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IFPRI abstracts
Brief reviews

IFPRI abstracts

Regional Co-operation to Improve Food Security in Southern and Eastern African Countries

Ulrich Koester

In 1980 nine countries - Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe - joined together to form the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC). The SADCC has stated that a primary objective is to seek economic independence from developed countries, particularly the Republic of South Africa, by undertaking joint projects, such as regional stockholding or transport systems, that may contribute to greater economic security for the region.

In Regional Cooperation to Improve Food Security in Southern and Eastern African Countries, IFPRI Research Report 53, Ulrich Koester identifies those areas where joint activities could result in benefits, quantifies some of the potential gains, discusses the framework needed for implementation, and points out obstacles that might impede successful co-operation.

Although the benefits of regional co-operation are many, they may be difficult to achieve. Koester points to the reluctance of developing countries to give up national autonomy in food policy in order to liberalize trade. He evaluates the successes and failures of other integration schemes and suggests compromises.

The Case for Regional Co-operation

One-third of the countries of the world are in Africa but only 10 per cent of the worlds' population. Most African countries have only between 5 million and 15 million people. Regional co-operation schemes have proliferated in Africa because African countries are too small to meet the requirements of modern economic development on their own. This is especially true for the SADCC countries.

For seven of the nine countries, production fluctuates more than 10 per cent around the mean.

When production is unstable, countries may respond by controlling prices or by holding national carry-over stocks. Empirical evidence shows that regional production fluctuates less than that of individual countries, so liberalization of trade could reduce price fluctuations and the amount of national stocks that need to be held.

The range of production fluctuation is wide. Botswana's production of cereals fluctuates the most, at 68.8 per cent, and Tanzania's the least, at 9.2 per cent. The study indicates that regional cooperation could reduce the variability in the region's production to 9.0 per cent, which would benefit some countries greatly but help others only slightly.

Potential for Intraregional Trade

Trade among the SADCC countries has been minimal, largely because of trade barriers, but world trade has been active, at least for some countries. This has led to the assumption that the SADCC countries are too similar in resources, soils, and climate and that they produce the same crops- all of which would preclude intraregional trade. Koester uses several statistical indexes to refute this assumption. The production-similarity index indicates that production patterns in most cases are quite different. The comparative advantage performance coefficient, which indicates whether a commodity has a larger share in a country's agricultural production than in world production, shows that of 1 8 products ranked among the top three in individual SADCC countries, only 5 are ranked more than once. Other indicators measure differences in export patterns and performance and in comparative advantage.

Although exports are highly specialized, with the major export product accounting for more than 50 per cent of total agricultural export earnings for most countries, these exports clearly vary from country to country.

The study also shows that the same agricultural products that are exported to destinations outside the region are imported by other SADCC countries. On average, the region spent about 15 per cent of the revenue gained from exporting a product for imports of the same product. For the 49 products investigated, intraregional trade could have accounted for more than 11 per cent of trade in 1977-1979. Thus it appears that there is ample scope for trade between the SADCC countries.

White maize is a good example of a crop well suited for intraregional trade in Africa. It is the preferred maize in the SADCC region, but only yellow maize is traded on world markets. White-maize markets are so thin that prices fluctuate with even small variations in production or price policy. Intraregional trade in maize could help to stabilize national markets, save transport costs, and allow exporting countries to capture some of the premium on white maize.

Transportation costs are a significant factor in the SADCC countries because most of them are landlocked. Local transport costs to and from ports make up a large part of trade costs for bulky staple foods. For example, by importing all of its maize and some of its wheat from Zimbabwe, which had surpluses, Zambia could have saved US$98.44 per metric ton of maize and US$108.44 per metric ton of wheat, based on 1977/78 prices. The two countries have split the total savings of US$14.5 million.

Obstacles to Intraregional Trade

Benefits from intraregional trade could be high, but they may not be easy to capture. It is because governments are concerned about food security that they intervene so intensively in domestic food markets. They fear political repercussions if integration causes food prices to rise, but enforcing national policies is inherently difficult in the SADCC region because long borders lead to illegal trade.

