developing world’s food, and on farming
systems, food policy and national research system development. The
budgets of the centers totaled $120 million in 1980 and are expected to
double in the next five years. The centers and CGIAR are more fully
described in two publications which can be obtained without charge: Consultative
Group on Agricultural Research, a 62-page book available from CGIAR,
1818 H Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20433; and “The Consultative
Group,” an article by Anthony Wolff which appeared in the May, 1981, RF Illustrated.
CGIAR’s story is too well known to bear repeating here at
length, but several aspects of the achievement deserve mention.
The first is the role of the private foundations in the origins
of the system. The Rockefeller Foundation began in 1943 to seek ways to
improve the yields of food crops in Mexico. They began with maize and
soon added wheat, investigating all aspects of crop production: soil
management, agronomy, the use of fertilizers and other chemicals,
irrigation, mechanization, and plant varieties. Their greatest success
came through plant breeding, with the development of a dwarf variety of
rust-resistant wheat that could use large applications of nutrients
without toppling over, or lodging.
This remarkable success, achieved in about twenty years, prompted
the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations to join forces in establishing the
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) at Los Banos, the
Philippines. Success was almost instantaneous; within two years, in
1966, IR—8 was released, heralding the possibility of doubling or
tripling yields of irrigated rice throughout Asia.
The two foundations established two other centers, the
International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia and
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria, and set up
international boards to govern them; but it was already clear that the
potential contribution of international research centers justified far
greater investments than they alone could make. A series of meetings of
heads of major international assistance agencies, sponsored by the Ford
and Rockefeller Foundations but stimulated and led by Robert McNamara,
culminated in the formation of the CGIAR in 1971. The World Bank houses
the small CGIAR secretariat and the UNDP and FAQ share in its
The financial contributions of the two founding foundations
declined sharply over the ensuing decade, but their influence continues
to be felt. They have provided a level of professional continuity to
CGIAR and to the centers which is unmatched by the larger donors, and
they have been prepared to finance the early stages of development
innovations within the system. These innovations included initiating
research in water management, planning and launching the International
Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and grafting social scientists
to the core staffs of the crop—oriented centers. The foundations also
took the lead in designing evaluation procedures and in examining the
needs and possibilities for new centers.
The era of foundation participation in the work of CGIAR,
however, is probably near its end, since key figures have left their
positions in both institutions in the past year.
The second point is the role, or lack of role, of the world’s
two largest agricultural bureaucracies: FAO and USDA. In the decade
before the CGIAR was formed, FAO was indifferent, if not hostile, to the
international centers, constantly concerned about status and credit for
achievements. USDA has not been hostile, simply uninvolved. In 1980, for
the first time, a USDA official participated in the U.S. delegation to
the annual CGIAR meeting. The United States has contributed 25 percent
of the annual budgets of the international centers since the CGIAR was
formed, but these contributions came through AID, not USDA. Undoubtedly,
USDA would have liked to be a part of the exciting evolution of the
network, but under the antiquated system of allocating responsibility in
the federal government, the assignment went to AID without the
involvement of our major national research resources.
This division of responsibility has a real cost. The
international centers do adaptive, not basic, research. They need strong
links to the sources of new knowledge in the laboratories of the United
States, just as they need close ties with the national research
organizations in the regions they serve. Had these links been forged
through USDA involvement with the CGIAR, it is possible that more
federally funded research would now be attuned to the needs of the
international research community.
Finally, the CGIAR system is not a finished product, a smoothly
rounded achievement needing only to be maintained by budgetary
infusions. It is an evolving system, particularly in its relationships
with national research organizations in developing countries.
Originally, the centers saw themselves as sources of knowledge and
technology from which the national systems would draw and adapt. This
gave rise to resentment on the part of local scientists, who saw the
international centers as foreign enclaves, working in privileged
conditions and reaping unwarranted credit for technical advances.
