Climate change and world agriculture

Climate change and world agriculture

134 Book polarisation in the countryside and the romantic trumpetings of a rebellious peasantry which emerged in the wake-of the Vietnam War and Chi...

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polarisation in the countryside and the romantic trumpetings of a rebellious peasantry which emerged in the wake-of the Vietnam War and China’s cultural revolution (recall Wolf, 1971). Having nodded appreciatively to James Scott’s work on the Weapons of [he Weak (Scott, 1985), Shanin notes that ‘Predictions of the future have been a fool’s paradise, especially so when peasants were concerned’ (p. 16). Shanin’s social science is sensitive to the differential optimums of the peasant farm (again, after Chayanov) and to what he calls the alternativity of history. His development policy is likewise sensitive to the logic and appeal of alternative and complementary farming systems, each amalgam being in some sort of sustainable relationship with the environment. All-in-all, a sensitive and discriminating prospectus from an imaginative and non-dogmatic scholar. Notwithstanding this encomium, I do have three criticisms of Defining Peasants. My first two points are but minor gripes. Given that the book is larely a collection of previously published papers and book chapters, it is galling to find that several scholars well known in development studies are misnamed, or have their names mis-spelled. Thus we get Paul Prebish for Ram Prebisch, S. Sahlin for M. Sahlins, A. Emanuel for A. Emmanuel and so on. Second, there is a degree of repetition in the essays which comprise Defining Peasants. Some of the essays could have been excised with no great loss of understanding and information on the part of the reader. Chapters 29 and 18 fall into this category. Finally, a more substantive criticism. A great virtue of Shanin’s work is that attention is fixed on the diverse mechanisms by which a peasant household can adjust to processes of social, economic and environmental change. Surprisingly little attention is paid, however, to what goes on inside the peasant household and to the often very different roles played by peasant men, women and children. In part, this may reflect the Russian and historical bias of Shanin’s work. It may also reflect a relative lack of original fieldwork carried out by Shanin. Whatever the reason, one would have welcomed a greater sensitivity to the gender division of labour within peasant households and to gender battles over the household purse, the body and the family pot. I do not want to end on a carping note. Shanin is one of the greats in the field of modern peasant studies and Defining Peasants is a fine tribute to his career thus far. Shanin writes with wit and warmth and the stories he has to tell gain in power from his obvious subtlety of mind and from his evident scholarship. Defining Peasants is a valuable addition to the literatures of peasant history and development studies.

Department of Geography,

STUART CORBRIDGE University of Cambridge

References Chayanov, A. (1986) The Theory of Peasant Economy. Manchester University Press, Manchester. Scott, J. (1985) Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. Yale University Press, New Haven. Shanin, T. (1971, 1987) Peasants and Peasant Societies (1st and 2nd Edns). Penguin, Harmondsworth. Wolf, E. (1971) Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century. Faber and Faber, London.

Reviews Climate Change and World Agriculture, Martin Parry, 157 pp., 1990, Earthscan Pubhcations Ltd, ISBN 185383 065 8

Professor Parry has for several years headed a team at Birmingham looking at the problem of the relationship between agriculture and climate as a basis for predicting the future impacts of climatic change, notably global warming. This book brings together a lot of information about the relationship and the future impacts and is undoubtedly a useful, readable starting point for both the general reader and the interested academic. It is awkward that either he or the publisher decided to use footnotes grouped by chapter for the references; this becomes extremely tedious if the book is used as a starting point and a guide to the literature. The arrangement of the book is straightforward, starting with an examination of the concept of the vulnerability of agriculture to climatic change and the potential impact on world food supply. Chapter 2 is a summary of the IPCC work on climatic change, though it fails to distinguish clearly between the modelling of equilibrium and transient changes and suddenly chooses to use degrees Fahrenheit at one point when the whole of the rest of the book is in degrees Celcius. We then proceed to methods of assessing the impacts of climatic change, all of which have been developed over the last 15 years. The better models do not neglect the socio-economic impacts that must be involved, but there is no discussion of the rate of change that is likely in plant breeding: it is likely that this could more than keep pace with climatic change, at least in developed countries. Indeed I found the total omission of any discussion of the relationship of plant breeding to changing agricultural boundaries during a period of relative climatic stability to be surprising. Surely the introduction of maize to southern Britain, or the ever-earlier cereal harvest in the U.K. (not to mention the lessening influence of weather during harvest as a result of the combine and the grain drier) illustrate how significant such technological factors might be. As we shall see, some of these issues are alluded to in the final chapter, but the bulk of the book ignores them completely. The next three chapters examine successively the impacts of climatic change on plants, soil pests and diseases; on agricultural potential; and on production and land use. I found these the most interesting chapters in the book and there is a happy mix of general statements and regional case studies. Chapter 7 on the implications for global food security concentrates on the likely reductions in output from such current areas of surplus (or potential surplus) as the major grain belts of the northern hemisphere. Clearly there are other issues too, including the problem of the sensitivity of the world food system to changes in production potential, and these are examined using three scenarios of increasingly severe impact. The final chapter (other than a few pages of conclusions) discusses adaptation to climate change. Here two broad types of adjustment are explored; changes in land use and changes in management. Land-use changes envisaged include changes in farmed area, crop type and crop location. Management changes include irrigation (a substantial requirement if production is to be maintained in many drier areas), fertiliser use, pests and diseases, the threat of increasing salinity, farm infrastructure and crop and livestock husbandry. The comments under all of these are brief and few additional references are provided.