Expansion of intraregional trade will be to the mutual benefit of all countries only if exchange rates are not distorted. The study shows that the currencies of each of the SADCC countries are overvalued to different degrees. Liberalizing trade in the region would lead to significant transfers of real income from one country to another.

For example, assuming that in 1970 the exchange rates for all SADCC countries were in equilibrium, by 1978-1980 Tanzania's currency was overvalued 42 per cent and Malawi's by 15 per cent. Under this assumption, Tanzania would have paid

23.5 per cent less for its imports from neighbouring Malawi and received 23.5 per cent more for its exports to Malawi in 1978-1980 than in 1970. Clearly, if each country accepted currency from the other in exchange for products, Malawi would lose and Tanzania would benefit from border trade. Even if the SADCC countries institute a plan in which a country buys the same value of products from a country to which it has sold its products, the overvalued currency problem will not be solved. Although there would be a balance in foreign exchange, a transfer of real income would still exist.

Examining other regional integration schemes - in Latin America, East and West Africa, the Caribbean, and even the European Community - Koester concludes that the most important obstacle to intraregional trade is the uneven distribution of costs and benefits among countries.

Koester also looks at the obstacles raised by the theory of economic integration, but he dismisses the argument that regional co-operation undermines world co-operation on the grounds that the SADCC countries are too small to affect world markets.

Risk-pooling May Be the Best Alternative

Not only is production instability for the SADCC region as a whole less than that for the individual countries, but the region is close to self sufficiency in rice, maize, cassava, and millet and sorghum. However, the SADCC countries are not ready to exploit the full potential of intraregional co-operation by liberalizing trade. Koester finds that a portfolio of risk-reducing activities offers the most viable compromise.

To pool the risk of production instability, the SADCC could hold a combination of regional food reserves and foreign-exchange reserves. The most promising insurance scheme would be a food reserve system designed to even out fluctuations in the food import bill. Countries would be allowed to draw from the regional reserve system in years when the value of national food imports is above the trend because of above average import prices. Regional stocks would be replenished in years when the value of the national food import bill was below the trend line. Savings in storage costs could be significant: calculations indicate that regional stocks could be about 41 per cent smaller than the sum of national stocks to achieve the same degree of food security, which would amount to an annual savings of US$67.8 million.

However, a regional reserve system can be expected to be viable only if there is an acceptable sharing of costs. On the basis of data for the 1960s and 1970s, Koester estimates that 31 per cent of the costs of a regional stockpiling system should be incurred by Zimbabwe versus about 4 per cent by Botswana. Those countries that need only small amounts of national stocks to stabilize their cereal import bill would have to pay only a small fraction of the costs. These are countries that either produce a small share of the region's cereals, such as Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, or those that have less variability in cereal production, such as Angola and Tanzania.

Zimbabwe would pay the most because it produces 25 per cent of the region's cereal production and its variability is much higher than average.

The study relates the national contribution to regional stocks to the expected national benefits. The viability of the regional reserve system might be strengthened if individual countries could choose the amount of insurance they would receive through the scheme. For example, those countries that can easily substitute cassava for cereal consumption or that have less-binding foreign-exchange constraints will probably not see a need to stabilize cereal consumption totally through insurance.

In general, the study finds that countries would be better off if they were to co-operate. However, it will be possible to capture potential benefits only if there is a strong political will and, moreover, if countries are willing to give up some autonomy in designing and implementing their domestic food policies.

Single copies of the publication are available from International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 1776 Massachusetts Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20036, USA.

Commentary. The Changing Global Food Scene: Opportunities for Development and Poverty Alleviation

John W. Mellor

The world food scene has changed dramatically since the time of the World Food Conference in 1974. Global cereal stocks in the mid-1980s have averaged more than twice the level of the mid-1970s. Real world cereal prices were down 30 per cent in 1985 from 1981, compared to an almost twofold increase from 1972 to 1974. Real fertilizer prices have declined to the lows of the late 1960s after having risen 4.5 times in real terms from 1971 to 1974. Lack of natural-gas feedstock is now a much less worrying problem than inadequate investment in fertilizer production. The focus on food shortages has switched from Asia to Africa. Finally, many developing countries are diverted from long-term development efforts by overwhelming debt problems and the need for major adjustments in foreign-exchange rates and their national budgets.