Many centers have yet to resolve this problem, but IRRI has moved
far toward becoming an organizer and leader of research collaboration
among the national organizations in Asia. For example, IRRI sponsors an
international rice-testing program in which new lines developed in the
national systems as well as at IRRI are offered for testing in all the
participating countries. Leading rice scientists gather at IRRI for a
week each year to assess their results and plan collaborative activities
for the next year. IRRI has a similar network for soils and fertilizer
testing and sponsors an annual two—week meeting on cropping systems
research. IRRI has also pioneered a network of social scientists from
universities in the region, interested in the economic and social
constraints on production and the consequences of new technologies.
The list of research challenges to centers such as IRRI is
extensive. Initially, heaviest emphasis was given to finding ways to
raise food production yields per acre. This remains a high priority, but
increasingly the centers are focusing on the production problems of
smaller farmers operating with poor resources. This attention affects
the choice of crops on which research is to be done. The list has been
broadened to include a series of crops that are particularly important
to resource—poor farmers: cassava, beans, maize, sorghum, millets,
pulses, and others. More work is also being done on farming in more
difficult environments; for example, 60 percent of IRRI’s research is
now directed to rainfed rice cultivation. The centers also concentrate
on finding the means to reduce the need for costly pesticides and
fertilizers, to breed for resistance to insects and disease, to devise
biological methods of insect control, and to maximize the biological
fixation of nitrogen(15).
The viability and continued success of the centers is likely to
depend upon their ability to service national systems as organizers and
catalysts of work on key scientific questions, and as transmission lines
for knowledge gained from basic research in other parts of the world.
Building the capacities of national research systems is a long—term
task that will require both international and bilateral involvement. At
the present time, more than 110 scientists from the international
centers are working directly with national and regional programs in
forty developing countries. In the long run, the international centers
cannot take on the burden of providing scientific and management skills
for national systems, although a new center, the International Service
for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) was established in 1980 to
assist the process.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, USAID contributed substantially to
building the capacity of institutions in developing countries for
agricultural policymaking, research education, and extension. USDA and
American universities played major roles in these activities. Since
Congress legislated New Directions for AID in 1973, however, these
institution—building efforts have gradually subsided in favor of
programs more directly affecting the poor. The wisdom of that shift in
foreign assistance policy is currently open to doubt. In Global Future: Time to Act, the Council on Environmental Quality and
the Department of State recommended that AID and USDA should seek new
ways to support and improve institutional capacities in developing
countries, in cooperation with international institutions and the U.S.
In 1980, AID allocated $100 million for science and technology
related to food and nutrition by regional bureaus, of which $45 million
was devoted to research. The World
Food and Nutrition Study recommended that the United States should
do more to train researchers from developing countries; to aid
developing countries in the establishment of research facilities; and to
encourage and support communication and collaboration among researchers
in developing countries, in international and regional institutions, and
in the United States, on problems of common interest (WFNS
pp. 30—31). It specifically recommended tripling AID expenditures to
enhance research capabilities in developing countries from the $30
million 1975 base. It also recommended that AID support the involvement
of U.S. scientific groups in research concerned with food and nutrition
in developing countries (WFNS, p. 140).
The legislative basis for expanding AID’s efforts in food
production research was and remains Title XII of the Foreign Assistance
Act of 1975. This provision calls for strengthening the capacities of
land-grant and other eligible universities to engage in programs of
institutional development and research in developing countries. It is a
long—term authorization for a greater university involvement in all
phases of agricultural development, particularly the application of
agricultural sciences to increasing food production.
Title XII has yet to realize its potential. It has suffered from
cumbersome procedures set up by AID to implement it, and from the
suspicion by some people in AID and Congress that the land—grant
institutions sought to use Title XII more for their own purposes than
for those of the developing countries. The World Food and Nutrition Study acknowledges this problem by calling
upon the universities “to recognize that, while they will benefit by
gaining experience for their own research and teaching functions, the
aim of Title XII is to help the developing countries primarily by
supporting work there” (WFNS,
Title XII is likely to experience a resurgence in this
administration, if funding permits. Peter McPherson, AID administrator,
was himself a member of the Board for International Food and
Agricultural Development (BIFAD), which oversees and promotes Title XII
activities. In May 1981, a joint resolution of AID and BIFAD reaffirmed
AID commitment to Title XII. One idea under study would permit dual
careers for agriculturalists: a specialist would spend two years out of
eight in AID and the rest in a university. This plan could give AID
badly needed expertise.