Book Reviews There can be little doubt that the forecasting of agricultural change with global warming is extremely difficult. Current GCM calculations now show reasonable agreement on global temperatures, but are unsatisfactory for regional changes and quite hopeless in forecasting precipitation changes at the regional level. Referring to predictions of decreasing soil moisture for sub-continental regions by three GCMs, Parry notes that ‘these are not statistically significant and that the evidence available at present is extremely weak’. True, yet the rest of his book has to assume some predicted future state in discussing agricultural changes! Parry is the author of the agriculture section of the IPCC paper on agriculture and forestry. It is alarming to find that this book has been written to consider ‘in more detail than could be covered in the IPCC report, the reasoning behind these conclusions, their implications for food security and the most appropriate courses of action’. It is at once obvious that this is a topic where more research is still needed, though how far that can go without better regional forecasts from GCMs remains uncertain. KEITH CLAYTON School of Environmental Sciences University of East Anglia, U. I(.

1. A Study of Rural Tourism, PA Cambridge Economic Consultants Ltd, 64 pp., 1987, ISBN 1 869964 03 9 2. Telecommunications in Rural England, Economic and Transport Planning Group in association with Ove Arup & Partners, 98 pp., 1989, ISBN 1 869964 05 5 3. Employment and Training in Rural Areas, Centre for Agricultural Strategy, University of Reading, 131 pp., 1989, ISBN 1 869964 06 3 4. An

Evaluation of the Craft Homes Experiment, ECOTEC Research and Consulting Ltd. 63 pp., 1989,

ISBN 1 869964 09 8 5. An Evaluation of the Rural Development Programme Process, Public Sector Management Research Centre, Aston Business School, 87 pp., 1990, ISBN 1 869964 12 8 6. The Provision of Basic Utilities in Rural Areas, ARUP Economic Consultants, 63 pp., 1990, ISBN I 869964 11 X 7. English Village Services in the Eighties, ACRE, 81 pp., 1990, ISBN 1 869964 10 1 8. The Impact of ‘Community Post office’ Status on Rural Sub-post Offices, Peter M. Townroe, 51 pp., 1990, ISBN 1 869964 13 6

The Rural Development Commission (RDC) was created in 1988 when the Development Commission, originally established in 1909, merged with its agency the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas (COSIRA). One of the first acts of the new RDC was to confirm the commissioning of a series of research reports into a number of aspects of rural life as part of its wider brief to promote social and economic development in rural England. The first eight of these reports have now been published in the attractively produced RDC Rural Research Series covering an im-


pressive range of topics crucial to the future of rural communities: tourism, employment, housing and provision of services and basic utilities. The reports have been produced by a number of different agencies and individuals, including the Economic and Transport Planning Group, the Centre for Agricultural Strategy, Aston Business School and ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England). The Series provides a valuable insight into the multifaceted problems associated with rural community development. In particular, it illustrates the progress made with various initiatives designed to improve rural life, for example training opportunities for the rural workforce, the RDC’s Craft Homes Experiment and its Rural Development Programmes, and other changes affecting the countryside, notably the government’s privatisation programme and the new Community Post Office Contract. Some solid and well-crafted research is represented in these investigations, typically using questionnaire surveys and case studies of particular rural areas. The same format is followed for each of the reports, with some useful background information presented, analysis of the problem(s) in question, findings and recommendations/conclusions. Thus there is the opportunity presented for considering future policy options that might be adopted by the RDC and other agencies. This indicates that the series is very much a practical component of the RDC’s work and must be viewed in this light. In terms of the RDC’s own work, No. 5 in the series is most informative as it provides an evaluation of the organisation’s Rural Development Programme. This has been concentrated upon 27 priority areas, termed Rural Development Areas (RDAs), into which the RDC has channelled its relatively limited funds (a budget of c.f27 million in 1988-1989). The RDAs cover one-third of England and contain 2.3 million people. The work of the RDC in these areas has been aimed at alleviating a range of problems they are experiencing (and hence their designation). This assistance has taken several forms. but with special emphasis upon co-operation with other agencies in order to promote development, for example housing associations, English Estates, National Park authorities. The review performed by the Public Sector Management Research Centre, Aston Business School, makes 40 separate recommendations that address key aspects of the Programme’s operation. For those who have questioned the broad extent of the RDAs, arguing that assistance needs to be more concentrated, there is some support in the suggestion that smaller target areas be established within RDAs where a short 2-3 year programme of action could operate. This would be fitted into a 5-6 year rolling programme of target area designations. Higher percentage grants are also recommended for these target areas. Other suggestions for improvement refer to the administration of the programme: more delegation to local committees; strengthening liaison; enhancing application, approval and monitoring processes; and increasing local authority involvement


The operation of the RDA Programme can be set against the background of continuing decline in rural services in many parts of the countryside. This decline is well portrayed in No. 7 in the series, prepared by ACRE, in which there is consideration of a wide range of services: shops, post offices, primary schools, GP surgeries,