Abundant supplies of food and fertilizer greatly enhance opportunities to bring the poor fully into the growth process. Abundant food is a blessing, even though the complexities of modern economies require ingenuity to realize that good. In particular, the danger is all too real that the illusion of a global food glut will turn foreign assistance away from the new opportunities to serve the economic interests of farmers and labourers alike through food- and employment-oriented strategies. In devising policies appropriate to the current food scene, policy-makers need to understand four not-so-apparent facts:

First, the annual growth rate of basic food-staple production generally slackened from the 1960s to the 1970s, declining in developing countries (excluding China) from 2.9 per cent to 2.6 per cent, in developed countries from 3.0 per cent to 1.7 per cent, and is still declining in the 1980s.

Second, in developing countries effective demand for food outruns accelerated growth in food production. This results in large increases in imports. For example, during the period 1961-1980, the 29 developing countries with the fastest growth rates in food-staple production increased net imports of food staples 3.5 times. Developing countries as a group increased their net food staple imports by 37 million metric tons from 1971-1973 to 1981 -1983. Only a few developing countries have land resources sufficient to generate surplus food staples for exports. They can be expected to take about one-quarter of the rapidly growing new market, leaving three quarters for the developed-country exporters.

Third, inevitably and unlike the developing countries, the countries of North America and western Europe have become food-satiated. Even modest technological advance generates a large increase in exportable surplus.

Fourth, the growth in the net imports of developing countries is particularly driven by rapid growth in consumption of livestock products in the middle- and upper-income developing countries. It has been projected that food-staple imports by developing countries (excluding China) will increase by about 40 million tons from 1980 to 2000. But this increase can even double if feed demand is based on continuing the trend in livestock feeding practices.

What policies are needed to realize such unity of interest between the agricultural exporters and the developing countries?

First, investment in effective, nationally oriented agricultural research systems in developing countries provides the cost-decreasing agricultural technology that is the basis for large increases in national income, which will in turn be spent on employment-generating goods and services. An agriculture-based strategy not only gives faster income growth than alternative strategies but a far broader distribution of benefits. it follows that massive investment in rural infrastructure is needed to broaden participation: improved crop varieties often move far from roads, but the bulk of the increases in fertilizer use, food production, employment, and wage rates do not.

Second, revised investment policies are needed to accelerate employment growth in those countries not experiencing rapid mobilization of labour. Specific policy needs are still not well understood, but they undoubtedly include massive investment in rural infrastructure, education, credit to assist small firms, macro policies favouring labour-intensive production, and policies to correct current distortions such as grossly overvalued exchange rates.

Third, policies are needed to encourage development of a labour-intensive small-scale livestock sector, which would increase employment and provide a major market for surplus cereals. This sector, however, is particularly restrained by poor technology, poor public support services, and poor marketing channels. Third world livestock production could provide a natural focus for foreign assistance that earlier seemed inappropriate because of concerns about global food scarcity.

Fourth, food aid and commercial food imports should both be viewed as means of bringing the poor into the development process and of expanding food markets for food surpluses. Using food-for-work programmes to build infrastructure for relief of the hungry and for food security is a noble activity that helps to solve poverty problems.

Fifth, special attention should be paid to the countries just above the least developed. Despite the low nutritional status of their people, their past performance suggests a switch from being food importers to being food exporters. Why, with so much potential for agricultural growth, do they do so poorly in converting that potential to broad based employment growth? What special policies are needed to accelerate growth in food consumption? For the least-developed countries, largely in Africa, a narrower set of priorities is needed to get their food production going; for the higher-income developing countries, policies are needed to broaden participation in growth into neglected regions. But the needs of these incipient fast growth countries are much less well understood, and yet the potential benefits from such knowledge are immense.

Finally, the present emphasis on glut has taken attention away from the increased instability in food availability for the poor just when there are resources to deal with problem. This is the time to improve national and international mechanisms for food security. The food is there, but finances and careful thought are required to use it.