In addition to funding and staffing limitations, and the New
Directions policy, AID is hampered geographically by its focus on
low—income countries. Our national interest in lessening the world
food problem is not confined to low—income producers. Many
middle—income countries have a high potential for increasing food
production, and many also have large pockets of poor and malnourished
people. In addition, the middle—income countries can often provide
both scientists and relatively sophisticated facilities for research on
tropical problems, neither of which can readily be found in developed
countries. Some better means should be found to encourage cooperation
between U.S. research institutions and researchers in countries where
AID is not active.
In 1980 Congress, while declining to fund the Institute for
Scientific and Technological Cooperation, approved a special science
program (AID/SCI) that gave AID the authority to work with middle-income
countries. This program is separate from the Science and Technology
Bureau (AID/S&T) in AID, and transfers of research projects to
AID/SCI from AID/S&T are barred by legislation; it is unclear as yet
how much cooperative effort will result.
For several years, the USDA also had authorization to work
abroad, but FY 1980 was the first year in which funds for the purpose
were appropriated: $1.1 million for scientific exchanges. In FY 1981,
USDA expected to receive $1.4 million for exchanges and $2.5 million for
international cooperative research. These modest funds will be
especially valuable in reestablishing links between universities in the
U.S. and those in developing countries where relationships were severed
by the departure of the AID program.
USDA will use its international appropriations only in non-AID
countries, to avoid duplication of effort, but it does cooperate with
AID through Participating Agency Service Agreements (PASA), under which
AID reimburses USDA for services rendered. In 1980, AID funds for USDA
services amounted to $25 million, supporting 850 technicians abroad for
varying periods and training 1700 foreign agriculturalists. Under this
arrangement, USDA supplies the talent but not the management or design
of the activity. USDA’s main scientific and technical strength, and
the attentions of its senior management, are not really engaged.
Scientific and technological advances are essential if the world
is to continue to feed itself during the next century, when the number
of new mouths to feed will be at historically unprecedented levels.
Priority should go to increasing output in developing countries. Because
most of the malnourished reside in those countries, the largest
potential gains can be made there. Science and technology are especially
important in these regions because most of the world’s scientific
knowledge of agriculture is based on experience in the temperate zone.
To increase output in these regions, research is needed in
laboratories in three settings: in advanced countries, in the
international research system, and in the developing countries
themselves. The United States, with a third of the world’s
agricultural research capacity, does very little research for the
benefit of developing countries and has cut back sharply on its efforts
to help developing countries build their own research capacities. The
international agricultural research system, initiated by the U.S.
private sector, is a remarkably successful example of international
scientific cooperation and provides a basis for further advances.
The problem of expanding energy supplies to meet the needs of a
growing world population is complicated by the simultaneous need to make
a transition from fossil fuels renewable resources. The energy
transition, like the fertility transition, is likely to take another
century to complete, according to the best estimates available today.
The transition to a sustainable energy system capable of meeting the
needs of ten or even twelve billion people by 2080 appears to be
technically and environmentally feasible. But such an achievement will
require more prudent use of remaining fossil fuels, and more systematic
planning and development of solar and nuclear energy sources, than we
have proved capable of so far.(17) In addition, relative stability in
the flow of supplies and investment is assumed (EFW,
Time is a critical constraint. Historically, for West Europe, it
has taken roughly thirty years for a new energy source such as coal or
hydropower to capture 50 percent of the market; for the United States,
the figure is seventy eighty years; and for the rest of the world, about
one hundred years (EFW, pp.
100—101). These figures reflect rate of adoption of proven
technologies. The rates have been relatively insensitive to major events
such as wars or depressions.
The rate of adoption of a new technology has thus been a function
of the market rather than government action, but new technologies can be
made marketable much faster by government and private investments in
research and development.
The OPEC price shocks of 1973 and 1979 served to remind us that a
shift from primary dependence on oil is essential. In 1974, the world
relied on oil for 49 percent of its commercial energy, and projections
of demand for energy by the year 2000 were nearly three times the 1974
level. Oil production by that year, or perhaps before, is likely to
decline in favor of other, dirtier fossil fuels, coal, and natural gas.
Nonfossil-fuel energy sources, which we will eventually need to sustain
the world’s population, will not be significant contributors to our
needs by 2000, except possibly for nuclear energy.
No subject has been studied more intensively since 1973 than
energy, and probably the most exhaustive effort was the seven-year
energy project at the International Institute of Applied Systems
Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna. The findings of the 140 scientists headed by
Professor Wolf Hafele were published in 1981 as Energy
in a Finite World. This study considered energy needs for the next
fifty years, until 2030, but found it would take longer for the world to
reach a sustainable energy system not reliant on fossil fuels. While
recognizing that most energy policies are set by national governments
that consider only relatively short—term options, the study group
found that the most appropriate perspective for choosing energy
strategies emerges only if one looks far into the future and considers
the energy situation in all parts of the world. Energy is a global
problem not just because of the uneven distribution of fossil fuels, but
because the options selected by any major region will have widespread
environmental effects and entail risks that affect the entire planet.
There is no known way to meet projected world energy requirements
for the next century that does not entail serious risks to the
environment. Deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels, for example,
are increasing the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The carbon
dioxide content in the atmosphere has been systematically measured only
since 1958, but a seven—point rise has occurred in that period.
Scientists fear that continued burning of fossil fuels will produce a
virtually irreversible shift in the earth’s climate sometime within
the next 100 years.(18) The shift may have some beneficial effects, but
it could cause widespread disruption. For example, the most favorable
weather patterns for food production may shift from the Great Plains and
Russian steppes to the less fertile lands to the north. But no one knows
for sure. The World Meteorological Office meeting in February, 1979,
called the increased levels of carbon dioxide a problem of great
concern, but present evidence was deemed too inconclusive to justify
taking it into account in energy policy.(19)
The increased burning of coal and wood has other serious side
effects, such as increasing air pollution, expanding massive mining
excavations, and accelerating soil erosion and loss of fertility.
Nuclear energy has its own set of hazards, perhaps the more frightening
because of possible genetic implications. The environmental dangers of
radioactivity and nuclear waste disposal are compounded by the fear of
the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Energy demand forecasts may be too high. The largest users of
energy have the greatest potential for conservation. The annual per
capita consumption of commercial energy in 1979 was 8.1 tons of oil
equivalent (TOE) in the United States, more than double the usage in
eastern Europe and Japan, and far beyond the 0.23 TOE in developing
countries (Interfutures, p.
33). Estimates that consumption will double in the industrial countries
by 2000 are likely to be high, and their lowering would not necessarily
lessen living standards. Estimates of a five—to—seven—fold
increase in consumption in developing countries may also turn out to be
high (Interfutures, p. 35), but if so, the cause (or effect) is likely
to be a slow—down in their economic growth.
Oil-importing developing countries generally do not figure
prominently in discussions of the global energy problem. They account
for only about 13 percent of the total (WRR
1980, p. 15), a share likely to rise to 17 or 18 percent by 1990.
The impact of the l970s’ price rises was much more severe in these
nations than in the industrial world and has more ominous implications
for their future.
In the short run, oil price hikes have had a devastating impact
on the balance of payments. Developing countries obtain a higher
proportion of their commercial fuel requirements from oil (2/3) than do
the OECD countries (1/2) or Eastern Europe (1/3) (North-South,
p. 162). Their oil bills in 1980 were approximately double the total
amount of development assistance received from all sources (Global
Future, p. 92). The $50 to $60 billion annual cost of imported oil
for these countries approximately equaled their net foreign trade
deficit. To take a specific example, the total value of Kenya’s major
export crop, coffee, is equal to the cost of that nation’s imported
These figures reveal a financial emergency in the short run, but
their implications for economic development are even more worrisome.
About half of all the energy produced by low—income, oil—importing
countries is noncommercial, obtained from such sources as firewood,
dung, and crop residues (WDR 1980, p. 15). The continued exploitation of these sources
damages the environment and hinders food production. If deforestation
continues at the present rate, forests will be reduced almost by half by
2000 in the Third World’s commercial energy consumption (WDR 80). This can affect rainfall and soil erosion as well as making
it more difficult for the poor to obtain fuel. In Nepal, it already
requires the full—time effort of one person to find firewood for a
family of four.