Brief reviews

Guidelines for Training Community Health Workers in Nutrition, 2nd Edition. World Health Organization, Geneva, 1986. vii + 121 pages. ISBN 92-4-154210-1. Price: Swf 16, US$9.60. Available in English. French, Spanish, and Arabic versions in preparation.

In this task-oriented manual for the training of community health workers in nutrition, information and instructions are presented in two main parts.

The first part introduces the purpose and uses of the guidelines, the skills necessary to make the trainer a more effective teacher, and the basic facts about foods and nutrition which the health worker should be taught. The second part reproduces nine training modules. Each module is focused on a single topic and includes information on associated tasks, learning objectives, basic training content, and the various training methods appropriate for that module. Each module concludes with a set of practical training exercises that can be used for either the practicing of skills or the assessment of how well these skills have been mastered. Common teaching aids and teaching methods are presented in tabular form together with information on their advantages, limitations, and specific applications.

Now in its second edition, the book has been revised and expanded in keeping with lessons learnt from extensive field testing of the original. The modular approach, which encourages adaptation to local nutrition needs, makes this work an especially useful training and reference manual for primary-health-care workers and their supervisors or instructors.

Food and Culture among Bolivian Aymara: Symbolic Expressions of Social Relations. Mick Johnsson. Uppsala Studies in Cultural Anthropology, no. 7. Acta Univ. Ups., Uppsala, Sweden. 188 pp. ISBN 91 -554- 1962-3.

This dissertation relates food customs among the Aymara Indians in the Bolivian Andes to their social structure. Relations within and between families and local groups in the rural and urban environment are analysed and compared. Historical patterns of social relationships and values are contrasted to present-day relationships on the family and community levels with regard to various aspects of food culture.

Three analytical concepts are used to organize ethnographic data: independence, equality, and reciprocity. These core values dominate Aymara ideas of social relationships. They contain basic cognitive values, expressed in social patterns, in particular linguistic codes, and are institutionalized in interchangeable social roles, rotating leadership, and permanent reciprocal relationships.

Food is a medium of communication in all the above relationships and in the enactment of the values inherent in the three core concepts. The same messages run parallel in the different stages of production, preservation, distribution, preparation, and consumption of food: Food and meals are used to express group cohesion, boundary maintenance and boundary crossing, equality and competition, dependence and interdependence, inclusion and exclusion.

The characteristic of traditional social relationships within family and local groups also apply to the food sphere. The boundaries are reflected in the courses of the meal, in the low degree of separation between the ingredients of a meal, and in the preparation and serving of the meal. In fiesta meals, a high degree of intricacy is registered and interpreted. This volume is the seventh in the Uppsala Studies in Cultural Anthropology, a series of publications in the field of cultural and social anthropology issued at irregular intervals. Further information is available from the series editor, Professor Anita Jacobson-Widding, Department of Cultural Anthropology, Trädgårdsgatan 18, S-752 20 Uppsala, Sweden.

Vitamin A Deficiency and Its Control. Edited by J. Christopher Bauernfeind. Academic Press, Orlando, Fla., USA, 1986.

Bauernfeind, himself an expert in the field of vitamin-A deficiency, and a contributor to the volume, has selected an outstanding group of authors. The chapters on the physiological and metabolic bases of vitamin-A deficiency; vitamin A/nutrient interrelationships; vitamin-A deficiency in pregnancy, lactation, and the nursing child; the pathogenesis of vitamin deficiency; and clinical aspects of vitamin-A deficiency are comprehensive and authoritative. The chapters on the influence of vitamin-A status on the immune system and on cancer are excellent reviews with considerable new material. The remaining 40 per cent of the book is devoted to various approaches to controlling and preventing vitamin-A deficiency, including chapters on improving the vitamin-A content of diets, with the approaches used in India, Central America, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Anyone responsible for teaching human and clinical nutrition or the prevention of vitamin-A deficiency in countries with this public-health problem will find this book to be the most complete and up-to-date source of information available. - N.S.S.


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