Another direct impact on human welfare in the Third World from
higher petroleum prices is their declining ability to pay for
petroleum—based pesticides, needed for farm productivity and human
that only three policies can influence the global energy situation
between 1990 and 2000: to implement energy savings, to develop nuclear
energy, and to increase coal production. The Third World is not well
placed to make any of these choices. Most of the commercial fuels
consumed in the poor countries are used for the production and
distribution of goods. Economic development depends upon increased
commercial energy use. For every 1 percent increase in the GNP in
developing countries, 1.3 to 1.5 percent more energy is now required (Interfutures,
In the United States, it might be possible to reduce energy
consumption by up to 40 percent with a small decline in national income
(Interfutures, p. 33). In
Kenya, where it costs fifty—five dollars to fill the tank of a
medium-sized car, curtailing Sunday driving is unlikely to save much.
Savings in the long run may be possible through the design of
less—energy—intensive methods of food production and
manufacturing, but henceforth industrialization and development clearly
will be more difficult, and more costly, processes.
Nuclear energy is not the answer. Most of the energy requirements
in developing countries are for liquid fuels, and in any case the cost
of nuclear power is prohibitive. Coal may be part of the answer, but 90
percent of the known reserves of coal are found in the United States,
the Soviet Union, and China.
The most probable outcome is that no answer will be found; that
is, energy costs and availability will be a real constraint on the rate
of development of the poor countries for at least the next two decades.
The measures needed to alleviate the problem simply aren’t being
taken. Such measures include accelerated exploration for oil, gas, and
coal deposits in poor countries; extensive reforestation and the
development of more efficient wood-usage technologies; expanded research
and development of renewable sources of energy; and the exploitation of
hydropower. These measures all require a heavy commitment of capital and
of science and technology.
The World Bank proposes a five-year program of energy investments
in oil, gas, coal, hydropower, and renewable energy generation and
wished to create a special affiliate to handle these investments. At the
Venice Summit, the United States joined other countries in urging the
World Bank to launch this facility. The proposal was endorsed in Global
Future and supported by IDCA, the umbrella agency over AID. However,
the United States recently announced would not participate in a new
facility.(20) Ordinarily, nonparticipation by the United
States is enough to kill a new World Bank initiative; this time, the
idea may survive, but at a level lower than proposed.
The World Bank has also concluded that to stabilize the firewood
situation, reforestation will need to increase five—fold by 1990, from
1.25 to 6.25 million acres per year. The World Bank plans a five-year,
$2 billion program for fuelwood forestry that will double current
replantings and set the stage for further expansion in the last half of
decade. Funding at this level remains in doubt because of uncertainty
over the level of U.S. participation.
In 1980, IDCA proposed a special program to regain American
leadership in the development field by mobilizing additional world
resources to tackle problems of food production, population, health, and
energy. IDCA recommended an 80 percent supplement to the $1 billion AID
expects to spend from FY 1982 to FY 1986 on energy, the increase to be
concentrated on reforestation and the development of fossil fuel
resources. This proposal was denied by 0MB, and it now appears doubtful
that even the base figure itself will be allocated.
The United States has indicated to the Third World that it
can’t be counted upon for capital in the energy field, but can it be
counted on to provide research and new technology development? According
to the World Bank, for technical as well as financial reasons, it will
fall to the industrialized countries to develop the supplies of new
energy that many countries will need (WDR 1980, p. 16). In
addition, geological and geographical surveys, and feasibility studies
for fossil resource exploitation, require technical and managerial
skills which many developing countries lack (WDR 1980, p. 18).
Reforestation will require research: in Latin America alone there are
some 12,000 to 15,000 plants almost totally unknown to science, some of
which could have important uses as food, drugs, or fuel.(21) And,
finally, energy—saving production technologies could be developed more
quickly in the advanced countries.
Unfortunately, we are doing little along these lines, despite the
obvious benefits to the United States of developing new supplies or
conserving energy in the developing countries. A barrel of oil
produced, replaced with more abundant sources, or not used because of
efficiency gains gives the world a little longer to make its transition
away from oil; speeds the transition itself; and by diversifying oil
sources and increasing supplies, makes the oil trading system more
reliable for all nations. Helping Third World countries stabilize the
world’s remaining forests reduces the damage to the world’s air,
climate, water, soil, and vital ecosystems. And finally, helping
developing nations develop alternative energy sources and more efficient
productive processes may be the most effective means to reduce the
incentives of other countries to rely prematurely on nuclear power.
The U.S. government understands this; the above arguments can all
be found in official documents. Why, then, is so little being done? As a
senior executive of the Department of Energy recently back from Africa
explained, the United States wants to alleviate worldwide pressures on
oil, but the amounts used in Africa and other poor countries in the
world aren’t very significant. DOE spends $7 billion per year on
research and development, employing 50,000 scientists in
contractor—managed laboratories, but none are assigned to the energy
problems of developing countries. Some of their work may be beneficial
to low—income countries, but the needs of these countries are not
part of the motivation.
The pressures on DOE to deal with our own energy problems are
just too great to give developing countries much attention. DOE
executives were summoned to Capitol Hill 300 times in FY 1980, nearly
twice the appearances of the next most demanded department. They simply
haven’t the time to think about small users abroad.
Here again, the energy problems of developing countries are
considered to be the province of AID. AID has increased its budget for
energy substantially in recent years, and the agency does useful work.
However, it lacks the technical competence to take on much of the job.
Through PASAs, AID could have access to the DOE scientists working on
topics of possible relevance to developing countries, but this is seldom
done. This year, DOE’s Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) was
ordered to disband its international department and deny AID requests
for assistance through PASAs. As an indication of government priorities,
the SERI budget was cut by $300 million while a like amount was added to
funds for nuclear research.
AID has other disabilities in this field, as was acknowledged in Global
Future. AID concentrates its limited funds on rural poverty problems
of the low-income countries. It is not involved on a large scale in
modern-sector energy problems of developing countries and does not
generally work at all in the middle-income countries.
The U.S. position at the New and Renewable Energy Conference held
in Nairobi, 1981, emphasized the role of the private sector in meeting
the world’s energy demands. Government should focus its support on
longer-term high-risk research and development, which private industry
cannot reasonable be expected to undertake. Industry will be expected to
support the demonstration of promising near—term technologies and to
be responsible for their ultimate market or commercial deployment. In a
summary statement made on April 1, 1981, James Stromayer, U.S.
coordinator for the UN Conference, said that the United States opposed
the creation of new UN funds for renewable energy financing and found no
need for new institutions at the global level.
The World Bank, in WDR 1981, implicitly takes issue with
the U.S. opposition to special international efforts on the energy
front. It argues that the institutional and informational barriers to
finding and developing new resources in developing countries are often
not fully appreciated. Private sector efforts are important, but foreign
oil companies are sometimes reluctant to explore potential resources in
countries where the rules may change if significant finds are made. The
fact that most future discoveries are expected to be relatively small,
primarily usable for import substitution rather than for export, also
holds them back. Increasingly, exploration must take place in difficult
geological or remote off-shore areas, where rates of return may be low.
In addition, some projects of particular importance to the poor may not
be of interest to private capital at all (WDR 1981, p. 48).
The Christian Science Monitor reported from Nairobi that
the United States was in an isolated position at the conference. The New
York Times found this so unsurprising that it did not even mention
such isolation. The conference was not considered a success.
A pattern is beginning to emerge which is replicated in the
fields so far discussed. The elements of the pattern are as follows:
Global problems require new knowledge and new methods;
The United States has the lion’s share of the world’s
scientific resources and technological competence that might be applied
to the problems;
The U.S. government agencies responsible for funding
research and development in the fields are required by law to justify
all activities in domestic terms; and
AID is expected to deal with the international dimensions
of the problem.
The defects in this pattern stem from the perception that it is
increasingly difficult to deal with a major problem solely in a national
context. In addition, our relations with the countries of the Third
World are increasing in importance economically, politically,
strategically, and environmentally. AID is too fragile a vessel to carry
the burden of our scientific and technological relationships with these
countries. As a result, important potential scientific and technical
advances are delayed or foregone because of inadequate attention, and
our relationships abroad are poorer than they should be.